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Superheroines Rule at Comic-Con: Wonder Woman, Harley Quinn, Captain Marvel, and More

Just as women-hating geeks are waging a war against the all-female ‘Ghostbusters,’ the 2016 edition of San Diego Comic-Con was all about the kickass ladies.

Days after hateful trolls came after Leslie Jones over Ghostbusters, waging—and losing—a misogynistic Twitter war over the lady ’buster reboot, women took center stage at the biggest pop culture event of the year to claim their rightful place in geek culture.

First there was Wonder Woman, who kicked off one of the most anticipated panels Saturday morning on the biggest day of San Diego Comic-Con. Gal Gadot had appeared on the Hall H stage for the past two years with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice co-stars Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill. This time she didn’t have to share the spotlight with Warner Bros.’ caped crusaders.

For the first time at Comic-Con, Gadot’s Diana Prince/Wonder Woman got her own moment to bask in the adoration of over 6,000 Hall H fans who went wild for an action-packed first trailer for 2017’s Wonder Woman. The crowds greeted the DC Extended Universe’s first superheroine, along with its historic first female director, Patty Jenkins, with enormous applause that jumpstarted a buzzy two-hour presentation.

Moments later WB also earned a huge response for a few cheeky glimpses of Margot Robbie’s popular Suicide Squad antihero Harley Quinn, who is hands down the most cosplayed character from any universe at Comic-Con this weekend (and will star in her own spinoff film). After the disappointing BvS took some of the wind out of the Justice League sails, it’s the women of DC who are helping fans keep the faith.

But if there’s one timeless truism about attending Comic-Con, where geeks of all stripes flock each July and attendance has swelled to a near-unmanageable 150,000 in recent years, it’s that the expected showstoppers from Hollywood’s biggest superhero studios will inevitably boil down to a Marvel vs. DC face-off. (That, and the a/c will never be strong enough to cycle out the sweaty hot dog smells of thousands of bodies crammed together in one giant room all day long.)

Whose footage impressed the most? Who delivered the best and biggest surprises? Who won the contest to build the biggest buzz with exclusive trailers, news announcements, viral spectacle?

Instead of comparing the nerdgasm-worthiness of Marvel and DC’s respective Saturday showstoppers, two panels that had con-goers camping out for several days and nights just to be the first to see what treats Disney and WB had in store, it’s worth pointing out what the rival studios had in common coming into Comic-Con—and at a time when Hollywood’s slowly becoming more woke and audiences are, more than ever, vocalizing their demands for inclusion.

After WB landed the one-two punch of feting their DC female stand-alone superheroine and its first woman helmer, Marvel followed suit by bookending its own stacked panel with its own notable firsts. Marvel Studios honcho Kevin Feige, a veritable Comic-Con celebrity in his own right, earned raucous cheers as he strolled onto the Hall H stage Saturday night. He quickly turned the mic over to director Ryan Coogler—Marvel’s first African-American helmer, who in turn brought out Black Panther stars Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, who will play his nemesis Erik Killmonger, and Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o.

It was Boseman who made the surprise announcement that they had another new castmate in tow from Black Panther, which begins lensing in January for a 2018 release. Out strode Danai Gurira of AMC’s The Walking Dead, who will go from slaying zombies to battling alongside Boseman as Okoye, the leader of Black Panther’s corps of female bodyguards known as the Dora Milaje.

Among these intriguing tidbits is the promise that Nyong’o, seen most recently as the CG-crafted Maz Kanata in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and heard in this year’s The Jungle Book, is set for a considerable change of pace. Onstage it was revealed that she’ll play Nakia, the Wakandan woman who in Marvel Comics lore becomes the villainous Malice, turning an obsession with T’Challa into a vendetta against him.

Elsewhere on a Marvel panel stuffed with fan-pleasing new looks at Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and a quirky Thor: Ragnarok “documentary,” fans got a good look at Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One, who is sought out in the mountains of Tibet by Benedict Cumberbatch’s desperate Steven Strange and promptly schools him in the wonders of astral-tripping through multiple dimensions. And, last but not least, Feige introduced Oscar winner Brie Larson as the titular star of Captain Marvel, a film penned by female scribes Nicole Perlman and Meg LeFauve that’s set to hit theaters March 8, 2019. She’ll serve as the first stand-alone superheroine in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

In between these bipartisan female firsts for superhero cinema, it was EW’s annual lady power powwow, the “Women Who Kick Ass” panel, which underscored the importance of highlighting strong women at an event like Comic-Con. Connie Nielsen, who plays Queen Hippolyta in Wonder Woman, laid down the realest talk of the day addressing how much further Hollywood has to go to create worthy characters that represent a fuller spectrum of female life onscreen.

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“Until we really ask, again and again, why we expect one thing from a female or a male character and why we accept that, we’ll still see eight men and one woman as a line-up,” she said. “Until we really ask why is that acceptable, and why is it that you don’t want a much more real experience? Because the reality is we are all here at the same time in these real numbers, and we need to be able to see that when we talk about who we are.”