Get Excited: Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel Are About to Save the Day

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.

A little over a year ago, comic book-loving women all over the country sat down to watch the first trailers for CBS's brand-new Supergirl series, only to find themselves filled with what can only be described as Hulk-levels of rage. Here was Kara Zor-El, a character easily as strong as her cousin Superman, reduced to a nervous, giggling office underling consumed with thoughts of cute guys and wardrobe dilemmas, instead of, oh, you know, flying and saving people and setting fire to things using her goddamn EYES.

It was a huge disappointment that came just a couple of weeks after Saturday Night Live and Scarlett Johansson had brilliantly skewered sexist double standards for female comic book heroes in Hollywood, via a skit that stuck Black Widow in a rom-com. The skit was so on point, one can't help but wonder if someone at NBC got access to the Supergirl trailer before it was released and copied it almost shot for shot.

Compare and contrast:

At the time it felt like confirmation that women in comic books were simply never going to get their due on screen -- whether in movies or on TV. Then last week, a couple of truly amazing things emerged from this year's San Diego Comic Con. The first was this little slice of character-faithful, Amazonian baddassery:

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(It's okay. Take a moment to catch your breath. We know. It's awesome.)

The second was the news that the rather magnificent Brie Larson is going to be playing Captain Marvel. That's right, folks: the same comic book giant that has steadfastly refused to give Black Widow (or any other woman) her own movie just decided that the Captain Marvel of their new project would be female.

For context, in the Marvel Universe, four out of the six Captain Marvel incarnations have been male, and the Carol Danvers character only graduated to the title of Captain Marvel three years ago, having spent the preceding 40 years with the moniker Ms. Marvel. Sure, we have to wait until 2019 to see this thing, but knowing it's happening at all is comforting for everyone who's been desperate to see Marvel do right by its female fans -- and characters -- for literally years now.

Marvel has apparently, finally, taken notice. The giant has been making several overdue efforts to level the playing field recently. After announcing the great feminist writer Roxane Gay had been brought on to pen a new book for the Black Panther series, they closed last week's Comic Con in San Diego with the now-annual "Women of Marvel" panel, which shines a light on all Marvel women -- be they characters or behind the scenes -- while also seeking to empower women in the audience to work in the industry. This is, frankly, huge.

It seems that, finally, just when we'd all but given up hope, comic book giants are at last making an effort to tap into the section of their audience that has existed forever, but been woefully underrepresented on the big screen. One theory: It's possible that the success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens has made comic bigwigs realize that sci-fi and fantasy movies don't necessarily lose money by putting a penis-less human in the lead role.

Teen markets have been ahead of the equality curve for years now. The Hunger Games and Divergent series proved that female leads -- teenage ones, no less! -- can kick ass all the way to a multi-billion dollar franchise while appealing to all genders. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Well, yeah. But just as the toy industry assumes no one wants to play with a girl action figure -- even when she's the star of the movie (#WhereIsRey, anyone?) -- so has the comic book industry persisted with the assumption that women don't "get" superheroes, or even like them.

If Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel are big enough hits, it could change the face of movie superheroes forever -- which is more important than you might think. Because if women aren't given the space to be big and brave and bold, even in a fantasy world on a screen, what hope is there for the rest of us?

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