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Superhero Genre

Rob Miller | Monday January 21, 2019

Categories: Codes & Conventions


Initially ‘Saturday Movie Serials’ - e.g. Batman (1943) and Captain America (1944) - were successful with young audiences, but fundamentally Superhero Movies went into decline in the 1950s and 1960s, and did not pick up until much later. Occasional films like Batman (1966) with Adam West, borrowing from the success of the TV series, and Mario Bava’s Danger: Diabolik (1968) were exceptions, offering limited interest at the cinema.

With this in mind, it was not until Superman (in 1978) that the genre took off with the film scoring a critical and commercial. This is why when we talk about historical examples of the genre it is difficult to cite examples before 1978, as in terms of cinema the genre has only featured broadly in cinemas since the late 1970s. In relation to literature, the Superhero genre has always maintained a cult following, facilitated to a significant degree by DC Comics and Marvel.

Many Superhero films in the 1970s and 1980s benefited from the developing popularity of the Fantasy genre, and the commercial success of Science Fiction films, like Star Wars (1977). The films also explore notions of hybridity crossing over with Action, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Children’s animated films, Comedy and to a lesser extent, Horror. Below is an extensive, although not exhaustive list of key texts:


  • Superman (1978)
  • Superman II (1980)
  • Swamp Thing (1982)
  • Superman III (1983)
  • Supergirl (1984)
  • The Toxic Avenger (1985)
  • Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
  • Batman (1989)
  • Dick Tracey

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