My top 15(ish) female comics characters

March 18th, 2010 by

I have been meaning to do this post for a while, ever since Florence posted the link to the list of the top women in comics of the last decade. Now in honor of my brand new niece! (congratulations Florence and Marty!) I present my favorite female comics characters.  I am not limiting myself to any decade, and am not going in any order of preference.

1) Grandma Ben, from Jeff Smith’s Bone

though her granddaughter Thorn is pretty special too, Grandma Ben is awesome, and unique.   When was the last time, any medium introduced, a female character with a Popeye-esque build, and gray hair, let alone one that could slay a dragon?   Grandma is tough as nails, a champion cow racer, and incredibly strong.   She is also a loving guardian for Thorn.   Grandma rules!

2) Death & Delirium, from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman

Sandman introduced some amazing female characters: Mazikeen, Nuala, and Titania among them. These two are my favorite. I don’t think I’m alone in finding the idea of death as a perky,  sensible, Mary Poppins quoting, goth chick, very comforting.  She is someone you’d want to hang out with, except you would have to die to do it.

As for Delirium, well I’m a sucker for the damaged, quirky, somewhat dangerous, yet fragile girls.   See also: River from Firefly, Drusilla from Buffy, Cassie from Skins, and Arkady from Freak Angels.   Del is the quintessential example of this kind of character, since she is the physical embodiment of insanity.  She is so vulnerable, that your heart aches for her.  She can also be charmingly innocent, and then turn on a dime and be scarily prescient. I love her, that is all.

3) All of the women of Strangers in Paradise, form Terry Moore’s Strangers In Paradise

While Katchoo and Francine are the female leads, every last character with two x chromosomes (and the ones with a y as well) is an completely fleshed out person.  From shallow bimbo Casey (who some how evolved over the course of the series into one of the most lovable characters), to Francine’s overbearing mother, to Tambi, Katchoo’s  hard-ass mafia connected half sister, had nuances and depth, that made them entirely believable.  I can’t single any of them out, they are some of the best written women I have every read.  They are also some the best  (if not just the best) drawn as well.  None of them looked the same (except Tambi, and Bambi, who are twins and even they had their differences), and that is remarkable in an industry where so often an artist just has one, totally unrealistic female boy that they draw, and just changes out the clothes, face and hair, to differentiate them.  All the women in SIP have different, and very real looking bodies, as well as faces.  Something that Terry Moore has continued into his new series Echo.  Well done Terry!

4) Buffy Summers, from Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Okay, Buffy  is not a character that originated in comics, but this is a list of my favorite female characters, and Buffy Summers has to be on this list.   Because she is Buffy freaking Summers!  In the Buffy season eight comics, Joss and his team have continued the growth of the character, that started in the tv series.  She is still struggling with her place as a hero and leader as it evolves, without it feeling like a retread of what has already been done with the character.  And she has her flaws as well as strengths, that makes her feel like a real person.  I am so glad we got more Buffy, regardless of the medium, but I think she is a great addition to comics’ pantheon of heroes.

5) Elaine Belloc, from Mike Carey’s Lucifer

I nearly put Mazikeen onto this list, and if it was a list of great bad asses she would be on it, but it’sa list of my favorite, and while Mazikeen is close, I am going with Elaine.  Elaine started as a little girl trying to get Lucifer to help her get revenge for her dead friend Mona.  She ended the run as a powerful, deity, in contril of her own universe.  In a way Elaine became as much of a main character, as Lucifer.  Probably because Lucifer, as interesting as he is, is not very relatable.  Elaine on the other hand was both relatable, and infinitely likable.  She was a plucky and clever, girl who could both stand up, to and for the devil.

6) Molly O’Reilly, from John Ney Reiber’s Books of Magic

Though the Books of Magic, was created by Neil Gaiman, the majority of it’s run was written by John Ney Rieber, and he is the one who introduced Molly.  When he left the series, he took Molly with him.  Like Elaine, she is character, that came to rival her series’ main character, in popularity.  Once she feel in love with Tim Hunter, poor Molly did not have it easy.   She got kidnapped, by an obsessed, evil, future version Tim, and stranded in the hostile realm of Faerie.  All the way I was rooting for her, she managed to stick up for herself, and survive.  While I was convinced she and Tim, were soul mates, I was never prouder of her, than when she told him off for treating her badly, and cut ties for good.  I would love to see a return of Molly at some point.

7) Harley Quinn from various Batman comics

Like Buffy, Harley originated on tv, in the animated Batman series, and she was so popular, she was added into the official Batman continuity.  When you try to describe her, she comes across as a character I just should not like.  She is obsessed with the Joker, and is happy to let him walk all over her, and treat her like crap.   She has a very shaky moral center, and will probably betray her friends, if it will get her into the Joker’s good graces (she is getting a little better about that).  Yet I love her.  There is something that is so charming about her.  She makes me laugh any time she is involved in a story.  I like her best, when she is being written by her creator Paul Dini, as she is in the current Gotham City Sirens series.  It helps that in comics, we don’t hear her grating, over the top, (Brooklyn?) accent.

8) Gert Yorkes, from Brian K. Vaughan’s Runaways

Runaways is another series that has a lot of good female characters to choose from.  I love Gert for many reasons, one of them being that she is a teenage female comic character, that does not have a supermodel body (and she still got a hot boyfriend).  She also is smart, sardonic, and brave.  Plus she has purple hair and a pet dinosaur!

9) Agent 355, from Brian K. Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man

This is the character that would top the list of all time bad asses (along with Mazikeen, Tambi, and Grandma Ben).  In a series that has just one male character, 355 is the standout female.  She is a tower of strength.  She does her job, no matter what.  Somehow Vaughn managed to show her more vulnerable side, without diminishing her toughness.

10) Jessica Jones, from Brian Micheal Bendis’ Alias and the Pulse

Jess started the series as a bit of a self destructive mess.  As the series progressed we got to see the very justifiable reasons for it, and also see her grow past it.  Now Jessica Jones, may not be the greatest super powered person in the Marvel universe, but she rivals Spider-man for me as the most human.

11) Babara Gordon, from Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey

Barbara has been part of the DC universe since the silver age, first as Batgirl, then as Oracle.  However it was Gail Simone’s run on Bird’s of Prey, that really sold me on the character.  After all, she is a hero for the simple reason that she is very very smart.  She is also a very capable fighter, despite not having the use of her legs, and a good mentor to younger female heroes.  Plus, she is a hot red head with glasses.

12) Kabuki, from David Mack’s Kabuki

Kabuki is an amazing comic, and Kabuk is herself is at the center of it.  She is a touch crazy, and for good reasons.  Watching her story evolve from a simple revenge tale, to an in depth examination of her damaged psyche, has been fascinating.  The art is gorgeous, as well.

13) Knives Chau, from Bryan Lee O Malley’s Scott Pilgrim

Of the three main girls in Scott Pilgrim, Ramona is still too much of an enigma, for me to relate to.  And Kim, is funny, but not given much to do.  Knives however, I get.  Probably way too well.  She is a teenager, who has fixated on an older guy, who just never actually cared about her that much.   Her flailing attempts to get him to notice her, and later to just be in his circle, seemed very authentic.  Besides, she can do kung fu, that is cool!

14) Lois, from Alison Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch Out For

There are countless, realisticly portrayed women, over the course of this twenty some year strip.  I chose Lois because, she seems like the one who’d be most fun to spend an afternoon with.  The rest have too many neroses, and issues, which makes them feel very real, but might make spending time with them a bit stressful.

Couldn’t find a picture of  Lois:(

15) Marlys, from Lynda Barry’s Ernie Pook’s Comeek

Marlys, is just the greatest!  She will tell you so herself.  She is also a wonderful spaz.  Totally upbeat, in the face of adversity, and creative to a fault.  She makes me happy.  And she is a hell of a dancer!

Okay, were there any glaring omissions?  Let me know.

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3 Responses to “My top 15(ish) female comics characters”

  1. Anne Bridge Says:

    Wow Susie. I managed to read top 10 now work calls. Lookingn forward to reading the rest.
    ttyl
    A

  2. Martine Votvik Says:

    Awesome list!

    Personally I’d like to add Tulip from “preacer”, She’s just as fleshed out and badd ass as Jesse and cassidy and she comes across as the kind of woman you’d really like to have watching your back if you ever got into trouble. It’s interesting how se deals with jesses macho bullshit without coming across as unreasonable or winy. She understands why he want’s to protect her, but she’s just as bent on protecting him.

    Channon and Yelena from “Transmetropolitan”. The two lead women of this comic are interesting contrasts, Channon grew up in much the same poor and violent enviornment as Jerusalem and had to learn how to get mean and practical to survive. She has no illutions about society, or her self for that matter. Yelena on the other hand grew op pampered and protected, she is idealistic and still believes in folowing the laws and rules. She’s allso easily angered and bothered.. They are conected by their growing frustration with their boss and their substance abuse. It’s quite fun to watch them interact and evolve throughout the story, not many other comics manage to capture just how dirty, bitter and angry young women can get.

  3. Susie Says:

    I haven’t read either Preacher or Transmertopolitan, they have been on my list to read for a long time. I might have to bump them up.

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