Heroes come in many shapes and sizes, as any fan of Marvel comic books and the cinematic universe it has spawned should know.

From the gods and robots of Avengers: Age of Ultron to the talking racoons and lumbering tree-creatures of Guardians of the Galaxy, we are able to immerse ourselves in an action adventure world where seemingly anyone may be a hero.


As many modern cinemagoers already know, the Marvel cinematic universe is a sprawling spider web spread over many movies encompassing the comic book adventures of the likes of Thor, Captain America and Iron Man.


Oh, and Black Widow.


Black Widow, trained assassin, striving to atone for the bad she has done by fighting for the good guys — played by Scarlett Johansson in the Avengers movies.


And yet she is somehow deemed undeserving of her own film and is conspicuous by her absence from toys based on some of her coolest cinematic scenes.


I probably wouldn’t whinge so much if it stopped there, but it doesn’t.


The face of green-skinned Gamora is somehow absent from T-shirts depicting the characters from Guardians of the Galaxy.


Beyond that, it seems to me there is a deplorable lack of female heroes in films and stories.


Fans of heroic women will have to wait until DC’s Wonder Woman makes it to the screen in 2017 — some nine years after Marvel’s first Iron Man movie, and a whopping 36 years after Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley booted her first xenomorph from an airlock — for their needs to be met.


There is an argument to be made that the demographic just isn’t there, that a corporate entity like Marvel won’t risk its money making a film that breaks out of the company’s tried-and-true male hero mould because its core audience is men.


But this argument assumes teenage boys and men don’t want to see action films with women in lead roles.


The success of the Alien franchise, the first two Terminator films and Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s seven-year run on the small screen suggests that is anything but the case.


It also assumes girls and women do not watch action/fantasy films, and that is clearly not so.


The Hunger Games, Frozen, Twilight and Mad Max Fury Road are all films which have found phenomenal success in the fantasy genre with women in lead roles, suggesting the female demographic has money to spend, and at least some of those films’ heroes have managed to kick butt without putting off male film-goers.


The great shame of it is the fact that it is the big studios like Marvel, whose movies have an in-built audience and record opening weekends, that can afford to take business risks, if, indeed, getting Scarlett Johansson to fight people for two hours is truly a risk.


Growing up in an age when Lynda Carter appeared on TV as Wonder Woman on a weekly basis, I never questioned the notion that women could be heroes, not just damsels in distress.


That, as I prepare for fatherhood later this year, is the kind of world I would like my own children to experience.


Until then, I’ll be over here, watching my Buffy boxsets.

Tim Sadleir is a sub-editor with West Australian Regional Newspapers.


© The West Australian

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