LOS ANGELES, July 12, 2008— -- In Hollywood, this might go down as the summer of the superhero.
Two of the summer's biggest blockbusters are "Iron Man" and "The Incredible Hulk" -- together they have grossed the superheroic sum of over $786 million.
Marvel Entertainment created both films. Marvel comics also invented famous superheroes including Spider-Man, Captain America, Wolverine, Silver Surfer, Ghost Rider, Gambit, Thor, and Phoenix.
The company originally only sold comic books featuring these extraordinary beings fighting villains and saving the universe, but it is now applying the lessons it learned on the printed page to films and is conquering Hollywood.
"Iron Man," which was released at the beginning of May, stars Robert Downey Jr. as the leading superhero Iron Man. In "The Incredible Hulk," which was released in mid-June, Edward Norton creates the title character.
They aren't the only superheroes on the big screens this summer. DC Comics' Batman is getting another run in "The Dark Knight," and Hell Boy, a Dark Horse Comics character, returns in "Hell Boy 2: The Golden Army."
Both "Iron Man" and "The Incredible Hulk, already two of the summer's biggest movies, are hinting that more superheroes are on the way.
Stan Lee, the man who created the characters, said Spiderman and The X-Men are huge franchises, but that Marvel is now taking a page from comic books like never before, by teasing future movies in the films that are currently playing in theaters.
"We did that in the comics. We took those of our superheroes, we put them together and had them form a team called the Avengers," Lee said, referring to an ever changing roster of superheroes that teamed up to fight the bad guys.
In the movies "Iron Man" and "The Incredible Hulk," there are already scenes that hint at an eventual Avenger movie.
In the closing credits at the end of "The Incredible Hulk," Samuel L. Jackson made an appearance as the character Nick Fury, hinting at the possibility of all of the superheroes creating the "Avengers" to fight the villains in the Marvel Universe.
Fans are already captivated to find out what will come next.
Lee, who now runs POW! Entertainment, is 85 years old and has never been busier. He has made many cameo appearances in his films, including all of the Spiderman series, "X Men -- The Last Stand," "Fantastic Four" and many others.
The comic book kid from New York has become a Hollywood powerbroker. He even has a deal with Disney, ABC's parent company.
He said that what made his superheroes into icons -- first in comic books and now in films -- is that they had problems just like everyone else.
"I think they're lasting because of the fact that we concentrated so hard on their personal lives," Lee said.
There are about a dozen more films based on characters created by Stan Lee, including Spider Man 4, X-Men Origins, Wolverine, Thor and Silver Surfer planned for release in the next few years. And the company hopes to release the Avengers film being teased in recent summer blockbusters by 2011.
So with a few Marvel comic films in the works, we can count on plenty of superheroes for years to come.