Thursday, December 5, 2013

Who's the Best... Female Character at Marvel Comics?


david_b said...

To me it depends on which character's been consistently written well, with perhaps same motivations and angst as the male counterparts. I'd like to say Janet Pym, during the '80s, with her divorce and team leadership, which added many unexpected layers to her character.

I'd also note the Widow. Never a shrinking violet, she held her own sexy way teamed with DD, later led her own team, then joined the Avengers.

The noteable 'not-so-greats' are Sue Richards and Wanda, who both went through terrible inconsistencies from decade to decade.

I know a lot originally was written into Monica Rambeau, but once Stern started writing her out of the Avengers, I didn't hear/notice/care much more about her, not that I did from the start to be honest.

I'd also nominate Mary Jane Watson (pre-marriage days). There wasn't too many supporting characters that really resonated from the first panel onward like her.

Edo Bosnar said...

David makes a crucial point, and it's unfortunate that this primarily applies to female characters: it really depends on who's writing them.
Like David, I like Wasp and Monica Rambeau as written by Stern. Others include Valkyrie when written by Gerber, Shanna as written by Bruce Jones in that early '80s Ka-zar series, She Hulk when done by Byrne and Monica Lynne when written by Don McGregor.

So putting aside the above characters due to their inconsistent portrayal, for me it's a toss-up between the Black Widow and Misty Knight.

david_b said...

Ah, Edo, I was going to mention Shanna. I'd LOVE to collect her early titles, pre-DD brief stint, for more info on both Mandrill and Nekra, but also to look at how Carole Seuling first envisioned her, then how Gerber made his changes, bringing her forth into his stint on DD/BW in one of their BEST storylines.

Edo Bosnar said...

David, I'm actually really interested in Gerber's take on Shanna. To date, I've only read one of his Shanna stories, from the early '70s series, which I don't recall very well. I'd like to read both that series and that Shanna 3-part story he did for Marvel Fanfare in the '80s.

Anonymous said...

But guys, ALL Marvel characters are inconsistently written. I'd say that it may be more apparent for female characters b/c a lot of them are supporting characters or part of a team so they don't spend a lot of time in the spotlight, so when they get back in the changes are obvious.

Anyway, I, for one, am glad the depictions of some characters has changed ESPECIALLY The Wasp and Sue Storm.

Anyway, my favorite female character may be my favorite period, She-Hulk.

But I love Mary Jan and Aunt May, too.

Oh, oh and Kitty Pryde. Definitely Kitty Pryde - she might beat out Shulkie.

Oh and have folks seen my recent post on She-Hulk on my blog (not Bronze Age, though): Dan Slott’s She-Hulk: Derative Character as Meta-Comic.

William said...

I always liked Ms. Marvel a lot. Especially in her early days. That may be because my first exposure to the character was in a Marvel Team-Up story by Claremont and Byrne. It was part-2 of a 2-parter with the Super Skrull as the villain. Good stuff.

She also had some nice moments with the Avengers. (Until issue #200 pretty much ruined the character). And then Rogue permanently stole her powers (and memories). Man, they liked to mess with MM back then.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Rogue, once she joined the X-Men she quickly became one of my favorite characters as well.

Karen said...

Actually taking a little lunch break time to pop in -a rare thing lately! I think most of you know by now that I don't have much investment in female comics characters; the problem for me has always been that most of them are defined by being someone else's 'other.' Invisible Girl/Woman was always reed's wife or Johnny's sister; Scarlet Witch was first Quicksilver's sister, and then the Vision's love interest; the Wasp, besides being a flirty nitwit, was Ant-Man's gal; and so on. Also, in the early days, Marvel heroines were incredibly useless and more often than not served as hostages or some other plot device. So they did nothing for me.

I think the first female character who really started to turn that around for me was Storm. She was her own woman. She was not romantically involved with anyone on the X-team. And she was surprisingly powerful. I recall reading the early issues and being amazed at the extent of her abilities. She clearly seemed to be the most powerful member of the team! how could this be?

I didn't like everything that was done with her later on -the whole 'punk Storm' was not my cup of tea. But she was really one of the first females to emerge that was not derivative of a male character nor dependent upon one. And she was so regal and refined. I always wished Angela Bassett had played her in the films!

Anonymous said...

It's true that most Marvel female characters were some male's love interest or sidekick. And, if they had jobs, it was usually traditional female roles (Betty Brant, Karen Page, and Pepper Potts were secretaries). By contrast, DC depicted women in non-traditional jobs, and not just as someone else's assistant. Lois Lane, Vicki Vale, and Iris West were journalists; Carol Ferris was CEO of an aircraft company; Jean Loring was an attorney. Even Hawkgirl seemed more like an equal partner than a stooge. That is one area in which stodgy old DC may have actually been ahead of the House of Ideas.

Anonymous said...

I'm always the 80s guy---and I pick TIGRA. The stories weren't always top-niotch, but the bikini helps.


Anonymous said...

Moondragon! Nuff' said.

Greg said...

I'll go with Black Widow, for personal preference. Smart and tough, liked her in the Avengers, just an all- around favorite. I also like Valkyrie in the early Defenders and Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers). I liked her both in the Avengers and even when they made her Binary.

I always liked Colleen Wing for some reason.

Greg said...

For a villain I'd go with Mystique. Always liked it when she showed up in Claremont's X-Men (the early appearances anyway).

Karen, totally agree about Angela Bassett. After seeing her in Strange Days I was like "she'd be an awesome Storm"! Exuded a lot of toughness in that role...

Madame Masque...

Anonymous said...

Hmm I'm guessing today's question is partly inspired by the announcement of an actress to play Wonder Woman in the upcoming Superman & Batman film.

'Best' is a tricky term here. Does it mean most powerful? Most multi-faceted? Longest history? Most interactions with other heroes in the Marvel Universe? Greatest run in a storyline? The biggest difference between DC and Marvel in terms of their female heroes is that Wonder Woman is hands down the most popular iconic female heroine they have, whereas Marvel's females have all shared the spotlight at various times throughout its history.

Black Widow is hot now because of the Avengers movie. Red Sonja is a compelling creation by Roy Thomas from a Robert E. Howard original character (of course that iron bikini probably has a lot to do with her appeal!). She-Hulk has always been popular. Sue Storm of the FF has the longest run from the very start of the Marvel universe.

My personal favourites are two of the uncanny X-men, namely Storm and Jean Grey/Phoenix. Both are strong characters with interesting back stories. These two are never in danger of being overshadowed by the boys! I'm sure there are lots more I've missed but these two ladies are my pick.

- Mike 'need a female superhero in my life' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Doug said...

Actually, Mike, I think this one was cooking in my noggin a day or so before the WW announcement. But since you bring her up, we will do this drill again on 12/11 from a Distinguished Competition perspective. Our Anonymous commenter above, right after Karen, had some very good points.


Anonymous said...

I liked the way female superheroes were written in the Defenders in the 70's, like some others here. I thought Steve Gerber and David Kraft really shaped and portrayed some fascinating female characters, Hellcat, Valkyrie, the Red Guardian, in a way that seemed to me to make them interesting people as opposed to cartoons.
All three had very different personalities, pasts, and viewpoints, and often argued and grated on each other. They were all distinct. It was more interesting than just having them beat up supervillians all the time, although they did that too.
Gerber and Kraft deserve a lot of credit, for writing great and interesting female characters.
Valkyrie trying to sign up for classes in, that was classic!

Fred W. Hill said...

Returning home late yet again to put in my two cents before it becomes Friday. Anyhow, I can't really think of any of Marvel's female characters who has consistantly stood out over the last 50 years, which is a bit sad. Sif was a distinct departure among female supporting characters in the Silver Age -- generally depicted by Kirby as eager to take part in the fight and at least as capable as any of the other Asgardians, aside from Thor & Odin. In the early Bronze Age, my favorite was Valkyrie. Another great supporting character, tho', was Beverly Switzer in Gerber's Howard the Duck. Shame she was mostly written out during the latter half of the series after Dr. Bong took off with her, but lots of fun during those first 15 issues.

Anonymous said...

Moondragon...she reminds me of my older sister, by which I mean she has telepathy and she's evil.

Edo Bosnar said...

Karen, totally agree with you about Storm: 1) that Bassett should have played Storm (and in general, the character should have been more prominent - another beef I have with the X-movies), 2) the early '80s punk makeover didn't do it for me, either - which is why I didn't mention her. If, instead of that punk/biker chick route, Claremont had just taken the Storm we knew from before and made her a little less like a nun (he was kind of going in this direction when he made her team leader), she would have been my favorite Marvel female easily.
Anonymous, you sum up yet another of the reasons why I like Gerber's Defenders so much. And I'm glad you mentioned Red Guardian (the Tania Belinsky version): she was brilliant in her brief stint in the Defenders, and then she just became a footnote.

Rip Jagger said...

Aunt May is my pick.

And though I don't think she's the best by any margin, I haven't seen mention of of Mantis.

When she first turned up in the Avengers alongside Swordsman, she was a most stimulating influence. The fact she had been a prostitute really pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable.

She was a flirt, a savage fighter, and as we all know ultimately the "Cosmic Madonna" (one of the dopiest tags in all of comics).

I read somewhere or other recently that Mantis was not supposed to have anything on underneath her palm-leaf-like skirt, a most raucous consideration indeed.

Mantis was a shaker, as was Moondragon, who has been mentioned.

Rip Off

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the female Red Guardian was a great character. I have no idea why Marvel phased her out so quick. She seemed to epitomize the doubts and self-questioning that one would assume a smart person would have living in a totalitarian state, while having a good moral center and a lotta guts.
Hellcat, too,..a woman at loose ends, after a failed marriage, using her sense of humor as a way of dealing with people.
And Valkrie, who ripped tires off cars and threw 'em at the Hulk's head, just to get his attention.

david_b said...

Rip, Mantis was always a favorite of mine, primarily for the timing of her and Swordy coming back to the Avengers (right when I started collecting Avengers..). I was going to bring her up but I know most folks here didn't like her much.

Somehow, hard to describe, but the Avengers really grew under Englehart and bringing in Mantis. They didn't seem as 'geeky' as they were just a few years prior. Mantis was an excellent touch for maturing the group and stiring up the tension at Avengers Mansion. Prior to her, you only had the flighty Janet Pym and the inconsistantly-written Wanda. Steve brought Mantis in for a purpose, added nice layers of mystery under, belt for a spell.

I'm not sure whether Steve E. tried the same idea with Tigra in WCA and her romp with Hank Pym in the '80s, but it failed miserably.

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