Back in November of 2010 I did a massive list of my 20 favorite female characters in comics. And today I’m doing a list of 10 ladies that – thanks to some seriously awesome creator work – are poised to break into that list. And all of them are currently starring in books going on now, so get out there and get reading!
I’m hard pressed to think of a character I’m more invested in (especially in so few issues) than Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples Alana from Saga. She has quickly risen to the top of my favorites list and of all the ladies on this list, she’s probably one of two that I’d move up if I had to make a new “Top 20” today. She’s just so nuanced and complicated. She’s warrior and lover, mother and wife, badass but also almost childlike in her innocence of some things – her recent freakout that she had “broken her daughter” when Hazel’s umbilical cord nub fell off, was charmingly human and naïve – proving you can know all about the universe and still not know about the simplest of things. I just love her. In truth, I seriously considered putting a whole slew of ladies from Saga on this list including The Stalk (a contract killer!), Hazel (a baby!), Izabel (a teenage ghost!) and even the newly introduced Gwendolyn (the dreaded ex!) – that’s how much I love this book and these characters.
You can read more about Alana (and all these ladies) in Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples Saga (the trade is currently on sale on Amazon for an insane $5.55 for Prime Members).
I wrote about my love for Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona webcomic on She Has No Head! not long ago, but when I was making this list, I confess that Nimona popped into my head, almost unbidden, and once she had, she refused to get out – which seems very Nimona. Morally suspect, enthusiastically villainous, but charmingly adorable anyway, Nimona is easily one of my favorite new heroines on the scene and if Stevenson keeps it up, Nimona is going to claw her way – perhaps quite literally given her shapeshifting abilities – onto my list of favorite fictional females in comics.
You can read more about Nimona in Noelle Stevenson’s ongoing Nimona web comic.
HAWKEYE aka KATE BISHOP
It takes a truly fantastic character to be as good (if not better) than Clint in his own book, yet in Matt Fraction and David Aja’s hands, Kate Bishop steals nearly every scene she’s in. Thanks to fantastic chemistry between the two Hawkeyes, innovative art and storytelling at the hands of Fraction and Aja, Kate Bishop, a character that has never even been on my radar, is a strong contender for the list someday very soon. Add to that her awesome debut in the first issue of Young Avengers by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie and it seems only a matter of time before she’s solidly on my list.
You can read more about Hawkeye/Kate Bishop in Young Avengers, and as a frequent guest star in Hawkeye (the first six-issue trade releases next week).
I’ve never read any Conan books, my experience with Conan is solely those awesome 80’s Conan movies (Grace Jones for the win!) But when I heard Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan were tackling the new Conan series from Dark Horse it was obvious I would be checking it out. Imagine my surprise to find I loved it! And loved Conan’s adversary and then lover/queen Bêlit the most of all. Bêlit is incredibly complicated and interesting, like all the best characters are. She’s presented almost like a dream or a nightmare, so powerful and beckoning, but over time she becomes fascinatingly human and flawed. She’s a force to be reckoned with, and one that is unflinchingly loyal once she chooses someone to be loyal too. As Wood brought her out of her element (the Sea, and her ship The Tigress) and into Conan’s cold Cimmeron world, he was able to show us a Bêlit pushed to new depths, but one that still prevailed, like in a scene where she fights (and kills) a pack of wolves on her own all while suffering from snow-blindness. Bêlit never gives up, and I love that in a character.
You can read about Bêlit in Brian Wood’s Conan The Barbarian. Available from Dark Horse Digital or the hardback trade of the first issues is already out.
I mostly missed out on all that She-Hulk stuff that everyone loved (and have yet to go back and read it – maybe now that I’m reading more digital I’ll give it a look). Regardless, She-Hulk has always intrigued me, and reading Kathryn Immonen’s Heralds mini-series a couple years back only strengthened that interest. She wasn’t in it a lot – there were a lot of characters and a lot going on – but what I saw, I really liked. Cut to FF #1 and I’m delighted to see She-Hulk playing a major role and being drawn by a badass like Mike Allred. So I’m in. I’ve enjoyed everything about She-Hulk in FF so far and if she keeps this up, she’s quickly going to muscle her way into the top 20.
You can read more She-Hulk in the ongoing FF by Matt Fraction and Mike Allred.
Sif was on my short list of potentials on the original list anyway and now that I see her in action in Journey Into Mystery I’m convinced I was on the right track! Valkyrie and Misty Knight have not been so lucky as Fearless Defenders isn’t doing anything for me yet, but there’s plenty of time! Sif, in Kathryn Immonen and Valerie Schiti’s Journey Into Mystery is bold and brave, berserk and burly. She’s also other adjectives that don’t start with B – like fiercely passionate and unyielding in her commitment. She’s a warrior through and through and I just can’t wait to see what she’ll do next. I’m also a sucker for great fish out of water stories and since Sif has just landed in our world, I look forward to more of that hilarity.
Sif is currently starring in Kathryn Immonen and Valerie Schiti’s Journey Into Mystery.
Between what Rick Remender and Jerome Opena did with the character in the brilliant Uncanny X-Force, her recent costume change courtesy of the uber talented Kris Anka, her appearances in Brian Wood and David Lopez’s X-Men her recent appearance in Sam Humphries and Ron Garney’s new Uncanny X-Force and her upcoming role in Brian Wood and Oliver Coipel’s (new) X-Men I am in love with this character in a way I haven’t been since I was 16 (and blissfully unaware of how she came to be in the first place). I’ve always liked this character even though she’s problematic, but her stories for years have been a nightmare (not to mention her visual portrayals) so it’s exciting to see the character getting such a surge of interest by talented creators and thus a true chance at redemption. I’m excited!
You can read more of Psylocke in the new Uncanny X-Force by Sam Humphries and Ron Garney, and in May you should look for her in Brian Wood and Oliver Coipel’s X-Men. In the meantime, I urge you to pick up some of the Uncanny X-Force trades, especially “The Apocalypse Solution”
CAPTAIN MARVEL aka CAROL DANVERS
Of all the shocking ladies to show up on this list, Carol Danvers is perhaps most shocking of all, as the teenaged me fell in love with Rogue instantly and never looked back. And you know how teenage love is, it’s ferociously loyal (to a stupid degree) which means I hated Carol Danvers on Rogue’s behalf (even though Rogue was the bad guy…I know, I know). Even as a more rational adult I still never thought Carol would become a favorite character of mine, even as I read her in Alias and decided I didn’t hate her. However, Kelly Sue DeConnick and her series Captain Marvel is making a liar out of me. I love DeConnick’s Carol. How could anyone not? She’s powerful and smart, funny and flawed. She’s vulnerable and yet completely heroic, in short, she feels decidedly like a real person, in the best of ways. DeConnick has made me truly care about Carol (enough that she’s making a run for my favorites list) in only a few short issues, and that is a feat indeed.
You can read more about Carol in Kelly Sue DeConnick’s ongoing Captain Marvel series from Marvel. If you can’t afford to start at the beginning, I suggest issue #9 as a great jumping on point. Although if you’d like to see Carol and Monica Rambeau hanging out, I suggest starting at Captain Marvel #7
Between the movie, the Marjorie Liu mini-series, and a slew of great guest appearances in everything from Warren Ellis’s Secret Avengers run and Ed Brubaker’s Winter Soldier run, to Cullen Bunn and Francesco Francovilla’s Capt. America and Black Widow arc – Black Widow has had a great year. The only thing that could further solidify it would be a stand alone book with a top notch creative team. I know it was tried in 2010 and didn’t quite work, but with the new push on female characters at Marvel of late AND the movie popularity, I figure now’s as good a time as any to see Natasha give her own book another good try. For a creative team – and assuming I don’t want to take anyone off of books I already love (i.e. Phil Noto would be a great artist for it, but he’s on Ghost, same with Daniel Acuna who did the Liu series, but he’s on Uncanny Avengers it seems). So I humbly suggest Jesus Saiz, who draws powerful beautiful women well and has a clean unfettered style that would fit practical Natasha nicely. If the book was to take a darker tone, Francesco Francavilla would be a nice fit. For a writer…well, I thought Marjorie Liu captured her perfectly but if Marvel doesn’t want to repeat themselves so soon after trying that pairing, I would love to see Greg Rucka brought back to write her. I’d love to see what Rucka can do with the current version of Natasha.
You can read more about Natasha in a variety of books where she guest stars – most notably the recent books listed above. But I definitely urge you to check out Marjorie Liu and Daniel Acuna’s excellent trade “The Name Of The Rose” as well.
STORM and JUBILEE (TIE)
So interesting for these two to be on the list together. I’ve always liked Storm, but she’s never quite made the jump to favorites. Under Brian Wood and David Lopez’s direction in X-Men (short but wonderful) she became the character I guess I always believed she could be. Now with her co-starring in the new Uncanny X-Force and poised to be written by Brian Wood again in the new X-Men series coming in May, I think Storm has a real chance of solidifying herself as a mainstay on my favorites list. Jubilee on the other hand I was never that fond of. And if you’ve told me I would come to really enjoy her after she lost her mutant powers and became * sigh * a vampire, I would have called you a liar. But thanks to a fantastic mini-series – Wolverine & Jubilee by Kathryn Immonen and Phil Noto, I find myself interested in Jubilee like never before. Since she is another character that’s going to be written by Brian Wood in the upcoming X-Men, and as a result I think she’s got a solid shot, just like Storm, of making herself comfortable on my favorites list. It’s amazing what a few great stories by a few great creators, can do.
You can read Storm now in Uncanny X-Force (and ultimate Storm in Brian Wood’s Ultimate Comics X-Men), Jubilee is mostly absent until Brian Wood and Oliver Coipel’s X-Men, which will debut at the end of May and which stars both ladies. But I urge you to pick up the Wolverine & Jubilee mini-series so you can see how far the character has come in recent years.
An Honorable Mention goes to GLORY. I can’t really add her to the list since her series is ending and thus it makes it harder if not impossible for her to continue crawling into the Top 20, but I have been mightily impressed with what Ross Campbell and Joe Keatinge have done with her, especially visually. And that last issue (#33) man, what a gut punch. Glory as imagined by Ross Campbell and Joe Keatinge deserves kudos, if only because never in a million years would I have dreamed the original Glory could come anywhere NEAR a top 20 list of mine…unless it was a Top 20 worsts. That kind of re-imagining is deserving of something shiny! The first trade is out now.
Looking over this list, there are two things that bum me out about it:
#1 – the diversity seems seriously lacking. Fortunately my original list has a pretty good range…but still, the lack of diversity seems to speak volumes about the lack of push we’ve still got for non-white female characters.
#2 – There’s not a single DC character on the list. The original list had an incredibly dominant 9 ladies – and they took the top 3 spots, but the fact that in the last two plus years and with a reboot in the mix they haven’t got anyone on the new list is a really bad sign. The only two characters I even considered adding were Duane Swierczysnki’s Starling and Scott Snyder’s Harper Row. In the case of Starling, I’m hesitant about her future (and if there is one?) since Swierczynski has left the Birds of Prey title, so I left her off. In the case of Harper Row, I don’t think I’ve seen quite enough yet to know whether she belongs here and I’m not sure where her future lies (though if it’s decidedly Robin-ish then she’s got a pretty good chance in the right writer’s hands of making the grade!)
So, those are the ladies that are gunning for the coveted title of my 20 Favorite Fictional Comics Females. What about you? Who’s making a run for your list these days?