DC and Marvel, the two largest comic book publishers in North America, have turned their vast catalogue of superheroes into dozens of different movies, yet between them they have created only three movies starring solo female superheroes, all of which were critical disasters. 1984’s Supergirl (8% on Rotten Tomatoes), 2004’s Catwoman (9%) and 2005’s Elektra (10%) should not, however, be barriers to more female-led superhero movies anymore than 2007’s Ghost Rider (26%), 2008’s Punisher: War Zone (27%) or 2011’s Green Lantern (26%) are to more male superhero movies. If Marvel can plan its Cinematic Universe for the next ten years and DC can use a Man of Steel sequel to build towards a Justice League movie, then surely one of the two companies can spare a space in their schedule to give audiences the solo female superhero movie they deserve.
To develop this top ten, I chose to eliminate characters who could easily have a great movie made around them because of other factors. Catwoman has already appeared in Batman Returns and The Dark Knight Rises, while Supergirl seems more likely as a supporting character in a Man of Steel sequel. Jessica Jones will be appearing in a Netflix series for Marvel, while Elektra is more likely to appear in the Daredevil Netflix series than have her own movie. Black Canary is already appearing on DC’s television show Arrow and Maria Hill looks like she might receive more screen time in Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, should it last a second season. Without further ado, here are the ten solo female superhero movies I think would make the most creative and financial sense.
10 Lady Blackhawk (DC)
An unconventional pick, but one I think could pay huge dividends for DC. As a soldier and pilot with Second World War origins, Lady Blackhawk would be the perfect candidate to use if they ever wanted to make a film similar to Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger. In a more current context, however, she could be DC’s equivalent to Black Widow as a fierce hand-to-hand fighter and trained commando amongst DC’s more powerful characters. Alternatively, it could embrace her pilot roots and turn into a superhero Top Gun, complete with a flying villain to combat her in her jet.
9 Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew) (Marvel)
Originally developed as a way to prevent a rival company from stealing the copyright to her name, Drew’s Spider-Woman became popular enough to sustain a series for 50 issues in the late 70s and early 80s, and then return in another solo series and become a member of the New Avengers and Secret Avengers within the last ten years. Her origins as a brainwashed HYDRA agent who only thinks she has spider-powers, who then betrays HYDRA to become a SHIELD agent could make her a perfect fit in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe, and a possible candidate to join a future Avengers team as well. The biggest obstacle, however, would be a legal battle between Marvel and Sony, who own the rights to Spider-Man, as it is unclear which studio currently possesses her film rights. If the rights belong to Marvel, her status would rise significantly on this list. If they belong to Sony, however, they could potentially use the Ultimate Spider-Man storyline that turned Jessica Drew into a female clone of Peter Parker for a future movie.
8 X-23 (Marvel)
There’s been a lot of talk recently about Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) spinning off from the X-Men to get a solo movie, but this speculation is based more on Lawrence’s star power than Mystique’s storytelling potential. To capitalize on the financial success of Fox’s Wolverine movies and Hugh Jackman’s aging, the studio might be smartest to introduce X-23, a younger female clone of Wolverine, to replace Jackman for future films. As a trained assassin trying to find out where she came from, her initial film might benefit from speedily going through her origin to avoid comparisons to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but she offers the opportunity to tell more Wolverine stories with a new twist and a new star in the role.
7 She-Hulk (Marvel)
Though her origins as a cousin of Bruce Banner who receives his Hulk powers from an emergency blood transfusion may be slightly contrived, Marvel would be smart to skip straight to her as a fully formed character to benefit from her unique status within the Marvel Universe. She-Hulk (Jennifer Walters) is a high-level lawyer who balances her work with being a superhero and her romantic life, all while fighting for various moral causes and maintaining a lighthearted sense of humor. If you imagine a film that’s one part traditional superheroics, one part Grisham-esque legal thriller and one part feminist romantic comedy, you’d have something unique within superhero movies and a chance to expand the definition of superhero movies, as well as their traditional audiences, in ways that could pay off with a huge box office gross if done correctly.
6 Wasp (Marvel)
With a second Avengers movie and an Ant-Man movie both scheduled for 2015 releases, the question seems to be not whether Wasp will be introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but when. In comics, she was one of the founding members of the Avengers and eventually becomes their chairperson, and was married to Ant-Man until his abusive and angry behavior towards her led her to divorce him. Wasp would fit well if introduced in either movie, with obvious crossover appeal into the other, but also makes sense as a strong candidate for a solo movie as well. With traditional superheroism, science fiction elements of her backstory and a status as one of the Marvel Universe’s most prominent philanthropic business people, a solo Wasp movie could take any of several directions. Leaving Marvel room to fit a Wasp movie into their existing plans with minimal changes to their overall larger plans.
5 Sif (Marvel)
Having already appeared in both Thor films and in an episode of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, as well as featured as the lead character for Marvel’s Journey Into Mystery comic from issues 646-655 from 2012-2013, a solo movie for Sif (played by Jaimie Alexander) may be the next logical step. While Thor’s attentions are constantly divided between Earth (Midgard) and Asgard, Sif is completely devoted to her Asgardian realm and could further explore that world. As a fierce warrior, she would be capable of headlining an intense action film that also balanced the science fiction and fantasy elements inherent in any story dealing with Asgard, and would go a long way to establishing her as an equal alongside Thor and Loki in that corner of the Marvel Universe.
4 Batwoman (DC)
As a Bat-related character with a dramatically different background than Batman or any of his other allies, and only peripherally related to Bruce Wayne and his world, Batwoman offers dynamic new storytelling opportunities that wouldn’t conflict with whatever plans DC has for Ben Affleck’s version of Batman in the Man of Steel sequel. As the daughter of a former military officer who attends military school herself, only to be forced to leave after her relationship with another female student is exposed, Batwoman has a ready-made origin story, sensible explanation for her crime-fighting abilities, and most importantly an opportunity to tell very different stories than any other superhero.
As arguably DC’s most high-profile LGBT character, a Batwoman movie would need to be unafraid to embrace her sexuality, as well as her Jewish roots, to make a movie worthy of the character. Her introductory storyline in the maxiseries 52 and Greg Rucka’s Batwoman: Elegy, however, offer a perfect storyline to introduce her to film audiences, and her Bat association all but assures her a profitable box office, even if the film requires a stronger rating to tell the story properly.
3 Captain Marvel/ Ms. Marvel (Marvel)
Fans across the Internet have been clamoring for some time to have Marvel develop a Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) movie with Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica) as the lead, and it makes sense for the future. As a character with fused Kree and human genes, some have speculated that the blue alien seen in Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD may be a Kree, or that the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy film could establish the race of aliens. As a member of the Avengers also able to sustain her own successful solo series, many consider her to be Marvel’s leading heroine du jour, making a solo movie the logical endpoint of her character’s rise within the publisher over the last ten years. As a successful pilot and agent, a superhero who has super-strength, super-endurance, flight and energy absorption and protection abilities, and a woman who balances her strength and aggressiveness with compassion and empathy, Carol Danvers has everything needed to create an exceptional movie. All she needs is the right script.
2 Black Widow (Marvel)
With appearances in Iron Man 2, the Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron, Black Widow has emerged as the strongest on-screen female hero for Marvel. What she lacks in superpowers, she makes up for with a mysterious past (now made public after the events of the second Captain America movie), an ambiguous moral code, an exceptional set of skills as an agent, spy and assassin, and an underrated set of performances by Scarlett Johansson. A Black Widow movie could explore her past in more detail, while providing the Marvel Cinematic Universe with its equivalent of a Jason Bourne movie. If Black Widow can out-trick Loki, the trickster God in the Avengers, it’s almost impossible to argue that she doesn't deserve her own movie as well.
1 Wonder Woman (DC)
The most famous female comic book character of all has been in exactly zero live-action movies, while her DC counterparts Superman and Batman have had six and seven live-action movies respectively in the last forty years, as well as another one on the way starring both. This Man of Steel sequel will also introduce Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot, from the Fast and Furious franchise) as a supporting character, but it would be a gross injustice to fail to use that as a springboard for a solo Wonder Woman movie. Though recent attempted TV pilots have failed to reintroduce her to popular culture again since her 1970s series, Wonder Woman deserves a movie befitting of her stature within pop culture. Finding the right director and screenwriter will be important to discovering the proper balance of her warrior nature and loving, diplomatic side to deliver on her character’s full potential. If done correctly, however, a Wonder Woman movie has the opportunity to stand beside Superman or The Dark Knight as a definitive take on the character and one of the great movies of the superhero genre, as well as re-establish Wonder Woman as their equals in the public eye.