2023 was not a good year for superheroes on screen. That’s not to say that there weren’t financial successes — hi, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and even Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania — nor critical ones — hello again, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 — but, as a whole, it was a year in which movies like The Flash, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, and The Marvels flopped at the box office, and shows like Secret Invasion flopped on streaming services. After years of pundits claiming it was inevitable, 2023 was the year in which warnings about 'superhero fatigue' finally felt as if they might be coming true.
All of this, strangely enough, makes 2024 a surprisingly well-timed accident.
Thanks to the Writers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild strikes last year, a lot of movies have been hit with significant delays, with Marvel’s movies hit harder than most, with all of the mainstream Marvel Studios productions pushed out of 2024 altogether, leaving only Deadpool 3 and Sony’s Marvel-adjacent projects in theaters this year. DC, meanwhile, was already scheduled to be all-but-absent from theaters in 2024 due to the launch of DC Studios as a standalone entity; only the follow-up to 2019’s Joker will appear in theaters before the summer 2025 release of Superman: Legacy. While four superhero movies isn’t nothing, it’s down significantly from 2023’s eight — or nine, if you choose to call the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles superheroes — giving audiences what is clearly much-needed breathing space over the next 12 months.
It’s said that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and both Marvel and DC are almost certainly going to be hoping that’s the case given how 2023 went, both in terms of critical and financial success, but also comments from executives like Disney CEO Bob Iger about quantity having diluted quality at Marvel over the past few years. Even if the strikes hadn’t forced the issue for Marvel, it would have been a good idea to take a step back and let the audience miss the MCU for awhile, and then come back hungry for more once again.
Of course, the reduced Marvel output just puts more pressure on the few MCU projects that will appear this year: Deadpool 3 is the only Marvel Studios movie in theaters, and is expected to tie into the Multiverse Saga in a big way, but will audiences show up in force for what is likely to be an R-rated parody of the MCU as a whole? Similarly, are shows like Echo and Agatha: Darkhold Diaries what Marvel fans are going to be looking for this year, especially given that the other releases are outside of regular MCU continuity. (We have a list of upcoming Marvel releases right here.) There’s going to be a lot of eyes on Marvel in 2024, and almost as much speculation about whether or not audience have grown tired of the brand after more than a decade.
DC, of course, is going to be subject to just as much speculation, but with even less to go on: with only Joker: Folie à Deux in theaters and the final season of Superman and Lois on the small screen, it’s going to be a drought of new DC content just as the new DCU is being built; expect no shortage of commentary on everything from set pics from Superman: Legacy to casting announcements and more as that machine gets up to speed in the next few months. (Of course, we have a list of upcoming DC productions for you to check out, as well.)
The open question at the end of this is: will this reduced output of Marvel and DC shows make the audience miss them and realize how eager they are to return, or will it simply allow the audience to find something new to get into, instead? The closest we can come to a similar situation is the gap in Marvel and DC releases because of COVID shutdowns in 2020 and 2021, but that saw almost all movie and television production and releases impacted; this year, there are still going to be other movies and shows for people to escape into, should they choose. If they do, will they return to the superhero strata next year?
We won’t have a definitive answer until summer 2025, but it’s going to be interesting looking for the signs in the meantime.
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