Licensing sounds boring as dirt to most people. Basically, any time you want to sell merchandise featuring characters that are under copyright, you need to get a license. And with a franchise as big as Marvel, the potential profits are huge. Action figures, clothing, lunch boxes and backpacks, people spend lots of money on that stuff. This system is not new though, so unless you're a retailer, why should you care about last week's expo?
Remember when the Age of Ultron action figures were released and there was almost no sign of Black Widow anywhere? Remember how incensed fans were when the motorcycle she rode was released as a toy accessory for Captain America instead (even though that was one of the COOLEST scenes in the movie). It sounds like that outrage has not fallen on deaf ears. via Variety.com
"The campaign will feature a celebration of Captain America’s 75th anniversary that will be limited to higher-end retailers. There will also be focus on newer characters War Machine, Falcon, Vision, Black Widow and Black Panther..."
So it sounds like fans might actually get what they're asking for. Not only will there actually BE Black Widow merchandse, but there will also be effort made to celebrate racial diversity as well. War Machine, Falcon, and Black Panther are all men of color, and while I think more can be done (there's not a single woman of color kn that list- I guess Skye and Melinda May won't be getting any more visibility), this definitely sounds like a step in the right direction.
“We’ll see an extension mixing in new characters with new skills,” he added. “There will also be a big focus on adult female apparel.”- Paul Gitter, senior VP for licensing, Marvel
Wow it's almost like someone told them that nearly half of comics fans are women. While this all sounds like really good news (our demands are being heard!) it doesn't feel like it's quite time to celebrate yet. Remember those awful tshirts being sold at Target and Forever21 (I only date superheroes) that were aimed at girls but somehow managed to completely miss what female fandom is all about. Now dont get me wrong, if Steve Rogers showed up today to ask me out, you know I'd be screaming YES at the top of my lungs. He's Captain Goddamn America. But female fans don't want to be made to feel like they're something 'other', or different than the male fans. We like the same things they like. It's why we've been comfortanle enjoying media that has been aimed at men almost exclusively for decades. We like action and explosions and heroes in spandex that save the day from evil. What we don't like is when women are treated like nebulous, impossible to comprehend creatures that clearly can't handle something as complex s a fulfilling character arc, or a motorcycle toy. We've also heard similar promises before. Joss Whedon promised that Natasha would have a huge part to play in Age if Ultron. Um. Not only was her character arc forced and sexist, it was totally unessential to the plot. You could cut every scene she was in and still have an intelligible movie (as intelligible as AoU was ever going to be anyway).
It's also a little disappointing that Wanda Maximoff (aka Scarlet Witch) wasn't on the list. Maybe it was just an omission and she will in fact be featured, since the end of Age of Ultron implied that she was going to be a big part of the new Avengers lineup. In the comics, Wanda is Jewish and Roma, so while her ethnicity was not included in the films, her character's presence in the merchandise would be another step in the right direction. Does it feel foolish to hope that Marvel has been paying attention? It's probably too early to say, but I'm hoping they do right by their fans and start giving us the representation we deserve.