Will Smith, Jason Bateman, ...
Credit: Frank Masi

Big-screen superheroes have a new archenemy: EW’s Chris Nashawaty, whose confession, “Superheroes: How They Ruined Summer Movies,” appears in the magazine’s current issue. Now, Chris is no snooty elitist who watches only art films; he also loves big, loud summer action spectacles — or at least he did until too many mediocre movies about dudes in spandex made him dread the summer movie season.

I’m sorta with Chris on this one. You and I may disagree with him on which superhero movies are less than super (he felt the first Spider-Man was a huge letdown, while I thought it was surprisingly good, with the second one even better — the third one did kinda suck, though), but I feel his pain over having to sit through too many movies about C-list comic book stars that should never have been greenlit. (I’m talking to you, Ghost Rider.) But as long as the current superhero cycle is hot (and remember, before Spider-Man six years ago, Hollywood had spent years considering superhero movies to be box office poison), unimaginative studio execs and filmmakers will continue to dip deep into the well of comic book avengers.

What needs to happen is for superhero movies to start thinking outside the cape. And fortunately, there are signs that this is already happening. This summer, for instance, we’ll have a truly unconventional superhero in Will Smith’s Hancock (pictured). Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight looks like he’ll be edgier than any supervillain that any superhero has ever had to overcome in a movie. And even Chris is looking forward to next year’s Watchmen, based on the most iconoclastic deconstruction of the superhero mythology ever put into comic book form. (Oh, and there’s also this funny piece at New York magazine’s Vulture blog that suggests that Sex and the City is really a superhero movie for girls, with costumes by Patricia Field instead of Edna Mode.) There are all kinds of creative twists that can be put on the superhero genre, and I’m looking forward to seeing filmmakers take those detours.

How about you, PopWatchers? Have superhero movies ruined summer for you the way they have for Chris, or are you a die-hard superfan? Do you think Hollywood should just quit making these movies now, or are there still interesting ways to tell superhero stories that have yet to be explored? And which comic book heroes who haven’t yet made the big-screen leap would you like to see do so? (I can think of one in particular, and she flies an invisible plane…)