Comics to Screen is a recurring feature in which Ben Kaye analyzes the constantly evolving leap from comic books to screens of all sizes.
The truth fans have been screaming at Hollywood about for years has finally been proven: female-led superhero movies are wanted, needed, and can be successful. Wonder Woman crashed into theaters with record-setting numbers, becoming the highest-grossing opener for a female director ever. Not only that but critics and fans are loving the movie, which considering how well Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice did at the box office is probably a better gauge of success. For the first time, you can actually hear Marvel fans start to worry about their grasp on cinematic domination.
It’s interesting that what you aren’t hearing, however, is a lot of cries from men worried about Y chromosomes being removed from their superhero epics. Sure, there was uproar about those women-only screenings of the film, but even that was relatively muted. For years, Hollywood has seemed scared that audience wouldn’t respond to a female superhero, that somehow this was a male’s marketplace and inserting the “fairer sex” wouldn’t garner the same outpouring of adoration (or money) as Iron Man or The Dark Knight. If you listen closely, though, it doesn’t sound like anyone’s really complaining about a good superhero movie that just so happens to star a woman.
So consider the floodgates opened. Hollywood now understands that female-driven comic book features can be all sorts of successful, so expect more studios to be open to the idea of making them. In fact, a few are already in the offing, with DC Films working on Gotham City Sirens (change that name now, please) and Marvel Studios prepping Captain Marvel. Still, there are plenty of other comic book properties with female leads out there that have long begged for the cinematic treatment — and not all of them come from the Big Two.
In the pages ahead, we’ll highlight 10 women-centric comic books that would make excellent movies. For the sake of originality, we’ll skip things like Catwoman and Elektra, which have already received failed adaptations, because we all already know those could’ve been done better. We’ll also avoid anything that’s actively being developed in one form another; Squirrel Girl will be part of Marvel’s New Warriors show on Freeform, and Batgirl is being developed by Joss Whedon, so there’s no need to talk to about those properties.
Still, that leaves plenty of creative concepts for filmmakers to tap into. From characters we’ve already seen on screen who deserve their starring role to beloved underground heroines to mutants with ridiculous powers, here’s our list of 10 female superheroes that deserve their own movie.
The fact that this movie hasn’t been announced in some form yet is still kind of shocking. Outside of Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Scarlett Johansson has been a Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero longer than any other actor or actress. (She’s technically tied with Don Cheadle’s War Machine, but she’s been in more films.) Yet, audiences still don’t know a whole lot about Black Widow, and her intense, fascinating backstory would make for a killer standalone feature.
Joss Whedon gave just a hint of Natasha Romanoff’s origin in Avengers: Age of Ultron during the Scarlett Witch-triggered dream sequence that saw her dancing in a ballet school that also apparently taught firearms and hand-to-hand combat. The reality is the ballet memories are implanted ones to cover up the extreme physical and psychological training/torture she underwent from the time she was a child in the Soviet Union’s Black Widow Ops program. Imagine a spy thriller that found Romanoff facing off against an antagonist that forced her to confront her past, revealing the deep mental torment she’s been under all along while giving her an opportunity for vindication. It would be a genre film the likes of which the MCU has yet to see — a classic espionage tale — and a chance for Johansson’s Black Widow to finally spin a web of her own. Plus, she might actually get some redemption for that weird barren subplot from AoU.
DC Films has been trying for years now to get a Justice League Dark film off the ground, with the project recently losing director Doug Liman. Instead, perhaps they should take the complementary lessons from BvS and Wonder Woman, realize that introducing everyone all at once doesn’t work, and pick one hero on which to focus. No one is really clamoring for a JLD film, so there’s no need to rush things. If that’s the case, why not choose a lead character that isn’t necessarily the typical focal point of the series, as Marvel did by starting off with Iron Man? Thus, instead of the obvious choice of Constantine, DC could launch the supernatural underbelly of their Extended Universe with Zatanna.
Zatanna Zatara is the daughter of a magician who grows up to be a stage performer; her original superhero costume was really just a standard magician’s suit, top hat and all. The Zatara bloodline is one of true Homo Magi, people with innate magical powers. When her father disappears, Zatanna sets out to find him, unlocking her potential as a sorceress along the way. She typically casts her spells by giving commands in reverse (“yawa oG” for “Go away,” for example), which could lead to some fun moments on screen. The story for a great mystical thriller-comedy is right there in her origin, and it could easily intersect with Constantine to expand the JLD interconnectivity. As one of the DCU’s most powerful characters and one of the better occult figures in mainstream comics, Zatanna would be the perfect choice to introduce viewers to the dark, mystical side of the world occupied by Wonder Woman and Batman.