Poll Position: Girl power!

Continuing our "Greatest Of" series, we turn our attention to the ladies of the genre, asking simply:


Discussion -- and images! -- to follow.

  1. Batgirl/Oracle (Barbara Gordon): Although directly derivative of a male character, over the years Barbara Gordon has evolved into a truly fascinating, independent individual. Not even being paralyzed could crush her spirit, as she continued to fight crime in her identity as the Oracle. It became clear that while her super-heroic identity was based on a man, her identity as a human being was most definitely not. And ultimately, it's what you have inside that determines how great of a hero you are, not what you look like or what powers you have.

  2. Hawkgirl: I chose an image of Hawkgirl from the "Justice League Unlimited" series, because that's where I know her the best from. I find it fascinating that the series barely had Hawkman in it at all -- Shayera was her own woman right from the get-go in that universe. Despite basically just having the power of flight, she was often on the front lines, taking down bad guys twice her size and unimaginably stronger with just sheer guts and a handy power mace. She's one of the few female characters who threaten to overturn the dynamic, and make people think maybe the male aspect was named after the woman.

  3. Invisible Woman: On the one hand, the old bromide about the only female character on the FF having the power to be unseen fitting right in with a woman's proper role has merit. I mean, you can't get much more stereotypical than a woman who can only hide and have defensive powers. On the other hand, as time went on Sue definitely grew into a much more assertive, interesting, and independent person. The dynamic of having her be married to a teammate makes for interesting stories, her ongoing flirtation with Namor adds spice, and her increasing command of her frankly devastating powers has made her fascinating to watch.

  4. Jean Grey: Name another character on this list who at any time in their career actually wiped out entire galaxies. I didn't think so. From Marvel Girl to Phoenix and every "plain old Jean Grey" stop in between, Jean has always been able to hold her own in a group dominated by mutant men. I think her "Dark Phoenix" storyline probably had the biggest impact on her publishing house of anyone on this list, one of the few adventures to truly count as An Event.

  5. Power Girl: The definitive leader in Pinups, I think it's easy to dismiss Power Girl as just another Superman knock-off with giant boobs. Which is good, because that's pretty much what I'm going to do here. If you want to defend her as the Greatest Ever in comments, bring it on!

  6. She-Hulk: Again, we have a female character directly based on a better known male. But love him or hate him, John Byrne took her "meta" and elevated her into the upper tier of comics. Smart, gorgeous, and super-strong, she's the best thing in green skin since Kirk hit the pleasure planet.

  7. Storm: It's hard enough being a woman in today's world, much less a Black woman, much less a Black mutant woman. But Storm always manages to retain a sense of class and royalty seemingly lacking among a lot of the characters in comics, much less the females. Sexy because of her guts and never-say-die attitude more than for her body, Storm is one of the truly great late-comers to mutantdom.

  8. Supergirl: Originally a lame Superman knock-off for girls, Crisis on Infinite Earths helped catapult Supergirl into the group of front-line heroes. Like Wonder Woman, only moreso, she's always had the challenge of trying to differentiate herself from her better-known male template.

  9. The Wasp: I've always loved the Wasp because she seems like the only person on the Avengers who ever has fun. It's easy to dismiss her as a fashion-loving spoiled brat, but she's been able to lead the likes of Thor and Iron Man while still retaining her own sense of what she likes and who she is. That's an impressive achievement.

  10. Wonder Woman: We all know Wonder Woman was based on Superman, ok? And her early days were, unquestionably, heavily influenced by themes of bondage, submission, and putting women in their place -- break her bracelets and she went wild because women can't be trusted with too much power, it drives them insane. But for good or ill, she's the only one on the list with what I think is an unquestionable place among the Big Hitters of her line. You can say
    "Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman" without getting laughed out of the room, a claim I think it'd be hard to make about any other female comics character.

17 Responses to Poll Position: Girl power!

  1. Myro says:

    It is easy to dismiss Wasp. I’ve practically tried to ignore her in all her incarnations. On the other hand, I love Power Girl, but I’ve got nothing for your “Superman with boobs” remark.
    Whatever. I ended up going with Wonder Woman. I mean, you ask who the “Big 5” of Justice League are, it’s Superman, Batman, The Flash, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman. Those are the 5 most popular characters out of the DC stable, and one woman makes the list. Done.
    Surprised by some of the commissions from this list. No Ms. Marvel or Black Canary? I think they would have been better additions than some of those listed.

  2. C. Baize says:

    Had to go with She-Hulk.
    Yes she’s derivative of a male character. But, even with her transformation, she kept her intelligence, her beauty, her WIT, and … her career. Strong (physically, mentally AND emotionally), beautiful, and independent.
    She-Hulk all the way.

  3. Firecracker says:

    While all the women on this list have their place in the pantheon — the greatest of all HAS to be Wonder Woman!!!

  4. Worf says:

    Well Jeff, if you had any doubts about WW winning this contest before you posted it, I think your comment clinched it.

  5. Arioch says:

    If Hawkgirl was the one from the Justice League and nothing else, I’d have voted for her, as she was, to me, the most marking character of the entire show, and I loved her.

    Sadly, I can’t, in all honesty, restrict myself to that, and must take into account the regular DC universe, where she is a lot less awesome (and, truth be told, pretty forgetable).
    Such a shame 🙁

  6. zaheelee says:

    I understand why Wonder Woman is the obvious choice here, but seeing as I am an aspiring computer programer in a Post-AP Computer Science class, I have gotta respect how Oracle totaly dominates cyberspace. If you think about it, programers and hackers are usually men, so it is absolutely awesome how a paralized woman could be the best of the best.

    Here’s to you, Oracle!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. zaheelee says:

    Also, Jeff, I always have a hard time seeing the bars on the poll results. Could you possibly make them a darker color grey? Thanks!

  8. Spiritech0 says:

    I was going to click on Wonderful when on retrospect, the vote went to Barbara Gordon because Diana can’t make sales from an Amazonian wheelchair. Plus Miss Gordon can still give the baddies a beatdown. No-powers for the win.

  9. MScat says:

    Very hard decision to make. Really I love how it was put that what’s INSIDE is what makes you a great hero. Wonder Woman has always had a hard time reaching readers on a personal level. Sure she’s probably the most influential of all the characters listed but I cast my vote for two characters that work, not only on a “strong female” level, but a very personal level to all readers MALE or FEMALE.

    Batgirl/Oracle – She is one of my all time favorite characters. I don’t know if they planned for it to happen when they wrote “The Killing Joke” (Honestly I think her becoming paralyzed was another ‘Woman in the Refridgerator’ plot twist) But ever since then Barbara Gorden has showed what true heroism is all about: Not giving up. She continues to fight no matter what happens to her.

    Storm – I don’t think there is another character on the list that has more personality than her. Through all of her life’s ups and downs she has continued to carry herself with dignity and class. She is the true example of what Charles Xavier has been dreaming of ever since he started the X-Men. She is a mutant who’s had a hard life (like Magneto) but who doesn’t hold a grudge (unlike Magneto) She takes what life throws at her and she takes it well. She lives a normal life, and has even found love [outside the Xavier institute thank God!] And now she is one of the most powerful women in the world. TAKE THAT YOU MUTANT HATERS! And to top it off she’s powerful too. When she let’s lose it’s pretty much the end of everything.

    Those two are my choices but I do love all the characters on the list. I really like the reimagining of Wonder Woman that’s going on right now: Im curious of the direction its going to take (just thought id mention that) 😉

  10. Wonder Woman is the queen. However, Jeff makes a point with Jean Grey. The Dark Phoenix saga shot X-Men to a new level. Not just sales, but a level of continuity and character exploration of all the heroes involved.

    Up until then, most superheroes were solo artists. Most super teams were designed around clashing personalities. Jean was the X-Men’s de facto matriarch. Not only the Phoenix herself, but all the mutants, had to come to terms with their loyalties, their duty, and the consequences of their decisions.

  11. William A. Peterson says:

    I picked Sue (Invisible Woman), but there’s a lot of good choices, here…
    Mostly, I think Sue has been the best example of a gradual, consistent evolution from “Helpless Girl” to a real superheroine…
    Not the massive powerhouse that some of them are, but not just a duplicate, rip-off, or just plain “Continuity Challenged” mess that others are.

  12. X-stacy says:

    I picked Hawkgirl purely based on how much I liked her in the Justice League cartoon (well, except for her heel turn). I know I complain about Superman’s strategy of just hitting things ’til they break, and Hawkgirl employs exactly the same strategy; but honestly, Superman has other options and Hawkgirl doesn’t. When you’ve got a hammer, every problem looks like a nail, and when you have a Nth metal mace, every problem looks like a villain’s face.

  13. Malfar says:

    Hawkgirl in the comics is even greater then in the cartoon, but still I choose Wonder Woman

  14. The Imp says:

    I voted for the Wasp solely on the version in Ultimate Avengers. Which was AWESOME.

  15. Phatchick says:

    All these ladies have something going for them but if I have to make a choice I’d say Wonder Woman, the first and the one all the others look to for inspriation. But running a tie for very close second would have to be Invisible Woman (I loved the FF growing up) and Batgirl, who turned into one of the toughest crimefighters around.

  16. Kountkill says:

    Hey, how come no mention of the only female character to take out Thanos and a number of Marvel’s heavy hitter bad guys…Squirrel Girl Rocks!

  17. Wesley Belk says:

    I voted for Storm, for all the reasons Jeff gave and plus I’m a sucker for the dark skinned beauties, but all of that aside, I’d to try my hand at defending Power Girl.

    Obviously at the time of her creation, the creators were probably looking to score on getting more fanboys and keeping the ones they had coming back, simply because of Power Girl’s looks. It’s even hinted at in the Superman/Batman animated movie: Public Enemies.

    But I think its just fine having the full-figured gal as opposed to the thin-stick models with perfectly sized breasts. It makes her stand out, and once you get past those looks, you find out she’s actually a pretty decent character, perhaps not as deeply heroic as Barbara Gordon or Sue Storm, but still she doesn’t deserve to be slumped off as the worst, unfortunately, so long as Wonder Woman and the others are around, she’ll never get a chance to be the Greatest Ever.