So what did you mean by "take off" or "become a joke?"
In the former case, led to move movies, whereas the last two Batman flicks resulted in zero. And in the latter case, everybody laughed at them. Franchises that are poorly regarded by people, not critics, become financial failures. Besides, even in the heyday of Supes and Batman, they were pretty much the only two around. What X-Men showed is that the genre was commercially viable again.
EDIT: and the last movie of each franchise, Superman and Batman, lost money.
How does one rate the success or failure of a big-budget comic book movie if not by box office?
Box office is short-term success, sure. Viability, the long-term success, is trickier.