photo: Emre C. Deniz

Over the past few years, Disney princesses have been reimagined into a lot of different types of people — like curly-haired black women, adorable plus-sized women, incredible career women and much more. 

But have they ever been hyper-masculine, battle-hardened space marines who murder aliens for sport? 

Well they sure are now, thanks to Australian game developer and illustrator Emre C. Deniz. His #FemaleSpaceMarines series might look like your average “let’s take a Disney Princess and reimagine them into something else” project, but there’s actually a pretty great message behind it — which is that “Warhammer 40K,” a popular tabletop strategy game that takes place in a dystopian science-fiction world, could stand to have a little more women in it. 

The barrier to entry is already pretty difficult for new fans of “Warhammer 40K." You need to learn the complicated rules, read up on the expansive lore, buy and hand-paint your own figures, and find some other people to play against before you can even call yourself a "Warhammer" player.  

But it's even tougher for female fans; not only is the fanbase of “Warhammer 40K” very male-dominated, but the world the game takes place in is as well. Sure, there are some female figures and armies available to play with, as well as some awesome custom kits and figures you can find — but you have to know where and how to seek them out on your own, and often they end up being pretty expensive compared to the basic all-male armies.

Meanwhile, the Space Marines, which are the most common, most versatile protagonists across the entire franchise, are canonically all-male. There has never been a single female Space Marine in the world "Warhammer 40k,” because according to the lore, the process of transforming regular humans into Space Marines only works on male bodies. 

Naturally a lot of forward-thinking fans would like this to change, given how ubiquitous the Space Marines are to the franchise — and of course, they've been met with a lot of resistance from other fans, for the usual reasons. Imagine the current "Ghostbusters" argument but on a smaller, more intense scale. 

Deniz first came up with the #FemaleSpaceMarines project "to support people being harassed on social media [by] aggressive members of the Warhammer 40K community who felt that their 'lore' was threatened,” he told Revelist. 

"The images were a symbol of merging the two most extremes of gender representation, Disney and Warhammer, into one single statement; that anyone can be a ‘Space Marine' and no one can stop that,” he added.

Already Deniz has received an outpouring of support from other “Warhammer 40K” fans online who are inspired by his art, especially after making high-res versions of the images free to download.

"The most touching was one from a father who was constructing a wargaming room for his young daughter who had begun painting and collecting the figurines,” he said. “He wanted to hang [the drawing] up because it's the right message he wants for her growing up, a good way to support and embrace her interests.”

Of course, it’s not just about making “Warhammer 40K” a more inclusive place — Deniz also hopes that the series will challenge the rigid gender roles that are present in Disney princess films, too. 

"It's absolutely an attempt to subvert not just a male-dominated culture but also erode the perception of the appropriate depiction of women. They’re not just princesses, they can be 7-foot tall machine-gun wielding warriors. “

With any luck, #FemaleSpaceMarines will change a few minds in the "Warhammer 40K" world. In the meantime, at least they'll look pretty badass — and hopefully inspire some Disney Princess-themed custom figures for players who want to bring these Space Marines to life!