Wonder Woman's Secret Power: Bridging the Boy-Girl Toy Gap

(Bloomberg) -- Wonder Woman proved she can sell movie tickets last weekend, with more than $100 million in sales at the box office. The next question is whether she can also sell toys -- and makeup, and ready-bake cookies, and a full gamut of tie-ins that challenge the traditional “boys only” marketing of superheroes.

Wonder Woman is the latest and biggest test of Hollywood’s ability to promote a female superhero. After “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” fans used the #wheresRey campaign to highlight the initial absence of toys and games featuring the movie’s female star -- before Disney flooded stores with more merchandise. More recently, characters like Harley Quinn, Batgirl, Black Window and Supergirl have been included in ensemble packs on store shelves. Wonder Woman is the first female superhero in years to carry her own film.

Wonder Woman's Secret Power: Bridging the Boy-Girl Toy Gap

Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman.

Source: Warner Bros.

“Until the last three years, female superheroes were few and far between,” said Jim Silver, editor of toy review site TTPM.com. “You never saw them, and the ones that were tested, except for one or two like the Power Puff girls, never did well. Now, the whole market has changed.”

He estimates toy sales this year for Wonder Woman, strictly tied to the movie, will be about $100 million -- less than many of the traditional male superhero tie-ins but still a significant amount of revenue.

Then there are the girl-oriented tie-ins, like Wonder Woman-branded cosmetics, jewelry and purses. The female Amazonian princess, with her golden lasso and sword, could earn up to $1 billion from global sales of licensed merchandise, said Karina Masolova, executive editor of The Licensing Letter, which tracks licensing revenue. That would put her ahead of Superman and on par with Batman, who gets an advantage from his assortment of weapons and vehicles.

Wonder Woman's Secret Power: Bridging the Boy-Girl Toy Gap

“Superheroes have become accepted as part of pop culture, and it’s not only a niche consumer base buying products,” she said, recalling a time when superhero toys had a nerdier connotation. “But now the toys can be in the girl’s aisle too. And in the makeup aisle. And the grocery aisle.”

Diane Nelson, who runs Warner’s DC Comics unit, also took over the company’s consumer products licensing in 2015. In that role, she’s made female characters such as Wonder Woman and Supergirl a priority.

Last year, Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. and Mattel rolled out a line of action figures and dolls for DC Superhero Girls, a group of high schoolers like Wonder Woman and Batgirl with special powers. The line has sold well, helping Mattel revive its girls business, and has been expanded this year with more characters and offerings.

“There are definitely more girls looking to buy superhero toys and have them as role models,” Silver said. “A lot of these figures are found in the doll aisle, versus the action figure aisle, so definitely a lot of girls. But you do have a lot of boys and collectors who have bought Rey, Black Widow and some of the other female action figures.”

At a Detroit area Walmart last week, Wonder Woman dolls and accessories outnumbered the collection of Spider-man stuff. Clothing items were displayed throughout the store and products even included ready-to-bake cookies from Pillsbury. Target, GAP, Kohl’s and Amazon.com will also carry Wonder Woman merchandise; globally, the product line will include themed underwear, camping gear and home décor.