The release of Wonder Woman has eliminated any doubt that movies about female superheroes can be successful, and if Hollywood knows how to do anything it’s spot a success and then do slight variations of it over and over again. That’s why, in Cinematic Universe’s first group feature, we’re looking at which characters each major superhero studio might want to translate into their own solo movie – excluding, of course, the ones that are already coming.
Here’s what we came up with.
DC Extended Universe
Like many DC characters, Power Girl’s alternate-universe origins could do with a serious streamlining before any adaptation – but as an adult Supergirl, her power set and history will already be largely familiar to audiences. The two-volume run by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray provides the ideal template: a solo heroine working to establish her superhero and personal life against a backdrop of sci-fi interruptions of escalating scale. Play it like a superhero Men in Black movie and there’s no reason it couldn’t out-Marvel Marvel. (JH)
The great thing about Zatanna is that unlike the majority of characters with magical powers, she doesn’t have a grim and portentous outlook. She’s happy, cheerful, and extremely likeable – while also being a supremely confident and accomplished magician. A few weeks ago, I might have questioned the notion of bringing such a character into the DCEU – but post-Wonder Woman, let’s double down on proper, optimistic, upbeat superheroes! Plus, who doesn’t want to see a screen version of her backward-talking spell casting? (SP)
Just put the Halle Berry movie out of your minds, because that’s about as much proof that you can’t make a good Catwoman movie as the Roger Corman film is proof you can’t make a good Fantastic Four movie. Okay, bad example. But we know from multiple screen iterations that it’s hard to get Catwoman wrong as a supporting character to Batman, and it wouldn’t be at all the wrong direction to introduce her into the DCEU through a Batman film. With a rich comics history, she can be anything from super-villain to cat burglar to morally ambiguous hero, and is almost always depicted as having a dark past worthy of exploration. (JC)
Re-reading the 1990s Robin run, I’ve been reminded just how good Stephanie Brown was at the time. The daughter of lower-tier Bat-villain the Cluemaster, Steph set herself up as a vigilante to literally “spoil” her Father’s crimes. A will-they won’t-they relationship with Tim Drake ensued, and she brought sharpness of wit and DGAF fearlessness to proceedings.
In recent Detective Comics, she’s split off from the Bat-family having become disillusioned with Batman’s impact, and now operates covertly to ensure the police get credit for busts rather than her fellow vigilantes. It’s this premise, rather than her Robin-tied origins, that could work especially well in the DCEU. (SP)
Fox (X-Men/Fantastic Four)
It’s tough to find female X-Men – or indeed, X-Men generally – who work well independently of a team dynamic. Kitty Pryde is one of them. Perhaps it’s because she came to the team as an outsider: an audience-identification figure who went through the process of discovering what the X-Men were all about along with us. But she’s never really been adequately served by the movies, so let’s finally have them put some focus on a female character who isn’t Mystique. (SP)
Although we’ve seen Frost in the X-movies, there’s still room for a take that isn’t 90% boredom. Frost’s story – a telepath who rises to the top of high society by using her skills to manipulate people – is more obviously villainous. But her interest in shepherding the mutant kids of the future, be that the Hellions, Generation X, or the New X-Men, provides a clearer heroic arc. And hey, if the studio that made Deadpool knows anything, it’s that to make a bad guy look good, simply surround them with people who are even worse. (JH)
It’s going to be nigh on impossible to recast Wolverine in the X-Men franchise given the iconic nature of Hugh Jackman’s portrayal. But given the success of Dafne Keen’s performance as his daughter/clone Laura in James Mangold’s Logan, and the intriguing point at which we leave the character, continuing that franchise by giving X-23 a solo movie seems like a no-brainer. I’d personally prefer to see a direct continuation of Laura’s story with Keen reprising the role, but you could flash forward and explore an older X-23 in that particular grim future. Who needs another James Howlett when the new and improved female version has already carved out a place in that world? (JC)
As a property, the Fantastic Four aren’t exactly brimming with solo heroines ripe for spin-offs. However, one who could fit into that category is Lyja Lazerfist. A shape-changing Skrull agent who fell in love with Johnny Storm and decided to stay on Earth, she isn’t THAT interesting in the comics – but the high concept is perfect material for a light-hearted, fish-out-of-water romcom about an alien torn between her mission and her desires – though to be honest, I’m mostly suggesting it because just the name “Lyja Lazerfist” makes me want to pre-order a ticket. (JH)
Spider-Woman (Mattie Franklin & Jessica Drew)
Conceived as little more than a piece of IP protection, the Spider-Woman identity has had several incarnations. I’d like to see a movie that stars two of them: centre the film on Mattie Franklin, a wannabe super-hero who takes the Spider-Woman name after being inspired by Peter Parker, and have her then meet Jessica Drew, a covert hero whose spider-powers were the result of genetic tampering by her Hydra-affiliated parents. This setup would lean into the character’s somewhat lazily male-derived nature, while presenting an opportunity to comment on it. And it’d be a film about a female superhero and her sidekick. When have we EVER seen that? (JH)
Such an inspired concept it’s amazing she didn’t appear sooner than 2014. Simply put, she’s Gwen Stacy from an alternate universe where she, and not Peter Parker, was bitten by the radioactive spider. Right from the word go she’s become an iconic figure both within comics and in the tangential worlds of cosplay and fanart.
The benefit of doing a movie based around her is that she’s a character Sony have access to but who doesn’t need to spin out of an existing movie. In fact, she positively demands to be treated as standalone. And it would be a great opportunity to make up for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 needlessly following the comics’ lead in killing Gwen off. (SP)
Spider-Girl (Mayday Parker)
Given that Sony has already beaten us to the punch by announcing a Black Cat/Silver Sable movie, I thought I was going to be left half-heartedly advocating Silk for a female-led Spidey spin-off. But then I remembered May “Mayday” Parker, a character who had her own solo series throughout the 2000s, but who I was introduced to and utterly charmed by in Dan Slott’s ‘Spider-Verse’ crossover.
The super-powered daughter of Peter and Mary Jane from an alternate universe, May (named after her Great Aunt) takes up her Father’s former mantle. If Sony is serious about expanding the Spider-Man brand, alternate universes and future timelines are something they’re going to need to embrace. I’d love to see Mayday web-slinging alongside the likes of Miles Morales or Miguel O’Hara through a futuristic New York. In fact, I’m shipping Mayday and Miles already. (JC)
She-Hulk is – perhaps surprisingly to those who’ve never checked out her comics – one of the most consistently good characters in Marvel’s catalogue over the past twenty or thirty years. Arguably only Daredevil has a more successful hit rate for classic runs, stretching all the way back to John Byrne’s metatextual-infused 1980s take.
Dan Slott’s 2000s run, which focused on Jennifer’s dual-life as a lawyer and a super-strong hero, is the perfect template for how to approach the character, and its mixture of humour and action makes it an obvious fit for the MCU’s established tone. She-Hulk is traditionally a hard sell to those who find it difficult to get past the name, but if anyone can make a daft-sounding concept work for a mass audience, it’s Marvel Studios. (SP)
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way right at the start: Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow should already have a solo movie in the MCU, and it’s a travesty that SEVEN YEARS after the character was first introduced, we’re looking at a Marvel slate that doesn’t have a Black Widow movie on it. What makes it all the more frustrating is that every hint we’ve had to Natasha’s backstory in the MCU has been intriguing. Who wouldn’t want to watch a movie that flashes back to the days she was still accruing all of that red in her ledger, or a straightforward spy thriller set in the present day MCU? Seriously, Kevin Feige, take a look at Wonder Woman’s box office performance and tell us this isn’t a movie way past due. (JC)
Kate Bishop, aka Hawkeye, was originally introduced as one of the Young Avengers and later became a co-lead in the solo Hawkeye title. As a self-taught markswoman, she’s a formidable and confident fighter, and her origin as a rich girl who defies her parents to fight crime suggests a narrative ripe with potential millenial commentary. Combine that with the indie-cinema tone and Los Angeles setting of her first solo story, ‘LA Woman’, and it’d be a very different type of superhero film – but all the better for it. (JH)
Most of your favourite superheroes were created decades ago, but, Kamala Khan has been somewhat of a revelation since her 2014 debut. A Pakistani-American Muslim teen from Jersey City, Kamala is a superhero fangirl, so when she gets her shape-shifting superpowers (she’s technically an Inhuman, but we’d suggest conveniently forgetting that for the big screen), her superhero name is chosen as a tribute to Carol Danvers.
It would be difficult to introduce her into the MCU without establishing Captain Marvel first, but with Brie Larson’s solo movie is coming in 2019, introducing Kamala at the beginning of Phase 4 would make almost too much sense. Ms Marvel’s importance in terms of representation can’t be understated, but neither can her rise to prominence in comics over the past few years. We could see this inspiring street-level hero connect with cinema audiences in much the same way that Spider-Man has. (JC)