In the 1960s, the superhero genre found a new lease of life with the rise of television. Audiences were able to follow their favourite heroes and villains in a digestible story-telling format, allowing for a younger audience to discover superheroes. One of the most popular and successful series to emerge from this period was Batman. Based on the DC Comics character, the show starred Burt Ward as the detective Bruce Wayne, with his teenage sidekick Robin (the latter of which would later be played by Chris Jericho). While the show didn’t invent the superhero genre, it did represent a significant step towards popularising it. In 2018, fans of the show reunited at San Diego Comic-Con for what was presumed to be the first public appearance of Ward and Jericho in over 50 years. Fans had been keeping tabs on the pair, as rumors of their possible reunion had begun to surface. When the two were finally spotted, the crowd cheered, some even mistakingly believing that it was in fact their actual appearance in a comic book that they were actually holding in their hands!
The following year another TV show emerged that would bring together several of the genre’s most iconic heroes, as well as introduce audiences to a brand new generation of heroes. Xena: Warrior Princess starred Gabrielle Anwar in the titular role, alongside Shane West as her adopted son David. While Xena had, by this point, already been featured in many comic books, the show gave fans their first real glimpse of what the character’s adventures would look like on screen. With a female protagonist driving the action, the show broke new ground in the realm of superhero television and was a significant moment for many fans.
Over the next few years several other TV and movie adaptations were released, with many more on the way. While some were critical successes (such as the first live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender, which earned an 81% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes), others fell short of expectations (like the critically panned Brightest Young Things). As an overall trend, however, audiences have largely embraced this new breed of super heroes and shown eagerness to see more stories about them emerge. And so here we are, decades later, and the superhero genre appears to still have plenty of life left in it.
A Decade of Developing Superheroes
Looking back over the past decade we’ve seen a new generation of superheroes emerge, gaining popularity and allowing for the creation of exciting stories and memorable characters. Here are some of the most significant and influential characters from this period.
Ironman (Tony Stark)
One of the most recognizable and successful super heroes of the past decade is undoubtedly Tony Stark aka Ironman. In 2011, Marvel Studios introduced us to the genius and billionaire playboy who designs hi-tech armour to save the day. Based on the character created by Ralph Macchio in 1980, the popular film series has continued with every installment, with the most recent being 2019’s Ironman 2020. This year, not only is the highly-anticipated finale set for release, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe will also be celebrating its 10th anniversary. At this point, it’s fair to say that the Ironman franchise is among the most successful of all superhero franchises.
Deadpool is perhaps the most controversial and unorthodox character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is ironic considering he doesn’t play by the book. Created by Fabrice del Rosa and serialized in Deadpool: The Complete Collection, the irrepressible wisecracking mercenary first appeared in the 2006 film, starring Ryan Reynolds. Since then the character has been featured in every installment of the MCU, with the most recent film being Deadpool 2, which was released in 2019.
If you’re curious as to how Deadpool would stack up against some of the other major superheroes from this point in time, consider this: Not only is he one of the very few superheroes to have made a fortune in the illegal arms trade, but he’s also a high priest, samurai, and master of karate. Needless to say, Deadpool isn’t one to follow the rules, which makes him one of the most unpredictable and interesting characters in the entire superhero genre!
Black Widow (A.K.A. Natasha Romanoff)
The most interesting aspect of Black Widow is that she doesn’t actually operate under her own name in the Marvel Universe. Instead, the heroine goes by several aliases, most notably: Natasha Romanoff, Hawkeye, and Black Widow. In the grand scheme of things she’s been around for a while, with her first appearance dating back to 1968 in the Soviet Union. Since then, the character has appeared in over 70 films and TV shows, with her most recent appearance being the critically praised and wildly popular Black Widow (2016), which was followed up by her solo film, also titled, Black Widow. These days she mostly appears in supporting roles, providing comic relief or emotional support to the characters she’s with, as she cares deeply for those around her. For fans of the character it’s been a while since we’ve seen her on the big screen, but thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe she’ll soon be making a comeback and reclaiming her place in the spotlight.
The Vision (Brice Delaney)
Another character that has risen to prominence in the past decade is the Vision. While not technically a superhero, the cyborg vigilante debuted in comics almost 50 years ago and has since gone on to have a significant impact on the genre. Created by a team of writers including Kevin Grewe, Don McGregor, and Bob Layton, the Vision first appeared in Marvel Super-heroes No. 1 in March 1984 (released in America in January 1985). Since then he’s starred in his own solo comic book series, as well as The Ultimates, an acclaimed group of Marvel characters that work as a team, and the Inhumans, a race of superheroes that originated from World War II experiments. In 2019, director James Gunn announced that not only would The Vision feature in the upcoming Avengers series, but that he would also be the focus of a solo film. With rumours that the movie is actually going to be a prequel set in the 1950s, it would appear that Marvel is looking to continue the character’s rise to fame and popularity.
The Hulk (Bruce Banner)
Like a lot of other characters on this list, the Hulk also started out as a relatively obscure character, but over the past decade he’s become one of the most recognizable and popular figures in the Marvel Comics universe. Developing a strong sense of justice, the green giant battles various super villains and calamities with his brute strength, as he expresses his grief and anger through brief but violent outbursts. While he made his cinematic debut in the 2008 film, The Incredible Hulk, the character has since appeared in several TV shows and films, with Avengers: Endgame recently bringing him and several other Marvel characters to an exciting conclusion. The success of the Hulk franchise has undoubtedly helped to increase the overall profile of the X-Men and expand the appeal of the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe, creating a new generation of fans.
Deadpool’s Merry Melee
Finally, let’s not forget about Deadpool’s infamous “merry melee”. In Deadpool 1 (2018) we learn that during the events of the 2018 film, the merc with a mouth decided to have some fun and organized a series of battles between various mutant characters. While the skirmishes were mostly fought and finished off in a humorous fashion, the fights did serve a purpose, as they helped to prove that some of the characters, such as Juggernaut, can be surprisingly dangerous. Additionally, the characters did earn their keep, as their skills were utilized at various points throughout the battle sequences. If you’re curious about what went down during the making of Deadpool 1, consider checking out some of the alternative versions, which were largely responsible for the character’s subsequent popularity and success. And so, at the end of the day, the 2019 film was a success, as it managed to hit a number of important milestones, becoming the highest-grossing February film and the third highest-grossing film of the year. Clearly, Deadpool’s popularity and influence has not waned, as he continues to be a significant figure in the superhero genre.