Fans ready for Marvel's female superhero blockbuster will have to settle for the next best thing — a promise from Avengers writer and director Joss Whedon that Black Widow, the sole female superhero in the Avengers sausage-fest, will play a 'huge' part in the movie franchise's sequel. And that promise has already sent some fanboys reeling. Whedon's actual promise this summer:
Natasha is a huge part of the sequel, because you do want to concentrate on the people who don’t have their own franchises.
Huge doesn't necessarily mean more airtime, but it does seem to hint that Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow/Scarlett Johansson will be a cornerstone in the Avengers sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron. It's good news for those who want to see more female characters in Marvel movies — the company seems to change its mind every 15 minutes on whether or not it wants a female superhero headlining her own film. There was even talk of Black Widow getting her own film ... but only after a bunch of other male characters.
Still, Whedon's the decision has rubbed some comics fans the wrong way. "I’m assuming 'huge' is a jump up from her 'unreasonably large' role in the first Avengers. Listen folks, I love Black Widow (especially her much more intimidating, much more ruthless comic book iteration), but I have to disagree with Whedon," wrote Steve L. on Unleash the Fanboy. Adding, " I don’t shell out $60 for a pair of 3-D tickets, a large popcorn, and that oddly delicious radioactive nacho cheese to watch a $200 million spectacle comprised of B-list heroes."
That column opened up a can of worms. "For me, I just think she's boring. She didn't come across to me as cold and calculating, just boring," a Redditor wrote, explaining why he or she wasn't thrilled with the decision. And some of the discussion then evolved into speculation about why a character like Black Widow would have a "huge" role in a movie featuring behemoths like Thor and Ironman. Some surmised that the biggest contribution her character could muster up would be her death. "It makes sense to drop her character because as they continue to add to the roster of heroes with powers, a normal chick with a pistol and luchador fighting moves seems rather boring," another Redditor opined.
This is all even more evidence that Marvel hasn't really delivered on its female heroes. Because it didn't develop Black Widow enough, because the Avengers film only chose to go with one female superhero — the Age of Ultron comic featured the Invisible Woman and She-Hulk in major roles — and because it did not spend as much time fleshing the character out as it did with its male superheroes, the studio is now seemingly faced with two options: propping up what feels to fans like a token character or fans thinking that the only thing she can contribute is her death.
Those aren't good places. And it brings us back to square one — Marvel needs to take a page from its own comics and realize that its female characters are part of the reason people read comic books. Bring a character to life that isn't just a prop or a means to an end, and you'll have fans willing to take her seriously.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.