In the past few years, superheroines have started to steal the spotlight on both the page and the screen. Although we've seen plenty of lady heroes in the past, most of them were introduced as sidekicks, members of an ensemble, and even secondary characters to their male counterparts
Not saying that classic female superheroes are any less important, but the industry has gone through a noticeable evolution when it comes to how superheroines are portrayed today as opposed to 50 years ago.
Not only are there more female comic book fans searching for more relatable role models, but they also started asking why there were hardly any women behind the scenes.
It all began at a DC panel at San Diego Comic-Con in 2011, when Batgirl stood up in front of Dan DiDio (co-publisher of DC Entertainment), Jim Lee (tco-publisher of DC Entertainment), and Grant Morrison (writer) and simply asked why there weren't any women on the panel.
After some rather embarrassing numbers were released as far as female-led comics and female creators, Marvel began to blaze a new trail with new comic books and eventually future film announcements (See: Ms. Marvel, X-23, Iron Heart , A-Force in the comics, Jessica Jones on TV, upcoming film Captain Marvel starring Brie Larson, and rumored Ms. Marvel TV series). Marvel also launched it's own podcast showcasing and aptly titled Women of Marvel.
Meanwhile DC took their existing female properties and finally put them front and center on big screen and the small screen as characters that women today can easily identify with (see: Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Birds Of Prey, Black Canary, Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad, and the animated kids show SuperHero Girls).
This isn't some sort of war where women are trying to forcefully take over the industry. The reasoning is fairly simple - women love comics too and especially want to see themselves represented in books, television, and film as deeper characters.
A woman or young girl can now watch Supergirl on TV and think, "Hey...Kara Danvers is just like me, she even thinks like me," meaning that the new era of female superheroes is moving full steam ahead. Well, we can't fly...yet.
We're starting to see female-led books, movies, television shows, and more women behind the scenes creating content that modern women (and men) absolutely love. The new comics are flying off the shelves and the hype for lady superheroes on screen couldn't be more real.
Let's try to break this down a bit and take a annotated look at who's who in the new era of leading female superheroes starting with the source material...
Female Superheroes in Comic Books
Eventhough female Wolverine, female Thor, female Iron Man, the new Ms. Marvel and even A-Force have been met with plenty of criticism and sometimes hate, fans are also excited to get to know these new heroes.
A-Force debuted in May 2015 as a part of Marvel's Secret Wars crossover storyline. Created by writers G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite Bennett and artistJ Jorge Molina, the ongoing series features Marvel's first all-female team of Avengers including She-Hulk, Captain Marvel, and a new cosmic-powered character Singularity. The female-led superhero squad first appeared in Battlelands (an alternate univere) but eventually became a main part of Marvel's primary continuity in 2016, led by Singularity. Current writer Kelly Thompson commented:
"It's a comic about super heroes saving the day, plain and simple, and I approach writing them like I would writing anyone. These ladies are heroes just like any of their male colleagues."
Not only is Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan) a 16 year old teenager from New Jersey struggling with everyday life (while trying to control her superpowers), she's also Muslim - a first for Marvel. She took over the superheroine mantle in 2014 and currently stars in her own award-winning series, also written by G. Willow Wilson. Recently Joe Quesada hinted at an upcoming Ms. Marvel TV show or even movie.
ComicBook's own Megan Peters recently commented on the news:
"Unsurprisingly, Quesada’s words are already lifting the hopes of thousands of fans across the world. Ms. Marvel has been championed for its clever writing, crisp artwork, and unshakable tendency to tackle tough subject material. G. Willow Wilson, Sana Amanat, Adrian Alphona, and other creators behind Kamala have spoken openly about how they desired to craft a well-rounded yet relatable superhero, something which they succeeded in doing."
Iron Heart, Riri Williams was recently announced as taking over the Iron Man mantle. Riri is a 15 year old African-American genius, who built a robotic suit of her own from scraps, impressing Tony Stark. Riri Williams will be known as Ironheart when she makes her official superhero debut in a new Invincible Iron Man #1 this fall. Creator Brian Michael Bendis recently commented:
“Ironheart, coined by Joe Quesada, after I told him my planned story for Riri, speaks not only to the soul of the character but to the Iron Man franchise as a whole. Tony first put on the armor to save his heart. Riri puts it on for different reasons altogether but still heart-related. When people see her story, you’ll be amazed at how simple and brilliant Joe’s suggestion was."
Although the mutant X-23 has been around for a while (X-Force), she recently took over the male-led Wolverine mantle in the wake of his recent death. X-23 (Laura Kinney) began as a daughter-like clone of Wolverine, with the exact same superpowers. She's now starring in her own on-going series All-New Wolverine that debuted in 2015.
ComicBook's own Matthew Mueller recently gave us 5 reasons to love All-New Wolverine:
"Her qualifications have been well established in her time with the X-Men and later X-Force, and even back then she proved she's more than capable of bearing all that comes with the title of Wolverine."
Although Supergirl finally stepped out of the shadows in DC's New 52 continuity in 2011, she was recently rebooted as a leading lady in DC Rebirth in hopes of reviving the classic superheroine, which seems to be working wonderfully so far. Writer Steve Orlando recently commented:
"We like to lead with the comics. I think it's an interesting magic trick that the show has done because it gets everything right, it just understands Supergirl. You'll see National City, you'll see Cat Grant, you'll see the Danvers. What we're really digging into, with the show on top of everything else, is what the character of Supergirl means. What she stands for: the hope, the positivity, the never giving up."
Batgirl & Birds of Prey
Again, these lady superheroes have been around for quite some time, but DC Rebirth is bringing Batgirl, Huntress, and Black Canary back to basics with female writers Julie and Shawna Benson. And putting Black Canary back into the fold.
ComicBook's own Matthew Mueller reviewed:
"It's an interesting thing this group. They were some of the more affected by DC's first relaunch, and yet without all that mess this setup would feel all too familiar. It's the new textures on these renowned heroes that make this worth reading again, so in a way, we almost owe the New 52 for giving Barbara a reason to get the gang back together again. Julie and Shawna Benson have a fantastic grasp on these characters, and while they hit some familiar notes, it doesn't feel like a crutch."
Of course, there are many more female superheroes that are starting to show up in the forefront of both Marvel and DC comics that we didn't get into detail here, like She-Hulk, Jane Foster as Thor, and more.
The point is, that these ladies are finally taking center stage in the comic books mostly created by women, which only means we'll be seeing more realistic (dare I say more humanized) superheroines in the future, because this formula is clearly working now
We are smack dab in the middle of an evolution, the new era of female superheroes is only just beginning. Now, if we can only convince them to wear more clothes...that was a joke.