Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Female-Focused Movies/Projects Marvel Studios Should Make/Consider

. . . And a Few Baby-Steps Marvel can Take to Gender-Equality

Note: I am not using this as an excuse to stop criticizing the lack of Black Widow merchandise or a film. I am simply offering up my own suggestions for female representation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Keep in mind I am not necessarily a fan of all these characters so this isn't just a fangirling post. Also, if you haven’t seen Avengers: Age of Ultron, this post contains some spoilers for it:

It seems as if every cry for a female-led superhero movie involves people insisting Marvel make a Black Widow film. Just recently, io9 posted about fans insisting on “better Black Widow representation,” which often means a solo film. Could one happen? Of course—Scarlett Johansson has even pointed out that she and Kevin Feige have spoken about the possibility. But she isn’t the only option, and it’s pretty clear that even if a Black Widow film never gets made, that doesn’t mean Marvel has run out of characters they can consider other than Captain Marvel. While some of the choices I would’ve liked have been chosen to appear in the television/Netflix series (Mockingbird, Hellcat) there’s far more Marvel females than Black Widow, Carol Danvers, Invisible Woman, and the X-Women. As you might remember, I’m a big Marvel fan, so here are some films/projects I think should be made or at least considered that are heavy on the female representation:

1     Runaways
This is number one on the list for one very specific reason: it almost happened. The Runaways had a film in development for years, but it was shelved when Marvel Studios chose to focus more on the Avengers. In fact, the screenwriter for Iron Man 3, Drew Pearce, penned a Runaways script. But they can always save it for Phase 4—it’s the perfect teen franchise, playing off the whole wish fulfillment of being someone special and having your parents turn out to be literally evil. Plus, the Runaways is unique in that it has a mostly female cast, with the original Runaways having been made up of 2 boys, 4 girls, and one genetically engineered dinosaur. It’s pretty much guaranteed to be great as long as they don’t try to dumb it down, erase the LGBT/racial representation, or make any of the girls a boy. 

2.      Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew)
Once upon a time in the Bronze Age of Comics, Marvel Comics launched a new superhero series titled Spider-Woman. The series, and the character, were created mainly to keep DC from trademarking the name, but she also served the purpose of helping court more female readers. The series also got its own Saturday morning cartoon. While Jessica’s book went on to be cancelled at issue 50 and she fell into the background, Brian Michael Bendis used her in his influential and controversial Avengers run, which helped raise her profile considerably, helping her become a prominent Marvel character. Jessica, codename aside, is no spinoff of another character. She’s worked for HYDRA and S.H.I.E.L.D., which would make her very easy to introduce to the MCU. She’s got a fairly unique powerset when compared to the generic super strength/flight combination. She has her own villains like the Brothers Grimm and Skein (formerly Gypsy Moth). Besides, it’s an excuse to make another film (other than Captain Marvel) with a female superhero that actually wears a bright and colorful costume.
3.      Scarlet Witch
If everyone’s going to throw around Natasha, who’d previously been the only female Avenger, I might as well suggest the other one, too. She’s gotten fairly popular since the movie, and if they’re willing to make movies about unknown properties like Ant-Man, then why not? Wanda Maximoff has plenty of fodder for a solo picture: It could feature her going back to her home country, maybe include Mount Wundagore. She could still be mourning Quicksilver and fight Chthon. The writers could clarify her ethnic background—while Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson had described Wanda and her brother as Romani, there was nothing in the theatrical cut of Age of Ultron to clue the audience in on that; this could be where that could be shown. The film could even have her explore her powers more, have her start to realize her powers are more strange and complicated than she (and everyone else) had previously assumed—basically, put the “witch” back in Scarlet Witch and have her start doing real magic. 

4.      Angela
Formerly a character in the Spawn comics, Angela was introduced into the Marvel universe in 2013’s Age of Ultron crossover series; she later went on to join the Guardians of the Galaxy and she’s even headlining her own series. As she is Thor and Loki’s sister in the comics, she could be introduced or at least teased in Thor: Ragnarok. Angela’s a fairly new Marvel character and Marvel may have to make an arrangement with Neil Gaiman to use her in the films, but she’s pretty awesome and her current comic has introduced another female character named Sera, with whom she's been adventuring, a transwoman of color who has a more muscular build. Take Angela and Sera, cast some pretty and charismatic actresses, and send them on a fun fantasy adventure film and I bet it’d be huge.

5 5.      Ms. Marvel
You probably saw this one coming—Kamala Khan has unquestionably been a breakout character ever since her introduction so if they want another female-led film and they want some racial diversity, well here’s a chance for both of it together, as well as religious diversity since Ms. Marvel’s well-known for being a rare Muslim heroine. She’s relatively new at the moment, but if they greenlight a film/cartoon/Netflix show for her for, say, 2022, they should be just fine. They’re halfway there already since she’s making her animated debut in 2016. 
But even if none of that ever happens, there’s still ways for the MCU to diversify itself and include more females. Here’s some examples:
  • ·         Including either Moondragon, Phyla-Vell, or Mantis in the future Guardians of the Galaxy movies. Writer-director James Gunn has said his films are primarily based on the characters from Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2 by Dan Abnett and Andy Landing, so it only makes sense that at least one of these characters would show up due to their prominence in the source material. After all, all the members of the film Guardians were front and center in the comics, so it should be only a matter of time until at least one is announced.
  • ·         For Avengers movies after Infinity War, there’s plenty of obscure Avengers characters from the comics that can be adapted to film. There’s Spectrum (Monica Rambeau), who’s got light-based powers—she can turn into and control the electromagnetic spectrum. There’s Firebird, who can fly, manipulate fire, and may or may not be immortal (which is interesting, as she is a devout Catholic). Or maybe since Mark Ruffalo confirmed Universal owns the rights to solo Hulk films that may mean an Avengers flick is our best shot of an MCU She-Hulk, though it’s not a bad idea. Unlike her cousin, Jennifer Walters is a big team player.
  • ·         Since Jessica Jones is getting her own Netflix series that’ll introduce Luke Cage, I think Cage’s own series as well as the Iron Fist series should help introduce two properties that the MCU could use. One I want for sure is White Tiger, Angela or Ava; I just want a White Tiger.  Even more, I demand to see the lovely ladies of color that make up the Daughters of the Dragon, Misty Knight and Collen Wing, which would lead to them starring in their own series.
  • ·         This one is perhaps the easiest of all—in fact, it should already be a part of the movie. Marvel Studios has an Inhumans film in development. Ideally, it’ll be less X-Men and more high concept science-fantasy. Think Marvel’s Game of Thrones. And the only way to do it properly is to focus on the royal family. I’m sure we’ll see King Black Bolt, Gorgon, Karnak, and Lockjaw. But it could never work without Black Bolt’s wife and interpreter, Queen Medusa. And unless her rights are owned by another studio, Crystal should also be there—I’m done with this “only one prominent woman in the main cast” nonsense, especially here where it’s completely unnecessary to trim the amount of characters in the cast. In fact, Crystal should be pushed like crazy due to her appeal to young girls: a young princess of a kingdom who can control the classical Greek elements would never not sell tons of merchandize. 
  • ·         But if we really care about female representation, we’ve got to talk about villains. Thus far, the MCU has mainly had its female villains appearing on television; the biggest exception was Nebula in the Guardians movie. And, with one exception I’ll mention in a minute, I want actual villains who get treated like the male ones. None of that Men Are the Expendable Gender nonsense where all the female villains get redeemed and never get comeuppance. Let’s rectify that. I’m still surprised that the Enchantress has yet to appear in a Thor movie, so hopefully that’ll happen in the next one. If the Avengers need a villain somewhere down the line, there’s always Morgan Le Fey. Enough magic villains, though: for Captain America, there’s Sin. The Captain Marvel film or a sequel can use Deathbird or Moonstone. In regards to that exception I mentioned, Screaming Mimi or Songbird as she’s better known could be introduced as a villain to lead to a future Thunderbolts adaptation where she can be redeemed since I think she’s got potential to be huge somewhere down the line.

So while these measures aren’t perfect, they are plausible and wouldn’t require a lot of introduction—in many cases, these characters would perfectly fit in with the cast of characters the cinematic universe has already played with. I do wish the list could've turned out less white and hetero-normative, but alas, most of Marvel's LGBT or women of color are owned by Fox, so these choices are pretty obscure. These are just my two cents on the matter. If you feel I left anything out or want to flame me in the comments, feel free.

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