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Aside from being the year when the world will be laid to waste by the wrath of Itzcoliuhqui, Aztec God of Darkness (and cold, and volcanos), 2012 is almost certainly the "make or break" year for the superhero as movie star. 2012 boasts undoubtedly the two biggest "events" in the genre's history: Christopher Nolan's third (and almost certainly final) Batman movie, a follow-up to biggest-superhero-movie-ever The Dark Knight; and The Avengers, the culmination of Marvel Studios' unprecendented (by then) six-film gambit to bring the comic book concept of a shared-continuity universe to the screen.
It's a foregone conclusion that both films - the most anticipated superhero sequel ever and the most ambitious superhero project ever - will be successful by any conventional measure, but they also mark a kind of high point for the genre, one way or another. It's hard to imagine a higher profile than having Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow and Batman stomping across the screen in the same year. The question is, is this tipping point the moment where the genre leaves such an impact on the movies that costumed vigilantes join cowboys, WWII soldiers and cops-who-don't-play-by-the-rules as permanent fixtures of the multiplex? Or is it the moment where moviegoers roundly declare, "Okay, that was delicious, but we're full, now," and they instead join foreign legionnaires, pirates and breakdancers as brief trends emerging only sporadically after one short period of pop culture omnipresence.
Regular readers of this column (or viewers of Escape to The Movies) already know that I hope it's the former - especially since there are so many great characters still yet to be filmed, particularly among the so-called "second tier" players - you know, like Iron Man was before he met Robert Downey Jr. With that in mind, here's a rundown of brightly-dressed fellows who might not be household names but still deserve their shot at the big screen.
Audiences went nuts for the first Iron Man trailer, and it was a safe bet that most of them had never even heard of him before. It was the concept that connected with them: rich genius, kidnapped by terrorists, builds robot suit to fight them, builds better suit to fight more of them. Damn right, you wanted to see that movie.
DC's Green Arrow, from where I sit, has the same kind of instantly-"gotten" appeal just waiting to be unleashed, right down to the non-fan-friendly simple setup. Oliver Queen is a vigilante who fights for the poor and underprivileged against the rich and corrupt - not only acting like a modern-day Robin Hood, but dressing the part, too. See? Even without the source material to back it up, that's a completely viable movie pitch right there. Some characters are simply too hard to explain concisely, but Robin Hood? Everyone knows Robin Hood, and what the association implies.
And if that doesn't get them into the theater, a flesh and blood actress dressed up like Black Canary will.
Technically, this fella has been filmed. Remember that boyfriend character Ty Burrell played in The Incredible Hulk? That was Doc Samson, though he's only named in the credits and doesn't seem to have any of his powers. Short version: Dr. Leonard Samson a psychiatrist who gained superhuman strength (and a nifty green mullet) after being exposed to Hulk-style gamma radiation. Like basically everyone exposed to gamma radiation who isn't Russian or Bruce Banner, it's the best thing that's ever happened to him (see also: The She-Hulk, who actually gets hotter as a Hulk and thus rarely opts to change back) both personally and professionally. Being a licensed therapist who can also snap a hammer-lock on the likes of The Thing is a really, really sought-after skillset in the Marvel Universe of neurotic, mentally-damaged superhumans.
This is one of a few guys on this list that, despite inevitable fandom protestations, would probably work best as a comedy. Just picture it: Uber-muscled, spandex-clad avengers lying on the couch describing their insecurities, buxom fetish-dressed supervillianesses sobbing about their daddy issues, Iron Man calling up because he just found out there's an open bar at the wedding and he's "feeling weak" ... that's gold.