With more than a dozen successful superhero movies under its belt and countless more to come, Marvel Studios is the leader in comic book film entertainment. But so far, the adventures have pretty much all starred men. Yes, there have been ensemble films where women played prominent roles, but every solo Marvel film thus far has centered on a male superhero.
In 2019, Marvel will finally release its first female-led superhero film when "Captain Marvel," starring Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson, drops that spring. The storyline will feature Carol Danvers, a military pilot with cosmic powers who currently has her own series at Marvel Comics. For fans who have wanted more female representation in their Marvel flicks, it will be a great moment, and the choice of hero isn’t surprising. Captain Marvel is one of the publisher’s premiere superheroes, having enjoyed multiple series of her own before, both in her current version and under her previous incarnation as Ms. Marvel.
But what about Marvel's other countless women heroes out there looking for screen time? Not every interesting female superhero has had her own series, and even supporting characters deserve a chance to shine. Let’s take a look at some mighty Marvel ladies who might make refreshing lead characters in films.
10 Monica Rambeau, AKA Spectrum
Oddly enough, another Marvel superhero called herself Captain Marvel decades before Carol Danvers took the name. In the 1980s comics, New Orleans harbor patrol agent Monica Rambeau was bombarded by extra-dimensional rays that gave her energy transmutation powers. She decided to fight crime, named herself Captain Marvel and joined the Avengers, eventually becoming team leader. She’s undergone many codename changes over the years, but is now known as Spectrum.
As the first African-American woman to join the Avengers and one of Marvel’s few black female superheroes, Spectrum would be an important symbol of diversity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Fans are becoming more vocal today about their wishes to see leading roles filled by characters of color, and Spectrum would help fulfill those desires. Marvel’s parent company Disney already plans to make a "Rocketeer" film starring a black female pilot, so they may be game to make the same kind of decision with their superhero universe.
The "Black Panther" film is in pre-preduction for a 2018 release, so multiple characters connected to Wakanda are about to be introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Their debut could pave the way for Shuri, the Black Panther’s sister, to find her way to the big screen someday. In the comics, Shuri’s a Wakandan princess and martial artist who defends her country when her older brother T’Challa, the previous Black Panther, is away or needs assistance. Eventually she becomes the Black Panther herself and fights evil admirably, until she dies in a battle against aliens.
If Marvel ever wanted to make "Black Panther" spinoffs featuring other people besides T’Challa, Shuri would be a great choice. She’s already been a superhero in the comics, and her backstory’s a logical fit for the movie adventures. T’Challa’s bound to join the Avengers and leave Wakanda periodically, perhaps even extensively, in later movies. In his absence, who would be a better defender than the woman who’s already done it in the comics? Shuri’s adventures could help expand the world of Wakanda on-screen, while her attachment to T'Challa would add a compelling family dynamic. Hollywood loves family drama in movies anyway, so why not add some brother-sister angst to the Marvel milieu?
People would likely be surprised if Gamora, the assassin from 2014’s "Guardians of the Galaxy," got her own film, but she wouldn’t be a completely unexpected choice. She’s already being played by Zoe Saldana of "Avatar" and "Star Trek" fame. It’s not hard to imagine that Marvel might leverage her name recognition for a Gamora movie. Then again, Guardians members Groot and Rocket Racoon are more popular because of their all-ages appeal, so they’d probably get kid-friendly animated films or tie-ins before Gamora would get anything of her own.
Regardless, if Saldana starred in her own Gamora movie, it would open up an interesting corner of Marvel’s cosmic universe. A seasoned killer who is willing to take things farther than most other heroes, Gamora is a darker character than Captain Marvel, so her movie’s plot would possibly be edgier. At the same time, they are both galactic heavyweights, and Gamora would bring a different presence to her cinematic adventures.
7 Shanna the She-Devil
Shanna may be an obscure hero in the Marvel universe, but chances are audiences would openly welcome her onto the big screen, having seen other female characters like her in pop culture already. As a fierce dweller within the remote and dangerous Savage Land, Shanna fits the barbarian-warrior woman archetype in a way similar to Red Sonja and Sheena: Queen of the Jungle. The sword-wielding Red Sonja has starred in multiple series from Marvel and Dynamite, and Brigitte Nielsen played her in the eponymous 1985 fantasy film. The jungle hero Sheena, who first appeared in comics in 1937, has been in American live-action three times. First, Irish McCalla portrayed her from 1955-1956 in the "Sheena: Queen of the Jungle" television show, followed by Tanya Roberts in 1984’s "Sheena" movie, and lastly, by Gena Lee Nolin played in the "Sheena" show from 2000 to 2002.
It’s a risky move, but Marvel Studios could position a Shanna film as a convergence of the sword-and-sorcery and jungle action genres. Although the "Red Sonja" and "Sheena" films are generally considered mediocre, Marvel could make its own version of the old school warrior woman film that is much better. Audiences trust the Marvel movie brand like no other, and the studio has an incredible track record for making quality films, no matter which hero is chosen to star.
With Firebird, Marvel Studios could feature a role model for Latinos and religious believers, two audience groups that are underrepresented in superhero films. In the comics, Mexican-American Bonita Juarez is a devout Catholic who gets fire and flight powers from an alien meteor, but she believes it is a sign from God. As the superhero Firebird, she’s been a member of the Avengers and the Texas-based Rangers, with a moral compass that is deeply rooted in faith. She’s a unique presence in a universe dominated by secular, Caucasian crime fighters.
Marvel has yet to feature a Latino superhero in their movies, but data suggests they’d be wise to do so. In 2014, John Fithian, the president of the National Association of Theater Owners, claimed that Latinos see more movies per year than other ethnic groups and are more likely to go opening weekend. He also claims they comprise 19 percent of ticket sales. However, the most prominent Latino Marvel movie character on the good guy side is Luis, played by Michael Pena, who was just a supporting character in 2015’s "Ant-Man."
Recent faith-based films have been extremely profitable. Earlier this year, the Jennifer Garner drama "Miracles from Heaven" earned more than $61 million domestically off of a $13 million production budget, and in 2015, the prayer-focused "War Room" earned nearly $68 million domestically off of a $3 million budget. A Firebird film could capitalize on this trend, especially if it featured a similarly small production budget and a laser-focused marketing campaign.
5 Squirrel Girl
Ever since she became a nanny for Luke Cage and Jessica Jones’ daughter in the 2010 "New Avengers" series, Doreen Green, AKA Squirrel Girl, has grown in popularity. Before then, she was a minor yet humorous character who was famous for her silly name and powers. Writer Will Murray and artist Steve Ditko created the hero in the '90s as a joke. A girl with squirrel-based powers wasn’t going to be taken as seriously as heroes influenced by predators like spiders, bats and wolves, but she was definitely going to get laughs. In recent comics, Marvel has portrayed Squirrel Girl as a competent crimefighter whose powers give her a fun vibe.
Doreen's fresh, upbeat energy could be realized in a funny, family-friendly movie. Marvel Studios is already famous for making movies that appeal to as wide of an audience as possible, so a Squirrel Girl film isn’t too outlandish. They’d have to crank up the fun kids factor considerably, but they’re a Disney company, so producing a major kid-focused film shouldn’t be hard. They already plan to make Squirrel Girl a character on the small screen in the upcoming "New Warriors" sitcom, so it seems like Marvel definitely understands her appeal.
Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat, is one of Marvel’s longest-tenured female heroes. In live-action, she went through a dark story arc in the "Jessica Jones" Netflix show that could turn her into a vigilante. In the TV series, actress Rachael Taylor played Patricia "Trish" Walker, a tortured former child star who trains in martial arts and takes a dangerous substance to gain enhanced physical abilities; a brilliant twist on the character’s comic origin.
Originally, Walker was a teen romance character in classic ‘40s and ‘50s stories, but Marvel migrated the character over to its superhero line decades later and revised her backstory. In the Marvel Universe, her teen love stories were fictional tales based on her real life, but when she got older she became a superhero, thanks to a convoluted series of events that involved martial arts, mysticism and an enhanced cat suit. The Netflix show gave her comics adventures a dark twist; she was still an ex-celebrity, but in her youth she dealt with drug problems and an abusive mother.
As a celebrity with addiction problems, Walker would be a great fit for her own Netflix-style spinoff series. The Netflix Marvel shows are basically 12 or 13-hour movies anyway. Thanks to "Jessica Jones," Walker’s background fits the profile of a tortured hero. She’s vulnerable to getting hooked on dangerous substances and adrenaline, and she’s got a dark past. That cocktail makes for a very compelling protagonist, and what could be an incredible story.
On the surface, She-Hulk is probably the least unexpected person on this list, but it still may be a long time before she gets her own movie. Bruce Banner's cousin Jennifer Walters, AKA She-Hulk, was created in the comics to be a female version of the elder Banner. Jennifer's had multiple solo series and is one more of Marvel’s more well-known superheroes, but She-Hulk remains oddly low on the priority list for Marvel Studios. They’ve just barely scratched the surface exploring the Hulk’s character in the films, so there may be more to do with him before they get to his baby cousin.
Regardless, a She-Hulk film could portray life as a gamma-irradiated behemoth if the cinematic universe ever retires Bruce Banner or puts him on the back-burner for a bit. In the comics, it was recently announced that Jen is going to become the actual Hulk, which is essentially a promotion from being an offshoot of a major character. Although She-Hulk had previously been able to keep her inner rage under control, the events of Civil War II -- including [SPOILER] her cousin's death -- will push the character over the edge, filling her with a rage as powerful as her predecessor's. That is great dramatic material that the movies could utilize, especialy if Marvel does a live-action Planet Hulk type of scenario, or just any storyline where the Hulk has to take a prolonged sabbatical. With Walters starring in a new "Hulk" ongoing series this December, the time could be right for her to make the jump beyond her own comic book series.
2 The Scarlet Witch
Thanks to 2018’s upcoming "Ant-Man and the Wasp," Marvel has indicated that it is game for team-up movies, so a Vision and Scarlet Witch flick would be a natural fit. The movies have already introduced both characters, and they’re ripe for their own storylines. Paul Bettany’s Vision debuted on screen in 2015’s "Avengers: Age of Ultron," while Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch did the same in a post-credits scene in 2014’s "Captain America: Winter Soldier." They shared pivotal scenes in this year’s "Captain America: Civil War," which could be fertile ground for a blossoming romance. The characters are of course famous for having been lovers in the comics. They even had their own "Vision and the Scarlet Witch" limited series in the 1980s.
The movie would be a great showcase for the Scarlet Witch in particular. She hasn’t had much room to breathe since joining the Avengers, even though she has experienced a hefty amount of turmoil in her short tenure within the films. She has been a villain, a reformed hero, lost someone close to her, and become a fugitive from the law, all in the space of a year or two. The fallout from these trials would yield a wealth of dramatic material for a more personal film where she wouldn’t have to share a spotlight with all of her fellow Avengers.
Until the alternate universe version of Gwen Stacy came along in the comics in 2014, the character was most famous for being Spider-Man’s first girlfriend who was killed by the Green Goblin in 1973’s "Amazing Spider-Man #121." Decades later, Marvel decided to turn Stacy into a superpowered hero and role model for girls. In an official solo film, Marvel could easily make the alternate universe version of the character its current live-action Gwen Stacy (especially now that she's already made her animation debut).
The current state of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is basically a clean slate when it comes to Spider-Man, so there’s a wide opening for Spider-Gwen to show up as more than just one of Peter Parker’s girlfriends. Spider-Man himself, played by Tom Holland, first appeared in "Captain America: Civil War," and he’s getting his own movie and supporting cast in 2017’s "Spider-Man: Homecoming," where he’ll be in high school. Successive movies will probably feature Spider-Man throughout his high school and college years, so there will be plenty of opportunities for Gwen to show up, possibly with the same empowered role she currently enjoys in the pages.
Which female Marvels would you like to see break the glass ceiling of the silver screen? Let us know in the comments!