Superhero Fan Service: Audience Strategies in the Contemporary Interlinked Hollywood Blockbuster
This paper explores the specific textual strategies employed by Marvel Studios to construct insider and outsider audiences of the interlinked film series comprising the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It argues that Marvel Studios is borrowing story-telling strategies developed by Marvel Comics in the 1960s as a means of growing audiences for film franchises in a modular fashion. These strategies include the use of anticipatory post-credit sequences that serve as advertising teases for future releases; “easter eggs”, or semi-hidden onscreen elements intended to be noticed only by certain viewers; crossovers, or the use of characters from one franchise in the film or television program of other characters; linked repercussions, narrative consequences that play out across multiple media properties; and, modular story development, a development strategy intended to reduce economic risk. It is noted, ironically, that the strategies that have led to the current fascination with superhero films are the same ones that cause the collapse of interest in superhero comic books.
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