‘The Avengers’ a Comic Book Gambit That Pays Off With Summer Audiences

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"Marvel's The Avengers" saw a $200 million, record-breaking weekend that dethroned the "Harry Potter" franchise and made it a hard summer act to follow. While many thought book-to-film adaptations like "The Hunger Games" would be the box office breadwinners of the season, it appears film adaptations of comic books proved to be the real blockbuster draw.

Topping Sales Then and Now

"The Amazing Spider-Man" and the return of the caped crusader in "The Dark Knight Rises" are some of the most anticipated films of this summer. If history is any indication, they will also be among the most profitable for studios. What is it exactly about comic book characters that make a majority of summer films audiences come out in droves?

According to Box Office Mojo, the top five grossing films of all time adapted from comics are "The Dark Knight," the three "Spider-Man" films, and "Iron Man." It makes perfect sense that the 2012 summer blockbuster season should already have a high-earning Marvel Comics movie featuring, among other superheroes, Iron Man. These sales trends suggest the "Spider-Man" reboot and the next chapter in the "Batman" prequels should follow suit.

The Formula

The humorous sci-fi/adventure prequel "Men in Black 3" is another comic book adaptation that will perform well due to its predictable summer blockbuster traits. Moviegoers are not only familiar with the actors but the content and the franchise. The film is derived from a beloved comic with its own fan following, and it has the requisite action content, practically guaranteeing ticket sales.

Also, the comic book publisher who first released "The Men in Black" comics in the '90s was eventually bought out by Marvel, which also owns the rights to "The Avengers" superheroes. While a comic doesn't necessarily have to be Marvel-owned to make huge profits, it doesn't hurt.

DC Comics owns the Batman and Superman characters and both have performed exceptionally well as film adaptations. There is also dependability in fanboys supporting movies featuring their favorite characters. This dedication is exhibited in the costumes worn by fans waiting in opening weekend lines for sold-out showings of most comic book films.

Setting the Bar

Another reliable trend is summer audiences' adoration of explosions, adventures, and fantasy coupled with a good plot. "Jaws" and "Star Wars" set the bar for summer blockbusters back in the '70s and remain some of the highest grossing films to date (when adjusted for inflation). Suspense and death-defying action are staples of the season, a trend only strayed from by the odd animated Disney or Pixar adventure, or a book adaptation with its own built-in audience.

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