The Superhero Genre Evolution


Gone are the days when ‘superhero’ was a rigid term, only used to describe a buff white man in a cape. As Marvel’s film universe continues to expand outwards and DC’s catalogue grows alongside, so does the genre as a whole. It’s evolving into an inclusive free-for-all instead of the exclusive criteria it once was and that is a lot more important than you would think.

We’re all used to the out-dated cliché of male lead, female support but that’s getting a long-overdue redevelopment for something more modern. With Marvel’s recent announcement of a standalone Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers film, their intentions are clear. They’re giving us something completely unexpected we thought we’d never get, but always wanted: a female lead.

DC/Warner Brothers recently made headlines (beating Marvel to the punch) when they announced a Wonder Woman movie on the horizon which is the first female-led title in this wave of releases. They’re also searching for a lady to direct the film which is absolutely huge as this would make her only the second woman to ever direct a superhero flick (first being Lexi Alexander for Punisher: War Zone).

This lady-led influence (female power, if you will), extends from the silver screen to our TV sets with the introduction of Marvel’s ass-kicking ex-S.H.I.E.L.D member, Agent Carter. “Sometimes the best man for the job is a woman” opens the trailer and is the notion that drives the whole thing. That powerful statement seems to be directing the Marvel/DC head space at the moment and is being welcomed with open arms.

The world was long overdue for a change in superhero dynamics. We’re more than ready for women to save the world, have badass lines, be portrayed as strong and ultimately make an impact. The reason why it’s so important is because every kind of person deserves the opportunity to be the jaw-dropping good guy (or girl) on-screen, regardless of petty matters like gender, race or religion. Everyone has the potential to save the world and it seems like the production end has finally realised that, too.

In addition to this gender-based turn around, the matter of race has been given a similarly long-overdue treatment. Chadwick Boseman has been cast as Marvel’s Black Panther and will be the first black superhero in a lead role within this Marvel generation. While Nick Fury, Heimdall and Falcon made a crucial impact in their respective films, the main difference is that Black Panther will carry the film, rather than just support the heroes. Additionally, Boseman will make history as Black Panther/T’Challa will be the first African superhero (rather than African-American)  in a western made film. *applause*

To see such a selection of characters who were once in the background shift right to the forefront is game-changing. The definition of what it means to be a superhero is going change so drastically from here on out that absolutely anyone will be able to reach for it, and that is truly something to marvel at.

How is this going to make a difference you ask? Well, everyone has a fictional character they admire or relate to, that inspires their actions in some way and these upcoming heroes will do exactly that for a whole new section of the population. But the most important part of all this is that it’s sending a positive message to society; heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Perhaps these convention-shattering decisions will extend from fantasy to reality and influence the world’s attitudes for the better. Only time will tell.

A journalism student who's committed to achieving big things in life one step at a time.

1 Comment

  • Reply October 31, 2014

    Ben Roberts

    There was also Tank Girl directed by Rachel Talalay. Not a superhero movie per se, but it was based on a comic and had a sort of origin story feel to it.

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