The comic book genre has proven to be a successful medium of entertainment as the stories have crossed into an increasing number of movies and television shows throughout the last decade. With its dominating prevalence in popular culture, the genre has welcomed an exciting amount of new fans. As a result, the call to implement more diverse storytelling to reflect its audience has become a priority.
Women, for example, have certainly been fans of comic book lore for a long time; and as the stories have expanded, so has the incorporation of existing women characters in the media. Thus, it should come as no surprise why recent DC and Marvel movies revealed to us just how valuable and influential Superhero women characters can be. And it’s not difficult to comprehend why that is, as these comic book characters exhibit inner beauty, persistence, strength, and intelligence.
Over the last decade, a good number of heroines have graced the screen, and that number will only continue to skyrocket. Here are some of my favorite characters that have impacted me with their personal journeys and commitment to heroism. The corresponding depictions make them worthy of every bit of screen time; and they will ultimately pave the way for more dominating women characters in comic book movies.
Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)
Natalia Alianovna Romanova, best known as Natasha Romanoff or The Black Widow, was a KGB agent and expert assassin prior to her recruitment to the international counter-intelligence agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D. Her mastery in martial arts and proficiency in multiple languages propelled her towards becoming a top agent. From Nat’s first appearance in Iron Man 2, we observed a hard-shelled woman whose only thoughts were to get the job done by any means necessary – a tactic she surely learned by her experiences in the Red Room. However, as her arc progressed, we find her character slowly begin to trust (Avengers) and stand up to the status quo (Winter Soldier) even though it meant revealing her secrets to the world.
Romanoff’s ability to adapt to any situation using her intelligence is one of her best qualities. Pairing that with her combat training and fierce nature, it’s no wonder that Scarlett Johansson’s portrayal of Black Widow is often referred to as simply badass. Set to reprise her role in Avengers: Infinity War (which would be her 6th appearance on-screen), Johansson’s Black Widow has no limits regarding where the MCU could take this character. And her development, thus far, has been a gradual yet moving journey.
In Age of Ultron, the character’s uncompromising tenacity was maintained, yet with a softer side. Since reliving the horrors of sterilization (provided by the KGB) through a vision that the Scarlet Witch had inflicted upon her, Natasha Romanoff began to open up more. Her inspiring vulnerability, though contradictory to her nature, was monumental for the Black Widow. And Nat’s eventual realization that there is a possibility of a life outside of S.H.I.E.L.D and/or the Avengers was great to see from a development standpoint. I certainly hope the MCU continues exploring Romanoff’s exciting journey of self-discovery outside the Black Widow guise. However, with the threat of Thanos lingering around the corner, Nat will surely have a variety of complications standing in her way. Still, I’m excited to see what’s in store for our brave heroine, and I hope she’ll live to tell us a story of her own in a solo film because she deserves it.
Lois Lane (Amy Adams)
I know what you’re thinking: “How is Lois Lane a Hero or Super Woman?” Let me answer that for you by just saying this: she’s not a lady, she’s a journalist.
Amy Adams’ portrayal of Lois Lane is arguably the most different from all of the others. She’s not overly obnoxious, and her retort deliveries are rather subtle. However, Adams’ Lois Lane is thoroughly determined and firm in her pursuit of the truth, which is a common attribute among all iterations of the Daily Planet’s star reporter. In her debut in Man of Steel, she single-handedly discovered the whereabouts of the ‘ghost savior,’ who was later to be known as Clark Kent of Smallville. Her investigative instinct uncovered the biggest mystery that would forever alter the lives of Metropolis’ residents and the entire world. Furthermore, Lo discovered how to defeat Zod’s army of Kryptonians when no one else could. That’s pretty Super, if you ask me.
What makes Lois Lane a super woman in her own right is the fact that she never hid behind her emotions; instead, she embraced them. So often, women are deemed to be “too emotional” or irresponsible when leading with their feelings; but if we don’t follow our hearts, then what’s the point? Displaying emotion is not some crutch that inhibits people from being logical or a burden that hinders people from doing their job. In fact, being passionate can lead to success. And Lois Lane is a prime example of this as she used her heart to guide her in discovering the truth, making her a great inspiration.
Perhaps one of my favorite things about the DCEU’s Lois Lane, however, is how she never let fear deviate her from following the story and aiding Superman in helping the world. Whether it was risking her life by participating in the phantom drive collision counter plan (Man of Steel), uncovering a story in war-zone Nairomi, Africa (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), or boldly confronting Lex Luthor for his plan to frame Superman (BvS), Lois Lane persisted. And even though many of her investigations were dangerous and put her in harm’s way, Lo showed us that fear should never stop us from learning, doing our jobs or being the badass women that we can be. So is Lois Lane of the DCEU a super woman? Yes. Yes she is.
Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot)
I would be remiss to make a list of strong, super women who’ve impacted popular culture without mentioning princess Diana of Themyscira, daughter of Hippolyta… She is Wonder Woman. The general audience was first introduced to Gal Gadot’s Diana in BvS, but it was her debut scene as Wonder Woman that captivated the hearts of many. Her entrance into the Doomsday Fight (BvS) was one of the most epic in comic book movies. She not only saved Batman from a terrible demise, but Wonder Woman carried the majority of the weight in the battle. And it was within these small scenes that the DCEU’s Wonder Woman became a universal inspiration to young girls & boys and men & women.
Gal Gadot’s reprisal in Wonder Woman (2017) only enhanced the world’s love for the character. What makes Wonder Woman so special in this film is that she is not only a force of power, but she embodies emotional strength, honesty, inspiration, and love. While she, at times, displayed a grand sense of naivety, her heart was always in the right place, and she proved that heroism comes from within. Wonder Woman’s good nature and eventual belief in humanity through the power of love is something that this world so desperately needs. With these positively influential characteristics, it has been cemented and elaborated in detail what many of us already know- that Wonder Woman is one of the greatest heroes and inspirations of all time. And with the success of her solo film, she’ll justifiably have a steady presence in the DCEU.
Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson)
Tessa Thompson plays a self-exiled Asgardian Valkyrie who lived on Sakaar as a bounty hunter to escape her emotional & haunting past of defeat by Hela, the Goddess of Death. In her first appearance in Thor:Ragnarok, she was the leading contender specialist of Grandmaster’s ring, in which she brought a displaced Thor to duel with the Hulk. Despite Thor’s initial pleads to return to Asgard and reclaim their realm, Valkyrie would ignore and indulge in her self-destruction. It wasn’t until she relived the moments of Hela’s reign that prompted her to change her mind. Valkyrie’s display of bravery as she overcame the trauma of losing her entire family and using her fear as a force of motivation was moving. And that moment alone made people fall in love with the character.
Though she is new to the MCU, Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie immediately became one of my favorite characters in the franchise. What makes the character so fascinating is how relatable she was to me. The emotional agony that haunted Valkyrie’s mind pushed her to suppress the dark memories and find comfort in alcoholism. And though it may not be a disease from which I suffered, I understood the feeling of being so low due to experiencing great losses in my life that it left me in a state of sheer despondence. So to see Thompson’s Valkyrie overcome these challenges reminded me about the importance of pushing through for myself and others around me.
In every scene, Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie commands the attention of the room, and she has a strong presence that is characteristic to the warriors. Her dedication and loyalty to Asgard was manifested in rejoining the fight, and she was able to overcome her shame and self-hatred of being the sole Valkyrie survivor. The best part of it all was that she no longer categorized herself as a victim. She represented emotional strength and valor in dealing with her trauma like so many brave women around the world do every day. Thus, Thompson’s Valkyrie garnered a lot of merited love from the general audience as she represented a strong, fierce woman who not only overcame death, but mental anguish as well. Her ability to find her inner strength to be a complete badass is something that we’d all love to see more of on the big screen. More Valkyrie, please!
Shuri (Letitia Wright)
Last, but certainly not least, there’s Shuri. As the sister of the newly renowned King of Wakanda, one might think that Shuri would take a back seat to T’Challa. However, audiences knew from the moment they stepped out of the theatres that Shuri was a standout in her own right. With the grace of a princess, a heart of gold, and the intelligence of a genius, Shuri stole the hearts of millions around the world.
What makes Wright’s Shuri so appealing to audiences besides all of the wonderful attributes that she possesses is that she’s a great role model. Aside from being compassionate and charming, her ability to use her intelligence in a variety of ways is what elevated her to a fan favorite in Black Panther. For example, Shuri’s advanced thinking aided Wakanda in constantly improving through the use of creative innovation that seemed unnecessary to the average eye. Her steadfast position on nonconformity (regarding technology) reminded me of myself during the start of my career as a scientist. To see a young woman so bold and unapologetic in using her intelligence is the positive representation young girls need; and I will forever be grateful to the MCU for putting this extraordinary character on the big screen.
Overall, Letitia Wright’s Shuri is a scene stopper who is diligent and has a great sense of humor under her graceful presence. Not to mention, Shuri can completely hold her own as we’ve seen her suit up in the battle of Black Panther‘s 3rd act… Talk about a badass woman! We will definitely be seeing more of her in MCU movies to come; and I’m sure Shuri will steal all of our hearts again.
So there you have it: my favorite ladies of recent comic book movies. The genre certainly doesn’t look to be in danger of suffering from “Superhero Fatigue,” so there are bound to be more awesome women in comic book movies to come! Who are some of your favorite women characters that have been in the DCEU and MCU? And who are you looking forward to seeing or hoping to see on the big screen?