The End of the Bronze Age of Superhero Cinema?

I grew up on Bronze Age Marvel and DC comics — the name given to the era of books published in the 70s and 80s, much of which has informed the Marvel movies thus far. A lot of people my age lament the post-Bronze Age product for various reasons. Some cite the fact that the characters have changed too much from their core, while bizarrely offering the illusion of no change. Others argue it is just the opposite of that. Many decry the corporatization of comics, with creation by committee, story lines by synergy, and a greater adherence to IP farming than natural growth.

For myself, there’s just nothing there that interests me. I grew up with Peter Parker. I got bullied when he got bullied, got a job around the time he got a job, got married around the time he got married, etc. I have no interest in reading about a Peter Parker who is perpetually twenty-something and still has all his hair and whose knees and joints never hurt. I would have a great interest in reading about an almost fifty-something Peter Parker who is all of those things, and who is training a young man like Miles Morales to be his replacement.

But I digress.

Yesterday, my seven-year old and I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens again. We saw the trailer for Captain America: Civil War. He informed me that he doesn’t want to see it because the superheroes are busy fighting each other. He had the same reaction to the trailer for Batman vs. Superman. He wants his heroes fighting bad guys, rather than other heroes. And this mindset isn’t limited to my child. Soccer dad that I am, I talk to and hear from other kids his age — both boys and girls – during play dates, cub scouts, sports, etc. All of them are echoing variations of this theme. For a multitude of reasons, their interest in the upcoming superhero movies is very low. Their interest in the next Star Wars movie is very high.

I’ll be curious to see how this plays out over the next five to ten years. Are we going to see the films begin to wane in popularity as a younger generation — the iPad generation — begins to lose interest at the same time older viewers such as myself tune out as the movies begin to mine for material the same story lines we walked away from years back?


This week’s episode of my podcast, The Horror Show with Brian Keene, is live. You can listen to it for free right here. In truth, you can listen to it anywhere in the world. All you need is a phone, television, computer, radio, or other internet-connected device.

Speaking of my podcast, author Stephen Kozeniewski — who has been a guest on my show twice in the past — posted this anecdote on my forum yesterday, and I wanted to reprint it here. He writes:

Brian talked today about doing his research for the podcast and I wanted to highlight that.

I’ve done a number of podcasts and interviews where the questions amount to, “So who are you and what are you doing here?”

When I went on The Horror Show, though, when Brian introduced me he covered all the bases that most hosts consider incisive lines of questioning. And then when he actually started asking questions I thought to myself, “He put a lot of effort into this!”

When you listen to the interviews, the questions never sound like they came off a canned list. Just listening to the episode with Mary SanGiovanni there was a question about the relationship between THE HOLLOWER and The Slender Man myths that sounded like it needed Cliff’s Notes. Because it wasn’t just, “Oh, do you think you inspired The Slender Man?” it was more like, “So, I’ve looked into this, and there are a couple of schools of thought, a couple of different arguments, and here’s what I think, so what do you think?”

There’s a quote from Louis Pasteur “Fortune favors the prepared mind.” What I mean is, it may seem like the show just lucks out in being fun, easy listening. But what I really think is that Brian and Dave put a lot of effort into making it seem like it just falls into place.

It’s true. Most shows take at least two full days of prep and research. Some, such as when we reported on the recent troubles at Samhain Publishing, take much longer. It is always, always worth it.

I’ve been told by doctors that I am slowly going blind. I also have arthritis that gets less manageable with each passing year (unless I continue to up my bourbon intake). My mind is still fast, but my fingers type slower, and that has resulted in less words per day. I am all-too-aware that a day may come when I can’t type anymore. This podcast is my exit strategy. I don’t need to be able to see or type to ask Stephen King or Jack Ketchum or Sarah Pinborough good, knowledgeable, incisive questions about their work. Thus, Dave and Coop and I put a lot of work into it behind the scenes.

So, if you’re not listening, you should start, because goddamn it, we work hard on this thing. Here are all of the shows, in order.


Also from the forum, user Spudders writes: “I meant to post this some time ago but wanted to give a shout out to the great customer service I received from Apex.

There was some screw up with a discount code not working but it was Apex that reached out to me unsolicited!!! Their site obviously told them I was trying to use a code which wasn’t working. I think it was Jason who contacted me, apologized, fixed the issue and then gave me a code for a future discount.

As someone who manages a major call center I am pretty tuned into customer service so for someone to reach out to me UNSOLICITED about the issue I had is pretty much at the top of the customer service experience tree.

Apex are indeed incredible when it comes to customer service. Why not buy a book directly from their website today?

4 thoughts on “The End of the Bronze Age of Superhero Cinema?

  1. Re: the Comic movie issue:

    I suspect you have a point re: the kids. You could argue Marvel’s 2015 movies were more for the under 15s and the Capt 3 movie is more for the teenagers and over. Imagine Doc Strange and Thor 3 will try to address that. Imagine some kids will lose interest and not come back thou.

    Unlike DC, who seem to think all their films need to be grim and gitty.

    That said, Star Wars’ popularity is at a generational high. In five years, the next set of kids will likely want new toys/heroes to play with.

    (And for the record, your podcast is great, and every person who has any interest in horror/dark fiction should be listening).

  2. For me, being a fan, these movies are visually great. Story wise, not so much. The formula for these movies are all the same. It gets boring. The first avengers, again was visually stunning, but the story wasn’t that strong. Mostly just the good guys bickering half the movie and then suddenly realize, after *SPOILER* Coulson died, that they need to get their act together and work as a team. We get a few minutes of each Avenger fighting the Chitauri, then a character sacrifice and blamo, roll credits.

    These flicks are introducing characters that many of us have grown up with. We’re attached to them. Hell, X-Men are great for teens. The parallel between mutant powers and puberty is right on. “God Loves, Man Kills” is a great storyline that deals with a lot of “phobic” issues. Yet, these movies are failing to see who these characters really are.

    Civil War could have been a great story. It started out as one. But, like everything else, the ending was so rushed. I’m still pissed how the story ended. I don’t think it added anything to the Marvel Universe. Maybe I’m wrong. But, I agree with your son. It’s getting stale.

    The powers that be need to sit down, and understand that fans, most anyway, want to see these legendary characters as we know them. I don’t want to see the villain lose in their first appearance on the big screen. Stretch them out. Flesh them out. I think they’re doing good with Thanos, but again, I bet we see him weakened, watered down. It’s sad.

    Star Wars does it right. They introduce you to characters, flesh them out over three films and conclude that arc. It’s fresh. Yes, the prequels kind of sucked, and changed a lot of the canon, and made one of the most badass characters into a whiny, spoiled brat, but they had some great moments. The originals had their flaws as well. More so now, since Money Bags Lucas has damn near changed everything. But, we love these characters. I’m excited to see how these next two films are going to flesh out. How the characters are going to grow. Even some of the stand alone films look good.

    Just my $.02.

  3. The comic box has blown open! I have collected comic books for over 23 years at this point and boy do I have some stuff to rant about here! I am a big x men fan, however, at a certain point my interest drys up. When Chris Claremont stopped writing x titles they, for me, got really crappy. So basically I collected from about 1977 to the mid 90’s. This is the time I grew up in and it felt like the stories had more meaning behind them. My son would disagree with me in a heart beat and say the characters just stand around and talk the whole time. I think that this was when the characters had souls. It also made the fights worth the wait. Eric Larsen, Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee and many others were at there prime during this age. Now post 90’s comic books, to me, really started to go down hill….like falling off a cliff. This was when made unappreciated artists & writers all left at the same time to start Image comics. Marvel, I believe dried up at this point. Civil war, too many alternative universes popped up, varient covers, etc. So yes, I believe most funny books suck ass now. (The only new comic I still read is the Savage Dragon ) so in conclusion I agree: what the hell happened to our heros! The movies are sometimes okay. But now there getting to the post 90’s state and for me are going down hill once again. So until Peter Parker does get gray hair and possibly a bad back, I will stick with the older stuff! The crazy thing is Disney owns Marvel & Star wars now. But Star wars is still damn good!

  4. How the heck did I miss my very own call out by Brian. Ha I am now sending this to my all my friends and families. Cheers Brian.

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