It’s hard to listen to box office pundits who continuously predict the inevitable downfall of superhero films when Deadpool, an obscure character who only rose in popular notoriety in the last few years, just broke all sorts of box office records this past weekend. It’s doubly surprising when you factor in the relative newness of the character; he’s only been around since 1991 as opposed to characters like Batman, Superman, Spider-Man and the X-Men who all have over a half-century of publication history. Deadpool looks to be the forerunner of a year filled with new big screen heroes.

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will certainly be a smash hit thanks to its titular characters, but it’s the inclusion of Wonder Woman that has sparked a flurry of interest from many people. Though Wonder Woman has been around for seventy-five years, she’s never made the transition to the big screen until now. Diana Prince hasn’t been a strong figure in mainstream pop culture since the Wonder Woman television show from the late ’70s. Her addition to the theatrical landscape is cause for excitement.

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However, Wonder Woman is still far more recognizable than the other heroes coming to us in 2016. Captain America: Civil War has got fans excited for the first onscreen appearance of Black Panther. The few appearances he’s made in trailers and photos has left fans aching for more. With the announcement that Creed director Ryan Coogler will be handling Black Panther’s solo film, audiences will be anxious for every frame of footage that shows off T’Challa. His visual appearance has already been met with overwhelming acceptance, and that joy serves as yet another reminder that fans love when studios go for the most comic-accurate costume they can.

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Marvel isn’t resting on its laurels though. Black Panther may have the support of being introduced in a Captain America vs. Iron Man movie, but the same can’t be said of Doctor Strange. Marvel’s most powerful magic user will be headlining his own movie this November with little to no introduction in the other Marvel Cinematic Universe outings (expect a Doctor Strange teaser in Captain America: Civil War). While fans certainly are aware of the Sorcerer Supreme, mainstream audiences couldn’t tell you the difference between Shuma-Gorath and The Dread Dormammu.

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But, the most obvious example of a new batch of big time heroes comes with Suicide Squad, DC’s own take on The Dirty DozenSuicide Squad will feature a ton of new characters that mainstream audiences have never even heard of. Though fans will recognize Batman characters such as Harley Quinn and Killer Croc, others are such deep cuts that even some comic fans will need to so some brushing up. Katana? El Diablo? Who would have even dreamed that such minor characters would be at the forefront of one of the biggest movies of the year?

If Guardians of the Galaxy taught us anything, it’s that familiarity isn’t what makes a hit. It’s creating great characters that we want to see again and again. 2016 shows that movie studios have finally learned to trust the fans and give them the characters they want. That means doing more than just another iteration of a big name property. Fans want to see new heroes that they can attach themselves to, creating brand new universes that will become part of their lifelong fandom. 2016 is revving up to be the year that makes that point abundantly clear. With Deadpool‘s unprecedented success starting the year off right, prepare for Black Panther and Harley Quinn to become household names.


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Drew Dietsch
Drew Dietsch has written for CHUD.com, the News-Press, WhatCulture, and releases a weekly film review podcast, The Drew Reviews Podcast. He'll yak your ear off about horror movies, Jaws, RoboCop, and/or Batman if you let him.