By Dr. Jun Ruiz
Marvel’s The Avengers is a global phenomenon, consisting of the biggest superheroes of the universe whose movies have grossed more than $17 billion worldwide. Ever since as a young boy studying in grade school at a La Sallian school, I have always loved superheroes and their adventures, whether they are from Marvel or DC Comics. This interest and enthusiasm started primarily through comic books, as there was no live-action television series nor movies at that time. I remember asking my father then to buy me several comics periodically and then sharing them among my close friends in school who also bought their own. These sharing sessions felt like study groups, but the subject was something we really enjoyed.
Through these superheroes, this favorite childhood pastime of mine has fed my fantasy of being the hero who champions the cause of mankind, fights for justice, and for good to triumph over evil. Though fighting between heroes and villains involves some form of violence, it was acceptable to children and adults alike as it was never excessive nor explicit. I believe this remarkable influence of these superheroes has helped me evolve into a strong advocate of cancer screening and patient rights in what I have become in my professional life.
The golden age of comics MarMarvel’s The Avengers
This genre of superhero comics features stories about superheroes – heroes with extra-ordinary or superhuman abilities and attributes who uphold world peace and justice in the universes they inhabit. It is the most popular genre in American comic books. This class of comics started with the introduction of Superman by Detective Comics (DC) in 1938. This period was considered as the “Golden Age” of comics. Superman created the archetype of a superhero, and he has been an American icon well-loved all over the world. He is seen as a fearless and kind-hearted hero with a strong sense of justice, morality, and righteousness. He is considered as the perfect superhero, whose only weakness is kryptonite.
A smaller rival company called Timely Publications, the forerunner of Marvel Comics, came up with their own superheroes led by the Human Torch and Captain America. Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America was first published in 1941. Captain America is a patriotic super-soldier who fought for America against the Nazis during World War II. He is the pinnacle of human physical perfection coupled to his high intelligence. He is the most popular comic character during the wartime period. His moral center, uncompromising integrity, humility, genuine leadership, and his quest for justice endeared him to the fans. When the war ended, superheroes from both comic companies fell out of vogue.
Then came the “Silver Age” of comics. DC Comics ushered in new superheroes with great commercial success. In 1961, the Marvel branding began. Writer-editor Stan Lee revolutionized the superhero world by giving them a more authentic characterization and various personalities facing serious adult and social issues rooted in the real world – a quality missing in the previous traditional comic books. This pioneering revision of storytelling was ushered with the debut of the Fantastic Four, followed by Iron Man, The Mighty Thor, and Spider-Man. This approach appealed to the older readers, rather than to the previously predominant child market. In addition, Marvel also presented flawed superheroes, freaks, and misfits – not necessarily the perfectly handsome and athletic heroes.
Superheroes invade Hollywood
My favorite superheroes have always been Superman and Captain America. I like to believe that my God-fearing upbringing, responsible personality, and as well as the values and principles I grew up with tend to mirror the doctrines of what these two superheroes stand for. The Mighty Thor, the Norse god of thunder, is another favorite as I have always been interested in the mythological gods. My other picks include the Fantastic Four, and Spiderman. I realize that my favorites live in two parallel universes. Once I got older to go to college and medical school, I became more focused with studies and new priorities, and had no longer free time to follow the comic adventures of these superheroes.
DC superheroes invaded Hollywood earlier than their Marvel counterparts. The film rights of some DC characters were purchased by Warner Bros. Studios in the 1970s. The series of Superman movies starring Christopher Reeve began in 1978. This was followed by several reincarnations of Batman in seven movies. DC Entertainment (the movie studio of DC Comics) produced The Dark Knight trilogy starring Christian Bale and were the most critically acclaimed films.
Meanwhile, bad management drove Marvel Comics to the verge of bankruptcy in 1996. To bring in cash to the struggling comics company, it sold the movie rights of Spider-man to Sony Pictures, and the X-Men to Twentieth Century-Fox. The astounding financial box-office success of the Spider-man movies (each movie in the trilogy made around $800 million worldwide) and The X-Men movies produced by these movie studios made Marvel realized how popular the superhero movies could be. Marvel later expanded into producing movies on their own and created Marvel Studios.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe
Marvel Studios created the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films, and this was kicked off with the release of the first Iron Man movie in 2008. The movie was a box-office success with a worldwide gross of $585 million. This was followed by the origin movies of Captain America and Thor, starring then unknowns Chris Evans and Chris Hems worth in the title roles, respectively. I was so ecstatic as these movies brought back childhood memories and renewed my interest in superheroes. Despite the majority of the movie fans around the world having no background knowledge of who these superheroes were before the movies opened, these films became huge hits, earning $370 million and $449 million, respectively.
You have to credit Marvel Studios for their spectacular film production, creative storytelling, and inspiring casting. Equally important was the grand promotion and marketing they conducted in the mainstream and social media that was so phenomenal. Promotional materials and movie trailers can now be easily shared online with a click, and can rapidly go viral in minutes. This is a far cry from the time before social media, when a good word-of-mouth review would take a while to help a movie succeed in the box-office. Like in fashion trends, the bandwagon effect on movie audiences can bring even the casual fans to the box office. It is a psychological phenomenon in which people do something primarily because other people are doing it, so as to conform and belong to the majority.
Then the biggest event up to that time finally happened in 2012 when the three superheroes who already scored individual blockbuster success – Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor along with their friends assembled in the movie The Avengers. The movie broke all box office records and earned more than more than $1.5 billion worldwide. The studio also packed the theaters with relatively unknown heroes such as the Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange, Ant-man, and Black Panther. The follow-up movies out grossing the original individual movies, and even the unexpected box-office success of the films featuring relatively unknown heroes are testaments of the bandwagon phenomenon. Up to the last film Avengers: Infinity War, the studio has released 19 movies and has grossed over $17 billion at the global box office, making it the highest-grossing film franchise of all time. Marvel has indeed found a gold mine.
We all watched and marveled at the Avengers: Infinity War. I sensed the excitement of the theater crowd on the first day, and cheered with them, especially at the scenes when Captain America and Thor re-appeared to help the other Avengers fight Thanos and his minions. I was apprehensive that some of our favorite superheroes – rumors had it that Iron Man and Captain America – would die in the movie. I was relieved that Tony Stark and Steve Rogers survived, but was shocked with that unexpected ending. The rest of the non-original Avengers disintegrated into dust, just with one snap of Thanos’ fingers after he completed all the six Infinity stones. We are entering the final phase of MCU as we await the release of the conclusion of the battle with Thanos next year. We anticipate that most heroes will be resurrected for a final showdown with Thanos, and some heroes are definitely departing the MCU. We will have to wait for May 2019 to get all the answers.
July 2018 Health and Lifestyle