Comic book superheroes have many lives. They live in comics and sometimes, in animated television. And, for decades they have also been translated into live action movies. The films are seldom modest affairs and almost always are big budget, special effects laden, action films. It’s happened to Batman, Superman, the X-Men and on and on. And then there are the superhero video games, voiced by stars and produced by A-List producers and directors. It goes without saying, that comic book superheroes are cash cows, giving the likes of Marvel and DC Comics a staggeringly lucrative source of income from a seemingly endless parade of franchise entries. Often the U.S. (domestic) gross of these films is dwarfed by worldwide box office revenues, not to mention sales of merchandise, DVD rights, and the all important video game market.
A-List stars clamor to get in on the act, as superheroes are big business. But what about the girls? What about the female superheroes or superheroines? Well, in the past, the female superheroes have taken a backseat to their male counterparts. This has, we are happy to say, changed. So, we thought it was time we sifted through the hundreds and hundreds of female superheroes and came up with a list of female superheroes that can fight evil and right wrongs with the best of their male colleagues.
Get ready for the battle of the female superheroes. Here is our list of the 13 best: from pretty darn good to staggeringly great. Some have been translated into live action films, while some have stayed true to their comic book origins, and a few of them have been made iconic by memorable movie portrayals.
13. Invisible Woman
Marvel’s Invisible Woman (aka Sue Storm-Richards) is a cornerstone of The Fantastic Four. Fighting alongside Mister Fantastic, The Human Torch, and The Hulking Thing. And she was Marvel’s first female superhero. Her powers came as a result of being zapped by a raging cosmic storm. Able to make herself invisible to others, she began her Marvel career in a secondary role, but soon became central to The Fantastic Four and an A-List Marvel superhero. Our personal favorite? It would have to be Jessica Alba in 2005’s Fantastic Four. And the 2015 film? The less we say, the better. We think the character zings in the comics, but the movies have yet to get her completely right. So, she’s number 13 on this list.
12. Kitty Pryde
Deserving a place in our Battle of the Female Superheroes is none other than Kitty Pryde. Another Marvel Comics superhero, Kitty is usually seen with The X-Men. She is a kind of freak, a mutant, that can become intangible and pass through (and disrupt) matter. And she does a neat levitation thing. Also known as Sprite, Ariel or Shadowcat, she, like the Invisible Woman, played a kind of supporting role before morphing into a main character in her own right. She even took over as Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy. We liked Ellen Page as Kitty in X-Men: Days of Future Past in 2014. She’s youthful, powerful and sultry, all at the same time.
DC Comics’ version of Supergirl goes back to the 1950s. She was even killed off once. And her movie versions got going in the wake of the hugely successful 1980s Superman movies starring Christopher Reeve. We like television, but superheroes are often about wham, bam, and super feats, and television shows like Smallville or Supergirl can’t really do them justice. So, we include Supergirl, but because so many television shows (and movies) have gotten her wrong (and because she is a female version of a male character), she comes in at number 11. Don’t get us wrong, we like Melissa Benoist in the TV show and think she ought to make a big screen movie version.
10. Scarlet Witch
Another Marvel wonder, Scarlet Witch (aka Wanda Maximoff) made her first appearance in X-Men comics in the 60s and is still a stalwart in The Avengers comics. We like her because she has the mutant ability to mess about with reality. She can cast hexes and get inside people’s heads. Her indirect talents are tailored for the big screen, especially as portrayed by Elizabeth Olsen in Avengers and Captain America. Scarlet Witch is a great character but, unlike mainstays Wonder Woman and Supergirl, she probably won’t have her own movie. Another reason to include her on this list? She is an original that combines superpowers with good old fashioned s*x appeal.
9. Jean Gray
This girl was born with talent and superhuman ability that seems to come natural to that comic book mainstay, the mutant. She can communicate with her thoughts (telepathy) and, literally, make things move without touching them (telekinetic powers). She can die and be “reborn” and has a satisfying darker Phoenix Force side. She is an X-Men regular and was totally captured by Famke Janssen in the X-Men films. She made the list because she is a true super heroine with a complicated good/bad character. Her life is sometimes a struggle to balance her conflicting natures. We like her, but she scares us just a little. Sometimes a lot.
She’s on our list because she is a superhero with a difference. She is descended from an African warrior who possessed a magical totem that gave the wearer all the powers of the animal kingdom. Living and working as a model in America, the descendant of that warrior is Vixen, aka Mari McCabe. Her solo exploits are few, but she lingers in the imagination because of the power of the totem and because she encapsulates the magical past and the superhero present. In comic land, she eventually became a member of the Justice League. To date, Vixen has only appeared in comics and in animated films. There is some talk of producing a live action film using actress Megalyn Echikunwoke, who voiced Vixen in the animated series. Some sources link Megalyn romantically with Chris Rock.
There have been more than one version of DC Comic’s Hawkgirl. Early on she was Shiera Sanders Hall, a reincarnation of an Egyptian princess, and the partner of Carter Hall (Hawkman). Then there is the Kendra Saunders version. When Kendra commits suicide, Shiera Hall takes over her body. While considered by some as a tad bit old fashioned, Hawkgirl makes our list because her powers come from a belt of “Nth Metal”. Think of her as a winged version of Superman, with the power of flight, superhuman strength and sight, and the power to regenerate. She was a central character in Justice League animated series. We can so totally see Angelina Jolie in the title role, if and when a live action film gets made.
With a position in the middle of our list, Batgirl combines superhero powers with a nice turn of wham bam comic book pizazz, mixed with a sometimes not so subtle dose of tongue in cheek humor. This was epitomized in the 1960s TV show in which Yvonne Craig played a decidedly kitschy Batgirl to Adam West’s even kitschier Batman. While we think Batgirl is a strong character in the comic books, she has not really made it in the live action film world. A case in point: In 2016’s Batman v. Superman, Batgirl (aka Barbara Gordon and played by Jena Malone) reportedly didn’t make it into the theatrical release cut of the movie. So, Batgirl comes in at number 6. Great in the comics. Pity about the movies.
Coming in at number 5, Storm we think owes a heck of a lot to Halle Berry’s performances in the Marvel X-Men films. In fact, that franchise has elevated most of the X-Men characters to iconic status. Storm, the daughter of a tribal princess, is a mutant whose talents include the ability to control the weather (electrifying in the movie) and the ability to fly. In the comic universe, she has even led the X-Men on occasion and been a member of The Avengers and The Fantastic Four. Storm, always portrayed as a strong character, first appeared in the 1970s. Unlike Batgirl or Supergirl, she is an original and not a clone of a male superhero. She is a superhero in her own right.
The 2004 film with Halle Berry in the title role is a case in point. To say the movie was not well received is an understatement. Shallow, boring and plastic, were words often bandied about. Kinder things were said about Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman in Batman Returns (1992). Anne Hathaway’s 2012 version of Catwoman was okay, if a little buttoned up. It has to be said that without the advent of the DC Comic Batman movie franchise and the many incarnations of Catwoman that have been paraded before us over the years, the character would probably not rank so highly on our list. She and Batman have this love/ hate thing going on. It’s an interesting mix. Many say Camren Bicondova’s Catwoman on TV’s Gotham nails the character and solidifies Catwoman’s place as one of the great superheroes.
3. Black Widow
Black Widow (aka Natasha Romanoff) owes her place in the top 3 to two factors: Her appearance in a string of superhero movies, from The Avengers, to Iron Man and Captain America. And the second? That’s easy: In all of them, she was played by the inimitable Scarlett Johansson. Most fans of the character dismiss the critics’ assessment of Black Widow as no more than a femme fatale clad in black leather. Sure, Johansson looks great in the black jumpsuits and she struts her stuff with the best of them. But, fans maintain that Black Widow is a complex character, and Johansson plays her with equal measures of self-confidence and menace, with just a touch of tongue in cheek humor. She deserves to be in the top 3.
Coming in at number 2 is Mystique, the Marvel mutant shapeshifter and foe of the X-Men. An anti-hero superhero. Again, Mystique has benefited from a fair number of outings in recent movies. There’s also the fact she’s a tasteful shade of blue, and then there’s Jennifer Lawrence, channeling just enough of Katniss to make us fear what she will do next. Prominently featured in the wonderful X-Men films, Mystique has gotten a new lease on life. While Lawrence says that 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse is her last outing as Mystique, her fans hope for just one (or two or three) more.
1. Wonder Woman
Modeled from clay, Wonder Woman (Princess Diana) was blessed with superhuman powers by no less than the Olympian gods. In the 1970s, Lynda Carter brought the DC Comic Wonder Woman to life on TV. Fast forward to 2016 and Gal Gadot was WW in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. As is the case for most superheroes these days, the character was a little darker, and a little more sinister than in previous outings. Another reason to put the Amazonian beauty in the number 1 spot is that Gadot will also star in Wonder Woman’s very first solo live action film. It is due for release in June of 2017.