In the wake of 1940, America was under crisis. Amid its involvement in the Second World War, the period of the great depression, and women involved in the workforce, there was a need to focus on something that would lighten the sombre mood. This was when great cartoonists came with the idea of superheroes. This period saw the rise and prominence of various superheroes such as Superman, Wonder woman, and Captain America (Gordon, 2015). They were seen, by many, as icons and gave hope to many young souls. They were a reminder that despite everything crumbling around them, there was light at the end of the tunnel. Eventually, things began to shape up, with the help of the superheroes' iconic dominance at the back of their heads. The fetish adoration of these superheroes was what gave them a glimpse of hope. This period created a suitable environment for comic writers and other writers to address these issues through artistic work.
Among those that prevailed, and remained relevant to date, were the superheroes. What they did not realize, at that time, is that they were opening up a multibillion industry that would take the movie world by storm. They had created hope, and that hope turned into demand, and that demand into profit. The iconic identity was tarnished, and they were now seen as commodities. The need to top charts and film ratings became the primary concern. With sales skyrocketing through the roof, there was no turning back. For instance, with something as symbolic as the movie, The Black Panther, it is the figures that it brought in got more attention than its significance. It is the first black American movie to gross over a billion dollars, and the third gross making movie of all time (Sari & Setiawan, 2019). The significance of this movie being created by a black producer was overshadowed by the humongous figures it accumulated. This paper shall, therefore, give more insight and instances of superheroes being seen as commodities rather than their initial intent, icons.
The background story, its development, and market dominance of the creation of Batman is an exemplary superhero story that shows how the perception has changed. Batman was created in a typical human-like story background. The story of the movie Batman starts with the killing of both his parents as they are robbed in the streets of Gotham. Batman then dedicates his whole life, helping and fighting crime around the city. He trains hard and is dedicated to being the superhero that Gotham needs (Heckenberg et al., 2017). No one would have predicted how this movie could have skyrocketed the box-office, but when it did in the '60s, it became a billion-dollar movie.
A marketing specialist in the movie Batman, Edwin Vlems, gave a clear insight into how they manipulated the market before the movie is released (Bocart et al., 2019). In a given example, one fan critic of the movie, The Dark Knight Rises, gave a bad review. What transpired later was the life of the critic being threatened, barely even before the movie was released. The marketing team then knew instantly that this would present a perfect opportunity to sell anything that had the symbol batman on them. Edwin states that fans always compete with each other in terms of who has the latest and most expensive gadgets from Batman. The teaser trailers of the movies and such fans critic reviews contribute to fans flooding the cinemas during its release. Tickets are typically sold out and the venue of the premiere of the movie filled to the bream. This is entirely different from what the movie stands for. A man whose parents are killed and robbed and helps the needy kids would be disgusted by his fans who would go the extra mile in spending millions in purchases and bragging of the Batman symbols (Bocart et al., 2019).
In another instance, a common and recent trend in Brazil unveiled how the IV bags in hospitals, especially the kids' section, switched them with superhero gadgets (Bocart et al., 2019). The intent is to make the kids believe that they are getting a "superhero" juice that would help them fight and kill the germs in their bodies. The IV bags have different images and symbols of popular superheroes, showing how far the superheroes have been viewed as a form of commodity.
Iconic Versus Demand
Superman and Captain America were indeed iconic and relevant at the time of their creation and prevailing situations. However, would it be wrong to insinuate that they were also products and commodities at the same time? Superman was created as America was fighting the Second World War (Di Paolo, 2014). However, with the decline of the war, the demand for the comic books declined as lives went back to normalcy. It would be correct to insinuate that Superman was a commodity in this period as well. The iconic aspect of the superman depended on the need and demand of the comic books and Superman as a commodity. If the demand for the commodity decreased, then there was no need for an iconic Superman. The idea of iconic and Demand, in this situation, was, therefore, complementary.
On the other hand, the demand for the comic books of Captain America was high during the period of Communism (Di Paolo, 2014). The war was dominantly between America and Russia, and in the comic book, the Russians were regarded as the villains. As soon as the war was over and won, the demand decreased, and the books were less in the market. This portrays how the iconic books were seen as a commodity, overshadowing the initial and fundamental intent of their creation, iconic.
The transition of comic books to television in the '60s was a significant factor in propelling the demand and increase of superhero movies. Most of the highest-grossing movies in the box office and dominantly led by superheroes movie. The televised comic books have misplaced the initial intent of the creation of superheroes, which was to give hope and inspiration to human beings. Superheroes have now been the highest demanded aspects of entertainment, not as icons, but, sadly, as commodities.
DiPaolo, M. (2014). War, politics and superheroes: Ethics and propaganda in comics and film. McFarland.
Bocart, F., Hafner, C., Kasperskaya, Y., & Sagarra, M. (2019). Investing in superheroes? Comic art as a new alternative investment (No. 2019016). Universite catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
Sari, R. P., & Setiawan, T. (2019, April). Strategies for Translating the Idioms in Black Panther Movie. In International Conference on Interdisciplinary Language, Literature and Education (ICILLE 2018). Atlantis Press.
Heckenberg, D., Emrose, L., Reid, M., Balzer, M., Roille, A., & Liani, M. (2017). Rendering the darkness: glimpse on the LEGO Batman movie. In ACM SIGGRAPH 2017 Talks (pp. 1-2).
Gordon, I. (2015). The moral world of Superman and the American war in Vietnam. Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, 6(2), 172-181.
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