And as Broadway slumps, plans for a record-budget Spider-Man musical – with songs by U2’s Bono and the Edge – were confirmed last week. The webslinger is set to swing onto the Great White Way in January.
Maybe President Obama – a comic book fan in his youth – should be taking notes as he struggles to revive a failing economy.
The secret to the superheroes’ success, especially during tough times, appears to be old-fashioned escapism. The latest figures show that overall movie ticket sales are up 17.5 percent this year, despite – or, more likely, because of – the economic downturn.
Those numbers are expected to hit new heights when the long-awaited movie version of the dark superhero flick “Watchmen” arrives this week: tickets for midnight showings already are being gobbled up by the hardcore geek set.
For anyone looking for additional respites from reality, there will be plenty more opportunities in the months to come.
Samuel L. Jackson has signed on to play S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury in an unprecedented nine upcoming Marvel movies, including the “Ironman” sequel, “Captain America,” “The Avengers,” and “Thor,” which is slated to be directed by Kenneth Branagh, who is better known for staging Shakespeare than Stan Lee.
Michel Gondry, director of the eerie and ethereal “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” reportedly has been tapped to helm the long-delayed “Green Hornet” flick, which will star Seth Rogen.
For those who like their action set in outer space, the “Star Trek” prequel flick is due in May, and reports indicate a “Battlestar Galactica” movie is in the works (albeit one based on the 1970s TV series).
Beyond a fun diversion and a relatively cheap date, superhero flicks pack a payoff that particularly resonates when folks are feeling low. Even if the lines between good and evil are blurred these days compared to the movies of old, the bad guys, more often than not, get what’s coming to them. Audiences usually walk out with at least a glimmer of hope.
So as he takes the occasional break from trying to save the economy and raise the country's spirits, the First Fanboy might want to screen some of the upcoming comic book-inspired flicks. Obama can even claim a small role in the superhero boom: the special Inauguration edition Spider-Man comic co-starring the President is now in its fifth printing -- and reportedly is on track to become the series’ highest-selling issue in nearly 15 years.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.