Despite the fact they’re usually either scantily clad or stuffed into an uncomfortably tight latex costume, the women of comic books are fierce warriors. Wardrobe aside, they’re not objectified. These women are incredibly powerful and intrepid, and they’re not to be messed with. In a way, the same goes for male superheroes, but the women are different. They fight not for glory or recognition or to settle scores; they simply fight for peace. Gal Gadot’s new solo Wonder Woman movie exemplified this perfectly. Some critics have compared the film to Captain America: The First Avenger, in which Steve Rogers is made into the perfect soldier by American forces to beat the Nazis. The two films are similar in style, but their stances on war are very different. Where macho Steve Rogers wanted glory, and wanted to win the war for the Allies and kick some ass, America-style, Diana Prince just saw the barbaric nature of humans and wanted to end the war to bring peace to the world, that’s all. That’s pretty much what female superheroes stand for. They’re awesome. And here’s fifteen who stand out from the crowd as the most awesome.
15. Scarlet Witch – Superhero Magic
Wanda Maximoff was not originally created as a strong female character who women could relate to and girls could look up to, because she was originally created in the 1960s to have a token female character in the Marvel Comics universe at a time when female readers were preoccupied with the romance comics genre and the superhero comics world was almost totally male-dominated. Her original purpose was the anti-Bechdel test: to have a woman in the mix who could talk to the men and talk about the men and have thoughts about the men. They threw her character together with a generic superpower (magical witchcraft abilities) and tossed her into the storylines involving men. But then a brilliant, beautiful man named Steve Englehart came in and transformed her into a strong and more independent woman, giving her greater powers and adding a family to her character in order to flesh her out emotionally. She’s great.
14. Black Widow – A Superhero with Superhuman Combat Skills
The Claire Voyant (a pun on the word ‘clairvoyant,’ which means psychic) incarnation of Black Widow was revolutionary in that she was one of the very first superpowered female characters in comic book history, but I’m referring here to unparalleled master martial artist and secret agent Natasha Romanoff. Made famous by Scarlett Johansson’s appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, Black Widow makes up for her lack of superpowers by having near superhuman hand-to-hand combat skills. Her training from a young age broke her, so now she’s cold as ice and a total badass. Her immune system has been bolstered and now she ages more slowly– what’s cooler than that? Or how about having no powers whatsoever but being such a badass you can earn a spot fighting alongside Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and the Incredible Hulk? Nothing’s cooler than that.
13. Elastigirl – A Housewife Who’s also a Superhero
Elastigirl isn’t just a sexy woman who can stretch her body. She’s Helen Parr, a real woman who’s worried her husband might be having an affair and feeling trapped in her suburban life. See, Pixar is a company filled with fantastic storytellers, trailblazers, and ground-breaking creative minds. They dabbled in the superhero genre just once, with The Incredibles (well, twice if you count the upcoming Incredibles sequel, but that surely doesn’t count as it’s the same thing), and writer/director Brad Bird came in and shook the whole thing up. He did what superhero creators had been doing for decades before he made his film. He created superhuman characters that were relatable to real-life people with real-life problems. He created a shy, isolated teenage girl who has the power to make herself invisible and who happens to like a boy who doesn’t notice. He created a paunchy, middle-aged man who drives a tiny car to work and gets yelled at by his boss who has the power to throw that boss through every office cubicle on the floor. And best of all, with Elastigirl he created a housewife who can raise three kids, maintain a household, and save the world all at once.
12. Kitty Pryde – A Teenage Superhero
The youngest person to join the X-Men, Kitty Pryde is so cool that she influenced Joss Whedon’s characterisation of Buffy Summers. Without Kitty, there would be no Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As Whedon put it, Kitty was “an adolescent girl finding out she has great power and dealing with it.” Kitty’s superpower is phasing, meaning she can pass through any solid object she wants. If she’s in a room and she doesn’t feel like being in that room anymore, she can just walk through the wall and get out of there. No prison cell can hold her. It’s awesome. But that’s not what makes her great; what makes her great is how young she was when she joined the world of superheroes and started fighting with the X-Men. She was just a teenager!
11. Storm – First Black Woman Feature in Marvel or DC
While the X-Men movies with Halle Berry make it seem like Storm is just a highly respected member of the group, she’s so much more than that. She’s been the leader of the X-Men at times, and she’s also been in the Fantastic Four and The Avengers at different points. Storm controls the weather, which doesn’t sound very cool at all, but if it’s any consolation, she can also fly. And controlling the weather isn’t such a lame power. But it’s not about the powers, at least with Storm. She’s a historically important character. Ororo Munroe was one of the first black characters ever in comic books, and she was certainly the first black woman featured in a Marvel or DC comic book. Not only that, the X-Men story was created to represent the minority groups getting ostracized from society and fighting their way to equality. And, it just so happened to coincide with the Civil Rights Movement, so Storm is a hugely important figure in history.
10. Captain Marvel – Yes She’s a Woman
With her own upcoming solo movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe starring Brie Larson in the title role, Captain Marvel is about to be thrust into the spotlight. The great thing about her name is that the title ‘Captain’ would make readers automatically assume her to be a man. It’s just how society has been conditioned. It’s a military position and it’s a heroic character who takes the forefront with the publisher’s name; it must be a man, right? Well, to be fair, in some incarnations, Captain Marvel is a man. But that’s what made the switch to being a woman so progressive. Carol Danvers swooped in (because she can fly, which is really cool) and beat up the men with her superhuman strength, outran them with her superhuman speed, and manipulated energy to her advantage to prove what girls are capable of.
9. Catwoman – A Cunning Antihero
Anyone who’s able to make a mug out of Batman, pull a fast one on him, or otherwise defeat him, is going to be pretty freaking cool. Abysmal solo movie aside, Catwoman is a fantastic character. She doesn’t need brawn to take on the big, strong, masculine men, because she can use her cunning to manipulate and deceive them, and her agility to evade them. It’s masterful. One of the greatest things about Catwoman is her redemption. She didn’t go from bad to good – that would be too simplistic, and Catwoman is anything but a simplistic character. Instead, she grew from her origins as a villain to become more of an antihero; someone who does bad things for good reasons. She’s really cool.
8. Jessica Jones – A Private Investagor
When Breaking Bad’s Krysten Ritter starred in Netflix’s Jessica Jones, it was praised as a darker turn for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. People thought Daredevil was dark, but man, they didn’t know what they had coming with Jessica Jones, which tackled serious subject matter like rape and trauma. And Jessica, who in her former career as a superhero was psychologically controlled and tortured, takes it all in her stride. She keeps her head held high and keeps on helping people. In addition to these traumas in her adult life, Jessica was orphaned by a freak accident, and she’s a resilient human being who faces all these adversities and somehow manages to roll with the punches and find purpose in her life as a private investigator. It’s amazing.
7. Negasonic Teenage Warhead – A Goth Hero
Ellie Phimister, better known as Negasonic Teenage Warhead (a name of which Kitty Pryde sarcastically says, “Wow, we really have run out of names”), was pretty obscure until last year when a little R-rated movie called Deadpool was released. Despite the fact that the studio handling its distribution had absolutely no faith in it, it smashed through a long line of box office records to become one of the biggest hits of the year. The whole reason Negasonic Teenage Warhead was in Deadpool also happens to be the whole reason she’s one of the coolest female characters to ever hit the pages of comic books. The writers of Deadpool could’ve used Cannonball, but they made the wise decision that a small, cute goth girl with Cannonball’s superpowers is infinitely cooler than Cannonball himself, and she is, and the film is all the better for it.
6. Jean Grey – A Powerful Force
Jean Grey has mind-blowing superhuman abilities: telepathy and telekinesis. And when she died and was reborn as Phoenix, she gained powers beyond comprehension. She could bend time and space, manipulate the cosmos, and seriously mess with reality. Just thinking about what Phoenix is capable of is enough to give you a headache. And the scary thing is, that’s the version of her that’s a villain! But she’s a conflicted soul, because the transformation into the cosmic-powered Dark Phoenix eventually led her to suicide. Jean Grey is not a black-and-white, straight, two-dimensional character. She’s an enigma, and solving that enigma, as she toyed with the lives of the other X-Men and became their most powerful member, has made for page-turning entertainment.
5. Batgirl – A Crimefighting Hero
Batgirl is another female superhero who has her own solo movie on the way (isn’t this recent surge of female superheroes great? It’s certainly long overdue), set to be directed by Joss Whedon. She’s definitely a character who deserves to have her story told. Barbara Gordon was the only female in the Batman family when she was introduced and became the most iconic Batgirl. She was also the most feministic one, since she wasn’t Batman’s girlfriend nor is she subservient to him; she was a crime-fighter doing what’s right. Even as a paraplegic, she didn’t give up on fighting crime, instead reinvented herself as Oracle. Barbara Gordon is a woman who truly won’t let anything stand in the way of justice – even living with a disability.
4. Hit-Girl – A Vigilante Hero
Trained to take a bullet by her badder-than-Batman father Big Daddy, Mindy MacReady is a tween girl who doesn’t care about makeup and fashion and boys. She cares about killing gangsters. She cares about doing what’s right (in an extremely violent manner, as it happens). She caused a major controversy amongst adults by saying the C-word, but to her, it’s just a word. That’s how cool she is. Hit-Girl is a vigilante who can walk into a room filled with big, dangerous, gun-toting thugs and take them all out in searing style, and she just so happens to be an eleven-year-old girl. Mindy likes watching John Woo films, making crude jokes, and killing bad people. In short, she’s a very cool chick.
3. X-23 – One Badass Girl
You’d better bet your bottom dollar that any daughter of Wolverine’s is going to be pretty damn cool. Portrayed most recently by the great Dafne Keen in James Mangold’s masterpiece Logan, X-23 was manufactured in a lab, but she’s just as human as you or I. Except she has adamantium claws in her hands (and feet). And unlike a lot of female superheroes, X-23 wasn’t created as some half-baked plan to connect with a female audience. There’s an ill-advised conception within the world of comic books that a male character will connect with both male and female readers, but a female character will only connect with female readers. It’s dead wrong. Anyone can connect with any character, because it’s not about gender or race or sexuality – it’s about emotion. If a black reader relates to a black character, it’s because they relate to racial discrimination. But men can easily relate to women emotionally, and Craig Kyle understood that when he created X-23. He wasn’t creating a girl who younger girls could relate to – he was creating a girl who “younger kids” could relate to. Everyone. Boys and girls. And that’s the result we get with a badass little girl who isn’t afraid of anyone and is someone kids can look up to.
2. Supergirl – The Ultimate Superhero
The latest TV show starring Melissa Benoist in the role of Supergirl is kind of a lame duck, but the character itself is unbelievably great. Supergirl is Superman’s cousin, and since Supergirl is framed as a ‘girl’ and Superman is framed as a ‘man,’ comic book readers and TV viewers with a fragile masculinity can be deceived into thinking the ‘man’ is the stronger one. But, if they look a little further into her backstory, they’ll see that quite the opposite is true. By way of a lovely, subtle feminist message, Supergirl’s creators made her Superman’s older cousin who came to Earth with him to watch over him. She has all of Superman’s powers, but better. So, while Superman may be the ultimate superhero, his cousin is greater than him.
1. Wonder Woman – Greatest Female Superhero Ever
Wonder Woman’s quite simply the epitome of the female superhero. When it comes to female superheroes, Wonder Woman is the one. She’s the female equivalent of Superman. People who know little about the character are often unsure of what Wonder Woman’s power are, and that’s because she has pretty much every superpower in the book. She has super strength, super speed, she’s trained to have expert reflexes and masterful hand-to-hand combat skills, as well as with sword and shield, and she has the best accessories of any superhero. Her bracelets protect her from forces of any kind, her tiara acts as a boomerang, and the Lasso of Truth may not look cool, but it’s extremely useful. Oh, and she can fly. Wonder Woman is an Amazonian princess and, depending on which side of the debate you’re on, she’s either a clay figure who was brought to life by the magic of the gods, or she’s the demigoddess daughter of Zeus. Either way, she is bestowed with the power of the gods and she’s the greatest female superhero ever created. Wonder Woman is quite possibly the greatest superhero ever created, period (but that claim would surely cause a civil war among nerds).