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Opinion: Where Are All The Wonder Women?

It’s been another bumper year for the comic book industry on the big screen.

Hits like Man of Steel , The Wolverine and Iron Man 3 have cemented the genre’s top billing by busting blocks at the box office.

That trend continues this week as Chris Hemsworth returns as the hammer-wielding hero in Thor: The Dark World .

No one would begrudge the likeable Aussie his success, after all his character has been one of the surprise hits of Marvel’s assault on the movie industry; a second string superhero who’s been thrust into the limelight thanks to his role in the Avengers universe.

But does anyone else find it strange that we’re about to see a sometime popular Asgardian god get his third cinematic outing, yet one of the most famous superheroines of all time is yet to make it to the big screen?

I’m talking of course about Wonder Woman, but the same is true for superheroines in general who’ve barely got a look in amongst the current cinematic sausagefest.

Since the comic book bubble started more than a decade ago, we’ve seen scores of superheroes make it to the screen, and yet a female fronted film is conspicuous by its absence. True, there are strong women in superhero films. Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster is a prime example, as is Amy Adams’ Lois Lane ( Man of Steel ), Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts ( Iron Man ) and Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter ( Captain America: The First Avenger ).

There’s also the catsuit-clad figures of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow ( The Avengers ) and Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman ( The Dark Knight Rises ) to consider.

But even amongst this laundry list of A-list actresses there’s still not a single leading lady to be found.

Instead it’s probably fair to say that to a woman their characters have been little more than supporting roles, damsels in distress or sideshows whose existence is entirely defined by the masculine main attraction.

So why aren’t there any superheroines on our screens?

In a recent interview Marvel studios’ Louis D’Esposito suggested that it’s simply a case of manpower (or should that be womanpower?) and that there’s just not enough room on the slate for the company to focus on a female fronted film.

However when you consider that Marvel’s upcoming productions include obscure characters like Ant-Man and intergalactic curiosities like Rocket Racoon, it’s an argument that doesn’t seem to hold much water.

(Although, on the plus side, it looks like Karen Gillan and Zoe Saldana will kick serious ass in Guardians of the Galaxy - here's Gillan getting excited about an Avengers crossover...)

Still, perhaps the most likely reason behind the lack of female-fronted films is that there simply isn’t an appetite to take a punt on an adaptation without a Y chromisomal character at its heart.

Indeed the industry has had its fingers burned before with flops like Elektra , Catwoman and Sucker Punch suggesting that film fans simply aren’t ready for female fronted films; even if Jennifer Lawerence’s presence in The Hunger Games is a compelling argument to the contrary.

Another issue is that there simply aren’t that many cinema-ready superheroines to work with.

Despite a concerted effort to redress the balance in recent years, the comic book industry is still a typically masculine domain; an arena that’s more Power Girl than girl power.

As a result the heroines who do grace the funny pages can often feel like little more than superpowered arm candy, characters who’ve had more effort put into the design of their skimpy crime-fighting attire than their backstory.

All of which brings us back to Wonder Woman, a character with more than 70 years of history who’s up there with Superman and Batman in terms of DC’s big hitting heroes.

She’s a bonafide icon, a heroine who’s recognised around the world and whose image is emblazoned on all manner of merchandise. So why hasn’t she made the leap from strip to screen?

There have been attempts to bring Double Dubya to the screen before of course. A failed pilot here, a discarded Joss Whedon script there. DC’s inability to get even the most basic of adaptations off of the ground is of course part of the problem, whilst a golden lasso and an invisible plane don’t exactly dovetail with the current trend for gritty realistic superhero cinema.

But if the comic book publisher really do want to make up some ground on their arch-rivals at the box office, then they could do a lot worse than taking a risk on the Amazing Amazon and blazing a trail for superheroines on the big screen along the way.

To watch Thor 's cast chat about what they'd love to see in Thor 3 - including a rather brilliant sub-plot suggestion from Kat Dennings - just watch our video below...

Daniel is a freelance film writer; you can watch him ignore his own advice by repeatedly talking about trailers on Twitter @danielbettridge .

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