You may have noticed that superhero films and TV shows are undergoing a major shift. And that’s a good thing. Throughout the last 12 months, we’ve seen parameters broadened and conventions subverted across the entire comic book spectrum. Marvel Studios continued its explorations of new worlds and characters starting with Black Panther. It’s not often that a movie achieves cultural significance immediately after it hits theaters, but Ryan Coogler’s take on the African hero certainly earned that distinction. It may even have a bright future at the Oscars.
From there, Marvel went on to produce Avengers: Infinity War, the genre’s biggest, most densely populated film of all time. At least until Avengers: Endgame arrives next April. Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp provided young female fans with a new role model to look up to. Even the oft-maligned Sony enjoyed a respectable degree of fan adulation this year. Say what you will about their last two attempts at a Spider-Man franchise. But Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse exceeded expectations with a breathtaking animation style and a heartwarming script.
Marvel’s chief rival, DC, largely sat out this year’s round of superhero cinema until Aquaman‘s release earlier this month. However, that film continues to draw audiences thanks to its lightheartedness imbued by James Wan’s direction and Jason Momoa’s performance. DC also persisted in building their TV universe on The CW, culminating in the Elseworlds crossover that introduced a handful of beloved characters from the comics. Unfortunately, Marvel didn’t have the same luck on the small-screen. The Marvel Netflix shows had new seasons for four out of the five ongoing series. The new episodes were positively received. But that wasn’t enough to keep save Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist from getting canned by the streaming service. Ongoing conflicts between Netflix, Disney, and Marvel also played a role in the demise of those shows.
Of course, 2018 wasn’t without its share of sadness. We said goodbye to Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, giants of the industry whose collaborations inspired countless readers and creators over more than five decades. Although they’re no longer with us, their legacies will live on in their pathos-driven characters that now dominate American popular culture. Spider-Man’s success on the big screen is indebted to his creators’ shared idea that sometimes, being human is the most heroic thing a person can do.
In that spirit, let’s bid “Excelsior!” to 2018 and take a gander at the Top 10 superheroes of the year. Then share your picks in the comment section below!