The Female Superhero: A New Age of Superhero Movies

Women have been in comics since the beginning and the birth of female superheroes such as Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Ms. Marvel, and Storm opened a new era. However, despite female superheroes rise to fame in comics very little has been done to bring them to theaters as the main protagonist.

The movie poster for the 2004 movie Catwoman
The movie poster for the 2004 movie Catwoman

On July 23 of 2004, Catwoman first hit the box offices. This was one of the first live action motion pictures also known as a Batman Returns spinoff. Catwoman is a relatively well-known female superhero, but despite her fame this movie with a budget of $100,000,000, did not break even making an estimate $82,000,000 during its run at the theaters. The movie’s failure could be based on the anti-hero characteristics of the character that can make her hard to relate to at times. Catwoman always drifts back and forth between being a self-serving villain and a compassionate hero who stands up for women. At the time of release it is noteworthy to mention the demographic of superhero movie goers were mostly men. Men connected easier to fellow male superheroes and heroes they actually knew about beforehand.

In 2005 another attempt at a female superhero emerged, Elektra. This time the superhero was relatively unknown. This forced audiences to research Elektra beforehand to understand her origin. Elektra failed at the box office, like Catwoman before it. The movie was unable to make back the $43,000,000 budget. The dialogue between the audience and the character is crucial to a movie’s success. With Elektra as the star there was no preconceived idea of her identity. The movie’s attempts to explain the origin of the complex character left things jarring and at times hard to understand. This led to the movie’s downfall.

The combined lack of success between Catwoman and Elektra could explain the lack of attempts to bring out a female superhero as a main protagonist since then. However, since the success of female superhero Black Widow in the Avengers Franchise, the female superhero has become the talk of future movies. The demographic of superhero movie goers, although still more dominantly men, has begun to even out with female movie goers. With a more diverse audience, and more publicity on female superheroes, the advancement of a female superhero movie has become a possibility again. After years of male dominated superhero movies the female superhero is finally getting her own debut with two noteworthy upcoming films, Wonder Woman from the DC Universe and Captain Marvel as well as Black Widow from the Marvel Universe.

Wonder Woman

Scheduled Release Date: June 23, 2017

Gal Godot dressed as Wonder Woman for Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Gal Godot dressed as Wonder Woman for Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice

Although it will be a few years before the Amazonian Warrior-Princess Diana has her own movie, she is appearing in the new Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice and of course will be in the November 17, 2017 Justice League movie. Wonder Woman has a variety of arcs in the DC Universe to be sifted through for the origin of the character. The selection process led the writers to choose Diana’s new origin in the New 52 universe. This changes Diana from being made of clay by the magic of the Greek Gods to being the daughter of Queen Hippolyta and Zeus. This makes Wonder Woman a demigod and makes her easier for audiences to connect to. The Percy Jackson movies did well in movies displaying that a demigod can be relatable to audiences.

Wonder Woman should succeed in theaters for a variety of reasons. Wonder Woman according to DC is the “most famous heroine of all time”. Her fame leads to a large fan base. According to the Movie Picture Association of America in 2013 women and men were about even in attendance at the theaters. This makes now a prime time for female superhero movies to emerge. Wonder Woman has also been featured in many children’s cartoons including various Justice League cartoons and her own self titled animated films. Her presence on screen has also been made in a self title TV movie in 2011 as well as one of her first appearances on screen with her own TV series called Wonder Woman, which ran between 1975 -1979. Her TV series was rated 7 out of 10 by IMDb. The dialogue between the audience and the character is well established. As long as director Michelle MacLauren stays true to the spirit of Wonder Woman in her new origin story, the movie will succeed bringing in lots of money for DC and her partnering film company, while proving that a female superhero works on the big screen.

Captain Marvel

Scheduled Release Date: July 6 2018

Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel
Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel has been known under other names before finally being called Captain Marvel. Carol Danvers was a member of the Air Force before an accident subjected her to radiation from an alien species known as the Kree. The Kree may sound familiar. Ronan the Accuser and Korath the Pursuer from the blockbuster film, Guardians of the Galaxy are both from the Kree race. As seen in Guardians of the Galaxy, the Kree race is technologically advanced and highly militaristic.

When Carol first discovers her powers she names herself Ms. Marvel. She later changes her name to Binary, and then Warbird before adopting her current name, Captain Marvel. The radiation from the Kree gives her superhuman strength, speed, endurance, and flight. She also has a limited sixth sense that renders her resistant to most poisons and toxins. Her seventh sense is the ability to absorb energy (excluding magical energy without consequences) and blast it at her enemies. With such a wide and hefty list of powers Captain Marvel is a very powerful adversary.

Her popularity stems from her capability and autonomy. She is incredible strong with a full list of powers that allow her to rescue herself from dire situations, unlike other female heroes who tend to be called cheap knockoffs of male heroes. She is self sufficient and does not rely on other superheroes or organizations in the Marvel Universe. Unlike other female superheroes she is capable of handling the tasks she sets on. She is competent in her decisions and her blunders do not leave her in a situation requiring rescue. Captain Marvel has been praised by fans for her ability to be her own character with a complex and compelling personality. Carol dynamic personality brings her to life on the page, and sets her apart from other female superheroes.

Recently, according to the Inquistir, an unconfirmed but credible sources has stated Captain Marvel may have a cameo in the new Avengers: Age of Ultron. This will be a great test run for the hero and prepare audiences for her feature film later on.

Black Widow

Scheduled Release Date: Unknown

Scarlett Johannson as Black Widow in The Avengers Movie
Scarlett Johannson as Black Widow in The Avengers Movie

It has been confirmed that a Black Widow movie is in the early works at Marvel studios. It is highly anticipated since not only has Black Widow gained increasing fame and esteem but so has the actress portraying the now-iconic role, Scarlett Johansson. There is no guarantee, however, that the movie will make it to production. Many movie ideas are tossed around in early development. There is also the fact that Marvel has set their ‘Phase 3’ movies. ‘Phase 3’ is Marvel’s lineup of movies for the next couple of years and Black Widow is not on it. The immense work their movies take makes it difficult to picture a Black Widow movie in the near future. However, Marvel Studios wants to produce four movies a year. That may leave a little room to squeeze in a Black Widow movie but until it is confirmed as officially out of development and on the schedule we can only hope Black Widow gets the movie she deserves.

The long wait is over. The gateway to female superhero movies has been opened. Audiences will finally be able to see their favorite female superhero on the big screen saving the world like their male counterparts. This will finally show young girls that they can be superheroes, too, just like boys.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. Aaron Hatch

    When people say there has never been a movie staring a female superhero, thats not entirely true. We just haven’t had a good one yet. Here’s hoping the Wonder Women and Captain Marvel movies change that. Really well done article.

  2. Jemarc Axinto

    Three cheers for more positive and well-made female superhero films. The comic industry is certainly full of a LOT of misogyny and my hope is that this move (one small step…) will be a huge driving force in changing that. Great article!

  3. Great article, a really well-developed and interesting topic! There are a lot of great female superheroes out there, developed throughout the years in Marvel comics (although the male characters have always been privileged). The film industry is finally looking into it! I hope they won’t be too stereotyped though and be the usual Hollywood super glamorous woman who meets all the fantasies of masculine desire (they are already in the comics, true).

    • I mirror your fears of the characters being too stereotyped but even if they are it’s at least a start, and a move in the right direction. Glad you enjoyed the article!

  4. LaurenCarr

    Nice article! I agree with the comment about more men in the industry. There are a lot more women working behind the scenes, it should have a positive impact.

  5. tino hick

    A reboot of Sheena – Queen of the Jungle. I’d watch that.

  6. Quite honestly, I’d much rather see some grownup films about that include women as complex human beings struggling to sort out relationships – not fairy tales like “Pretty Woman” but real relationship movies. I’m tired of the saturation of comic characters altogether – the scripts are lousy, the films forgettable, and the woman as impossible to relate to as the men.

    Most men aren’t Thor; most women aren’t Black Widow. Stunt doubles do most of the tricks. Life isn’t like this.

    Once in awhile it’s fun; the saturation and the linking of feminism to comic characters is getting tiresome and sad.

  7. I’d love to see Katee Sackhoff play Ms Marvel, but I doubt she’s a big enough name for Disney to consider her.

  8. Wonder Woman is a cultural icon that far overshadows any female heroes Marvel has, and that’s okay. I’m looking forward to see what they do with this movie as well as the others.

  9. rinehart

    Can’t they just turn Captain America into a woman instead of Captain Marvel?

    • Lincoln

      Why, she’s more powerful and capable than he is. He can’t fly, can’t survive in space without a special suit, and if he tries to shoot energy beams out of his hands he just stands there looking like an idiot.

      To be honest, being Captain America would be a step down for her.

  10. So pissed Black Widow doesn’t have her own movie yet.

  11. A Black Widow film might be great but to reflect the character it would need to be a 15 certificate removing 1/2 of the avengers series audience.

    Do any female superheros make money as comic books? The route to movies starts there. So the issue might be to make Comics that girls and young women are comfortable buying or selling them from a shop they go into.

  12. I want Stephen Chow to do a live action Airbender trilogy ( don’t laugh, think about it Asian actors, bonkers CGI, breath-taking martial arts) it would erase the trauma of the Hollywood version. What could be cooler than a blind 12yr old girl, using the flying rocks to take down scores of baddies?

  13. Lita Legg

    There is plenty of scope for female action leads-look at Aliens,Silence of the Lambs, Super, Haute Tension. The problem is in the writing. It requires greater skill to write a strong female lead because a strong back-story is required.

  14. LukeDennison

    Oh if only Marvel owned the rights to X-men, Spiderman and Fantastic Four.
    With Shield mostly destroyed, and files declassified, Peter Parker could learn about what happened to his parents. There can even be a connection to the super soldier serum they were trying to recover before they died and the green goblin serum which was made from it?

    Ms Marvel and her connection to the Kree would be a great way to introduce, the Skrulls and Fantastic Four. Also Ms Marvel could eventually loose her powers to Rouge and Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch is obviously connected to Magneto. The universe is already epic, but damn it could have been even more cohesive and expansive. I hate that I may never see wolverine battle the hulk in this universe. Sigh.

    • Well good news is that Sony and Marvel made a deal about Spiderman. It looks like we might see him join the Marvel Universe Movies in the future.

  15. Male prejudices could debunk females becoming superheroes! It is 21st century females could be anything given a chance! Joan of Ark left an indelible mark in history for her great deeds even when she was in her teens. In India there is a history of great warrior women, especially the deeds of valour of Maharani-Queen of Jhansi-ki-Rani did script a wonderful history when she took swords against the mighty British Empire. Captain Marvel picture was very popular and I remember watching movies of Capt Marvel in my school days. If movies based on deeds of valour of Men could become popular and money spinning, how come movies depicting great-warrior women not earn the same goals? Things are changing fast in this fast developing world and now females would be able to do all those things which men-folk think of holding a monoply just shun those male prejudices.

  16. Lynwood

    I’m a bit worried The wonder woman movie the year before could overshadow Ms Marvel. I hope a year is enough for people not to think of her as a rip or something.

  17. Shaquana Bivins

    I caught up on the Captain Marvel comic and she is a really cool character so I’m pretty excited about the movie. Hopefully we’ll have a good actress to go with the character.

  18. What a fun article! I am not as familiar with Captain Marvel as I am with Wonder Woman. She seems wonderful! I also think one of the reasons Catwoman failed was the fact she was not the same Catwoman that was in Batman Returns. I would have loved to see a solo Selina Kyle Catwoman film.

  19. I don’t know why a lot of journalists think Marvel add more diversity to their line-up, women heroes have always been there, particularly Carol Danvers and Thor being female is just an editorial gimmick, just like the death of superman or Batman’s broken back.

    The fact that women centric comics are usually not as successful as males is because of the readers, not because of the company.

  20. Rayna Rea

    What about Elektra?

  21. I am so excited! I heard humor a few years ago about a wonder woman movie but then all talk died out! I am so happy they are going through with it. I am however concerned that black widow will soon be the hero in the avengers without a stand alone movie.

  22. Good article, I’m glad that they are making more female superhero movies.

  23. yes! I totally agree!


    When I was a kid I had all of the Captain Marvel comic books starting with issue number i. Also Captain Marvel, Jr., and Mary Marvel. Billy Batson yelled ‘SHAZAM’ and a lightning bolt hit him turning him into Captain Marvel. Marty Batson did the same. When I joined the Army in 1950 my mother moved and threw out all the stuff she thought was junk, including my massive collection of comic books.

  25. NurseManhattan

    I think Black Widow stole the show in Avengers once we got a glimpse into her past as a training assassin. I can’t wait to see more of her and other superheroines in future female-led comic book movies. Great article!

  26. Yes! Finally! Bring it on! Thank you for writing this!

  27. Thank you for this very interesting and important article!

    Hopefully the film industry is shifting, slowly but still, and the values of strengh, hard work (sweat) and power will no longer be associated with masculinity in the future.

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