Redheads have gotten a lot of flack over the years through a combination of superstition, stereotypes and just plain ignorance. They’re also known for being inherently hot-tempered and feisty, which isn’t really true. They also get targeted just for standing out in a crowd.
While only two percent of the population have natural red hair in the real world, there are a ton of redheads in comics. Partly, this is caused by the problems of having to draw so many different characters in comics, especially if you don’t give them a distinctive face. Giving a character red hair makes them stand out in a crowd so they’re easier to recognize. There’s also a limited number of colors artists can use, so red, black, brown, or blond are pretty much the only hair options. Then there’s the fact that gingers are awesome.
National “Love Your Red Hair Day” is on November 5. To celebrate, here are the top 16 redheads in comics.
16. Elongated Man
Ralph Dibny was introduced as the Elongated Man in “The Flash” #112 (1960), where he explained he grew up fascinated by contortionists in the circus. He discovered their secret was a rare fruit that he distilled and drank, giving him the power to stretch his body. The Elongated Man’s stretching powers made him a great ally to the speedster.
The Elongated Man is known more for his detective skills than his long arms and legs. He was featured in a series of backup stories in “Detective Comics,” where he traveled the country solving odd mysteries. But his sense of humor also made Dibny a beloved character in comics.
Sadly, the death of his wife Sue drove Dibny to extremes to try to bring her back to life. He ended up sacrificing himself to save the world, but was reborn as a ghost detective. He’s stretching and solving crimes in the afterlife now.
15. Red Sonja
First introduced in “Conan the Barbarian” #23 in 1973, Red Sonja was just a young girl in the Hyborian Age when a group of mercenaries killed her family and burned her home, leaving her for dead. But the goddess Scathach heard her desire for revenge, and gave her the power to wield swords and other weapons with great skill. The only condition was that she couldn’t fall in love with any man she hadn’t defeated in combat.
She grew up to become a great warrior, feared as a “she-devil with a sword,” and often teamed with Conan the Barbarian to fight the evil sorcerer Kulan Gath. But he could never defeat her in combat, so they never became more than that. In the 2013 version, the defiling and supernatural elements of Red Sonja were removed, allowing her to become a warrior all on her own, rocking that classic chainmail bikini along the way.
The Irish are well-known for their red hair, which is why Banshee has to be on this list. Banshee (Sean Cassidy) is a mutant from Ireland, which is where he got his hair and his nickname. A banshee is a woman in Irish mythology whose loud shrieks came before an imminent death. Cassidy’s mutant power is his voice, which is so strong that it can create destructive waves of sound. He can even ride the sound waves in order to fly.
His first appearance came in “X-Men” #28 (1967), when he was forced to become a member of the criminal gang Factor Three. With the X-Men’s help, he was able to free himself and joined the good guys. Banshee became one of the most Irish characters in comics, complete with a thick accent and a pipe he smoked in his off-time. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the luck of the Irish too, instead having a tendency to get hurt and lose his powers. On one of the many times he finally healed enough to join the team again, he sacrificed himself to try to rescue a passenger jet.
13. Wally West
Wally started out as the Kid Flash, the original Flash’s teenage sidekick, in “The Flash” #110 in 1959. His super speed came in handy whenever the Flash (Barry Allen) charged into danger, letting him always be by Allen’s side through thick and thin. When Allen died in “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” Wally West made fans proud by stepping up to the plate and taking over as the Flash.
West isn’t the stalwart hero that Allen was. He’s cocky, loud-mouthed and occasionally a jerk. He’s as quick with a joke as he is with his feet. But he’s just as fast as Allen, able to move at lightning speed. He can dodge bullets, run on water and even break the time barrier if he’s pushed hard enough.
West has always been plagued by the desire to live up to Allen’s legacy, often being shown as riddled with self-doubt over whether he measures up. But over time, he’s proven himself to be just as worthy of the name Flash.
When it comes to the X-Men, there’s no greater redheaded foe than Mystique. First introduced in “Ms. Marvel” #16 in 1978, Mystique has been deceiving and frustrating the X-Men for decades, and remains one of their most recognized and dangerous enemies.
Her real name is Raven Darkholme and she’s a mutant with the power to change her body and voice completely at will. This allows her to shapeshift to match anyone she chooses, which makes her a master of disguise. In her natural form, she’s a woman with blue skin and red hair.
With her abilities, she’s often worked behind the scenes to manipulate and twist major events. She also makes for a perfect assassin and doesn’t hesitate to kill if she thinks it will further the cause of mutantkind. She’s also been revealed as being over a hundred years old, the mother of Nightcrawler, and foster mother of Rogue. And while she can look like anyone or anything she wants, Mystique always goes back to her ginger state.
11. Archie Andrews
First appearing in “Pep Comics” #22 all the way back in 1941, Archie Andrews is one of the most well-known redheads in comics. Generations of kids have grown up reading his wacky adventures.
Perpetually sixteen years old, Archie is always struggling in school, chasing after girls and trying to get more popular. His biggest problem tends to be trying to juggle between Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge, two girls always fighting for his attention, which arguably isn’t a bad problem to have.
In a lot of ways, Archie’s just your average teenager. That’s what’s made him such an iconic figure in comics for generations. In an age where real teenagers are dealing with real problems like drugs, violence and sexuality, Archie was a breath of fresh air. But at a certain point, he started to seem a little dated. With his recent death and reboot in 2014, Archie got a more modern look and deals with more modern problems. Here’s hoping Archie will be around for generations to come.
10. Barbara Gordon
She’s a feminist icon, and also a hero for the disabled. She’s one of the most powerful heroes in comics, and also one of the most vulnerable. She’s Barbara Gordon, better known as Batgirl or Oracle in later years.
Barbara Gordon was originally introduced in 1967’s “Detective Comics” #359, because the “Batman” TV show wanted a female counterpart. As the daughter of Commissioner Gordon, mild-mannered Barbara Gordon put on the costume of Batgirl and quickly became a beloved part of the Batman Family. She was tough, smart and capable, a rare sight in the macho superhero world of the ’60s.
But in 1988’s “Batman: The Killing Joke,” Barbara was shot and paralyzed from the waist down by the Joker. It seemed like her heroic days had ended until an issue of 1989’s “Suicide Squad” revealed she had used her computer skills to become a secret asset known only as Oracle. As Oracle, Gordon gained a new following among the physically challenged community, who loved seeing a wheelchair-bound character fighting crime. But she also became a symbol for critics of the treatment of women in comics.
9. Guy Gardner
Most Green Lanterns are humble and selfless, dedicated to the cause of spreading justice throughout the Galaxy. Then there’s Guy Gardner.
In “Green Lantern” #59 (1968), Green Lantern Hal Jordan discovered that he wasn’t the first human to be selected for the Green Lantern Corps. When the alien Abin Sur died, his ring selected two candidates: Hal Jordan and a gym teacher named Guy Gardner. Jordan was chosen because he was closer, but Gardner remained as a backup. Later on, Gardner gained a power ring of his own.
In “Green Lantern” #116 (1979), Jordan’s power battery exploded in Gardner’s face. The explosion trapped him in the Phantom Zone, where he was tortured and manipulated by General Zod to the point of brain damage. When he was revived from his coma, his personality had changed. He’d become arrogant, violent and even childish, the biggest jerk in the Green Lantern Corps. And that’s why we love him. He says and does what no other hero would, and his bowl haircut is a thing of beauty.
With Medusa, her red hair isn’t just part of her appearance, it’s also her superpower. She’s one of the Inhumans, an offshoot race of humans who were created in prehistoric times by the alien Kree. They’ve been using superpowers for thousands of years, living in a secret location known as Attilan. The queen of the Inhumans is Medusa, who first appeared in “Fantastic Four” #36 in 1965.
Medusa is named after the fictional Gorgon from Greek mythology, who had living snakes instead of hair. Medusa’s long red hair is extremely strong, like steel wire. She can also manipulate every hair on her head with precise control. Medusa can use them to push, pull and lift objects, making them act like thousands of tentacles or arms. Using her flaming red hair as a weapon, she’s fought evil and for the power of her throne for decades, making all redheads look tougher in the bargain.
7. Poison Ivy
She’s a toxic woman, literally and figuratively. She also has red hair.
Poison Ivy first appeared in “Batman” #181, published in 1966. She was originally botanist Pamela Isley, who survived poisoning by chemical experiments while trying to develop an immunity to all poisons. In the process, she also gained the ability to grow and control all plants, as well as a toxic kiss. Isley became the supervillain Poison Ivy.
Driven insane with a belief that plants are better than people, Poison Ivy is dedicated to purging Earth of humanity. As an eco-terrorist, she’s tried to use plants to kill everyone on Earth or at least Gotham City. She also uses pheromones to control men’s minds, transforming them into her helpless slaves. She’s also formed a partnership with the Joker’s sidekick Harley Quinn, and occasionally even enthralled Batman. Her love is like a red, red rose: it can be beautiful, but the proverbial thorns can hurt you if you’re not careful.
6. Jimmy Olsen
There’s only one known who’s known as Superman’s pal and that’s Jimmy Olsen. The man (then still a boy) first appeared in “Action Comics” #6 in 1938 and he’s been a part of the Superman mythology ever since. As a photojournalist for the “Daily Planet,” he’s usually following Lois Lane or Clark Kent around to take pictures for their own articles instead of doing the reporting himself. He dreams of finding a big scoop himself and that goal tends to get him into trouble. Luckily, Jimmy has a special signal watch that can create an ultrasonic signal only heard by Superman wherever the Kryptonian may be at the time.
Olsen’s blunders have been a source of comedy for decades in the pages of “Superman,” but his eagerness and enthusiasm is infectious. Olsen also grounds Superman, giving him a sense of humanity or even just someone for Superman to rescue and get out of danger. Superman just wouldn’t be the same without Jimmy Olsen.
In the 1986 mini-series “Watchmen,” the entire superhero genre was turned upside down. Heroes were acting like villains and villains became as sympathetic as heroes normally are. One of the most brutal heroes is Rorschach. He’s always seen wearing his fedora, trenchcoat and a mask that’s constantly shifting patterns of black and white. It’s a perfect metaphor, because Rorschach is a man who only sees morality as black and white, never compromising his principles, and willing to kill in the name of justice.
But beneath the mask is Walter Kovacs, a red-headed man who came across as short and weak. He suffered a traumatic childhood and his failure to save a young girl hardened his belief that crime has to be stopped at all costs. He’s clearly insane, believing that his mask is actually his real face while Kovacs is the costume, but his integrity and determination have made him a hero. When anyone crosses him, they always pay, whether he’s wearing the mask or not.
4. Black Widow
She was one of the Soviet Union’s greatest agents, a ruthless assassin who became a hero. That’s Natasha “Natalia” Romanova, better known as Black Widow.
She first appeared in “Tales of Suspense” #52 (1964), where she fought Iron Man as a KGB assassin. It’s later revealed that Romanova was orphaned and brought up to be an agent of the Kremlin. Much of her history is a mystery, but her deadly skills with weapons and hand-to-hand combat have made her a force to be reckoned with. It’s her beauty and charm that make her even more of a threat. She’s romanced a lot of men, including the Winter Soldier, Iron Man, Wolverine, Daredevil and Hawkeye.
Eventually, she defected to the United States to become an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and also joined the Avengers. Even among a team of super-strong, super-fast, god-like warriors, Black Widow can hold her own with the best of them.
When he was young, Matt Murdock pushed an old man out of the way of a truck, was struck in the head and blinded for life. But he did get something out of it, namely superpowers from the radioactive waste that hit him. He has enhanced senses including a radar sense that allows him to navigate and function even better than normal humans. With his new abilities, Murdock became a superhero named Daredevil.
First appearing in 1964’s “Daredevil” #1, Daredevil has been a high-flying hero in the streets of Harlem for decades. During the day, he fights for justice as a lawyer, alway struggling to pay the bills while defending his clients with honor. He’s had a rough personal life, too, with dangerous girlfriends like Elektra and Typhoid Mary. Regardless, Murdock continues to fight the good fight. Not only does he have a red costume, but also Daredevil also has red hair. He’s definitely got the devil in him!
2. Mary Jane Watson
Of all the women in comics, Mary Jane Watson is definitely one of the most recognizable. That’s true 1,000 times over when it comes to being one of the most recognized redheads in comics. Mary Jane gets her first mention in “The Amazing Spider-Man” #15, but it wouldn’t be until “The Amazing Spider-Man” #42 where we finally got to see her for the first time. It was then that Mary Jane first spoke her trademarked “Face it, tiger…you hit the jackpot!”
Over the years, MJ turned out to be a feisty and tough young woman who long acted as Peter Parker’s rock whenever he struggled with his dual life as Spider-Man. The two even married in “The Amazing Spider-Man Annual” #21, marking the beginning of what would become Marvel’s favorite and most-famous married couple (after Reed Richards and Sue Storm, after all). But the higher ups at Marvel decided to hit the reset button on that relationship, using a plot device to make it so they never ended up tying the knot.
1. Jean Grey
Redheads are known for being “fiery,” but Jean Grey took that to a whole new level. She’s the hottest redhead in comics. Literally.
Originally known as Marvel Girl, Jean Grey first appeared in “The X-Men” #1 in 1963. She was one of the X-Men, a mutant with powers of telekinesis and telepathy that made her awesome. She’s always been sexy, with Cyclops and Wolverine fighting over her love, but she became infamous in what’s become known as the Dark Phoenix Saga.
When Jean Grey sacrificed herself to protect the others in a crashing space shuttle in “Uncanny X-Men” #101 (1976), this kicked off a series of events that endowed her with the cosmic entity known as the Phoenix Force. Those god-like powers unfortunately included technically being possessed by the Phoenix Force, which caused her to turn against the X-Men and kill billions of alien lives. She eventually committed suicide in “Uncanny X-Men” #137 (1980), although that was retconned to be a duplicate so she could later return. She’s currently dead in the comics, but a younger version from the past has been running around as the current Marvel Girl.
Are there any other comic book redheads who need representing on this list? Sound off in the comments!
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