Not too long ago, CBR put together a wish-list of mighty Marvel women superheroes who could carry their own films and our dream actresses to fill the starring roles. With such positive response to the piece, and new discussion from Warner Bros. about how they plan to proceed with their own superhero films, it seemed like a good idea to tackle the same topic but with DC Comics characters.
While there are definitely other women superheroes in the DC Universe who could carry their own films and/or TV shows and there are definitely different actors who could fill the roles in fun ways, this list is based on personal opinion for the sake of fun and in the hopes of promoting discussion and dialogue for more films featuring DC’s leading ladies.
Although she was created for “Batman: The Animated Series,” Renee Montoya was first introduced months earlier in the pages of “Batman” as a member of the Gotham City Police Department. Detective Montoya was a popular recurring character and became a major star of Greg Rucka’s “Gotham Central,” which saw the character come out as a lesbian. Later circumstances led to her leaving the police force and acting as an ally to Vic Sage, the vigilante known as the Question, known for wearing a faceless mask and a fedora rather than a costume (and served as the inspiration for Rorschach of “Watchmen”). Following his death, Renee chose to follow Sage’s legacy and became the new Question.
Though she became a vigilante, Renee remained a detective at her core. A film with Renee would be a noir crime drama. With a history of alcohol abuse, coupled with an awareness of her faults and capacity for violence, Montoya would be an interesting character trying to stay moral in a dark world. You could start with her already well into her vigilante career, displaying Vic’s lessons in flashback, thus setting up prequel possibilities. We’ve seen dozens of grim male-driven detective dramas, let’s give Renee a chance to show us something new.
Dania Ramirez has experience in superhero stories and gritty dramas, with roles in “X-Men: The Last Stand,” “The Sopranos” and “Heroes.” She also would be no stranger to action scenes — a major asset, since Montoya tends to get into scrapes when criminals aren’t smart enough to answer the Question.
BATGIRL AND SPOILER
Cassandra Cain was trained since birth to be a living weapon until she left her assassin father behind. As a teenager, she met Batman (one of her father’s students) and chose to stay in Gotham to forge a new life. With Barbara Gordon (the original Batgirl) as her mentor, Cassandra became the new Batgirl.
Stephanie Brown’s father was the criminal Cluemaster, who taunted police with hints about his next crimes. Sick of his corrupt actions, Stephanie became a costumed crime-fighter to stop him, revealing the truth behind his clues and earning the name “Spoiler.” In later comics, she also counted Barbara Gordon as a mentor and became Batgirl when Cassandra left Gotham.
Steph and Cass make an excellent odd couple. One is an often-silent warrior, haunted by her deadly skills, who would rather die than face dishonor. The other is an optimistic adventurer who enjoys mocking her enemies. Both became superheroes partly as an act of teenage rebellion against their fathers. The film could begin with Barbara Gordon telling Cassandra she needs a friend and partner in the field to keep her sane. So she recruits Steph as a new student, feeling that the Spoiler has potential but can benefit from Cassandra’s disciplined example. You’d have three Batgirls in one film as Barbara guides a new generation of heroes who, like her, didn’t lose parents to crime and chose this life out of altruism.
Jennette McCurdy has entertained many as the sarcastic, thrill-seeking, rebellious Sam on “iCarly” and would be a fine choice for Steph. Nikki SooHoo, from “The Lovely Bones” and “Private Practice,” is a trained dancer and could no doubt use these skills to portray the ninja prowess of Cassandra Cain.
John Zatarra was a great stage magician with a secret: he knew real magic. By stating his desires backwards, he could cast true spells. Years later, the gift was passed on to his daughter Zatanna, an even more powerful mage. Zatanna primarily focuses on a career as a stage magician — not using true spells because it’s more challenging — but every now and then, she runs across a demon or some other dangerous supernatural creature. While she doesn’t seek trouble, she doesn’t run away from it and enjoys showing off her power as she defeats those who threaten humanity.
Zatanna live in an escapist fantasy world, which can also go into dark territory. Though she faces terrible, evil creatures and warped reflections of humanity, she can’t help enjoy her strange life and the power she wields. She enjoys putting on a show and that spirit of fun can be infectious. A film could show her enjoying her stage career, not taking her real magical duties very seriously, and then find herself forced to truly act as a hero rather than just a troubleshooter when a menace rises and she’s the only one who has a chance to saving the planet. You could also toss in some cameos of other mystical characters, such as John Constantine, Dr. Occult, Jason Blood or Madame Xanadu.
Olivia Wilde is a beautiful actor who has played both very tough and very innocent characters, from the evasive Thirteen on “House, MD” to the child-like Quorra in “Tron: Legacy.” Grab her a tux and a top hat, and she’ll cast a spell on all of us!
Kate Spencer is a lawyer in a world full of superheroes and villains. After seeing too many criminals walk away from justice, she decided to take matters into her own hands. Breaking into evidence lock-up, she grabbed equipment recovered from different hero/villain battles and became the new vigilante called Manhunter. Unfortunately, things don’t work out the way she hopes and she is forced to face her own conflicting views of justice if she’s to act as a vigilante and a lawyer. What’s more, she has to balance her new secret identity with her duties as a divorced mother who doesn’t want to lose any custody rights.
Kate is a strong character who constantly works to live up to new challengers. She’s a mom, lawyer and superhero. A character with so many spinning plates would pioneer a new style of crime-fighter drama for many audiences and could provide a contrast to escapist stories by presenting a character grounded in human concerns.
Amber Benson is a versatile actor, having played a sensitive woman in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” the deadly Lenore in “Supernatural,” the drug-addicted mother/stripper Mary in “Ringer,” the sinister Allison Davis in “The Inside” and various other roles. In interviews, she’s said she prefers darker roles that aren’t “the nice girl” and Kate Spencer would definitely fit that bill.
There have been superhero and action films utilizing gods of Olympus and Asgard. Why not dip into African mythology? In Ghana, there are stories of Anansi, the spider who is also a man, the storyteller and trickster. In the DC Universe, a warrior named Tantu used a totem created by Anansi, an amulet that granted its wearer the abilities of any animal they focused on. Centuries later, Tantu’s descendant Mari Jiwe McCabe came into possession of the Tantu Totem and became the hero called Vixen.
This is a woman who is as fierce as the animals whose powers she adopts. Speaking the word “eagle” gives her flight and enhanced vision, while saying “cheetah” gives her the speed, senses and talons of a jungle cat — but it is her will and determination that truly make her deadly. Vixen has no secret identity and this would give her a new track to explore in a film. Similar to the “Iron Man” movies, audiences could explore how a public identity forces accountability onto a hero. Likewise, we could see how she balances a career as a model and activist with being a hero who desires to be taken seriously.
Katerina Graham has been fighting with and against supernatural forces for a few years now on “The Vampire Diaries.” She would bring a natural beauty and internal strength that Vixen very much needs.
Kara Zor-El is not just a copy of her cousin Superman. Kal-El was a baby when Krypton was destroyed. He remembers his home planet through vague dreams, but largely considers himself a farm boy from Kansas. Kara, however, was a teenager with a life, friends and dreams all cemented in Krypton. Then one terrible day, she wakes up on Earth in an escape pod and learns her entire family, race and culture are dead. Now, she’s trapped on a strange world thousands of years less advanced; a planet that fears her because the environment has made her incredibly powerful.
Whether you’re a teenager or not, everyone can relate to feeling like an outsider and the need to find a purpose and identity. Supergirl’s story is very relevant and would feature an emotional arc of a teenager who may become a hero whether she intends to or not and has to accept that she can’t go home again. It’s also about a teenager who has impulsive drive and needs to truly learn how to temper them when she’s biologically armed with strength, speed, flight, hyper-senses, near-invulnerability, Arctic breath and heat-vision.
Meaghan Martin is a young, talented actor who has been playing a teenager who feels out of synch with life after losing part of her family in the web-series “Wendy.” The role has some similarities to Kara but is still different enough that she could have fun exploring the new challenge and give us a modern take on the Last Daughter of Krypton.
There are two paths you can choose here. Thanks to four seasons of Cartoon Network’s Justice League series, many non-comic fans are familiar with the second Hawkgirl, Shayera from the planet Thanagar, a winged warrior/police officer who came to Earth and acted as a hero. In the 1940s, the original story for Hawkgirl was that she was an Egyptian princess Chay-Ara who was murdered alongside her lover Khufu. But their spirits were reincarnated time and time again, often becoming warriors for justice who used the hawk as a sigil. In the 1940s, Chay-Ara appeared again as Shiera Saunders. Decades later, she returned to life as Kendra Saunders. A new version of Kendra currently appears in James Robinson and Nicola Scott’s “Earth 2.”
Either of these interpretations is valid and could work for moviegoers, but I think Kendra might be more interesting for film audiences. There have been several superhero movies where the hero is an alien or given alien technology. Kendra begins as a grounded character, cynical about her place in the world. When she suddenly regains memories that she was once a warrior princess and may have a destiny as a hero in modern times, it would be inspirational to see her step up to the challenge and broaden her horizons.
Though Hawkgirl is often associated with Hawkman in the comics, Kendra was around for two years before teaming up with him. She’s proven time and time again that she is her own woman who doesn’t always need a partner. For this role, Helenna Santos Levy seems a good fit. Having appeared in “American Reunion,” “The Dead Zone,” “Killer Instinct” and in online shows such as “Black Box TV” and “The Day Player,” she’s got a lot of experience behind her and could bring forth this complex and aggressive superhero.
The first Batwoman was Kathy Webb Kane, a thrill-seeker, film creator and circus owner who operated as a costumed adventurer to get close to Batman. She was later killed. Years afterward, Kathy’s relative Kate Elizabeth Kane took on the mantle. After being forced to leave the military, Kate was unsure what to do with her life, but seeing Batman in action inspired her and she put her military training to new use, with her father helping her gather equipment, body armor and resources.
The fun thing about a Batwoman film is that you don’t actually need Batman there. Kate wasn’t trained by Bruce Wayne nor do any of her early adventures involve him. She’s not his agent or an apprentice by any means. In a movie, Batman could be a presence in the background at the beginning, but the focus would be on Kate, a powerful woman who becomes a vigilante not because she’s the only person who can, but because someone should. She’s also someone who truly seems to transform when she dons her body armor and headpiece with a wig attachment, a stark contrast to her daytime tattooed persona with short hair and outfits that vary from psychobilly-goth to punk.
Bryce Dallas Howard has the red hair, sharp eyes and pale skin beauty that Kate Kane is known for. With a resume that includes “As You Like It,” “The Help,” “50/50,” and portraying Gwen Stacy in “Spider-Man 3,” it would be fun to see what she could bring to a superhero role.
BIRDS OF PREY
Barbara Gordon was the first Batgirl but her heroic career seemed over when an injury led to her losing the use of her legs. Unwilling to let this tragedy stop her, Barbara became the expert hacker and information broker known as “Oracle” and began calling on the Black Canary and various female heroes to act as her agents, directing them to trouble spots and criminal operations around the world as her Birds of Prey.
This would be a fun ensemble cast and could be used to introduce not one but many female superheroes of the DCU. Not only could the cast alter somewhat for a sequel, but each movie could be used as a platform to set-up characters who would then spin-off into individual films, creating a whole new franchise. Along with Black Canary, the franchise could feature Katana and Starling, who would spin-off into separate films before reuniting in a sequel movie with additions such as Huntress and Power Girl.
For such a film, put together an all-star cast and you’d make this the lady equivalent of “The Expendables” or “The Magnificent Seven.”
In the DC Universe, the Amazons of myth relocated to a mystical Paradise Island that was hidden by the goddesses of Olympus. Protected and isolated from the violence and persecution of “Patriarch’s World,” the Amazons continued to train in combat while developing advanced technology. Legend says that the goddesses eventually gave Queen Hippolyta a child, breathing life into a baby formed from mud on the island shores. Named after the goddess Diana, this newborn Amazon was gifted with strength, agility, beauty, a connection to nature and a warrior’s spirit. As she ended her second decade of life, Diana was chosen to leave the island as an ambassador, teaching women of the world the Amazon philosophies while also protecting Earth from strange menaces.
“Wonder Woman” is both a coming of age story about an individual who is powerful enough to deck Superman with martial arts skills rivaling Batman’s. Her battles range from confronting mythical beings to taking down alien conquerors and Earth-born super-villains. A film could showcase her initial journey into Patriarch’s World, facing suspicion due to her strange powers and her pagan beliefs. She is a woman who has never left home her entire life and is now thrown into a larger world, surrounded by strangers. For the first time, her word and beliefs are questioned and scrutinized by a culture she doesn’t quite understand. Many of us can relate to that. She’s someone who has to adjust to the fact that her message and teaching will be harder to spread than she thought, but this will only make her mission all the more important.
There is already talk of a new film being put into development with Michael Goldenberg attached to write the script. Hopefully this will work out and we will indeed have a new Wonder Woman movie. If we do, I would want to give Adrianne Palicki another shot, as she took on the role of Diana for David E. Kelley’s “Wonder Woman” pilot. While the Kelley pilot did not have a great story or direction, the cast was well chosen and it was clear that the tall and athletic Palicki could be a great fit for the role, both visually and personality-wise. She’s proven her acting chops with roles in “Supernatural,” “Robot Chicken,” “Smallville,” and “Friday Night Lights.” Give her a better uniform and script and let’s see what she can really do!