Comic books and their cinematic counterparts make up a significant portion of our present-day zeitgeist. Over at my blog, dancelikedevito.com, we've covered the Marvel Cinematic Universe extensively in Anthony's "State of the MCU" series (part 1, part 2), we've examined DC's biggest blockbuster to date in our Batman v Superman review, and we've even touched on the Fox end of the superhero spectrum in our review of Deadpool.
Each of us has seen close to the entire filmography of the three universes, and it's fair to say that the MCU has far and away been the dominant series of superhero movies thus far. From Iron Man to The Avengers to The Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel has been able to consistently produce exciting and enjoyable movies. On the surface, Marvel has continually dominated the circuit, but there is one key category that DC is set to run away with: creating a more inclusive universe.
With Captain America: Civil War, Marvel has now released 13 films in the MCU with 9 more coming down the pipe in Phase 3. The success of the first two phases is undeniable, but they've always presented distinctly white and male-centric stories.
Examining The Presence Of Women In Superhero Cinema
Up until this point in the MCU, the presence of women has been sparse, both in front of the camera and behind it. The studio has yet to produce a female-directed film, and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) has been the only prominent superheroine. They've begun to increase the number of superhero roles for women recently, adding Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) to the Avengers' roster and introducing us to the future Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) in Ant-Man, but other than several supporting characters Marvel has severely failed when it comes to putting women in significant roles on the big screen. Captain Marvel will look to begin correcting the MCU's minimal female presence, but her solo film won't arrive until 2019, meaning that the MCU will have been in existence for 11 years before a female superhero is given a solo film.
While Marvel has taken 21 movies to give a female character their complete focus, DC is taking just four films. DC's Wonder Woman is scheduled for a June 2017 release date and features Gal Gadot in the titular role and Patty Jenkins directing. Fans and critics alike have been ecstatic about the first trailer that was revealed at San Diego Comic-Con, and given Wonder Woman's universal adoration in the disappointing Batman v. Superman, there are plenty of excellent reasons for the massive hype surrounding her movie.
Beyond just Wonder Woman though, it is already clear that women are going to have a larger presence in the early goings of the DC Extended Universe. The core cast of Suicide Squad, DC's 3rd film, includes Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), and Katana (Karen Fukuhara), giving the Suicide Squad more female members than the Avengers. Robbie's performance as Quinn has received plenty of acclaim (even if there are questionable aspects to the character's portrayal), and they're already talking about getting her into another movie that would focus exclusively on female characters in the DCEU. Meanwhile, Marvel fans have been asking for a Black Widow solo film since her inception on screen in Marvel's third movie, but it's DC who is stepping up to give the opportunity to their female characters in the cinematic comic book realm.
Identifying Characters Of Color In Comic Book Movies
So DC beat Marvel to the inclusion of the female demographic in their movies (by a hell of a lot). How has Marvel done with including people of color? Well, you can just about count all of the significant people of color that are involved in the MCU on one hand.
Marvel has peppered in minority characters, including Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), and Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and while the actors for Drax (Dave Bautista), Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Groot (Vin Diesel) are all non-white, they aren't actually playing people of their ethnicities since they're all aliens that are either covered from head to toe in makeup, or they're entirely computer-generated. Like Captain Marvel for women, Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) represents a potential diversification for the MCU going forward. His upcoming solo film will be helmed by Ryan Coogler and will reportedly feature an almost exclusively black cast, but it has still taken far too long for Marvel to tell the stories of characters who aren't white.
It took until Phase 3 of the MCU for Marvel to get to a leading black character (to say nothing about the complete lack of Asian, Latino, or Native American characters), while DC has already put a pair of minorities into lead roles in the Justice League (Aquaman and Cyborg), and instituted a fantastically diverse team for Suicide Squad. Behind the camera, Marvel will have produced 16 straight films directed by white men before finally starting to diversify their creative teams with Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther, both of which will feature writing/directing teams that do not include white men. It's a step in the right direction for Marvel, and it leaves the MCU with a grand total of two minority directors in 22 movies.
DC, on the other hand, has announced just six directors so far for their movies and have already matched Marvel's number of minority directors, announcing Rick Famuyiwa to helm the upcoming Flash film and James Wan as the man tasked with bringing an Aquaman standalone story to the big screen. DC has yet to employ a writer who wasn't a white male, but given how long it took Marvel to hire a person of color to write for them, DC couldn't possibly do any worse.
Much of this article has been a direct comparison of Marvel vs. DC in terms of representation, but the reality is that both of them can (and need to) do better. It's important to provide a diverse field of characters and storytellers to the superhero genre and to allow the universe to more accurately mirror the people that we see in our reality. Marvel has begun to take things in the right direction, but they have completely failed in this endeavor through the first two phases of the MCU, and while DC has shown that they value bringing in women and minorities, they still have room to improve their representation among their writers and characters.
Here's to hoping that sometime in the near future we'll be able to hear and see the stories of all kinds of people, instead of just those of white men.
Think you're a true comic fan? Check out every Marvel post-credits scene in the video below and check how many you know:
Which upcoming superhero movie are you most excited for?