The summer of 2012 is, without a doubt, the biggest season for superhero movies in Hollywood history. The Avengers broke box office records to the tune of a $600 million haul (so far) and The Amazing Spider-Man managed to bring in solid numbers (despite an especially familiar “untold” story) – not to mention The Dark Knight Rises, one of the most highly-anticipated films of the year among movie geeks and casual filmgoers alike, is set to release in one week.

However, before superhero movies were the go-to experience for summer blockbuster fun, director Tim Burton delivered a pair of cutting edge (for the time) comic book movie adaptations, Batman and Batman Returns – both starring the director’s pre-Johnny Depp go-to-guy, Michael Keaton. While the filmmaker, no doubt, helped pave the way for modern superhero-to-film adaptations, how does the fan-favorite filmmaker think his movies hold up against today’s comic book offerings?

Following Disney’s 2012 Comic-Con panel in Hall H, the Frankenweenie director opened up, jokingly reflecting on his own superhero movie experience:

“I recall back to when we were doing [Batman] and how worried they all were that it was too too dark. Now it’s like a lighthearted romp – Batman on Ice. It’s interesting because it was such a struggle to get that at the time.”

Burton’s comments about his “dark” superhero film should ring especially true for any movie lovers that caught his original Batfilms in theaters – which were, in the pre-Christopher Nolan days of the 1990s, actually pretty gritty (especially when compared to director Joel Schumacher’s often derided follow-ups Batman Forever as well as Batman & Robin). While some viewers might get hung up on Burton’s more over-the-top fantasy-like elements (most notably some of the Catwoman and Penguin elements of Batman Returns), the director actually delivered a lot of mature and challenging character drama.

That said, considering the growing number of moviegoers who think that Tim Burton’s more recent work is becoming increasingly stale, paired with news that Christopher Nolan says he’s through with the Batman movies, maybe now is the perfect time for the director to make a return to the superhero movie space. Some comic book fans (or anyone who rolled their eyes at Dark Shadows) will likely disagree but as more and more superhero films follow the same style and story arcs, it could be interesting to see an auteur like Burton take a more obscure superhero (or antihero) character and explore another “dark” attempt in the genre.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for more on Frankenweenie as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.

Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie opens in U.S. theaters (2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D) on October 5th, 2012.

Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises opens in U.S. theaters (2D and IMAX) on July 20th, 2012.