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Comics Conquer Hollywood

The "Spiderman" films are two of the top ten highest grossing U.S. box office films with $403M and $373M, respectively. Both were directed by Sam Raimi.
Sony Pictures
This story was written by CBSNews.com's Nicola Menzie
News that Marvel comics plans to churn out movies based on its comic book characters highlights Hollywood's growing appetite for films ripped from the pages of popular comics.

Marvel intends to sink more than half-a-billion dollars into the movie venture. The company has some 5,000 characters in its library, and plans to turn out 10 films over the next eight years. The first titles will include "Captain America" and "Nick Fury."

Marvel's decision to take things into its own hands is hardly surprising. The current 'it' thing in Hollywood is adapting comic books for the big screen, primarily with publishing giants like Marvel and DC Comics.

At the rate that comic book movies are being produced, it's practically uncommon nowadays to walk into a theater and not see at least one preview or poster for a DC or Marvel-based movie.

Even the smaller comic book publishers, like Image and Dark Horse, are muscling their way onto the Hollywood film lots.

It all started in 1978 with the pivotal release of "Superman: The Movie," starring the late Christopher Reeves. The film was well received and even won a few awards.

However, it wasn't until 2002's "Spider-Man" that Hollywood studios and comic book publishers realized what kind of damage they could do at the box office.

In comparison, "Superman" grossed more than $134 million, while "Spider-Man" and "Spider-Man 2" are two of the top ten highest grossing U.S. box office films with $403 million and $373 million, respectively.

Marvel was able to climb out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1998 partly because of the comic book-to-big screen cash infusion it received. Nevertheless, most analysts believe the company's haul was relatively small in comparison to the money raked in by the Hollywood studios that produced the movies. That's why Marvel decided to take things into its own hands.

And why not? Comic book movies are so lucrative nowadays that even Archie Comics is rumored to be jumping on the bandwagon.

Imagine, every superhero, every super team (the X-Men and Fantastic Four) and every superhero from every super team--and perhaps even a villain or two--are all film possibilities.

What's more, it isn't just your typical superhero fare that's getting the Hollywood treatment. Audiences have also embraced "The Road To Perdition," the biopic "American Splendor" and the gritty crime noir "Sin City." With so much variety and breadth of material, comic book movies may have quite a long and profitable future.