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Success Of 'Avengers' Leads To Run On Shields, Mallets
HOLLYWOOD (CAP) - In the wake of the success of Marvel's The Avengers, which has taken in more than $600 million in worldwide ticket sales, manufacturers say they can't keep up with the demand for Captain America shields, Thor hammers and Iron Man metal helmets among the movie's target audience, 40- to 55-year-old men.
"I got the last one they had!" said Mark Pender, 41, a Boise accountant and father of two, as he brandished his official stainless steel Captain America shield while waiting for the No. 17 bus on Bannock Street in Boise. "It makes a neat clangy noise when you hit stuff against it," he noted, whacking it with his lunchbox as other white-collar commuters looked on with looks of barely contained jealousy.
In small towns and big cities all over the country, the streets are filled with middle-aged men carrying Avengers paraphernalia, according to Buck Frearson of the Super Hero Merchandise Co. of Spartanburg, S.C.
"These Thor mallets are about 12 pounds each, so they're not that easy to carry, but we've already sold more than 400,000 of them," said Frearson, hefting a hammer up by its strap and noting that men can be seen lugging them along the streets of Chicago and New York City in "staggering numbers."
"The only downside is the people who've accidentally broken their noses spinning them around," said Frearson, who, amid rumbles of a class action suit, says his company has started including warning labels that state, "Do not spin these around near your nose."
"Gods of Thunder these people aren't," he noted.
The run on Avengers merchandise by men in mid-life shouldn't be surprising, according Dr. Francis Spitznagel of the Pew Research Center. His study of the Avengers' opening weekend audience shows it was 80 percent made up of males who have been dreaming about this movie since they first read an Avengers comic book when they were nine.
"And the other 20 percent were wives and children dragged there by them," noted Spitznagel, who commented that it's the same demographic for whom improbably busty superheroines were invented.
The demographic isn't entirely male, though - for instance, New Jersey mother of three and Avengers fan Barbara Linebach, 42, was wearing a skintight Black Widow jumpsuit as she pushed her daughter, Madison, 4, down the produce aisle of the Barnegat, N.J. Safeway this week.
"I haven't been this excited about a new outfit since I bought those assless chaps for the Van Halen tour," said Linebach, adjusting the jumpsuit where her midsection kept protruding from between the top and the pants as frightened stock clerks scurried behind the deli counter.
Still, despite the boon to superhero product manufacturers, there have been some incidents that have raised concerns, even beyond the broken noses. For instance, Frankie Parnatz, 51, a textbook editor from Cleveland, Ohio, was one of dozens of men removed from their places of business this week when they showed up wearing nothing but tattered purple Hulk pants.
"I'm pretty sure his naughty bits were showing," said a coworker of Parnatz who declined to be named.
And this may just be the beginning. "If history serves, when the new Superman reboot comes out (in 2013), we'll have a rash of people wearing their underwear outside their pants," said Spitznagel, noting that this would describe the entire staff of the Pew Center from 1978-1983.
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