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As 'Iron Man 2' showtimes fill up, Hollywood hunts next comic book hero

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But the upcoming studio slates suggest there is no lack of will to try: Thor, Human Torch and Nick Fury. The trend will continue as long as the genre makes money, but also, as long as the world continues to be a dangerous and chaotic place, says Greg Garrett, author of “Holy Superheroes,” and “The Gospel According to Hollywood.” “Superhero stories will continue to be appealing narratives,” he writes in an email. “The idea that someone is watching over us is a tremendously powerful narrative, and superhero films carry the same kind of weight as religious narratives positing a controlling intelligence in the universe. Both allow us to believe that there is some sort of order in all the chaos, and that however difficult things become, someone has the power to stand against the forces of violence and evil,” he adds.

Marketing plays a key role in translating comic book popularity to movie success, says Chris Anderson of The Marketing Arm. The first step is finding an interesting, appropriate, and buzz-worthy actor to play the lead. Robert Downey Jr. was well-cast as Iron Man, he says. And as movie fans (not necessarily comic book fans) began to learn more about the character and the film, the buzz grew. The smart approach to marketing lesser-known superheroes is to begin with the core-fans – these pockets of loyal, passionate comic book fans and use the various social media to build awareness, say Mr. Anderson. “If this audience is on board,” he says via e-mail, “they become champions of the film and the buzz begins to build organically around the project.“

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