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She Has No Head! – 10 Great Female Comic Book Characters Of The Decade

So I limited my list to female characters that debuted 2000 – 2009 (a couple of them technically debuted in 1999 – but the bulk of their appearances have been in this decade) in the US.  So a character like Maggie from Love & Rockets, despite being a long time personal favorite is not going to be on the list, because she’s been around since well before 2000.

I also left non-fiction and memoir books off the list because I don’t love the idea of comparing fictional characters with real life people (albeit often fictionalized ones), which explains the absence of characters from books like Fun Home, Persepolis, and all of Gabrielle Bell’s work, of which I am a ridiculous fan.  You’ll also notice that there is no Manga on this list and that is quite simply because I am totally unqualified when it comes to Manga and haven’t read enough to even begin judging what should and shouldn’t be on a list of this kind.  Fortunately, CSBG’s very own Danielle Leigh covers Manga beautifully for this board already.  Not that that makes it okay for me to be ignorant, but it does make me feel slightly better about it.

Okay, onto the list.  There are definite spoilers, so read with caution.

Ten Great Female Comic Book Characters of The Decade

10.  Frau Totenkinder aka The Black Forest Witch aka Frau Baby-Eater – Fables

First Appearance:  Fables #3 (2002).  Vertigo.  Created by Bill Willingham.

One of the reasons Frau Totenkinder is on this list, is simply because it’s pretty much unheard of that an old woman gets to have a featured role in a modern comic book as anything significant.  I really battled between Fables3putting Snow White or Frau Totenkinder on this list, because Snow is important in Fables if only because she seemed almost like the test case for Willingham in seeing what he could do with re-imagining these characters – and he did a hell of a job with Snow White.  However, I don’t love Snow’s current arc in that as soon as she became wife and mother she stopped having a major role.  Not that I necessarily disagree with it, Willingham’s world rules are clearly set up and the way the story turned out there wasn’t much choice for Snow…but I can still kind of hate it a little bit.  Regardless, Frau Totenkinder’s presence and power has only grown and become more fascinating.  Totenkinder, once the The Black Forest Witch from the Hansel & Gretel fairytale was living in exile in Fabletown with the other fables, and has devoted herself seemingly whole heartedly to the cause of protecting her fables family.  Totenkinder’s first awesome act was when she defeated Baba Yaba single handedly during the March Of The Wooden Soldiers arc (issue #27 specifically).  Since then she’s been a major power player on the scene, and is currently engaged in an arc that could continue to change the Fables world.  Unfortunately, for this arc she has transformed herself into a young woman again, which I’m not wild about (it would have been awesome to see her running around in her old lady skin and kicking ass) but beggars can’t be choosers and Totenkinder is still proving to be a fascinating boundary breaking character to watch. I mean, she’s a hero and yet her name roughly translated means “death of children”…very unexpected.

For anyone looking to learn more about Frau Totenkinder, her interesting origin story can be found in the pages of Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall.

09.  Promethea aka Sophie Bangs – Promethea

First Appearance:  Promethea #1 (1999).  America’s Best Comics/Wildstorm.  Created by Alan Moore.

Promethea is one of the most important female characters I think in the last decade, in fact, she may be the promethea1most important, just not my personal favorite (hence #9 and not #1). Promethea, Alan Moore’s incredibly powerful superhero-ish character, the title character in her own book, and with barely a man to be seen for issues and issues (something that seems completely natural here) is one of the most epic characters I’ve ever read in a comic book – Moore’s ideas barely contained on the page – even with J.H. Williams III’s insanely talented hand bringing them to life.  Promethea feels important and vast in a way I think Superman is supposed to feel, but never quite has for me.  By definition the Promethea character is essentially imagination, and despite being a force for “good”, her ultimate place in the world is to eventually bring about the apocalypse.  Of course apocalypse doesn’t necessarily mean bad, and in fact the definition is more “revelation” than anything else, and revelation can of course be good or bad, or perhaps most accurately, neither…or both.  And so Promethea’s purpose seems to me, so far beyond the good and evil that we generally boil things down to in comics, well, I’m getting away from the actual character, but suffice to say that Promethea was a revolutionary and important book for all the things that Moore and Williams were doing, especially as the series progressed and became so experimental.  For my tastes, though I found it fascinating (and educational), the more experimental it became the more I had trouble connecting emotionally with the characters, which is usually what appeals to me most about a book, and so it kept Promethea from being higher on this list.  She’s still incredibly important as a character however, even beyond the experimental stuff Moore and Williams were doing, and even if only as a fascinating look at the direction Wonder Woman could have gone if she hadn’t needed to always be age appropriate.

08.  Tara Chace aka Minder #2 (and later Minder #1) – Queen & Country

First Appearance:  Queen & Country #1 (2001). Oni Press.  Created by Greg Rucka.

I came a bit late to Queen & Country, but I’m just glad I finally found it at all, as I fully fell in love Tara Chacewith Rucka’s Queen & Country, and especially his tragic hero Tara Chace.  As the only woman on a team of “minders” (basically special ops for the British Government) Tara is often considered the rock star of the group, despite being minder #2, not #1.  Queen & Country as a whole is a brilliantly conceived political meets military meets international meets human drama book, that Rucka pulls off with nuance and grace, and Tara, to me, is made more impactful simply because it’s not a big deal that she’s a woman.  She’s just one of this team of amazing people trying to do good (in a very shades of grey world) and often failing.  It’s wonderful work and Agent Chace is a character I’d love to see continue indefinitely.  At the end of the series in 2007, Rucka promised to come back to Tara’s story in 2009 or 2010 but I can’t imagine with all Rucka has been up to in the past two years he’s had time to come back to Q&C.  I hope eventually he will be able to revisit the characters though – especially Tara.

Of note is that unlike most of the books on this list, several artists (with very different styles) have taken on Q&C at different points during the 32 issue series, and I didn’t always love each of them equally (especially when Tara becomes distractingly buxom for a handful of issues) but with Rucka’s strong writing always in place it’s still easy to enjoy arcs that don’t seem artistically as in synch with what he’s doing in the larger picture.

And that is really good writing.

07.  Detective Deena Pilgrim – Powers

First Appearance:  Powers Vol.1 #1 (2000).  Image.  Created by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming

It’s easy to see from glancing at my list that I’ve got a thing for badass ladies – and seemingly the stoic silent DeenaPilgrimtype – probably because I get a bit sick of seeing the opposite end of the spectrum in media – women played as hysterical chattering divas.  Deena is proof that I don’t ONLY like strong silent badasses, because while Deena is still a badass there’s nothing silent about her.  She’s got a hilarious smart mouth on her that just never stops, and I love her for it.  Detective Deena Pilgrim is Detective Christian Walker’s new partner in the powers department of the police force – dealing with the superhero and super villain element in the city.  Part detective story and part superhero story, Deena is one of the most alive characters I’ve ever had the chance to read on the page, and like many of Bendis’ creations, she is exceptional and yet highly flawed and human, making her so much more real and important.  Maybe part of why Deena is so appealing to me is because truly funny women are hard to find in media – and Deena is absolutely the sharp funny tongue that compliments Det. Walker’s silent brooding shtick.  It’s funny, I think I fell in love with Deena permanently in Powers #5, when Walker is trying to get her to transfer after she has betrayed his trust and she says,

But—I mean, come on.  How could you not want me around?  I’m totally fascinating.  And shit.  I wear these little belly shirts all day.  That’s gotta do something for you.”

Awesome.

06.  Jakita Wagner – Planetary

First Appearance:  Planetary #1 (1999).  Wildstorm.  Created by Warren Ellis & John Cassaday.

I always loved the fact that Jakita is the muscle on Planetary.  And she’s not only the muscle, she’s also the jakitawagner 2leader (well until Elijah figures out he’s the fourth man), and she’s also got the best sense of humor and most of the best lines.  You almost never get that combination in a character, but Jakita just embraces it all and makes it work so flawlessly that you forget it’s kind of revolutionary to see.  Trying to explain anything from Planetary if you haven’t read it is like…hell, I don’t know, but it’s even harder than trying to explain Promethea.  Basically Jakita is the strong right arm of a group of three (technically four) “heroes” that work for Planetary, a covert agency with limitless financial backing doing…well, crazy insane stuff.  International investigator stuff meets golden age and hi-tech-y superhero-y stuff.  That make it clear?  Yeah, I thought not.  Anyway, Jakita possesses heightened speed, senses, strength, invulnerability, and apparent agelessness making her the obvious brute force for the team.  Jakita inherited her powers from her father (essentially Tarzan) and probably her big beautiful brain from her scientist mother that lived in a highly advanced secret city in Africa.  Raised by a nice German family Elijah placed her with as a child, Jakita is bored easily, like both her parents, which lead her to work with Planetary, which is never boring.  In Planetary #7 Elijah says something to Jakita that sums up nicely how I feel about her, “You’re never what I expect Jakita.” And Elijah means that in the nicest of ways, as do I.  I hope now that Planetary has ended, there will still someday be more stories of Jakita.

As if Jakita isn’t awesome enough on her own, check out courtesy of Scans_Daily the bulk of her hilarious and yet exceptional fight with Batman.

05.  Jessica Jones aka Jewel – Alias

First Appearance:  Alias Vol.1 #1 (2002).  Marvel MAX Imprint.  Created by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos

I love adult comic books.  Not to say I’ve got a dirty mind or anything (that’s a whole other column) but I think just being an adult makes me happy to see cursing and sex in my comics…because as an adult those things are Alias #28part of my life.  I like to see real life reflected in comics, especially when it’s done as well as Bendis does it with Jessica Jones in Alias.  I love that Jessica can curse and have sex and drink and be drunk and screw up just like anyone else – although Jessica does seem to have a particular gift at screwing up huge.  Like Powers, Alias is a great mix of detective and superhero genres (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?) and Jessica Jones is a milestone of a character, running her own book without any sidekicks or boyfriends to speak of.  Jessica Jones is an ex-superhero, and now a private investigator running Alias Investigations.  She still retains some powers, but is out of practice and by her own admission was never much of a superhero.  Because of who she is, what she does, and where she lives (both the city and the reality) her life and work often intersect with the superhero population for both good and ill.  I liked Jessica Jones right off the bat when I started reading Alias, which is pretty important for the launch of a new book and character, but I fell in love with her slowly, almost like you do with real people.  It was actually only when I finished the second trade (ending with issue #21) that I realized how invested I was in the Jones character and I tore through the last issues – Jessica’s origin story – unable to slow myself down, but feeling desperate because I knew once I finished it was all over.  I was so sorry to finish the end of Alias and know that while she was continuing on in a fashion (Pulse was it?) it just wouldn’t be the same as it had been in Alias.  Jessica starring in and running her own book, as it was meant to be.

I remember when I first read Jessica’s story, I was a bit annoyed with her that she kept falling in love, or thinking she was in love, or trying to be in love with various people in her life, but looking back, I don’t know, that just seems incredibly realistic to me.  People are always looking for someone to love, or running away from it, or trying to convince themselves it’s there when it’s not there…it’s another case of Bendis really tapping into something real, though not ideal, and it’s part of what makes Jessica so layered to me.  The flaws.  You want to be her, and then you realize you kind of already are.  Good stuff.

04.  Cassandra Cain aka Batgirl – Batgirl

First Appearance:  Shadow Of The Bat #83 (1999).  DC.  Created by Kelley Puckett and Damion Scott (costume by Alex Maleev).

Cass Cain is one of my favorite superheroes ever created – equal parts vulnerability and total badass.  The vulnerability being the thing that both holds her back and simultaneously make her so wonderful.  People Cassandra Cain 3always say that your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness and I think Cass Cain is the perfect embodiment of that adage.  For the uninitiated, Cass took up the Batgirl mantle long after Barbara Gordon was crippled by the Joker and had hung up the uniform to become Oracle.  Cass, when she first appeared, could not speak or read because of how she was raised by her assassin father, but she could essentially fight Batman to a standstill.  Wow.  There was no doubt about Cass’ ability – more raw talent and skill than any other Bat save Batman himself – but the skill came at a price.  Cass had been taught to communicate by reading body language, which in a fight, meant she could tell what you were going to do before you did it, but this special ability also meant she didn’t know how to communicate in other ways.  Brilliant!  Puckett and Scott, being the clever men they were, knew that making Cass perfectly invincible would ultimately be boring and would keep the character from evolving, and so early on in the series she comes in contact with a gentleman that unlocks her ability to speak within her mind, but with that new gift she loses her ability to read a person’s body language.  As the man is unable to undo what he has done, Cass has to come to terms with being a far less effective fighter, but also with learning to read and having real relationships for the first time in her life.

I was heartbroken when Cass was pulled as Batgirl (although the heartbreak started long before that as any Cass fan knows).  When she was allowed to do what Puckett and Scott wanted to do with her – she was one of the best characters in the DCU.  I hope someday we’ll get that Cass back.  I know I’d love to write the hell out of that character.

Check out highlights of an incredible fight between Batman and Cassandra Cain, again courtesy of Scans_Daily.  Awesome stuff.

03.  Agent 355 – Y The Last Man

First Appearance:  Y The Last Man #1 (2002). Vertigo.  Created by Brian K. Vaughan

Talk about badass strong silent types. They nearly broke the mold when they built 355.  Agent 355 early on in Y The Last Man is assigned by Yorick’s mother to be his bodyguard but, and I kind of love that Vaughan set agent 355 coverthe story up like this, when we first meet 355 she’s on an entirely separate mission and one that is hinted to be the cause of the plague that kills the worlds’ men.  It’s a nice way of establishing 355’s importance in the book independent of Yorick, even if that is what her world quickly becomes.  Forever at Yorick’s side, sacrificing herself for the last man on Earth, even when he’s being a moron that deserves a bullet to the brain instead of someone to jump in front of one, 355 anchored herself as one of my favorites early on, but she only got better as Vaughan’s series progressed.    Despite Yorick’s insane (but sweet) quest to find his girlfriend Beth and Agent 355’s emotionless front, the two characters become inseparable friends and tragically, lovers too late.  But it’s hard to regret 355’s holding back of her emotions, as you can only respect her more for waiting until her mission is complete to admit her feelings and act on them – in a world gone mad with everyone reaching greedily for their share (or more than) that kind of fortitude takes a particularly level head and strength of character that I can’t even begin to comprehend.

Part of me hated Brian K. Vaughan for killing 355 the moment she let her guard down for love – but it was honest, and it was real, and I cried.  Mission accomplished.

02.  Michonne – The Walking Dead

First Appearance:  The Walking Dead #19  (2005) .  Image.  Created by Robert Kirkman.

Michonne hasn’t gotten a lot of screen time as of late (what’s up with that Kirkman?) but it hasn’t diminished Michonneher influence as a powerful female character.  As usual with any great character, a fantastic origin or first appearance is critical and Michonne has one of the best.  Readers were introduced to Michonne in The Walking Dead #19, as she shows up at the prison with two zombies in tow, their arms and jaws removed, in order to help mask her scent from other zombies.  The sight of Michonne, Katana blade in hand, on your doorstep with a couple of dismembered zombies (one of which used to be her boyfriend) as her protection?  Hello, my name is badass, can I please come in?  Michonne is the traditional strong silent type that I’ve become so found of – only speaking when she really has something significant to say – unless it’s a scene of her talking to herself – but that’s a whole other story.  Kirkman put Michonne through the ringer later in the series with a highly controversial and brutal kidnapping, rape, and torture at the hands of The Governor.  While the arc left me feeling a little less enamored of Kirkman it never lessened by affection and respect for Michonne.  And while I personally wrestled with whether I felt Kirkman had stepped over the line or not in his storytelling, in the end I felt like it was a fairly realistic and horrifying reality of the world in which these characters exist.  A character less than Michonne would probably not have survived it, and in the end it only strengthened my devotion to her.  Michonne is a survivor in the truest sense of the word, yet she has kept hold of her humanity despite it all.  In the zombie apocalypse Kirkman has created, nobody is a bigger subtle badass than Michonne, except maybe Rick, but frankly, I think she could take him.

01.  Kate Kane aka Batwoman – Detective Comics

Hmmm.  What to do here.  I was planning to go with the “First” Appearance of Kate Kane – as in the Batwoman 5“re-launch” that happened in 52 #7  (2006).  But man do I hate that portrayal of Kane (it’s pretty much in direct opposition to what we’ve gotten in Detective) and if the character had remained what she was in 52, she wouldn’t have had a shot in hell of making it on this list…in fact she probably would have made it onto a ‘horrible female character clichés of the decade’ (which I am not planning to write)…so, since the big two ret-con whatever and whenever they please, I’m doing the same.  As far as I’m concerned the first appearance (or re-appearance) of Kate Kane/Batwoman is Detective Comics #854 (2009).  DC.  And she is “created” by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III in DC #854.  Do what you will with your own memories.

What can I say about Kate Kane/Batwoman that I didn’t say last week.  I may be all gushed out…but I’ll give it Batwomana try.  Kate Kane is quite simply the superhero I have been waiting for my whole life.  A strong powerful female hero that seems equal to, though different than, Batman.  It’s not an easy task standing up to Batman even just in concept.  For my money he’s a perfectly conceived character from start to finish, and Batman has the vulnerabilities and the character flaws (i.e. he’s a dick) that Superman and Wonder Woman lack, the very things that I think make them hard to relate to for me.  Yet Kate Kane has these things the same way that Bruce has them, all her own demons and baggage, both physical and emotional and it makes her fascinating, I literally cannot wait to watch her tackle the world.  But the best thing about Kate (right now at least) is that she’s been given the absolute best writer and the absolute best artist to see her through these tough first years.  Because they are tough years.  It’s hard to get a brand new marquee superhero character (franchise?) launched.  And it’s particularly hard to do it with a character that already comes with hype and speculation.  But as far as I’m concerned DC nailed it this time.  This is how you launch a new marquee female superhero.  This is how you create a new Wonder Woman that will stand the test of time…you put your absolute best writer on it, your absolute best artist on it, you feature her in one of your longest running most respected titles, and you sit back and wait.  You wait for people to see how well you’ve done.  And I for one, say well done DC, well done.

Honorable Mentions:  Amanda Walker from North 40, Renee Montoya as The Question; Madame Xanadu from Madame Xanadu (edit: looks like MX is ineligible anyway, I’d put up Gert Yorkes from Runaways in her place I think), Brody from Water Baby; Blythe from Air; Girl One and Irma from Top 10; and Ursula from Asterios Polyp.

White Queen and Manhunter

I should also note that had I read the series in full (I’ve only read a few issues) I suspect Kate Spencer aka Manhunter by Marc Andreyko would probably be pushing Frau Totenkinder out of the Top 10.  But fortunately for the Frau, I’ve yet to read enough of Manhunter to make that switch.

If I gave an award to best re-imagined character it would be Emma Frost/The White Queen.  Grant Morrison (and then Joss Whedon) did something with Emma Frost that I didn’t know was possible.  They made her fascinating beyond her giant tits and white bustier.  I’m officially an unabashed White Queen fan now, in fact she’s one of my favorite X characters, something I had previously never even considered – and THAT my friends is a hell of a re-imagining.

2010

Characters I’m most excited to watch in 2010?  Well, other than seeing the ladies listed do more great things I’m anxious to see the end of Cindy’s arc from Crossed (Brian did a good review of Crossed 7 here if you haven’t heard of it), and I’m already wishing that series wasn’t going to end at #9.  And of course Greg Rucka’s newest female private investigator Dex from his book Stumptown, of which I am hungrily awaiting more issues.  As I mentioned above Amanda Walker from North 40 really caught my eye and I heard a rumor (totally unconfirmed) that there might be more coming on North 40, which would be great as she’s a unique and interesting character with a voice I don’t really think I’ve heard in comics before.  Of course we’ve also got things like Girl Comics coming out which is sure to have a few interesting female characters and stories along with all those female creators.

Something that occurred to me while I was pulling this list together is that 7 of 10 characters from my list are not currently in circulation (and one of them only just began).  And while it’s possible that that is part of what makes those characters so strong (i.e. they had clearly defined storylines with definitive beginnings and ends) I will say that it makes me sad to realize that most of my favorite female characters of the past decade don’t currently have ongoing stories I can read.

Also interesting – although not on a ‘this is rocket science’ level – is that all of these characters had one writer throughout their stories (with the exception of Cass Cain, and I think it’s generally accepted that it was when other writers took over for Puckett that her character went horribly wrong).  I think that’s something the big two should really pay attention to – the power of a good writer to really drive a character and subsequently a book.  We fans (okay, nerds) talk about it constantly – editorial throwing out mandates, and writers without the talent or experience, or respect for the character we love being tacked onto a book – but looking at this list and seeing that 9 of 10 (and most of my honorable mentions) were written by one writer – I don’t know, that seems pretty significant to me.  That seems like science or something.  Someone put together some kind of fancy science like equation and send that baby over to DC and Marvel, okay?

I’d do it, but I have trouble with anything over basic math…okay fine, I even have trouble with basic math…but don’t let it get around as that’s not going to help our argument any.

163 Comments

That’s a good list. I’d probably put Kate Spencer in there somewhere, and I haven’t gotten caught up to issue #19 of Walking Dead yet, but that’s a good list. I have to say that what happened to 355 is the reason Y isn’t a truly great comic. Others may disagree, but it still sucked.

All of these are from series. No great female characters from standalone graphic novels?

Thanks Greg. Yeah, I hate what happens with 355, but I’m not sure it wasn’t the right way for the story to end. It felt pretty honest to me. And I do appreciate it when a creator is willing to commit to a storyline like that.

Yeah, I was a little surprised myself not to have any great standalone graphic novel characters on the list, I think in part because a lot of what I read that was great (Blankets for example) didn’t necessarily have a female character I was wowed by enough, and then there was a ton of great stuff that was non-fiction memoir as I mentioned. Regardless, I suspect some people will come by with suggestions and I’ll smack my head and go D’oh, as always happens when I do lists…

Great list – I’m only familiar with the DC and Marvel characters, so I’d definitely have put Kate Spencer, Renee Montoya/Question, and (the renewed) Emma Frost on there. Big props for including Cassie Cain – count me as a huge fan – she’s probably my favorite character period from the last ten years. So much potential there that it makes it all the more tragic how the power that be failed her (and all of her fans).

And thanks to you, I’m definitely going to crack that Alias Vol. 1 TPB that’s been on the shelf for a while!

You didn’t mention them…and I’m not sure how much they get mentioned in the comics (I’ve only read em as tpbs), but Ruck has written …2 i think…Queen and Country novels, featuring Tara, just in case you weren’t aware.

If you thought that Emma Frost was ever just a bustier top, then you clearly never got the character. How that evaded you from Morrison’s seminal New X-Men run is baffling.

Great list! Jessica Jones had such an impact on me as a returning comics reader that I have a feeling that she’ll always be No. 1 on my list. And others that I know and wholeheartedly agree with are: Agent 355 (whose death was spoiled to me by some douche on the CBR forums) and Cassandra Cain. I would probably also move Renee and Kate Spencer onto my list because I know and love those characters. However, I guess I can’t really say that until I check out the others on your list.

I just read the first volume of Walking Dead last week, so I haven’t been introduced to Michonne yet, but that should be soon. Also, Brian got me the entire run of Prometha, so it’s just waiting for me on my nightstand. I also look forward to checking out the books of your other favorite characters.

And ha! I was going to suggest Death as a great female character, but I was just reminded me that Sandman ended around 1995 and hasn’t really been around significantly since. Wow, the mid nineties seem like yesterday to me.

It interesting (and kinda sad) to note that all of these characters were created by male writers… Which isn’t a sign of any bias on part of the list-maker rather than the bias in American mainstream comics (since all the characters on the list are from US mainstream series). If you’d venture outside USA, or into indie comics, it’d be easier to find good female characters written by women. I tried to think of some truly memorable female characters in mainstream US comics created by female writers during this decade, but I couldn’t really come up with any… Except maybe Blythe in Air, but Air is still too new a series to judge whether Blythe will turn out to be a classic character.

Scavenger: I do know about the Q&C novels – and I think, after reading/re-reading Q&C I’m going to at least pick up the first one and see if it holds up. Have you tried them?

agent_torpor: Ah, agent_torpor. How you hate me. Never a nice thing to say. I’m not really sure what you’re talking about here though, since I’m talking about Morrison’s run being what turned me around on her. Am I missing something in your comment?

Tuomas: I agree it’s kind of a bummer that there aren’t more women creators (particularly writers) on this list. But in a way it’s also good, because it tells me that there are men out there who are doing women characters brilliantly, and since men are a huge share of the creators in comics, I think that actually ends up being a good thing.

Also, I totally agree with you that it’s sad how Snow White has become more of a marginal character in Fables once she had her kids. You said that “Willingham’s world rules are clearly set up and the way the story turned out there wasn’t much choice for Snow”, but I think you can still blame Willingham for making up the rules as they are in the first place. Even though he’s good writer, he does have an occasional old-school chauvinist streak in his writing… It’s not as obvious as with someone like Garth Ennis, but you can see it in stuff like how Bigby and Snow are handled as characters. (And, unlike most other Vertigo fantasy series, Fables is suspiciously lacking of any queer characters.)

I think the most important part of this list is what you said at the end: even with licensed characters like many of these, there needs to be a strong vision for the character, either from the writer or an editor. Most super-hero characters, which are licensed corporate properties, just don’t have that. And that is true for both male and female characters.

Tom Fitzpatrick

January 4, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Ms. Thompson, the only one that I don’t agree with on your list is # 4: Cassandra Cain (rhymes with Kate Kane) — mostly due to the fact I’ve never read her series (or background).

However, I’m surprised that you didn’t mention the most volatile female character(s) in comic book existence, Katchoo (bless you) and her significant other, Francine from Strangers in Paradise (a terrific series by Terry Moore).

If you haven’t read that series, your reputation as a comic geek is in serious jeopardy! ;-)

Hey Tom: Katchoo and Francine definitely would have been contenders, but they debuted long before 2000…I think 1996 and are therefore, sadly, ineligible.

BTW that Kane/Cain thing is bothering the hell out of me now that I noticed it (which was this weekend as I was finalizing the article)…does it bother anyone else?

Strangers in Paradise began well before the 00s, so I guess it’s not eligible for a list of characters that debuted during that decade. Personally, I’ve never really understood the appeal of SiP; it’s true that Katchoo and Francine are quite atypical for female comic book characters, and hence kinda interesting, but the plots in that series are way formulaic and dire for my taste.

[...] latest She Has No Head! Column is up at CSBG.  It’s yet another decade list..but .you know you love a [...]

Kim Pine from Scott Pilgrim?

First, I love shout-outs (and thanks, as always!)

Second, oh my god, I love Cassandra Cain and now you’ve made me want to pick up Detective Comics to find out about Kate Kane and this will only lead to HEARTBREAK. I just KNOW IT.

Also, awesome list. (I’m actually familiar with 5 of these characters, which is pretty damn good for a manga reader).

I’ll admit that one of my favorite new-ish female characters has been Scandal Savage from Secret Six. She started out as a fairly generic manager type character, but when she pulled out the Lamentation Blades, I had to cheer. She’s held her own against a strong cast of characters (both in the team and out of it), but I think her reaction to losing her lover and the breakdown she had afterwards was what took her beyond generic ass-kicker to someplace special. I didn’t enjoy the slave arc of Secret Six, but even then there were really great moments.

@Greg: I don’t understand what you mean about the death of Agent 355 making Y: The Last Man not a great comic.

I’m sure everybody who read it was sad because she was such a great character and it was great to see her and Yorick confessing their feelings for one another, but I see her death as just a storytelling decision by BKV, and it didn’t hurt my opinion of the series at all.

@Kelly: As for the Michonne torture and rape in Walking Dead, I also don’t see why your opinion on Kirkman should be different because of it.

I read the letters page on the issues that followed the rape and he took a lot of shit for that, most of it undeserved. It’s been established since issue 1 that the Walking Dead world is a brutal and unforgiving place.

I don’t even think that the Michonne rape was the worst thing that happened on the series. In my opinion, the scene didn’t seem gratuitous or exploitative in any way, and like you said, she came out of it as even a stronger character.

Ramona Flowers from Scott Pilgrim?

no Zephyr from Casanova? C’MON!!!

Great column, Kelly. I’m with you on 355, Jessica Jones and Batgirl…truly remarkable, well-written characters. Your column last week got me really interested in Batwoman, btw.

I need to ask, though: Am I the only one seeing phallic satire on that Manhunter cover?

Great column!
I only knew four of the women on this list, but it is inspiring me to check out the other titles.

An Idea for a column might be “Most Improved Female Characters of the ’00′s.”
I was just tossing this idea in my head, and except for Emma Frost and maybe Power Girl, I am at a bit of a loss. Ms. Marvel definitely rose to prominence in the last decade, but her series became a mess even for someone, like myself, who wanted to like it. She-Hulk had a great solo series (okay, two) but both were cancelled and she is now treated horribly in (red) Hulk. Spider-Woman might be considered an option if Secret Invasion hadn’t gutted the character. Black Canary has been reduced to a Green Arrow second fiddle. Oracle is also second fiddle to Batgirl.
Which is even sadder, if we were doing “Most Improved Female Characters of the ’80′s” you would have the Invisable Woman (due to John Byrne’s run), the Wasp (under Roger Stern and her run as chairwoman), She-Hulk (John Byrne again), and Wonder Woman (under George Perez).
Its interesting how times have changed.

@ wil & maglr: I actually just read Scott Pilgrim Volume 1 recently – and loved it. Had I read more (or sooner) it’s definitely possible a few characters would have been contenders and/or honorable mentions.

@Nick Marino: My reading gaps are showing (as they always do in lists). Casanova is on a short list of books I’m dying to read but haven’t gotten to yet. From what I know of Zephyr (hell, the name alone) she would have definitely been a contender.

@danar: You’re right – Scandal Savage is awesome. I love how Simone is writing her. I should have at least included her in the honorable mentions.

@The Dude: I also read the letters pages for TWD after the Michonne rape/torture arc, and he did get a lot of shit, but I don’t think it was wrong for him to get shit, it upset a lot of people, which is not to say he was wrong to write it the way he did…he did what he believed was right, told the story he felt he had to tell, and while I struggled with some aspects of it, in the end I decided that for me, it was a realistic and fair look at the world Michonne was living in. But I can understand why others don’t really feel that way.

As for my opinion on Kirkman, I still think he’s a hell of a writer (sometimes, I don’t love all his stuff), and I’m not holding a grudge or anything, but I was just trying to be honest about the fact that I did go through a period where I was conflicted about it.

@Crash-Man: Wow. I can’t believed I missed that. Chalk it up to devoted Jae Lee love…but I didn’t even notice it…and it’s…um…obvious to say the least! :)

I love Batwoman. She’s most likely my new favorite character of the decade. Emma Frost is a character I discovered on the old X-Men cartoon and totally adored – why, I don’t remember, but then I found her in Generation X, and the love just got deeper…and then NXM and AXM happened, and it was solidified. She’s very much my favorite Marvel character and mutant, followed closely by Kitty Pryde, Dazzler, Ms. Marvel, and Black Cat.

@Kelly: Hey, I have problems with Kirkman myself, mainly the fact that he writes 2 excellent series (Invincible and Walking Dead) and everything else he does has been subpar (for me,anyway).

And there’s no doubt that the Michonne rape scene was brutal and graphic and I can see why people were shocked. I was shocked too. But I’m with Kirkman on this one.(just as I’d be asking for his head if he’d actually killed Atom Eve on Invincible.)

Scott Pilgrim has plenty of characters who could merit this list, most notably Kim.

Also, basically every character from Runaways, particularly Molly and Nico.

Great list. I’ve been meaning to read Queen & Country for a while, I hear nothing but good things about it. I absolutely adore Batwooman and Agent 355, though I don’t think her death (like an above commenter suggested) decreased the value of the comic at all. If anything, it made the entire series much more poignant, and the ending much sadder. BKV was obviously looking to pull some heartstrings in that issue, and he definitely accomplished his goal.

Lord Paradise: Runaways are a good suggestion and I’m sure many people would agree, but on the whole I wasn’t really wowed by that cast, other than the fact that it was nice to see a young superhero book with so many female characters. Sadly, Nico especially didn’t work for me.

Scott Lobdell, of all people, started some good work on Emma Frost, but Morrison and Whedon took what he did and turned the dial up to eleven. I never thought I’d give a shit about the White Queen, but here we are.

And no european caracthers, as usual. :(

Kelly DOES hate Europe.

It’s quite sad, really.

Great list, Kelly! I was particularly happy to see the inclusion of Michonne from “The Walking Dead”, who is one of my favourite new characters of this decade, of either gender.

As far as the whole rape issue goes, I don’t think I thought any less of Kirkman for it, though with it being so graphic and upsetting I can see why it was controversial. The clever thing I think Kirkman did was that, after Michonne’s rape, we HATED The Governor for doing it, and desperately wanted to see Michonne take her revenge on him. And when she did, we not only got something that was far more brutal and graphic than anything that Michonne was put through, but something SO brutal and graphic that it actually made me feel queasy reading it, and ended up being even more controversial than the rape sequence from a few issues earlier. But those who accused Kirkman of “torture porn” missed the point. He turned the mirror back on us. He riled up an animalistic instinct in us to make us wish pain and suffering on another human being, then he gave us much, MUCH more than we bargained for, asking us, “Well, isn’t this what you wanted?” While examining the breakdown of humanity within his characters, he raises uncomfortable questions about our own humanity.

Kelly hates Europe?!

It’s okay, everybody here loves her :-)

The clever thing I think Kirkman did was that, after Michonne’s rape, we HATED The Governor for doing it, and desperately wanted to see Michonne take her revenge on him.

I agree that that was what he was doing, but I disagree that it was clever.

And I also find it weird that it seems like thinking that Kirkman handled that one issue wrongly translates to some folks as “Kirkman is a hack!” You can still like/respect a writer even if they wrote something you think was handled poorly. It’s the writers who CONSTANTLY write things you think are done poorly that are the people you have a “problem” with, not people who occasionally write something you take issue with.

Fantastic list! (Ignoring the fact that two of the characters are Batman with boobs)

I was just reading the scene with Jakita holding her own against no less than 5 versions of Batman. She was really convincing as an action heroine, and probably the only real fighter of the three ( the Drummer being useless in a fight, and Elijah relying on his ice powers ).

I’m wondering if I should be surprised or not that Tulip O’Hare wasn’t on this list.

Dude: Here is probably not the place to discuss the end of Y, but by the time I got to it, I felt that 355′s death was less a natural part of the story and more Vaughan thinking he just had to kill someone or it wouldn’t be a “serious” work of art. It felt way too contrived to get a rise out of us, and I just felt that for a book mainly populated with women, it was not a very “female-friendly” ending. But that could be just me.

I hope I don’t hijack the thread with this!

Nitz: Tulip totally would have been a potential contender but for the date of Preacher – started in 1995.

Yeah, Michonne’s torture of the governor seemed really prurient to me. I decided to quit following the series after that. I had a letter published by Kirkman a couple issues later that explains it more comprehensively (my LCS guy showed it to me). I realized the difference between the torture scene and, say, Batman beating up a robber differs more in degree than in kind. It helped me refine my comic reading tastes to something more in line with my moral outlook.

Good list, Kelly!

I get what you’re saying, Dan, but I actually think that Kirkman was deliberately making a comment about the “more in degree than in kind” relationship between this “torture porn” revenge scene and the vigilantism of a Batman figure that you mention here. If superhero stories are an “adolescent power fantasy”, as some of their detractors have remarked, then this scene between Michonne and The Governor exposes the harrowing reality that remains when the fantasy is stripped away. Michonne gains brutal revenge on her tormentor, a revenge long sought after and demanded by readers, and what does she do? Does she leave with a pithy one-liner? No, she throws up all over the floor and breaks down into tears, driven to the brink of madness by the monstrous things her hatred for this monster before her has made her do. It was essentially a harsh wake-up call for folks thinking such violent retribution is “cool”.

Dizzy Cordova. Again with the lack of Bullets love in these lists.

Promethea FTW!

Nice list. I’d agree with most of these choices, although I’d probably show some love for Kim Pine. Glad to see some others felt the same.

Daniel O' Dreams

January 4, 2010 at 5:56 pm

Excellent list. Cass Cain never grabbed me as a character, interesting concept with her fighting ability being dependent on her being functionally illiterate (a concept done away with a little too soon IMO) but her character seemed more of a flatline. Then as stated she went totally off the rails near the end of the decade.

As far as the Kate Kane/Cassandra Cain thing. Both characters are reimaginations of Silver Age characters. Kathy Kane was Batwoman in the late 40′s and into the early sixties and her niece Cassie Kane was Batgirl.
In fact I think there’s at least two other Cassie Kanes running around, wonder how long it’ll take some writer to make them related to Kate (the current Batwoman)?

Daniel O' Dreams

January 4, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Nice to see some love for Jessica Jones too. Alias was a big part of me getting back into mainstream comics (along with New X-Men).

I am unfamiliar with most of the list, well unfamiliar in the senses that I have not read the comics, with acceptation of Detective Comics and Promethea. So glad both those character has made the list. Nevertheless, my lack of familiarity may make my next suggestion null and void.

I appreciate you mentioning Maggie from Love & Rockets in your intro. However, this list seems to lack any female characters with her independent realism, quirk, strength, and vulnerabilities. Therefore, I would suggest adding someone who hails from her comics circle (Fantagraphics, Drawn and Quarterly, Top Shelf, Pantheon ect…) and her characters sentiment. For this decade, I would nominate Alice White from ACME Novelty Library No. 16, 17 and 18 (which is entirely about her). She is a bit more seriously flawed a character then Jamie’s Maggie. But her realism brings a stark contrast and frankness that could liven up this list.

How can not be a Persepolis here?

How can not be a Persepolis here?

She says right up front that she is talking only about totally fictional characters, not autobiographical characters.

Tom Fitzpatrick

January 4, 2010 at 7:01 pm

I don’t know …. if you’re willing to let Promethea and Jakita Wagner which debuted in 1999 slide into this list, then I’m WILLING to let Katchoo/Francine/(even)Tulip slide into your list.

Can’t have it both ways. ‘less you want to make it “10 Great Female Comic Book Characters of the last TWO Decades”

;-)

Daniel: Isn’t it Betty Kane that was the original Batgirl and niece to Kathy Kane? And now Flamebird right? Regardless it t kind of bums me out actually…I’m sure they had their reasons for doing it that way but I can’t say I’m a fan. I certainly hope they don’t go anywhere near trying to ret-con Cass Cain’s origin to make it line up with Kate Kane as I’ve always liked that Cass’ ethnicity brings a little bit of much needed diversity to the lead Bat characters. Well, until she got freaking railroaded by DC.

Ben: Alice White is a great character – and maybe one that I should have included – I would have liked to have had some more really independent stuff on the list, so I think that’s a great suggestion, but I do have to disagree with you about your suggestion of what you think these other characters lack. And since you haven’t read most of these characters, by your own admission, I urge you to check them out before you decide. I would particularly say, and did say in my article, that one of the best things about most of these women are their vulnerabilities transposed beautifully with their strengths – what layered complex characters they are, filled with realistic human flaws and problems.

Cleiton: What Brian said.

Tom: It’s true. I totally cheated (and also with Cassandra Cain who debuted in 1999 – though she didn’t get her own title until 2000) but I guess 1999, especially when it’s usually just a handful of issues – for Promethea it was only 4 issues and for Jakita it was six issues and for Cass I think only 2 issues – seems different than the almost 30 issues it was for SiP and the 56 it was for Preacher…but you’re right. If you’re going to draw a line, it should be a clearly marked one – I cheated and I knew it – I must be mad with power!

And as if to TOTALLY undo my entire argument, I just realized that there was a preview of Planetary #0 in Gen 13 I think that actually came out in 1998. So much for this damn list!

U-Go Girl would probably make my list now I think on it.

I am saddened that the masochistic frump, Jessica Jones, made this list and not someone fabulous such as Sage.

Sage made this decade worth living.

I take it you’ve not been reading Fallen Angel, Kelly?

Michael P: I haven’t, but I was thinking of checking it out – would you recommend it?

I love this column and the one from last week. I never really notice how a character is “revolutionary” in comics or other art forms. For example, I didn’t know that several of these characters made an impact because they were strong female characters. I like reading about what inspires people to love characters and what depictions of characters are original.

No Selina Kyle from Brubaker’s Catwoman? No Sharon Carter? At least you included Jessica Jones, which I would name as my favourite from this past decade.

Tom Fitzpatrick

January 4, 2010 at 9:27 pm

” I must be mad with power!”

It’s a good thing I like “mad” women, they’re FAR more interesting than sane women. ;-)

If you ever check out “Fallen Angel”, might I suggest “Sachs and Violens” by the same writer? You might have to hunt down the latter as I don’t think they’re ever collected in trade.

Enrique: Thanks.

stealthwise: I love Catwoman, but since she was long ago created as the same Selina Kyle that she technically still is today she’s not eligible for a greatest character of the decade per my wishy washy rules. I suppose Brubaker’s Catwoman could have been eligible for my vote as best ‘re-imagined’ character but I stand by White Queen being a more revolutionary re-imagining – though I do like what Brubaker did – especially when compared with the Balent version of the 90′s. Sharon Carter is also not eligible since she was created sometime in the 60′s, right? I don’t read a lot of books where she appears and know only the basics about her, but as I understand it she’s essentially the same person today as she was then…although there was something about ret-conning her because of her age as I recall…

Anyway, glad you at least liked Jessica Jones.

Tom Fitzpatrick: It’s a good thing for both of us I guess. As for Sachs and Violens – will do.

I think that Scott Lobdell deserves credit for originally revamping Emma Frost long before Morrison and Whedon. Lobdell is the one who set up Emma’s reformation after she realized that using the Hellions as her personal pawns had led to them being ill-trained, which resulted in them getting slaughtered. Morrison built upon that, and it’s true he came up with the incredibly unlikely idea of having Cyclops and Emma Frost become a couple, something that Whedon then actually managed to make work. But Lobdell should get some acknowledgment for laying the groundwork during his runs on X-Men and Generation X.

The thing that I have never understood about all of this, is it seems like no matter what you do, a lot of people are going to complain about something. Batwoman, people complain that she is a hot lesbian. Jessica Jones, its the rape thing. What exactly are you supposed to do? I get that you cant please everyone, but it just seems like a lot of people are gping to complain about whatever you do

By the way, anyone know if the Greg Rucka / J.H. Williams III run on Detective featuring Batwoman is going to get the trade paperback treatment? I honestly didn’t give a flying fig about the character before now, but Kelly’s enthusiastic & insightful reviews of the story have gotten me interested in reading it.

Joker–that’s a very good point, but I didn’t get that idea from the comic. I found it too hard to giving it a reading that was congruent with my principles, so I decided to drop it. Sometimes I can take what lessons about violence I want out of a work, even if it’s not what the creator intends to communicate (for instance, Peckinpah movies), but sometimes I can’t (Inglorious Basterds, e. g.). I was able to do that with some of The Walking Dead, but it seemed like it was going a direction I didn’t want to follow. The end of the first trade was nearly as stark as the Michonne/Governor conflict, but it seemed like there was a lot more substance to the former than the latter.

Ben H.–Yes, it’s going to get a collected edition. The hardcover is currently listed on Amazon (titled “Elegy”) as a June release; I’m sure a TPB will follow later.

Wait wait wait… Crossed is ending at issue #9? Say it ain’t so!

Also Kelly yes you should give Fallen Angel a read. I t is a series that i picked up because Peter David wrote it but I had a hard time actually reading it. I would get through about 2 pages and then put it down. But I continued to buy it. Then when I sat down with about 10 issues one day and told myself I wasn’t leaving till they were done I found that once I was through about the first half of it I couldn’t put it down. Kind of the same way I felt about Agents of Atlas. But it is a great read. give it a chance.

Wait wait wait… Crossed is ending at issue #9? Say it ain’t so!

Yeah, it’s a maxi-series. I can only imagine how messed up issue #9 will be.

If you ever check out “Fallen Angel”, might I suggest “Sachs and Violens” by the same writer? You might have to hunt down the latter as I don’t think they’re ever collected in trade.

There is a trade of Sachs and Violens.

I’m begininng to think I must be completely unshockable. I’ve read (and enjoyed) the first 8 volumes of Walking Dead and I can’t specifically remember the rape and retribution. They ring a vague bell, but they never made any huge impression on me,

This is a fun list. I would bend the rules to include Jakita and the various Prometheas as well.

I’d really like to see you do a column on how incredibly cool Maggie is, Kelly. I think EVERYONE should do a column on how incredibly cool Maggie is. And Hopey. And Izzy. And Terry Downe. And…and…and….well, you get the picture.

Kelly: I would indeed recommend Fallen Angel. It’s nifty.

Thanks, Kelly. Will do.

Tom Fitzpatrick

January 5, 2010 at 5:04 am

Yeah, it’s a maxi-series. I can only imagine how messed up issue #9 will be.

Actually, Cerebus is a 300 issues maxi-series, Crossed is a mini-series. In comparison.
100 Bullets (100 issues), Preacher (66 issues plus extras), Lucifer (75 issues plus extra) Those are maxi-series.

Is Crossed # 9 a double-sized triple threat messed up issue?

WHY DO YOU HATE EUROPE SO MUCH???? that’s just wrong

The clever thing I think Kirkman did was that, after Michonne’s rape, we HATED The Governor for doing it, and desperately wanted to see Michonne take her revenge on him.

You misspelled “cliche.:

No problems with the list except for it reminded me how DC has misused a quite original take on Batgirl in Cassandra Cain. Here are a couple others I liked that have gone under the radar:

Songbird from the Thunderbolts: No not the new series. Melissa Gold came into her own this decade and proved that it is possible for a villain in the Marvel U to be a strong hero. I am hoping that she gets her shot in the AVengers within the next decade.

MayDay Parker “Spider-Girl”: There is a reason that book kept staving off elimination for so long and she was it. She was the reason that I liked the potential of the infamous “spider-baby” and according to Mephisto, the reason the Spidey marriage had to..ahem..not exist…

Traci 13 from DC Occult: Pure punky sassiness and she bounced around titles from Blue Beetle to Supergirl bringing her quirky zest with her…along with her budding magical powers.

Finally Blink from the Exiles: Grew into her role as leader of the first series before its cancellation and in Jeff Parker’s recent ‘mini’ version of exiles, was shown to be a master planner as well.

Ones to watch out for in the next decade: Armor and Jubilee from X-Men, Enki Sunrise from Powers, Power Girl from JSA (that is if they can stop reducing her to an emotional cypher)….

FYI I was going to put She-Hulk here but um…I guess the recent mistreatment of that corner of the Marvel Universe soured me to it

Daryll B: Those are all great characters and good suggestions (and a couple I’m not that familiar with and will definitely check out – Traci Thirteen especially is a character I’m interested in and that might have been interesting for this list) but most of these wouldn’t be eligible for the list as they didn’t debut in the last 10 years. Certainly She-Hulk, Armor, Jubiliee, Powergirl, Songbird, even Spider-Girl (1998, right?) would be ineligible. Even Blink, though Exiles is a staple of the 2000′s unfortunately technically debuted in AOA in 1995…right?

I think my only disagreement comes in Michonne. Not that she isn’t a strong character…my real disagreement comes in how high she ranks on the list. I wouldn’t have put her so high up on the list (but that s why these lists are so much fun!).

A strong female character from a standalone graphic novel/mini-series was Barbara Thorson from I Kill Giants. What a fantastic character. She was so strong and yet so vulnerable. She was the reason I Kill Giants made #2 on our list of Top 5 Independent comics of 2009.

ignorance is really staring me in the face here. I’ve never read an of these characters before, except for Jessica Jones. I stopped buying comic books in the mid-90s and didn’t start again until 2006, so I missed Alias entirely. I’ve looked through the issues they have at the comic book store, but most of them are in the five-or-six-dollar range, and that’s a little more than I’d prefer to spend. They do have a few that are cheaper, and I have been thinking of picking one up. I’ve got one issue of The Pulse and she appears a lot in New Avengers (although she doesn’t do much there), so I have seen her a little bit. I still don’t know a lot about her.
I’ve been trying to think of great female characters that I have read who debuted in this decade, but the only one I can think of is Arana (I don’t know how to make the squiggly mark over the ‘n’, so just pretend it’s there). Her series never rose above mediocre, at least not the issues I’ve read, but I really like the character herself. She is pretty immature, and maybe you’d count that against her, but she is just a kid, so she should be immature, right?
(She was also created by a female writer, I think. That shouldn’t count, really, since we’re supposed to be judging characters on their own merits here, but someone pointed out the lack of female writers on your list so I thought I’d mention it.)

For anyone who wants to get into Fallen Angel, I recommend the Omnibus edition put out by IDW, collecting issues 1-21 of the IDW series. Another omnibus, collecting the twenty issues of the first, DC-published series, will come out later this year.

Last year’s mini-series, Fallen Angel: Reborn, has a trade coming out soon as well.

Fallen Angel never really grabbed me, and I tried it in both the DC and IDW incarnations. I thought Sachs and Violens was almost offensively bad, though, so it’s probably just not my cuppa.

The Queen and Country novels are really good. All of Rucka’s prose is worthwhile, IMHO. Shooting at Midnight in particular is amazing, and if you like his flawed, strong female characters, Birdie is a revelation. It’s in the continuity of his Atticus Kodiak novels, but stands alone quite well.

I thought that Whedon created Armor in Astonishing? Not that she would make any “best of” lists of mine, but, just sayin’…

Nice list overall. I think I would have had some different folks, most of whom get mentions in the comments (Zephyr Quinn and Edie Sawyer, most notably) – and Kate Spencer absolutely.

Happy New Year!

s1rude: You’re right about Armor (I think) it’s a typo on my part. Thanks for the recommend on the Q&C stuff. I’m definitely planning to check out.

Mary Warner: If you’re interested in the Jessica Jones stories, it’s collected well in trade format (I have the entire Alias run in three volumes – the first one being double sized as I recall). It’s still not cheap, but probably cheaper than hunting down the old issues – especially if you buy them used (or even new) on Amazon you might be able to score a deal. Also, now you know how I feel when I walk over to Danielle’s column…I just am like a lost babe in the woods over there…but I’m trying to build up a list from her recommendations to finally start delving into that world a little – money of course being the biggest impediment.

Garbonzo: Good pick. I Kill Giants is high on my list of to read, not yet read.

I’m still on the fence regarding Kirkman/Michonne’s torture, but you make a pretty good case. Overall The Walking Dead’s treatment of female characters (or lack of special/alien treatment) has been what drew me to and kept me with the series.

Hey, I’m just as lost in Danielle’s managa world as you are. I’ve read about two thirds of Nana, a few volumes of xxxHolic, and some Fruits Basket. That’s about it. (Basically, that’s about all that’s available at the local library, aside from giant robot-type stories I have no interest in.)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer from the Season 8 comics should deserve a mention, or Faith at the very least.

Mary: I thought about Buffy, but decided in the end to keep the list with original characters (though I didn’t say that in my opening).

No one has mentioned Layla Miller yet, so I will. Smartass young Layla Miller made X-Factor awesome.

Alias is a wonderful comic book. I have some trouble with Bendis on Avengers or event comics, but he really shines when he is doing street-level crime stories. Alias offers a fascinating view of the Marvel Universe, and Jessica Jones was gold in that series. While superheroines usually are easily classified in a few archetypes (the amazon, the ditzy, the housewife, the vixen, etc.), Jessica was an individual.

I love Powers as well, but I’m not as enamorated of Deena Pilgrim. Sometimes she feels a little bit like she is there just to be a counterpoint to Walker. She is the earthier one, the cynical, the loose cannon cop with Walker as the more idealistic, sensitive one. But Walker has much depth and baggage, while Deena seems shallow by comparision. I dunno.

Jakita Wagner I always liked. Warren Ellis said in an interview that he likes to have female characters that are strong, while the males in his stories are the physically frail sex. It’s true of Planetary and also of Transmetropolitan.

And I just realized that the 10 great female characters were all created by male writers. We really need more women in the industry.

I think Cassie Cain/Kate Kane is just an unfortunate coincidence. Cassie is the daughter of a character introduced in Bat-books years prior to her first appearance whereas Kate is a re-imagining of the 1940′s Kate Kane/Batwoman.

I’m actually suprised either of them made your list. I find it annoying that DC can’t seem to introduce a new female hero who isn’t an off-shoot of one of the icons. Batgirl and Batwoman may be well written, but they’re also both Batman-rips which, IMO, reduces they’re credibility as characters significantly.

I find it annoying that DC can’t seem to introduce a new female hero who isn’t an off-shoot of one of the icons.

That’s a double-edged sword. It’s next to impossible to get a totally original super-heroic character to get any traction at either DC or Marvel anymore, regardless of gender (Jessica Jones being one of the few exceptions that come to mind). If you took all the solo titles in the DCU or MU that feature original characters created within the past 30 years, I think you would find less than a dozen, and four of them feature Deadpool. It’s just a sad fact that if you stand any chance of launching a new character, he or she has to have strong ties to an established brand, and it would be even better if they share a name.

I also would disagree that Batgirl and Batwoman are Batman-rips. I mean, in a basic sense you’re right in that they’re rips in the same way Nightwing, Red Robin, Huntress, and even to a lesser degree Catwoman and Oracle are, but I feel like with Cassandra Cain and Kate Kane they’ve really managed to transcend that for me and leap to the next level – unlike a lot of other Bat-related characters over the years.

Also @ Wesley Smith – I had wanted to respond to your comment way upthread earlier but forgot – I’m glad you agree with me on the idea of the strong vision (writer or editor) for the character. I mean it’s something that obviously makes sense and you kind of just generally assume about characters…but I was surprised how literally true it was when I put it down in black and white on the page for this article.

And, most of the suggestions of characters I’ve missed – like from Scott Pilgrim, Casanova, I Kill Giants, etc., have that same strong vision and singular creator/writer/etc. It’s pretty interesting.

Man, I dislike Jessica Jones. She was so, so great in Alias. And then at the end, she got pregnant and decided to marry Luke Cage and give up her life for his?!?! It just betrayed everything that was strong and also damaged about her character. It’s really something I’ve never forgiven Bendis for, and a move I can not understand (unless it was his plan all along to show how “pimp” Luke Cage is by having him break in this amazing woman).

Similarly, I think that Deena and Manhunter are also dangerous stereotypes. They are bad ass girls who always say bad ass things and who have character flaws and insecurities tacked on to try and make them human. It’s like their writers made powerful female characters and then had to make them emotionally damaged to make sure they were not too cool and threatening. I don’t know if it is Andreyko’s dialogue orwhat, but nothing Kate Spencer has ever said has rang true to me.

I would argue a place for a few other characters in place of them: Gert or Molly from the Runaways, Kate Bishop aka Hawkeye of the Young Avengers, Cyndi from American Virgin, Scandal Savage from Secret Six, or Megan from Local.

[...] over at Comics Should Be Good usually published a beast list of ten good womanlike comic characters of the aughts. Reading by her list reminded me how it feels to be vehement about comics [...]

Another omnibus, collecting the twenty issues of the first, DC-published series, will come out later this year.

Hmm… Is there going to be any option for those of us who already have both of the existing TPBs of the DC Fallen Angel issues?

Eric:

Man, I dislike Jessica Jones. She was so, so great in Alias. And then at the end, she got pregnant and decided to marry Luke Cage and give up her life for his?!?!

You know being a stay at home mum isn’t giving up your life right?

“You know being a stay at home mum isn’t giving up your life right?”

It is in comic books.

Is there a collected volume of Batwoman that would be a good place to start? I see there’s a Batwoman: Elegy hc coming out in June, but anything I can get my hands on before then? *hopehope*

And apologies if this was answered earlier.. I have one volume of Y left (I know, I know, but I’ve been saving it!!) and started to get a wee hint of spoilage, so I kind of skimmed past.

jen: Definitely glad you skipped over the 355 text, DO NOT GO BACK, because you really don’t want to spoil it for yourself – especially when you are this close to the finish line.

The June “Elegy” release is the soonest that I know of the Batwoman collected releasing, but if you really can’t wait you might want to go to a shop with a big selection – you might be able to find the originals still #854 – #860. Good luck!

jen: Also, don’t read all these comments – because there are spoilers there as well about 355. Big ones.

[...] 6, 2010 in blogging, comics, comics should be good, writing My She Has No Head! column from Monday got picked up by my beloved Jezebel. Thanks [...]

Greg L: Oh man, I forgot about Layla Miller. After House of M I don’t know how David found the fortitude to even acknowledge the girl’s existence, much less take her and make her the best character in his book.

[...] She Has No Head! – 10 Great Female Comic Book Characters Of The Decade | Comics Should Be Good! @ … – It’s hard to argue with any of these choices (except her #1 … and I haven’t looked at the character since “52,” which she also disliked). What’s amazing is that these characters were all created in the last decade. It’s been an amazing era in comics. SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: "Unblogged Bits for Wednesday, 06 January 2010", url: "http://hill-kleerup.org/blog/2010/01/06/unblogged-bits-for-wednesday-06-january-2010.html" });  Print Cancel reply [...]

[...] She Has No Head! – 10 Great Female Comic Book Characters Of The Decade (goodcomics.comicbookresources.com) [...]

Let’s do everyone a favor and take Batwoman and Batgirl off this list. With out Batman, they wouldn’t be who they are. I’d much prefer characters who can stand on their own. With their own names.

I agree that Batwoman and Batgirl are rips. They are recognizable just by looking at their costumes….They look like Batman. Look at any other characters on this discussion and you have to dig deeper to find out who they really are.

I have to agree that Kate Spencer, Renee Montoya and Emma Frost belong here.

Wonder woman and Storm clearly have their work ahead of them.

Tara Chace is too low and Cassadra Cain seems ridiculously high on the list.
Very nice to see Frau Totenkinder on the list. She has been a pleasure to read.

@Kelly Thompson:

If your primary reason for making Spider-Girl ineligible was that she was created in 1998 then your reasoning is flawed. Cassandra Cain debuted as Batgirl in 1999 and would also be as ineligible. Just admit that you forgot she existed or that you didn’t read her title and be done with it. =)

For my money, Spider-Girl is far more worth of inclusion than Batgirl. Why?

1) Not only does Cassandra still live in the shadow of Barbara Gordon, she has been replaced by Spoiler. By contrast, Spider-Girl emerged as a fully realized character all her own and continues to operate in the same guise 12 years later.

2) As a pure numbers game, Batgirl lasted 73 issues. Spider-Girl not only lasted 127 issues, including the arbitrary Amazing retitling, she continues to have her story told both in Web of Spider-Man and online. These aren’t self-contained backups either. They’re an active continuation of arcs started in her eponymously titled ongoing.

3) Not only was the Spider-Girl character charged with carrying on a decades long legacy, she single-handedly had to prop up a defunct universe of characters. And that she did. Her popularity, and that of her MC2 universe, was sufficient enough to warrant not one, but at least two 5-issue minis.

4) Most titles get canceled with little fanfare. Some get resurrected by a last second maybe once. Marvel has wanted desperately to kill Mayday Parker’s MC2 universe for the past decade and leave the whole Clone Saga behind. Spider-Girl just refuses to die. Spider-Girl was saved from cancellation not once, but (reportedly) up to 8 times in the 00s. Not even cancellation could stop her story from continuing. Her ongoing arcs continued, minus a couple pages, in both the Amazing Spider-Man Family and Web of Spider-Man books.

5) The quality of Spider-Girl is without question, which is what prompts such rabid loyalty. For one thing, her stories are “classic” 80s-style Marvel. They tell stories that are simultaneously in the grand Spider-Man tradition and updated for the 21st century. More over, with DeFalco/Frenz/Olliffe at the helm for all 12+ years, Spider-Girl’s book has shown a level of consistency that has only been equaled by the likes of Bendis/Bagely & Lee/Kirby – both which also created 100+ issue runs. Outside of her appearance in the Paradise X mini, Spider-Girl has only ever had one writer handle her in 12+ years. Even Hembeck’s Swiney-Girl parody was written by DeFalco. Compare that to Batgirl, whose book has had no less than 4 writers over its 73 issue run, making for some awkward transitions in storytelling.

Batgirl started off as a pretty good book. Her character even got more likable as time went on. Still, I cannot see her inspiring the same level of fan support. Just look at how many people were hoping that Oracle would reclaim the Batgirl mantle from Cassandra in the reboot.

Spider-Girl might not be your cup of tea, but her continued popularity and plain refusal to be canceled has to rank her above Batgirl.

“This is how you launch a new marquee female superhero. This is how you create a new Wonder Woman that will stand the test of time…you put your absolute best writer on it, your absolute best artist on it, you feature her in one of your longest running most respected titles, and you sit back and wait. You wait for people to see how well you’ve done. And I for one, say well done DC, well done.”

…aaaand then you pluck that creative team away from the flagship title of the company, pat them on the back and spin them off into their own little Batwoman title after a several month delay from her last appearance to finish her broken story somewhere entirely different than it began.

Yeah. GREAT planning DC.

Shoulda kept her in Detective Comics for the good of that title AND the character.

Grrr.

As for issues of in-title quality……

- A supporting cast of players that is largely made up of non-powered characters. Shock! Her group of teen friends are actually teen friends and not some super team in disguise. That makes them all the more relatable to teens and younger readers.
- Real life issues of abuse, disability, & racism have been tackled over the years. IIRC, the abusive relationship issue got the book a lot of mainstream press.
- Much in the same way that Invincible has transcended his a original Spider-Man and Superman hybrid design, Spider-Girl has become a character who might dress like Pete, but often does things differently.
- SHOCK!! The book actually focused on relationships too. Not melodramatic soap opera stuff either, but actual character development that took place far outside of her costumed identity.

Basically, all of the stuff that made Spider-Man so fun in the 80s is what makes Spider-Girl the most underrated Marvel comic of the past decade.

Seems a like Batwoman is too recent to be #1 for the decade. You only start counting stories from about 2 years ago, and if we went by that mark, Snow White, would be on here as well. I’m a little surprised Star Girl or Power Girl aren’t mentioned, but PG might be disqualified. I appreciate all the time and effort making this list must have taken, though, and I don’t want to sound like I’m whining.

Like Kate, but that #1 spot really belongs to Emma Frost.

She’s become totally iconic in the last 10 years.

Woops. Sorry. I totally blanked that it was “debuted” characters. … Although, I don’t know how Kate works then given she’s been around since the 50s…

Brian from Canada

January 7, 2010 at 4:57 pm

I love all these choices except Batgirl and Batwoman: for one thing, they require the existence of the male characters to launch whereas none of the others do t get traction in comics; and for another, the names are not coincidental, as DC regularly mines the past for ideas to keep resurrecting.

I their place, I definitely think Layla Miller belongs there. Peter David took a plot device and realized her into a real character you came to care for — bravo.

As for the second one… there are a number of suggestions I could make (X-23, Ultimate Mary Jane, Fallen Angel, etc.) but the one I like best as a character in recent years is Dust. Grant Morrison created a female character that is Muslim, respects the traditions of her faith, and is simply accepted for it — something you would might have thought was still a long way from possible in mainstream comics. Her modesty and honour, as well as her willingness to care for others, is something I think makes her wonderful.

I love that you included Frau Totenkinder in the list, she unexpectedly grew into one of my favorite Fables characters. One plot point about her that I’m not sure has ever been explained is the true source of her powers. Apparently she’s allowed to draw a drop of blood from every newborn Fable child, but I seem to recall she implies at some point that there’s no way these few drops would provide her with the power she needs. She says there’s another true source, and I’ve always assumed it was that she is either performing abortions or in cahoots with someone who was. Just curious if anyone else has thoughts on this.

Have you read Peter & Max? Apparently Fables can’t have children unless some pretty major magic was involved, like w/ Bigby and Snow, which explains why Beauty and Beast have had so much trouble.

An excellent list, and I’m glad that I’m not the only one who broke down when 355 met her fate…I think that particular moment “ended” the book for me, even moreso than the actual ending. (Y is one of my all-time favorite series, possibly even #1)

At least both Michonne and Emma are around to keep rocking it out.

While not around in “traditional” comic form, I would add Lee Wagstaff from Bayou to the list!

@Rob: Well, the problem with your whole argument is…nothing, except that to get the on list you need to be my cup of tea. I’m not a committee, I’m just one girl, and I only read a little bit of Spider-girl over the last 10 years…and I wasn’t immediately grabbed by what I saw and so I didn’t read on. Cassandra Cain grabbed me from go and when her world went all pear shaped with new writers, it was some of the angriest I’ve been as a fan. These are the emotional responses that helped drive her to a place of importance on my list. It sounds like you had a similar experience with Spider-girl.

You’ll also note that I called my list 10 Great Female Characters, not THE 10 Best…or The 10 Greatest, just 10 Great…and I did that simply because I am one flawed individual with completely subjective tastes that are not going to agree with everyone.

I do want to say that it’s incredible to see someone so enamored of Spider-girl that they would make such a cohesive and involved argument (and quite frankly you’ve made me think about going back and giving Spider-girl another try – I think I will) but the reality is that I didn’t base this on who had a longer running series, who made a larger impact on a certain comics company, spawned more minis, or any of that stuff, rather it was simply based on characters I responded to. So while I used 1998 as the technicality above of why she wasn’t included, it was more that she just wasn’t in my sights, which doesn’t make her any less awesome, just maybe not my cup of tea.

Now, my wishy washy rules (like 1998 v 1999) is a whole other story that we’ve been picking apart (I hope in good fun) in the comments, and I’ve admitted (I think it was to Tom above) that I probably am in the wrong for not drawing a hard line and sticking to my guns. But when I tried to take off Promethea, Batgirl, Jakita Wagner (and Batwoman – see my comment to Bear below), the list just felt so wrong. Those characters felt like the true emodiment of my experience of reading as a woman over the last 10 years…whether they missed the deadline by a few months or not. But I’m willing to admit that I probably should have been more stringent in following my own guidelines. It’s not that I don’t stand by the list, I still think it’s the right list, and my “perfect” list, but I can admit that in all fairness, given a chance to do it over, I would seriously consider changing it in order to honor more strict guidelines…or to just change my guidelines to fit the characters that I wanted to include…’like 10 great female comic characters featured predominantly in the aughts’…hmm…that just doesn’t have the same great ring to it…

@Bear: I’m actually shocked it took me 100+ comments for someone to fully call me out on this – chalk it up to Batwoman being done so well that we all kind of want her on there whether it’s breaking the rules or not. When I was pulling together the list I felt like the Kate Kane we are seeing today was actually “created” in this decade. Technically of course I suppose she and Kathy Kane are the same – but they don’t feel remotely like the same characters to me – so much so that they don’t even have the same name, sexual orientation, looks, history, or much of anything as far as I can tell.

When I originally wrote the article I put Kate Kane down in the White Queen spot (as best re-imagined character) but convinced myself in my own writing that she deserved to actually be on the list as a newly created character…because she feels like an entirely new character, unlike The White Queen who does feel like an evolving Emma Frost, but still, Emma Frost just the same.

@Chris Buckley: I guess I’m just coming off a high of hearing that perhaps Rucka and Williams are going to be working on a solo Batwoman title in the near future, and that what they’ve done so far is nearly perfect – but you’re right – there’s plenty of opportunity to screw it up on DC’s end.

@MJ: I would be fascinated to see Willingham explore that avenue. It would be a controversial grey area, much like the character, that handled well could be really interesting.

What about Hope…unless she really is Jean Grey?

I find this list wholly invalid on the basis that it ignores Gert Yorkes from Runaways. A smart, snarky character with a realistic body shape, who still manages to kick ass (with a little help from her dinosaur). Sure she can be annoying, but realistically so for a teenager who’s a little self-righteous.

(I do realize this is a personal list and you’re entitled to your own choices, I’m just using faux outrage to advocate for someone who’d be one of my “easy” choices. :))

Of course Michonne could take Rick, he only has one hand and Michonne has a katana which as far is a weapon that always wins a fight in this medium.

in any case this is a great list and I commend it.

The only reason you chose Batwoman is because you’re a transgendered man trying to further your LGBT agenda.

Every other character I could see being nominated. However, Batwoman is a completely random choice placed at number one. This character has hardly been fleshed out with what little we’ve seen of her. She isn’t even her own person, just living under the shadow of family death and Batman.

I can only think you put it on their because of some site editorial choice at the request of DC since they need money for this book that is only good for the art.

Batwoman better Frau Totenkinder as a character in a fictional setting? Are you serious?

So glad to see Alias here…it was – most grotesquely – left off all the other “best comic of the decade” lists that came out recently. Definitely my #1.

What? No Catwoman? I thought for sure she would be a shoe in on this list.
(nods disapprovingly)
Other than that, great list

The only reason you chose Batwoman is because you’re a transgendered man trying to further your LGBT agenda.

Wow.

I don’t normally write things like this, but this is a joke, right? Somebody please tell me this is a joke.

I don’t normally write things like this, but this is a joke, right? Somebody please tell me this is a joke.

Yeah, I figure it has to be a joke, as well.

Rose Wilson Ravager?
Ms. Marvel?
Spider-Woman?
they deserve honorable mentions.

You have some great choices on that list, notably: Deena Pilgrim, Tara Chase and Jakita Wagner plus honoable mentions to Girl One and Irma from Top 10 (Personally I would’ve gone with Toy Box)

Other people I personally would’ve chosen on a list like this would be: Zee Hernandez (DMZ), Special (The Couriers), Courtney Crumrin, Gert Yorkes (Runaways) and on top of the list: Megan McKeenan (Local)

[...] Also, Kelly Thompson included her as the #2 best female comic book character from the last decade.  You can check out that write-up along with the other nine at: http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2010/01/04/she-has-no-head-10-great-female-comic-book-chara… [...]

What about Dizzy Cordova? For shame. Everyone always forgets her.

I know 100 Bullets technically started in mid-1999, so it’s not from officially from this decade. But her character was fully fleshed out in the 2000′s.

Other than that, good list. Like some people mentioned here already, you should put up an honourable mentions list too.

Cool post! I loves me some badass ladeeyz :D

@Brian from Canada…Dude you just made me facepalm myself..I overlooked Dust too…heck I miss NXM Academy from before….you know before they took the Teen Titans massacre route..lol

Good Thinking.

matthew grayson

January 7, 2010 at 11:34 pm

Three heroes overlooked in a way are, Catwoman, Kara Zor-El/ L, Stephanie Brown, and Spider-Woman.

Selina Kyle has always been a strong female character, but for a while there, there seemed to be a lot of emphasis on her breasts, followed by writing her as an emotional wreck who even threw a cat away into an alley. She was revived with a practical costume and a headspace where she wasn’t always the first; she was written three-dimensional, where we saw her weaknesses and so did she.

She became a mother which also transformed the character, and giving up her child for the child’s sake gave us a character with an emotional perspective not often seen in superhero comics …if there’s any parenting, there may be some trouble, but often ends, for example, like Arachne’s daughter, happy and cheery she’s with her mom who’s a cool hero, or they are aged and ready to fight alongside their parent or guardian as a hero her/himself, such as so many cast members of JSA. Not that it’s a bad thing, but this gave us a new perspective on superheroing, and a new depth with Selina.

Holly Robinson had been a mere afterthought in the story of Selina Kyle. In fact, she was written off early as getting what she wanted, rich and off the streets, and then promptly killed off. This character was revived and given the role of best friend and confidante to Catwoman, which isn’t something to shrug off. She was, however, not just written as any other sidekick or supporting cast, but even flourished as a hero in her own right. Not only was she deemed a second Catwoman by the original herself, but she even became one of the main characters in Countdown. Although she isn’t currently seen in Gotham Sirens, Holly is a strong female character, and in fact, a lesbian written as if she was any straight character, with dignity and without stereotype.

Much controversy has been written in regards to Supergirl, but without a doubt, the past decade was a turning point for the Mistress of Might. Kara Zor-El was rebooted into continuity after nearly 20 years of only existing as a ghost in a couple of comics. She was given star treatment that caused her to have enough success to get her own series, and early on she was even in the top 10, and the best selling solo female series. Although her ratings have gone down since then, she’s regularly appeared in the top 100, and quite often been in the top 50. She now is in the reigns of a strong writer, who is associated with two top writers of DC, with whom have a definite vision for both the Superman Family as a whole, and Kara herself. She has received mini-series and countless appearances in the past decade, even a second title at one point, and that’s not an easy feat for any incarnation of Supergirl. It seems as if finally Kara is getting the respect and popularity she had when she first appeared literally half a century ago.

Although not code named Supergirl, Kara Zor-L has also developed in the past decade. Massive confusion over her origin were dismissed and she was once again the cousin of Superman. More alone than her late cousin, or her “soul” cousin or “soul” self, Power Girl is the lone survivor of not just a planet but a universe. Her popularity has excelled to the point she is in a comic book of her own, and it’s on par with sales and popularity as Supergirl. Furthermore, Kara Zor-L may still find herself the butt of many breasts jokes, but she’s finally being written as a strong willed woman and not just a man-hater with big breasts. Remember when she was allergic to diet soda, and that was given a reason why she was tempermental? If not, you’re fortunate. She has been a chairperson to the JSA, appears in two titles with many other appearances elswhere, appeared in an animated movie, and actually uses her secret identity again.

Stephanie Brown has been in comics for a while now, and she’s been written so often as someone trying to find herself, and trying to impress herself upon others, and often failing. She could easily have been an example of a character whose soul purpose is to make everyone else look good, and how not to succeed as a person, let alone as a super hero. Like the current Supergirl, Stephanie is someone that more people can relate with than just another character who is a Mary Sue who is so perfect that no weaknesses shine through. She shows the struggle of not just trying to keep up with an A-List set of heroes, but life itself. She is shown as a genuine person with real problems, not to mention the fact that her dad was a super-villain who wasn’t even that respected!

In the past decade, we saw her become mainstream comics’ first female Robin, partner of Batman. She wanted so hard to be accepted and appreciated that she inadvertantly caused Gotham to almost, once again, go down in flames. She wasn’t just written as a catlyst to the main events, but showed what happens when trust isn’t given to a person, and when one tries to be something for someone else. She was tortured and abused, and had a child, and seemingly killed. She wasn’t (and I wish I knew what happened to her child), she is finally coming into her own as a strong character and strong member of the modern Batman Family. She may have taken on the legacy of Batgirl, but she’s still her own person, and an example of what a person can do when they have hope and don’t give up.

Last but not least, Jessica “Spider-Woman” Drew. Although for the first few years of her revival turned out to be of an alien imposter, this female character had been on the D-List of things since the early to mid ’80′s. Like too many female characters, she was stripped of her series, her powers, and even her title. She went from a solo star who even had her own cartoon, to being supporting cast in a comic called “Spider-Woman,” but wasn’t her own.

In the past decade, however, Jessica Drew has become an A-List hero, and even close to a household name for super-heroes out there. She is now a full-fledged Avenger, not just an ally as in many years past. She appears in a Marvel franchise book, and even though it was years delayed, her own series, which is in the top 100, and one of the best selling female titles presently.She was given the honor of being “Marvel’s first full digital comic,” and it was a huge success, being number one in many areas of iTunes. This led to her regular comic book series, which one Marvel ad had read, “one of the most anticipated books in Marvel’s history.” That isn’t just a huge deal for a character whose hay day seemed to have been a one time deal a couple of decades ago, but it is also a huge deal for a female character!

Growing up I have known quite a few female friends who knew Spider-Woman from the cartoon being on video cassette, or in reading comics I had, and finding her to be a strong female role model, and someone to aspire to. Now I am reading on different blogs the same reaction from women who are discovering her or re-discovering her for the first time. Despite being a clone of Peter Parker, over in the Ultimate Universe, we get to see Jessica Drew as Spider-Woman, and even she has a stronger role to play coming up there as well.

Although I do agree that Batwoman should be right up there, I really feel that Webby either be tied for first, or at the very least second, due to how huge her revival has also been.

Three heroes overlooked in a way are, Catwoman, Kara Zor-El/ L, Stephanie Brown, and Spider-Woman.

Just characters introduced this decade counted (although, admittedly, Kelly skirted the edge a bit on a couple of characters who debuted in 1999).

I’m still surprised that Stargirl isn’t on the list. For the majority of the DCU, she was the injection of new life that we hadn’t seen for a while, and she’s grown into a complex character, with a massive fan base and has really grown into her own. Madame Xanadu’s a great character as well, but shoudln’t she be disqualified, since she’s been around since the 70′s?

Great list, Kelly! Even though she has so few (good) appearances, Batwoman would probably top my list too, with Morrison/Whedon Emma or Jakita as runner-up.

@MJ: If you’re right, I’m really glad I dropped Fables when I did.

Great list! I would’ve put Renee Montoya (the modern Question) in there somewhere. She was a player in No Man’s Land and in Final Crisis, and was a major character in Gotham Central, 52, Crime Bible: Five Books of Blood, and Final Crisis: Revelations. We’ve seen her character development go from GCPD detective to rock bottom and emerge as a hero. And she’s a latina lesbian. Rucka consistently writes strong women, as evidenced by your list (Dex, Tara, Kate), but not having Renee there too is a glaring omission IMHO.

Still, it’s a fantastic list. I gave up on the Walking Dead awhile ago because the female characters were weak. Maybe I gave up too soon.

Unless I’m mistaken, Renee Montoya isn’t from this decade – which is unfortunate because it was in this decade that she became the great character she is now.

@Matthew Grayson: You write an impassioned plea on behalf of these characters, and you make some fine points, but the truth is I didn’t even consider any of them, because while all of them did interesting things in the last decade, they’ve all been around for a very long time and I was attempting to focus on new characters (Brian said this much better above). For the record, Selina Kyle always has and always will be one of my favorite characters, despite the shoddy treatment she sometimes receives. Brubakers run on Catwoman was a real treat for me in general.

@Jon: I wasn’t aware Madame Xanadu (the same Madame Xandadu we’re seeing now) had been around prior to her new series from Vertigo…but a quick check reveals you’re right. She’s out :(

“@Jon: I wasn’t aware Madame Xanadu (the same Madame Xandadu we’re seeing now) had been around prior to her new series from Vertigo…but a quick check reveals you’re right. She’s out”

Does that mean Kate Spencer gets the spot? ;)

I really thought Miss Misery would be on here…

Witchblade should be on there a woman stuggling to find here place in the world and with herself ….. seems strong. Fighting wether the right path would be to give in to temptations and sucumb to them or fight against them to do whats write. she should be on the list. or a mention even. I know she has been around earlier than 2000 … but pretty close

*right… ops typo

Marshall: Witchblade feels very 90′s to me – perhaps because I only read her in the 90′s. I think the debut of the title was in 1995, which puts her pretty far outside my wishy-washy rules. That said, I’ve got some drama with Witchblade, not the least of which are costume and art problems, so she probably wouldn’t have made my list.

Great list!
Although some of my choices (Manhunter f.e.) seem to only have made runners up.
Still, even with the ones I wouldn’t have chosen I can clearly see your reasons for choosing them (and agree with them).

Doing a little reading on the history of Kate Kane, Cathy Kane, etc., I was struck by the irony that Batwoman was originally created to be a romantic interest for Batman to refute Frederic Wertham’s notion that Batman and Robin were gay — yet now Batwoman herself is actually gay. Kinda funny how that comes full circle, I guess.

When I actually read what was rules I understood the list. It is not a bad list except for 2 and 10 but I would have put Manhunter over walking dead girl. Frau Totenkinder would probably not been my choice for female fable characters. Though before I throw out my own list of top 10 of the decade (not held back by characters who debuted this decades) I use to like is Emma Frost. She was good in Gen X but I have had extreme hate since Morrison’s New X-Men run. Can’t be forgiven for stealing Cyclops of course one reasons why I hate Grant Morrison. She belongs on lists of x characters I hope get killed off (with pixie).
My list: She-Hulk, Spider-Girl, Batwoman, Supergirl, Catwoman, Renee Montoya, Manhunter, Wonder Woman, Wonder Girl, Stephanie Brown (No how much some dc creators and some fan haters you couldn’t her down or dead)
Spider-Woman almost on this list but Bendis threw out everything that was good in Secret Invasion and then brought back the real one as a semi suicidal and bit crazy. :(

Brian from Canada

January 8, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Kelly: Thank you for demonstrating that the female characters are just as important as the male characters, and have really established a following of their own. I hope this list convinces you to do that list of favourite established characters given new light.

Obviously, I vote for Emma at the top of the list too. Not so much for Morrison (who played her off as an annoyance to Jean), but for Lobdell’s addition of complexity, Whedon’s making her a central voice and Whedon/Fraction’s development of her and Scott as a couple. To think of Cyclops better without Jean Grey is something nobody would have thought about before, and now it’s a reality.

But there are so many great characters out there, some of which are noted already and some still waiting to be rediscovered. :-)

Kelly, I seriously am in love….with your articles, your point of view, your way of commenting back and most of all the refreshing content of your articles. I think it is brilliant and look forward to reading your column everytime. I’m just a guy who loves to read and comics have gotten better and I have started to read more comics over the past decade than the decade before, I think it is great that there is a critic out there that voices her opinion on the female character and what it entails in the comic book medium and is not afraid to say their true feelings. As a father, I can only hope my daughter grows up to enjoy some of the things her dad enjoys. However, with the way the female body is commonly portrayed, I don’t know if I would want her to think that is what a female should look like. Nonetheless, she will fight her own batles as my sisters and other women I have known with the way mass media portrays the female figure.

All in all, I am just really glad you stick to your guns and say it as it is. Thank you.

Daniel O' Dreams

January 9, 2010 at 11:49 am

Doh… BETTY Kane! I totally blanked on that. Yeah I think the Betty kane that’s Flamebird is a different character than the silver age Batgirl, I don’t think either Batwoman 1 or Batgirl 1 existed Post Crisis (I might be wrong). It was her I was wondering how long it would take until she’s Kate’s niece.

MJ: It’s true. The irony is thick in old Batwoman v new Batwoman.

die-yng: Had a read more than three issues of Manhunter, Kate Spencer would have had a shot, but I didn’t think I knew enough about her to fully commit. I’m definitely a fan though.

Andrew: Thank you. Comments like yours make the soul destroying ones a little easier to take :)

Daniel O’Dreams: Yeah, and I think they already kind of introduced her…maybe? in their own way? They had a Bette Kane (her cousin?) at the charity function Kate showed up to in her tux…unless that’s going to be another Bette entirely? Who the hell knows. Time will tell!

Great article. I second the mention of Zephyr Quinn as somebody to check out. Its hard to find female characters written without being defined by male counterparts, not just in comics. Though no characters outside of THB stand out in that special kind of way that I feel qualify them to make THE LIST above, I LOVE how Paul Pope writes women. He doesn’t have to write them as super badass quippy Warren Ellis-esque women to make them engaging. He just writes them as people.

Promethea would be my #1.

Very strong list. I love ‘em all except the Batgirls, who I’m not familiar with, but you can’t read everything can you? Which is why I need to point you in the direction of a couple of current comics I think you’ve missed – The Luna Bros. “The Sword”, and Terry Moore’s “Echo”. Going by your list you should love them.

Also another shout out to “I Kill Giants” and “Courtney Crumrin”, along with the Luna’s. older books “Girls” and “Ultra”.

This list is misleading. If you are going to make a list like that you should at least lay down the criteria as to what makes the heroines the best characters of the decade. From what I have read the list reads more like a list of the authors girl crushes and which authors she likes to read. The title of the thread should be changed to ‘My favourite heroines of 2000-2009. Not 10 Great Female Comic Book Characters Of The Decade.

No Tammy Pierce??!?!?

Vittoria: I’m not sure I understand what your issue is with the title. I deliberately didn’t call the list THE Ten BEST, or The Ten GREATEST, for that very reason. I feel these are 10 Great Female Comic Book Characters of The Decade…I don’t see the issue with the title. I CAN see your issue with the criteria (as is much discussed in the comments, I was way too wishy washy in my rules) but I don’t see your point about the title. To each his/her own I suppose.

[...] Manga Blog. -Brief digression into Esther’s dissatisfaction with Batwoman and Kelly Thompson’s list of female comics characters of the decade -Sometimes, you just gotta say something mean on the internet and hope and pray that there are no [...]

[...] been meaning to repost this Jezebel commentary and join the conversation started in this list of 10 Great Female Comic Book Characters Of The Decade.  Be warned that there are spoilers in this link (though not in my post below), particularly for [...]

I have to admit, I’m only familiar with 355 and Michonne…

But I have to say, are you kidding me? Of COURSE Michonne could take Rick. I’m telling you, Rick is going to die soon. I can feel it. (I’m at issue 77 now…)

God, I love Michonne.

[...] Should be Good” @ ComicBookResources) brought this very point up today in their listing of their top 10 female characters of the decade. The writer opted to list Frau Totenkinder (Hansel and Gretel’s witch) instead of Snow White. [...]

You are one amazing human being for making this list. love it

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