BLACK WIDOW: Rise of the Heroine?


A BLACK WIDOW film has been… listed. Not “announced” per say, but it has its own IMDb page so gosh golly gee, it must be true! We, the people, have been surrounded by every superhero imaginable for years now (how many versions of Batman and Superman have we suffered through over the past countless decades?) and we are finally starting to see a lady at the end of the tunnel. Let’s go down a brief (and incomplete) list to see what’s already out there – past, present and future* – in the realm of live-action superhero television and films.


ANT-MAN (1 movie)*

ARROW (TV show in season 2)

BATMAN (9 movies, 1 TV show)

BIRDS OF PREY (TV cancelled after 13 episodes in 2002)

BLACK WIDOW (3 supporting/ensemble movie appearances, 1 movie)*


CATWOMAN (multiple appearances, 1 horrible movie in 2004)

DOCTOR STRANGE (2 movies)*

FANTASTIC FOUR (5 movies)*

GREEN LANTERN (2 movies)*

GOTHAM (TV, included separately because it exists in Batman’s universe but isn’t about Batman)*


IRON MAN (5 movies)*


SUPERMAN (8 movies, 2 TV shows)


THE FLASH (TV show, and 1  movie)*

THE INCREDIBLE HULK (7 movies, 1 TV show)*

THOR (5 movies)*

WOLVERINE (8 movies, probably more, including cameos)*

WONDER WOMAN (TV show from 1975-1979, 1 movie)*

X-MEN (6 movies)*



Pretty impressive list we’ve got there, right? Pretty testosterone heavy list, too. Sure, we absolutely have some supporting females here and there – re: Catwoman (not the movie!), Lady Sif, the X-Women, etc – but on the whole, the list is fairly male-centric. Don’t misunderstand me here, folks: this is not a feminist-rant-post, or an angry-at-men post, but merely a “we’ve-got-some-kickass-heroine’s-out-there” post that does not quite understand why we haven’t taken advantage of the abundance of awesome womens we’ve got.

I, and I believe many others, have had the unfortunate pleasure of witnessing one too many arguments surrounding the idea that superhero films (or any films) that feature a female lead will bomb at the box office. Women don’t have the “universal appeal” that men do or some other silly thing like that. I firmly and wholeheartedly disagree, especially when it comes to superheroes. Women will go see these films because they’re such a rarity and we’re dying to get one of our own up there in a lead role, and men will see them because SCARLETT JOHANSSEN IN SPANDEX. It’s a win-win situation.


Another great argument I’ve heard (which was a personal favorite of mine) was that Wonder Woman doesn’t need her own film. Number 3. See here. While I absolutely accept and agree that her mythology does not lend well to cinematic adaptation, that doesn’t mean that a) it’s impossible or that b) that she doesn’t need a film. Just because it would be difficult to get her a working, relatable backstory on screen that does not mean that she shouldn’t get one. (Hands off, Brett Ratner, Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn. You three have ruined enough.)

And it may sound ungrateful that I’m whining when we’re finally getting both a Black Widow and a Wonder Woman film in the foreseeable future, but it should absolutely sound ungrateful. Because we, both women and the general comicfan population, should not have to be grateful that a heroine is finally getting to star in her own film. It’s a no-brainer when it comes to adapting a male hero, but somehow the ladies always get the boot. And I don’t think it’s a lack of desire from the fanbase that is holding back our heroines, but instead a lack of understanding on the studios part: they don’t know how to write our heroines. It’s hard enough to write a complex character, but for many female roles they tend to be broken down so simply that they fall through the cracks and become nothing but fluff.


My proposed solution? FIND NEW WRITERS. There are a ton of screenwriters who can master the complex female character without pigeonholing her into one stereotype or another, and maybe that’s a huge part of why we’ve waited so long to put Black Widow at the forefront of her own adventure; the writers that were bringing her to life onscreen had time to test her, find her strengths and skills off the page and are now comfortable enough with her as a character that they feel confident they can give her a successful film. And maybe that’s what the plan is for Wonder Woman, too. An introduction to Diana Prince in BATMAN VS SUPERMAN, another supporting role in JUSTICE LEAGUE to iron out the kinks and then finally a film of her own to succeed in.

I’ll admit that it’s a fairly decent plan of attack but it’s not good enough anymore, Hollywood. It’s time to find new writers who can do it right on the first try. No more bombed films, no more canned pilots. Make me the perfect RED SONJA film (not the 1985 atrocity) and do it now. We’ve got enough hugely popular and successful superdoods in tights roaming around that it’s time for some superladies to start winning the box office, too.

Meet Gal Gadot, the new Wonder Woman.

Meet Gal Gadot, the new Wonder Woman.

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  1. Excellent post! Couldn’t agree more on every point. While I’ve never been a huge Wonder Woman fan, I find the idea that her story can’t be adapted for a solo film to be laughable. Think about some of the movies on your list, as well as some that aren’t. Is Diana’s story really that much more difficult than a lot of those?

    I first got into comics because of the X-Men, and what’s always been striking to me about that group is the sheer number of awesome heroines in it, especially reading Chris Claremont’s original run. Jean Grey, Storm, Kitty Pryde, Emma Frost, Rogue, Rachel Summers, Psylocke. The cool factor of the X-Women is off the charts. Yet only Jean has ever gotten to play any significant role in the movies (I suppose Rogue too, but they took away her coolness). Now there’s talk of Fox wanting to do a Mystique solo movie, which I support, but it’s transparent that their real goal is just to take advantage of Jennifer Lawrence’s star power. But if that’s what it takes, I’m on board.

    Without owning the cinematic rights to the X-Men, Marvel Studios lost a lot of its strongest heroines. But now it’s built up Black Widow, who had a great run leading the Avengers in the 80s. Taking advantage of ScarJo’s appeal and the depth we saw in the character in Cap 2 is a must; give her a solo movie pronto. I’m hopeful that when we finally see Wasp, she’s more than just Hank Pym’s love interest and a follow-on hero; I much prefer Kurt Busiek’s run where she was the main character in that relationship. I’m not as high on Carol Danvers as many fans, but a Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel movie is another option.

    DC needs to do Wonder Woman right before anything else, but there are some great ways they could go too. I think a Zatanna movie could be an intriguing option, especially if they could get to it before Marvel can do Dr. Strange. Kind of a pity that Black Canary has been split into two less-awesome women on Arrow.

  2. That’s the thing, David: I’m honestly not a huge Wonder Woman fan either. I think she’s interesting enough and that her backstory is quite a handful, but as far as superheroines go there are so many others that I find much more exciting. Do I love that she’s a kick-ass female? Of course! Do I need to see her in star her own movie? Not necessarily, no. But you’re absolutely right: her origins are no more complex than many of the other heroes we’ve seen adapted so I can’t understand why we still haven’t found a way to get her up on the big screen successfully. The most important reason for pushing to adapt a Wonder Woman film is how well-known she is – comic fans or not, “Wonder Woman” is a name the audience will recognize.

    As far as the X-Men are concerned, I have always been a huge fan. Like most others of our generation I suspect, I got my start in the early 1990’s when I would wake up at the crack of dawn to watch Saturday morning cartoons. My adoration of Gambit (shocker, right?) lead me to seek out any X-Men comic I could get my hands on, and there was no turning back shortly after. I absolutely fell in love with The Scarlet Witch (yay, Avengers 2!), Psylocke and Domino and yet when the atrocity that is X3 was released not only did we get the worst Phoenix adaptation ever, we were stripped of one of the most intriguing and powerful female characters in the X-World when Ratner chose to defile Rogue by making her take the cure. Do I support the idea that Mystique should get her stand-alone? Sure, if that’s the only way we’ll get a female hero as the title character. But I’d be lying if I said she deserves it more than another character might. You’re 100% correct in that it would be a money-play to have J-Law wearing nothing but blue body paint for 120 minutes.

    I completely agree that Marvel Studios is going to suffer by not owning the rights to X-Men, and I can only hope that one day soon those rights will be bought or sorted out in some way so that there can be crossover between the films without having to avoid to word “mutant.” I mean, how exactly are they planning on explaining Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch in Avengers 2? While I’m incredibly bitter that it’s taken so long to get the Black Widow by herself, I am very excited to see what they’re going to throw at her – especially after Cap’n ‘Murrica 2. As for Miss Marvel, she would appeal to general audiences but again I think there are much more deserving heroines to introduce first.

    Zatanna movie? NOW. I had honestly forgotten all about her. But I’m sure that the studios will find her backstory problematic, too. Though it’s not complicated per say it would require most studios to put forth effort into making “magic” believable instead of mutant abilities or science gone wrong. Black Canary has never been that interesting to me, so her split into two characters on Arrow wasn’t disappointing nor that surprising, really. Although, it sure doesn’t help that Katie Cassidy and Caity Lotz are the worlds most annoying actresses.

    I can only hope that with the huge success and attention comic book movies are drawing in, the studios will move in a direction toward taking chances with female characters without reducing them to ridiculous sexual playthings or single-minded villainous weapons.

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  4. I can see a Wonder Woman film working as a perfect metaphor for what’s going on with superheroines in Hollywood. Superhero Hollywood right now is “Man’s World” (sadly) and a great Wonder Woman movie can be an ambassador for superheroines everywhere. I think there’s a WW film scheduled for 2017, which isn’t TOO far away. I think Marvel’s announced a Captain Marvel movie starring Carol Danvers, but that’s not supposed to be out until 2018. Still, progress!

    So far, though, I have to admit being pretty frustrated with the way superheroines in film have been handled in general. Even Black Widow, the most prominent superheroine on the big screen these days, hasn’t reached her full potential, although she’s had some great moments in The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the Iron Man films. Scarlett Johansson is a bit of a hit or miss actress for me, but getting a starring role in a Black Widow film could bring out the best in her.

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