***"Ant-Man" is about three weeks away from its North American release, this article may contain material that could be deemed as spoilers***
If you've never heard of the Marvel Comics character Ant-Man until Disney started developing the film, you're probably not in the minority. As far as mainstream superheroes go, he's far from A-list.
Ant-Man was one of the founding members of "The Avengers" when Stan Lee developed the supergroup back in 1963, but he hasn't gone on to have the popularity of other characters like Spider-Man or the X-Men. Now, after over 50 years of relative obscurity, Ant-Man is getting a movie. And, so far, the early consensus is pretty positive.
Actor Paul Rudd arrives for the Premiere Of Marvel's 'Ant-Man' held at Dolby Theatre on June 29, 2015 in Hollywood, California. Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Lower-tier characters are often given a jump in popularity due to a successful television show or film. Green Arrow was a relatively unknown - and often overlooked - character in the mainstream until he was portrayed rather masterfully by Justin Hartley on the CW television series "Smallville." Now, Green Arrow is the main protagonist of his own successful television series on the network and he is fast becoming one of the most popular characters in comics.
Ant-Man is now in a position to benefit from a similar jump in popularity.
These characters don't occupy the B, C or D lists because they aren't good characters. Quite the contrary, characters like Blue Beetle, Booster Gold and The Question have huge fan followings within the comic book community. Many fans, and even "Arrow" producer Marc Guggenheim, have expressed great interest in seeing The Question on that show.
The popularity of comic book characters - and by extension their success in the pop culture mainstream - comes down to exposure, pure and simple. Ant-Man is a silly name, and he sounds like a silly character, but when you are really honest, Spider-Man is also a silly name. Spider-Man endures because he's had exposure.
[sharequote align="center"]Iron Man, Superman, Batman and Captain America can't carry the franchise by themselves forever.[/sharequote]
DC Comics and Warner Bros. had tried testing the lesser known character waters before, with movies like "Steel" and the television series "Birds of Prey." But those projects weren't especially well-executed and that makes all the difference. Superman can weather a flop like "Superman Returns," whereas someone like Ant-Man or the Guardians of the Galxy have to be above average to be successful.
"Guardians of the Galaxy" had a lot of things going for it to make it one of the biggest movies of 2014, the least of which was the Marvel name. "Guardians" had relatable characters, a good, solid story, and was paced brilliantly. There was the right amount of humor amid the action. Ant-Man looks like it is retaining may of these qualities and future lower-tier superheroes need to take notice. It's a formula that works.
The superhero movie genre can't survive on the same old, tired characters. Iron Man, Superman, Batman and Captain America can't carry the franchise by themselves forever.
The genre needs to be injected with new blood to stay relavent and entertainig, and Marvel seems to understand this. On deck after Ant-Man are films featuring other lower-tier characters such as Black Panther, Captain Marvel and Doctor Strange.
If Disney and Marvel can keep this pace, and Warner Bros. can learn from Marvel's successes and match it, the superhero movie genre can easily sail into the next decade and beyond.
Feature Image: Getty Images
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