A year ago this week, I did a lot of number crunching to try and answer the question, “Who is Marvel’s Wonder Woman?” To clarify, the point of the crunched numbers was not to determine which Marvel super heroine most resembled DC’s leading lady in terms of origin or power-set. No, the point of the piece was to find out which of Marvel’s many female heroes came closest to matching Wonder Woman in terms of public prominence. Whereas Wonder Woman has been at the forefront of DC Comics since her debut way back in 1941, appearing in television shows and her own comic books for over seventy years, most of Marvel’s women have been kept in team books and short-lived ongoing series. All of that’s beginning to change.
Since last year’s article, Marvel’s output is slowly creeping towards gender balance. Female-heavy team books like “Fearless Defenders,” “FF,” “Uncanny X-Force,” and “X-Men” arrived, and solo titles “Captain Marvel,” the Sif-starring “Journey Into Mystery,” and “Red She-Hulk” helped fill the shelves with Marvel’s women. While many of those series have run their course, Marvel’s already launched new “Ms. Marvel,” “Black Widow” and “She-Hulk” series, with “Elektra” on the way. I wanted to update this article just to see how far Marvel’s women have come after this very big year, and to try to predict where they’re going.
This time, I updated stats on all of last year’s heroes and added in a few others. This year’s top 18 are Black Widow, Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers), Elektra, Emma Frost, Invisible Woman, Jean Grey, Jubilee, Kitty Pryde, Mystique, Rogue, Scarlet Witch, She-Hulk (Jennifer Walters), Spider-Girl (May “Mayday” Parker), Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew), Storm and Wasp. After crunching the numbers, newcomers to the project Sif and Maria Hill bumped Black Cat and Dazzler just out of the top 18.
These characters were chosen because they are were either Marvel’s first heroines in the ’60s, have had massive media exposure in film or television, or have headlined long-running ongoing series or a ton of miniseries. To fans of Firestar, Peggy Carter, X-23, Jessica Jones, or Mockingbird: I tried to include them, but they just missed the cut-off.
For consistency, I focused on the same areas of pop culture — comics, video games, television (including TV movies, motion comics and direct-to-DVD films) and film — and again gathered data from Comic Book DB, IMDB, Box Office Mojo and Wikipedia. After opening up a long dormant Google Doc… I went to work.
PART 1: COMICS
As with last year, any issue of a comic book that the character headlined or co-headlined counts. For example, Jubilee’s limited series from 2004 counts, as do the four issues of the 2011 limited series “Wolverine and Jubilee.” Her recent appearances in “X-Men,” however, do not count because I’m trying to best measure a character’s ability to draw in readers based mostly on their involvement; people could be going to a team book because they like the leather jackets they all wear — shout out to ’90s Avengers fans. Comics are but a fraction of our popular culture, so each character’s total number of issues only counts as 15% of their final score. Here are the top five entries:
1. She-Hulk — 147 comics — 22.05 points
2. Spider-Girl — 146 comics — 21.9 points
3. Elektra — 98 comics — 14.7 points
4. Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) — 91 comics — 13.65 points
5. Black Widow — 75 comics — 11.25
And the bottom three:
16. Jubilee — 10 comics — 1.5 points
17. Invisible Woman — 1 comic — 0.15 points
18. Maria Hill — 0 comics — 0 points
With Charles Soule and Javier Pulido’s new “She-Hulk” series, Shulkie pulled ahead of Mayday Parker to claim the top spot. Elektra will hit her hundredth issue this spring when W. Haden Blackman and Mike Del Mundo’s “Elektra” #2 comes out, and Carol’s also closing in on triple digits as a headliner. Natasha’s number will only continue to grow now that she has her second ongoing series. Maria Hill makes a sad debut at the bottom of the list, as her S.H.I.E.L.D. spy skills have been relegated to a strictly supporting role.
Over on the DC end of things, Wonder Woman’s now at around 694 issues as a headliner, thanks to her pulling double duty in both “Wonder Woman” and “Superman/Wonder Woman.”
PART 2: VIDEO GAMES
Believe it or not, video games are still pretty popular. The medium’s overwhelming popularity means, to me at least, that the new generation of super hero fans are getting their fix from consoles more than comics. For that reason, video game appearances count 20%. Video games where the character appeared as a playable character were weighted heavier than those where they were non-playable. And yeah, “non-playable” sometimes means “damsel in distress,” which is a big problem. But, good news, more female heroes than ever are being included as playable characters, particularly in “Lego Marvel Super Heroes.” Here are the top five entries:
1. Storm — 21 playable, 4 non-playable — 9.2 points
2. Jean Grey — 14 playable, 4 non-playable — 6.4 points
3. Rogue — 7 playable, 7 non-playable — 5.2 points
4. Invisible Woman — 12 playable, 1 non-playable — 5 points
5. Black Widow — 7 playable, 6 non-playable — 4 points
And here is the bottom three:
15. Sif — 2 playable, 2 non-playable — 1.2 points
16. TIE: Jubilee, Maria Hill — 1 playable, 2 non-playable — 0.8 points
18. Spider-Girl — 1 playable — 0.4 points
The aforementioned “Lego Marvel Super Heroes” includes a lot of playable female characters; of the 18 women on this list, only Spider-Girl, Scarlet Witch, Jubilee, Rogue and Kitty Pryde were not included in the video game. Additionally, Aunt May, Black Cat, Gamora, Gwen Stacy, Jane Foster, Mary Jane Watson, Pepper Potts, Polaris, Psylocke, Squirrel Girl, and Viper were included.
Wonder Woman appeared in “Injustice: Gods Among Us,” bringing her total up to 5 playable appearances and 4 non-playable.
PART 3: TELEVISION
Marvel continued to launch new cartoon series over the past year. Additionally, they now have a live-action TV show for Marvel women to appear in, with more on the way. Each episode of a TV series (both live-action and animated), direct-to-DVD feature, TV movie and motion comic was counted, and that total counts 25% toward their score. Here are the top five entries:
1. Jean Grey — 137 episodes — 34.25 points
2. Storm — 129 episodes — 32.25 points
3. Rogue — 113 episodes — 28.25 points
4. Invisible Woman — 91 episodes — 22.75
5. Jubilee — 84 episodes — 21 points
And here is the bottom three:
15. Maria Hill — 18 episodes — 4.5 points
16. Sif — 11 episodes — 2.75 points
18. TIE: Elektra, Spider-Girl — 0 episodes — 0 points
Both “Marvel’s Avengers Assemble” and “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” debuted since last year’s piece, with the former giving Black Widow 11 more appearances. “S.H.I.E.L.D.” gave Maria Hill another appearance, adding to the ones she’s amassed from “Iron Man: Armored Adventures” and “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.” She-Hulk got a boost too, by appearing in 18 episodes of “Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.”
This is also an area where I expect growth to occur. Marvel’s announced that Jessica Jones will get her own Netflix series, making her the first Marvel heroine to headline her own live-action television series. There’s also “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” which will bring Sif to the small screen in the next few weeks. However, replacing “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” with “Marvel’s Avengers Assemble” has hurt female representation on the small screen. When you compare the show’s first seasons, only 3% of the characters listed on “Avengers Assemble’s” IMDB page are women — which is considerably lower than “EMH’s” 22%.
PART 4: FILM
This is the big one. “Iron Man 3” and “Thor: The Dark World” were big hits for Marvel in 2013, proving that the public at large loves their heroes big and loud. A film’s domestic gross (adjusted for inflation) counts 40%, and every film that the character had a substantial role in gets counted (sorry, Jubilee’s many, many non-speaking cameos). Since a good chunk of this list have yet to have prominent roles on the big screen, here’s the whole list.
1. Black Widow — $951,603,179.45 — 38.06 points
2. Mystique — $889,448,702.61 — 35.58 points
3. Jean Grey — $872,522,675.20 — 34.9 points
4. TIE: Rogue, Storm — $739,965,823.20 — 29.6 points
6. Maria Hill — $623,357,910 — 24.94 points
7. Sif — $390,415,185.10 — 15.62 points
8. Invisible Woman — $325,464,107.51 — 13.02 points
9. Kitty Pryde — $265,872,049.30 — 10.64 points
10. Elektra — $155,745,177.16 — 6.23 points
11. Emma Frost — $149,482,879.41 — 5.98 points
Marvel’s heroines didn’t have a great year in 2013; Sif and Jean Grey were the only two to appear on film all year, but those two appearances made big changes in this list. Last year, Jean was part of a three-way tie with Rogue and Storm, but now she’s pulled ahead of them. This category also pretty much explains how Sif and Maria Hill made the top 18 — they’re movie stars.
This category’s going to look a lot different next year, when totals from “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (with Black Widow and Maria Hill) and “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (Mystique, Storm, and Kitty Pryde) get factored in. If Black Cat shows up in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” this May, as has been rumored, she might find her way back into the top 18. And if “Guardians of the Galaxy” does well, Gamora could be 2015’s big addition.
Another year has passed and while Wonder Woman now has an actress — Gal Gadot — attached to play her, she still doesn’t have a film to her name. I considered counting “The Lego Movie,” but Wonder Woman barely says ten words throughout the whole film, despite appearing on the film’s posters.
1. Jean Grey — 77.5 points
2. Storm — 74.5 points
3. Rogue — 66.05 points
4. Black Widow — 61.81 points
5. Mystique — 53.18 points
6. Invisible Woman — 40.92 points
7. She-Hulk — 36 points
8. Kitty Pryde — 31.48 points
9. Maria Hill — 30.23 points
10. Captain Marvel — 28.1 points
11. Scarlet Witch — 25.8 points
12. Jubilee — 23.3 points
13. Elektra — 23.13 points
14. Spider-Girl — 22.3 points
15. Sif — 21.22 points
16. Emma Frost — 20.33 points
17. Wasp — 19.75 points
18. Spider-Woman — 16.9 points
So, I didn’t see that coming. Jean Grey’s appearance in “The Wolverine” pushed her above Storm, making her the new Marvel Prominence Queen. But I guess that makes some sense; movies matter, and Storm hasn’t been in a movie since 2006. General audiences got a big reminder that Jean Grey exists thanks to a few bedroom scenes in “The Wolverine,” and even though I don’t count team books my measurements, it’s hard to deny that “All-New X-Men’s” teen Jean has become one of Marvel’s most captivating characters over the past year. Jean Grey is Marvel’s Wonder Woman of 2014.
But don’t count Storm out just yet! If “X-Men: Days of Future Past” makes $100 million at the box office — which Fox really hopes it will — then she’ll be back on top. If Marvel heeds my pleas for a “Storm” ongoing series and publishes 6 issues of it, and “Days of Future Past” makes at least $60 million, then she’s back on top.
We also can’t ignore Black Widow, who will pass Rogue if the mutant really is cut out of “Days of Future Past” and “Winter Soldier” does as well at the box office as its predecessor. She also has an ongoing series off to a strong start and more episodes of “Avengers Assemble” on the way.
The point I’m trying to make with all of these scenarios is that there are a lot of big developments happening within the Marvel Universe when it comes to their female representation. Only a year later and there’s already a new character in the top spot, with other contenders hot on her heels. This chart’s going to look a lot different next year — and that’s exciting.
Stay tuned to CBR News tomorrow when Brett asks, “Who is Marvel’s Lois Lane?
Brett White is a comedian living in New York City. He co-hosts the podcast Matt & Brett Love Comics and is a writer for the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre show Left Handed Radio: The Sequel Machine. His opinions can be consumed in bite-sized morsels on Twitter (@brettwhite).