A request for more big, ugly females at the multiplex

Black Widow, Catwoman, Gamora: handy in a fight, but how about a bit more variety in female supers of the DC and Marvel movie universes?

Excited about The Falcon getting to slip into Cap’s iconic stars and stripes? The female version of Thor swinging Mjolnir around? Batgirl stomping Gotham faces with those new heavy yellow Docs she’s got?

Marvel and DC’s recent moves to further equalise their superhero line-ups have meant swapping out a few of the standard lantern-jawed white-dude-types for women and people of colour, and costume upgrades for those who’d been struggling with lycra wedgies since their creation back in more female-fleshy times. Which is great on paper – comic book paper, that is. But we may have to wait before these changes go beyond the page and make the leap into DC and Marvel’s movies universes, too. 

Think of the huge array of characters that have passed through the Avengers Mansion since Jarvis has been opening its doors to new recruits in the comics. Then look at the filmic line-up we have so far of Cap, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Hawkeye and the Black Widow: five caucasian fellas – one woman. In their films, they’re amazing together, but not representative of the variety of Avengers we’ve come to know since their launch in 1963. Guardians Of The Galaxy has made important breakthroughs with visibility for raccoons and talking trees this summer, but has just one token humanoid-shaped woman in the team. This scarcity of super females compared to the abundance of super fellas isn’t the only thing the modern crop of super films have in common.

Considering all the diverse life forms fighting beside and against each other in Marvel and DC comic canon, their choices of film-based femmes seem very similar to each other.

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Natasha Romanov (Scarlett Johansson) is cool, sarcastic, lethal, and looks great in a catsuit – her SHIELD co-worker/possible lunch break partner Maria Hill (Cobie Smuthers) has the same qualities. Over in Guardians, we have sisters Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) – cool, sarky, lethal, with tight bodysuit-style costuming. Hop on over to The Dark Knight Rises, and take a look at Catwoman. Cool in a crisis? Yep. The other stuff? Uh huh. Sexy and slinky ‘asset’-enhancing suit with barely any protective qualities for fighting? You know it. Cut each one out of their movie posters and swap them around, the similar body shapes could fit into every poster almost perfectly, like sexy-slender-female-character-Tetris.

They fill a similar trope within the films, also: ‘being strong, while still looking sensual’. Even with green or blue skin, they’re gorgeous. That’s not a requirement their male counterparts have to fulfil (some do, some don’t). The Hulk can grunt, sweat, and size-out of his pants, but Natasha has got to squeeze into that size four black leather suit and pout while punching. The Joker can smear his make-up and leave his hair unwashed, but Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman has to go out to work with mascara’d lashes and blown-out shiny tresses (when you’d think she’d take steps to avoid shedding fur all over her crime scenes).

Looking at the record-breaking movie audiences Guardian guys Rocket and Groot have managed not to turn away from the cinemas with their unconventional looks, here we consider how to vary the types of women who get to fight on screen as well. Diversity can be found in the printed source material, so let’s look there…

“What can I say? Someone should turn my life into a movie”- She-Hulk’s response to rightful summations of her awesomeness in ‘The Girl From Gamma Gamma Gamma’

When ‘shulked-out’, She-Hulk is green like Guardian’s Gamora, but huge and ripped like Drax – she wouldn’t fit into the slender silhouettes we currently get in movie posters. Sure, there are many cheesecake-style inkings of her out there – David Goyer has described her as an “extension of the male power fantasy … a giant green porn star” – but imagine a tall and muscular-armed woman smashing villains alongside Cap on the screen; no sexy split jumps or risqué legs around the neck choke-outs, just brute strength without the window dressing.

Shulky/Jennifer Walters is a lawyer, too, so she’s smart as well as tough (and would come in handy should any wars turn, ahem, ‘civil’ in future movies…if you know what we mean). Not only that, she’s been known to break the fourth wall in print, so if we can’t have a Deadpool movie (sob), she could speak to us in our cinema seats, instead.

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“But The Hulk has already got a room at the Avengers’ place!” you say? We’ve seen Bruce Banner’s Jekyll and Hyde sorrow show on TV, in a number of mediocre films, and in Avengers Assemble: he’s had enough chances. Jennifer Walter’s sparky wit could bring more to the movies than Banner’s sulks, and she doesn’t need anger management training, so why not tag her in?

She-Hulk writer Peter David has said she ‘has the potential to be [Marvel’s] Wonder Woman…a unique combination of brains and brawn’. And raw female brawn, a la Gina Carano bashing Ewan McGregor and Channing Tatum around in Haywire (just picture it), is something we need on the Avengers screen team.

“I’m not here to be liked”- Amanda Waller, who isn’t here to be liked, in ‘New Earth’

Nicknamed ‘The Wall’, big DC bruiser Amanda Waller has served as Commander of the Suicide Squad and worked with Lex Luthor as Secretary of Metahuman Affairs. If you’ve seen The Social Network, you know he’s not an easy person to get along with: she’s perfect for the upcoming Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice.

Waller’s prerequisite tragic backstory involves a murdered husband, son, and daughter instead of the de rigueur daddy issues that plague Batman, Daredevil, Black Widow, Peter Quill… we don’t have time for this, back to Waller. She may not have their super-strength, but she is tough. In her original (and best) bulky form she’s led a team to battle alien parasites, has done time in prison, and will call Batman out when he’s in need of a verbal battering.

Unlike movie-Marvel’s Agent Coulson, who performs a similar role as an agency type working with super-powered beings, Waller is an anti-hero. You don’t know which side of a fight she’s going to fall on, but she’s got a spine of steel and will stick to her own ethics and integrity. Sometimes that rigidity turns out for the best, sometimes a Kryptonite hoard she’s helped to obtain with Last Line nearly kills Superman. Low points were her 2011 predictable Maybelline make-over/smaller dress size, and her film debut in Green Lantern, but we won’t hold that against her.

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“They need me now more than ever”- Marrow/Sarah Rushman talking sense about the current comic book film industry (maybe), in Earth 616

The X-Men are in need of some different female faces (and body types) on their screen team, and an ideal candidate is sharp and nasty Morlock, Marrow. With a mutation that causes bone to break through her skin, she looks intimidating, and has an aggressive attitude to match. Her un-prettified appearance could have added another element to X-Men: First Class, where no female character was safe from overt sexualisation.

Alongside Mystique’s nudity and Emma Frost’s canon-appropriate white lingerie, Moira MacTaggart also stripped to her under-things and suspenders during its running time. Particularly disappointing was the under-written stripper-with-wings adaptation of Angel Salvadore, who most memorably unhooked her bra in front of Magneto and Xavier.

Marrow wouldn’t slink around in something silky when she could be ripping things to shreds (if you discount the softened and conventionally beautiful version of Marrow genetically redesigned by Weapon X, which you’d be wise to do). Instead, she sports organic weapons and armoury even Wolverine struggles to go up against. This is a mutant who managed to get to Mikhail Rasputin’s citadel in Gene Nation. Which, on film, could look like Jet Li fighting on that hill at the end of The One. Don’t pretend you wouldn’t want to see that…

Those are just three female characters who’d break out of the current cinematic sexy super female mould, but there are many more who could give those of us in the audience films as full and diverse as the original colour-filled comic books we love. While we wait for their arrival, let’s look forward to Scarlett Witch and Wonder Woman coming up in the summers ahead and hope they’ll be fighting on cinema screens alongside their bigger and brawnier sisters soon.

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