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Movies About Superheroes Score Big in US

LOS ANGELES — Superheroes, including Batman, Spider-Man, and the Marvel Comics' Avengers, are dominating summer movies in the United States, despite a grisly shooting in a Colorado movie theater when The Dark Knight Rises opened in July.

Captain America and the superheroes known as The Avengers have a plan - to dominate movie theaters, as they compete with rival superheroes - Batman in The Dark Knight Rises, and The Amazing Spider-Man.

The Avengers has amassed more than $1.4 billion in worldwide revenue, and superhero films account for one-third of US box office take this summer.

Ryan Thompson, a film school graduate, has loved these characters since childhood.

“I think it really is that emotional connection, in one way," said Thompson. "That's how I connected with it. I think it's wish-fulfillment, I think it's fantasy.”

Publisher Gotham Chopra is an Indian-American. He incorporates Asian heroes in his comic books and digital cartoons. He has explored the theme of gods, prophets and superheroes in books with his father, the writer Deepak Chopra.

“They represent primordial forces, so whether they are qualities of power, of balance, of seeking justice, this connect with some sort of transcendent experience, that's what great superheroes do, whether ancient or modern," said Chopra.

Chopra is working with film director John Woo on characters inspired by Chinese folklore, and has announced a collaboration with industry legend Stan Lee - who co-created Spider-Man and other Marvel Comics heroes - to develop a superhero for the Indian market.

Modern superheroes are attracting new fans. Many gather each year at Comic-Con, a convention in San Diego.

In Los Angeles, a shop called Nostalgic Books and Comics, sells the latest superhero books and merchandise. Manager Peter Mellini says reissues from the past are also selling well, especially those that feature popular characters like Batman.

“We started all their books back to issue one," said Mellini. "So it made it that anyone could jump in and get in on that. And that actually brought a lot of teenaged readers.”

It's all great fun, but another side of some superheroes has emerged, says Ryan Thompson. He says Batman films have had darker themes since the 1980s.

“There was more of a grim and gritty persona to them, a grim and gritty style, more realistic, hyper-realistic, more psychological," he said.

The July shooting in Colorado at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises has led to questions about whether the violence in some films is too realistic. But the tragedy has not slowed the momentum of the summer movies.

Hollywood has plans for more superhero adventures in 2013, featuring Superman, Iron Man and other characters from the comic books.