Larger Than Life: Superheroes at the Box Office

Posted by on May 17, 2013 in Critic's Area | 0 comments

From H-NET List for Scholarly Studies and Uses of Media

Larger Than Life: Superheroes at the Box Office
An area of multiple panels for the 2013 Film & History Conference on
Making Movie$: The Figure of Money On and Off the Screen
November 20-24, 2013
Madison Concourse Hotel (Madison, WI)
DEADLINE for abstracts: July 1, 2013

AREA: “Larger Than Life: Superheroes at the Box Office

The superhero genre has been one of Hollywood’s most lucrative since 2000. The top two domestic money-earners in 2012 – The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises – were superhero films, while a third (The Amazing Spider-Man) finished seventh. Comic book adaptations continue to be as sure a bet as there is for Hollywood, and this year promises more of the same, with the releases of Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, The Wolverine, and Thor: The Dark World. Fifteen superhero films have crossed the $200 million mark in domestic earnings since 2000, and the genre does equally well internationally.

This area, which will be comprised of multiple panels, seeks to identify and investigate the questions that this genre proposes. Why, after years of poor or mediocre performance, are these types of films now so popular at the box office? To what extent does that success depend on their adaptation of established properties, on A-list in the title roles, or on the unique vision of directors like Christopher Nolan and Joss Whedon? Can they, or should they, be taken seriously by scholars and critics? Is their success a reflection – or a cause – of the increasing juvenilization of Hollywood?

Here are some topics for possible exploration:

• Adult-oriented superhero films and box-office struggles: The Punisher, Darkman
• Indie superhero films: Super; Orgazmo; New Line Cinema’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Blade franchises; Lionsgate’s Kick-Ass, The Spirit, and Punisher films
• The marketability of the auteur-directed superhero film: Christopher Nolan, Ang Lee, Sam Raimi, Bryan Singer
• The superhero “reboot”: The Incredible Hulk, The Amazing Spider-Man, X-Men: First Class, Man of Steel
• A Marxist analysis of the superhero genre
• Superheroes in anime
• Failures amid the success: The Fantastic Four, Elektra, The Green Hornet, The Green Lantern, Ang Lee’s Hulk
• Marketing and audience expectations: Hardcore fans, casual followers, and the general public

Proposals for complete panels (three of four related presentations) are also welcome, but they must include an abstract and contact information, including an email address, for each presenter. For updates and registration information about the upcoming meeting, see the Film & History website (

Contact Info:
Zachary Ingle, Area Chair
Larger Than Life: Superheroes at the Box Office
Department of Film and Media Studies
University of Kansas

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