In the early years of comics, women’s roles were relegated to wives, girlfriends, damsels in distress, and the occasional villainess. In the '30s, while heroes like The Phantom, Batman, and Superman were saving the world, their female counterparts were being dutiful citizens and not much else. It wasn’t until the ‘40s, when the likes of Wonder Woman and Black Canary came bursting out of panels that the step was made to see if anyone would actually read a comic starring a female superhero. The theory of the day was that women weren’t powerful enough, strong enough, or capable enough to be heroes in their own right. And even though there were a few competent female superheroes in the first few decades, it wasn’t until the dynamic story arcs of the ‘70s and ‘80s that alternate versions of male superheroes guaranteed that there’d be more female superheroes all around!
In many ways, female versions of superheroes were more powerful than their male counterparts; ironically, they could actually control their emotions and egos, had transformative powers that differentiated them (She-Hulk vs The Hulk), or simply out-performed them (X-23 vs Logan). CBR presents the estrogen injection into superheroes that made their female versions more powerful!
15 CAPTAIN MARVEL
One of the most gender swapped characters of all time, Captain Marvel is known more for her female incarnation than her male. The most well-known version of Captain Marvel is Carol Danvers, but there have been several others such as Monica Rambeau, and in an alternate timeline, The Wasp briefly wielded the title. Originally Captain Marvel was a male Kree named Mar-Vell, but his storyline wasn’t interesting enough to explore beyond the origin story of how Captain Marvel gained his superpowers.
Monica Rambeau was the first African American woman to lead the Avengers, and Carol Danvers, previously Ms. Marvel, brought a new stream of fans when she changed her suffix. Through the decades, Captain Marvel has only become more powerful than the male version that inspired her.
Hawkeye is arguably one of the least interesting characters in the MCU, mostly because they give him nothing to do, and focus on the shiny superpowers of the other Avengers. But he’s the greatest thing ever to Kate Bishop, who later takes over for Hawkeye when he goes into hiding. She first appeared in Young Avengers #1 in 2005, introduced as the daughter of a wealthy publishing magnate who was emotionally distant and had dealings with the villain El Matador. Her mother died when she was young.
She was caught by El Matador after learning of her father’s betrayal, but subsequently rescued by Hawkeye, whom she came to admire because he wasn’t superhuman. After being assaulted, she learned a variety of martial arts, sword skills, and archery to become extremely deadly. For the hard life she’s had, she’s tougher than Clint Barton.
Unlike Peter Parker’s transformation into Spider-Man due to being bitten by a radioactive spider, Jessica Drew acquired her powers due to her father injecting her with an untested serum derived from arachnids which he believed would cure her of uranium poisoning. Locking her into an immunization isolation chamber in stasis for years, he was later killed and she remained a spider sleeping beauty for years, her aging slowed, until she awoke in her family house with no recollection of what happened.
Classified as Power Level 8 by Nick Fury, she has super speed, strength, stamina, agility, healing powers, and her body produces bio-electricity which she can channel into “venom blasts”. Her body also produces pheromones which she can use to instill fear or attract someone to her.
Though there have been many (many) Robins over the course of the Caped Crusader’s career, one in particular stood out: Carrie Kelly. Making her first appearance in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight series, in which Batman is a juggernaut and has no qualms about killing people, Carrie Kelly appears in a small package that promises big trouble. In this dystopian world, where Gotham has been overrun with criminals and Batman doesn’t give a laughing fish anymore, Carrie Kelly trains herself to take on the Robin mantle, introducing herself in the best possible way: by saving Batman’s behind.
The creation of a female Robin was slightly controversial given there was already Batgirl and therefore, gender swapping a strictly male character seemed mute, let us remember that unlike all the other Robins that kept pleading with Batman to give them a chance, Carrie Kelly took matters into her own hands.
11 LADY DEADPOOL
Some fans would argue that since Deadpool is already pretty epic, how could a female version be better? Is sticking a ponytail on Wade Wilson and changing his name to Wanda really enough to differentiate what amounts to a female Deadpool clone? You bet! Marvel introduced Lady Deadpool as part of Earth-3010, and she was every bit as inappropriate, crude, over-sexualized, and martially competent as the original Deadpool. She also had a banging body, which if you’re Deadpool, you’d utilize at every opportunity to distract bad guys, or maybe just touch yourself.
In Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth #7, Lady Deadpool helps Deadpool (and his recently decapitated head) take on General America and his Sentinels. She later joined the Deadpool Corps and served a lot of cans of whoop butt.
Supergirl is having a moment thanks to her current popular television series, despite being often overshadowed by the legacy of her family. Having escaped Krypton before it exploded along with her famous cousin, Superman, Kara Zor-El has had several incarnations over the decades. Some people believe she isn’t as powerful as Superman because he restrains himself from using his true power, but Supergirl metabolizes yellow sunlight at a higher rate than he does.
Whether Kara goes all in to subdue her enemies and Superman has to avoid killing everyone around him, she can remain clear headed and focused. Though her story arc was brought to an end shortly before the Supergirl show came out, it enjoyed a great amount of success since she’s been a part of the Rebirth series.
Like her contemporary Supergirl, She-Hulk (real name Jessica Walters) is part of a superhero family. Her cousin is Avenger Bruce Banner who gave her an emergency blood transfusion when she was wounded. His radioactive blood combined with her anger turned her into a slightly less powerful version than The Hulk but, unlike The Hulk, she had more control over her emotions. She can also swap powers and physiques with other human women.
In life, Jessica Walters was a shy and bookish person, who enjoyed the confidence, assertiveness, and power she was granted in her She-Hulk form. Eventually, the form became permanent, which she loved. Her superhero pedigree shows she’s been part of both The Fantastic Four and the Avengers, and she’s torn Vision in half.
To be clear, Batman doesn’t have any superpowers, but is super wealthy and smart. Ergo, anyone with those advantages could technically become Batman. Enter Katherine Kane, basically the female Bruce Wayne - wealthy, influential, charismatic, and a lady who enjoys spending her nights beating up bad guys in Gotham. Like Carrie Kelly, the only female Robin, Katherine was inspired by Batman to fight crime herself. She put her immense resources to good use, starting a war on crime in a cape and cowl very much like the Dark Knight’s.
When the "Infinite Crisis" storyline was introduced in 2005, she took over for Batman while the Bat’s away. Katherine is pretty vocal about her Jewish background and lesbian status, which is a stark contrast to Bruce because it means she has actual ties to things. Her compassion and connection with people make her less selfish and emotionally constipated than Bruce Wayne.
Even the mighty Thor was once deemed unworthy to wield Mjolnir, and while he moped around on Earth, he was replaced by a mysterious woman that accepted his superhero duties. She wasn’t the same person as Thor Girl, appearing in Thor: Tears of the Gods Vol. 2 #22, about a woman who became an Asgardian goddess and pledged herself to be Thor’s loyal ally.
The new Thor didn’t remain mysterious; it was revealed that her identity was none other than Thor’s long-lost love Jane Foster who, was trying to fight off cancer, picked up Mjolnir and was granted all of Thor’s powers. Thor gave her his blessing, since she proved herself every bit as strong as he was on the outside and on the inside.
It’s hard to transform a lame character, themselves derived from a lame character, who began as an equally lame character. And yet Aqua Girl’s mercurial introduction was just that, based off of Aqualad, who was originally Aquaman’s plucky sidekick. She first appeared in Adventure Comics #266 as Lisa Morel, an Atlantean child that could strangely not breathe underwater, and only developed her water-breathing, telepathic powers later on, when Aquaman was in danger.
Mareena is the more well known version of Aquagirl, seen on the animated series Justice League Unlimited as the daughter of Aquaman. She has all of his abilities, such as hydrokinesis and telepathy, while having a sleek black costume, pastel green hair and aquamarine eyes. Already ocean leagues better than any other version of her father.
Because America can’t have every great superhero, Canada created Guardian, their version of Captain America. She was emblazoned the Canadian colors of red, white, and a Canadian maple leaf. She was the wife of the previous owner the name, a petrochemical engineer and scientist who made himself a fancy powered exoskeleton suit. He was the leader of Canada’s X-Men/Avengers called Alpha Flight.
Guardian got her start when Canada’s campy canuck was tragically killed, and his wife Heather Hudson donned his arboreal ensemble. She propositioned Wolverine to join Alpha Flight but he took a hard pass, which prompted her to fly into a very un-Canadian rage and tried to kill him. She’s way more hardcore than her husband, and made his character more well known outside of Canada.
4 LADY PUNISHER
The Punisher mantle was taken on for a time by Lynn Michaels, a cop who had once worked with Frank Castle to wipe out organized crime. One of their collaborations together involved hunting a serial rapist, where she got a taste for the vigilante life. The formalities of the police force sometimes got in the way of getting her the justice she wanted, so the no holds barred way suited her. When she believed Frank Castle sacrificed himself in order to bomb a building full of mobsters, she became the Lady Punisher.
Adorned in a long leather jacket and a skull marked bustier, she had quite the run in the '90s taking out all sorts of low life criminal scum, and eventually went on to become a deep cover agent for S.H.I.E.L.D. when an old colleague told the mob her true identity.
While fans got wrapped up with reading about Iron Heart, the kid genius with the insane IQ that took over the Iron Suit most recently, they may have forgotten about Rescue aka Pepper Potts. After the "World War Hate" storyline, Tony Stark became even more insufferably egotistical and selfish than normal, even going so far as to start recklessly drinking again. Taking a suit Tony designed specifically for her, Pepper Potts suited up to become Rescue.
The Repulsor Tech node implanted in her chest allows her to interact with different types of energies and forces via a link to her brain, becoming almost like a sixth sense. With it she has enhanced metabolism, superhuman strength, reaction time, reflexes, and intelligence. She also has all of Iron Man’s other strengths in the suit, and none of Tony Stark’s personal failings, making her the superior wielder of the suit.
Born the illegitimate love-child of a mortal woman and Magneto (or something), Lorna Dane was granted all of his powers. Her mortal father confronted her mother about the affair while the family was in their small plane, and in an effort to get her parents to stop fighting, an eruption of her magnetic abilities destroyed the instruments on the plane and made it crash. Her parents were killed but she survived. Magneto was drawn to her because she used her abilities but, not wishing to reveal their familial connection yet, he wiped her memories.
When her mutant abilities were identified by Cerebro, she joined Xavier’s academy for mutants and took on her first code name, Magnetrix. She would also be known as Malice when an organism took over her mind, and as Pestilence, when Apocalypse offered her a position as one of his horsemen.
X-23 isn’t just the female version of a superhero, she’s the literal female clone of Wolverine. Since top secret programs don’t know when to stop playing God, they’re always continuing with precarious experiments, even if those experiments involve brainwashing and torturing children. Raised in captivity to be an ultimate fighting machine, she was exposed to radiation poisoning to accelerate the development of her mutant gene. She also had her claws extracted by force so that they could be coated with Adamantium like Wolverine’s.
When Marvel killed off Wolverine in the Death of Wolverine series, she was the only one to take his place in All-New Wolverine. She also made her big screen debut in 2017’s Logan, which entailed Logan keeping her protected as a child when she escaped the experimental facility. She proved to be stronger and more powerful than Logan, as his body had begun to deteriorate.