By Tracy Haney/Accent editor

Out of the dark corners of the comic stores, the pages of Marvel, the bedroom collections of the die-hard fans, a hero fulfills his destiny.No, his destiny is not saving the damsel in distress or slaying the town villian – he’s headed for the big screen and he’s bringing some friends along for the ride.

More and more comic heroes are busting into Hollywood, and moviegoers are eating it up.

These days comic fans can get their fix with films like “The Punisher” and “Hellboy,” but comic-based movies certainly aren’t new to the industry.

Refresh your memory

On Dec. 15, 1978, our favorite journalist-turned-red-caped-superhero hit the big screen when Superman was released by Warner Bros. The movie was an instant success and proved the comic book industry could hold its own in the movie world.

On June 23, 1989, another caped crusader, this one with pointy ears and a Bat-mobile, burst onto the screen.

Batman, even with his questionable fashion choice of rubber suit, is credited with paving the way for some of the darker comic book movies we see today.

Other comics have seen movie fame as well: “Daredevil,” “X-Men,” “Judge Dredd,” “The Crow,” “Tank Girl,” “Blade,” “The Mask,” “Spawn,” “Timecop,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Men in Black” and “Swamp Thing,” just to name a few.

A hero emerges

According to Warren Shaw, manager of Monster Comics in Berea, “Spider-man,” released May 3, 2002, by Columbia Pictures, was the movie that helped comics re-emerge into the film industry.

“(‘Spider-man’) proved you could make a superhero movie and get people to come in,” Shaw said.

Recently comic book movies have steered away from the well-known superheroes and have concentrated on darker, less iconic characters.

Shaw credits this to a revival in the mid-’90s in which comic writers were tired of following the “comic book code” and started producing more graphic titles.

Possibilities are endless

Shaw also credits the revival to technological advancements in the film industry.

“The hindrance was special effects for a long time,” Shaw said, “especially (creating) characters of inhuman proportions.”

Communication Professor Doug Rogers agrees technology is no longer a setback.

“If the director can imagine it, we can put it up there on the screen,” Rogers said. “Digital imagery has become very simple to do,” Rogers said, so much so it is now sometimes the driving force of the film.

Besides the special effects, Rogers credits the popularity of comic book films to people’s interest in the fantasy world.

“For the past 30 years fantasy films have been big business … ‘Lord of the Rings’ for instance was an indicator that people enjoy the fantastic, and comic books have always dealt in the fantastic.”

However, Rogers thinks the industry is probably at its peak as far as comic book films.

“I can’t imagine viewership getting much higher,” Rogers said. “(The industry) is reaching now for characters that have not been around for a long time.”

Comic movies forever

The self-declared “comic geek on campus,” Keil Williams, a freshman from Martin County, begs to differ.

“(Comic book movies) are getting better and better as it goes along,” Williams said. “Everybody is seeing them whether they’re buying the comic books or not.”

Williams said he is looking forward to the soon-to-be-released Spider-man sequel and the third X-Men movies.

He said the films “stack up perfectly” with the books, but also are popular because they have characters people grew up with and can identify with as well as great stories and lots of action.

The only certainty is comic book movies aren’t going anywhere in the near future.

“Hollywood is in the business of making money,” Rogers said. “As long as the last superhero movie made money, we are going to make another one.”