A couple of weeks ago, we ran an article discussing the lack of strong female characters in comics (Strong Female Characters in Comics?). While there is often a focus on certain...anatomical features (10 Greatest Racks in Comic Books) of women in comics (I myself am more guilty of this than most), that doesn’t mean that they aren’t important, powerful or any less interesting as characters.
That’s why this week I’ve decided to take a look at ten female characters in comics that would not hesitate to kick your ass should you look at them wrong. These aren’t women you mess with. Even if they are well endowed physically, if they catch you ogling, your face is going to be turned to jelly, guaranteed. Of course, getting one’s ass kicked by a strong willed, gorgeous woman is also a top level turn on.
10. Kitty Pryde
Though she’s not generally considered to be the proverbial “badass”, Kitty Pryde is one of the most enduring female characters in comics. She’s been a member of the X-Men, New Mutants, Excalibur, and even an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Aside from her unique powers, she’s also one of the smartest characters to ever grace Marvel Comics.
She’s a computer science genius, as well as fluent in at least five languages (including alien ones), is also a licensed pilot, and highly skilled in numerous forms of hand-to-hand combat. If there as anyone that represents a well rounded, respected character in comics, it’s Kitty Pryde. As a bonus, she is empathically linked to Lockheed, her pet dragon.
Most poignant moment of complete and utter badassery: Phasing a galactic bullet through the Earth, saving billions, but fusing herself inside of it, set to ride its wave through the galaxy for eternity. Presumably. And again: owning her own dragon.
9. Carrie Stetko
Unlike nearly every other character on this list, Carrie Stetko of Whiteout isn’t a beauty queen (unless it’s the Kate Beckinsale version, and even then she’s opening 6th at the box office), and she doesn’t wear anatomically revealing clothing. She’s a tough-as-nails US Marshal that has no time to f*ck around. Whether or not she’s all business because she’s burying some sort of grief or just because she’s overly involved in her work, she’s a flawed character with many admirable qualities. She’s a bit overreactive, so make sure you keep away from any snide remarks.
Stetko is an important character regarding females in comics, because there is no doubt where her strength comes from. She has no superpowers or tragic origin, she is a human being, like the rest of us.
Most poignant moment of complete and utter badassery: Shooting the serial killer in her custody, out of pure hatred and rage.
Like a lot of the characters on this list, Elektra is yet another complicated construction that has flip flopped from bad to good and dead to alive more times than I can count. Yet, she is physically unstoppable, a master of dozens of martial art styles, and is perhaps Daredevil's only true adversary - and true love - both mentally and physically.
As cold-blooded as she may be, Elektra adds to her complexity when she shows affection for Matt Murdock, as well as being unable to carry out a contract hit on Foggy Nelson, remembering him from her college days as Matt's girlfriend. She also was responsible for the nurturing of Wolverine back to his normal state after being relegated to a beast-like state, unable to speak or think like a human.
Though she's one of the world's most dangerous assassins, she clearly has enough respect for some of her adversaries and peers to still treat them like human beings, a respectable trait no matter what your profession. Unless you offend her. If you offend her, God help you.
Most poignant moment of complete and utter badassery: Elektra battles Bullseye (and loses) over the distinction of who will get to kill the Kingpin.
7. Mara Jade Skywalker
Now primarily known as the wife of Luke Skywalker, Mara Jade has ranged from smuggler, to Emperor Palpatine's right hand, to Jedi Knight. Though she admittedly had done some reprehensible things, she eventually she saw the light and rebelled against the Dark Side of the Force, assisting in many battles for the Expanded Universe's New Republic and New Jedi Order.
In fact, Mara Jade was so powerful a Jedi that she was able to become a Force ghost upon her death, aiding her son and future heirs in their times of need. In terms of Star Wars, it takes a hell of a woman to chain-whip Luke Skywalker, savior of the Galaxy, but she did it as easily as she can levitate a rock on Utapau. If Mara wants the dishes done, I'll guarantee Luke isn't thinking twice about heading out to get some crap-ass power converters.
Most poignant moment of complete and utter badassery: Mara Jade discovers that her nephew, Jacen Solo, has turned to the dark side and doesn’t waste a second hunting him down to kill him. Even in her defeat, she leaves clues for her family to identify the killer.
6. Black Canary
One of the smartest women in the DCU, Black Canary was a primary force in the creation of the Birds of Prey, and has remained a strong female presence since being brought into the limelight in the 90's. Though she went through a rough patch around the time of Oliver Queen's death, she was able to bounce back, not only using her mental strength but also by not having the short-sightedness to resist relying on her friends.
Though admittedly, her strength isn't in technology, Dinah Lance remains a brilliant strategist and hand-to-hand combatant. In fact, though she lost her Canary Cry at one point, she was still a formidable opponent for any schmuck on the street.
Most poignant moment of complete and utter badassery: Black Canary is made Chairperson of the Justice League of America, besting Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman for the role.
5. Talia al Ghul
It seems Batman's relationship with the entire al Ghul family consists entirely of shades of gray. Talia takes a cue from her father in her immense respect for Bruce Wayne, even having a child with him, but won't hesitate for a second to take out her beloved if he gets in her way.
Talia is a strong, decisive character that though she was initially torn between loyalty to her father and her feelings for Batman, she eventually found her way to making the decisions she thought best for herself, even when that may have included faking a miscarriage and heading up the Secret Society of Super Villains, alongside the likes of Deathstroke and Doctor Psycho.
Perhaps her most influential moment came during "No Man's Land" when Gotham City was ravaged by a devastating earthquake, and it was she who brought Bruce's spirit to keep fighting to a new high. Of course, she would later reveal his hidden son and attack him with monsters, but that's really besides the point isn't it?
Most poignant moment of complete and utter badassery: Raising the child of herself and Bruce Wayne to be a prepubescent ninja to someday take the mantle of his father. See also: raising an army of ninja Man-Bats.
4. Barbara Gordon
A few months ago, I questioned the merit of removing Barbara Gordon’s paralysis (inflicted by The Joker way back in the 80’s, courtesy of Alan Moore), suggesting that it would perhaps be detrimental to her character. While I certainly don’t think that Babs’ handicap is what makes her a strong character, it does serve as an example of her determination, intelligence, and general intensity.
Starting first by becoming the original Batgirl, Babs eventually moved on to be the resident hacker/information trafficker of the superhero community in the DC Universe, and a founding member of the Birds of Prey. While she works mostly behind the monitor, she’s certainly never shied away from a down-and-out brawl, being able to bring down thugs like bowling pins, even from a wheelchair. As seen in the recent Oracle mini-series, if you mess with Babs, you get a beating, no doubt.
Most poignant moment of complete and utter badassery: Overcoming her post-paralysis depression to continue kicking the asses of evildoers spread across the DCU as Oracle.
3. Agent 355
A secret agent that puts even James Bond to shame, Three-Fifty is Yorick Brown’s assigned bodyguard after the gendercide that sets off the events of Y: The Last Man. Recruited by the government at a young age while fleeing foster care, she was turned into a killing machine, though she admittedly dislikes the process of killing.
When we first meet her, the series is still relatively focused on Yorick and the mystery of how the plague occurred, but as the series wears on we find that 355 is just as central a character as Yorick. In fact, there would most certainly be no Yorick if 355 weren’t around to protect him, keep his ego in check, and even kick his ass when need be.
Here’s to you, Three-Fifty.
Most poignant moment of complete and utter badassery: Tackling a would-be assassin to through a window on an upper story of a building after escaping handcuffs, and subsequently driving a splintered stick through the eye of her attacker, all the while uttering “I’m so goddamn tired of killing people.”
2. Wonder Woman
When it comes to iconic female comic book heroes, Wonder Woman is the top dog. She’s endured World War II, the women’s rights movement, and the sexification of comic books. The Amazonian princess Diana is no doubt the most powerful woman in comics, both in physical strength and as a role model. She’s a warrior, first and foremost; a born leader.
Though she may not have always made the best choices, the important thing is that she always believed that she made the right ones. Though all of the women on this list are amazing characters that deserve their time in the limelight, it’s fairly certain that Wonder Woman will never be overshadowed in her morality and sincerity. No one.
Just don’t comment on her bust size, or I can guarantee a quick lasso around the throat.
Most poignant moment of complete and utter badassery: Snapping the neck of Maxwell Lord without a second’s hesitation to save Superman’s life. On national television, no less.
In my opinion, there is no more complex and interesting character - female or otherwise - as Catwoman. I wouldn’t paint her in the same iconic role-model light as Wonder Woman (burglary, prostitution and murder sort of nullify that), but Selina Kyle is no less of a warrior than Diana. Though she’s been a bit selfish in the past, she clearly has a wide moral compass that allows her to teeter from villain to antihero in a heartbeat.
When looking at Selina’s history, there are very few characters who have a history quite as complicated and traumatic as hers - she’s a former prostitute (depending on who you ask, I suppose), has lost numerous friends and family, lost her baby, lost the father of her baby, and now, she’s lost Bruce Wayne as well.
Yet, through it all, she’s survived, much like the stray cats on the streets of the East End that she so adores. Catwoman is the epitome of the potential of a comic book character.
Most poignant moment of complete and utter badassery: Shooting Black Mask in his ugly face, point blank. With a glock.