Moving Pictures
Sep 19, 2008, 09:45AM

More female superheroes, please

Ironman. The Hulk. Daredevil (yeesh). Superman. There are, without a doubt, not enough female superheroes on the big screen. (Breaking: Ta-Nehisi Coates thinks Michelle Obama is Storm.)

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Randy Son Of Robert

The sad truth is, as special effects have gotten big, superwomen have gotten small.

It's not because directors and writers lack good material. There are hundreds of comic-book superheroines in the DC and Marvel Comics universes alone. Female characters play integral roles in almost every superhero team and major comic-book plot. Wonder Woman helps found the Justice League. The Scarlet Witch and the Black Widow are the first of many female members of the Avengers. Susan Storm Richards, the Invisible Woman, is one of the most important members of the Fantastic Four. At their best, a few superheroines transcend their paneled pages and become literary figures. But rather than drawing on extant rich stories about female superheroes, contemporary comic-based movies either downplay their powers and their personalities or rewrite them as trashy high camp.

Take the X-Men franchise, which is hardly short on compelling female characters. In the Dark Phoenix comic books, originally written between 1979 and 1980 by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, that form the basis for the 2006 film, X-Men: The Last Stand, super-psychic Jean Grey transforms into the fantastically powerful but amoral character Dark Phoenix. After destroying a star and a populated planet to fulfill an almost sexual hunger for power, Jean commits suicide to save the universe. As a character in the comic notes, "When faced with a choice between keeping her god-like power--knowing she would then wreak death and destruction across the stars--and dying herself, she chose the latter." It's a lot to make one woman both an agent of genocide and an exemplar of human goodness, but Claremont and Byrne pull it off.

  • Around the time of the Sex and the City hoopla, a lot of people said the 4 girls were, in fact, female superheroes, which explains the $400 million gross. I don't really have a point, just wanted to bring that up.

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