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Marvel Girls on Film: Are These Your Female Avengers?

With the massive box office success of The Avengers (the film has earned more than one billion dollars at box offices worldwide), Marvel Studios has accomplished an extraordinary feat in franchise building; it has created a shared cinematic superhero universe based on the characters originally created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. Introducing its heroes across five movies was ambitious enough (Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America), but betting that all of those characters could fit together in The Avengers was a huge gamble for Marvel, and it’s remarkable that it paid off as well as it did.

Yet something got lost in the shuffle of all those movies. Marvel Studios did a pretty good job of putting intelligent, capable female characters in its pictures: Pepper Potts, the level-headed executive; Betty Ross and Jane Foster, the brilliant scientists; Natasha Romanoff, the kick-ass S.H.I.E.L.D. agent; Sif, the Asgardian swordswoman; and my favorite, Peggy Carter, the quick-witted British intelligence officer. Potts and Romanoff returned for The Avengers, with the latter getting a sizable chunk of screen time, and S.H.I.E.L.D. deputy Maria Hill was added to the mix, but still some fans were disappointed not to see a second female Avenger on the team.

The future of the shared universe seems assured given The Avengers movie’s record-breaking take, so there’s ample opportunity to add some women to the franchise. But with almost 50 years of continuity to draw from, which characters will they choose?SPOILER WARNING: The following contains spoilers for The Avengers.

Before we get to the names, a couple of ground rules. It seems likely that any movie Avenger should have either been an Avenger in the comics, or at least have been strongly affiliated with the Avengers, though I have a few wildcard suggestions as well. Any character added to the team ought to be capable of supporting their own movie, even if they follow the Black Widow route of debuting in someone else’s movie rather than the Iron Man/Hulk/Thor/Cap route of debuting in their own.

Marvel Studios doesn’t actually own the movie rights to some of its biggest names, so those characters are out of contention. Storm and Invisible Woman are tied up at Fox with the rest of the X-Men and the Fantastic Four families of characters; Scarlet Witch is the daughter of the X-Men’s Magneto, so she’s almost certainly off the table; and it’s very unlikely that Sony, whose Columbia Pictures produces the Spider-Man films, would let Marvel Studios introduce a character named Spider-Woman. Even the fact that Firestar is a mutant may make her unusable. (Correction: As some of you have pointed out, Marvel Studios production president Kevin Feige has said that Scarlet Witch could appear in either Avengers or X-Men, so she’s not completely off the table, but she’s not without some unique complications.)

So who does that leave?

THE BIG GUNS

These ladies seem like the obvious choices; they’re team veterans, some of them are even team leaders, and they’re the most familiar names. But that doesn’t necessarily make them the best candidates.

Wasp (Janet Van Dyne), created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee

Why? If there’s a female Avengers big three to match the boys (Captain America, Iron Man and Thor), it’s surely the Scarlet Witch, Wasp and Black Widow. Not only were they the first three female members, but they’ve also been regular fixtures on the roster, and they’ve all lead an Avengers team. Black Widow is already in the movie lineup, and if Scarlet Witch is out, that leaves Wasp, an original founding member. She was discussed as a possible movie member before The Avengers was made, and her power set — shrinking, flying, bio-electric stings and the ability to talk to insects — is distinctive, so she’s a natural choice.

Why Not? Wasp’s big problem is that she’s a spin-off character who got her powers from her husband. If the movie wants to respect that origin, she has to come to the team as a two-for-one deal with Hank Pym. If the movie doesn’t want to respect that origin, it undermines the planned Ant-Man movie. However, an Ant-Man movie would be the perfect place to introduce Jan, and if the Ant-Man movie doesn’t happen I still think she’s a solid pick.

Recruit Rating: 5/5

She-Hulk (Jennifer Walters), created by John Buscema and Stan Lee

Why? She-Hulk is a great character – smart, sharp, and a physical powerhouse with a look that really sets her apart. If the comics are any indicator, she’s a much better Avengers recruit than the Hulk. She’s not as strong, but she’s much more reliable by virtue of the fact that she has full control over her powers. Also, she’s a lawyer, which could conceivably come in handy as well as offer a possible route for inclusion (S.H.I.E.L.D. and Tony Stark need lawyers, right?)

Why Not? Sadly for She-Hulk, the Avengers movie has done a better job of making the Hulk (and Banner) a viable Avenger than the comics ever did. It’s unlikely that there would be room for two Hulks on the team, so unless Hulk is moved back into the threat column, I don’t think we’ll ever see She-Hulk except as a possible cameo in a Hulk movie.

Recruit Rating: 2/5

Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers), created by Gene Colan, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway and John Buscema

Why? Carol Danvers is one of the few female characters with a basic Superman power set — strength, speed, flight and invulnerability — so she belongs in the same league as Thor and Iron Man. Marvel has tried time and again to create a Superman of their own; they’ve only recently realized they already had one. Carol’s origin story — a military pilot caught in the explosion of a weird alien device — fits comfortably with the cosmic direction the movies are heading in.

Why Not? Carol has some complications — her ties to the alien race known as the Kree, her relationship with Rogue of the X-Men, the terrible Marcus storyline — but those can all be abandoned in a movie reboot. She’s not the first Captain Marvel, but the movies don’t need to get into all that. It’s possible her involvement in the AKA Jessica Jones television series might complicate matters. The ABC network confirmed that it passed on the proposed series, but it may yet turn up elsewhere. Nevertheless, Carol Danvers is probably the strongest candidate for the movie Avengers.

Recruit Rating: 5/5

Tigra (Greer Grant Nelson), created by Tony Isabella, Don Perlin, Linda Fite, Roy Thomas, and Marie Severin

Why? Tigra doesn’t get a lot of respect, possibly because she fights crime in a bikini, or possibly because she’s a human cat. Still, there’s already plenty of weirdness in the movie universe, and the team doesn’t have a good feral scrapper. If the movies can smooth out her complicated science/magic origin story with all its “guardian of the Cat People” hooey and put her in a sensible outfit, she could be a good fit.

Why Not? As much as I’d like to see Tigra get some positive attention, she is still a furry woman in a bikini. Giving her credibility may require a substantial overhaul.

Recruit Rating: 3/5

Monica Rambeau, created by John Romita, Jr. and Roger Stern

Why? Like Carol Danvers, Monica was once known as Captain Marvel, and like Carol she would be easy enough to reintroduce thanks to her generic “freak accident/weird device” origin. Her power to transform into pure energy and travel at incredible speeds are completely different from Carol’s abilities, and she would give the team a speedster who isn’t the usual “running man.” And let’s just put it out there; Monica would provide balance not just for the team’s maleness, but also for its whiteness.

Why Not? Carol Danvers is arguably a more likely recruit because she has greater prominence, and there may not be room for two Captains Marvel on the team even if one of them goes by another name. Additionally, while it’s true that Monica’s exploits have been confined mainly to the Avengers titles, her origins are in The Amazing Spider-Man, and it seems possible that could be an obstacle on her path to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Recruit Rating: 4/5

Mockingbird (Bobbi Morse), created by Neal Adams, Len Wein, Mike Friedrich, George Evans, Steven Grant, Jimmy James and Mark Gruenwald

Why? Hawkeye’s martial artist sometime-wife started out as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and she doesn’t have any powers, so it would be easy to introduce her.

Why Not? The Marvel cinematic universe has exactly one female superhero, Black Widow, and she’s a martial artist S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who hangs out with Hawkeye. We don’t need two of those. We need characters who show that women can have superpowers too. Any female Avenger whose main ability is “kicking things athletically” is surplus to requirements, so that also rules out Hellcat (Patsy Walker) and Echo (Maya Lopez). Maybe Bobbi can turn up as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent rather than as an Avenger?

Recruit Rating: 1/5

Sharon Carter, created by Dick Ayers, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee

Why? Let’s face it, Sharon Carter seems like a dead cert for introduction into the Marvel cinematic universe. She’s the character most likely to crop up as Captain America’s slightly awkward new love interest, a relative of his possibly dead previous love interest. It’s even possible we already saw her in the closing scenes of Captain America: The First Avenger, played by Amanda Righetti.

Why Not? Unfortunately, like Bobbi Morse, she’s redundant as an Avengers recruit because she’s another un-powered S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. I would love to see the Helicarrier decks filled with characters like Morse, Carter, and the fabulous Contessa Valentina Allegra di Fontaine, but if any non-Fury S.H.I.E.L.D. agent is going to get Avengers screen time it’s probably Maria Hill.

Recruit Rating: 2/5

THE SECOND STRINGERS

There have been a lot of Avengers over the years. Not all of them were superstars, but a lot of them had cult appeal. Fans may think of these guys as B-list (or lower), but to most of the movie audience they’re as unfamiliar as Hawkeye, so they should be judged on their own merits.

Mantis, created by Steve Englehart and Don Heck

Why? The cosmically-tinged martial arts master could be a good fit if Thanos is the villain in Avengers 2, as the characters move in similar circles. Mantis is also one of only three Asian Avengers (the others are recent recruits Amadeus Cho and Shang Chi), so she would add diversity (though the Ultimate universe gives precedent for making Wasp Asian as well).

Why? There’s this whole Celestial Madonna thing that I don’t think any sane person should touch. (It was a Steve Englehart joint.) Having the only Asian character be a meditating martial artist could look outdated, and Mantis would be a better fit for the rumored Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Also, she refers to herself as “this one,” which is super-annoying.

Recruit Rating: 2/5

Moondragon (Heather Douglas), created by Bill Everett, Mike Friedrich and George Tuska

Why? Another Earth-born cosmic martial artist, but I find Moondragon much more interesting than Mantis, and her origin is directly tied to Thanos; she was trained to take him on. Her arrogance, telepathy and scientific skills would add layers to the teams dynamic, and she’s a queer bald chick who used to call herself Madam MacEvil, which is awesome.

Why Not? Bringing in Moondragon may mean including the Eternals in Thanos’s story, which may or may not be part of Marvel’s plans. Because Moondragon is a bald telepath, people will think she’s Professor X in a leather corset. (Can we get James McAvoy for that?) Also, I don’t think anyone loves Moondragon as much as I do.

Recruit Rating: 3/5

Sersi, created by Jack Kirby

Why? If Marvel is going to tackle the Eternals — Thanos’s strange family of cosmic gods — they might well introduce one of the three Eternals who was also an Avenger. Starfox’s “pleasure” powers are problematic, and The Forgotten One is eminently forgettable, so that leaves Sersi, a character who neatly bridges the worlds of magic and super-science.

Why Not? As a millenia-old “sorceress,” Sersi would be a tough fit. Her powers of molecular transmutation, teleportation, telepathy and illusion casting, on top of the Superman power set, are just too big for the team. She would need to be significantly scaled down.

Recruit Rating: 2/5

Crystal (Crystal Amaquelin), created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee

Why ? Elemental manipulation is a very cinematic power, even if M. Night Shyamalan couldn’t build a good movie around it in his film The Last Airbender.

Why Not? Bringing in Crystal means bringing in the Inhumans, and that’s a lot to ask unless you’re making them the subject of your movie. Also, Crystal and the Inhumans are surely more closely linked to the Fantastic Four than the Avengers, which may preclude induction into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Add in Crystal’s canonical relationship with Magneto’s son and it may be too big a headache to untangle her. (And does anyone actually like Crystal?)

Recruit Rating: 2/5

Kate Bishop, created by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung

Why? She’s a young, female Hawkeye!

Why Not? She’s a young, female Hawkeye. Female versions of male characters are a weak sell. She-Hulk has more distinction than most characters in that class, and she’s unlikely to make the cut, so characters like Kate Bishop and Valkyrie — effectively a female Thor — rate very low.

Recruit Rating: 1/5

Jocasta, created by Jim Shooter and George Pérez

Why? She’s a robot. Kids love robots.

Why Not? Jocasta is a robot built by a robot, and that robot was built by Henry Pym, and Jocasta’s brain patterns were modelled on The Wasp. Getting to Jocasta would either take about five movies or some really thorough exposition. If The Avengers are going to have an artificial member it seems likely that The Vision will be top of that short list – though the Ultimate Universe sets a precedent for The Vision being female.

Recruit Rating: 2/5

Firebird (Bonita Juarez), created by Sal Buscema and Bill Mantlo

Why? If Firestar is too mutanty for the Avengers, the team’s original fire girl is available for work.

Why Not? There’s a reason Firebird is available for work. This may be a good time to mention a few second-stringers who are really down on the third or fourth string. Audiences are not going to get excited by guys like Rage, Stingray, Jack of Hearts or Doctor Druid, and that also goes for gals like Silverclaw, Lionheart, Deathcry and Magdalene. Look, I love Jack of Hearts, but even I don’t think he should be in a movie.

Recruit Rating: 1/5

Power Woman (Jessica Jones), created by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos

Why? There was talk of Jessica Jones getting her own TV show set in the Marvel movie universe, so there’s clearly interest in developing the character.

Why Not? But the TV show isn’t happening this year, so that leaves Jessica in limbo — though the series hasn’t been officially scrapped altogether. Jessica is really more interesting when she’s not a superhero, and Jessica’s tenure as an Avenger must have one of the lowest issue counts. (Mind you, the same can be said for the Hulk.)

Recruit Rating: 2/5

Quake (Daisy Johnson), created by Brian Michael Bendis and Gabriele Dell’Otto

Why? Daisy is another S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, but she has actual superpowers, which either makes her a top candidate or the ’00s version of the Vamp. Her earthquake powers could put her in the heavyweight class.

Why Not? I have a sneaking suspicion that Brian Michael Bendis is the only person who really likes Daisy Johnson, and she kind of looks exactly like Maria Hill.

Recruit Rating: 3/5

THE WILD CARDS

There are some characters who have never been Avengers but who exist in a close-enough orbit to the team or to S.H.I.E.L.D. that they could plausibly earn a spot. And if the movie did add them, you just know the comics would follow suit.

Power Princess (Zarda), created by Roy Thomas, John Buscema, J.M DeMatteis, Don Perlin, J. Michael Straczynski and Gary Frank

Why? She’s a member of the Ultimates, and there’s plenty of precedent for the movie Avengers taking inspiration from the Ultimate Universe – most notably Samuel L Jackson’s Nick Fury. Like She-Hulk, Power Princess is a physical powerhouse, but unlike She-Hulk she’s not a Hulk.

Why Not? DC Comics’ lawyers may not be delighted if Marvel starts selling Slurpee cups with an analogue of Wonder Woman on them. Not going to happen.

Recruit Rating: 1/5

Initiative Recruits

Why? Ultra Girl. Cloud 9. Thor Girl. Geiger. These or any of the girls in comics’ Avengers Initiative could find their way to the movie universe as inexperienced wannabe heroes picked up by S.H.I.E.L.D.

Why Not? Some of these characters aren’t very well established. A lot of them are too similar to existing Avengers (hey, Thor Girl) or too similar to potential Avengers (Ultra Girl is a junior Captain Marvel; Stature is a junior Giant Man). But most importantly, the Avengers isn’t really a place for teenagers.

Recruit Rating: 2/5

Namora, created by Ken Bald and Syd Shores

Why? Namora was a member of Nick Fury’s recently revealed 1950s team. That probably didn’t exist in the movie universe, but maybe Atlantis does, and Namora is another strong alternative powerhouse to She-Hulk. She’s also one of Marvel’s only super-powered survivors from the Golden Age, which I think gives her a certain pedigree.

Why Not? Namora is not going to show up without Namor, and Namor is the star — and having characters with such similar names is the sort of comic book dorkiness that shouldn’t move to the movies. Maybe they can call her Aquaria instead? Or… Marrina?

Recruit Rating: 1/5

Moonstone (Karla Sofen), created by Marv Wolfman, Frank Robbins, Roger Stern and Sal Buscema

Why ? Could a Dark Avenger be an Avenger? Sofen is smart and powerful; she could well be a S.H.I.E.L.D. psychologist who stumbles onto the extraterrestrial source of her powers as part of the Thanos storyline.

Why Not? Despite some flirtations with heroics, Moonstone seems better suited to villainy. That shouldn’t rule her out — it would be interesting to see an Avenger lured over to the dark side — but it might be a shame if that happened to one of the only women on the team.

Recruit Rating: 3/5

Quasar (Phyla-Vell), created by Peter David and Paul Azaceta

Why? There was an Avenger called Quasar. It wasn’t this one. But why not pretend the other one never existed and put this one in his place? She has better powers, and if aliens are going to be a feature in a Thanos storyline, Phyla could easily come from outer space to warn the Avengers about the cosmic threat. In my mind that makes her an excellent candidate. (Putting both her and Moondragon on the team as a couple would also be amazing, but that will never ever happen.)

Why Not? Can we get to Phyla-Vell without Mar-Vell and Genis-Vell? Yeah, probably. But like Mantis or Moondragon, Phyla may be a better fit for Guardians of the Galaxy, which she was actually a member of.

Recruit Rating: 4/5

Abigail Brand, created by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday

Why? Thanos is an alien, and Abigail Brand is the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in charge of dealing with alien threats. (Technically she’s S.W.O.R.D., but why complicate things?) Although they are seldom seen, her half-alien heritage gives her energy-wielding superpowers that set her apart from most S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Additionally, she was co-created by Avengers writer/director Joss Whedon, and certainly it would be a treat for him to cast her in a sequel should he choose to sit in the director’s chair again.

Why Not? Brand seems like a team leader rather than a team player, so while it would be great to see her in S.H.I.E.L.D., she might not belong on the Avengers. The fact that she’s part alien may be tough to explain in a world that didn’t know about extraterrestrial powers before Thor came along. And of course, her origins are firmly ensconced in the X-Men titles, presumably leaving her in the domain of 20th Century Fox and not Marvel Studios.

Recruit Rating: 3/5

Misty Knight, created by Tony Isabella, Arvell Jones, Chris Claremont and John Byrne

Why? This is my biggest wildcard, because Misty Knight’s only connection to the Avengers is that her boyfriend Iron Fist has been a member since the day before yesterday (and technically she was in the alternate reality House of M Avengers). But if Luke Cage can make the comics team, I don’t see why another ’70s blaxploitation-inspired Hero for Hire can’t make the movie team, and this one is a cyborg. They don’t have a cyborg! (Her partner Colleen Wing is not a cyborg, and therefore less fun.)

Why Not? Well, purists will complain. But don’t you want to see Misty mixing it up with Iron Man and Thor? Come on! She’s perfect!

Recruit Rating: 4/5

Those are the options — some very plausible, some extremely unlikely — but there is one other possibility. They could go with none of the above. Marvel Studios could add Ant-Man, Black Panther, Vision, Doctor Strange and, heck, maybe D-Man, Triathlon and Darkhawk in the next movie and still leave Black Widow abandoned at a super-sausage party. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen. Let’s hope at least one of these women gets recruited.

For more on the Avengers sequel, visit our colleagues at Moviefone, who’ve speculated on the story of the much anticipated film.

Graphics by Dylan Todd.

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