There’s a few reasons why the gender of a superhero might be swapped; to explore different aspects of their character, to fulfill the parameters of a storyline, or because sales are in the tank and the writers need a quick gimmick. Whatever the reason, fans are quick to have an opinion about it when it happens, and sometimes the controversy overshadows the character. Normally, genderswapping of superheroes only goes one way (unless you count Catman), and a quick way for writers to capitalize on the popularity of a character is to instantly make a female version.
Unfortunately, most of these are direct clones of their male counterparts, in some cases even possessing the same personalities. Why does this happen? Because the majority of people can count the names of female superheroes they know on their hand, and there’s no need to genderswap them because more than likely, they’re already the female version of an existing male character. We’ve tracked down 20 of the most controversial genderswaps to date, that outraged fans either because the original characters were so beloved they couldn’t see them as anything else, or because the new characters were so stupid they should never have been created in the first place.
20 RED SHE-HULK
Like a bag of Skittles, there seem to be every color of Hulk, but none so interesting as the Red She-Hulk. Appearing out of nowhere to attack Wolverine, it seemed this primal beast of a warrioress was just as ferocious as her male counterpart, Red Hulk. It was only later revealed that she was in fact Betty Ross, long time love interest of Bruce Banner/Hulk, given her own gamma-irradiated form.
Betty Ross had died but her body had been perfectly preserved. It was stolen, however, by the Leader in a bid to convince her father, General Ross, that his daughter could be restored. Playing off his desperation and depression, he relented, and she was resurrected. Only she came back wrong. Why this uninspired character was created when we already had a perfectly decent She-Hulk, the comic world may never know.
19 LADY DEADPOOL
Deadpool is already pretty awesome, so was a female version that’s basically his clone even necessary? Basically sticking a ponytale on Wade Wilson and calling him Wanda, Marvel introduced Lady Deadpool as part of their alternate reality Earth-3010. She is inappropriate, has a crude sense of humor, and is an all-around wisecracker that is totally killer at martial arts. She also has a female body which obviously includes certain attributes Wade would love to have access to on the daily.
After helping Deadpool (and his decapitated head) take on General America and his Sentinels in Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth #7, she got killed off just a few years later. But not before joining the Deadpool Corps and beating up on a lot of people.
When Thor was deemed unworthy to wield Mjolnir, he was replaced by a mysterious woman that assumed his superhero duties, to the lamentation of fans everywhere. She is not to be confused with Thor Girl, appearing in Thor: Tears of the Gods Vol. 2 #22, a woman who became an Asgardian goddess and pledged herself to be Thor’s loyal ally. With a name like that, she sounded more like a groupie.
The new Thor didn’t remain mysterious for long, as it was later revealed that her identity was none other than Thor’s long-lost love Jane Foster, who went on to kick just as much butt as the male one did. Even more so than when Loki convinced Odin to turn Thor into a woman to teach him humility.
What do you get when you derive a lame character, themselves derived from a lame character, from an equally lame character? Aquagirl! Based off of Aqualad, Aquaman’s unimaginative sidekick, she is practically the most uninspired genderswapped character to date. 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.
The better known incarnation of Aquagirl, Tula, from Aquaman Vol. 1 #33, has her crushing on Aqualad and being raised as an adopted member of the royal family of Atlantis. Aquaman, and his shrimpier sidekick Aqualad, were never particularly popular characters, so developing Aquagirl to be a sidekick, or a lover, or anything else for them was only adding insult to injury.
16 AMERICAN DREAM
Continuing the tradition of fan girl gone superhero, we have Shannon Carter, aka the niece of Peggy Carter, aka American Dream, a Captain America superfan in one of Marvel’s alternate universes, Earth-982. She was even an Avenger in that alternate reality, because if you wish for it hard enough, your dreams can come true!
Or, actually, since this alternate universe is about 15 years ahead of schedule, most of our beloved superheroes are too old and need upgrades. Enter Shannon, recently orphaned, not so recent fangirl of Cap. And so, with a nearly identical suit and a gleam in her eyes, she does such a whiz bang job her idol even gifts her his round shield, proving that stalking can pay off in the end.
15 CAPTAIN MARVEL
Having the distinction of being one of the most genderswapped characters of all-time, we have Captain Marvel. The most famous incarnation of Captain Marvel is Carol Danvers, but the title has also been held by Monica Rambeau, and in an alternate timeline, The Wasp. Originally a male Kree by the name of Mar-Vell, his storyline wasn’t interesting enough to explore insofar as it only pertained to Captain Marvel gaining her powers.
Monica Rambeau made waves as the first African American woman to lead the Avengers, and Carol Danvers ignited a new fan base by bringing the fans of Ms. Marvel into the fold. To be fair, anyone that ever cared Captain Marvel was made (and left) a woman has long since shut up.
Apparently DC wanted one of its most famous superheroes to have a stalker problem too, only this time, the stalker was going to actually do some sketchy things, rather than be an orphan in a wheelchair that really really likes Captain America. Superwoman, aka Superman fangirl extraordinaire Dana Dearden went so far as to date Jimmy Olsen just to get close to Superman, and steal some enchanted artifacts to gain Superman-esque powers.
Dana tried desperately to make Superman love her, but he wasn’t having any of it (and probably was creeped out when she started to steal his look) and rejected her. She perished protecting his blind side to a magical attack she knew he’d be vulnerable to. Obsessed fangirls aren’t all bad.
In the vein of watered down versions of famous superheroes we have X-23, a female clone of Wolverine. Since top secret programs don’t know what’s good for them, they’re always continuing with precarious experiments, even if they’re not such great ideas. Raised in captivity to be an ultimate fighting machine, she was exposed to radiation poisoning to accelerate the development of her mutant gene, as well as had her claws forcibly extracted to be coated with Adamantium.
She wasn’t quite a sidekick like Kitty Pryde or Jubilee, but she wasn’t Wolverine (though she was constantly compared to him), so she was stuck somewhere in the middle. And when Marvel killed off Wolverine in the Death of Wolverine series, she was stuck being the only one to take his place in All-New Wolverine. Logan will always be Logan.
Less interesting than X-23’s origin story or Lady Deadpool’s antics was the creation of She-Thing. Sharon Ventura gets smacked with the exact same cosmic rays that turned Ben Grimm into the OG Thing and bam, we get a carbon copy of his character but with boobs. They even get together at one point, presumably because they have the most in common.
Now, Sharon is not without her passing interest in professional wrestling, her subterfuge espionage work for Dr. Doom against The Fantastic Four, and her brief stint as Ms. Marvel. But she’s still just She-Thing, who writers could have be as ugly as the real Thing so they constantly invented storylines where she could be changed back into her human form.
11 SHURI (BLACK PANTHER)
When Black Panther charged onto the screen in Captain America: Civil War, he quickly overpowered every scene he was in. Fans couldn’t get enough of him, and were just as excited to hear he was getting his own film. T’Challa may be the most famous Black Panther incarnation, but his half-sister Shuri is no slouch. Appearing in 2005, she’s his youngest sibling, and the only daughter of the king. Ever jealous that the Panther God bestowed its powers on her brother and not her, she nevertheless decided to get a costume of her own and fight anyway.
Her selfless act paid off because the Panther God gave her some love too, making way for a new Black Panther. When her older brother buggered off to NYC to replace Daredevil, she assumed command. He returned and was happy to serve as second-command, which evidently didn’t sit well with some diehard fans.
10 ARISIA RRAB
So not exactly a genderswapped version of Hal Jordan, as there were many Green Lanterns, she was definitely the worst of the female brigade. Originally from Graxos IV where she lived with her father, the Green Lantern of Sector 2815, the job fell to her when she came of age.
She had a big thing for Hal, the Green Lantern of the next sector over. You might say she was his “girl next door”. When she got to be placed on Earth with him, she used the forces in her power ring to age her to the appropriate point where she and him could be an item. He actually didn’t mind this all that much, it just took some time to come to terms with.
Props must be given to Hawkgirl for being one of DC’s first super heroines. Several different Hawkgirls have been seen over the years, all characterized by the use of archaic weapons and a fondness for winged harnesses. They kick some serious butt, but nearly all of them are partners or romantically involved with Hawkman.
Hawkman Vol. 4 was a series that lasted over the course of four years, and by its conclusion, Hawkgirl had replaced Hawkman as the main character. DC Rebirth saw her rebranded as Lady Blackhawk, leader of the Blackhawks, and she had better storylines to escape out from under Hawkman’s shadow. In the animated series Justice League Unlimited, her personality is more highly developed as a foil for Wonder Woman, and she’s not interested in Hawkman at all, but Green Lantern.
Canada’s answer to Captain America, Guardian was emblazoned with red, white, and the Canadian maple leaf. Not to be confused with the equally nationalistic Captain Canuck (no, seriously), he was a petrochemical engineer and scientist who made himself a fancy powered exoskeleton suit. He was planned to be the leader of Canada’s answer to the X-Men or the Avengers called Alpha Flight. Oddly enough, when Wolverine took a pass on joining Alpha Flight, Guardian wigged out and tried to kill him.
Soon Canada’s campy canuck kicked the bucket, though, and his wife Heather McNeil Hudson donned his arboreal ensemble. She was given about as exciting a storyline as he was, and barely anyone outside of Canada noticed much of a difference with this particular superhero genderswap.
Every version of Batwoman so far introduced depicts her as basically the female Bruce Wayne -- wealthy, influential, charismatic, who enjoys spending her nights beating up bad guys in Gotham. She is in fact inspired by Batman to put her immense resources to good use, taking on a war on crime in a cape and cowl very similar to the Caped Crusader’s. Her real name is always Katherine Kane.
In 2005, due to the Infinite Crisis storyline, she sort of takes over Batman’s shift while the Bat’s away. They made her modern incarnation Jewish and lesbian because diversity, to the shock, horror and delight of fanboys and girls. Does she connect better to modern readers? Time will tell, but certainly worse than changing up her orientation is the fact that her archetype remains so similar to Batman’s.
6 LADY PUNISHER
Frank Castle has been Frankenstein’s Monster. He’s even been a holy messenger. And for a time, the Punisher mantle was taken on by Lynn Michaels, a cop whom he worked with to rid the city of organized crime. After working together to catch a serial rapist, she got a taste for the no holds barred justice dealing of the vigilante life. When she believes Frank Castle to have committed suicide using a bomb to take out a building full of mobsters, she takes action.
So there she went to the nearest Wilson’s Leather for a long jacket and skull marked bustier. She had quite the run in the '90s dishing out can after can of pain, and eventually wound up as a deep cover agent for S.H.I.E.L.D. when an old colleague tipped off the mob her true identity.
5 ULTIMATE VISION
Being that women are mysterious creatures, it would follow that a female version of Vision would be far more enigmatic, with a far more intriguing storyline than simply being built by Ultron, right? Appearing initially in the Ultimate Galactus Trilogy, female Vision is a robot that is discovered by the X-Men. She’s from outer space, and her ship’s crash landing is the explanation for the Tunguska Incident that occurred in real-life.
She warns humankind about Galactus’s impending onslaught, and then throws down with all Marvel’s heroes to try to stop him once he arrives. Unlike some of the genderswapped entries here, female Vision has impact, influence and a different backstory than simply being the male version with more Y chromosomes.
4 CARRIE KELLEY (ROBIN)
There have been many Robins over the years, and all have been some rebellious upstart that has to force a disgruntled Batman into training them. The most famous Robins are usually determined to be Dick Grayson or Jason Todd, since they stuck around the longest, but even if one dies and fans get outraged, what happens when they Boy Wonder becomes the Girl Wonder?
Hell, even Tim Drake’s girlfriend got a shot at being Batman’s sidekick. But the only female Robin to have serious staying power was Carrie Kelley, appearing in Frank Miller’s excellent The Dark Knight Returns, aiding a middle-aged (and still disgruntled) Batman. She appears in the two sequels, and leaves an indelible mark on the franchise. At least Batman will chastise his sidekicks equally, no matter their gender.
3 THE ANCIENT ONE (DR. STRANGE)
When the news broke that veteran character actress Tilda Swinton would be portraying The Ancient One in the cinematic premier of Dr. Strange, fans were divided. In the comics, The Ancient One is the first Sorcerer Supreme, who for centuries wandered the Earth fighting demons and holding back the forces of darkness. He passes on these skills to Stephen Strange over a period of many years.
Depicted as a wizened old Tibetan man who, much like Yoda, used his physical frailty to conceal his true magical powers, he never changed. The film’s producers determined the title of the character could be passed down to different people, and was never to be a single person, thus enabling Swinton’s character to possess it.
2 ALEJANDRA JONES (GHOST RIDER)
Johnny Blaze may be the most notable bearers of the Ghost Rider name, but one depiction of the Spirit of Vengeance is a young woman named Alejandra Jones. She had a tragic childhood as the daughter of a human trafficker. She was sold to a stranger at a tender age, but rather than do unspeakable things to her, he trained her to one day be the flaming-headed Ghost Rider.
She eventually teams up with Johnny Blaze, who mentors her in how to channel and control the dark powers that she wields. Unfortunately, theirs is a partnership that isn’t meant to last, and she up and quits her responsibilities, forfeiting most of the powers of the Ghost Rider. Will she return to claim her power back from the man she believes wronged her? Does anyone care about Ghost Rider anymore?
1 IRONHEART (IRON MAN)
Just when no one thought Tony Stark would step aside for anyone but Tony Stark, he reportedly steps down to make way for tech whiz RiRi Williams, who assumes the name “Ironheart”. Like her predecessor, she’s got a superior intellect, a curious mind, and spends her time inventing gadgets.
RiRi happens to be African American and female, which is a boon for fans who want diversity, and considered a gimmick by everyone else. Surely no more gimmicky than the appearance of Natasha Stark, aka Iron Woman, a billionaire philanthropist who was a direct gender swap of her golden suited counterpart. She was part of an alternate reality, an outcome to the Civil War event, and married Captain America, giving certain other fans the gimmick they secretly always wanted. The character could never be seen the same way again.
Which genderswapped character is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!