I’ve never been much of a super hero fan and the ones who do grab me must be damaged, unstable and fairly badly behaved. I’ve always loved Batman for his near self destructive drive to avenge, The Hulk for his lack of control and reluctance to be himself and Thor for his weakness of heart for humans and his dysfunctional family. Most of my favorite comic book characters more appropriately wear the title of ‘antihero’: a protagonist who lacks the attributes that make a heroic figure, as nobility of mind and spirit, a life or attitude marked with action or purpose. In honor of Talking Comics’ Women in Comics week, I present to you my top favorite female antiheroes.
1. Delirium from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman
One of the Endless, Delirium is scatter brained, sensitive and intuitive in a way only she seems to understand. Her brothers and sisters (Dream, Destiny, Death, Destruction, Despair and Desire) are fond of her, protective and sometimes a little cautious of her quick switches in focus and personality. Delirium is equal parts order and chaos, though the order side of her requires much concentration and, she reveals, sometimes pain.
One of the most intriguing things about Delirium is that she was once Delight until a traumatic experience transformed her into Delirium, via a deep, impenetrable madness. She’s often seen as a young girl, maybe a child, with two colored eyes, her clothes disheveled, her speech written in mismatched, floaty letters. Delirium often seems to have knowledge of places and events that the other Endless do not. She offers moments of clarity and insight which have more than once assisted Dream in better understanding himself and his place in the universe. Delirium is complex and simple, wise and distracted, fragile and powerful. She’s mysterious and endearing and she’s one of my top favorite female characters for all those reasons.
2. KK from Freakangels
The scene is England after a flood of apocalyptic proportions. The main characters 12 young people who were all born on the same day, as they grew exhibiting a range of special abilities and powers that would eventually become their burden in society, then their method of control over a community of survivors. Created by Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield, FreakAngels was originally a free weekly webcomic, now published in a collection by Avatar Press.
KK is a scientist and ‘steamologist’ who gets around in a steam powered helicopter she refers to as ‘the bike’. Her full name is Kolfinnia Kokokoho Titching, but you will never hear anyone call her that. She’s a small character in a small webcomic, but she boasts a big personality that really appealed to me throughout the series. She’s ornery, stubborn, smart and tough. She’s also quite the hussy, frequently bedding random men, sometimes apparently just to keep herself from getting bored with the responsibilities of being a Freak Angel. KK is fiercely independent and impatient with her fellow Angels’ sensitivities. She never apologizes for her reckless ways but it does become apparent that she indeed has regrets and even feels a little pity for some of the hapless men she leaves confused along the way.
KK is not a particularly deep character, but she’s a fun shot of chaos in an emotional story of outcasts trying hard to redeem themselves for their sins.
3. The Filthy Assistants from Transmetropolitan
Channon Yarrow and Yelena Rossini are the unfortunate assistants to Spider Jerusalem, a drug addled, alcohol soaked gonzo journalist. Channon joined Spider after meeting him in the strip club she worked in and witnessing him ending a riot by broadcasting his words live to the city. She was also a bodyguard and is taller than Spider, attractive and clever. She proves to have skills not only in keeping Spider alive and writing but also in using weapons. She keeps up with Spider’s antics and doesn’t hesitate to use force when needed to try to keep him from permanently damaging his career, getting arrested or killing himself, mostly inadvertently.
Yelena Rossini is pretty much the opposite of Channon. She’s petite and comes from a background of wealth, daughter of a rich philanthropist and politician. Yelena is also quite different in personality from Channon, being angsty, temperamental and gloomy. She’s sharp tongued and often at odds with Spider, choosing to piss him off rather than accommodate his tantrums. Eventually, Spider and Yelena slip up and sleep together, which becomes a big issue for them both, Yelena angrily denies the possibility as long as she can, Spider tries to pretend he’s disgusted by the idea.
These two ladies really make Transmetropolitan the awesome package that it is. Spider Jerusalem wouldn’t have had the adventures he had, committed to the political destruction he loved in such a productive way or learned about himself in quite the way he did without his filthy assistants. In the end, Yelena and Channon retire to the mountains with Spider, both discover their own journalistic skills and seem quite content to live out their days keeping track of him and chain smoking.
4. Tabitha Smith from Nextwave
She’s been known by many names, in many stories, including Time-Bomb, Boom-Boom, Boomer and Meltdown. For the sake of this list, I’ll be calling her by her name in Nextwave, Tabitha Smith. Tabitha is a member of a rag tag group of heroes known as H.A.T.E. or Highest Anti Terrorism Effort, funded by the Beyond Corporation. If you’re not familiar with Nextwave, try to keep up, things get confusing. Tabitha uncovered Beyond Corp’s connections with terrorist group S.I.L.E.N.T and the Nextwave team fought to save the world from the evil company’s strange Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Tabitha snaps her gum and says thing like ‘ZOMG’ and ‘OH NOES!’ as she battles giant lizard Fin Fang Foom, the Ultra Samurai Seed and a team called The New Paramounts. She is ridiculously light hearted, cute and ditzy. But the best part about Tabitha Smith? She blows stuff up! ‘Tick, tick, tick… BOOM!’ she says while she shoots explosive fire from her finger tips. She is just bad ass and silly and I love her for it.
5. Lenore the Cute Little Dead Girl
Thanks to a botched embalming, a little dead girl named Lenore became sort of, well, undead. She loves kitties too much. Enough that she loves them to death, quite literally. She befriends a stuffed toy with a past life as a powerful, mellow dramatic vampire. She is fond (somewhat) of her neighbor, Taxidermy, who seems to be a conglomeration of long dead creatures stitched together loosely. Lenore even struggles with an incredibly loyal admirer (stalker) called Mr. Gosh, who never quits trying to profess his love even after multiple deaths at Lenore’s hands.
Lenore is funny, adorable and seemingly unaware that she brings death and suffering to everyone around her. She is irritable when she doesn’t get what she wants, or can’t get rid of what she doesn’t want. She is vicious and quite intentionally murderous when the mood strikes her. She is, in general, an endearing and charming character, even when squishing a box full hamsters to death, on by one, trying to find the one that will squeak just right.
I’m sure many will disagree with my choices, probably some will stare at this page, confused and befuddled as to why I would take the time to talk about these misfit characters, let alone put them on a favorites list. I’m ok with that, as long as you have some opinion and hopefully express it here. Most of all, I hope to have inspired a few of you to check out some of these less-than-heroic comic books, if you haven’t read them, and enjoy the special attraction of the female antihero.