Novelist Declan Finn recently shared his thoughts on why the superhero film genre is dying and how it mirrors the death of the western film genre in the 60s.

Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man in Avengers: Endgame (2019), Marvel Studios

Finn appears to have come across an old headline that resurfaced where director Steven Spielberg predicted that the superhero film genre would die much like the western one did.

While promoting his film Bridge of Spies back in 2015, Spielberg told the Associated Press via The Hollywood Reporter, “We were around when the Western died and there will be a time when the superhero movie goes the way of the Western. It doesn’t mean there won’t be another occasion where the Western comes back and the superhero movie someday returns.”

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 07: (L-R) Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg attends the Los Angeles premiere of West Side Story, held at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, California on December 07, 2021. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for 20th Century Studios)

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Finn reacted to these comments saying, “Yeah, sadly. But not because it’s going to be ‘over done’ or ‘worn out’. This isn’t superhero fatigue. There was no cowboy fatigue.”

He explained, “What happened to the Westerns is that, in the early 60s (watch old cowboy TV series, you can *see* it happen) writers couldn’t relate to the heroic manly man as anything other than a hollow, evil, conniving villain.”

“They didn’t *want* heroes, they wanted *anti* heroes,” he elaborated. “They didn’t want people to look up to and aspire to be like, they wanted people who were so full of fail that they could feel good about themselves in comparison.”

John Wayne as George Washington “G.W.” McClintock in McClintock (1963), United Artists

With these characters inserted into the western genre, Finn posits that the viewing public rejected it and stopped watching the genre, “But the viewing public *hated* that, and wanted their heroes back. So they quit watching westerns and turned to doctor shows, where the doctors were still allowed to be heroes. (From Kildare to Quincy)”

He went on to posit this also occurred in science fiction publishing, “It’s *exactly* what happened, later, with science fiction publishing. No heroes, only social messaging.”

John Wayne as Sheriff John T. Chance in Rio Bravo (1959), Warner Bros.

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From there, Finn shared an analogy to what they did to westerns, science fiction publishing, and are currently doing to superheroes, “It’s as though a small group of people take over something thriving, and drive it directly into the ground trying to ‘improve’ it. Like a certain fictional character inventing ‘Broccoli flavored bubble gum’ for kids who don’t like candy, complete with trading cards of great moments in opera.”

He continued, “Soon there are only a select few of matching taste that are buying or trading, and they think they’re the entire world. They vote ‘best opera trading card’ of the year amongst their tiny number, and are very thrilled with each other.”

Finn then declared, “We’re not seeing superhero fatigue. We’re seeing Brie Larson and crap writing (but I repeat myself) all year long.”

Brie Larson as Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers in Marvel Studios’ THE MARVELS. Photo by Laura Radford. © 2023 MARVEL.

As for his solution to this, he offers Stargate SG-1 as an example, “We need the equivalent of indie printing in movies and TV. Stargate SG-1 was super – and had to be cable, because broadcast wouldn’t touch it.”

He even used his broccoli bubble gum analogy to elucidate this point, “But let somebody come in and say, ‘You know, I really liked the *old* bubble gum flavors, and the sports trading cards. Can we do that, too?’ and the clique goes into assassin mode.”

He added, “Indie is the way to go. Because, really, who wants an antihero chewing broccoli bubblegum?”

And Finn is putting his money where his mouth his. Finn is the author of the current ongoing series White Ops. He also wrote the St. Tommy N.Y.P.D. series, the Love at First Bite series, and the Pius trilogy among others.

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Finn’s comments are not unheard of. Current DC Studios CEO James Gunn was recently asked about the idea of superhero fatigue by former Lex Luthor actor Michael Rosenbaum.

Rosenbaum questioned, “Do you think that there are too many superhero shows and movies and… Because I remember when I did Smallville there were none?”

Gunn answered, “Yes. Yeah, I do think there’s too many.”

Rosenbaum then asked him, “So what do you do about that?”

Gunn responded, “But I don’t think it’s not…it’s much less a problem of too many. And yes, we are not going to overextend ourselves at DC. We’re going to be very careful with the product that we put out and making sure everything is as good as it can possibly be.”

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 27: James Gunn attends the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 World Premiere at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on April 27, 2023. (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for Disney)

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The DC Studios CEO then stated, “I think that what’s happened is people have gotten really lazy with their superhero stories and they have gotten to the place where, ‘Oh it’s a superhero let’s make a movie about it!’ And they make, ‘Oh! Let’s make a sequel because the first one did pretty well.’ And they aren’t thinking about why is this story special. What makes this story stand apart from other stories? What is the story at the heart of it all? Why is this character important? What makes this story different? That it fills a need for people in theaters to go see or on television.”

“And I think that people have gotten a little lazy,” he reiterated. “And there’s a lot of biff, pow, bam stuff happening in movies. Like I’m watching third acts of superhero films where I really just don’t feel like there’s a rhyme or reason to what’s happening. I don’t care about the characters.”

(L-R): Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), Makkari (Lauren Ridloff), Gilgamesh (Don Lee), Thena (Angelina Jolie), Ikaris (Richard Madden), Ajak (Salma Hayek), Sersi (Gemma Chan), Sprite (Lia McHugh), Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) and Druig (Barry Keoghan) in Marvel Studios’ ETERNALS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

He continued, “And they’ve gotten too generic. There’s this sort of middle of the road type of genre, tone that so many superhero movies as opposed to having very different genres. I like very serious superhero movies. I like very comedic superhero movies. I like ones that are really just a murder mystery, but it’s with superheroes.

Gunn added, “I like to see these different types of stories as opposed to seeing the same story told over and over again. I don’t know how many times I…”

Xolo Maridueña as Blue Beetle in Blue Beetle (2023), Warner Bros. Pictures

Rosenbaum would then share his own thoughts before Gunn elaborated, “I think that also and then people say superhero fatigue. I think that you see now that it’s not a real thing. People are fatigued with repetition. And I don’t think it’s really just superhero movies, I think you’re seeing it happening now, it’s spectacle films in general.”

He went on, “But there’s a lot of spectacle films made and they just have gotten really generic. And they’ve gotten boring and they aren’t about characters, and there’s no emotion to them. And there should be emotion in things no matter. That should always be there: some type of emotion. I’m not saying it can’t be really light. I’m not saying it can’t be really heavy. I’m saying there should be some sort of emotion.”

Gunn would then reference the horror genre, “In a horror movie if you like that main character then you are much more scared when they’re about to get killed. The stakes matter.”

(L-R): Mark Ruffalo as Smart Hulk / Bruce Banner and Tatiana Maslany as Jennifer "Jen" Walters/She-Hulk in Marvel Studios' She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

(L-R): Mark Ruffalo as Smart Hulk / Bruce Banner and Tatiana Maslany as Jennifer “Jen” Walters/She-Hulk in Marvel Studios’ She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

RELATED: James Gunn Explains Why Superhero Fatigue Exists: “If It Becomes Just A Bunch Of Nonsense Onscreen, It Gets Really Boring”

Gunn had previously informed Rolling Stone that he did indeed believe in superhero fatigue telling the outlet, “I think there is such a thing as superhero fatigue.” However, he then asserted, “I think it doesn’t have anything to do with superheroes.”

He explained, “It has to do with the kind of stories that get to be told, and if you lose your eye on the ball, which is character.”

“We love Superman. We love Batman. We love Iron Man. Because they’re these incredible characters that we have in our hearts. And if it becomes just a bunch of nonsense onscreen, it gets really boring,” he elaborated.

Ezra Miller, Michael Keaton, and Ezra Miller (again) as The Flash, Batman, and The Flash (again) in Andy Muschietti’s, “The Flash.”

He continued, “But I get fatigued by most spectacle films, by the grind of not having an emotionally grounded story. It doesn’t have anything to do with whether they’re superhero movies or not.”

Gunn then asserted, “If you don’t have a story at the base of it, just watching things bash each other, no matter how clever those bashing moments are, no matter how clever the designs and the VFX are, it just gets fatiguing, and I think that’s very, very real.”

(L-R): Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man and Kathryn Newton as Cassandra "Cassie" Lang in Marvel Studios' ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

(L-R): Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man and Kathryn Newton as Cassandra “Cassie” Lang in Marvel Studios’ ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

What do you make of Finn’s assertion that the superhero genre is dying because the people making the films are no longer showing superheroes being heroes or heroic manly men?

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    John F. Trent
    Founder and Editor-in-Chief

    John is the Editor-in-Chief here at Bounding Into Comics. He is a massive Washington Capitals fan, lover of history, and likes to dabble in economics and philosophy.