DC Comics, Marvel & Their Inherent Female Superhero Problem. Is It Improving?


The discussion about female superheroes in literature and on film and TV is gathering steam, partly because of a plethora of productions that are focused on women. We shouldn’t give up speaking out because we as audience members and drivers of consumer culture can influence industries by putting on the pressure.

With the huge influx of major comic book character movies over the past few years (‘Thor’, ‘Iron Man’, ‘The Avengers’, ‘Captain America’, ‘Spiderman’, ‘X-men’, ‘Batman’ and more to come) the conversation has shifted to the elephant in the room: where are all the female-led superhero movies?

Certain studios are now starting to capitalize on the demand with news of a ‘Wonder Woman’ movie being slated for 2017. The shift in focus, or should we say the “widening of the scope”, is partly due to the massive success of female-driven franchises which have been winning over the box office. ‘The Hunger Games’, ‘Divergent’, and ‘Twilight’ have proven time and time again that audiences are willing to pay money to watch a film with a female protagonist.

In the meantime, there are comic book female superheroes getting a chance to shine on TV such as ‘AKA Jessica Jones‘ set to debut on Netflix late in 2015, and Marvel’s ‘Agent Carter’ series on ABC.

But is this enough? One young girl is kinda pissed at the lack of gender balance in the superhero franchise world. It’s not just in film and TV, it’s even in merchandising.

Eleven-year-old Rowan received a Justice League set for her birthday but was sorely disappointed to find 10 males and only 2 females, the Huffington Post reports.

Not happy to take what she got given, Rowan wrote a letter to DC Comics:


DC Comics surprisingly responded positively via twitter:


Rowan was rather chuffed at the viral response to her actions and used it as an excuse to encourage others to speak out:

“I hope that DC (and Marvel too) will make a change. I hope that things will be different, I hope that people will see my letter and think ‘Yeah! They really need to change that!’, and most of all, I hope that other people will write letters because I am not sure mine will be enough to make the change.”

Speaking of Marvel, they are certainly not staying dormant until 2017’s ‘Wonder Woman’ release. They are working to elevate the presence of women in the comic book genre as a whole and have plenty of platforms in order to do this.

With March being Women’s History Month (don’t you just love how historical achievements of women get limited to 31 days out of the year?) they have embarked on a campaign to promote the creative endeavors of their female comic book artists in an effort to show that this industry is no longer a “boys club”.

“2014 was a huge year for Women of Marvel, both in our comics and behind the scenes,” said Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso. “Marvel now has more titles starring female leads than ever before, the Women of Marvel panel is one of the most highly attended at conventions, and the weekly Women of Marvel podcast continues to grow. In 2015, we intend to continue that tradition, and March’s Women of Marvel variant covers – featuring 20 of the best female artists in the industry – is just the beginning.”


Included in the Women of Marvel variants will be covers for the following comics:

  • All-New Hawkeye #1 by Sho Murase
  • All-New X-Men #39 by Faith Erin Hicks
  • Amazing Spider-Man #16 by Ming Doyle
  • Ant-Man #3 by Katie Cook
  • Black Widow #16 by Vanesa Del Rey
  • Captain Marvel #13 by Aufa Richardson
  • Guardians of the Galaxy #25 by Erica Henderson
  • Inhuman #13 by Jill Thompson
  • Legendary Star-Lord #10 by Sana Takeda
  • New Avengers #31 by Sara Pichelli
  • Rocket Raccoon #9 by Janet Lee
  • S.H.I.E.L.D. #4 by Colleen Doran
  • Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #3 by Gurihiru
  • Uncanny Avengers #3 by Amanda Conner
  • Uncanny X-Men #33 by Stacey Lee

Oh and the Marvel announcements don’t stop there. Tying in with the promotion of female comic book writers, Marvel is releasing an all-female Avengers book called the ‘A-Force‘ which has 2 female writers Marguerite Bennett and G.Willow Wilson.

A-Force forms in one of the Battleworld zones, the feminist paradise of Arcadia where an emerging threat forces an all-female group of heroes to form a new Avengers team,” writes Comics Alliance about the the title.

“She-Hulk, Dazzler, Medusa, Nico Minoru and other fan favorites, will take charge,” says series co-writer G. Willow Wilson to Marvel.com. “We’ve purposefully assembled a team composed of different characters from disparate parts of the Marvel U, with very different power sets, identities and ideologies.”


The issue is that women need to be represented on a much bigger scale in many sectors of the media and entertainment. It’s not valid excuse anymore to say “audience won’t pay to see women” or that there aren’t enough female-driven stories out there. It is about casting a wider net and having a mindset dedicated to equality.

Melissa Silverstein, creator of the Women and Hollywood blog and the Athena Film Festival lamented to Salon.com how much we deserve to have our stories on the big screen, small screen, personal device screen etc.

“We are 50 percent of the population and our stories matter.”

She also mentions that the outrage over the lack of females and minorities being nominated for the biggest categories at the Oscars isn’t actually that surprising, in fact it’s in keeping with Hollywood history. But her solution is to create awareness, because there may be many film executives who aren’t aware of the disparity.

“I think part of it is continuously talking to people who have power, because a lot of them don’t understand, or don’t realize, how egregious it is. Their jobs are to make money, to make movies that make money, and they get put forward with the directors, they get these scripts, everything becomes like a cycle. You need to put a pause on it and say, ‘Maybe the cycle’s not working anymore, we need to think outside the box.’ Sadly, even though we’re half the world, thinking about women is outside the box.”


“There is a huge gap of opportunities for women onscreen, behind the scenes, everywhere. It’s just a chasm.”

She was asked whether the male-centric trend of comic book films coming out of Hollywood is hurting women, and Melissa says it has been this way for a while, but there is a way to even out the score.

“The studios are making less and less movies, but bigger movies. And that’s how this business is working. So we got to figure out how to get some of those movies to be about women because people go see the movies in the multiplex, and 80 percent–and of course these numbers are all changing as video demand changes all this kind of stuff–based on my last understanding of these data, 80 percent of all movies are seen in multiplexes.”

“Two years in a row, Hunger Games movies are the top-grossing movies in domestic box office. That hasn’t happened in 40 years. So clearly we have a trend happening. One of the things is it was a very beloved book and people were really interested in it so it had a lot of name recognition ahead of itself. And they got really lucky having Jennifer Lawrence, who was perfect for it. These are things that people have to push and take chances on. I think we’ll see more of them. I want to see older female protagonists too, not just teenagers.”

Women are NOT part of a minority category, we are literally half the population and have proven to hold a very substantial amount of purchasing power in the world today. It is the duty of women to continue in their creative endeavors and it is the responsibility of studios, networks, manufacturers and executives to recognize the need to diversify their target audience.

As an aside, if you are interested in learning about women in the comic book world on a more in-depth level, check out the Womanthology book series.




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