Marvel and DC Show Off Diversity at Comic-Con 2016

By  · Published on July 25th, 2016

And it’s about damn time.

Kevin Feige, Ryan Coogler, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan, Danai Gurira, Chadwick Boseman. (Marvel/Disney).

At the 2010 San Diego Comic Convention and in true Tony Stark fashion, Robert Downey Jr. boldly declared that The Avengers would be Marvel Studios’ “most ambitious movie ever.” This was at the first cast appearance for The Avengers in Hall H, which featured Downey Jr. alongside his fellow cast members, director Joss Whedon, and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige. It is arguably one of the most epic moments in recent Comic-Con history. It signaled a new age in comic book moviemaking and fandom, proving that Comic-Con was not only a place for fans to connect with creators and vice versa, but it was a remarkable way for studios to market their movies to tastemakers and true fans.

The tradition of Hall H showmanship remains as strong as ever. This year’s Comic-Con included several notable highlights from the Disney/Marvel Studios and Warner Brothers/DC presentations. But instead of being just about the spectacle of the movies, this year’s presentations were notable exhibitions of a new era in comic book movie storytelling. Whereas early Marvel and DC presentations focused on spectacular casting announcements and trailer presentations for comic book movie staples like Iron Man and Batman, this year’s show was about newer, fresher stories featuring characters that have yet to grace the silver screen. The presentations exhibited – dare we say – a more diverse cast of characters featuring women and people of color in various roles. That’s important when it comes to movies about heroes that people look up to and even emulate in the convention floors of Comic-Con and other fan events. We break down some of the notable Comic-Con 2016 presentation highlights below.

The Women of Marvel

Laura Harrier, Zendaya, Elizabeth Debicki, Danai Gurira, Tilda Swinton, Zoe Saldana, Brie Larson, Lupita Nyong’o, Rachel McAdams, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff (Marvel/Disney).

While this year’s Marvel presentation was the most extensive they’ve had in years, one of its more inspired moments took place off the Hall H stage. The women of Marvel took a photo together and it is a sight to behold: an amazing lineup of talented actresses ready to tear it up in their respective roles. If Ghostbusters inspired women and young girls with just four already awesomely talented ladies, what happens when you have eleven of them? Seriously, these women need to crossover into each other’s films stat.

The Black Panther Cast

Ryan Coogler, Danai Gurira, Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan (Marvel/Disney).

The Black Panther panel marked the first official appearance of the film’s cast including Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther), Michael B. Jordan (Erik Killmonger), Lupita Nyong’o (Nakia), Danai Gurira (Okoye), and director Ryan Coogler. Their presence speaks volumes and is a testament of progress from all the recent industry discussions around #OscarsSoWhite. Finally, here we have a mainstream Hollywood film – a Marvel production, nonetheless – featuring an all-black lead cast and an African American director, all first feats for Marvel. Diversity behind the camera is just as important as in front of it especially when the film is about characters of color. Marvel is finally winning with this film in production and victory can only be sweeter if the film delivers when it arrives in theaters on February 16, 2018. Perhaps we could even get a sneak peek at next year’s Comic-Con.

Spider-Man & Friends

Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Tom Holland, Tony Revolori, Zendaya, Jon Watts (Marvel/Disney).

Spider-Man’s story has been told numerous times through the comic books, animated series, and two movie franchises produced just years of each other. Now he’s back in Spider-Man: Homecoming as a young teen Peter Parker with a sweet set of friends that actually look like people we went to high school with! Though the film has only been in production for ten days, some footage was screened for the Hall H crowd to raving online reactions. Director Jon Watts was present alongside the cast including Tom Holland (Peter Parker), Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, and Tony Revolori. We’ve heard about the casting announcements over the last several months, but finally seeing these kids together was impressive and uplifting, given past unsuccessful attempts to reboot the franchise. And as proven in his gripping feature Cop Car, Watts knows how to work with young actors to tell a story for adults which is exactly the creative boost of storytelling skill this franchise needs. For him to be able to tell this story with such a diverse set of young actors is even more exciting to watch. It’s also worth noting that Zendaya has a large fan base from her stints on television including the Disney Channel and Revolori has had some interesting turns in films including The Grand Budapest Hotel and Dope.

Brie Larson as Captain Marvel

Brie Larson (Marvel/Disney).

Rounding out Marvel’s presentation was the surprise announcement of Brie Larson taking on the role of Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel. The actress – who was also onsite for Warner Brothers’ Kong: Skull Island presentation – had been rumored as a candidate for the role for some time now and this announcement basically just confirmed it. It’s refreshing to see a young and talented actress being able to play a kick ass superhero role, especially after proving her acting chops in her Academy Award-winning performance in Room. It will be exciting to see what Larson comes up with for the role which has been portrayed as both a man and a woman in the comics. We can brie a sigh of relief they went with the latter for the movie version (get it?).

The Anti-Heroines of Suicide Squad

Viola Davis, Cara Delevingne, Margot Robbie, Karen Fukuhara. (Warner Brothers)

Not to be outdone, DC had some fierce female representation in the house at their Suicide Squad panel. It seems like folks have been yammering about this movie since even before the footage leaked at last year’s panel, and Warner Brothers has been ramping up its release of trailers and photos in the weeks leading up to Comic-Con and its upcoming August 5th release. What is exciting about the film helmed by David Ayer is that from what we’ve seen it maintains the darkness that the DC universe is known for while playing up the humor and quirky character relationships between the squad members. Plus, four out of the nine lead characters are women: Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Cara Delevingne as Enchantress, Karen Fukuhara as Katana, and Viola Davis as Amanda Waller. Pretty impressive given that most super hero squads are comprised of mostly men. Maybe the bad guys know something we don’t.

That Wonder Woman Trailer

Hands down one of the best trailers to be released from this year’s Comic-Con was for Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot in the titular role of Diana Prince in a film directed by Patty Jenkins. Not only did the trailer leave us breathless for the film’s summer 2017 release, it gave us a peek at what we haven’t yet seen in these kinds of comic book movies: a female-centered, female-directed superhero story. Wonder Woman gets to do what the guys do (but better, duh) – have fun, romance, wisecrack, and maybe even learn a few things along the way (like, what is a secretary?). And she does it without the help of Batman, Superman, or any man for that matter. Together with its fierce trailer, the Wonder Woman Comic-Con takeover included a beautiful new poster and matching Snapchat filter. If DC can deliver a movie as great as its marketing materials then they’ve got a solid franchise on their hands.

These are just some of the highlights from another eventful Comic-Con. It was perhaps more low key than the Iron Man and The Avengers years, but it featured powerful moments. And while there is still room to grow when it comes to diversity in superhero movies and movies in general (looking at you, Ancient One), this year was one heck of a way to kickstart the movement. One can only imagine what Comic-Con will be like five or ten years from now, when the kids of today get to grow up with heroes like Black Panther and Wonder Woman to look up to and perhaps even cosplay one day at Comic-Con.

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Writer. Audio/Creative Producer. Columnist, Film School Rejects.