Superheroes Invade the Silver Screen

Biff! Bam! Pow! 


That's the sound of DC Comics' Batman and Superman hitting the pavement as Spider-Man and his Marvel super-friends rocket past on their way to silver-screen stardom. 

"The Marvel library contains 4,700 characters," Marvel Studios head Avi Arad told The Post yesterday, still high on the news of Spider-Man's $114.8 million weekend box-office take. 

"It's lightning in a bottle. Who knows how many times we can catch it," says Arad, who has driven the Hollywood side of the publisher's business for 11 years. 

"I'm not saying they're all going to do what Spider-Man did — not in my lifetime. 

"But we have amazing stories to come, movie after movie." 

With the sky-high success of Spider-Man, X-Men and Blade and Blade II, Marvel has DC Comics — home to Superman and Batman — on the ropes. 

What's so super about the Marvel heroes? 

"Marvel is today — DC is yesterday," says Hollywood Reporter on-line columnist Martin Grove. 

"The Marvel superheroes are very contemporary, particularly in contrast to someone like Superman, who goes back to the 1930s, and Batman, who is also of that vintage." 

In Spider-Man's alter ego Peter Parker, audiences found an imperfect character that they could relate to. 

"That's the essence of why Marvel is so potent a source for Hollywood," Grove says. 

"The Marvel superheroes seem to all have flaws, which makes them more believable and easier to relate to." 

And we're going to see a lot more of these Marvel-ous characters over the next few years. 

Director Sam Raimi and star Tobey Maguire have already signed to do Spider-Man 2, pre-production has started on the second X-Men movie and Wesley Snipes is plotting to reprise his role as a vampire hunter in Blade III

Not enough superhero action for you? 

Also heading into production are Daredevil, starring Ben Affleck in the title role, and Hulk, directed by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon helmer Ang Lee. 

Fox has started development on live-action versions of Silver Surfer and Fantastic Four, with director Peyton Reed (Bring It On) attached, and David Self (Road to Perdition) is working on a Sub-Mariner script for Universal. 

"People could say that with Blade and X-Men, we got lucky, but we've had four in a row," Arad says. 

"No one is that lucky. We have something very special and, most importantly, we know what to do with it." 

The secret, he says, is to hire talent with a passion for the subject. 

Affleck, for example, has always wanted to play the Daredevil character, Eric Bana (and his mom!) are huge Hulk fans and making Spider-Man was Raimi's childhood dream. 

"They have to want to deliver a legacy," Arad says. "It's an awesome responsibility to take on something that's lasted so long."

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