As Marvel's original superhero team the Fantastic Four explode onto the big screen this Friday, we take a look at great superheroic ensembles – past, present and future!
1) The Mystery Men
The first great comedy superhero film, Mystery Men is loosely based on Bob Burden's Flying Carrot Comics. Down in Champion City, smug and over-confident local superhero Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear) arranges to have his old foe Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush) released from jail just to give himself something to do. When this goes awry, a trio of inept superhero wannabes – The Shoveller (William H. Macy), Mr Furious (Ben Stiller) and the Blue Raja (Hank Azaria) – team up with some new recruits to save the city. This is a lovingly crafted homage to the superhero tradition. And what's not to love about a team that includes a character called The Spleen, whose excessive flatulence is sufficient to cause fainting?
2) The X-Men
Marvel's second highest-grossing film series after Spider-Man, the X-Men characters have thus far featured in an original trilogy, two Wolverine spin-offs, a prequel (X-Men: First Class), and, most recently the cast-uniting X-Men: Days of Future Past. There's plenty of life in the franchise yet, the next movies being the Deadpool spin-off starring Ryan Reynolds as a superhero with accelerated healing powers (out next Feb) and Bryan Singer's X-Men: Apocalypse (out next May). And let's not forget that Channing Tatum has now officially been cast in the Gambit movie, due out on 7th October 2016.
3) The Avengers
Back in 2012, Joss Whedon did a brilliant job in bringing the potentially unwieldy Avengers ensemble to the screen in Marvel Avengers Assemble. Those who wondered how on earth a hammer-wielding Norse god (Thor) was supposed to interact with a giant angry green fella (The Hulk), a square-jawed WWII superhero (Captain America) and an eccentric genius billionaire playboy philanthropist (Iron Man) found that Whedon had pulled it off in style with this sleek, clever and funny Avengers origin story.
Then he did it all again this year with Avengers: Age of Ultron. Both films are now nestled comfortably in the all-time highest-grossing top ten movies chart. The Avengers will return in the two-part Avengers: Infinity War in 2018/19, but you can catch most of the gang before that in next year's Captain America: Civil War.
4) The Guardians of the Galaxy
A brand new irreverent superhero film featuring a wise-cracking raccoon and a monosyllabic talking tree was seen by some as a bit of a risk. But James Gunn's smart and funny franchise-launching origin story proved another huge commercial and critical success for Marvel last year. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is expected to be with us in 2017.
5) The Watchmen
It's not all about Marvel, you know. DC Comics also has its superhero teams. None are more prestigious than the Watchmen, created by the legendary Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons. Bringing this complex, supposedly unfilmable story to the screen took more than 20 years. Director Zack Snyder delivered a dark, bone-crunchingly violent, politically astute and narratively complex superhero film for grown-ups. It has to be acknowledged, though, that some people couldn't stop sniggering at Dr. Manhattan's big blue... ahem.
6) The Kick-Ass Team
Eleven years on from Mystery Men, another bunch of wannabe superheroes hit the screen. Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman's hit adaptation of Mark Millar and John Romita Jr's comic book miniseries posed the question: what would happen if an ordinary guy decided to become a superhero? Sensitive Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) soon joins forces with sweary Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz). Sequel Kick-Ass 2 saw them unite with the Justice Forever team led by Jim Carrey's Colonel Stars and Stripes.
7) The Incredibles
Pixar's typically brilliant, imaginative and funny take on the genre introduces us to a family of superheroes. The story has Mr Incredible and his wife Elastigirl forced into retirement by lawsuits. Now the couple's children struggle to suppress their superpowers in suburbia. But the appearance of an evil villain and his killer robot means the superfamily are needed again.
8) The Big Hero 6 gang
The first Disney/Marvel feature animation is set in the futuristic mash-up city of San Fransokyo. Teenage robotics prodigy Hiro teams up with his pals GoGo, Wasabi, Honey Lemon and token PG-rated stoner dude Fred to take on a mysterious bad guy in a Kabuki mask. But the real star is Hiro's lovable, squishy robot pal, Baymax.
And arriving next year...
9) The Suicide Squad
Next year's DC Comics adaptation has got us all excited. The Suicide Squad might be characterised as the anti-Avengers, being they're a team of villainous jailbirds who are offered their freedom on one condition: they accept a mission that's likely to see them all killed. Will Smith stars as expert assassin Deadshot, and the rest of the team includes Jared Leto as The Joker, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Jai Courtney as Boomerang, Cara Delevingne as Enchantress, Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag, Viola Davis and Amanda Waller and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as – ulp! – Killer Croc. Behind the camera is Fury director David Ayer. This one's due for release on 5th August 2016.