A female comic book hero commanding her own solo movie is one step closer to reality with reports of Ellen Page in negotiations to play Tara Chace, the lead from the comic Queen and Country —a move that might finally show Marvel and DC that a female superhero can compete at the box office with her male counterparts.
Chace is a special agent not dissimilar from the Jason Bourne and James Bond mold. The comic series in which she starred began in 2001 and ended in 2007.
If Page signs, the film finds a director, and everything gets hammered out, we might get to see the unicorn of the film world: an action-adventure with a female comic book lead. And if enough people go see Page in Queen, that could spell whole a whole franchise. Yes, many hoops remains. But the possibility is thrilling.
For the last decade, studio heads, filmmakers, and higher-ups at DC and Marvel have seemingly forgotten the popularity of their own female creations and have continually give shopworn excuse after shopworn excuse about why a female-driven superhero blockbuster won't work. Perhaps with Page's new movie, we can finally retire these excuses.
Myth: A Female Superhero Movie Won't Do Well
This is one of the big reasons that DC cites in not making a Wonder Woman movie. Executives will surely roll out statistics for the ill-received Catwoman and Elektra. Catwoman was especially bad: the film took in $40 million, about $60 million less than it took to create this steaming pile of human squalor.
But looking at the raw numbers doesn't tell the whole story, because those movies involved heroines who, frankly, were B+ listers at best. Elektra is a wonderful character, but she is no Storm or Jean Grey. And Catwoman, though she is an iconic DC anti-heroine, is no Wonder Woman. The latter, by the way, is consistently ranked as one of the greatest comic book heroes of all time. The point is, you can't use these characters to predict the outcome of a bigger star, much as you wouldn't nix an Ironman or Superman movie based on how well an Ant-Man movie does.
Myth: Female Superheroes Aren't Popular
Speaking of which: It is a grand travesty that Ant-Man will get a solo movie before the likes of Storm, Jean Grey, Wonder Woman, Carol Danvers, Emma Frost or even Rogue—all of whom possess better and bigger fanbases than Hank Pym, whose main power is to change his size, which is possibly the most ho-hum superpower this side of Eye Boy.
Executives at Marvel in both the print and film divisions certainly know as much. "There's obviously a drumbeat that is banging louder and louder that we want a female lead superhero," Louis D'Esposito, the producer behind Iron Man, The Avengers, Thor and Captain America told Comingsoon.net last week. And if female characters weren't popular, then how would you explain the all-female cast of the latest (and well-regarded) X-Men title? Marvel's Jeanie Schaefer told The Mary Sue in May: "These women are already heavy hitters in the Marvel universe, and every X-Man is someone’s favorite, so the line-up just clicked into place." It should click in a lot of other places in the comic world, in our humble opinion.
Myth: Female Characters Are Difficult to Relate To
Although Schaefer sounded hopeful in her Mary Sue interview, she did reiterate one common reservation—that men won't be able to relate to a female character. "I think there’s a lurking fear that by doing something like this we might drive away the core readership (read: dudes)," she said. And this was more or less echoed in the words of DC executive Diane Nelson when talking about the company's failure to produce a Wonder Woman film: "She doesn't have the single, clear, compelling story that everyone knows and recognizes."
The idea that male readers can't recognize or empathize with female characters is kinda junk. Comic book readers are routinely asked to read about and relate to people who have/have had problems with alcohol (Iron Man) and human relationships (Superman), or with a person whose parents were killed one night, for which deed he vowed to fight crime and corruption with the aid of his aging servant (Batman). One severely underestimates comic readers by saying they can't relate to a woman.
Myth: We're Too Busy
"To add a third film and to just put it in the slate [of two films per year] right now is difficult. We have these next three, four, five films coming out and that's what we're really concentrating on," D'Esposito said. Our rebuttal involves only two words: Ant-Man.
For all we know, Page's Queen movie might never make it into production. But, hopefully, it will see the light. At the very least, this development puts pressure on DC and Marvel to seriously think about showcasing more of their female superheroes. And that, sadly, passes for progress.