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Column by: Max Mallet

Friends, Amazons, geeks of all stripes!  There’s reason to rejoice.

Wonder Woman is a force to be reckoned with.  Not just to Ares, or the patriarchy, but to the fiercest of all villains: the glass ceiling at the box office.

As of today’s date (6/29/2017) Wonder Woman is the 4th highest-grossing superhero origin film of all time (without adjusting for inflation) behind only 2002’s Spider-Man, 2016’s Deadpool and 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy.  It should conquer Guardians this weekend.  It’s also the 14th-highest grossing comic book adaptation of all time, and isn’t finished climbing the list.  On a $149 million dollar budget, it’s accrued $327 million in U.S. sales and $335 million internationally (a $663 million dollar total).

Aside from righting the sinking DC Extended Universe (DCEU) ship, Wonder Woman is making waves in a genre that, historically, has been created by and for men.  It’s a film that’ll hopefully do wonders (no pun intended) for the ongoing conversation around representation and fostering more films featuring strong female protagonists.

While Wonder Woman is the most recognizable female super-hero.  However, there are a plethora of other strong superheroines who deserve their own solo films.  While Marvel Studios and Warner Brothers are respectively producing Captain Marvel and Batgirl and the Birds of prey, there’s still plenty of room to create more female-led super-hero films.   Here’s a list of six leading ladies who could inject fresh, unique stories into the super-hero genre and continue down the inroads that Wonder Woman is paving.

Artwork credit, Clockwise from top left: Black Widow #13 by Phil Noto, Detective Comics #680 by Alex Ross, Invincible Iron Man #2 Variant by J. Scott Campbell, X-23 #3 by Billy Tan, Catwoman by Alex Ross and Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch #1 by Marko Djurdjevic

  1.  Black Widow

    Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanov, A.K.A. Black Widow, in Marvel’s Iron Man 2.

    At the box office, among critics and comics fans alike, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is crushing the DCEU.  However, Marvel doesn’t have a great excuse for not delivering a Black Widow film.

    Scarlett Johansson has been Black Widow since 2010’s Iron Man 2, and starred in five Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies.  Gal Gadot was in Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2016, and stared in Wonder Woman’s debut solo film just 14 months later.

    For a movie universe that implements tight storytelling, DC just ate the House of Idea’s lunch on this one.

    Marvel will finally debut a super-hero film with a female lead with Captain Marvel in 2019.  It’ll be 11 years since the MCU began with 2008’s Iron Man.  Why Marvel Studios is delivering a Captain Marvel movie first is a curious choice, since the viewing audience is already very familiar with Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, and the general public isn’t very familiar with Captain Marvel.

    There are reports that Black Widow will indeed star in a solo film down the line, but it’s fair to be skeptical until there are more established facts about production and a release date.

  2. Batwoman

Art Credit: Batwoman #10 (2011-2015) by JH.. Williams.

Kate Kane, AKA Batwoman, is a fan favorite among DC comics readership.  With rumors that Nightwing has been cast in ‘The Batman’, there’s room for an extended Bat-Family in the DCEU.

Batwoman is the most high-profile LGBTQ character in mainstream comics.  Her solo film would challenge stigmas and, arguably, audience notions about LGBTQ characters.  She’s fiercely independent, often clashing with the Batman himself.  Additionally, she has a military background, and a Batwoman film would be chock-full of intense action sequences.  She also brings out some of the darker, more supernatural elements of Gotham City, which really sets her apart from the rest of the Bat-family.

3.  Ironheart

Invincible Iron Man #2 Variant Cover by Adi Granov.

I’ve lauded Riri Williams, A.K.A. Ironheart, in a previous column.  She’s one of the truly exciting new Marvel characters.  Passing the Iron Man mantle to a black female character does absolute wonders for increasing representation in comic books.  It’s an A-list Marvel super-hero who has been on the silver screen almost every year since 2008.  

While Robert Downey Jr. is great as Tony Stark, he’s now portraying Iron Man in his 50s.  This is a feat that not even Hugh Jackman achieved as Wolverine.  Furthermore, Downey’s contract is up after the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War.  Marvel has to raise the stakes at some point and kill off one of their heroes.  There’s a real opportunity here for Marvel to recruit an actress to play Riri and take over as Iron Man as Marvel kicks off phase four of the MCU.

DC showed real initiative in having Wonder Woman drop before Marvel could produce a female-led super-hero film.  Marvel can steal this thunder back by having a solo film with a super-hero that’s both a female and a person of color.  Furthermore, Riri is a unique character because of her intellect and youth.  The only other Marvel character in the MCU that fits that bill is Spider-Man, and they’d be a home-run for whimsical quips and banter on screen together.

4.  Scarlet Witch

Elizabeth Olson as Wanda Maximoff, A.K.A. Scarlett Witch, in Captain America: Civil War

Scarlet Witch is one of the great, unique characters of the Marvel Universe.  She also doesn’t get the credit and recognition that she deserves.  In comics, she’s been an avenger since the 1960s.  However, the majority of the movie-going audience didn’t know about her until 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Since she’s now an established character in the MCU, it would be pretty easy to produce her solo film.  If you watch Captain America: Civil War, you’ll be hard pressed to pick another character in that movie who can match Wanda’s power.  Her telekinetic abilities would allow for an intense, action-packed solo film favoring mysticism over fisticuffs.  

Marvel has already shown a willingness to borrow from major comic book arcs for their films: Old Man Logan influenced Logan, Civil War influenced the third Captain America installment and Thor: Ragnarok looks to nod at Planet Hulk.  If Marvel wanted to tackle another major event in this mid-2000s era, they could go for the home run with a House of M-styled film.  The premise: Scarlet Witch literally alters reality and threatens the entire Marvel Universe.

5.  Catwoman

Art Credit: Catwoman art by Darwyn Cooke

Let’s address the elephant in the room.  Yes, there was a Catwoman film in 2004, starring Halle Berry.  But let’s be real: this film didn’t make its money back, the protagonist wasn’t Selina Kyle, and for all intents and purposes, it wasn’t DC’s Catwoman.  To be frank, I don’t know if the film even took place in Gotham City.  The Google machine isn’t of much help here and I’m not willing to waste 104 minutes of my life watching this… cinematic cesspool to answer the question.

2004’s atrocity aside, the general public is pretty familiar with Catwoman.  She was a staple in the Batman 1966 tv series, the 1990s Batman: The Animated Series, 1992’s Batman Returns and 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises.  Not to mention the fact that Catwoman hit the comic book scene in 1940 just one year after Batman did.  Despite the fact that DC *technically* made a Catwoman film, they owe it to the fans and the character to try again and get it right.

After Batman and the Joker, it’s difficult to imagine another character as integral to the kog of the Gotham City machine.  She introduces some gray into Batman’s black-and-white worldview and his crusade against crime.  If DC could produce a Catwoman film that maintains her flirty-yet-antagonistic relationship with Batman, while avoiding the misogyny surrounding her character in the video games, they could put something truly special on the silver screen.  She’s a character simply oozing with noire characteristics, and a storyline like Catwoman: When in Rome could really showcase her skill set, intellect and sense of adventure.

6.  X-23

Dafne Keene both stole our hearts and terrified us as Laura, A.K.A. X-23 in Logan earlier this year.

Did you see Logan?  If you haven’t, you MUST — and Wolverine is only half of the reason why.  X-23 is the other half, and she will simply slice her way into your heart (ba-dum-ch!).  Laura is a mutant, cloned using Wolverine’s DNA.  In current Marvel comics continuity, she is the Wolverine.

Don’t let Dafne Keene’s young face fool you — X-23 is one of the most ruthless super-heroes in all of Marvel comics.  She matches Wolverine’s abilities with the Punisher’s savagery, albeit in a smaller, younger package.  Given Logan’s ending, Fox Studios could easily produce a solo X-23 film, and possibly even pass the Wolverine mantle to her.
Despite Hugh Jackman’s 17-year run on Wolverine, many fans were disappointed that he never donned the gold and blue suit.  Logan producer James Mangold’s explanation for why he feels it doesn’t make sense to put Wolverine in the costume makes some sense.  But there’s no reason why Fox couldn’t put Laura in the classic uniform.  Audiences would go bonkers if this ever made its way onto the silver screen:

All-New Wolverine #18 art by Nik Virella

Conclusion

All of the aforementioned female super-heroes are beloved characters.  The oldest goes back 77 years, the youngest has been with us for just one.  They all represent different ethos, have different skill sets and hold vastly different places in their fictional universe.  With Wonder Woman leading the charge for more female-led super-hero films, let’s hope that Marvel Studios and Warner Brothers create more solo films for some of our favorite leading ladies.

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