Late last week, news broke that Anthony Hopkins had joined the cast of Thoras the Nordic paterfamilias, Odin. As I was writing up the news, I could practically see the Thor coverage that will titter across USA Weekend, Entertainment Tonight, and the local newspapers that are still landing on your driveway by 2010 and 2011. There will be so many articles shocked (shocked!) that an actor of Hopkins' caliber has chosen to embrace the pulp of the colored panels, smirking at pervasiveness of the geek trend, and engaging in shallow cultural criticism. It will look remarkably like USA Weekend's goggle-eyed look at the ladies of Iron Man, The Dark Knight, and The Incredible Hulk back in 2008.
Now, there's no doubt that the pages of Marvel, DC, and all the Dark Horses in between are being taken far more seriously than they once were. I think it's also becoming a bit of a Hollywood trend, and that many A-List actors want a little piece of the superhero pie, to permanently become part of the Marvel or DC universe. I believe a very similar trend sprung up around Disney animation in the 1990s, when everyone longed to voice a Disney character of their own and be permanently installed at the Magic Kingdom. Nowadays, animated characters are so superfluous that even McLovin' has a CG-3D flick to his resume, and the characters are forgotten as soon as the next Burger King tie-in comes out.
When I first began writing this column, I believed that comic book adaptations would reach such a point of saturation as to eat its own tail. But then Disney bought Marvel, and DC ballooned into something equally huge, and there's no end in sight. We're rapidly reaching a point when superheroes are going to become casual mentions on an Oscar winning resume. But you know what's really surprising? That's not new.