DC Comics just announced that starting in the fall of 2015, they will develop a new superhero universe just for girls.
DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Animation, Warner Bros. Consumer Products and Mattel joined forces to create DC Super Hero Girls, which aims to help build character and confidence, and help girls "discover their true potential."
Developed for girls aged 6-12, DC Super Hero Girls centers on the female Super Heroes and Super-Villains of the DC Comics universe during their formative years—prior to discovering their full super power potential. Featuring a completely new artistic style and aesthetic, DC Comics’ icons such as Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl, Harley Quinn, Bumble Bee, Poison Ivy, Katana and many more make their unprecedented teenaged introduction. Each character has her own storyline that explores what teen life is like as a Super Hero, including discovering her unique abilities, nurturing her remarkable powers and mastering the fundamentals of being a hero.
Their goal is to offer "relatable, strong role models" to girls, but of course they're also still trying to sell something.
The consumer line will include "TV specials, made-for-videos, toys, apparel, books and other product categories will begin to rollout in 2016." They're also bringing on Random House Books and LEGO to round out this Justice League of consumerism:
The Random House Books for Young Readers imprint of Random House Children’s Books has been appointed the master publishing partner for the franchise and will be creating a portfolio of books that will bring the DC Super Hero Girls world to life, beginning in Spring 2016. […] The LEGO Group will also be key to building the DC Super Hero Girls franchise, leveraging their experience and success engaging girls in creative construction play to bolster this universe through an array of LEGO® building sets designed to inspire girls' imaginations.
Sure, this is going to be a line of products, that at first, might just look like more stuff to buy. But in this day and age, with comic characters struggling to include women in a respectful way, it's incredibly important that a line is being created just for girls, and particularly young girls, to access their strength in a way that isn't a comparison to boys.
The gender division has rocked some toy releases lately, which is why it's interesting to see LEGO included in this list of partners; there were petitions and backlash when they released their new pink line of LEGO for girls, with parents saying they didn't want gender-based marketing in a toy whose primary color palette has traditionally been aimed at all kids. But if something is aimed specifically at girls, can't that be considered gender-based marketing, too?
Hopefully the key here is representation that will raise girls' confidence in a way that is directly associated with their inner strength, and not just what they can associate with a small slice of the color wheel.
Danielle Henderson is a lapsed academic, heavy metal karaoke machine, and culture editor at Fusion. She enjoys thinking about how race, gender, and sexuality shape our cultural narratives, but not in a boring way.