Strong Women of Comics I Like

This post is inspired by a comment over on Whedonesque about what one is to do without Joss writing Astonishing X-Men. Without Joss there to write strong women. This post assumes that AXM is the only mainstreet comic that the poster has read (i.e. the Firefly and Buffy/Angel comics don’t count). I will also decline to comment on Joss and strong women. Instead, I give you – Strong Women of Comics I Like:

She-Hulk
Jennifer Walter aka She-Hulk

Anyone who’s known me longer than five seconds probably knows about my love of She-Hulk. Jennifer Walters is the Hulk’s cousin and received superpowers when she was shot and got a blood transfusion from him. It saved her life, but made her transform into “some kind of She-Hulk.”

She-Hulk maintains her human sensibilities when she’s in hulk form and prefers to be big and green instead of tiny Jennifer. She’s had her own titles, but has also been a member of the Fantastic Four and the Avengers. She is often relayed upon for both her superpowers and her mind.

When the Earth is attacked by Scorpio and the U.N. gives its power to the Avengers, She-Hulk not only fights, but she also is the one who reads the U.N. carters to help the crashing world economies. In more current history, she’s was a top lawyer in a superhuman law firm and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and now a bounty hunter.

I suggest reading Dan Slott’s She-Hulk, starting with She-Hulk Volume 1: Single Green Female.

Jessica Jones
Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones is a newer Marvel character created by Brian Micheal Bendis in 2002 and was inserted into the Avengers’ history. When you meet her, she runs a private detective agency and has a variety of personal problems include a temper, poor interpersonal skills, bad relationships, and problem with drinking. Her first outing in her own series Alias gives the reader the mystery of why Jessica is no longer a superhero and doesn’t want to be one.

Jessica gained her superpowers — flying, super strength, and resistance to damage — through a tragic car crash with her family’s sedan and a truck carrying nuclear waste. However, she is often reluctant to use them.

Her more recent storylines include her relationship/eventual marriage to superhero Luke Cage, their baby, and how she (kind of) joins the Avengers and mentors the Young Avengers. One of my favorite scenes is where a pregnant Jessica beats up on the Green Goblin in a way that makes even Spider-Man acknowledge that she’s tough as nails.

I suggest starting off with Brian Michael Bendis’ Alias, which is her origin story(s) and first appearances.

Snow White
Snow White

Snow White is a character in Bill Willingham’s Fables, a comic set in modern-day NYC with “fables” living in hiding in the middle of the city. Snow White is introduced as the Deputy Major of Fabletown and clearly the one who’s really in charge of the city’s operations. She’s the only one not afraid of Bigby, the Big Bad Wolf who’s the town’s sheriff, and she always thinks on her feet despite the antics of her sister, Rose Red; an impending war with evil Fables; and when her ex-husband Prince Charming decides to come back into town and run for Mayor.

Snow White’s story is interwoven into this cast in the on-going comic. And while there are certainly other strong women — Frau Totenkinder, Cinderella, Rose Red, the Snow Queen, etc. — Snow White remains my personal favorite. She even gets her own narrative in the flashback book of Fable’s tales 1001 Nights of Snowfall.

I’d suggest starting at the beginning of the Fables‘ series with Legends in Exile.

Dr. Mann and Agent 355
Agent 355, Dr. Allison Mann, and the other women of Y: The Last Man

Brian K. Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man is about Yorrick and his male monkey, the only survivors of whatever killed all the male mammals on the planet, and their quest to find Yorrick’s girlfriend Beth and figure out what the hell actually happened. Vaughan populates the book with a wonderful cast of female characters including Agent 355, the tough American spy who protect Yorrick, Dr. Allison Mann, a genetics doctor who clones herself, and Yorrick’s sister and mother, the latter is a U.S. senator and then president when all the men die off. Additionally, all the women in this story are given agency and come from various backgrounds, ethnically and politically. Vaughan truly makes this story a global story. Plus, Pia Guerra’s art is incredible throughout this book.

I’d suggest starting with Unmanned, the first volume in this recently ended series.

Renee Montoya
Rene Montoya aka The Question

Rene first appeared on the animated Batman TV show and was so popular that she was put in Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka’s Gotham Central. She’s a hard-lined, but at her core, good detective on the Gotham Police Force with ties to the community through her family and the Hispanic community. In Half a Life, she takes center stage with her collaboration and then stalking problem with Two-Face. She’s outed as lesbian in one the best coming out stories I’ve ever read. (And that says a lot considering I’m a bisexual English major who took many “diversity” literature courses.)

Rucka took Montoya even further than her police roots by putting her in the post-Crisis epic 52, which was where I first encountered her outside cartoons. Montoya is one of the characters in the story to have an amazingly done transformation with the publicity bonus of her ex-girlfriend, Kate Kane, aka the new Batwoman. Post-52, Montoya’s story continues in Crime Bible and then Final Crisis: Revelations.

I’d suggest starting with the first hardcover Gotham Central #01: In the Line of Duty, which includes the “Half a Life” story.

Barbara Gordon
Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl aka Oracle and the rest of the women of Birds of Prey

Barbara Gordon starts off her crime-fighting career as Batgirl, fighting alongside Batman, Robin, and a host of other DC superheros as part of the Bat-family. She is, of course, the daughter of Jim Gordon, Gotham’s Police Commissioner. Besides, being kick ass, Barbara is also super smart and a whiz with computers. She is shown to be perhaps the only person who can outspy Batman, the world’s greatest detective.

In Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke (1988), Barbara is shot by the Joker and paralyzed from the waist down. Now, the normal person would hang up the cape and become head of her own internet start-up company, but not Barbara. No, she uses her computer genius to fight crime under the name Oracle and assembles her own, all-female team, Birds of Prey.

Birds of Prey contains many awesome strong women over the years, including Black Canary, Huntress, the new Batgirl, Spoiler, Lady Shiva, and more. Black Canary and Barbara’s friendships is perhaps one of the best portrayals female-friendships ever.

For Batgirl’s origins, I suggest Beatty and Dixon’s Batgirl: Year One and for more current Birds of Prey action, Simone’s Of Like Minds.

Ms. Marvel
Carol Danvers aka Ms. Marvel

Ms. Marvel should be the Wonder Woman of Marvel-verse. However, she’s not. She should also be Captain Marvel, like she was in House of M, but she’s not. If you’re scratching your head, don’t worry, you’ll eventually understand what I mean. Because Ms. Marvel is just that awesome.

Carol starts her life as a Air Force officer working with the then Captain Marvel, who was actually a Kree (a type of alien) undercover. She becomes super-powered when hit by a Kree “Psyche-Magnitron” device and has super strength, speed, stamina, and durability; can absorb energy; and can fly. She goes through many trials and tribulations including being the mind-controlled slave and mystical womb of a guy trying to reincarnated himself, having her powers sucked out by Rogue, and being kidnapped and experimented on by the Brood (another alien species).

Ms. Marvel is a survivor and she never looses her military officer determination. She bounces back and becomes a New Avenger, after the original Avengers are destroyed. Currently, post-Civil War, Tony Stark (Iron Man) has made her the head of the Mighty Avengers. She also has a solo series, which is about her getting her life in order after seeing an alternative version of herself as Captain Marvel, the greatest and most revered superhero in that world.

You can read about the start of her self-improvement in Reed’s Ms. Marvel.

Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman is the most famous female superhero around. Linda Carter’s portrayal of her in the ’70s TV show cemented her fame and everyone knowing her name. Created in 1941 by William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman has survived when other lesser heroes have faded in time. She’s an Amazon princess warrior. She’s good, courageous, diplomatic, and has a great body. Who doesn’t want to be her?

Overall, Wonder Woman is a class act and you’d be hard-pressed to find another character with such dignity who can still kick ass. Heck, even Mr. Goodie Superman dates and marries her (when Lois Lane isn’t available, of course).

Wonder Woman has gone through many writers over the years, but if you’d like to catch up on current Wonder Woman happenings, check out Gail Simone’s run of Wonder Woman (Vol 3 starting at issue #14) or pick up the first tpb Wonder Woman: The Circle. I also hold a special love for Rucka’s Wonder Woman: Hiketeia

Old Lace and Gert
Gert, Nico, Molly, Karolina and the rest of the Runaways

Runaways is a great title to start with for someone who hasn’t read a lot of comics, considering that it’s basically a self-contained story. (There are crossovers here and there, but the writers do a good job at explaining just who those people are.) The basic premise is that a group of kids spy on their parents and find out their parents are actually super villains plotting the destruction of the world. And they runaway…

Gert with her glasses and cynicism is a daughter of time travelers who owns the coolest pet ever, Old Lace, a Deinonychus (similar to a Velociraptor). Nico is a loyal witch who has her heart played with more than once. Molly, the youngest of them at the beginning, is a mutant with budding powers. Karolina is a free-spirit alien and a self-described “freak” of the group, even before she knew she was an alien. And that’s just a few of the female characters.

I’d suggest starting with Vaughan’s Runaways Vol 1 to journey with this newer group from their origins and into the present.

12 Replies to “Strong Women of Comics I Like”

  1. I love Runaways! I think it’s kind of underrated. Also, as I’ve said many times before, I LOVE Snow. She’s easily my favorite character in Fables, and that’s saying a lot. I would love to see a Fables film, I think that the first storyline could transfer fantastically to cinema.

  2. I’m a very very casual reader of comics–mainly, I read random ones lying around the house–but I read the Alias run and I freaking love Jessica Jones. I adore how they portrayed her and her issues/problems, and I like the art they used for her. I also really identified with her reactions to tragedy, as well as to her powers, and enjoyed how her friendships with women were portrayed. I was glad to find out from the husband that she’s made her way into another book after Alias.

  3. @Mark

    It really is very underrated. Every time I read it, I just get so happy.

    I think a Fables HBO mini might be better. They would just really have to be good about how they segmented it.

  4. @idyll — Jessica Jones really is a very identifiable character. Sometimes, it’s hard to see superheros are less than perfect and I really think Bendis did a great job an introducing a character who was supposed to be there all along, but she’s a very modern 3-D one.

  5. This list is great, and I’m so happy to see women on it that I don’t recognize. Because that? Means I have more comics to read. 😉 I also had no idea that Jessica was in “Young Avengers” so that’s another title to read.

    I really love the girls on Runaways (with the exception of Molly), and this made me remember how much I miss reading those comics. Maybe I’ll pick them up again now that Joss is done with them.

    I remember there being talk of a Fables TV series a couple of years ago on NBC? I wonder what happened to that, but HBO really would be the perfect place for a Fables based series/miniseries and I would love to see that.

  6. @Helen — More comics are always good. Jessica makes several appearances in Young Avengers. In many ways, she and Captain America play the “parents” of the young team.

    I’m still playing catch up to the part where Joss writes them. I think part of my enthusiasm dropped when Joss picked them up.

    They’re talking about either making movies or doing a miniseries. I haven’t really heard anything more to this effect in a while. Everyone’s all abuzz about the Marvel movies.

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