Let’s Talk Comics: Superheroines

Whether you call them superheroines, female superheroes, or just superheroes, there are many female characters in comics whose powers, reputation, actions, and history make them more than ordinary.

While Wonder Woman might be known best, a number of other superheroines made their first appearance in comics early on in the 1940s. Fantomah (February 1940), Lady Luck (June 1940), Invisible Scarlet O’Neil (June 1940), and Phantom Lady (August 1941) all made their first appearances in comic books and newspaper strips before Wonder Woman’s in All Star no. 8 (December 1941-January 1942). Miss Fury (April 1941), another early costumed crime-fighting woman, was the first superheroine created by a female artist, Tarpe Mills.

Early appearance of Fantomah. Interior from Jungle Comics, no. 27 (March 1942).

Cover of Miss Fury, no. 3 (Winter 1943-1944).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Several superheroines made their debut as the female version of their already established male counterparts. Supergirl, Hawkgirl, Batgirl, Batwoman, She-Hulk, and Spider-Woman were all intended to provide a foil or romantic interest for male characters – or were family members. A few, like Batwoman, were extremely popular in their own right and continue to be popular.

First appearance of Batwoman. Cover of Detective Comics, no. 233 (July 1956).

Kate Kane as Batwoman. Cover of Batwoman, no. 0 (January 2011).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women have also been known to inherit or otherwise takeover roles originally held by men. You may know the current Captain Marvel as Carol Danvers, but did you know that Monica Rambeau was the first female Captain Marvel in 1989? Jane Foster wields Mjolnir as Thor, and RiRi Williams wears a suit of armor as Ironheart. Did you know that Elizabeth Braddock (aka Psylocke) briefly took over as Captain Britain for her twin brother?

Monica Rambeau as Captain Marvel. Cover of Captain Marvel, v. 2 no. 1 (November 1989).

And last but certainly not least – the originals. Women of comics we’ve come to know and love. There’s Wonder Woman of course, but also Invisible Girl (aka Sue Storm), Jean Gray/Phoenix (aka Marvel Girl), Storm, Kitty Pryde, Jubilee,  Black Canary, Huntress (and the whole Birds of Prey team), Big Barda, Squirrel Girl,  Misty Knight, Promethea, WaspSilk, the all-female Avengers team, as well as the all-female X-Men team.

Jean Grey aka Marvel Girl. Interior from X-Men, no. 1 (September 1963.

Should we count sometime heroines and villains (reformed and otherwise) in this list as well? There’s Rogue, Talia al Ghul, Scarlett Witch, Black Widow, Elektra, Poison Ivy, Harly Quinn, Gamora, Catwoman, Mystique, Enchantress, Star Sapphire, Emma Frost, Dark Phoenix, Cheetah, Nightshade, Lady Deathstrike, and Granny Goodness – just to name a few.

First appearance of Nightshade. Cover of Captain America, no. 164 (August 1973)

First apperance of Harly Quinn in comics. Cover of Batman Adventures, no. 12 (September 1993).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are so many superheroines who’ve appeared over the years, I wasn’t able to list all of them! Tell me if I missed someone in the comments!

3 Comments

  1. Mike Shawaluk
    March 15, 2019 at 6:16 pm

    While some may not consider them “superheroes”, there are also a number of women heroes that were published by Fawcett, Fiction House and Fox. They would include Firehair, Sheena, Nyoka and Rulah.

  2. Stacy
    April 29, 2019 at 8:07 am

    What about Ms. Marvel Kamala Khan? President Obama received one of her comics I believe. Kamala has been a groundbreaking character in American comics culture as a teen, a young Pakistani-American woman, and a faithful Muslim.

    • Megan Halsband
      May 2, 2019 at 9:20 am

      Great suggestion – she definitely needs to be on everyone’s superheroine list! Kamala Khan is an awesome Ms. Marvel – we got to show our copy of issue no. 1 at a display we did in 2017.

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