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Marvel deity and godfather of comics Stan Lee revealed in an interview that the superhero Black Widow (a.k.a. Natasha Romanova a.k.a. the character Scarlet Johansson plays in The Avengers) might eventually be getting her own movie. There is one drawback: it sounds like she'll have to wait until a bunch of no-name dudes get their movies first.  

"They are going to do the Black Panther. They are going to use Doctor Strange. They are going to do Ant-Man. They are going to do the Guardians of the Galaxy. And they’ll probably do the Inhumans," Lee told the folks at Too Fab, referring to upcoming films in the works. All those characters and teams (Medusa's hair is going to be amazing) mentioned have yet to be introduced into the Marvel film universe, and the news that Marvel is planning to expand on those characters is exciting.

What isn't really all that thrilling, however, is that Lee doesn't seem as excited for the prospect for Black Widow, one of Marvel's few female faces, to commandeer her own solo film. Nor does he seem particularly thrilled at the the idea of a female superhero movie:

Well probably at one time ... they’ll make a movie of the Black Widow. The thing is the women like these movies as much as the guys, so we don’t have to knock ourselves out to find a female ... but we will.

Think about that premise for a second, and you could see how any studio executive could effectively kill — using that same justification, more or less —  any superhero that would diversify the Marvel's pool of straight, white, male, heroes. That logic makes it sound like there's no incentive for Marvel to make a movie featuring a black, Latino, or Asian superhero, since those audiences are theoretically already paying money to see movies like The Avengers. Why bother, the thinking goes, if they're already hooked? Besides, no demographic counts as much as white men.

Last week, there was news that Ellen Page was in the beginnings of negotiating the lead role of Queen and Country, a comic book series which could have Bourne-like potential—a move that could have put pressure on DC and Marvel to respond. And that news came on the heels of Marvel's Louis D'Esposito, the producer behind Iron ManThe AvengersThor and Captain America, saying a female superhero movie is on his radar.

Lee's message also undercuts the male comic book audience. Numbers show that men have gone out to see female-led action movies like The Hunger Games and Underworld — you simply don't have the gigantic box office numbers these movies do without men showing up. Comics, as a medium, are a place to break free from the mainstream and empathize characters who are either minorities, outcasts or otherwise different from the white-bread norm. Hence the plethora of robots, mutants, shape-shifters, aliens, amazons, and, yes, women. And Lee should know this better than anyone. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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