I was 17 when I first heard about my favorite superhero, Spider-Gwen.
I stumbled across a few sections of her comics while scrolling through the internet. After a little more research, I went to the first comic book store I could get to, and instantly bought whatever I could find. I even went so far as to cosplay as her for the Denver Comic Con this past summer.
I have never found a superhero that I have adored or connected with more than Spider-Gwen. She is a character that I can truly see myself reflected in, which felt rare since female heroes have not always been easy to come by.
In 1974, “Wonder Woman” became the first superhero movie to have the leading hero be female. Another take on “Wonder Woman” was released in 2017, the first DC heroine to star in the DC Extended Universe.
Marvel’s first female superhero movie was “Elektra” starring Jennifer Garner in 2005. This weekend, “Captain Marvel” will mark the second-ever female-led Marvel film.
However, the first live-action DC-based movie, “Superman and the Mole Man” came out in 1951, and the first live-action Marvel-based movie, “Captain America,” was released in 1944, followed by “Howard the Duck” in 1986.
That’s a 23-year difference for DC superhero movies and a 61-year difference for Marvel. Men were saving the world on the big screen far before women even got a chance.
Even though there have been very few films with leading female superheroes, controversy has still arisen about the fears of implementing too many of them.
Marvel’s vice president of print and sales, David Gabriel stated, “What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity. They didn’t want female characters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not.”
In every large franchise, the cult-followings play a considerable part. There will always be people who will read or watch something just because it’s Marvel or DC. Sometimes, those dedicated fans don’t want change.
But, large media corporations should not discount the worth of young female viewers.
“When I was little, I used to watch ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘She-Ra’ on cartoons,” said Heather Ford, instructor in the interactive media department. “So when I was able to find out that there were actual blockbuster movies being put out about these women in elements of achievement, elements of strength, it was awesome for me to see.”
By incorporating more heroines into leading roles, Marvel and DC will be able to give girls a sense of power that will stay with them through their entire life.
Personally, I had always been apprehensive about choosing female heroes as my favorites as opposed to their male counterparts. However, once I found Spider-Gwen, I realized how much I really needed to see someone like her as the main character.
“Watching [Wonder Woman and She-Ra] growing up actually gave me the confidence to see someone that I could aspire to be like when I was little,” Ford said.
Recently, “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse” has been praised for its diversity and has received higher ratings than the majority of other Marvel and DC movies.
The film’s main message is “anyone can wear the mask.” For children, seeing someone like them on screen is essential, especially if that person is a superhero.
“Any time anyone can connect with someone in a powerful, strong role of achievement is good for anyone, whether you’re male or female,” Ford said.
All in all, the world will not be worse off for showing young people heroes that look like them.
“It shows there’s a community of people who want to come together and who value the same things and say, ‘There are other women like me!’” Ford said. “And whether it’s Michelle Obama or Wonder Woman, it’s still a woman who has led people and done positive things for the community.”
“These movies parallel to say that there are real women in the world, real women that are like this, that are doing things like this now,” Ford said.
So as the DC Extended Universe and the Marvel Cinematic Universe grow, I really hope that future generations of women are able to see that they can accomplish so much and that they can really be their own superhero.