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Avengers dissemble! Transmedia superhero franchises and cultic management

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Through a case study of The Avengers (2012) and other recently adapted Marvel Entertainment properties, it will be demonstrated that the reimagined, rebooted and serialized intermedial text is fundamentally fan oriented: a deliberately structured and marketed invitation to certain niche audiences to engage in comparative activities. That is, its preferred spectators are often those opinionated and outspoken fan cultures whose familiarity with the texts is addressed and whose influence within a more dispersed film-going community is acknowledged, courted and potentially colonized. These superhero franchises – neither remakes nor adaptations in the familiar sense – are also paradigmatic byproducts of an adaptive management system that is possible through the appropriation of the economics of continuity and the co-option of online cultic networking. In short, blockbuster intermediality is not only indicative of the economics of post-literary adaptation, but it also exemplifies a corporate strategy that aims for the strategic co-option of potentially unruly niche audiences.
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Keywords: Marvel Comics; cult cinema; fandom; post-cinematic adaptations; superheroes; transmedia

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Lethbridge

Publication date: July 1, 2014

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  • Adaptation, or the conversion of oral, historical or fictional narratives into stage drama has been common practice for centuries. In our own time the processes of cross-generic transformation continue to be extremely important in theatre as well as in the film and other media industries. Adaptation and the related areas of translation and intertextuality continue to have a central place in our culture with a profound resonance across our civilisation.
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