It’s that time of year again, the time for a million lists, including my 25 Favorite Fictional Females in comics list. Like all years, this was tough. Like all years, I’m never quite convinced I’ve got the list right, but for better or worse, here we are!
Fair warning, if someone was repeated from a previous year, I often cribbed some of the text from my previous post with some light updates to reflect changes. Here are last year’s list and the first list in 2010 (as well as a 10 ladies making a run for the title list) in case you’d like to read about even more female characters in comics. It was a really exciting year and with a promising 2015 ahead of us I’m very excited about where we are when it comes to our progress with female characters – as always things are a bit two forward and one back, but we’re making progress! I’d like this list a bit better if there were more indie ladies on it (there are so many that are worthy) but Marvel’s push with female characters this past year did a good job of gobbling up a good number of spots.
Like last year, what I found most interesting is how some characters managed to triumph over lack of material or worse, bad material. Wonder Woman, despite the fact that I can’t read her book, hasn’t fallen much– maybe she’s just got so much iconic power that others are helpless to overcome the big shadow she casts? I spent a lot of time when trying to organize my list this year thinking about the characters that I’d most like to see creators work with in new series – that was how I ended up defining where they fell – how interested I found myself in seeing them in new stories. Still, you can’t underestimate the power of reading both old and new – Black Widow makes the list this year (finally) thanks to some damn fine work by Nathan Edmonson and Phil Noto, while Big Barda shoots up the list because I took some time out this year to read/re-read all her classic Kirby stories…and how can one deny her utter dominance after doing that??
It still seems that, for me, having a largely untouched run that is lodged fondly in my memory – such as Cass Cain’s Batgirl or Jakita Wagner in Planetary – works to a character’s favor. I guess I do a better job of preserving their memories and thus loving them unequivocally. However in character’s like Batwoman’s case (she went from #1 in 2010 to dropping entirely off the lists), she went from near perfection (Rucka and J.H. Willaims acclaimed Batwoman: Elegy), to a book that, while it had its highlights, was far from perfection for me, with inconsistencies in character, writing, and art as well as shifting creative teams, all of which left me unenthusiastic about the character. I have no doubt that she can rebound, but with so many tough competitors and a continued inconsistent portrayal she just didn’t make the cut.
Okay, enough chit chat…here we go!
25. MICHONNE (down from #23)
I’ve enjoyed Michonne on The Walking Dead television show, the actress (Danai Guria) is a great cast and the writing of her has been pretty solid all around. However, despite this being a really strong half season overall, Michonne hasn’t had much to do in the show except babysit. The same has been true in the comics. Michonne hasn’t had much to do for a long time now, and though she’s just naturally a badass, her personal romantic relationships have been a bit awkward and unrewarding and she has been shoved to the background a lot over the last few years. Basically this is an example of me knowing a character has a ton of potential, but being a bit disappointed in how she’s being allowed to show it off.
Read Michonne: The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard is the only place to find Michonne, but it’s all you need – there’s now an incredible 136 issues of The Walking Dead and with Michonne’s first appearance in issue #19 she’s in a whole lot of them. If you’re specifically looking for Michonne you should start with Volume 5: Heart’s Desire, which begins with Michonne’s first appearance in the series. You can also of course watch her on The Walking Dead on AMC which returns in February 2015. Even with all these issues, this is still probably my favorite Michonne moment, so simple, so very Michonne:
24. AGENT 355 (down from #10)
Agent 355 from Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s Y: The Last Man, oh how I love you! Forever at Yorick’s side, sacrificing herself for the last man on Earth, even when he’s being a moron that deserves a bullet to the brain instead of someone to jump in front of one, 355 showed a strength of character and a restraint that I respected immediately. Despite Yorick’s insane (but sweet) quest to find his girlfriend Beth and Agent 355’s emotionless front, the two characters become inseparable friends and tragically, lovers too late. But ultimately, though the end of the series pains me, it’s hard to regret 355’s holding back of her emotions, as I could only respect her more for waiting until her mission is complete to admit her feelings and act on them. In a world gone mad with everyone reaching greedily for their share (or more than) that kind of fortitude takes a particularly level head and strength of character that I can’t even begin to comprehend.
Read Agent 355: There’s only one place to go, but it’s glorious: Y: The Last Man. Enjoy! And here’s one of my favorite bits:
23. JAKITA WAGNER (down from #15)
I always loved the fact that Jakita is the muscle on Planetary. And she’s not only the muscle, she’s also the leader (well until Elijah figures out he’s the fourth man), and she’s also got the best sense of humor and most of the best lines. You almost never get that combination in a character, but Jakita just embraces it all and makes it work so flawlessly that you forget it’s kind of unusual to see. Jakita inherited her awesome powers from her father (essentially Tarzan) and her big beautiful brain from her scientist mother that lived in a highly advanced secret city in Africa, though she was raised by a German family and all of that is just the tip of the iceberg of what makes Jakita so interesting. And as if she isn’t fascinating enough already, she can fight Batman to a standstill. So, ‘nuff said.
Read Jakita: Honestly? Don’t fuck around, just get the omnibus that releases in January. And here’s some of that Jakita fighting Batman to a standstill to whet your whistle while you wait:
22. STORM/ORORO MONROE (holding at #22)
As I wrote about Storm before, she’s a character I WANT to like very much, but frequently the writing she gets is pretty stilted. I guess the untouchable perfect goddess thing doesn’t work so much for me. Which is why I’ve always enjoyed the more human (and mohawk wearing) Storm. So I welcomed her return to that as she lost trust in Cyclops and ultimately broke loyalties with him in Brian Wood’s X-Men run. Add to that an Ororo on the heels of a divorce and feeling a bit salty — the mohawk returned, she got a slick costume update, and Brian Wood got another crack at her in his new X-Men volume. A crowded cast didn’t leave Storm with a lot of panel time after the initial few issues of X-Men, but I liked what was there. I’m not a fan of the Storm/Wolverine pairing that’s been going on, so that leaves me a bit cold, but I was really glad to see Marvel give Storm her own (long overdue) ongoing series this past year. Is it the perfect series I dream of? No. But it’s interesting and well worth a read. I hope that Marvel will give it time to grow, to find both its voice and an audience.
Read Storm: The best place to read Storm is in her current ongoing series: Storm by Greg Pak and Victor Ibanez. She’s also been in Wolverine & The X-Men but I don’t read that so I can’t tell you how good she is there or not. However, she really does shine in Brian Wood’s X-Men, both the previous volume (two trades) with David Lopez and the new one with Olivier Coipel. You can also find her in the now cancelled Uncanny X-Force, but I don’t recommend it.
21. RIPLEY (new)
When I started reading Lumberjanes I never would have pegged Ripley as my favorite character (though clearly she’s got the best name). Ripley is one of those characters that on first sight seems like maybe she’s trying too hard, like maybe her sense of humor will become grating or tiresome. NOPE. From adorable catchphrases like “What the junk!?” to kicking foxes with a bunch of eyes in the face without a second thought Ripley has kicked, punched, and catchphrased her way right into my soul. And even though Mal has the best hair (clearly!) Ripley managed to rise to the top of a pack of great female characters with her ridiculous enthusiasm and energy.
Read Ripley: You can read Ripley in only one place – the wonderful Lumberjanes comic! Lumberjanes is 8 issues in, and just got upgraded from a mini-series to an ongoing. The first trade, collecting the first 4 issues will be out in April 2015.
21. ELSA BLOODSTONE (new!)
Hmmm. Nobody published any new Elsa Bloodstone stories this year, or at least not that I know of, so why is she suddenly on this list? Well, re-reading Nextwave (which I do every year) is a pretty keen reminder of how damn awesome she is. And whenever I think of books I’d like to see, or characters I’d like to see featured, she’s always at the forefront of my mind. So yeah, on the list she goes! With her salty british-ness (she was born in the US but mostly raised in England I believe…a point of some contention in the comments section in a recent column of Brian’s) her often-inappropriate clothing, and her total lack of fear in the face of just about anything, she’s a total badass.
Read Elsa Bloodstone: Obviously Nextwave is the best possible Elsa to read, I’m not sure Elsa (or anyone or anything) can be done better than Nextwave, but Elsa is also great in the completely underrated Legion of Monsters mini-series by Dennis Hopeless and Juan Doe from a couple years ago. There’s also a fantastic Elsa Bloodstone/Tabitha Smith short story by Faith Erin Hicks in Girl Comics # 2. Here’s one of many Elsa badass moments from Nextwave: