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She Has No Head! – For Your Consideration

Yup. Another superheroine on film post. Maybe I’ll just keep writing these until one gets made (probably not, I’m already pretty tired).

If you read this column frequently you guys know that I’m a pretty big fan of io9 in general, but Charlie Jane Anders has been killing it lately on the superheroines on film issue. First with her compilation of Action Movies Starring Women that I linked to in last week’s article and then this past week she proposed 8 ways to get a superheroine movie made, it’s a great piece even if I agree with some of the ideas more than others.

One thing she points out that I think is key, is that NOW is the time to get a superheroine movie made. Waiting two, three, four, or more years to get the ball seriously rolling on a superheroine film is just not an option. Moves need to be made now, or we might just miss our window. There’s sure to be burnout on superhero movies (are we already there?). As long as the movies continue to be good I think people will continue to spend money to see them (even if they complain or pretend to complain that they’re tired of them), but the mainstream audience may get weary, and seeing a bad one (they can’t ALL be good) can put a lot of people who aren’t naturally invested in superhero properties off the concept quickly.

Superherione Round upR1

From Left: The Black Widow, The Runaways, Alias/Jessica Jones, X-Men, Nextwave Agents of H.A.T.E., Batgirl, and Capt Marvel.

So, a big thanks to Anders for the inspiration – and I hope she doesn’t mind me jumping on her bandwagon and coming up with some of my own solutions for each of her suggestions and one additional category of my own. I obviously stand by my position that it’s pure insanity to not already have The Black Widow in development (as well as Wonder Woman) but beyond that, here are some ideas that think a little bit outside the box.

Alt

Faith Erin Hicks Adventures of Superhero Girl and Ross Campbell’s Shadoweyes. Unconventional, alternative, and absolutely awesome.

 ALL-NEW HEROINES

Don’t wait for DC/Marvel to figure it out, just create all new heroines. I am ALL FOR THIS (obviously). Anders lists very good examples in Chronicle, Hancock, and Sky High, also The Incredibles (though as an animated property I’m not sure they have quite the same challenges). These movies were wholly original, not even adapted from non-comics material, and they did very well relative to their budgets and expectations. There’s absolutely a great argument for just pushing Marvel and DC aside and doing something wholly original (or adapted from media outside of comics, or comics outside of Marvel and DC). I obviously can’t make a specific argument here without creating my own hero and writing a script for it, but I can say that I think it’s pretty easily done – the building blocks of superheroes are pretty universal and easily applied. And if you DO want a roadmap or inspiration or more, there’s a lot of material out there already that could be adapted (cough<The Girl Who Would Be King<cough) though arguably a lot of it is not superheroine focused. Another option as mentioned above is just to go after more indie creations, like Faith Erin Hicks Adventures of Superhero Girl or Ross Campbell’s Shadoweyes.

ww morrison paquette

An image from Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette’s forthcoming Wonder Woman: Earth One.

TAKE LIBERTIES

Simply to take liberties with existing heroine properties. I think any adaptation has to take some liberties with the existing property, and hopefully Hollywood is well aware of this. Certainly the best adaptations do this in smart ways, but I think that Marvel and DC especially would be wise to keep this in mind, and fans should learn to be flexible. Adaptations are tricky things to begin with and what works on a comic book page doesn’t necessarily work blown up on a 40-foot screen.

We’re not all going to like what happens when liberties are taken, and sometimes it will be a bridge too far (I was able to accept Azzarello’s origin change for Diana, but couldn’t handle the destruction of the Amazons). So individual mileage will vary, but as fans we should try to keep in mind that movies are designed to appeal to a much broader and less informed audience, so sacrifices must be made in the best interests of the final product.

I was kind of dismayed on the last column to see some really small thinking in the comments section — there were great comments too of course — but there was a lot of really narrow focus on exactly what stories could or should be adapted — as if only stories that already exist can or should be what’s focused on for a film – I mean, we all know that it doesn’t have to go that way, right? Sometimes the best story for the medium, time, character, what have you, hasn’t yet been told and we’d all do well to remember that. I was also bummed to see so many of you insistent that there weren’t many superheroines (beyond Wonder Woman) “big enough” to launch a film. The implication a lot of times was that there were no women “worthy” of a film but that’s not only incredibly small-minded thinking that really devalues so many of our characters and stories but it also ignores what we have already learned – i.e. as many of you also pointed out, Iron Man was not the A-list superstar he is today when the first Iron Man came out in 2008. A major film can do a lot to raise a character that previously wasn’t A-list to A-list.

Hopefully the success with films like Iron Man, Thor, The Avengers, and even Nolan’s Batman films Hollywood and DC/Marvel have learned that flexibility is good.

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In Brian Michael Bendis’s Alias, Jessica Jones may have superhero underpinnings, but she’s far more detective than superhero and that’s not a bad thing.

THE NON-SUPERHERO SUPERHERO

Anders idea is that if you don’t tell anyone it’s a superhero movie, you can get away with the female-led action film. I get the idea of doing a big reveal at the end of a film to show how this is actually a superhero movie, but given how much gossip happens during filming I don’t think it’s that practical, plus you’d possibly miss out on the natural promo machine that is the comics industry/SDCC/etc. Instead what I’d suggest is a superhero movie wrapped up in another kind of movie.

Quite frankly Brian Michael Bendis’s Alias would be a great blueprint for this, because it’s primarily a really a cool detective story, set inside a superhero world and with a great complicated leading lady, that it’s only revealed slowly has superpowers (but not ones she’s all that comfortable with).

This could fit seamlessly into an already existing Marvel Universe. An Alias/Jessica Jones story can reference superheroes and the existing characters and world building (not unlike Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD seems like it will), while still not being a huge budget-busting blockbuster. Jessica Jones is undeniably a superhero, but she doesn’t present that way initially, and in the scope of Alias (volume 1 at least), she doesn’t even ever “become” a superhero in a traditional sense. Additionally, Jessica naturally overlaps in the material with superheroines Ms/Capt Marvel and Spider-Woman, so it can either introduce those characters or anchor Jessica more firmly into that universe and give those heroines juicy supporting roles. There are also some great dude cameos built in from Luke Cage and Captain America to Daredevil and Ant-Man.

So Alias is a way to have your superheroine movie cake and eat it too. Or something.

Team Up

Brian Wood’s X-Men, Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen’s Nextwave Agents of H.A.T.E., and Cliff Chiang’s punk rock Birds of Prey all more than ready for a theater near you.

 TEAM-UP!

Riffing off of all the “female Expendables” talk! Doing a team up movie certainly gets you more bang for your buck. And if there’s a fear about enough people being interested in a certain superheroine, doubling down with multiple heroines can potentially minimize your risk (though it also likely ups your budget significantly). I also like this idea because it can potentially minimize the odds that filmmakers will focus on all those seen it before origin stories and just get to the heart of the story right away.

Nextwave Cast

Clockwise from left: Monica Rambeau, Elsa Bloodstone, Boom-Boom, Amanda Seyfried, Rhona Mitra, and Naomi Harris.

In truth, an X-Men film focusing on the ladies in Brian’s Wood’s cast makes a ton of sense. Bring back Anna Paquin (whose profile is much raised thanks to True Blood) as Rogue, Ellen Page is already on record saying she’d be delighted to come back as Kitty Pryde, both are talented actresses and reasonable draws for an ensemble movie. I like Halle Berry, but I’ve never enjoyed her take on Storm (and they continue to not get the hair right), but still, half the movie is already cast with known actresses as well as superheroines that audiences are at least partially familiar with — add a Psylocke, Jubilee, and Rachel and you’re done. I actually think Wood’s first three issues for his new X-Men series has total potential as the framework for a movie.

I’ll re-iterate how much I’d love to see a Nextwave Agents of H.A.T.E. film. I also think the humor and meta-ness of Nextwave is right in sync with what Marvel’s doing right now. Add to that, three powerful female leads (and a dude and a robot dude for diversity!) I admit I also loooove the idea that if you could establish Elsa Bloodstone as a character you could eventually have a Legion of Monsters spin off movie. Sooo potentially cool. A triple bonus would be getting Monica Rambeau established as a heroine, especially if Carol is the new Captain Marvel – makes me feel better about everything on that front.

From DC the obvious call would be Birds of Prey. Seems like a slam-dunk quite frankly.

Gender swap

From Left: Cosplayer Emmy from Dangerous Ladies with painted art/finishes by Deviant Artist Jenzee as Batgirl/Cassandra Cain. Kate Spencer as Manhunter, art by Dustin Nguyen.

 GENDER SWAP

Write a movie for a male lead and then simply swap the gender. This one is tough when it comes to comics, because while it certainly worked well for movies like Alien and Salt as mentioned in the io9 piece, those weren’t previously established properties with rabid (and very vocal) fan bases. They also didn’t skip over a ton of totally doable existing superheroines to switch the gender on a male supe.

So I think taking an existing male superhero from comics and making her female superhero is probably a mistake. However, I think you can take the idea of this and think outside the box a bit. Manhunter for example, was originally a male character, but was re-imagined to reasonable success when Kate Spencer took over as the current Manhunter in Marc Andreyko’s series. Like Alias, Manhunter does a great job of straddling genres in that she’s not your traditional supheroine, she’s a darker vigilante character, and though there’s a costume and some toys and some “unofficial sidekicks” she’s more street level and thus perhaps more approachable in some ways as well as less expensive that traditional superheroes. She also ties nicely to a lot of Bat-universe characters, which, when done correctly, is like printing money.

Something awesome in this same vein (but which you can file in the “it’s never going to happen” category) would be taking the Cassandra Cain Batgirl Volume 1 and doing a version of it that as a movie. This takes the “make Batman a chick” idea, but with its roots already firmly planted in an existing property that despite DC Comics having no interest in the character, still has a thriving fan base.

And there’s already a nice roadmap on how to bring that character to the screen in her initial comics. You just begin with Cain as the ultimate badass bat character, doing the absolutely unbelievable, but hampered by her inability to speak — and her “reading of body language” is an exceptional opportunity for creative filmmaking and effects — then she gains the ability to speak but loses what makes her a perfect fighting machine. She struggles with the desire to be more normal through an ability to communicate and understand language as others do, but ultimately tries to give it up so she can be a better heroine. Annnnd done! An amazing character focused piece. I don’t even think you need some massive villain, you can just do a smaller story that establishes Cain as a crime fighting Bat hero with assassin roots, and you’re ready to go. Cassandra Cain as Batgirl also has advantages in that you can (again) tie in to the Bat universe, you can use Oracle, another hugely popular character, and Cain is the “darkest” of all the Batgirls, which is certainly in line with current DC as well as the Nolan (and now Snyder?) take on the DC Universe in film.

I know a lot of fans have issues with characters that feel like rip-offs of male counterparts/versions, and I understand the complaint, but in the scheme of things it doesn’t really bother me. Yes, it’s better if we can have a heroine totally independent of existing male characters, but what I care about is a great heroine making it to the screen. I’m okay with that being a Batgirl or Batwoman, or a Spider-Woman, etc., so long a she’s three dimensional and awesome and on screen in my damn lifetime.

DITCH THE COSTUMES

Rouge Paquin

Anna Paquin as Rogue in the first X-Men film. She never wore a traditional costume, but this is absolutely a look, one taken from the comics and updated for film. It’s pretty much badass.

The idea being that you don’t have to put a character in a costume to make them a superhero. I don’t think absolutely no costume works too well (unless you go with something like Alias as discussed above) but I think Anders makes a great argument for how rarely you see a character like Wolverine in an actual costume. He works as a hero (and superhero) in and out of costume. Anna Paquin’s Rogue in the first X-Men film never wears a costume (and in fairness doesn’t do a lot of fighting given her power set) but the filmmakers managed to translate some of her comic costume ideas into real world clothes in powerful ways. That green hooded jacket is better than most costumes on screen.

Similarly, there has been some cool development of more practical costumes in comics that are striking but also function as reasonable clothing – Jamie McKelvie’s take on both Miss America and Kate Bishop/Hawkeye spring to mind instantly. Jubilee’s new costume – a black jumpsuit and the classic yellow jacket and sunglasses. Immonen’s take on the Ladies of Nextwave are all reasonable costumes, some of which work as real life clothing as a bonus.

Its true that powerful iconography really drives a lot of superhero properties, and I think it’s an important part of the equation, but there are a lot of different ways to approach that idea. Easily the most important thing however is that sexing up the lady costumes and erring on the non-practical side certainly DOES NOT work (see Catwoman and to a lesser degree Elektra) so let’s hope that lesson at least has been learned.

tumblr_m7xocs2FTX1rba2tuo1_500

From Darwyn Cooke’s excellent The New Frontier, period piece Wonder Woman. Instant classic.

PERIOD PIECES

Anders makes a good argument for period pieces being an interesting time for women and also allow you more freedom to push on issues of gender.  It’s true that WWII is an especially interesting period for women, as it’s a moment of real change, women stepping more into the workforce and traditionally male roles. There’s some cool arguments you can make on that stage that don’t play as well in a modern context. I confess that I’m more interested in seeing modern superheroines tried, if only because I don’t believe there’s no reason it can’t be done, but I agree that period piece stories can both be fascinating and have some fertile comics history to mine. Who doesn’t want to see that awesome Darwyn Cooke New Frontier Wonder Woman/Superman moment: “There’s The Door, Spaceman?”

Man, that might actually be enough to make me swoon, a movie that brought me that line. Yep.

romance

NO ROMANCE

It’s a bad idea to put romance in a female-led superhero film, you risk chick flicking the hell out of it, which is good for nobody. Gods, I hope this one is really obvious. And it’s not to say that our heroine can’t have some sexual tension in her story, but she needs to be first and foremost a hero, the same way our male heroes are in their films. It will be even more important in a supeheroine film, that risks being written off as a chick flick or “for girls,” that filmmakers are really careful with toeing this line and keeping the romance and “chick stuff” to a minimum. The good news is that there are a ton of wonderful examples in comics of superheroines functioning without any romance anywhere to be seen.

YA

Brian K. Vaughan’s The Runaways and Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s modern spin on Young Avengers.

“YA” IT UP

Superhero movies by definition are somewhat YA in that studios want to hit that PG-13 rating. So you’re already halfway there. Pick a property rife with young new heroes and you’re nearly there. YA literature is a huge seller – from Harry Potter to Twilight to Hunger Games — and adapting YA material for the big screen has a real history of success — though there are notable – and recent – failures – like the first (only?) installment of Mortal Instruments.

Using Gillen and McKelvie’s very young and fresh feeling Young Avengers as a template seems like a no-brainer, though arguably there’s an issue in explaining to non-comics audiences both Kid Loki and Kate Bishop as Hawkeye. It’s also not female heavy which is what we’re supposed to be focusing on here…okay, fine, I would really just love a Young Avengers movie, alright!?

inhumans tonaja

Tonaja from Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee’s The Inhumans.

You can go back a bit further with properties like The Runaways — to be honest I don’t love that opening story of The Runaways — which naturally focuses on their origin as characters with powers and as a team in general — but the characters are undeniably awesome and fresh feeling and there are a lot of cool ladies.

You could also do something great like Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee’s The Inhumans story and focus on the youth/transformation aspect of the story, as told through Tonaja’s eyes, which is its strength anyway. With themes of growing up, segregation, and things never quite being what they seem there’s a great movie in there, though in fairness it’s probably not the first movie to try to make and the effects would be challenging/budget busting. Like Young Avengers I guess this goes on a personal wish list more than a logical “it makes sense! Do it now!” list.

In conclusion I guess I’d just advocate for the idea that there are so many rich characters, books, and stories when it comes to superhero ladies that I hate to think that anyone would dismiss all of that with a hand wave that they “just don’t think it would work.” Think of all the things that you thought might not work that turned out awesome in life? I mean, how insane must Being John Malkovich have seemed on paper, and yet someone had the vision (and the balls) to make it and it’s amazing. There are so many things like that.

Similarly, if we just gave up the first time that things didn’t work (like Catwoman or Elektra, or going further back SuperGirl) then Buffy The Vampire Slayer never would have gone on to become an amazing and groundbreaking seven years of television after the atrocious (and rightly so) failed movie of the same name. But we’re blessed with visionary passionate storytellers and incredibly rich stories — those that exist and those that have not yet even been dreamed up — so there’s no reason to be so sure that this can’t work. It can, and perhaps more importantly, it should. It’s high time…well past time in fact. It shouldn’t be a big deal, but it’s become one because there’s such a bizarre lack in this specific area.

It’s time to fix that.

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*Links for Batgirl Cosplay: Original cosplay photo. Artist manipulation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

48 Comments

All really good ideas.

I kinda like the idea of ditching the costumes, especially–most of them wouldn’t translate very well and would look pretty ridiculous transferred 1:1, and as female superhero movies don’t really have a lot of their tropes nailed in place just yet, it would be good to establish good habits early, lest Jim Balent have a career renaissance as a costume designer.

You are forgetting Ivan Reitman’s My Super Ex Girlfriend starring Uma Thurman and Luke Wilson. It was a little ahead of its time, predating the big superhero boom of the latter part of the decade.

Ditching the unrealistic costumes is a good idea but only if the personality becomes the costume of sorts. Why doesn’t Hugh need yellow spandex to be Wolverine? The essence of Wolverine pulses out of the guy in a way that no costume is needed. The reality of established characters is that many will need to keep their costumes. I doubt many fans would ever accept Supergirl without her skirt and shield or Batgirl in anything other than a catsuit. This is where the ladies of Marvel have the advantage. Being less iconic to the mass public gives them the chance to adapt their look.

Personally I wish DC would take some of their lesser known characters (male or female) and give them movies like Marvel does on occasion. For some reason DC has an ‘all or nothing’ mentality with their product. If a movie they invested 200 million doesn’t make a quarter billion dollars and then some…it’s a failure to them. How hard is it to make small budget stories about superheroines and still bring in the cash? I still say (and always will) that DC should take Gaiman’s “Death: High Cost of Living” and adapt it for film. It’s just about a girl (Didi/Death) and a guy (Sexton) having a wonderful and unusual day in NYC. You wouldn’t need any well known actors (in fact that would be a plus not to have any well known actors) and the fan base for Gaiman and his Sandman characters is huge. And the story could translate well to those that does not have a good understanding of the source material.

I want to contrast the obsession with getting a female superhero movie made with the complaint often made against Wizard magazine. They were obsessed with envisioning comics as movies, to the point where readers (and critics of Wizards vapidness) felt the mag was calling comics irrelevant–if it aint on the silver screen, who cares?

Kelly’s OpEds on what she wants and why she wants a female led hero movie are uniformly good, but the focus on the ‘need’ is becoming its own insult. Good female led comics just don’t matter (no matter that we are seeing more and more every month) because comics don’t matter [to the greater public] and therefore don’t matter to her either.

I think why I m saying/asking is: how much more important is Cultural Relevance than Qulity? How much are they linked, concerning representation?
There are wonderful comic ‘trees’ falling in the woods every day, but until one is filmed and in a theater it makes no sound?

Aside: I’d adore an adaption of “High Cost of Living” by Richard Linklater (Waking Life, the Before Sunrise trilogy)

great post!! i like the ditch the costumes section the most, i never really thought about that. and thank you so much for the Shadoweyes shout-out!! ;D

Great list, Kelly. I agree with everything. I don’t have a problem with romance….it’s just WHICH romance. A little romance in a superheroine movie is fine so long as the “romance” taking place is one created and designed to enhcance that heroine’s narrative and agenda.

I would have zero objection to a Wonder Woman film that took the time to explore the complex dynamic between Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor. There are a lot of questions that could be explored here that we rarely see on film. What would it be like for the man in question to have to STAND THE HECK BACK and allow Diana to be the one who saves the world? (Which is not to say that Steve Trevor doesn’t have the capacity to help out and be valuable and equal bc he does. He’s a soldier.) You also get the idea of Steve representing the “human male” vs. Diana’s mission to come to the world of man and bring wisdom and love. Should this be the central narrative of the movie? No. Not at all. But it has the potential (if done right) to add to Wonder Woman’s message and story. It would enhance her message and mythos and teach about WHo she is.

What does NOT do this? A freaking Justice League movie where Wonder Woman is in a romantic relationship with Superman. That relationship does zero to influence the public perception of HER mission and her message. (It does nothing for him either but at least people have had the ability/privilege through other media to know his mission for decades on end already.) Relationship sends totally the wrong message, complete usurps the character’s mission and public appeal and paints her as the property of men for decades to come. A Superman/wonder woman romance in a film would be, without question, the worst possible thing that could ever happen to Wonder Woman. Ever. It would brand her forever.

So I’d say it’s not “romance” per se that’s the problem with a superheroine film. It’s 1.) WHAT romance it is and 2.) whether that relationship specifically is part of the message and story being told.

Steve Trevor in a Wonder Woman film? I’m fine with that. Could even be a great thing. The other romance? You may as well just not even bother making a Wonder Woman film bc she’s down for the count forever now. Let’s hope WB isn’t that stupid. (I would say let’s hope DC isn’t that stupid but they’ve already proven that they are.)

“Good female led comics just don’t matter (no matter that we are seeing more and more every month) because comics don’t matter [to the greater public] and therefore don’t matter to her either.”

That’s a pretty ridiculous accusation to make against a woman who runs her own podcast about comics.

First, I am going to restrict myself to adaptations. There really isn’t a huge problem with female-fronted superhero material when you accept original content without costumes. Buffy was a superhero show. It worked great. The KILL BILL films featured what was by any reasonable definition a female superhero. They worked great as well. Original, female-fronted superheroes face challenges of their own, obviously. The difference is that those challenges are only tangentially related to gender (i.e. female movie stars have a shorter tenure on the A-list than men) and do not relate to superhero genre at all (i.e. very little truly original content gets made in ANY genre).

Still, if Joss Whedon and Jenifer Lawrence decided that wanted to do an original female superhero together, then they totally could. They are primarily limited by their own desire and creativity.

Second, my take is that film adaptations are primarily about taking something that exists and distilling it down. THE GODFATHER was a 446 page novel that was distilled into a 176 minute movie. Characters were reduced. Subplots were excised. That is a typical (if especially successful) example. Good comic-to-film adaptations tend to be even more radical. They are taking something that already exists and making a more intense version of itself. Without that process, a great graphic novel can become a soggy film. WATCHMEN is the perfect example of that problem.

My best guess at how material is enough is five continuous years of comics, or sixty uninterrupted issues. That roughly tracks with the conventional definition of success for a TV series (i.e. 100 episodes) and “feels” right. For example, Hawkman has never quite cracked the 60 issue barrier. You can argue that the Direct Market has been historically hostile to female characters (and it certainly was), but that hostility is roughly uniform. The character who have lasted the longest are the most ready for adaptation whether the same yardstick should be applied to male and female character, or not.

With those two qualifiers, here is the list of female starring superhero characters that are the best primed for adaptation: Wonder Woman, Lois Lane, Birds of Prey and Batgirl (Cass Cain edition). You will notice one point of commonality between those characters: they are all owned by DC Comics.

This is the problem in a nutshell. Marvel has a reputation as the “hard” comic brand and DC has a reputation as the “soft” one. DC has tried to fight that impression through an increasingly pathetic series of head twistings, brutal rapes, deaths and gore soaked vileness. It hasn’t taken. DC is perceived “more girly” comic brand, because ,,, well … IT IS. For God’s sake, the most ruthless character in the DCU is Amanda Waller.

Marvel is actually doing a decent job with the properties they have and their mandate within Disney. They took Peggy Carter from an absolute zero to a plausible protagonist. Pepper Potts did almost the same thing. You know AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. will have a memorable female lead, or three. Black Widow was better on screen than she has even been in the comics.

No, I’d suggest that this is a DC Entertainment problem.

@Dean- “…that are the best primed for adaptation:…Lois Lane.”

You know, a great movie could be made from a creative, brave and physical female reporter character. But could it really be Lois? There was a time when Lois had a “life” beyond Superman but the last few decades has really made her attached to Supes. In my lifetime of watching Lois…she is getting rescued by Superman in the animated series, hooked hip to hip with him in “Lois and Clark The Adventures of Superman”and fawning over him in pretty much every movie. DC doesn’t seem interested in separating Lois from Superman but separating Superman from Lois. I just can’t see DC creating a Lois Lane oriented movie without Superman being somewhere..or more to the point, everyone would naturally expect to see him and if they didn’t they would be disappointed.

I totally agree with you on the Birds of Prey. As long as it has Oracle (minus the Joker background). If done right they could have that movie and slip into a Cassandra Cain Batgirl movie. After all, someone could take over the Batgirl mantle if Babs is Oracle.

Just so you know, in your section about the Young Avengers, you put “Kate Spencer” instead of “Kate Bishop.” I guess you just really like Manhunter, huh?

Anyway. I think the romance point is perhaps the most important. If a female superhero is reduced to a love story with punches, it makes it that much harder for people to buy into it. Men and women alike would be turned off by too heavy a focus on romance aspects. The woman needs to be a strong, independent character, not some poor girl who just wants to be loved.

I remember a couple years ago, there was talk of making an Alias TV show. Mockingbird, Hulk, and Cloak and Dagger were all also mentioned. Obviously, none of those went through. Kind of a shame.

The team-up idea would also be cool. Lots of potential there.

“Good female led comics just don’t matter (no matter that we are seeing more and more every month) because comics don’t matter [to the greater public] and therefore don’t matter to her either.”

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Once again…we mostly agree. I am a big proponent of much of what is being praposed here. My favorite, if to pick one maybe the Gender Swap. It has worked well in other films. If I were to be resistant to any, I think it would be either the avoidance of Romance or Costumes. I come to advocate for seeing these elements and other complicating issues when adapting from one medium to the other as simply problem solving opertunities, not opertunities to white wash. However, I will again we agree mostly.

While the starting fresh, has it’s wisdom, I would feel sort of hart broken for Wonder Women. I have said this before, while a apresite your position I have come to a paradoxical complicated place. I have never really more then respected Diana. That is until I began reading the new series. I feel women in our storytelling culture are not afforded the same opertunities, to not only be heroic, but also face the same trevisty or foolishness that men are. This is a more modern consern. If a women fad made a fool, the sexist would be making the joke on them and the non-sexist would have seen it as unlady like. There have been those who now, see that a women in a story who faces great embarrassment or tragedy can be depicted and redeamed by being treated equally to a man. I am not trying to defend women in refridurators. This is a holy difrerent issue. One of true equality. Not just trying to make honerable representation, but an power unity to have failures.

On Saturday I was at a Book Festival in Burlington with James Sturm, Chris Ware, Chris Wright, James Kochalka and Barabra Slate. Barbara, spoke of how working for Marvel & Archie she would depict often, her female characters falling, acting a fool. She seanced a real issue in young women not having examples of women having embarrassing moments (PS you should have her on 3 Chicks, nice lady).

While murdering the Amazons and a comical trip are not any ware near the same thing, I would say that this revision of history for Wonder Women (which doesn’t erase, but makes dramatic) is nesasary to tell the story I am reading in Wonder Women. Even the loss of her people. Diana is now discovering just how powerful her character is. How the lessons she brings us survive real tragedy. Through out she is maintains her principles. She is a far more powerful ambassador now for the feminist and humanist heroics she represents as an icon.

I also am a huge advocate for the complex intent of her creation not be white washed. Embracing everything from her conception to this current take is not possible. However, they make for a fascinating and complex story. Something DC needs in it’s characters. I argue to make a good film and comic. They are essentially involnerable characters, walled off from the human condition…until you take risks. The biggest fear we have with women in fiction is seeing them in risky situations. I say we change that tired old approach and have them face real risk of comtroversy and have them come out challenged and still in the right.

If Wonder Women does not get her film…it’s not OK. However, as a Marvel fan…I love the Ellen Page Kitty Pryde rumors most of all. Also the Phoenix. I think a logical choice would be She-Hulk or Caprain Marvel. However, clearly the fastest and most sure fire is get Scarlet back in her own film.

I’m okay with the idea of gender-swapping a male superhero, even in an adaptation. Dr. Strange and Black Panther are two that leap to mind as characters whose gender isn’t all that central to what makes them work as characters. In DC, I think the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle would work fine with a girl instead too.

Great post, Kelly. The only thing I disagree with is Naomi Harris as Monica Rambeau. Personally, I would have sanaa lathan play Monica.

@ Nicole:

Regarding Lois Lane, I think that the comparison to Ant-Man is instructive. Both are relics of the Silver Age as solo characters. Hank Pym last had an active solo title as co-headliner in July, 1965. Lois Lane lasted a couple years in the Direct Market era, but was done by October 1974. Both of their solo titles spoke to the charm and goofiness of their respective universes . Ant-Man was being shot out of catapults onto waiting insects and being flown across the country. Lois Lane was chugging down mystery potions to crack displace romantic rivals, or crack some big story. Neither was remotely “realistic” in any meaningful sense of the term, nor do they even vaguely conform to modern sensibilities.

The differences were that Lois Lane was funnier, headlined by a woman and much, much more successful.

The reason that forty years after the end of the Silver Age that less successful property is not being adapted and more successful has been consigned to the D-list in the nu-52 order is that DC Comics hates itself and Marvel has taken that as validation. I honestly think that self-hatred has an awful lot to do with gender. DC has an almost pathological tendency to make its female characters less appealing in an attempt to grow its market share in the Direct Market. For example, they have a popular (and female friendly) property in TEEN TITANS GO! and the Titans are the one property that isn’t reset to near zero in the nu52. In fact, Starfire is transformed into a goldfish, Raven is banished and Cyborg is pulled out of the title. The list of this type of move is really endless.

Regarding Cassandra Cain, it seems to me that she might be better served with a little bit of distance from the Bat franchise. A run of 73 issues for a solo female title in the Direct Market is kind of a big deal. She really has had enough space to develop her own thing. She seems to me like an ideal character to take down the “The Non-Superhero Superhero” career path. GOTHAM CENTRAL had a lot of success taking a different angle on Gotham City. It might be fun to see a similar treatment of the Ra’s al Ghul aspect of the Bat mythos. Kind of a globe-trotting, genre-hopping thing would be fun.

@ Greg P.

Gender (and race) swaps are a tricky business. Doing a female Dr. Strange, or Black Panther, or even Batman is probably not a good idea for a couple reasons. First, those characters are al somebody’s favorites. The hardest core of their respective fan-bases would feel that they aren’t really getting an adaptation (or in Batman’s case a seventh). You can argue that they shouldn’t feel entitled to an adaptation that looks the way they expected, but that line of argument never actually persuades anyone. Second, the frame of a “female Batman” (or whomever) probably isn’t a great one. It implies that character is a lesser version of something else.

The best gender swap in comics history took an out-of-date premise and made it better. I mean, no one even thinks of Zatanna as “female Zatara”. Elsa Bloodstone has utterly supplanted her obscure father. Hawk & Dove had their most popular run after a gender change brought a fresh dimension to a title that had never quite worked. That implies that the best characters to gender-swap might be the ones don’t immediately jump to mind as adaptation candidates.

You’re forgetting a crucial step towards all this, Kelly–BRIBE THE EXECUTIVES.

With costumes, I think women are better suited for costume adventures than men, really. The reason Hugh Jackman does not wear yellow spandex to play Wolverine is that he would look silly, period. Men in general look sillier in spandex because men usually do not dress this way. I am totally against having overly sexualized costumes (why Huntress went from wearing a practical Kevlar costume to dressing like a stripper I will never understand), but look at cos play, and men generally look silly dressed as Aquaman and there are a lot of women who look stunning dressed as Power Girl. So, I really don’t think taking women out of the costume is an answer, its just making it look functional as opposed to sexualized.
With YA, I would maybe go farther than that. The problem with a lot of super heroes is they have male power fantasies. Super strength, for example, is usually an ability men fantasize about. Having a heroine who has powers women desire are few and far between, and usually are given to secondary characters, like Raven and Venus. There have actually been television shows that have done this, like Medium, which makes movies seem so out of touch with all of this, though not as out of touch with comics, obviously. Maybe creating heroines who are not just filled with male power fantasies or replacements to male heroes, but actually are aimed at women and the fantasies they have, is the answer. Also, if you are looking at YA, you have to consider the most popular YA novel centering on women’s fantasies is Twilight. In that, Bella is obviously the central character, but she is not lifting buildings or shooting lasers out of her eyes. She sort of gains vampire powers after the fact, but that did not define her and really wasn’t the focus of her desires. I wonder if screen writers should consider that.

Oh, Good God. The LAST thing we NEED is another terrible super-hero movie. Whether the lead is male or female makes no difference.

Yes, there are good female characters that would perhaps make good films (BIRDS OF PREY should maybe be tried again, but since the last time they tried it, it failed, so it won’t be) but simply making a film with a female lead because there are films with male leads is a recipe for a bad film.

NEXTWAVE is not a movie. Could it work as one? Mmmmmaybe. Would it be another League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Only With Chicks? Probably.

I’d give Carol Danvers a role in GOTG and then expand her into her own movie, once the general public gets over the fact that Captain Marvel means a blonde woman and not Shazam.

Otherwise, I’d say Courtney Crumrin would make an EXCELLENT movie (or series). Paranormal? Kids like that. So do adults. Strong female lead? Check. Y.A.? Check. No Romance*? Check, I guess.

*Seriously? No Romance? Have you been skateboarding without a helmet again or have you never actually seen a movie in your life? No love story – it’s out, it’s banned, to show how “strong” the female lead is? That’s cutting off a movie’s nose to spite its face and that kind of talk gets you politely escorted out of any serious meeting. That was the place in the article that I stopped listening. Dumbest thing I ever heard in my life.

@ Patrick Rowley:

I’d suggest that maybe you are the one who is not paying attention.

There is a legitimate market for original stories with female protagonists that are superheroes in every meaningful way. By that, I mean characters with superhuman abilities who wear iconic clothing, that are opposed by highly-stylized villains, operate in a “realistic” urban fantasy setting and tell open-ended (potentially serialized) stories. These include the RESIDENT EVIL series, the UNDERWORLD series, the KILL BILL movies and Trinity from THE MATRIX movies. Those movies would serve as the template for female superhero adaptations as surely as almost superhero movies,like ROBOCOP, laid the groundwork for the male superhero adaptations.

All of them use the “love interest” character in very different ways than the traditional romantic B-plot that you find in male superhero films. As much as men may complain about the tradition of chivalry and its effect on popular culture, it is a patriarchal concept. Women understandably view things differently.

Patrick Rawley wins the award for this thread’s rudest comment I should think. The footnote doesn’t even make a cogent point amid all that snark

there’s one instance where i think you could legitimately get away with writing a male superhero and gender flipping it.

White Tiger.

Otherwise, i think it’s a piss-poor excuse for not being able to write a female character as an interesting character who’s a woman.

the super-ninja-fighty-person-turns-out-to-be-a-superhero trick would work with Mockingbird.

1.) dont make the females anti male

2.) don’t make the females anti male sexuality (as in dont have the female act like any romantic or sexual gesture is a unholy offense from hell)

3.) don’t make her a feminnazi YES THERE IS SUCH THINGS!
its all good for her to be for female power and empoerment just not to the point of hurting and degrading men for said purposes.

4.) DO NOT HAVE HER JEST OR THREATEN CASTRATION! its not a fucking joke, would any of you females like it if a male did do so about the female equivalent of it?

5.) dont have her say “I Dont fuck men” UNLESS you are wanting her to be a lesbian.
i dont fuck, i dont care for sex is fine.
SERIOUSLY people are FREAKING the fuck out about riddick, katee sackhoff’s character said that line and all of tumblr instantly asumes she is lesbian, and then when she reveals she isnt at the end, people are turning it in to the whole lesbians will be straight for the manlest man bullshit, WHEN SHE NEVER ACTUALLY said she was a lesbian in the entire film.

This is literally just Anders’ io9 article. I’m not sure thanking her for inspiring you justifies basically just rewriting what she wrote somewhere else.

So men can have romance but women can’t. That’s quite interesting and ironic. You should really examine that and how insecure that comes across to me. Equality of treatment does not mean avoidance.

Yeah and Ander’s article was so absolutely original in concept, I bet no one ever even thought about making a heroine movie before that article *rolls eyes*

I liked Kelly’s article and she made some good points and added worthwhile thought into existing ideas.

@movieman- I liked what you said. To distinguish a heroine does not mean they have to be anti-male. Sometimes I think that’s the problem with Wonder Woman, or at least the perception of the world she comes from. Diana comes from a place that is anti-male and yet somehow she rises above the prejudice/bias of her culture all on her own. That would be like a white male from the 1790′s in the southern US with no concept of equality taught to him suddenly having an epiphany and breaking out of his cultural norm with no backup. It’s not exactly realistic in of itself.
How can a writer develop an all female society that is anti-male that somehow produced an open minded person like Diana?

how about lesbians? is that OK?

I think that would get a lot of guys into the theater…

agreed, except for the romance part. can’t see why that as not part of the story. buffy is a prime example for all this.

Excellent ideas! Just really needs some more references to Fearless Defenders and the latest run of Amethyst (which had one missive in issue 0, but shouldn’t detract from an overall great series).

@Tim

That is one of 2 things in this article that bothered me. The other saying that Wood’s opening X-Men arc would make a good movie

1. Wonder Woman is not inherently anti-male, nor is Themyscriya (or Paradise Island, as I used to call it). I, for one, think the “fish-out-of-water” interpretation of WW is valid. It would be in her nature to ask “Why is that?” when confronted by sexism/chauvinism/misogyny/etc. Also, I have no problem with Steve Trevor being the male Lois Lane and having a romance with Diana (her first) and all his ladies’ man lothario tricks absolutely failing because she just thinks he’s funny, rather than impressive. She doesn’t NEED him; she WANTS him. (But Hera help her, is he ever annoying!) This could turn the traditional sexism of Wonder Woman comics on its head and possibly even reaffirm the pecadilloes of her creator. (Not Harry G. Peters. The other guy.)

2. Yes, there are TONS of great female characters that could be adapted (note I didn’t say “DESERVE to be adapted”) – Lady Shiva is a fantastic character. Yes, she’s a bit of a stereotype but hey. Female Bruce Lee. Can’t argue with that. WHITE TIGER would be great too. Elektra, if done right, could be excellent. And that’s just ass-kicking martial arts. ALIAS’ Jessica Jones SHOULD get a show. Street-level in the Marvel U., on a budget. Hell, Xavier’s School could be Facts of Life With Superpowers. There’s a million possibilities.

3. But nothing DESERVES to get made and we don’t NEED a terrible product (such as : Supergirl. Catwoman. Elektra. Birds Of Prey the tv show. The crappy Wonder Woman pilot) because that will defeat the purpose and give ammunition to naysayers.

PS- I won a prize?! Because you didn’t like my tone? Great! I didn’t like the tone of the article. Maybe I was a bit snarky. It’s a crime to have an opinion?

I like the team-up idea, as this is the one aspect of superhero stories that has not yet been beaten to death (not to mention the popularity of that movie last year – was it the Revengers or something ??).
Your idea, Kelly, to have the Wood X-Men as a film is a great one as there would be no need to even have a “getting the band together” story, as film audiences alreayd know who the X-Men are and what they stand for.
Simply have the threat play out when only these characters are around (perhaps because the other X-Men are in the future ?) and there is a reason for only those characters to be involved.

Personally, I would like to see an Excalibur film, which swaps out Rogue for Meggan (modern CGI could so some incredible visualisations of a shape-changer’s powers) and includes Nightcrawler and Cap Britain. Again, the film could run parallel to the events of Days of Future Past and showcase what the other mutants are up to while the core X-team is in the future.

As for the costumes issue, as long as the heroines are not in the “butt floss” costumes of the 90s then I think it is fine to have the team wearing traditional costumes. I think film audiences are used to seeing costumes in superhero movies and this is less jarring now than it would have been ten (man, even FIVE) years ago.

Thanks again for a great column, Kelly !

At this point, it’d probably be easier to get a Wonder Woman film made if you cast Melissa McCarthy as Etta Candy.

Ditching the costumes, for male or female heroes, removes the visual vocabulary that defines these characters. More heroines please, but these columns miss the mark more often than not.

Why DC aren’t tripping over themselves to make a Kate Kane Batwoman movie, live action or animated, is a mystery to me.

As much as Man of Steel had its problems, I’m rooting for a DC cinematic universe in hopes of one day seeing Scandal Savage up on the big screen.

I’m all for taking liberties with superheroines. I like the idea of them out of their costumes, too.

Katee Sackhoff as – let’s be honest, Katee Sackhoff as anyone, really. Teamed up with Jessica Biel and Liv Tyler. I would not stop watching that.

I really don’t like the idea of gender-swapping characters, just like I don’t like the idea of race-swapping or all-of-a-sudden-they’re-gay surprises. If you’re dead-set on doing a female-led movie with a character that isn’t female, just create a new character and give them the costume. I’ve got no problem with Miles Morales, because he’s Miles Morales, not black Parker. Same principle when it comes to females (like Zatarra and Dove were mentioned above).

And I want to say this. “No Romance” is a load of bull. I say this not because I think females, as viewers and characters, have a one-track tunnel-vision mind about romance and relationships before the focus. I say this because there have been no MALE superhero movies that were devoid of romance, either, so it’s obviously not really practical to cut that aspect from plots and still get financing for ANYONE. (except Blade III… that had no real romance, but let’s not use that as a role model, eh?)

Seriously, name me ONE superhero movie headlined by a man OR woman that didn’t have romance as a prominent part of the plot and story.

Would women even make good super-heroes? Even if they had super-powers?
it requires greater suspension of disbelief for a live-action movie. because of the high-heels and skinny super-model physiques and perfect hair. A diamondback-dazzler film would be interesting. Dazzler has one of the best power-sets, but isn’t very good at fighting. Diamondback makes fun of her for throwing like a girl.

FLYINGDOG’s comment was baiting on purpose, right?

@ Andrew

I am not a huge fan of race or gender swapping as a general rule, but there are exceptions.

First, it is good way of keeping up with the times. The United States was a much, much different place when most of these characters were created. There are lots of roles that were once almost exclusively filled by white men that aren’t any longer. For example, members of the military reserves are twice as likely to be black as members of the general population. A comic strip, like Green Lantern, that is focused on an inactive member of the Armed Forces would feel more modern with a black protagonist. Law School graduates are more likely to be female than male, so Daredevil could be updated with a gender swap.

Second, some characters just don’t quite work the way they are. Hawkman is a classic example. The Golden Age origin is pretty great. The rogues gallery isn’t bad. The museum setting is interesting. The Thanagarian technology can be cool. However, the whole has always added up to less then the sum of its parts. No version of Hawkman has ever cracked the 60 issue plateau, so why not re-boot the premise with Hawkgirl as the protagonist? Carter Hall becomes the love interest and maybe you could even “fridge” him in the early going for a shocking twist.

On the Marvel side, Nova has always seemed like a character with unrealized potential. The Green Lantern plus Spider-Man thing has been done in the Ron Marz run of GL. Why not make the Peter Parker figure a teenage girl for a change?

Except that if you made Daredevil a girl, that you would suck.

So, anyone else think that Sky’s real name is Jessica Jones?

@Dalarsco: Oh man, she better not be or I will be up in arms. UP IN ARMS I SAY!

@ Jeffrey:

Why would it ‘suck’, exactly?

Like I said above, I am not generally a fan of gender (or race) swaps. Most superheroes with roots in the Golden or Silver Age characters are somebody’s favorite. Their fans relate to them in a highly personal way and shoving that devotion aside is supremely arrogant. I get that.

Also, the most popular characters are generally popular because they continue to reflect the times. If you rounded the 100 people in the world that most closely resembled a gender and race-neutral description of Bruce Wayne, then I’d be willing to bet that you would be looking at a room full of white men. For better or worse, generational wealth and the social freedom to be utterly obsessive are traits that accrue almost exclusively to white men. A “female Batman”, or a “Batman of color”, would require further suspension of disbelief and almost inevitably be less successful.

Daredevil, on the other hand, could very easily be a woman. Lower-middle class women form deep attachments to single parents as easily as men. Women are motivated from guilt in exactly the same way as men. Women graduate from Law School at a higher rate than men. I am really not sure what would be lost with a “female Daredevil”.

@ Dalarsco:

I was bummed that J. August Richards wasn’t playing Luke Cage.

Dean, you answered your own question in your post. Daredevil could be a girl, except that for the past fifty years, he’s been male.

There is the problem with the existing characters that, except for Wonder Woman, the significant heroines in comics are:-
1) team members (lost in the crowd usually with male characters)
2) gender-swapped variants of male heroes
3) mainly known and/or originally created as romantic interests for male heroes
4) published by independent publishers (even with about 200 comics, a TV series and an anime version I believe hardly anyone has heard of Witchblade).

Of course costumes will need to be modified or replaced if they look silly or are impractical in action scenes – I understand Talisa Soto had the Vampirella costume modified so it would stay in place (an understandable reason though not necessarily a good result and I understand it’s not a good movie)

I read about some consideration for the possibility of a Twilight Guardian movie which would be interesting (though she’s not really “super”…I think).

I really want to see a good “Daughters of the Dragon” movie
Why isn’t anyone making one?

[...] figure I should sandwich one crappy thing in with two happy things, so here’s a CBR article on the many, many ways superhero movies with female leads are easily achievable and the wealth of [...]

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