What makes a really great superhero? An engaging back story, quirky or unique powers and a strong motivation for doing good are all traits of our favourite brooding comic book goodies, while the baddies just have to look like they’re having a good time while scuppering all our hero’s plans and making suitably menacing remarks. Our classic idea of a comic book superhero or even supervillain, though, is often subliminally marked by another trait – muscles. The manly kind. Yes, those on the periphery of comic book fandom often jump to the conclusion that the leading heroes of the comic book universe are male. An understandable conclusion to jump to, as almost every superhero movie of note in the last decade has starred a male in the title role. Batman, Superman, Spiderman, even X-Men – women barely get a look in.
But for those of us who know a little more about comic book lore, we know there are some seriously kickass females at the fore of the comic book universe. Movie goers have already embraced kickass leading ladies in the roles of action heroines – Buffy, Katniss, even Saorise Ronan’s infamous Hanna . Now, it looks like the movie going public is about to get a taste of just how badass female superheroes can be: Excitement is brewing over Wonder Woman’s glorious comeback in 2016’s Batman Vs. Superman, and the news recently broke that Thor is being reinvented as a female in the comic book universe. Then, just this week, Sony revealed that we can expect a new female superhero-led movie in the next few years. With that announcement, speculation is rife as to which of the many well-loved super heroines might be chosen to lead their own franchises.
Here, we’ve compiled a run-down of the very best female superheroes to ever grace page or screen. These chicks need their own films, and we’re putting bets that these five will be leading the way in smashing box office records in the future.
Jessica Drew was the original Spider-Woman, appearing first in 1977 to almost universal acclaim. It’s believed she was initially brought in for a cameo, but fan response to her appearance in the Spider-Man comics was so great that Marvel kept her on as a staple. She was a bit awkward, a consummate introvert – which would translate well on screen in today’s age of mumblecore – and gained her powers when HYDRA implanted a genetically modified spider in her body. Drew’s time as a comic book leading lady was marked by lots of editorial changes and creative complications and she was eventually killed off – to fans’ dismay – after 50 episodes. Spider-Woman has been cropping up in the Marvelverse again in recent years, in the New Avengers, so the time is ripe for her on-screen debut.
4. Scarlet Witch
She’s had her own comic book series and she’s an Avengers favourite – the Scarlet Witch is one of the darlings of the Marvel comic book universe. With her father and brother – Magneto and Quicksilver of X-Men fame – already killing it at cinemas everywhere, it was about time she had her chance to shine. Comic book fans are on the edge of their seats waiting for the Scarlet Witch’s big screen premier in 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, to be played by Elizabeth Olson. If this goes well the genetic mutant who can alter the world around her may well be set to land her own leading role in the near future.
Another Marvel girl, Elektra is known to most of us as the awful big screen flop whose only enduring success was bringing together one of Hollywood’s cutest couples, Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck. But despite a few unfortunate movies in the early noughties, Elektra is still a killer superhero, whose big screen outings certainly didn’t do her justice. Elektra debuted in the early 80s, as Daredevil’s romantic interest and a kickass ninja. Her skills are wide and varied – as well as incredible fighting abilities she has an unusually high threshold for pain and extreme temperatures and can play ninja mind-tricks on her assailants and victims. Fans are still holding their breaths for a more faithful and fair on-screen depiction of this femme fatale in the future.
It seems all the good ones can be traced back to Marvel. The short lived but cult favourite Kick-Ass ran as a comic book series between 2008 and 2010, and inspired the hugely successful but controversial cinematic adaptation, Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2. The supporting role but stand out star of both the comics and movies was Hit-Girl, the wonderfully sadistic eleven year old Mindy McCready who’s been trained by her father to be a pro-killer. Hit-Girl doesn’t have any innate superpowers – none of the heroes in the belligerently realistic Kick-Ass do – but her level of skill and knowledge of weapons as well as her unflinching ability to kill are intriguing, terrifying and wonderfully absurd.
1. Wonder Woman
DC Comics may be under-represented on our list but one of their stand out stars takes the number one spot. Wonder Woman dates all the way back to the 1940s. When the Amazonian warrior princess first made her appearance she was seen as a revolutionary feminist icon, an unconventionally bold and extroverted character relative to literature of the time. Her feminine nature make Wonder Woman – sometimes known by her alias Diana Prince – well-loved. She’s generally portrayed as kind-hearted, compassionate and anything but a ruthless killer – although she’ll step up whenever necessary. Her range of fantastical powers include super strength and speed along with her famous lasso of truth (likely a veiled nod to the innate power of female intuition). Wonder Woman was a small-screen favourite in the 70s and she’s coming back to our screens in DC’s power house sure-fire box office hit, Batman Vs. Superman in 2016, to be portrayed by Gal Gadot.