For decades, the Marvel Comics scene has been filled with characters of all shapes, all sizes, all powers, ranging from the gigantic Hulk, to the shrunken Ant-Man. All of these characters have esteemed and familiar backgrounds complemented by fascinating origin stories. I mean, who doesn't know Spider-Man? Or Captain America? Or Wolverine?
But hold up. Instead of looking at the popular lads of the Marvel Universe, let's take a moment to appreciate the ladies. That's right. We're taking a moment to acknowledge the leading women of this universe, and the impact they have had on viewers and on the silver screen.
The Power Of Equality
Here's something that I find utterly important about the women of the Marvel Comics: Plenty of them are presented as equals to the men. They have equal strengths, possess equal leadership roles and overall are portrayed as EQUAL individuals! They are not downgraded, as female character sadly tend to be, but instead they are portrayed as beacons of potential. Through Marvel Comics, we have truly been exposed to the idea of women in power.
For me, it is much more pleasing to see a heroine that is just as strong as any man. This only proves that gender means nothing - simply a title of sex. Plenty of women from the Marvel comics are regarded as embodiments of power. Just look at the incredible Black Widow kicking ass:
One thing we've seen a lot of is that often in the comics, the men have to save the damsels in distress. And usually those damsels are naive, kind — and have a rocking body. That was the first depiction of women in comic books. But now, if someone says "a female character in a comic," plenty of us think of the likes of Storm, Jean Grey, Black Widow, Captain Marvel, etc. The fact is that in comics, women are no longer undermined. They do not stand behind men, but instead stand beside them in unity and equality. But let's investigate a little bit more into the fascinating females of our comic industry, specifically approaching their negative aspects first!
The Cons Of Female Comic Characters
As everything in life does, female comic characters have both positive aspects and negative ones. But instead of ruining it for you, I'm going to start from the negative part and bring it back up with positivity. Alright, here we go!
Body Stereotypes And Revealing Outfits
I kind of mentioned this before, but it is something that sadly downgrades women. If you notice, which I'm sure you do, it's always big breasts, big butt, tight, barely there suit, etc. And many times, there is quite a bit of cleavage on display. Like, let's take Emma Frost for example:
This costume isn't actually that bad compared to many of the costumes that women must wear in comic books. One positive thing about this costume is that it shows that Emma Frost is super fit. But see, that's something that can actually downgrade some girls, too, making it a negative. Female characters are always super fit in comics, but then again, they are incredibly active all the time. So I guess that's a reasonable expectation.
But like I said, Frost's outfit isn't that bad, let's say, compared to that of Elektra:
It's all about the big reveal, so to speak, but hers is far from the most revealing. Just check out Shanna the She-Devil:
In my opinion, this truly downgrades women in comics. Why? Well, just look at the images above. These women are being sexualized to show off their breasts and their butt, they are being displayed as pure objects of desire. And who is this directed too? Majorly the male audience. You mostly don't see the males in the comics being sexualized for female audiences. So why do the women have to be objectified for men? And just look at these costumes! How can they work in these? These things can really belittle some girls, because they all look so perfectly fit. Plus, their costumes can be a bit too much. It also makes them out to be nothing more than pretty things to look at, not the strong individuals they are. Think of it this way: plenty of people adore Black Widow for her role as one of the first original female characters in the Avengers (in terms of the MCU). But a lot of people also really like her for her big breasts, and her accentuated butt in that tight black suit. This hollows females in comics: as if everything significant is on the outside, distracting the pure potential hidden within.
Not All Bad: The Positive Aspects Of Having Female Comic Book Characters
So, female comic characters can at times wear outfits that are overly revealing, and showcase unreal body expectations. Yet as there is a yin to a yang, there are positive aspects to these female characters.
When I see female characters, I immediately see a role model. Well, I mean, the ones that kick ass and save the day at least. It gives you hope and makes you think that you can certainly be like them in some capacity. One that I particularly like, perhaps mostly because of her power, is Storm.
She has an important role in the X-Men world, and her power is absolutely incredible. She certainly is a force of nature, no pun intended. Yep, the highly educated queen consort of Wakanda is pretty amazing. These women are without a doubt an inspiration to others. In terms of the MCU, I adore watching this highly intelligent teacher at Xavier's school for Gifted Youngsters transform into a strong member of the original X-Men group. As soon as her eyes flash that lighting white, you can see the fear in all of those among her. Heck, Wolverine has respect for her. This to me is a role model, because she is so well educated and has the ability to educate others. But not only is her mind a source of heavy inspiration. Respect has been established for Storm because of her abilities, and how she is able to control them and use them for good. Speaking in terms of mundanes, it's like being smart, beautiful and respected because you use your talents for good. And of course, she is able to assist others. Which is something everyone can do.
Yup, I said it. This is mostly from personal experience, but it's true. Their incredible strength has certainly become a fitness goal. I mean, look at Black Widow's killer form! She didn't get that from sitting on the couch all day. And check out Lady Sif's fighting skills, and not to mention the muscles on She-Hulk!
The fact that these women are powerful and action savvy makes anyone want to do it, too! For me it's a good excuse to get fit. No pain, no gain, right?
Masculinity In Women
In the comics, the concept of masculinity does not limit itself to the men. The women characters are just as valiant. Yes, there's the stereotypical sexiness, but that doesn't preclude the females from still being macho. I believe the greatest example of that will have to be She-Hulk. I mean, she has to deal with the Hulk for Odin's sake!
Costume Transformations From Comics To Cinema
This idea applies to plenty of movie adaptations; something always has to be changed. Nothing can ever be exactly as it is in the books. The cinematic universe and the book/comic universe have developed into two separate entities. Each might influence one another, but they are not directly the same.
When it comes to female comic characters, one thing that has been really transformed is their costume and overall appearance.
Let's take Black Widow for instance:
Here is the original Black Widow from the Marvel comics. Here is the cinematic Black Widow:
To be fair, the costumes are similar to one another. One thing to look at is material: Johansson's is a matte black compared to a silicon tight black on the original. Of course this was modified for comfort purposes, no one wants to walk in a slippery skin tight body suit all the time. Weapons are strapped on Johansson compared to the comic, which makes sense since your weapons need to go somewhere. But I think the one thing everyone notices about Black Widow through the movies is her change of hair. In her first appearance in Iron Man 2 (2010), her hair was curly and past her shoulder. But in the Avengers (2012), she changed to the classic slightly curled bob. Then it changed in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) where it achieved a near-shoulder length straight look. It went back to the bob-look in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) but converted to a slightly longer look in Captain America: Civil War (2016). There hasn't been a revelation as to why the studio does this, but it appears that Black Widow cannot settle on a hair style.
The film Elektra:
The cinematic costume is clearly not as revealing as the comic costume. Garner appears to be wearing a corset instead of the wrap that the comic Elektra has. The head accessory is also missing from Garner, which would have given her a more 'ninja' appeal. But something that is very noticeable about the costume is the fact that her stomach is slightly revealed compared to her thighs and potentially her butt. The cinematic Elektra focuses more on her muscle compared to the comic one, which sexualizes Elektra too much by revealing a lot of her lower half.
The cinematic Scarlet Witch:
The differences between these two costumes are huge. Well, perhaps not the color scheme, but they are almost completely different. First off, no head gear for Olsen, but still maintaining those brown locks. Instead of that tight torso piece, Olsen is wearing a modern dress. The themes for each costume are different: the comic Witch has a more galactic appeal and classic hero look, while Olsen is holding a more grunge/bohemian modern look. One thing to note about the MCU is that they always adjust their costumes to fit the scenario so that their characters do not stand out terribly much. Imagine if Olsen was wearing the costume that the comic character was wearing. But, on a good note, Olsen's costume doesn't sexualize her at all. In fact, she looks cute.
She probably has the biggest difference in terms of costume. Despite the blue skin and flame red hair, Lawrence is practically naked on screen. Comic Mystique has a costume that doesn't necessarily sexualize her, showing a nice contrast of white against blue skin. But for some reason, it seems that the MCU has decided to sexualize this character. Perhaps it is to represent comfort in her own skin, but Lawrence is walking around with everything revealed. There may be a deeper meaning to her nudity, but the comic and cinematic Mystique are practically two separate individuals.
I've mentioned some already, but Marvel's heroines have definitely made an impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The most reoccurring character has to be the popular member of the Avengers, Black Widow.
Natasha Romanoff deserves her own film. I believe this year, heroines are truly making a leap forward on the silver screen. The MCU has been given more characters since the creation of X-Men: Apocalypse, and I can't necessarily list them all because there are so many. but in the last two years we've had:
- Wasp, a.k.a Hope Pym — Ant-Man (2015)
- Black Widow, a.k.a Natasha Romanoff — Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
- Scarlet Witch, a.k.a Wanda Maximoff — Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
- Vanessa Carlysle — Deadpool (2016)
- Sharon Carter — Captain America: Civil War (2016)
- Mystique — X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
- Jean Grey — X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
- Psylocke — X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
- Storm — X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
- Jubilee — X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
- Moira MacTaggert — X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
As you can see, that's a pretty good list from just the last two years. All those women being strong, masculine and powerful translates directly from the comic books to the silver screen. Well, OK, there are some minor differences in origin stories and costumes. But all in all, they still hold the same concept of women of power. Which is all we need. So Marvel, you're certainly doing us justice!
And not to mention, Captain Marvel is hitting cinema screens with her own solo movie on March 8, 2019. Brie Larson is definitely going to nail it!