The Best and Worst Super-Heroines In Comics! [Girl Week]
It’s Girl Week on ComicsAlliance, and as part of our celebrations of women in comics, we’re taking a look at the women who actually are in the comics! Today, we’re taking a look at a few of our favorite (and least favorite) super-heroines to see how they stack up, as ranked by CA Senior Writer Chris Sims!
Okay, okay, that’s exaggerating a little: Greg Rucka’s two-and-a-half-year run on the title was phenomenal, George Perez’s post-“Crisis on Infinite Earths” reboot had a lot of strong points, and Gail Simone’s current work has been praised up and down, but the rest of the past 70 years have been pretty hit-or-miss. And considering that they played host to Robert Kanigher’s mid-60s attempts to recapture the bizarre elements of the ’40s by creating characters like Egg Fu, a giant Chinese communist egg who whipped his enemies with his Fu Manchu moustache, I’m going to say that it’s mostly miss. Maybe it’s just me, but most of the fondness for the character seems to come from Lynda Carter’s portrayal on TV rather than the comics.
Don’t get me wrong: When she’s done well, Wonder Woman can be totally awesome, and I want to see that more than anyone. But unfortunately, she just doesn’t have a great track record.
I’m not saying it’s all been roses, what with series that constantly teetered on the edge of cancellation and some huge storytelling missteps — we’re looking at you, Geoff Johns’s “Avengers” Run, which said that her transformation was motivated by fear, thus making her the biggest fraidy-cat in the Marvel Universe, and which is best left completely ignored — but with over a hundred solo issues and a long run as a member of the Fantastic Four under her belt, she’s actually had a pretty good time being green.
Making matters worse was the fact that among readers and creators, Power Girl was the subject of a running gag centered on her breasts, which were improbably large even for comics. Allegedly, artist Wally Wood just kept drawing them bigger and bigger to see what he could get away with, and it stuck, making her a popular subject for convention sketches, but not really doing her any favors as a character.
With the reinstatement of the DC Multiverse, however, Power Girl not only has her original (albeit complicated) origin back and a slot as the Justice Society’s heavy hitter, she’s also starring in a new series that was easily one of 2009’s best new titles. Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray and artist Amanda Connor seem to be having a great time working on the character, and as seen above, they’re not averse to poking a little fun at the character’s history either. It’s a fantastic example of taking a character’s potential and running with it, and we hope it’s a trend that keeps up.
As the Spirit of the 20th Century and the leader of the Authority, Jenny Sparks is a foulmouthed, whiskey-swilling misanthrope who is basically the female version of Warren Ellis with super-powers, except that Ellis did not, to my knowledge, sleep with Hitler in his youth.
The key phrase here being “to my knowledge.”
Which leads to our second big problem with Ess-Dubs: I’ve read a lot of comics, but I have no idea how her powers work. As near as I can figure, she’s an actual witch, but she’s also a mutant with “hex power” that’s been so ill-defined that her abilities seem to amount to “eh, whatever,” thus explaining why she can completely change the genetic makeup of six billion people with three words, but still has trouble fighting the Wrecking Crew.
To be fair, though, I totally love the “X-Men: First Class” version of Scarlet Witch, as illustrated by Colleen Coover.
Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: I love Lois Lane, and her relationship with Superman is one of the few romances in comics that can get me all choked up — if you don’t get a little misty at the end of “All-Star Superman,” then I’m not sure we’re even the same species — but the fact remains that during the age where she had her own comic book series, Lois was out of her mind. I mean really, the picture above comes from an issue where she goes back in time to Krypton before it explodes to romance Superman’s father, then deciding to bail without telling anyone that the planet’s going to explode, and then making a stop on her return trip to make out with super-tot.
I’m not even sure there’s a word for that kind of crazy.
There was also a movie, but we don’t talk about that.
Unfortunately, those aren’t the only pieces. Between a starring role in Kevin Smith’s atrocious “Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do” — which would’ve easily been the worst Marvel comic of all time if it wasn’t so well-drawn — that replaced her original motivation with a sloppily written trying-too-hard story of sexual assault (because that’s what we need more of in comics) and a current role as a friend-with-benefits who’s forbidden to look at Spider-Man even in mid-coitus lest she learn the identity of the dude she’s shtupping, it’s like writers have been doing their best to ruin any sort of independence the character could’ve had.
As the leader of the Suicide Squad, Amanda Waller isn’t just the toughest woman in comics, she’s bar-none one of the toughest characters in comics. Not only is Waller — who has no super-powers save for utter cunning ruthlessness — hard enough to boss around a group of hardened super-villains into going on suicide missions for the Government (which more often than not leave at least one member of the team dead), when Batman comes to shut down the operation that’s pardoning super-criminals, she’s one of the few characters to stand up to DC’s ultimate badass in a battle of wills… and win.
Add that to the work John Ostrander did on building her as a character, showing the depth of the events that led her to be so ruthless, and you’ve got the centerpiece of one of the best comics ever printed.
As it stands now, Kitty Pryde is a teenage ballerina computer genius mutant super-hero S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who once learned how to be a ninja in exactly one day, which is the sort of thing that makes her original role as someone the average reader can relate to a little bit harder to pull off. It can be done, and done well — Kitty makes a great viewpoint character in Joss Whedon’s “Astonishing X-Men” — but you’ve got to ignore an awful lot.
Essentially, she’s everything great about Lois Lane — smart, curious, capable, willing to punch people in the mouth if they step to her — but without being a lunatic, and also she’s a vampire. Which, c’mon, is pretty awesome.
And it’s a trend that’s spreading, too: Batwoman’s recent appearances in Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart’s “Batman & Robin” saw a subtle admiration from The Squire (the Knights’ female teenage sidekick) that underscores her potential as a prominent role model. And I’m all for it.
Witness, for instance, a story from the early days where Sue gets bummed out about reader mail complaining that she’s useless:
That’s right: Sue isn’t useless because Abraham Lincoln’s mother, that’s why. And who are we to argue with Reed Richards?
According to her creators — and a sizable legion of female fans — Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose is an empowering role model. Apparently they’re working from a definition of “empowering” that allows for a character who battles her far more capable male equivalent in a fight that sees him using his sword to strip her of her clothing, with Tarot only escaping certain death because he gets distracted by the fact that she has become sexually aroused by her impending death.
Seriously. That’s what happens in #50.
Like we said, these are just a few of our favorite heroines, and we’ve barely scratched the surface, so why not share one of your favorites in the comments section? Do you back Big Barda? Are you one of those Spider-Girl fans we keep hearing about? Miss the Wasp? Let us know!