“Flaunt your world” declares the new capsule collection from Disney Consumer Products. The line of superhero-themed women’s activewear includes designs based on Disney-Marvel’s upcoming Captain America: Civil War and will be tagged “Be A Hero.” The line targets “teens and millennial women,” so active women will no longer have to borrow their husbands’ or boyfriends’ Under Armour Captain America gear.
More importantly, it’s a defense against accusations that Disney gives female Marvel fans the shaft.
“These Marvel characters inspire me to try and ‘Be A Hero’ in my everyday life, and being active is an important part!” said Ashley Eckstein, Her Universe Founder, in a press release. The designs are based on Marvel heroes like Captain America, Loki, Thor Deadpool and Iron Man—but also female superheroes. And this point about the focus on the female Marvel heroes cannot be stressed enough.
The line seems especially sensitive to recent heavy criticism of Disney merchandising efforts—from Star Wars to The Avengers—that cut out female characters like Black Widow. In its product descriptions, Her Universe states bluntly: “The male superheroes of Marvel have had so much time in the spotlight we wanted to give the WOMEN of Marvel their own design! Black Widow, Spider-Woman, She-Hulk and Medusa!”
Her Universe was introduced in a fashion show sponsored by Hot Topic and will be carried at Kohl’s and Kohls.com as well as JCPenney, Macy’s, Target, Walmart and, of course, the Disney Store.
Her Universe is a logical partner for Disney and Marvel. The design company has been “geek” since the beginning. Her Universe has long has a presence at events like ComicCon and one of its first name brand lines was for the nerdiest of nerd shows, Dr. Who.
Her Universe’s current messaging includes mention of the recent WonderCon, another of America’s biggest comic book-cosplay events. What’s more, Her Universe walks the walk: Eckstein was a voice actor in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
This isn’t just geek gear for women, it’s geek gear by women for women. The company’s mission is “to create stylish, fashion-forward merchandise for female sci-fi fans” and make “a place for fangirls to step into the spotlight and be heard, recognized and rewarded.”
Disney’s choice to work with Her Universe recognizes the increasingly powerful role woman play in the Marvel Universe and wider comic book and fantasy market. The stereotype of a lifestyle inhabited almost exclusively by socially awkward young men has been destroyed. In just the past few years, New York’s primary comic event—New York Comic Con—has seen a 60 percent increase in female attendees. And at San Diego’s ComicCon—the world’s largest comic event—over half of the 125,000 attendees are women.
The collaboration with Her Universe isn’t the only evidence that Disney has learned a lesson. In January, Disney rushed female character Star Wars toys to market just as it was revealed that the dearth of Rey toys was rather intentional. And in anticipation of the new Civil War movie, store shelves are seeing a lot more females from the Marvel universe.