Comic Book Movies: What's Next for Marvel and DC?

With the summer blockbuster season coming to an end, fans look toward the future: Who will protect the earth from destruction next?
Warner Bros. Pictures

The Dark Knight has risen, Spider-Man has amazed and The Avengers did a blockbuster (if a little messy) job of avenging. But don't expect them to take a break anytime soon.

The comic book movie is by far the most lucrative venture for the major studios right now, evidenced by this summer's record box office profits. The Avengers set an all-time opening weekend record with $207 million domestically and has thus far taken in $1.45 billion worldwide; The Dark Knight Rises set a domestic mark for 2D opening weekends with more than $160 million; and despite some grumbles about it being a reboot just five years after the last series ended, The Amazing Spider-Man has hauled in well over $500 million worldwide.

Translation, for those who don't read green: Studios are just getting started.

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Marvel announced at Comic-Con that "Phase One" of its cinematic universe is complete, and it has already scheduled an even more crowded next few years of superhero flicks. Having assembled this summer, members of The Avengers will split up for another go-round in their own feature films:; Iron Man 3 is slotted for May 3, 2013; Thor: The Dark World will bring down the hammer on Nov. 6 of next year; and Captain America: Winter Soldier will be released April 4, 2014.

The Disney-owned studio will also bow a new property, the more-obscure Guardians of the Galaxy, in August 2014, which will test the willingness of audiences to get excited for superhero flicks. And then there's the specter of an Ant-Man film, which would be directed by Edgar Wright. The Brit unveiled some test footage at Comic-Con to much fanfare, but the film has been hanging in the balance for years.

Disney won't be the only studio getting in on the Marvel action; Fox is rebooting The Fantastic Four, with Josh Trank, who had a surprise hit this year with Chronicle, at the helm. And, eager to continue spinning webs of gold, Sony has already put The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on the schedule for May 2014.

Over at DC, things are a bit more unpredictable; Batman has finished his run, and given the popularity and critical reception for director Christopher Nolan's take on the cape and scowl, it will take a good few years to put him back on the big screen. They have pondered an Avengers-style team-up of their characters for a Justice League movie, but right now, only Superman, with June 14, 2013's Man of Steel, is on the schedule.