There are many great female comic book characters, and I am sure some favorites are not on this list. I focused on leaders, on characters who demonstrated strength and authority, and on those who left a lasting impression on me. If you think I have left a character off this list, please let me know who and why a certain character should be on this list.
Six months ago, one of our comic book reviewers, Scott West, posted his top 10 list. For Women’s History Month, I got the opportunity to share my list, a list by a female fan of comic books.
I have to admit that finalizing this list was difficult. Female characters in comic books have been inconstant due to poor writing and even worse art. Powerful and strong characters have been diminished after a new writer takes over a series, and many comic book artists have depicted female characters with broken spines, disjointed hips, no internal organs, and other freakish distortions, so I had look past a few things in order to finalize the list.
Note: Female characters from science fiction and fantasy are on different lists.
10. Big Barda
Barda was born on Apokolips and is of the race of New Gods; she was raised to be a warrior with the expectation of leading a vicious group called the Female Fury Battalion. After falling in love with Scott Free, she turned against her upbringing and decided to fight for justice. She is a loving wife, and she did not give up her heroic ways after getting married. Barda was always ready to fight when others needed her. She served as a member of the Justice League and of the Birds of Prey. Strong, funny, gentle, and courageous, Big Barda’s presence makes any comic better.
After Barbara Gordon was paralyzed by the Joker, she reinvented herself as Oracle, a computer hacker and information broker. Eventually, she became Batman’s source of information, and she could infiltrate even the most sophisticated of computer systems. She learned a fighting style suited to her life in a wheelchair. Oracle formed the Birds of Prey, trained two Batgirls, and had a love life. Oracle is a genius, an inspiration, and an excellent leader. Her absence from DC’s New 52 is a shame.
8. Lois Lane
The Lois Lane who is on this list as the ace reporter who will fight for the story; this is the Lois Lane from the 1940s, the 1970s, Mark Waid’s ‘Superman: Birthright,’ and Geoff Johns’s ‘Superman: Secret Origin.’ Lois is a self-sufficient woman who is the intellectual equal of Superman. She stands up for those who are bullied and for those who cannot speak for themselves. Lois is relentless, and her pursuit of the truth has brought many to justice.
When it comes to this list, I’m discussing the three most popular Batgirls: Barbara Gordon, Cassandra Cain, and Stephanie Brown. All three are tough, brave, clever, and skilled fighters. Each brought something unique to their time as Batgirl, but my favorite is Cassandra Cain. Unable to communicate vocally, Cassandra used her ability to read body language to fight crime. Her mere existence breaks many expectations of a female comic book character – her actions literally do all the talking. Oracle teaches her how to speak, but Cassandra remains a woman of few words. Cassandra Cain, especially during the Kelly Puckett/Damion Scott run, was decisive, brilliant, and badass. I miss her as Batgirl.
One of the first comics I could get my hands on was Marvel’s ‘G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.’ I had to hide my comics (Dad wasn’t a fan), so I didn’t get to read as many as I wanted to, but I remember first seeing Scarlett with a crossbow in the training room, working alongside her other teammates. She fought on the front lines, she was vital to missions, and she trained her teammates in hand-to-hand combat. She bravely went undercover to infiltrate Cobra, getting injured in the process. She recovered and eventually became part of the special ninja team.
5. Wonder Woman
I had a difficult time determining Wonder Woman’s final place on this list. Over the years she has worked with the military, had a fashion boutique, was an Amazon, didn’t have a father, and now has a father, Zeus. She has worn a skirt, pants, shorts, and a high-cut bathing suit style bottom that must have been very uncomfortable during fights. Through all the reboots and wardrobe changes, Wonder Woman has remained a symbol of feminine power. She might not be stronger than Superman, but she is the better warrior. Hopefully DC’s New 52 will get something right and make Wonder Woman a strong and smart leader with memorable opponents. Great heroes are defined by their villains, and Wonder Woman has never had a nemesis like the Joker or Lex Luthor. Wonder Woman is an amazing character; now she needs to consistently be in quality stories.
4. Rose “Gran’ma” Ben
Jeff Smith’s ‘Bone’ is one of my favorite comic books of all time. The epic fantasy follows the three Bone cousins on their journey through the Valley as they help save the world. Rose Ben is the exiled queen of Atheia, and she has been raising her granddaughter, Thorn, in Barrelhaven. Tougher than nails, Rose races cows on foot, and she is strong enough to fight rat creatures with her bare hands. During the battle to protect Atheia from the Locusts, Rose rallies the city’s guards and takes command. Immensely strong, Rose is a formidable leader, and Thorn would not have been prepared for battle or for ruling Atheia if not for Gran’ma Ben.
Helena Bertinelli was born into one of Gotham’s most powerful mafia families. She rejected her family’s life, becoming a teacher and a crime fighter. Her harsh methods bring disapproval from Batman, but she is confident in her mission and her methods, so doesn’t let Batman change her. She rarely needs rescuing; in fact, she helped Nightwing and Batman out of a few tough scrapes. She is independent, fierce, and her dedication is immeasurable. During No Man’s Land, Huntress stands up to the Joker. He shoots her multiple times, but she does not stop protecting the group Joker wants to kill. Helena Bertinelli will be the definitive Huntress for me no matter what DC decides to do in the New 52.
I am disappointed She-Hulk is not in the new ‘Avengers’ movie; if she was, I would have bought my tickets in advance and fought to be first in line. She-Hulk is livelier, funnier, and a lot more interesting than her cousin. Shot by mobsters, Jennifer Walters was saved by Bruce Banner; he gave her a transfusion of his blood. She got the powers of the Hulk: super strength, endurance, and healing ability. She-Hulk can do two things her cousin cannot; she can change at will and retain her intelligence in Hulk form. She has been a member of the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and the Lady Liberators. One of the reasons why She-Hulk is such a remarkable character comes from her time with the Fantastic Four. She-Hulk got brainwashed into thinking she was a weak, meek, fearful slave. She breaks free of the brainwashing on her own. She punches Dutta and tells him to “SHUT UP!” John Byrne’s ‘The Sensational She-Hulk’ is another one of my favorite comics, full of action and humor, and is another title I miss.
There are several reasons why Storm, born Ororo Munroe, is considered to be one of the greatest comic book characters, male or female, of all time. Storm is a mutant who can control the weather. She is the best leader of the X-Men, with or without her powers. Storm is authoritative, a great strategist, motherly, strong, a warrior, passionate, and a believer that all life is sacred. Any doubts about her ability to make the hard decisions during a crisis were erased when Storm rips out the heart of Marrow, the Morlock with a bomb attached to her heart. Storm’s enemies thought she would never ruthlessly kill anyone, but Storm knew people were in danger, and she knew she had to act. I don’t mind that she doesn’t have her own book; I do prefer her as leader of the X-Men. However, instead of another movie about Iron Man or Wolverine, I would really like to see Storm in her own film.