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By Bob Reyer

To mark our Women in Comics event, each of us here at the Talking Comics podcast has selected our “Top Ten Female Characters”. For my list, I’ve restricted myself to lead characters, team members or villains, saving supporting players for another day and a different discussion. This ranking is actually part of a larger list of “favorites” that is being compiled for a future discussion (read “argument”) on the show, said list containing 42 female characters out of 100. (42, as you all know, is the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything.)

One addendum; if this list were compiled a few weeks hence, there would probably be the inclusion of Tarpe Mills’ Miss Fury, the restored edition of which is winging it’s way to this correspondent courtesy of Ms. Trina Robbins. Having only read the cobbled-together reprints, it wasn’t fair to judge, but let’s consider Miss Fury #10-a, and thanks again, Trina.

I’m hearing a voice telling me to get on with it, so without any additional ballyhoo….

10) Jean Grey

  •  (1st app. X-Men #1 {1963}) “The Dark Phoenix” saga is one of the grandest, yet also most intimate story arcs in comics, but it doesn’t work without the humanity of Jean Grey at it’s heart.

9) Scarlet Witch

  • (X-Men #4 {1964}; as hero Avengers #16 {1965}) This villain-turned-hero has had her ups-and-downs, certainly, but two moments stand out for me: her “Yesterday Quest” to find her true past, and her marriage to The Vision, and subsequent birth of her children, the loss of whom has the Marvel Universe in it’s current predicament.

8) Zatanna

  • (Hawkman #1 {1964}) The daughter of Golden Age sorcerer Zatara, ”Z” was always a great guest star, and an even better mid-period JLAer. After her heinously out-of-character use in “Identity Crisis”, her status quo as magician/detective would be restored by writer Paul Dini in 2010.

7) Black Canary

  • (Flash #86 {1947}; JLA #219 {1983}) I first encountered the Earth-2 Black Canary in action in JLA #21, and it seemed that she had crossed over to Earth-1 in JLA #74, but it turns out that our B.C. is actually the daughter of the G.A. Canary—how I do miss the Multiverse! Check out the “Birds of Prey” to see why you should love the Black Canary.

 

6) Power Girl

 

  • (All-Star Comics #58 {1976}) From her first appearance in All-Star, this Kryptonian survivor’s take-charge attitude was evident. Future reboots/ret-cons to her origin would get in the way a bit, but for a fun read, pick up the Palmiotti/Gray/Conner TPBs.

5) Spider-Girl

  • (What If? Vol.2 #105 {1998}) Marvel’s longest-running female solo book, she’s May (May-day) Parker, the daughter of Mary Jane and Peter, in an alternate future timeline. The Tom DeFalco/Ron Frenz/Sal Buscema team made this one of my favorite books each month, and May proved to be the equal of her storied father.

4) She-Hulk

  • (Savage #1 {1980}; Sensational #1 {1989}) Though created to stave off copyright issues with a TV producer, Jennifer Walters, the cousin of Bruce Banner, nevertheless became a fine character in her own right in Savage She-Hulk; but first in Fantastic Four, where Jen filled in for The Thing, and then in 1989’s Sensational She-Hulk, it was John Byrne who took “Shulkie” over the top—and through the 4th wall! This from the cover of #1: “If you don’t buy my book this time, I’m gonna come to your house and rip up all your X-Men!” Classic!

3) Oracle

  • (Suicide Squad #23 {1989}; Black Canary/Oracle {1996}) Barbara Gordon as Oracle was a revelation. John Ostrander, and then Chuck Dixon and Gail Simone, found a way to turn the tragic paralysis of Barbara into a triumph of story-telling, showing her to be even more of a hero as Oracle than in her costumed identity. (Yes, I know she was Batgirl, little Audrey, the “Dare-Doll Detective” is at #11!)

2) Wonder Woman

  • (All Star #8{1941-text}, Sensation #1 {1941}) The initial concept, by William Moulton Marston, that of a woman super-hero using her powers constructively, as opposed to the de-struction occurring in most comics, was genius. Let me quote from the introduction by Gloria Steinem to the 1972 hardcover “Wonder Woman” collection: “…the toe-wriggling pleasure of reading about a woman who was strong, courageous and a fighter for social justice. A woman who strode forth, stopping wars and killing with one hand, distributing largesse and compassionate aid with the other. A Wonder Woman.”

1) Sue Storm

  • (Fantastic Four #1 {1961}) You can read a longer essay outlining my affection for Ms. Richards elsewhere on our site, but let me add here, that watching her character grow through the years, from “fifth wheel” to wife and mother, and finally to one of the most powerful heroines in the Marvel Universe, all without becoming the raging harridan that far too many of her contemporaries became, has been as uplifting as if she was an actual person. I can truly say that when this book was being done well, the character and persona of Susan Storm Richards taught me more than a few things about how men and women can relate to one another in a truly adult fashion. My thanks to all those writers and artists who made this learning possible, but particularly to John Byrne, whose 5-year run re-defined the Invisible Woman.

 

ADDENDUM: Ply me with some adult beverages some time, and I’ll tell you list entries #s 12-20!

Bob’s top 10 female characters:

Recommended reading list

10) Jean Grey:        Dark Phoenix Saga (TPB)

9) Scarlet Witch:   Scarlet Witch/Vision: “A Year in the Life” (TPB)

Avengers: “Nights of Wundagore” (TPB)

8) Zatanna:             “Mistress of Magic” (TPB)

                                  “Shades of the Past” (TPB)

7) Black Canary:     Black Canary: DC Archives (HC/40s & 6os tales)

Birds of Prey (TPBs/Gail Simone run)

6) Power Girl:         “A New Beginning” (TPB/Palmiotti & Conner)

                                   “Aliens and Apes” (TPB/Palmiotti & Conner)

5) Spider-Girl:          Sadly, no collections—you have to buy regular comics!

4) She-Hulk:             “Sensational She-Hulk” (TPB)

3) Oracle:                   BOP: “Old Friends, New Enemies”  (TPB/Dixon)

Birds of Prey: (TPB/Gail Simone run)

2) Wonder Woman: Wonder Woman: DC Archives (HC/ 40’s tales)

“Gods and Mortals” (TPB/ George Perez)

“Lifelines” (TPB/John Byrne)

1)   Sue Storm:             Fantastic Four Visionaries: John Byrne (1-8)

                                 

Fantastic Four: “The End” (HC/Alan Davis)                                  

 

 

 

 

 

                                

 

 

2 Responses

  1. RepStones

    Interesting list Bob and many thanks for the selected reading lmaterial. Always nice to be given some homework you enjoy 😉
    I’ve never read any of those She-Hulk breaking the fourth wall comics. In fact Deadpool is the only character I’ve ever read that done that. Always enjoyable though, so I’ll have to check Byrne’s stint on She-hulk out.

  2. speederice

    Great list Bob! I really love that you’ve given us a roadmap of reading material to track down some of these great stories. Between this and your “From the Comics Vault” columns, I’m trying to keep a running list of books to hunt down at this year’s New York Comic-Con!

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