Between the Panels: How the Interactions Between Commerce and Art Shape Superhero Comic Book Film Adaptations (2000-13)
This dissertation’s principal contribution to knowledge lies in its demonstration of the thesis that while economic considerations are ultimately determinant, artistic considerations have a degree of influence in shaping contemporary superhero comic book film adaptations and, as a consequence, the genre as a whole. Specifically, the dissertation argues that while the description of economic considerations as determinant in the last instance is accurate in relation to the long term development of the genre, in terms of each individual superhero film, a more accurate description is that economic considerations are determinant in the first instance. It focuses on the period 2000-13, at the beginning of which the superhero film genre was restarted by Bryan Singer’s X-Men and during which franchises such as The Dark Knight and Iron Man achieved unprecedented box office success for studios such as Warner Bros. and the newly created Marvel Studios. The dissertation considers how the relationship between art and commerce has been theorised historically, with particular emphasis on Marx’s mode of production and superstructure formulation and the subsequent modifications to it, including those of Louis Althusser. The dissertation uses a multiple case study comprised of four significant film franchises: Fox’s first X-Men trilogy, Universal and Marvel Studios’ Hulk films, Marvel Studios’ Iron Man trilogy and Warner Bros.’ Dark Knight trilogy. Each case study identifies specific changes made to the comic book source material in adaptation and by combining readings of the films with a consideration of their commercial contexts, demonstrates the extent to which each adaptation change is symptomatic of commercial or artistic logic.