Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts


Film Studies


Dr. Joseph Wlodarz


This thesis examines the corporate structures, marketing strategies and economic shifts that have influenced the recent resurgence of the comic book superhero in popular Hollywood cinema. Using their original texts and adaptation films, this study will chronologically examine how each company’s brand identities and corporate structures have reacted to and been shaped by the major cultural and industrial shifts of the past century in its attempt to account for the varying success of these companies throughout their histories. Beginning with the superhero’s first appearance on screen in the 1940s, this study traces the development of Marvel and DC’s distinct brand identities through their major franchises including Superman, Batman, Captain America, X-Men, Spider-Man, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and The Avengers. In particular, this thesis links cultural and commercial dominance of Marvel’s independent, vertically integrated corporate structure to its proliferation of blockbuster film adaptations over the past decade.