Give ‘Em Elle: More All-Female Reboots Please
Over the weekend, I saw Ghostbusters. I loved it, but I’m not here to review it. Obviously one of the things that everyone has talked about is the female cast. There’s been a lot of backlash against it, and a lot of people defending the choice, and a plenty saying it shouldn’t matter. But honestly, I think it does matter, and I’m all in favor of it. In fact, I want to see more women-dominated reboots of previously male-dominated properties.
Here’s the thing: We need more movies with woman-led casts, and that makes a movie like this even more exciting, but there’s more to it than that. Changing up the cast automatically gives the movie a freshness it wouldn’t have had with men.
Imagine a Ghostbusters remake with James Franco as Peter, Jonah Hill as Ray, Martin Starr as Egon, and Donald Glover as Winston. All four of those guys are talented, but what would be the point? There would be nothing to distinguish it from the original, except that the jokes would almost certainly be raunchier. Unless the script was just unexpectedly phenomenal, it would blend into the background noise of every other remake of a nostalgic fave.
So I think it makes sense to remake all sort of things in this vein. For example, I’ve had an idea for a while to do an all-lesbian remake of Back to the Future. It would star Samira Wiley as Marty McFly, who travels back to the 1980s in a time machine built by Doc Emma Brown, played by Jane Lynch, and then Marty has to make sure that her moms fall in love so they can eventually adopt her, in spite of the machinations of a mean girl named Tiff Bannen. Call me, Hollywood!
But, as I so often do, I really wanted to talk about comics. Marvel Comics has done all-female versions of several teams in the last few years. There was an all-woman X-Men book launched by Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel in 2013, but it floundered between writer changes and crossovers before ending when Secret Wars came around in 2015. It was a great idea, though. There are so many female characters who are essential to the X-Men — Storm, Kitty Pryde, Rogue, Jubilee and so on — that putting a bunch them together in one book was a natural move. Unfortunately, since Secret Wars there’s been no mention of a return to that concept.
The there was Fearless Defenders, another 2013 book, this one written by Cullen Bunn with Will Sliney as the initial artist. It was a fun book in lots of ways, but it wasn’t really a revamped Defenders, despite the name and the presence of Valkyrie. It was something new with an old name, which is something Marvel loves to do. Unfortunately, the “Defenders” name is not going to stave off cancelation, as this book proved. Also it’s hard not to notice that both of these books launched with all-male creative teams. I’m not saying that has to be a dealbreaker — Paul Feig directed Ghostbusters after all — but in both comics and movies men, are so often the ones telling the stories, even when those stories are about women, that it gets a little tiring.
A-Force was sold initially as a women-only Avengers team, and it is written by a woman — specifically Kelly Thompson, who was proceeded by G. Willow Wilson. But again, it’s not really an Avengers revamp. Only two of the team members — Captain Marvel and She-Hulk — are traditionally Avengers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of A-Force, it’s just not quite what I’m talking about here.
Now if I were to create an all-female Avengers, I’d turn back to the Silver Age team for inspiration. Make the original Wasp, Janet Van Dyne, the leader. Then you want Jane Foster/Thor, Riri Williams/Iron Man, and She-Hulk to fill the roles of the other founding members. Add Ms. America Chavez for the Captain America role, and of course Kate Bishop/Hawkeye. Plus I’d bring in Scarlet Witch and Black Widow to have a couple more veterans on the teamm and create that movie synergy that comics are all about these days.
The key here is that everyone on the team is either a classic Avenger or analogous to a classic Avenger. It's also vital that there be interesting and new dynamics between the characters. You have Riri, who’s brand new to being a superhero, America and Kate, who are just stepping up to the big leagues, and Jane, who’s known superheroes for ages, but hasn’t been one for all that long. I also love the idea of the hard-nosed cynicism of America and Black Widow causing them to butt heads, while Hawkeye and the Wasp do their best to make peace.
In a Marvel Universe a little different from the one we have now, it would be cool to see a team like this become the main (ideally only) Avengers team for a while. I’m not saying men should be banned from the Avengers long term, just that it’s fun to do things differently from time to time. But of course these days there’s always several Avengers teams going at once, and this group would work out fine for that as well.
So what about a team that doesn’t exist in the current Marvel line-up? Is it even possible to do an all-woman Fantastic Four? Yes, it definitely is. In fact, I can think of a couple of ways to do it. First, you could have a team of women come together to take on the name and continue the FF’s work. But I think it would be even more interesting to do an actual reboot – recreating their origin with new characters. You could even do it in the main Marvel Universe. After all, as of the end of Secret Wars, some members of the original Fantastic Four are currently rebuilding the multiverse, so it hardly seems impossible that there might be echoes of their lives rippling out through spacetime. Marvel has explained away weirder coincidence with much less to build on.
So picture it with me: socially awkward scientist Renee Reynolds and her childhood friend Gwen Bergman are building a rocket to get in on the private spaceflight trend. Renee’s a genius and Gwen just got out of the Air Force, so they’re well-suited to the project. A big chunk of their funding comes from the family of Renee’s girlfriend Sonia Tormenta, who’s accompanying them on the launch. At the last minute, they’re pressured to take along Sonia’s teenage sister Jaymie, a minor social media celebrity. Their ship passes through a dimensional rift/energy belt/radiation storm/whatever, and the new Fantastic Four is born.
Immediately this book would have a lot going for it. You have the uniqueness of a heroic female monster in the new Thing. (It true that Sharon Ventura was the Thing for a while in the ‘80s, but she had Ben Grimm standing right there telling her it’s not so bad.) Ideally, this Thing wouldn’t be the Ben Grimm design feminized, but rather a whole new sort of monster, maybe even building consciously on tropes of the monstrous feminine. Then you have the queer relationship between Renee and Sonia, within the context of being celebrity superheroes without secret identities. Then you have a Human Torch (although I can’t imagine her using that name) who’s a teenage girl dealing with fame and power.
I’m just playing around with ideas here; obviously I’m not actually pitching to Marvel. But I do think Ghostbusters points the way to reimagining old properties without just replicating them. And I think that’s something superhero comics — a world known for nostalgia — could learn a lot from.