Nov 17, 2011

Hey, That's My Cape! – At MARVEL, It's Reigning Men

I’ve gone on at length about DC and how they handle their female characters but if there’s one thing I can say they have (for better or worse) that Marvel doesn’t, it’s famous women.

I’ve always found it odd that Marvel doesn’t really have any standout female characters and perhaps that’s one of the reasons I was drawn to DC as a young girl. In fact, I didn’t really know of any female characters from Marvel outside of the X-Men until much later in life (unless you counted Mary Jane). But look at DC. If you asked someone to name a few of their female characters you’d at least hear Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl and Catwoman. DC’s women haven’t made great transitions outside of comics yet but considering how Marvel has been doing in the film arena lately, I think this is something they need to consider.

So in this week's Hey, That's My Cape! at Newsarama, I discuss Marvel slacking off when it comes to their female characters (especially in light of the recent X-23 cancellation), not only in comics but in film and television as well.

13 comments:

Gary Gerani said...

Back in the '70s, Red Sonja seemed to be Marvel's premiere heroine (granted, she was a 'licensed' character, though pretty much created and designed for the comics medium), followed by Spider-Woman, Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, and, to a lesser degree, Shanna the She Devil. Sonja, like Warren's Vampirella, seemed to have her own transcendent vibe; she was a legitimate sword and sorcery warrior-adventurer with a distinctive (if impractical) costume and a very real edge to her persona. Sadly, the movie and TV incarnations never quite tapped into Red's unique appeal. And speaking of live-action adaptations, the DC superheroines enjoyed the benefit of appearing in productions made way before mega boxoffice results were demanded from comics-derived entertainment: Batgirl (as part of the failing BATMAN series) in the '60s, Wonder Woman and Isis in the '70s, Supergirl in the '80s (okay, so Kara's belly flop was indeed a high-profile setback). These heroines had already reached that larger mainstream audience years before Marvel became a serious contender in the live-action arena, so they were automatically more "famous." Why, then, doesn't current fat cat Marvel move heaven and Earth to launch a major superheroine movie today? An understandable fear of failure, obviously. When the first TOMB RAIDER with Angelina Jolie opened to big bucks, most pop critics and social historians concluded that female super-types were finally being accepted by mainstream viewers, just like the guys had always been. Not so, ultimately. One can blame the poor quality of resulting films (CATWOMAN, ELEKTRA, SUCKER PUNCH, etc.) for their financial debacles, but many still maintain that, well, with all due respect to wonderful Geek Girls like yourself, comics remain mostly little boy power fantasies. What will change that chiseled-in-stone perception? When at least two superheroine-derived summer movies match the boxoffice returns of a DARK KNIGHT and IRON MAN... nothing less will do the trick, folks. But with Hollywood hesitant to adapt even the most famous comic book heroine, Wonder Woman, as either a movie or even a new TV show, it seems like something of a Mission Impossible to challenge traditional thinking on this issue without powerful numbers to bolster one's argument. We should probably be grateful that TV syndication and mini-networks allowed female fantasy crusaders like XENA and BUFFY to enjoy reasonably successful runs a few years back (alas, these shows would have died on CBS, NBC or ABC). Bottom line? Fan films and fiction will have to fill this particular void, along with the actual comic books themselves, until social/business attitudes change. But keep fighting the good fight in your columns, Jill... your smart voice is that torch burning in the window!

dash_bannon said...

My first thoughts about why Marvel doesn't have great female characters is that Marvel wrote comics for pre-teen to teenage boys, with stories that appealed to that demographic.

As time went on, they created female characters that were basically male characters with boobs. By that I mean, they were very masculine; powerful butt kickers.

DC's female characters were butt kickers, but they also had an aspect of femininity. That would appeal to female readers more than Marvel.

Plus, Marvel's female characters were not terribly inspired, they were simply copies of male characters that existed before and given boobs. (Ms. Marvel, Marvel Girl, there was a female Captain Marvel, Spider-Girl, She-Hulk,and now they have a Lady Thor and Lady Red Skull.)

The X-Men have a pretty good list of female characters that are more well rounded; Storm, Rogue, Mystique, and Kitty Pryde.

Perhaps they could create a book of X-Women? X-Girls? That's an idea worth looking into.

Overall, what's missing in traditionally male-oriented comics is having female writers. Women, self-evidently, would most likely have a better sense of what women would be interested in.

I have no complaints about the male dominated-ness of superhero comics, but heck, some girls want to dream about being super-women too.

We'll see.

Anonymous said...

“Why isn’t Marvel making a bigger push so their female characters become famous? Black Widow was an obvious choice for The Avengers because she co-starred in Iron Man 2 but does anyone really see that character/actress having a successful spin-off solo film?

Yes I can see Black Widow, who just happens to be played by a very popular and beautiful actress, getting her own spin off movie and getting it a lot faster than WW will.

“while Black Widow is the only one that made it onto The Avengers live-action film team [Newsarama Note: Agent Maria Hill, while a S.H.I.E.L.D. liaison to the team, doesn’t appear to be a full-fledged member]. Why?

Why is it so hard for female fans to understand that these films are introducing the MAIN CHARACTERS in the Avengers mythos first? And they aren’t even doing all of the dudes. Why aren’t you asking about Hank Pym? Why aren’t you asking why a second tier female character replaces a (shudder) MALE character as one of the original core Avengers? Here, let me hold up the rug for you to sweep those facts under.

There is a mythos to be respected here that has a history. It’s not about the female characters at Marvel. It’s about The Avengers. As for Maria Hill, she’s not a “full fledged member” because she’s not a full fledged member of Avengers. She‘s a freaking SHIELD agent. That’s why. Black Widow actually has a history as an “Avenger”. Hill doesn’t. Hill has a history of being a liaison between SHIELD and the Avengers. Get it? Hill is being cast as what she is, a SHIELD agent. You know, if they ever do a Birds of Prey movie, you know what I won’t be doing? I won’t be whining and saying “hey! Why are they introducing the core group of birds of prey first? Why aren’t they featuring Hawk and Dove more prominently? Booo!!!”. Yeah, see, I won’t be doing that because it makes no sense.

Anonymous said...

“Marvel has strong, dynamic female characters. Utilize them!”

See, this makes me think that you don’t read Marvel comics. Marvel has always been about “team books”. Yes, even the more iconic “male” characters titles sell less than the “team” books in which they appear do.

On Xmen alone there are over 34 females. How many female characters have been on Justice League or JLI or Justice Society or Teen Titans? Right. On the Avengers, there have been over 40. Yup, 40 women on Avengers. That sure sounds like a “boys club” doesn’t it? Oh wait, no, it doesn’t. Because it isn’t. They are out there and a lot of them are getting face time on screen. How many DC women are you seeing on screen lately? Wait for it…wait for it…Catwoman! For the third time! Bravo DC!

Anonymous said...

No, there are not a whole lot of Carol Danvers sleeping bags and backpacks and Halloween costumes like there are for Wonder Woman. But while DC has more iconic characters like WW, Supergirl, Batgirl and Catwoman, pretty much all those characters have is name recognition. Ask the average Joe or Joette about any of them and chances are they can’t really tell you any more about their characters than they can about even the most obscure Marvel females such as Squirrel Girl or Petra because in the end all the characters really are are plastic Halloween masks. So really, it comes down to how many and how well written they are and how big a catalog the films have to draw on. Marvel wins hands down on all counts. Always will. And in the end, while I want every last female at DC and Marvel to be famous, I’d rather have a lot of them and have them be well written. At Marvel that is exactly the case. At DC? Not so much.

Marvel is doing the smart thing. Introducing Marvel women through the Marvel Movieverse franchises. You will see more women in Avengers 2, Cap 2, IM 2, Thor 2 and in the SHIELD movie that will no doubt come out. From those franchises I truly believe that you will see a Black Widow movie or a Ms Marvel movie long before you see a WW movie. So the women of Marvel are going to be just fine. I can’t say that about the women of DC and really, neither can anyone else.

“And then there’s X-23. Can we just un-cancel her book? That was a really weird move considering her sales were better than several other titles still running.”

So your logic is you want the books that sell for crap with women to keep going because other books that sell for crap haven‘t been cancelled yet? Genius. I can’t imagine why you aren’t running Marvel. And I thought the fan boys had an insufferable sense of entitlement about them. The fact is that Marvel put the books out, they didn’t sell, they got cancelled. Guess what? Punisher is getting the boot. And chances are that Thunderbolts is also going to get the boot (along with several other titles that have *gasp!* MALES in them). That should make you happy cause that has a whole bunch of dudes on the team.

Anonymous said...

“If Marvel looked at that model and presented someone like Anya Corazon, Spider-Girl to the world with an actress teenagers are already nuts about, you’d open up a huge demographic to the comic world. Did they try to do that? No..”

I can’t tell if you’re willfully hiding facts or just flat out ignorant. Marvel IS doing that. With the upcoming Mockingbird series for ABC Family staring Miley Cyrus. Along with a Jessica Jones series and a Cloak and Dagger series.

Anonymous said...

You know, I haven't seen a female blogger yet that didn't resort to the worst kind of yellow journalism. You gals are like the Fox news of the comic book world.

The Nerdy Bird said...

Well I've seen plenty of anonymous commenters like you. Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure Storm is Marvel's premiere heroine and the only female heroes that should be called "Captain Marvel are Monica Rambaeu(Since she used the name before and she is an actual Captain, while Ms. M is just Major) and Phylia-Vell(Since she's Mar-Vell's daughter.

Plus, if any female Avenger should join the movie's cast, it's Monica. They could also used a black hero in the movie after all.

Besides, Marvel has always been mainly about Team books anyway.

Anonymous said...

Why should Ms.Marvel be the premiere Marvel heroine? Is there a rule that a premiere heroine has to be white?

I'm pretty sure Storm fills the role better and i'd rather have Monica Rambaeu as another female member for the Avengers movie. Esoecially since she isn't a distaff.

Also, Marvel did try with X-23, alot. They even added her to the roster of Marvel vs Capcom 3, which is a very popular fighting game series.

Anonymous said...

Wow. so much hate!
Nerdy Bird, i hear you and 2nd your article.

I was beyond pissed when i found out Wasp wasn't going to be in the Avengers movie. Being one of the original and only female Avenger and the one who coined the name of the team, i just couldn't believe they left her out.

Also i've long been a fan of the female characters. Growing up with 4 older sisters, i relate to women i think in a way that alot of guys don't. I love the balance that female characters bring to the books and the feminist attitudes that go along with it.

I am waiting on the return of a female comic character at the box office.

Anonymous said...

^ Except ther reason the Wasp and ant-man aren't in the movie is because the planned Ant-man movie wasn't made.

All the characters in the film appeared in the other Marvel movies first.

Anonymous said...

Why are most of the Marvel females you are suggesting for the Avengers film White?

What about Firebird or Echo or Pulsar(Who ulike Ms.M, has been Captain Marvel and she's an actuall captain)?