Superhero comic books have been a staple of American pop culture since the 1940s. The Caped Crusader, Man of Steel, Web-Head and many more have fueled the imaginations of children, teens and adults for years.
But it wasn’t until the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or perhaps the Sam Raimi Spiderman Trilogy and the Christopher Nolan Batman Trilogy, that superheroes truly found themselves at the forefront of collective culture. world. Four of the world’s 10 highest-grossing movies (adjusted for inflation) are superhero movies: Avengers: Endgame, Avengers: Infinity War, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and The Avengers.
Today, superheroes and comic book intellectual property are a golden goose for companies like Disney, Sony and many others. Companies have been eager to use these legacy IP addresses for more than just the big screen. Superheroes can be found on smaller screens with TV shows like Marvel’s Punisher, Daredevil and Defenders, CW’s Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl and more.
But superheroes aren’t simply resigned to a purely passive entertainment experience. Video games were an early adopter of comic book IPs, albeit usually with lukewarm results.
Superhero video games were either the result of a tie-in with an upcoming movie, and therefore incredibly crude and half-baked, or games that didn’t have much narrative weight to them, even if they were a pleasant experience.
The rise of video games as a storytelling experience in the latter half of the 2000s finally began to see the true strength of the genre flex for superhero IPs. The Batman: Arkham series from developers Rocksteady Studios and the Injustice series from NetherRealm Studios marked the start of a truly glorious era for superheroes in video games.
The first installments of either series were also released just in time to be the start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the growing “mainstream” interest in superheroes.
Marvel’s Spider-Man, developed by Insomniac Games nearly a decade later, captivated audiences and made them feel what it could be like if he were the “friendly neighborhood Spider-man”. Its spin-off/sequel, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, still wowed audiences, and the upcoming Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is widely anticipated.
Rocksteady’s return to DC Comics IP, Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, is also set to release next year after a delay in its release window. Expectations are high from the developers of the best superhero video game franchise.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, developed by Square Enix, was also widely appreciated, although not on the same level as the previous two. Marvel’s The Avengers, also from Square Enix, has had much more critical reception for everything from its gameplay to its service model.
Upcoming video games include Monolith’s Wonder Woman title, Firaxis’ Marvel’s Midnight Suns, WB Games Montreal’s Gotham Knights (which also contributed to the first Arkham game title), and Insomniac’s Marvel’s Wolverine.
But when it comes to superhero IPs, which kind is the best? Video games or movies? Well, the answer is completely subjective. Marvel movies have often been criticized for being popcorn movies, titles like Logan (2017), Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014), Black Panther (2018), Wonder Woman (2017), The Dark Knight ( 2008) and many others have shown that it is possible to make wonderful films with IPs like superheroes.
At the same time, a growing consensus supports the legitimacy of video games as a narrative art form and some of the above titles may showcase the genre’s strength as an interactive storytelling medium.
But perhaps the discussion should be about the kind of superhero stories that can so easily be adapted across multiple storytelling channels. From innocuous comics to movies, video games and more.