We currently live in an age where diversity and diverse representation is at an all-time high; and that’s awesome. Comic books have long been aimed at one target demographic: straight, white dudes. In recent years especially, a new mold has been fashioned, one that boasts inclusivity for everyone, regardless as to your sex, gender, or orientation. Female superheroes especially have experienced an upswing, as more and more comic book readers, and even casual fans, seem to demand good stories featuring women.
There are already a ton of wonderful female superheroes like Wonder Woman, Batgirl, and She-Hulk, but that doesn’t mean there’s any reason why things should stop there. And they haven’t! For better or worse, comic book publishers like Marvel, DC and Image, have gone to great lengths to include women-based characters in their books. Some of these attempts were ill conceived or terribly thought out, yet others hit the mark. The problems that surfaces were usually brought on by a publisher taking a male character and trying to create a female version. It’s an uninspired idea that’s more than a little insulting to some. Today we’re looking at characters who’ve been gender-swapped; some that worked and some that didn’t.
15 BETTER: THE QUESTION
Vic Sage, the Question, was never a character that’d win any popularity contests. DC wasn’t happy about that and decided to give the character a complete makeover. After the Question became terminally ill, he trained Gotham City detective Renee Montoya to succeed him. Sage’s Question was somewhat paranoid and a supporter of Objectivism, which is a political ideology based on concepts like “rational self-interest” and is pretty anti-government. Before he died, Sage told Montoya to choose for herself how she was going to function as The Question.
Renee Motonoya as the Question was a hit! People loved her and she still maintains an incredible fanbase. It was the booster shot in the arm that the character needed. Montoya proved just as competent, if not better, than her predecessor. Her romantic relationship with Batwoman would also add some wonderful characterization to the hero.
14 WORSE: LADY DEADPOOL
Back a couple years ago, Deadpool’s popularity blew up to nearly unprecedented levels. After he debuted in the ‘90s and made a huge splash, he eventually became overexposed and turned into something of a fringe character. That suddenly changed in the late ‘00s and the Deadpool craze once again went into full force. Over the course of this transition, where nearly everything became Deadpool-related, there were a litany of characters who also were the equivalent of Deadpool, least impressive of all was Lady Deadpool.
She was a character nobody needed and even less people asked for. Lady Deadpool is exactly like Wade Wilson in ever way, except she happens to be a woman. The only positive thing about the character was that she offered female cosplayers an option to dress up as someone who didn’t show a lot of skin.
13 BETTER: BATWOMAN
Batman is one of the greatest heroes to ever reside in comic books. You’d be hard-pressed to try and deliver on a character that could possibly outshine the Dark Knight. Katherine Kane would undertake that challenge and she’d come out the other end swimmingly. The character would mark an important millstone for DC Comics as she became a representative for LGBTQ and Jewish minorities everywhere.
Though Kate bore the Bat-logo, she didn’t associate herself with Batman directly, instead molding the symbol into her particular brand of justice. Practically every bit the equal of Batman, these days she’s taken front and center in Detective Comics. Standing toe-to-to with the Caped Crusader, Kate’s in charge of training younger heroes and dutifully protecting Gotham City. Batwoman’s following is second to none and the character is only going up, the more exposure she receives.
12 WORSE: LADY PUNISHER
The early to mid-‘90s were a bizarre time for a lot of comic books and comic book characters. Heroes and villains were going through all kinds of crazy changes and, luckily, most of them didn’t stick. It was also a time to throw caution to the wind and come up with whatever character caught your fancy. Such is what happened with the introduction of Lady Punisher. Debuting in Punisher War Zone, NYPD officer Lynn Michaels was pursuing after a rapist and her journey brought her to team up with the Punisher.
When the Punisher was later thought dead, Michaels took up the mantle. She adopted an over-sexualized version of Castle’s classic costume, because it was the ‘90s, and came complete with an overdone hairdo. The character was successful for a bit, but then got completely lost to obscurity.
11 BETTER: GUY GARDNER
The Green Lanterns are one of the most powerful peacekeeping forces throughout the universe and none stands out more than the loud-mouthed, brute Guy Gardner. Guy is known for his brusque personality and proclivity for sitting back and chugging a six-pack. If ever there were a guy’s guy, then Guy would be it. This made it all the more hilarious when Guy Gardner became a woman.
In the Justice League 3000 comic book by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Howard Porter, the Wonder Twins in the 31st Century clone the original Justice League members. However, after Hal had to stop using his powers, the head of Cadmus cloned Guy and placed his DNA into a female host body. The ensuing results were hysterical and profound. Guy, the stereotypical macho man, now found himself in direct conflict with his gender and sexuality. After a while, he accepted his newfound womanhood.
10 WORSE: SHE-THING
The Fantastic Four sports an incredible roster. On occasion, they’ve had to switch things up. This brings us to Sharon Ventura, who’d later become known as She-Thing. A former pro-wrestler, Sharon fell in love with the Thing, joined the Fantastic Four, and then was exposed to Cosmic Rays and was mutated into a more hideous version of the Thing.
All things considered, she really hated looking like Ben Grimm as the Thing. Much of Sharon ‘s story arc, especially after she became the She-Thing, was spent wallowing in misery, wanting to die on account of how ugly she was. Not quite as steadfast as the Thing, Sharon even fought the Fantastic Four on occasion, her self-pity making her an easy target for villains to take advantage of. At the end of the day, she hasn’t been seen for years and likely won’t show up again for a while yet.
9 BETTER: X-23
Ever since Laura Kinney, aka X-23, debuted comic book readers haven’t been able to get enough of the superheroine. The clone daughter of the X-Man Wolverine, Laura possesses all the abilities of her “father”, including a healing factor, and fearsome claws on her hands and feet.
Following Logan’s death in the "Death of Wolverine" storyline, X-23, in an effort to honor her dead dad, took up the mantle of the Wolverine. She does so in the recent All-New Wolverine series. Though Wolverine was and always will be a popular character, fans of X-23 have long awaited the moment when she’d have the chance to shine. Now that she has, people couldn’t be happier. In a much shorter amount of time, and in infinitely fewer issues, Laura has become a fully fleshed out character who has added her own spin on what it means to be the Wolverine.
8 WORSE: BABEWATCH
Again, the ‘90s were an outrageous time for certain characters; creators couldn’t help but try and push the envelope in bizarre ways. That was the case with "Babewatch" from Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood. Back in 1995, there was a special event that ran through a bunch of Image titles, Youngblood included. It dealt with an enemy of Image's Wonder Woman analog Glory who transformed all of Glory's male friends into women. And so Shaft, Youngblood’s leader, got turned into a frail woman with twig-like arms and legs the size of apartment buildings.
It’s never really explained why getting turned into a woman is such a bad thing. Presumably, there was nothing worse you could do to a man then by making him a woman. Misogyny at its finest. If that wasn’t enough, one of the characters with a Liefeldian female physique, complained about how his, or her, back was killing him.
7 BETTER: THOR
During the event "Original Sin", Nick Fury whispers something to Thor and the thunder god immediately becomes unworthy of his enchanted hammer Mjolnir. While Thor Odinson is reduced to a shell of his former self, a mysterious woman comes along and is able to successfully wield the hammer, in turn becoming the new Thor. The new female Thor is revealed to be Jane Foster, Thor’s former love interest. However, despite her advanced stage of breast cancer, is given power by the hammer.
Dubbing herself “Thor, Goddess of Thunder,” Foster joined The Avengers and fight, not as a replacement for Thor, but simply as Thor. Though reactions to the Goddess of Thunder have been mixed at best, it definitely brought attention to the thunder god once more. That alone is indicative that something worked with Jane Foster as the godly superhero.
6 WORSE: LADY CLAYFACE
Clayface is definitely one of Batman’s more peculiar characters. After suffering a terrible accident, actor Basil Karlo became the shapeshifting, clay-based monstrosity known as Clayface. A weird rogue indeed, Basil hasn’t been the only villain to associate himself with the name Clayface. Casual Batman fans might not be aware of it, but there have been several versions of Clayface. One of the short-lived takes on the character, who also proved rather uninteresting, was Sondra Fuller. Sondra was an agent of Kobra who agreed to go through a special, transformative, process that would give her even greater powers than her namesake.
Unlike Hagen, she cannot have a normal appearance for any amount of time. She’d go onto fight the Outsiders and be a completely bland character. Despite her being stronger than any previous Clayface, Sondra couldn't escape the original villain's shadow.
5 BETTER: MISS SINISTER
Mister Sinister is one of the X-Men’s most iconic villains. Constantly playing a mental game of chess with the mutant heroes, he’s seemingly always one step ahead. He has a backup plan for everything, including his own death. As part of one of his experiments, Sinister implanted his genetic makeup into one of his subjects, Claudine Renko. When Sinister died in the "Messiah Complex" story arc, his genetic doppelganger awoke within Renko and she became the new Miss Sinister. Though her costume was outlandish to say the least, Miss Sinister proved to be a worthy heir of her genetic father’s legacy.
Just as cruel, if not more so than Mister Sinister, she had no compunction about hurting people, be they innocents or the X–Men themselves. Eventually, Claudine tried expel the Sinister persona from her body and put it in X-23; she failed.
4 WORSE: ULTIMATE VISION
After the Vision debuted in Avengers: Age of Ultron, more and more people have become fans of the incredibly powerful android. Even in comics, the Vision was always a popular character. When he’s written well, readers absolutely adore the hero. In Marvel’s Ultimate comics line, Vision is a robot that is a woman. Debuting in the "Ultimate Galactus Trilogy", this version of Vision, was not built by Ultron, but rather, her origin was quite mysterious. Discovered by the X-Men, it was eventually revealed that the Vision came from space and her crash-landing resulted in the infamous Tunguska Incident.
This new and different Vision warned humanity of the imminent danger presented by Galactus, and, rather offhandedly, she formed a romantic relationship with Sam Wilson, the Falcon. On some level, it was an interesting take on the hero, but on another level it just felt weird and out of place.
3 BETTER: GHOST RIDER
There’ve been multiple versions of Ghost Rider over the years, starting with Johnny Blaze who was the first to don the flaming skull. Currently, Robbie Reyes is the most recent incarnation of the Spirit of Vengeance. Before Reyes, there was a young woman named Alejandra Jones. Alejandra came from a truly horrible childhood. She was the daughter of a human trafficker and was later sold to a mysterious stranger named Adam.
Incidentally, Adam would train trained her to become the next Ghost Rider. She teamed-up Johnny Blaze and he served as her mentor for while. Ultimately, she and Johnny didn’t part happily and she left with only a fraction of the Ghost Rider’s power. Even so, Alejandra added a bit of much-needed flavor to the Ghost Rider character. Darker and more ruthless than Johnny, her terrible past informed her tenure as the Spirit of Vengeance.
2 WORSE: CAPTAIN MARVEL
Firstly, this isn’t to say that Carol Danvers is a poor character. Far from it, she’s rather an excellent and dynamic superhero. In fact, Carol has led the charge for many female superheroes, including some much-needed diversity. Carol has become so popular that the casual fan has little to no idea she was named after a male counterpart. She and Captain Marvel have one of the most famous relationships in Marvel Comics, especially with the gender-swap they experienced.
After the original Captain Marvel died, and would continue to stay dead, Carol finally took up the mantle in 2012. There isn’t anything inherently awful about Carol as Captain Marvel, but many people believe new characters should be made, rather than rebranded. As awesome as Carol might be, turning her into Captain Marvel was an uninspired idea; she deserved better.
1 BETTER: THE JOKER
Batman’s greatest enemy, the Joker is one of the few characters that generally remains untouched when it comes to creative changes. That didn’t last forever. After the Flash created the alternate world Flashpoint, ramifications were felt all across the timeline. In this new world, Wonder Woman and Aquaman were at war, Bruce Wayne was dead, and Superman was being held prisoner by the U.S. government.
One of the more intriguing changes included the new Batman and Joker. After Joe Chill murdered Bruce Wayne, his father Thomas became a ruthless Batman. Martha Wayne was driven mad by the incident and became the Joker. Her running mascara and intimate relationship with Thomas made her every action even more painful to the distraught vigilante, her acts of violence seemingly senseless. Martha Wayne as the Joker added a fresh dynamic to the Clown Prince of Crime.