What is stopping Marvel from announcing Black Widow standalone film or all-female Black Panther sequel?

Gautam Chintamani

May 27, 2018 12:38:13 IST

When asked at Cannes a few days ago if he’d be keen on doing an all-female sequel to Black Panther, Ryan Coogler said, “That would be amazing if the opportunity came up.”

While officially there might not be an all-women revisit to Wakanda in the pipeline, yet, the possibility of a story bringing together the warrior Okoye, a super spy Nakia and the tech-genius Shuri together is more than worth the wait. The runaway success of Black Panther is not only the perfect reason to explore a sequel featuring the ladies but also the much-needed boost that could finally make a female Marvel superhero film a reality.

Post-Wonder Woman, the buzz surrounding a solo Black Widow film — the character played by Scarlett Johansson across the Avengers series — has increased. When compared to DC Comics, Marvel has hardly focused on female characters in their roster. What could be the reason that Marvel never thought of pushing a Black Widow film until it had exhausted nearly every single male superhero in the Marvel universe with stand-alone films?

What is stopping Marvel from announcing Black Widow standalone film or all-female Black Panther sequel?

The women of Marvel's Black Panther (left); Black Widow. Facebook

One of the reasons could be the way Stan Lee, the resident visionary of Marvel, looks at the world around him. Legend has it that Lee, along with fellow-creator Jack Kirby, assembled The Avengers for the first time in 1963 when Bill Everett, the artist, delayed “Daredevil #1” launch. In a way, The Avengers also owes its inception to DC’s Justice League as the success of teaming Superman and Batman inspired Lee and Kirby to come up with the Fantastic Four. Later, when the landscape had Thor, Hulk, Iron Man and Spider-Man, they [The Avengers], like the superheroes in the DC universe, joined forces.

In the 1970s, Lee partnered with illustrator Frank Springer to create a short-lived comic strip called The Virtue of Vera Valiant that somewhere gives an insight into why Marvel never really celebrated their female superheroes. The strip lampooned the soap opera culture and followed the story of a woman who inherits a resort hotel in space. There were two ways of looking at Lee’s work in The Virtue of Vera Valiant – it was a well-intentioned parody or it was pure sexism disguised to be satire. It was melodramatic and one look at the strip makes one think that according to Lee, all women did all day long was to emote and cry.

A few years earlier in 1961, Lee created Sue Storm as a part of the Fantastic Four and intriguingly gave her the power of ‘invisibility.’ One of the first female superheroes in the Marvel pantheon, Sue Storm was a founding member of the Fantastic Four. But, unlike Wonder Woman, Sue Storm was never developed to her full potential. Lee also didn’t want her to kick and punch like Wonder Woman, so he gave her the power of invisibility. Even the women in DC comics who did not possess any superpowers, such as Lois Lane, appear to be better etched than Sue Storm.

Marvel's Invisible Woman (left); DC's Wonder Woman. Facebook

Marvel's Invisible Woman (left); DC's Wonder Woman. Facebook

The warrior Wonder Woman, who, following the death of her creator William Moulton Marston, underwent the same transformation that afflicted most of the female characters in the world of comic books — she became a secretary. And something similar happened with Sue Storm; she was made Invisible ‘Woman’ from being the Invisible ‘Girl’ once she got married. It wasn’t until the mid-1960s that she becomes fully aware of her powers.

In The Representation of Women in Comic Books, Post WWII Through the Radical 60’s, Maryjane Dunne notes that both characters such as Wonder Woman or the creators like Marston “never had the opportunity to set a positive example for other artists and writers who struggled to give female characters life”, and adds that they were “simply taking cues from their social-environment about the roles women were allowed to play and reflecting their socialization in their art.”

At the same film festival where Coogler pitched for an all-female Black Panther sequel, a Chinese film company has bought the film rights and is now planning the film as a sci-fi, according to a report by The Hollywood Reporter. Who knows this, too, might come out before the Black Widow film or the all-female Black Panther sequel. Although it’s not connected, the now 95-year-old Stan Lee is also amongst the celebrities, politicians, CEOs, and others who have been accused of sexual misconduct since April 2017. Multiple nurses have accused Lee of sexually harassing them while they were caring for him, and another woman has alleged that he masturbated in front of her and groped her.

In an interview with Radio Times, Lee once hailed 'luck' as the greatest superpower and perhaps it's just plain luck that the likes of Ryan Coogler waltzed into the Marvel universe… otherwise, we would still be left with the Stan Lee version of superheroes.

Also read: Avengers' Black Widow, Scarlet Witch to Black Panther's Shuri — a look at MCU's women

Updated Date: May 27, 2018 12:38:13 IST