Women, Blacks, Gays: Warner Bros. Catapults DC Ahead of Marvel in Superhero Diversity Race

Gal Gadot‘s “Wonder Woman,” Ray Fisher’s “Cyborg”, Jason Momoa‘s “Aquaman” and Ezra Miller‘s “Flash” mark milestones for the genre

While all eyes have looked to Marvel to produce a female-led superhero film, Warner Bros. and DC Comics catapulted ahead in the race on Wednesday with the announcement of a solo “Wonder Woman” film, starring Gal Gadot. The film is set to release in 2017.

Additionally, Warner Bros announced “Aquaman,” starring Jason Momoa, will be released in 2018 and gave the greenlight to a solo “Cyborg” film, to be released in 2020, starring African-American actor Ray Fisher.

DC also made history by casting out LGBT actor Ezra Miller to play superspeedster “The Flash,” getting his own solo film in 2018. Miller, who confirmed to Out Magazine that he was “queer” in 2012, becomes the first openly gay actor to lead a major superhero comic book adaptation on the big screen.

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Diversity in superhero films has been a hot-button issue in the film community.

Fox caused controversy when it cast black actor Michael B. Jordan to play Johnny Storm, aka the Human Torch, in its upcoming “Fantastic Four” reboot.

When TheWrap spoke to Jordan at Cannes in 2013, before he was officially cast as the Human Torch, the actor expressed a desire to carry on the push for diversity on screen.

“It is my responsibility as a young filmmaker, a young actor to bridge a gap between generations,” Jordan said. “I feel there’s a void – after Will (Smith) and Denzel (Washington) and a few other names, …there’s a big age gap.”

Jordan’s character is white in his original comic book form. The decision by Fox and director Josh Trank to make the character black on the big screen was met with push back from certain comic book fans, but has been heralded by others for daring to reflect a more realistic world than the one in which the original comics were launched in 1961.

For the most part, it’s the lack of diversity in superhero films that’s been scrutinized. Actors such as Jessica Chastain — herself at one time in negotiations for a role in Marvel’s “Iron Man 3”have called out the studios for their lack of lead characters featuring anyone outside of white males.

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“Where is the Scarlett Johansson superhero movie? I don’t understand it, why is it taking so long for this?” Chastain asked TheWrap rhetorically, referencing Marvel and Johansson’s Black Widow character, who has featured prominently in several films but has yet to lead her own. “This woman clearly shows that people want to go see her in the movies. ‘Lucy,’ didn’t it beat ‘Hercules’ by a lot opening weekend, when it was made for a lot less? She shows that she kicks ass, she’s a great actress.”

Marvel chief Kevin Feige has addressed the issue on several occasions, and has always maintained it’s a matter of timing.

“I hope we do it sooner rather than later,” he told Comic Book Resources in August of a potential “Black Widow” film. “But we find ourselves in the very strange position of managing more franchises than most people have — which is a very, very good thing.”

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All of Wednesday’s DC news also comes ahead of any official announcement from Marvel regarding its long-rumored “Black Panther” film.

Black Panther is a character that’s long been clamored for by fans. The superhero, who hails from the fictional African nation of Wakanda, develops superheros after ingesting an herb and ultimately becomes King of his country, turning it into the most developed nation on Earth. The film has been in development at Marvel for years, with onscreen easter eggs hinting at a future appearance sprinkled throughout, though as of now there has been no official announcement of a greenlight or a cast for a solo film.

“In terms of Black Panther, it’s absolutely in development,” Feige said of the potential film back in 2013 while promoting “Thor: The Dark World. “When you have something as rich as Wakanda and [Black Panther’s] backstory … I don’t know when it will be exactly but certainly we have plans to bring him to life someday.”

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On the pro-diversity side for Marvel, they’ve already introduced Sam Wilson aka Falcon, the first African-American comic book superhero, played by Anthony Mackie, in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” and the character is expected to recur in future Marvel films. But a “Black Panther” solo film would trump that, especially if they manage to get out ahead of DC’s planned “Cyborg” project.

Of course, an announcement could ultimately mean nothing. It only counts when the movie actually gets made — and released. Your move, Marvel.

Marvel declined to comment for the story.