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C'mon Hollywood: It's time for a proper female superhero film!

Mar. 26, 2013by: Paul Shirey

2008 kicked off the renaissance of the comic book movie, with both IRON MAN and THE DARK KNIGHT dominating the box office and setting the course for the next wave of genre cinema. Sure, there were plenty of comic book movies before that time and some may argue that it began with Bryan Singers X-MEN, Tim Burtons BATMAN, Sam Raimis SPIDER-MAN, or even Richard Donners SUPERMAN, but the bottom line is that there has never been such an abundance of them as there is now, each coming with a franchise set-up and top notch talent. Its almost hard to believe that there was a time when a studio wouldnt touch a comic book film to save its life. Now, theyre fighting over the scraps of every property that ever saw print.

Except, it seems, for the female ones.

Last year we saw two very strong female characters emerge from male-driven comic book films: Anne Hathaway as Catwoman in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in THE AVENGERS. Many felt that Hathaway stole the show, while Johansson just looked amazing while beating the shit out of everyone (and everything) that confronted her. Each of them more than held their own and delivered a performance that was as good or better than their male counterparts.

The Good...

And yet, even with all the success the genre has seen, theres been no movement for any female character to get her own film. Does that mean its sexist? Perhaps. Does that mean that studios are afraid to gamble on a female-led movie marketed predominantly to teenage males? You would think not, but thats pretty much it. When you look at the box office for films that have strong, heroic females as the leads, they dont tend to perform as well as their male counterparts, with the key examples of Halle Berrys CATWOMAN and Zack Snyders SUCKER PUNCH seemingly proving the point (and movies like ZERO DARK THIRTY pushing back, although not part of the genre).

But, is that still the case?

There is already an abundance of male-led characters that will continue to dominate the comic book movie marketplace. The truth is that there are more male than female superheroes and it is, simply put, a male-dominated marketplace. Within the market, unfortunately, the female driven books just dont sell as well (out of the top 500 best-selling comics of 2012, only 38 were female-led books). But does that mean that these characters dont merit their own movie? Not at all. We just want to see one that features the right female super hero done with the same level of passion, sophistication, and creativity thats been so prevalent in the male superhero genre.

The Bad...

Some of the highlights thus far have been, Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy, Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, Pam Anderson as Barb Wire, Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, Devon Aoki as Miho, Famke Janssen as Jean Grey, Helen Slater as Supergirl, Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl, Malin Akerman as Silk Spectre, Jennifer Lawrence and Rebecca Romijn as Mystique , Jennifer Garner as Elektra, January Jones as Emma Frost, Angelina Jolie as Fox, Jessica Alba as Invisible Woman, Chloe Moretz as Hit Girl, and a scattered batch of others. I would say that only a few of those listed here really stood out enough to garner their own film.

Marvels Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, Wasp, Mockingbird, Spider-Woman, or DCs Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Batwoman and Batgirl are all good choices for a potential spin-off franchise. The smart move would be to segue one of their already established characters like Black Widow or Catwoman into their one film with Johansson and Hathaway leading the roles, respectively. Ms. Marvel and Wonder Woman are primed to step into the spotlight, and there are plenty of other independent characters outside the Big Two that could be translated as well.

The Prospects...

Some like to argue that female characters in comics exist merely as sexual objects in form-fitting clothing that serve no other purpose than to sell books to horny teenagers. While there are merits to that thinking, it certainly doesnt define every female character in comics anymore than it defines male ones, who also wear form-fitting clothing and look like they just walked off the stage of a bodybuilding contest. Exaggeration is a common factor in comics, so really, the argument that characters, be it male or female, are molded purely for sex appeal is a boring stereotype. There is a generality in terms of appearance that commonly applies to the medium, and that is that the heroes and heroines look their best. Yknow, like superheroes, not out-of-shape common folk who can barely run a mile.

Im not arguing for female characters to go neck-in-neck with their male counterparts on film. At this stage in the game, however, I do think that theres room to spread out the wealth and diversify the franchise characters a bit. It will always be a male-driven medium, simply by the mostly male core audience, but there is more than enough room to expand the market and provide a strong female superhero to the masses that doesnt capitalize on breast size and spandex alone, but rather shows that female superheroes can be just as engaging and bad ass as the boys if given the same chance.

Extra Tidbit: What female comic-book character do you feel most deserves a proper big screen adaptation?
Source: JoBlo.com

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4:25AM on 03/27/2013
The ball is in DC's court, not only do they have the perfect character to start this in Wonder Woman but she also has a large history and a revamped origin (thanks to the new 52) that's dynamic, darker and modernized.
The ball is in DC's court, not only do they have the perfect character to start this in Wonder Woman but she also has a large history and a revamped origin (thanks to the new 52) that's dynamic, darker and modernized.
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2:37AM on 03/27/2013
Blah. Repost.
Blah. Repost.
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2:10AM on 03/27/2013
Alan Moore's Promethea.

He would never let that happen, of course, and that is probably for the better.
Alan Moore's Promethea.

He would never let that happen, of course, and that is probably for the better.
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-2
1:58AM on 03/27/2013
This is not intended as a 'flame instigating' comment, just my opinion as an a average movie goer not hugely informed about the backstories of comic book characters. Please, please, please, please, do NOT make a Wonder Woman movie!!!
I don't know much about the back stories of characters, for that I say I am an average movie goer. I was a little hesitant about Iron Man because of this lack of knowledge, but Jon Favreau brought it into reality and made it believable. I honestly do not see a
This is not intended as a 'flame instigating' comment, just my opinion as an a average movie goer not hugely informed about the backstories of comic book characters. Please, please, please, please, do NOT make a Wonder Woman movie!!!
I don't know much about the back stories of characters, for that I say I am an average movie goer. I was a little hesitant about Iron Man because of this lack of knowledge, but Jon Favreau brought it into reality and made it believable. I honestly do not see a way for Wonder Woman to be made believable. Look at the most successful franchises/character movies over the past few years, all of them were made believable. Iron Man, Captain America, Spider Man, Dark Knight Trilogy. All were done in such a way that you could see it happening. Green Lantern didn't do well because the story wasn't made believable enough.

I will ask a favour though, if someone can educate me, respectfully, I would love to know a realistic take on Wonder Woman.
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4:29AM on 03/27/2013
I don't really go to these movies for staunch realism but if they wrote the Wonder Woman movie as a reverse origin story where she is an already established hero in America who knows nothing about herself then discovers who she truly is and where she came from over the course of the film it could be a slow build up that helps us relate to the character.
I don't really go to these movies for staunch realism but if they wrote the Wonder Woman movie as a reverse origin story where she is an already established hero in America who knows nothing about herself then discovers who she truly is and where she came from over the course of the film it could be a slow build up that helps us relate to the character.
11:22PM on 03/26/2013
Don't forget Jamie Alexander's Sif either
Don't forget Jamie Alexander's Sif either
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+1
6:26PM on 03/26/2013

apparently it hard to write a "Ripley" with super powers

I do feel that alot of the roles certain actresses play is all based on looks.I was worried when I heard Scarlett was cast as Black Widow, We know how that turned out which is a good thing. I will say I was all about Halle Berry when she arrived on the scene so many years ago (damn im getting old) But i never felt she was right for storm, I always thought David Bowie's wife Iman was a better choice, Hell the woman is from Somila, and has a sexy accent, dont know about now cuz of age, havent
I do feel that alot of the roles certain actresses play is all based on looks.I was worried when I heard Scarlett was cast as Black Widow, We know how that turned out which is a good thing. I will say I was all about Halle Berry when she arrived on the scene so many years ago (damn im getting old) But i never felt she was right for storm, I always thought David Bowie's wife Iman was a better choice, Hell the woman is from Somila, and has a sexy accent, dont know about now cuz of age, havent seen her in awhile, but i thought she was a better choice, Berry comes off wooden at times (sorry babe). anyways, battery is dying, i had alot to say, maybe later.
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5:03PM on 03/26/2013

It makes no sense that no Wonder Woman movie has been made yet

The character is iconic and mixes Greek mythology with superheroes. Don't tell me a flying, super strong woman wearing a superhero outfit in a Clash of the Titans setting wouldn't look good on the big screen! It certainly would look better than 2 movies with Sam Worthington...
The character is iconic and mixes Greek mythology with superheroes. Don't tell me a flying, super strong woman wearing a superhero outfit in a Clash of the Titans setting wouldn't look good on the big screen! It certainly would look better than 2 movies with Sam Worthington...
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4:35PM on 03/26/2013
Thank you for posting this!

Yes, we do need a proper (or at least, strong) superheroine film.

I'm actually a fan of Helen Slater as Supergirl...not so much the film called Supergirl; the same with Adrienne Palicki (sp?) as Wonder Woman, even though the execution of the character was pretty bad in regards to her origins and standards. Hence, I wouldn't mind seeing a Supergirl, or WW, or Batgirl film done right.

There are so many other superheroines that can be given the big screen
Thank you for posting this!

Yes, we do need a proper (or at least, strong) superheroine film.

I'm actually a fan of Helen Slater as Supergirl...not so much the film called Supergirl; the same with Adrienne Palicki (sp?) as Wonder Woman, even though the execution of the character was pretty bad in regards to her origins and standards. Hence, I wouldn't mind seeing a Supergirl, or WW, or Batgirl film done right.

There are so many other superheroines that can be given the big screen treatment, we just need strong scripts (like any other movie) that have characters and situations that draw the audience in.
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2:47PM on 03/26/2013
PROPER Catwoman would be great.

Elektra wasn't terrible, it was disappointing. So many great stories to pick from for that character and they used none of it and made something generic.
PROPER Catwoman would be great.

Elektra wasn't terrible, it was disappointing. So many great stories to pick from for that character and they used none of it and made something generic.
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-7
2:11PM on 03/26/2013

Black Widow or Catwoman? No thanks

Both actresses were pretty bland in the parts and honestly - who really wants to see them in a standalone film?

Supergirl - too much like Superman. We need someone like Wonder Woman, Black Canary, Mary Marvel (tie it into the Shazam universe), Ms. Marvel or a Zatanna movie would be fun if done right, even Starfire if it starts in space.
Both actresses were pretty bland in the parts and honestly - who really wants to see them in a standalone film?

Supergirl - too much like Superman. We need someone like Wonder Woman, Black Canary, Mary Marvel (tie it into the Shazam universe), Ms. Marvel or a Zatanna movie would be fun if done right, even Starfire if it starts in space.
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1:59PM on 03/26/2013

Huh?

No one liked 'Elektra' or 'Catwoman'?
No one liked 'Elektra' or 'Catwoman'?
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2:08PM on 03/26/2013
Correct, not one single person.
Correct, not one single person.
1:00PM on 03/26/2013
I would like a Predator movie with a female Yautja lead, personally.

(A little off topic, but still relevant)
I would like a Predator movie with a female Yautja lead, personally.

(A little off topic, but still relevant)
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12:45PM on 03/26/2013

I would LOVE to see a Batwoman movie.

But there is no no noooooooooo way that'd happen. Best bet right now is a Wonder Woman movie.
But there is no no noooooooooo way that'd happen. Best bet right now is a Wonder Woman movie.
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12:35PM on 03/26/2013
I agree. There is no reason why a female-led superhero tale could not work. We live in 2013. Thanks for writing this column, Paul.

ET: Would Hack Slash work? Hack Slash would be a horror-superhero hybrid. It would not be a traditional superhero movie trying to fit a female-lead into a traditional role. Cassie Hack is still rather popular. Blade got the current superhero renaissance going, and he is a mix of horror and hero. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a successful superhero in the current
I agree. There is no reason why a female-led superhero tale could not work. We live in 2013. Thanks for writing this column, Paul.

ET: Would Hack Slash work? Hack Slash would be a horror-superhero hybrid. It would not be a traditional superhero movie trying to fit a female-lead into a traditional role. Cassie Hack is still rather popular. Blade got the current superhero renaissance going, and he is a mix of horror and hero. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a successful superhero in the current age, and she mixed horror and comic book. Perhaps, the horror-superhero hybrid works well when done right. Of course, anything works well when done right.

Otherwise, a studio could do a superheroine movie, but the script could have the heroine act like a superhero. In other words, the audience forgets completely about her gender. She is simply a hero like any other hero. That approach might work. Then, later superheroine movies could have their protagonists with more overt femininity.
I am just tossing out ideas here. They might or might not work. As stated, I agree that a paucity of superheroine movies is silly.
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11:55AM on 03/26/2013

Rip-Offs with boobs

I agree that there should be superhero movies with female protagonists. That could really be great. But I don't see much appealing material on the table. As someone who knows most of the superhero stuff only from animated shows I loved as a kid and teenager, I don't know too much about this stuff - so I guess I am speaking more for the average moviegoer than for the comic fan when I say: they all seem pretty lame.
Catwoman tanked in its first solo attempt. As a brand name kind of tainted since
I agree that there should be superhero movies with female protagonists. That could really be great. But I don't see much appealing material on the table. As someone who knows most of the superhero stuff only from animated shows I loved as a kid and teenager, I don't know too much about this stuff - so I guess I am speaking more for the average moviegoer than for the comic fan when I say: they all seem pretty lame.
Catwoman tanked in its first solo attempt. As a brand name kind of tainted since then. She-Hulk? Well that sounds unsexy. No thanks. Wonder Woman? Hell NO, way, way, waayyy too cheesy to really work as live action film.
And why is that most of these are just rip-offs of male superheroes? As I said, I don't know much about these characters. So maybe they have very interesting back stories and exceed my mental image of a business executive saying: "Hey, Spidey is a great success. Lets make one with boobs for extra cash."
It is either that or they appear to be too marginal characters to really stand out enough for their own tentpole movie.

So just scrap all that and go back to the drawing board. Why don't they just make up a fresh and original female superhero. Leave out the cheese, make her sexy but also a real woman with personality and an original set of powers and goals. When Uma Thurman was mentioned in the article I immediately thought about Kill Bill. Something along the line of the bride could be just the kind of female superhero I want to see in movies. Strong but feminine without being a mere sex object, skilled and relentless while fueled by love and revenge. Why only stick to adapting heroes from the comic books? They can do better ones from scratch. Hell, they have Joss Whedon on board. Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse: all filled with smart kick-ass female protagonists (also villainesses)
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+0
11:41AM on 03/26/2013

Might I suggest

Obviously a big studio would rather use an established character, but that book is a wonderful, solid female superhero / superviallin story.
Obviously a big studio would rather use an established character, but that book is a wonderful, solid female superhero / superviallin story.
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+0
11:32AM on 03/26/2013

apparently it hard to write a "Ripley" with super powers

I do feel that alot of the roles certain actresses play is all based on looks.I was worried when I heard Scarlett was cast as Black Widow, We know how that turned out which is a good thing. I will say I was all about Halle Berry when she arrived on the scene so many years ago (damn im getting old) But i never felt she was right for storm, I always thought David Bowie's wife Iman was a better choice, Hell the woman is from Somila, and has a sexy accent, dont know about now cuz of age, havent
I do feel that alot of the roles certain actresses play is all based on looks.I was worried when I heard Scarlett was cast as Black Widow, We know how that turned out which is a good thing. I will say I was all about Halle Berry when she arrived on the scene so many years ago (damn im getting old) But i never felt she was right for storm, I always thought David Bowie's wife Iman was a better choice, Hell the woman is from Somila, and has a sexy accent, dont know about now cuz of age, havent seen her in awhile, but i thought she was a better choice, Berry comes off wooden at times (sorry babe). anyways, battery is dying, i had alot to say, maybe later.
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11:11AM on 03/26/2013
Hollywood lives and breathes on the narrative the young men drive the action film box office. Men and women are built differently when it cones to movie preference. The action genre relate better to men in general, you can group it all in the same batch with sports and video games. Males lead the market in action films, having a female heroine in her own movie with a good story isn't good enough. It has to be able to drawn in a male audience that can relate to a female hero, and even learn to
Hollywood lives and breathes on the narrative the young men drive the action film box office. Men and women are built differently when it cones to movie preference. The action genre relate better to men in general, you can group it all in the same batch with sports and video games. Males lead the market in action films, having a female heroine in her own movie with a good story isn't good enough. It has to be able to drawn in a male audience that can relate to a female hero, and even learn to accept the "dude in distress" type arch. A black widow movie may very well end up like Elektra. Wonder Women didn't even get past the pilot episode. Why? You can put all the right ingredients to creating a good female lead movie but the market is simply not there unfortunately. Male heroes are simply just "cool" . Women are still viewed as second-class heroes used to support their male courterparts. What is male willing to take from Catwoman, Wonder Woman, Black Widow other than some sexual intoxication. It isnt the females heroes that need to change its the audience male and female alike. Change the status quo.
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12:28PM on 03/26/2013
The audience needs to change? The audience likes movies that don't suck. That won't change. Wonder Woman was horrible, and that's why it was canceled.
The audience needs to change? The audience likes movies that don't suck. That won't change. Wonder Woman was horrible, and that's why it was canceled.
11:08AM on 03/26/2013
Hollywood lives and breathes on the narrative the young men drive the action film box office. Men and women are built differently when it cones to movie preference. The action genre relate better to men in general, you can group it all in the same batch with sports and video games. Males lead the market in action films, having a female heroine in her own movie with a good story isn't good enough. It has to be able to drawn in a male audience that can relate to a female hero, and even learn to
Hollywood lives and breathes on the narrative the young men drive the action film box office. Men and women are built differently when it cones to movie preference. The action genre relate better to men in general, you can group it all in the same batch with sports and video games. Males lead the market in action films, having a female heroine in her own movie with a good story isn't good enough. It has to be able to drawn in a male audience that can relate to a female hero, and even learn to accept the "dude in distress" type arch. A black widow movie may very well end up like Elektra. Wonder Women didn't even get past the pilot episode. Why? You can put all the right ingredients to creating a good female lead movie but the market is simply not there unfortunately. Male heroes are simply just "cool" . Women are still viewed as second-class heroes used to support their male courterparts. What is male willing to take from Catwoman, Wonder Woman, Black Widow other than some sexual intoxication. It isnt the females heroes that need to change its the audience male and female alike. Change the status quo.
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10:39AM on 03/26/2013
Good article Paul. You know what, I'd love to see Barbara Gordon properly up on the big screen. Not the "Barbara Wilson" we were given in Batman and Robin. Dina Meyer looked the part as Oracle in Birds of Prey, and I'm glad the Huntress is getting screen time on the Arrow TV show - but Babs in a movie would be just great.
Good article Paul. You know what, I'd love to see Barbara Gordon properly up on the big screen. Not the "Barbara Wilson" we were given in Batman and Robin. Dina Meyer looked the part as Oracle in Birds of Prey, and I'm glad the Huntress is getting screen time on the Arrow TV show - but Babs in a movie would be just great.
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+6
10:32AM on 03/26/2013

Miss Marvel is not Marvel Girl

2 things, first Miss Marvel and Marvel girl are 2 separate characters, Marvel Girl has already been in 3 movies, she's Jean Grey. I just think that's important to note.

Next, the reason Catwoman and Sucker Punch didn't do well is not because they had female leads, it's because they sucked!!!!
2 things, first Miss Marvel and Marvel girl are 2 separate characters, Marvel Girl has already been in 3 movies, she's Jean Grey. I just think that's important to note.

Next, the reason Catwoman and Sucker Punch didn't do well is not because they had female leads, it's because they sucked!!!!
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10:33AM on 03/26/2013
Sorry, Miss Marvel and Marvel girl are 2 separate characters. Marvel Girl has already been in 3 movies, she's Jean Grey of the X-Men
Sorry, Miss Marvel and Marvel girl are 2 separate characters. Marvel Girl has already been in 3 movies, she's Jean Grey of the X-Men
11:11AM on 03/26/2013
You are correct, sir. It was a leftover typo. I'll take the ding. It is now corrected.

You are correct, sir. It was a leftover typo. I'll take the ding. It is now corrected.

10:30AM on 03/26/2013

Marvel Girl

is also known as Jean Grey / Phoenix not to be confused with Carol Danvers / Ms. marvel / Binary.

I feel a bit sorry for Halle Berry. She complained about having a small role in X-Men in 2000 and in X2 in 2003 but then she did Catwoman in 2004 which pretty much guaranteed she wouldn't get her own movie as Storm.
is also known as Jean Grey / Phoenix not to be confused with Carol Danvers / Ms. marvel / Binary.

I feel a bit sorry for Halle Berry. She complained about having a small role in X-Men in 2000 and in X2 in 2003 but then she did Catwoman in 2004 which pretty much guaranteed she wouldn't get her own movie as Storm.
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10:23AM on 03/26/2013

Wonder Woman

...long overdue and so much potential!
...long overdue and so much potential!
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10:18AM on 03/26/2013
Hit Girl is probably the most interesting female heroine to come along in a while, and she does in without exploiting sex appeal which makes her that much better.

I'm sure there are a few pedos that think she's sexy. God bless your filthy hearts. By all means, if 14 year old girls do it for you, thumb me down.

Hit Girl is probably the most interesting female heroine to come along in a while, and she does in without exploiting sex appeal which makes her that much better.

I'm sure there are a few pedos that think she's sexy. God bless your filthy hearts. By all means, if 14 year old girls do it for you, thumb me down.

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5:45PM on 03/26/2013
God bless peddo's hearts? Ummmm no
God bless peddo's hearts? Ummmm no
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