Female representation is a big topic in comic book merchandising right now, with more and more voices asking "where are all the toys for girls"?
Marvel has been making headlines in the past week as they announced their official product line for [The Avengers: Age Of Ultron](tag:293035), in which Black Widow was (once again) hugely under-represented and Scarlett Witch basically non-existent. Blogs by both parents and fans are piling up asking why toy companies are still stuck on the idea that superheroes are for boys, and that boys don't want to play with female action figures (or wear them on their clothing). Many talk about dressing up Barbies as superheroines or making their own costumes and clothing to try and balance it out, but there is no doubt that creative solutions don't stop this being a big problem.
DC has also had the finger pointed at them for ignoring female fans, and earlier this year Rowan Hansen, an 11 year-old girl, made headlines after her letter to the comic book giant asking for more female heroes went viral. DC responded to her to say that they were "working hard to create more superhero fun for girls", and it looks like they are sticking to their word.
Last week, DC and Warner Brothers officially announced that they will be launching "DC Super Hero Girls" - a cross-platform universe featuring many of the female heroes and villains from DC in their formative years. According to the official press release, this new universe will include "an immersive digital experience, original digital content and digital publishing. TV specials, made-for-videos, toys, apparel, books and other product categories will begin to rollout in 2016."
One toy that is specifically mentioned is the action figure - an area that is almost always mentioned in discussions about missing female characters. With this new line, it seems that DC is attempting to kill two sexist birds with one stone, mentioning both the inclusion of action figures and their physical appearance.
Mattel category-leading firsts include a line of characters for the action figure category, an area of the industry that has been primarily developed with boys in mind, and fashion dolls featuring strong, athletic bodies that stand on their own in heroic poses.
It's no secret that female characters in comics are often overly sexual, with skimpy outfits and anatomically impossible figures, so I'm really interested to see what Mattel and DC come up with for these "strong, athletic bodies". Hopefully we'll see some great new takes on the traditional costumes, and some figures and characters more appropriate for young girls to look up to.
The line is aimed at girls from 6-12, and everyone involved seems very keen on pointing out that this isn't just an attempt to make more money (although obviously that's part of any merchandising plan!), but is also about empowering young girls through superheros.
I am so pleased that we are able to offer relatable and strong role models in a unique way, just for girls. - Diane Nelson, President of DC Entertainment
We know Super Hero is a culturally relevant theme and the DC Super Hero Girls franchise will engage and inspire girls, providing cues to explore heroic acts through play and into real life. - Richard Dickson, President, Chief Operating Officer, Mattel
It’s really an honor to be part of this cultural moment and to be delivering a concept so rooted in a relatable and empowered theme - Brad Globe, President of Warner Bros. Consumer Products
Sounds good to me!
Of course, there is still the possibility of this new initiative falling flat, if the partners involved make the mistake of "girlifying" these heroes. I'll be honest, I'm not too interested in seeing a young Poison Ivy pick out a prom dress, or Supergirl crushing on the captain of the football team. My hope is that DC can create this universe to appeal to girls without falling back on tired old gender stereotypes, and realize that young girls love their iconic female characters as they already are - they just want to see more of them!
I will say that they have been doing great work with Batgirl right now, and that's the kind of character that I would love to see more of - hopefully this new project will be along similar lines.
However, even if Mattel and DC come out with a line of super-Barbies, I'm still going to be supporting this move. As far as I'm concerned, just the fact that they are trying to recognize the girls in their fanbase is a step in the right direction, and one that they should be applauded for.
Next question, of course, is whether Marvel will launch a similar female-friendly universe? They are definitely making strides when it comes to appealing to adult fans with their Marvel style Instagram account and official product lines specifically for women like the Her Universe collection, so it would make sense to make sure that younger fans are just as included.
Whatever happens, I'm thrilled to see that the giants of the comic book world really making the effort to change things, to appreciate the diversity of their fanbase and bring some balance to the force... I mean... the toy aisle.
What do you think of the new DC initiative? Comment and let me know!