Not only is this Sunday International Superhero Day but this week also sees the release of the most hotly anticipated superhero movie in years. Avengers: Endgame will round off a franchise that has set new standards for the genre. Avengers: Infinity Wars broke all sorts of box office records and is currently the 4th highest grossing movie of all time, behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Avatar and Titanic.
The final instalment in the series will be big in just about every way imaginable. At over 3 hours long, the fight to save the universe is likely to see Avengers: Endgame become one of the most profitable movies, if not the most profitable movie, in cinematic history.
The concept of the superhero might be a product of the 20th century, developed within the pages of comic books that grew in rapid popularity throughout the 1930s, but the seeds of what a superhero is have arguably existed for as long as we have held the imagination needed to tell stories.
Hercules, Thor, Robin Hood, King Arthur… Each mythical character has something extraordinary that sets them apart from the average Joe and they used those powers or skills to fight evil, or in the case of Robin Hood, to protect the poor. Unlike Hercules and Thor who had godly powers, or King Arthur who could wield magic, Robin Hood was ordinary person with exceptional abilities, bravery and cunning that allowed him to redistribute wealth in an attempt to create a much fairer society.
He may not have worn a mask or had a secret identity, he may not have had super powers, but Robin Hood is arguably the earliest conscious creation of a character upholding the ideals that would come to shape the template for many of our modern day superheroes.
The mask and cape wearing alter ego would need to wait until 1903 and the creation of the Scarlet Pimpernel. This would lead us directly to Zorro in 1919, the Shadow in 1930 and the Phantom in 1936.
Whilst this concept developed, so did the medium that would bring superheroes into the public consciousness. Comic strips had been added to newspapers as light relief and contained the likes of Popeye, a sailor who could gain super strength by eating a full can of spinach.
The combination of super powers, costumes, separate identities and fighting bad guys emerged first in Japan. Ōgon Bat, or to give him is English name, Golden Bat, was a Japanese character who emerged in 1931 during the Japanese depression. He is from ancient Atlantis, sent forward 10,000 years into the future to battle with evil forces existing in Japan at the time. He can fly, has super strength and is pretty much invulnerable. The medium used was not the comic book as we know it but a sort of street theatre/story telling using picture boards.
It wouldn’t be until 1938 that everything would come together and form the comic book superhero as we know it today. The brainchild of writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster, Superman was the first proper comic book superhero as defined by the terms that we now take as given. Anyone lucky enough to own a copy of the first run of Action Comics, soon to be DC Comics, will have their hands on a piece of history and a large hunk of cash.
Superman has it all. He can fly, he has super strength, he is invincible (as long as there is no kryptonite around), he can shoot laser beams out of his eyes, freeze water with his breath and much more. Superman was the first of whole host of comic book superheroes that would herald the “Golden Age” of comic books.
It wasn’t long until Marvel joined the party. Known then as Timely Publications and formed in 1939, their first character was the “Human Torch”, followed closely by Namor the Sub-Mariner and Captain America. These three characters would become the bedrock of Timely Publications output until a much needed overhaul in the 1960s saw the company change it’s direction, name and the future of comic book superheroes.
In the meantime DC comics had found further success with Batman, The Flash, the Green Lantern, Green Arrow and Aquaman. The “Golden Age” of comic book superheroes was dominated by DC but as the genre moved into the 1950s its popularity began to wain and a much-needed re-imagining was called for.
In 1961 Stan Lee did just that. Timely Publications was now called Marvel and it’s first big success was the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman. The new character epitomised Lee’s new take on the genre. Comic books needed to find a new audience. Children had proved too fickle and those who had fallen in love with their favourite super heroes during the Golden Age were ready to have their imaginations re-ignited.
Lee realised that superheroes and their writers needed to grow up if they were going to appeal to the audience that had done just that. He could also see that more grown up characters, dialogue and plot were much more likely to maintain an audience and create the longevity that the industry desperately craved.
In the Fantastic Four, Lee created a set of characters, who despite their incredible superhuman abilities were as human as the audience they were appealing to. They were petty, vain, selfish and squabbled amongst themselves as only the best of friends can. What Lee did was create characters. Plot became secondary to characterisation and with that, deeper more empathetic connections between the art and the audience were formed.
With Spiderman he had a character who wasn’t confident or handsome or successful outside of the costume. He was, still is, a teenager and not a particularly popular one. Teenagers had never been the lead in comic books before. Their role was usually that of the sidekick to the superhero. In Spiderman the world was given its first self-conscious superhero, filled will all the inadequacies and angst that meant he could relate to a teenage audience.
That, in a nutshell, was Stan Lee’s formula. By creating superheroes that were just like us he helped to forge what is retrospectively coined the Silver Age of comic books. Marvel also messed with our perceptions of what superheroes should look like by making monstrous looking creatures like the Hulk and the Thing the good guys. DC struggled to keep up because many of their characters, none more blatantly than their flawless flagbearer, were just too perfect.
Their response? DC got real. Gritty depictions of social and political concerns framed what became known as the Bronze Age of comics. Thought to have started in 1970 with an issue of Green Lantern with Green Arrow as the title character, Denny O’Neill, former Marvel writer, plunged his central character into a world of poverty and social degradation.
A concerted effort grew to create comic books that had something to say and reflected reality in a way that didn’t hold back. The X-Men became social outcasts, ostracised for their differences. Black Panther become more relevant than ever. The Cold War, racial inequality, crime, corruption, drug addiction all made their way into the pages of the comic books of our and gave the Modern Age of comic books that began in the mid 80s the platform needed to stretch the genre, at times beyond recognition.
Gothic characters found their feet. Violence was as real and as visceral as it could be. The medium began to explore the darkest parts of humanity in graphic novels like the Watchmen and a newly imagined Batman in The Dark Night Rises. Superheroes now had to make tough choices, which meant that the perfect outcomes, the ones where all the good guys are OK in the end and all the bad guys are dealt with swift justice had come to an end.
During this period our superheroes made their way onto the big screen. There had been a Batman film in the 1960s based on the outrageously camp TV show, but for most, the first real superhero movie, just like the first real superhero comic, was Superman.
By the end of the 80s Batman had been reimagined. Then again in the mid 90s. And again in the Christopher Nolan movies of the early noughties.
The number of comics, the number of ages they’ve been through meant that when Hollywood’s claws became fully gouged into the genre they had a plethora of options, of sequels and reboots to fill cinemas all year round.
And so here we are. Waiting to see if comic book superheroes can take on all other genres and win the battle to become the most popular brand of cinematic entertainment that we have ever known.
Many would argue that they already have. That our superheroes have matured from the two-dimensional staid symbols of perfection that littered the Golden Age of comic books into characters as complex as those perceived to be more literary. Our superheroes have risen from the dank bedrooms of the reclusive nerds who hoarded them away in plastic dust jackets into mega franchises. The work of Stan Lee, Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Denny O’Neill, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster has been so profound within popular culture that their characters and stories have left indelible smudges in our imaginations and given us heroes to route for when the real world fails to meet our expectations.
The best we can do here at ThePogg to demonstrate our love for Superheroes is to another list of slots games for you. But this isn’t just any list. This is a list of the 5 best superhero themes slots games out there today for you to play.
Our subject might have changes but the system we use has not. All our games will have scored a minimum of 7 out of 10 on initial review and will be related to our theme. One problem that has arisen when looking for the best superhero slots games is that many of the really good ones have been pulled. Anything Marvel has all but disappeared as the new owners of the franchise, Disney, wanted to distance themselves from the gambling industry. Because of this quality titles like “The Avengers”, “X-Men”, “The Fantastic Four”, “The Incredible Hulk”, “Punisher”, Captain America” and “Spiderman: Attack of the Green Goblin” have all completely disappeared. Ironically, as the comic books looked to appeal more to adults, becoming more violent, grittier and more realistic, it would appear that Hollywood has moved in the opposite direction. Because of this I have actually struggled to find 5 games that could be classed as superhero themed, a real shame when you consider just how good so many of the titles that are now out of bounds once were.
What this means is there will be practically no branded games on this list, just a set of games that meet the brief, without being household names to begin with.
Wild Worlds is a new game from Net Entertainment that we scored an impressive 10 out of 10 for the sheer scale of it all. Wild World lets you become one of three superheroes, depending on which one of the Free Spins features you end up playing. What makes this game so good is the amount of stuff that is going on as you play. There different worlds, each one with a different feature. You fight bad guys and if you beat them you win bigger prizes. This is one of the best games of 2019, never mind one of the best superhero themed games
Play the game here for free
Ragnarök: Fall of Odin
Ragnarök: Fall of Odin, might not be based on the Marvel movie that came out in 2017, but, without any of the branding it does still tie in with one of the Comic World’s most famous superheroes. This game has a number of exciting bonus features but what we like most about it is that the house edge gets smaller, the more you play. Meaning that the value for money on offer just gets better all the time.
Play the game here for free
Yggdrasil meet the brief without any problems at all. Super Heroes is a fantastic game, one instantly recognisable as being a Yggdrasil release. The quality of the design and the gameplay giving away who is responsible for creating one of the best games on our list. We are big fans of the progressive nature of the free spins on offer but the best thing about the game has to be all the different superheroes, the abilities that they have and what that brings to the game.
Play the game here for free
Tony Stark might be nowhere to be seen in this game but it doesn’t matter because his daughter is more than capable of fighting bad guys without him. Of course, this isn’t really Tony Stark’s daughter but there’s no harm in adding lore to proceedings. Actually, Iron Girl is an intergalactic bounty hunter, more akin the ragamuffins onboard the Benatar than the Avengers themselves. The game looks great has great features and needs to be checked out.
Play the game here for free
Snow & Sable
Snow & Sable sees another female superhero, this time a duo, make it onto our list. Snow & Sable is a MicroGaming release that came out last year and did a great job ticking all of our boxes. The game looks good, has good features and if offering decent value for money.
Play the game here for free
If we have made this list 3 or 4 years ago it would have been filled with quality games. But the reality is that there just aren’t that many superhero games out there anymore. A genre that offers so much to the industry is now barely present in it. And with those exclusions an awful lot of great games are no longer available.
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