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They've come in different shapes and sizes, but over Hollywood's summer movie season superhero movies have cleaned up at the box office. Collectively 'The Dark Knight', 'Iron Man', 'Hancock', 'The Incredible Hulk' and 'Hellboy 2: The Golden Army' have brought in more than $1.2 billion in the US alone.
Grady Hendrix: "This has been huge. They're everywhere and they're making all the money in the world. Basically, I think they're having to print more money, between Iron Man and Batman they've pretty much eaten up the box office."
Some think that the economic downturn has made Americans hungry for superhero escapism and that's why they've been so popular.
"Everyone is looking for something to look up to," said a man we asked on Wall Street. "And as times like this get dark, they're looking for a hero."
Those that monitor trends in Hollywood believe there is a correlation between economic uncertainty and superhero success.
Lauren Schuker: "The economy has been stumbling further and further into disrepair and so films like 'Iron Man' and 'The Dark Knight', where there is a very clear hero who seems to sort of rescue audiences, [are] much more appealing than some of the films which have struggled with less clear heroes and villains."
But others take the view that superhero movies are doing well in these times of financial stringency not because filmgoers are seeking superhuman escapism
Grady Hendrix: "I don't think [it's because] times are tough so people want to see reassuring superheroes solve the world's problems. I think what it is people want to say 'I'm spending $10 and I'm going with a franchise or a character that I'm familiar with. I know what I'm getting for my money'."
Whatever the reasons the strong performance of superhero movies, this summer has been noted by the Hollywood studios so there are plans to have a lot more of them.
The international marketplace has become increasingly important to Hollywood and superhero movies have great global potential – it's estimated that superheroes now have brand familiarity in more than 60 countries.
Lauren Schuker: "They really have an international presence in a way that other franchises don't. So I think we're going to start seeing a whole slew of these movies next few years, and in addition films that sort of combine different superheroes together."
With the sequels that have now been planned, it won't be easy to repeat this summer's commercial and artistic superhero success. A superhero freshness that has brought some great performances – Robert Downey Junior in 'Iron Man', and Heath Ledger as The Joker in 'The Dark Knight'.