By Molly Freeman
Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.
The explosion of superhero movies is one of the biggest Hollywood trends this past decade (in addition to reboots and revivals).
Four major film studios are churning out separate superhero franchises. Marvel Studios and Disney have The Avengers, while Warner Bros. has many upcoming films based on DC Comics superheroes like the Justice League. Sony rebooted Spider-Man and is working on expanding the universe, while Fox has regularly produced X-Men movies since 2000.
However, if you take a look at the comic book-based superhero films of the past decade, you’ll notice a glaring omission: superheroine leads.
Sure, there’s an old stereotype that comic book fans are predominantly male, but Brett Schenker of Comics Beat claimed the disparity is lessening. As of February, 46.67 percent of Facebook users who say they like comics, graphic novels, manga, and certain comic publishers are female.
While promoting the new Ms. Marvel series, Axel Alonso, Marvel’s editor-in-chief, brought up the need for increased female representation in comics.
“While we don’t have any market research, the eyes don’t lie. If you go to conventions and comic book stores, more and more female readers are emerging,” Alonso told The Washington Post. “They are starved for content and looking for content they can relate to.”
Unfortunately, that increasing attention to and consideration of female fans is slower to take effect in the cinematic universes of both Marvel and DC. Currently, Sony has not planned a superheroine film; Fox also has nothing scheduled, though rumors of an X-Men spinoff starring Jennifer Lawrence emerged a few months ago. Warner Bros. is slated to create a Wonder Woman film, rumored to debut in 2017–but the studio has not yet confirmed the date. Speculations surfaced about a Black Widow solo film from Disney/Marvel Studios, but also lack confirmation.
On the television side, Marvel TV is currently working on a female-led miniseries that will air on ABC this winter: Agent Carter. (However, whether Agent Sharon Carter qualifies as a superhero is debatable.) Additionally, Netflix and Marvel are producing four one-season television shows focusing on separate superheroes for a miniseries, one of which is Jessica Jones.
With no set premiere date for Jessica Jones, and Agent Carter not quite a superheroine series, a trio of cartoon superheroes may actually beat Marvel and DC to a female-led franchise in the coming years: The Powerpuff Girls. The staple of late-‘90s, early-‘00s cartoons is set for a reboot scheduled to debut on Cartoon Network in 2016.
“As the original ambassador of girl power, The Powerpuff Girls brand continues to resonate with people of all ages and there is tremendous excitement around introducing Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup to a new generation,” said Pete Yoder, vice president of consumer products for North America, Cartoon Network Enterprises.
It’s clear that while many higher-ups in the comic book, television, and film industries understand a need for more female representation in superhero media, the transition may take some time. However, the announcement of series such as The Powerpuff Girls reboot definitely gives fans hope that the gap in gender disparity will begin to decrease.