What Happened To The American Superhero?

Posted Friday, February 11th, 2011 06:08 pm GMT -4 by

Since 1938, with the first appearance of ‘Superman’ in Action Comics #1, American superheroes have been the archetype for what it means to be a superhero. And for most of that time, American actors were the actors of choice to play those roles on television and in films.

But recently there has been a trend away from American actors playing our titular heroes. Now before anyone jumps to conclusions, I’m not struck with a touch of xenophobia. It just seems to me that with all of the actors just in Los Angeles, that something must be wrong with Hollywood that they can’t find an American actor who can pull off ‘Batman’. If a fairly unimposing and excellent comedic actor like Michael Keaton can do a convincing ‘Batman’ in 1989, what is going on today that’s different? It’s like casting Brad Pitt as ‘James Bond’. It would seem odd and wouldn’t sit right with many fans.

But, Brit Christian Bale is now ‘Batman’ following Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney. Andrew Garfield, raised in Britain, is playing ‘Spider-Man’. And now British actor Henry Cavill is playing ‘Superman’ after George Reeves, Christopher Reeves, John Newton, Dean Cain, Tom Welling and Brandon Routh. We also have Australian Chris Hemsworth as ‘Thor’. Canadian Ryan Reynolds as the ‘Green Lantern’. Australian Eric Bana played ‘the Hulk’. Patrick Stewart plays ‘Professor Charles Xavier’. Famke Janssen from the Netherlands plays ‘Jean Grey’. And Australian Hugh Jackman plays Canadian ‘Wolverine’.

Has the Hollywood system fallen into such a catch-22 where they don’t want to use an actor who is too well known. But yet can’t find an up-and-coming young American actor so they must travel as far as they can to find a proper candidate? Do we have to go such a distance for a character to maintain the proper illusion of a superhero? Or have American actors become too complacent to portray superheroes? Let us know what you think.

  • Alright… this article has appeared in my Twitter stream at least three times. I’m sorry – I just don’t find the origins of the actors to be more than mildly interesting. It’s just not that big of a deal. Thor’s national origins are irrelevant anyway – the character isn’t, strictly speaking, American in the first place. Neither is Superman – both of them come from somewhere else, and Thor wasn’t even raised in America.

    The characters might be being played by British and Australian actors, but the characters themselves are still being portrayed as American. It’s hard for me to get worked up over it unless they try to make Spidey’s home town Liverpool rather than Queens.

    Andrew Garfield playing Spider Man is actually pretty silly to even bring up in this article since the guy was born in LA.

    Who cares where they come from, anyway? Do they look the part? Yes. Are they competent actors? Seems that way. The only thing left to care about is whether or not the movies are good. The two Batman movies were great, the first two X-Men movies were great (everything after that has been complete rubbish)… and we’ll have to wait and see for all the others.
    (sorry – had to correct a spelling error before it drove me insane…)

    • I’m thinking perhaps one of the strongest points of contention (at least for me) is whether or not these foreign actors will be carrying over their accents into the movies or do they have the skill to sound American in their films. Supeman didn’t speak with a British accent, and even though he was born on Krypton he was a resident of the United States all of his life – so in essence he is considered American because of that fact.

      Though I’m not familiar with Henry Cavill’s work, just looking at pictures of him I can’t help but think he really doesn’t look the part. Brandon Routh made a much better Superman just by appearance (and I wasn’t 100% happy with him either since his eyes were brown and not blue). Henry’s facial features just aren’t “chiseled enough” in my opinion. We’ll have to wait to see Henry’s acting skill, but so far I’m not enthused about the project. And since I’ve always been a devoted Superman fan, that says a lot.