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October 21, 2016   |   Ithaca, NY

BlogsCulture and Context

Golden Age of Female Superheroes May Be Around the Corner

In October, a tongue-in-cheek blog post laid out the argument against a Wonder Woman film: female action heroes don’t work, no director would want to make it, no actress could suit the role, and Catwoman all-around sucked. The writer successfully turned each of these arguments on their head, but they shouldn’t be unfamiliar to anyone with their finger on Hollywood’s pulse: Warner Brothers Pictures has spent 14 years hemming and hawing over whether to produce such a film, and in 2013 screenwriter David S. Goyer revealed what we already knew: “a lot of people in Hollywood believe that it’s hard to do a big action movie with a female lead.” This despite the fact that the Jennifer Lawrence-led Hunger Games films have outshone the Iron Man franchise at the box office.

Whether Katniss Everdeen was the breakthrough or not, there does definitely seem to be a shift occurring in the conversation about the future female superheroes, both on film and in the comics. Though it’s certainly not ideal that Wonder Woman’s upcoming film debut will be in a supporting role to tried-and-true blockbuster stars and DC stablemates Superman and Batman (Black Widow has been similarly relegated to second-banana status), there’s hope in the fact that the actress who will be portraying her, Gal Gadot, has been signed to a three-picture deal with Warner Bros., the third film most likely being a Wonder Woman standalone. (The reaction to Screenrant’s April Fool’s Day prank announcing that the standalone film was being fast-tracked is further indication that, yes, moviegoers are ready to pay to see a superheroine take the lead).

Meanwhile, back at the comic book store, the conventional wisdom that “niche” (defined here as non-white and/or non-male) comic book leads don’t sell has been shattered by the runaway success of the first two issues of Ms. Marvel, a series featuring a Muslim woman as the protagonist. Captain Marvel, another female-led series, has shattered expectations just by last almost years to date. That two years can be called “shattering expectations” is a sad statement on just how dismal the environment has historically been for superheroines, but the introduction of Electra, Black Widow, and She-Hulk as standalone series shows that Marvel has faith in the future of what, it seems, is not such a “niche” market after all. Your move, DC.