The Future of the DC Universe Needs to Be Female

With January rapidly coming to a close, the reveal of James Gunn and Peter Safran’s DC Studios slate could come at any time, with Gunn having previously confirmed that he and Safran will reveal the first few projects from the first chapter of the new DC Universe sometime this month. And while fans are waiting with bated breath, eagerly anticipating the announcement and making their best guesses as to what will be revealed when the announcement finally comes, there’s an argument to be made for something that the DC Universe needs in its next iteration: more female characters and stories centering around them.

That’s right, the future of the DC Universe needs to be female, and it largely comes down to three major points. The first is that the existing DC Universe has only scratched the surface in terms of female characters with interesting and complex stories that contribute to the larger universe. The second is that we’ve already seen female-led stories in DC on the small screen that somewhat pave the way for an expansion in the DCU. And thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, there’s an audience for these stories, with women being a fast-growing demographic in comic book entertainment as well as the performance of films such as Black Panther: Wakanda Forever being proof that female-driven stories are successful at the box office and beyond.

DC has a wealth of female characters — not just Wonder Woman and Harley Quinn

It’s not an exaggeration to say that, when it comes to comic book adaptations and superhero stories, it’s largely been a man’s world — particularly when it comes to DC’s side of things. Yes, Wonder Woman has had her own franchise of films and Harley Quinn has had a moment to shine in a female-centric film, not only do those two characters merely scratch the surface of interesting heroes — and villains — in the DC Universe. Characters like Zatanna, Supergirl, Batgirl, Catwoman, Hawkgirl, and Black Canary all are major characters with rich comic book histories and stories that would make for great film projects that could work well in a larger, connected universe. Digging even deeper, there are some more “obscure” characters with great potential as well. Fire and Ice are both notable examples of characters with great story potential that could work very well in a larger context. And, once you start building a DC Universe with more expanded female characters than what we’ve seen in the past, the door is open for even lesser-known characters to appear in supporting roles, only enriching the storytelling environment even as we move into stories centered around major male characters. It’s a win for everyone — and it’s also why the cancellation of the Batgirl film remains such a heartbreak for many fans.

Television has already given us female-centered superhero stories — and they’re good

While DC’s theatrical offerings have been largely male-centric, on the small screen, female heroes and characters have had a strong presence — and not just in the DC Universe. On the Marvel side of things, shows like Jessica Jones, Agent Carter, Agents of SHIELD, WandaVision, and She Hulk: Attorney at Law all told strong and engaging stories that were anchored — if not completely driven by — female heroes and villains. DC has also had some female-powered shows as well. The CW’s Arrowverse had two series that were anchored by their heroines — Supergirl and Batwoman — while female supporting characters were major players for both The Flash and Arrow. DC’s Legends of Tomorrow made women a major part of the team dynamic, as did DC’s Stargirl, which also centered the show around it’s heroine in addition to telling a team story. On the HBO Max side of things, Titans and Doom Patrol both have their female heroes as major players and even Gunn’s own Peacemaker, while centered around the titular character, has its own slate of excellent female supporting characters — you can’t watch Peacemaker and not come away feeling like Emilia Harcourt (Jennifer Holland) and Danielle Brooks (Leota Adebayo) all but stole the show.

The audience for female-centered superhero stories is already there

While the saying goes “if you build it, they will come” the truth is, the fans are already there when it comes for female-centered superhero films. In terms of audience, women are already a major part of the moviegoing and overall entertainment consumer audience. According to the 2019 Theme Report from the Motion Picture Association, half of moviegoers are female. Women are also a fast-growing demographic in terms of comic book sales, with their numbers making up around 40 percent of comic book purchases. It’s a significant demographic which on its face suggests that the audience is there — and box office results takes it a bit further.

Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which debuted in November 2022, is the highest-grossing women-led superhero film in U.S. history with a domestic box office of more than $453 million dollars. The film has also grossed more than $841 million worldwide. It’s also the second top-grossing film domestically for 2022, behind Top Gun: Maverick and ahead of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. These are impressive stats and while there are those who would be quick to note that there are other factors that contribute to the success of the film beyond simply the female-led story, that’s also kind of the point. Wakanda Forever is a wonderful example of how a superhero story can be driven by female characters and stories but also serve and incorporate a larger, more inclusive narrative that carries story for a greater universe. It’s something that DC would do well to take note of as it reintroduces its own universe.

When it comes to the comic book and superhero entertainment landscape, the truth is that there needs to be more representation across the board, but in terms of the DC Universe, bringing in more female characters in meaningful roles would be an excellent start. DC needs to expand beyond big names like Wonder Woman and Harley Quinn for its larger theatrical slate and has already shown on the small screen that they know how to tell good stories with a wide range of female heroes, villains, and everything in between. The audience is already there and as Marvel has shown, women-led stories have a major place in expanding universes. With DC starting on a new journey, the time is right to let the ladies lead.


What projects and characters are you hoping to see announced in James Gunn and Peter Safran’s DC Studios slate? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.