Some Thoughts on Comic Book Movies and Inclusivity

So much for resolutions… i said i was going to try to write something on here every week… and that didn’t even last a month.  Nothing left to do but try to do better…  Anyway, tonight’s post is another one that has to do with comic book movies.  This started as a conversation i had with a friend on Facebook, but i decided i wanted to expand it into a proper blog entry.

It all started when Cracked published the following article: “Five Superheroes Who Should Have Gotten Movies Before Ant Man”.  A friend and i had been having a similar conversation a few days earlier, and he posted the article to my Facebook wall, commenting that the Cracked writers must have been listening in on our conversation.  i read through the article and decided to respond with my own personal analysis.  Let me preface this by saying that i consider myself to be a male feminist, but i know that i am human and imperfect, and i know that as a beneficiary of male privilege, i am not the most qualified to discuss these matters.  But i am a fan of comic books and comic book movies, and i would really like to see them do a better job at representation of non-white-male characters.

Alright, having read the article in its entirety, i have to say i agree with many of the points brought up.  i still think Ant Man is a much better, more interesting character than non-comic-readers give him credit for being (he’s kind of become the Aquaman of the Marvel Universe in that respect), but i definitely agree with the more substantive things the author has to say.

The X-Men franchise has fallen for the same Wolverine Publicity trap that the Marvel print comics have.  There’s more to the character than this intentionally humorous Cracked article makes mention of, and he is really an interesting character, but they should spend more time with other heroes (especially because part of what makes him so interesting is his interactions with the others), and Armor would be amazing to see on the big screen.  That being said, the X-Men franchise is currently under the creative control of Twentieth Century Fox, not Marvel Studios, because they sold the rights before they had their own production studio (back in 2000, for the first X-Men film).  As long as Fox keeps making X-Men films every few years, they will be able to keep the rights unless Marvel pays an arm and a leg to get them back (and, to be honest, The Wolverine was a pretty good film and brought the character back from the brink that Origins’ crappiness had taken him to… also, Days of Future Past looks like it might be good on an X-2 or First Class level).

It would have been about ten shades of amazing to see Pepper Potts as Rescue in Iron Man 3, and for a brief moment in the film, when Tony puts her in the Mk 42 armor during the attack on his house, i had hopes they might go that route.  As good as Iron Man 3 was, that was one of the disappointing facets of the film, at least for me as a fan of the larger mythology.  They may put her in her own armor eventually, but given the way things have gone thus far, i doubt it will happen.  Pepper’s going to be stuck in the love interest role until they stop making films, and as much as i enjoy the franchise, i cannot deny that they are problematic from a feminist (or even just non-Caucasian-male) perspective in that regard.

Oracle would be a really interesting, especially as part of a larger Birds of Prey movie.  You could even throw in a Batman cameo or two to help get it off the ground (see what i did there?).  The only problem there is that they tried a Birds of Prey television show, and it didn’t fly (bird metaphors are too easy).  Also, to really do Barbara Gordon properly, you’d almost have to bring her in as Batgirl first and do the whole story from “The Killing Joke” in order to explain how she got paralyzed, which A) would be worth an entire movie unto itself, and B) would require a recast of The Joker, which i’m not sure the DC people are quite ready to do, despite the fact that they’re rebooting Batman (again) for the Superman/Batman movie…  Speaking of which, Oracle is a DC hero, so bringing her up in a conversation about the Ant Man movie (a Marvel property) is only really kind of relevant as it relates to the comic book film genre in. general sense.  The article as a whole would have been stronger if they’d stuck with all Marvel heroes, and there are plenty of them to choose from, even if you’re approaching from a completely feminist perspective. More on that later…

Black Widow.  Yes!  This!  Black Widow needs a solo outing, especially now that we’ve seen her in full-on action mode in The Avengers.  Hell, you could even make it a Black Widow/Hawkeye joint film (which, personally, i think would be amazing).  Throw in a little cameo time from Nick Fury, or even Captain America, to get things rolling, and then let them go do their S.H.I.E.L.D. thing.  We’ve already got a television show for Phil Coulson doing a similar sort of thing, getting Black Widow up on the big screen, with or without Hawkeye, should not be that big of a jump.

Alright… Wonder Woman.  I’ll get to her in a moment, but first i want to talk briefly about that graphic that opens up her section of the article.  All i really have to say is… wow.  It’s not necessarily something you think too actively about when these movies come out a year or more apart, but damn that’s a lot of white men.  And the fact that they tried to make Ghost Rider into an interesting movie not once, but twice, is (i think) even more telling than the fact that they’re doing Ant Man.  The superhero franchise really has been dominated by white men ever since Superman in 1978 (to take it even further back than Batman Begins).  Sure you’d get women or non-white side characters, but never as headliners.  Some people might point to Jim Rhodes as War Machine (or Iron Patriot) in the last couple of Iron Man films, or even the fact that Anthony Mackie is going to be debuting as Falcon in the upcoming Captain America film.  This is true, and it is kind of a step in the right direction, but what is the actual title of the film?  Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  Not Falcon.  And there is no apparent plan for Falcon or War Machine to have their own solo outings either.  They are both listed on the IMDB page for The Avengers: Age of Ultron, but no films are listed for them to shine on their own.  It’s a problem that needs to be addressed in order to bring these 20th Century comic stories kicking and screaming into the 21st Century.

Now, back to Wonder Woman.  She absolutely needs her own movie.  A Wonder Woman film on the big screen is at least 15 (if not 25) years overdue, and i’m really not sure what’s holding them up.  If DC is serious about bringing together a Justice League film in the same vein as The Avengers, they need to get on the ball.  Batman could have waited.  Batman’s never not going to be strong in the public mind.  Wonder Woman needs to be a higher priority.  That being said, the last rumor i heard was that Megan Fox was in talks to play her.  This would be a colossal mistake.  If you’re going to do Wonder Woman, give her to an actress with talent and emotional depth.  Don’t just make her another sex object for teenage fans to ogle.  Wonder Woman needs to be strong, smart, and independent.  Now, once again, this is a DC character and out of the creative control of the people who are making Ant Man, but while we’re in the DC realm, i can stop to say this…

i am more of a Marvel guy than a DC.  i love both companies’ heroes and stories, but if pressed i will pick Marvel.  However, DC has the opportunity here to do what Marvel’s films have not.  Give Wonder Woman a solo film… write a strong female character who doesn’t need to be a costar in order to carry a story.  Second, as much as i absolutely love the character of Hal Jordan as Green Lantern, Ryan Reynolds screwed that up for the big screen for a while.  So, instead of rebooting Hal, bring in John Stewart for the Justice League movie.  He’s the GL that the fans who grew up watching the Cartoon Network JLA show will know best anyway, and giving him a solo film gives you a black superhero in a starring role.  DC has the opportunity to break up the all-white-male hegemony that recent comic book films have established.  Hopefully they’ll take it.

Now, what can Marvel do (aside from the stuff i already talked about above) to make their films more inclusive?  Well, for one thing, i think they’re ignoring one of their best female heroes altogether.  It would be really awesome to see the Carol Danvers Miss Marvel in her own movie.  She’s a strong leader among the comic book Avengers, even leading her own team of Avengers for a long time.  The Carol Danvers character took what began as a simple distaff counterpart to Captain Marvel and made it 100% her own identity, separate from him.  She would be absolutely great to see on screen.

She-Hulk is another good example.  Yes, once again, the character began her life as a simple distaff counterpart to the Hulk, but (like with Carol Danvers as Miss Marvel) she has become so much more than that.  To begin with, Jennifer Walters is an attorney, and the film could be as much of a courtroom drama as a superhero film.  Furthermore, She-Hulk has a lot more control over herself when she Hulks out.  She is able to talk in coherent, well-formed sentences and think logically.  She’s less of an unleashed force of destruction than the Hulk is, and that contrast would be really interesting to see on the big screen.

In the X-Men realm, Fox could make an unbelievably easy quick fix after Days of Future Past.  There is already an all-female team in the comic book canon, and they could put that on screen with minimal additional effort.  They’ve already got three of the six characters involved cast (Rogue, Storm, and Kitty Pryde).  Psylocke and Jubilee would be pretty easy characters to bring in with little to no additional effort.  The only difficult one would be Rachael Grey, given the direction (and stupid, stupid decisions in the third film) that Fox has taken with their films.  But that could be handled easily enough, too.  Just replace Rachael Grey with, say, Vertigo, Pixie, or even X-23 to get the obligatory Wolverine angle, and you’re golden.

Finally, let’s address Sony Pictures, who own the rights to the Spider-Man film franchise.  They’re probably leery of taking too many out and out risks because of how badly Spider-Man 3 tanked, but one thing that they could do, either after they finish this Sinister Six thing they’re setting up or even alongside it, is give Felicia Hardy/Black Cat her own stand alone film.  It would be a really good heist movie to introduce the character and the tension between her criminal lifestyle and her desire to earn the trust of those she cares about (don’t say it’s a rip-off of Catwoman, because Black Cat was created first).  After her solo film, she could be put into a future Spider-Man film as an anti-hero ally.

Those are my opinions on the whole matter.  i’m definitely interested to hear what others might think as well…

This entry was posted in Comic Books, Movies, Nerdy, Philosophy, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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