Critics and fans have both praised Marvel’s new movie dynasty for both its entertainment value and its capable female characters. Black Widow clearly holds her own beside the rest of her Avengers counterparts, and fans joke that Iron Man 3 could perhaps have been called Pepper Potts because the climactic point of the movie actually involves Pepper, Tony Stark’s capable female business partner, becoming a superhero and saving the day while he’s incapacitated.
I love Pepper Potts and everything she did in Iron Man 3, but her scenes found me questioning why Marvel hadn’t just given Pepper her own movie — or why I kept finding Marvel heroes of color like Falcon and War Machine, who were perfectly capable heroes from the comics, in supporting roles in the movies.
Meanwhile, Ant-Man, another white male hero (between Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Captain America, and Hawkeye, Marvel has a lot of these) with a history of abuse gets his own movie. I don’t buy it. Here’s my attempt to #FixIt with six alternatives to the upcoming standalone Ant-Man movie. They were chosen based on copyright (meaning no X-Men, because Sony owns those rights), their relevance to the general story to the current Marvel dynasty universe, potential for good storytelling and diversity.
#6: The Wasp
In the Marvel comics, there were five original Avengers: Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, Ant-Man and Janet Van Dyne, whose hero code name was the Wasp. She’d fit into continuity nicely because she’s already going to be in the upcoming Ant-Man movie.
The Wasp often operates as a team with her husband, but she also has her own standalone stories in the comics. It’s not too much of a stretch to suggest that she be the subject of a standalone movie instead of her husband? She also has better superpowers. Both Wasp and Ant-Man gain their superpowers by using the same “Pym particles” and share the same size-shifting powers. In addition to Ant-Man’s size-shifting powers, the Wasp can also shoot energy blasts when she shrinks (like wasp stings).
If Marvel is looking for a nod to the original Avengers, the Wasp is a much better choice than Ant-Man. In the comics, she’s the one who comes up with the name “Avengers” in the first place.
In the Marvel comic universe, Mantis operates within both the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy circles. Both groups exist within Marvel’s current movie dynasty, and Mantis’s versatility from the comics would translate easily into the movies as a standalone character.
Mantis stands apart from other Marvel heroes because she is an Asian American woman who fights evil on Earth and in outer space. Though she is a victim of the All Asians Know Martial Arts trope, that doesn’t have to translate into her movie because that’s just part of her several superpowers in the comics, including psychic empathy, the ability to heal injuries with her will and control over her own autonomic body functions like breathing and heart rate.
In the comics, she also has a child, which would provide interesting story material should the Marvel universe decide to pursue the idea of a hero who is also a parent.
#4: Luke Cage
Luke Cage has recognition on his side, as he is one of the better-known characters in the Marvel Universe and has worked as somewhat of a mercenary in the Marvel comic universe, which would make his introduction into the current Marvel movies very easy. He has super strength and has been known to operate a super suit or two from the Stark International closet.
Later in the comics, he helps start his own team, a whole group of hero mercenaries called Heroes for Hire, which could start a whole new movie arc of its own or be very useful to the current set of movies (especially since the movies are going to stretch out over at least ten years and it’s to be expected that some of the current Marvel actors aren’t always going to be available).
#3: Iron Fist
The movie about Iron Fist, the Marvel hero who prefers to fight unarmed (because his superpower is, you know, fists of burning metal) has actually been in development for around four years. Iron Fist splits his time between fighting crime on Earth and fighting crime in K’un-Lun, an Asian-esque city that sometimes materializes in the Himalayas.
Iron Fist balances navigating the complicated politics of K’un-Lun with helping out the Avengers and going on side missions with his buddy Luke Cage. He’s a versatile hero with a lot more potential than Ant-Man, which leaves me asking why his movie wasn’t prioritized above Ant-Man’s.
#2: Black Panther
A movie about Black Panther, like the movie about Iron Fist, has been in development for about four years. Black Panther is a chieftain of the Panther Clan in the fictional African nation of Wakanda, which is very scientifically advanced. Besides having a superhero skill set based around hunting (strength, speed, awesome tracking abilities), Black Panther is also a capable scientist and has retractable claws made out of vibranium, one of the strongest materials in the Marvel universe. Vibranium also happens to be conveniently located in Wakanda.
Black Panther balances being a superhero with ruling over his people, much like Thor does in the current movie universe. While much of Thor’s storyline comes from Norse mythology, a lot of Black Panther’s storylines were based in human history, dealing with civil war and apartheid in South Africa. It would be interesting to see that storyline updated for other current events, much like Captain America: The Winter Soldier touched on the loss of privacy in the U.S.
#1: Captain Marvel
Captain Marvel, or Monica Rambeau, is one of the more interesting Marvel superheroes. Given superpowers after exposure to an array of inter-dimensional energies, Captain Marvel has the power to transform herself into any energy within the electromagnetic spectrum, meaning she can absorb energy attacks, momentarily exchange whole parts of her body with energy to attack or defend herself and also become invisible. It probably isn’t a surprise, then, that she ends up leading the Avengers for a while in the comics. What Iron Man can do in his suit, she can do with her body. Awesome.
Her unique experience with her powers means that she’d fit right in with all of the technology-themed plots of the Marvel movies and would provide some truly impressive opportunities for CGI. There’s a movie I’d love to see.
Marvel has built itself a universe full of different characters from different worlds — reaching for some diversity isn’t a stretch because it has created hundreds of characters over the years. I find it a shame that Marvel would limit itself to a certain kind of hero when these are just six of several more colorful (and okay, just cooler) heroes out there.