Thursday, April 9, 2009

Calling All Superheroines

Time for a quick poll!

Given my recent popularity, vis a vis my slightly ranty discussion about how I felt Birds of Prey went a bit south of Helsinki, I've been mulling over what works and what doesn't when writing a superheroine in comics. So, in that light, I've got two questions for you . . .

Who are your favorite superheroines?

And, if you feel like expounding a bit, why?

I'll go first. In no particular order: Jessica Jones, She-Hulk, Emma Frost, Catwoman, Huntress, Black Widow, Black Canary, Wonder Woman, Fire, Ice, Molly Hayes, Power Girl, Oracle, The Question and the ladies of Gen13 (but particularly Caitlin Fairchild and Roxy Spaulding).

As a rule, I'm a fan of any superheroine who is complex, strong, interesting from a psychological perspective and perhaps overly fond of kicking ass. If they actively deconstruct and add a gray area to the very "superheroine" conceit, bonus points (hello Jessica Jones, Emma Frost, et al). I especially dig cerebral superheroines, particularly if their intelligence supersedes all the qualities listed above (I'm still waiting for someone other than Gail Simone and Adam Warren to dig into the diamond in the rough that is Caitlin Fairchild, for instance).

Anyways, contrasts, power and drive create interesting characters of any kind and the fictional women listed above don't lack for that. Well, save maybe Ice and Molly Hayes (in terms of contrasts), but it's nice to have at least two characters who are both genuinely sweet while remaining undoubtedly kick-ass.

Feel free to ask me to expand on my love of any of these characters or, if you like, to let me know why you just flat-out loathe them*. But seriously, let me know - which superheroines are your favorites?

*And yes, a post on why I think Emma Frost is incredibly interesting and why Scott and Emma's relationship tickles me is still coming along. Actually, I think I may expand my posts on her to a a first-ever Theme Week, if anyone would be interested.


SallyP said...

Zinda aka Lady Blackhawk is one of my favorites, followed by Wonder Woman, Ice and Fire, Big Barda, Oracle, Katma Tui,Soranik Natu and...just for variety, the Black Widow.

I'm also rather fond of Lois Lane, Carol Ferris, Joan Garrick and Hope O'Dare. Oh, and Tulip from Preacher. And I guess that Storm is ok.

Maddy said...

Barbara Gordon/Oracle is probably my favourite. But I've also become a big fan of Cassandra Cain/Batgirl, Stephanie Brown/Spoiler, Huntress, and Lady Blackhawk.

I tend to gravitate toward non-powered heroes who have the odds against them somehow, but go out and kick ass despite it all.

Lois Lane and Wonder Woman are also ones I've come to love.

I don't really follow current Marvel comics, but when I was younger I watched the 90s X-Men show obsessively, and I loved Rogue and Storm. They were both so powerful and Rogue especially struck me as complex and interesting. I'm not really sure where they are in comics today, though.

K. D. Bryan said...

SallyP - I kick myself for forgetting Lady Blackhawk. I wish they'd do more with her - such an inherently fun concept. A beautiful woman from the 1940's with twin pistols whose job is to fly a bad-ass jet full of superheroines around? C'mon. Foolproof recipe for good times. And Big Barda is just awesome anywhere she goes. I still chuckle when I think back to that issue of Harley Quinn where she wrecks Stately Wayne Manor.

I'm not familiar with Hope O'Dare *Googles* but I'll add her to the growing list of reasons why I should eventually sit down and read Starman.

Maddy - Ditto for many of those. See my Lady Blackhawk love above. I liked Cassandra Cain a great deal before the whole ridiculous Deathstroke debacle soured my enthusiasm for her character.

I was also an X-Man reader in the '90's and a pretty hardcore one at that. I dug Rogue a great deal, accent and all, and Storm was always a great character. Rogue always dealt with identity issues in a unique way and Storm was one of the rarely seen female leaders in superhero comics. Plus, awesome, visual powers - always a plus.

Since you asked (sort of), I think I can recap Storm and Rogue's current status. Mind you, nowadays, I only read Astonishing X-Men and (to a lesser degree) Uncanny X-Men with any regularity. As far as I know, Storm is currently Queen of Wakanda and recently a widow (I hear they've killed the Black Panther).
Rogue, after a stint leading her own X-Men team, got everybody out of her head but accidentally absorbed Mystique into her brain. She's now meeting up with Xavier, trying to purge her Mom out of her head, from what I hear. In any case, they've seen better days, save for in Astonishing X-Men where Storm regularly brings the awesome.

SallyP said...

Reading Starman is a worthwhile project. The main character, Jack is wonderful of course, but what REALLY stands out, at least to me, are all the secondary characters.

You have the original Starman, Ted Knight, the Shade, all of the O'Dares, Scalphunter, Oliver Wilde and the Opal City itself. It's amazing.

RichardAK said...

Huntress, Dara Brighton, Sundra Peale, She-Hulk, Ultra, and Empowered. Yeah, I know what you're thinking about that last one, but she really is a great heroine. Anyway, you did invite us to expound a bit on why we like these characters, so I'll try to restrain my natural verbosity (failing already, aren't I?).

I'll skip some of the better known characters, like Huntress and She-Hulk, and start with Dara Brighton. I love her resolve, her willingness to do whatever it takes. If that means ripping the healing skin off the stumps of her thighs so that she can reattach her severed legs, then so be it. Once she decided she was going to seek revenge, she was totally committed.

There is so much to say about Sundra Peale, but let me start by asking how can you not love a character who defeats an invincible robot assassin by buying the company who sent it? I like her ability to solve problems in unconventional ways, but that's just scratching the surface.

Ultra because, when push came to shove, she put everything, including all that had happened to her, as well as her fears for her own safety, aside and did her duty, which is pretty much the definition of a hero.

About Empowered, I like her because, firstly, the story is designed to make you like her. Because so many bad things happen to her, because she is already so hard on herself, and because she keeps trying in spite of everything, you can't help but root for her. I also like that she's a deconstruction of the "skimpily clad heroine in bondage" trope, because it points out something that should be obvious: that would actually be extremely traumatic for the person involved, and only someone of unusual courage and resolve would be able to keep trying under those circumstances. Also, she has had some real successes, including saving the entire universe, and no doubt several others too.

Menshevik said...

Rogue has been one of my favourites, perhaps my favourite superheroine since she joined the X-Men and probably continues to be so, although I have to say that I infinitely prefer the 1980s. She has quite a lot about her that I find interesting, not just the aspect of not being able to touch people, but perhaps even more for stories in which she had to face her guilt over her villainous past, in particular what she did to Ms. Marvel.

Other heroines I really like:
Arrowette (especially as a rare example of someone who chose to stop being a suphero for a very valid reason, but also for the way she faced the JLA and for her friendship with Cassie), Black Cat (Felicia Hardy), Black Widow, Captain Marvel/Photon/Pulsar (Monica Rambeau), Dove (Dawn Granger), Empowered, Fire, Ice, Moondragon, Shadowcat, and Storm.

Oh, and of course borderline superheroine Kim Possible (you might not count her as a superheroine but she certainly fights supervillains).

Menshevik said...

Oh,and I can't believe I forgot to mention her: Spider-Girl.

The Count said...

I like Gamora. That may just be because she's green and doesn't wear a whole lot though. I'm a bad person.