Where, oh where is Black Widow? (Everett Collection)
On October 2, you’ll be able to buy one of the year’s biggest movies, Avengers: Age of Ultron, on home video. And if you make that purchase in the UK, you’ll get a taste of something fans have been complaining about all year: The exclusion of Scarlett Johansson’s character Black Widow from Avengers merchandise. Take a look at these DVD and 3-D Blu-Ray cover art images released by Marvel for the UK editions:
In both cases, the cover art features four of the six Avengers: Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Thor (Chris Hemsworth). The Blu-ray adds the robotic villain Ultron (James Spader) to the mix. But neither includes Black Widow, the lone female of the core team.
Granted, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is excluded as well. But considering the criticism that Marvel has faced for alienating Black Widow fans, you think they’d be paying better attention. It’s not that hard to put Scarlett Johansson in the picture! In fact, she appears on all of the U.S. versions of the cover art. And in the UK, Marvel did a fine job on the non-3D Blu-ray, which also includes Hawkeye, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), and new hero Vision (Paul Bettany):
Even before Avengers: Age of Ultron opened in theaters, fans were voicing their frustration about the limited presence of Black Widow in the film’s marketing and merchandise. While Hulk, Cap, Iron Man, Thor, and other male characters were readily available in toy, costume, and school-supply form, exceedingly few Black Widow products were manufactured, and few if any were marketed to girls. Many images on T-shirts and other tie-ins portrayed all the Avengers but the redheaded super-spy. Annoyed Marvel devotees began using the hashtags #whereisblackwidow, and Mark Ruffalo — the Hulk himself — even tweeted out a plea to Marvel for “more #BlackWidow merchandise for my daughters and nieces. Pretty please.”
And yet the hits kept coming. Hasbro replaced Black Widow with Captain America in a toy based on her showiest Age of Ultron scene. And Johansson’s co-stars Evans and Renner added to the insult by joking on the press tour that Black Widow is a “slut” and a “complete whore.” It’s no wonder that female superhero fans were left with a bad taste in their mouths — even though the movie itself featured powerful roles for Johansson, Elizabeth Olsen (as Scarlet Witch), and Cobie Smulders (as deputy S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill). These new pieces of art are just a reminder that, even though the movie and fandom considers the female Avenger to be a core part of the team, Marvel Studios does not. The dream of a Black Widow solo movie just keeps slipping further away…