By Joe Olvera ©, 2012
A 1938 Action Comic Book shows a red-and-blue-clad Super-man hoisting up a car in an explosive scene; another shows the Man of Steel rescuing a man seen apparently falling to his death from a New-York style skyscraper. But for the flying super-dude, that man, obviously, would not have survived the fall. Thus, from the earliest inception, Superman burst upon the American scene as one of our first Super heroes.
From comic books, then, to a 1950s series about the Super-dude on the small screen, with actor George Reeves playing the role, an announcer introduced us to the man who was: “Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Look, up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane. It’s Superman! Yes, it’s Superman – strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Superman – who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands, and who disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for Truth, Justice, and the American way.”
And, so, one Super hero was born. One year later a second Super hero burst on the American scene when Batman appeared in Detective Comics #27 in May, 1939. Known also as the Caped Crusader, the Dark Knight, and the World’s Greatest Detective, Batman didn’t have superpowers, but he did have his Utility Belt, from which he could draw weapons to fight his enemies, including: The Joker, The Penguin, The Riddler, Two-Faced Poison Ivy, and, of course, Cat Woman. Batman was, of course, Bruce Wayne, billionaire industrialist who used his wealth, his wit, his intellectual powers to fight evil in the mythical Gotham City.
With the help of his boy wonder – Robin; his butler, Alfred Pennyworth, his Bat Cave, and his souped-up Bat Mobile, Batman was a mysterious figure who roamed the streets at night, scooping up evil-doers. Following on the heels of Superman, Batman was not from a distant planet like Krypton. He was American-born and bred. He did not have super-powers either, but he didn’t need them.
And then came Spider-Man. Known also as Spidery, Web-Slinger, Wall-Crawler, and Web-Head, Spider-Man crawled into the Super-Hero genre in Amazing Fantasy #15 in August, 1962. Published by Marvel Comics, and edited by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, the character was born with super strength and super agility, including the ability to cling to most surfaces – like a spider – shoot spider webs using web shooters, and the sensitivity to react to danger quickly with his spider-sense.
Though he came well after Superman and Batman, Spider-Man has superseded both comic books and commercial movies as the most popular and commercially successful hero. He has appeared in many forms of media, including animated and live-action television shows, syndicated newspaper comic strips and a series of films starring Tobey Maguire as the action star. He’s even been on Broadway, in the musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. To boot, Spiderman emerged, in 2011, as third on IGN’s Top 100 Comic Book Heroes of All Time.
From comic books to multi-media presentations, these Super-heroes have evolved into powerful, money-making mutants, earning millions of dollars around the world. None, however, has generated the huge commercial success of the most recent attack on human sensibilities as the movie, “The Avengers.” The recent production by Marvel Comics – who first introduced The Avengers in comic book form in 1963 – the film has set unprecedented box office records, raking in more than $107 million in its first weekend.
By uniting the Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Wasp, the Ant Man, and others, and with their battle-cry of “Avengers Assemble,” the list of human mutants, robots, gods, aliens and supernatural beings have grossed more than $1.5 billion around the world, and still counting. But, picture, if you will, a movie featuring the super-hero trio of Superman, Batman, and Spiderman all in one production. Can you imagine the income to be generated by some creative movie- making genius? It boggles the mind!