Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
The site is all about finding those great moments for women in superhero comics…you know the ones…the ones that leave you with goose bumps, that leave you breathless, that leave you in love. The site is open to submissions from anyone, which is only fair as we all have different definitions of what inspires us from women in superhero comics. And what better month for a post like this than March – Women’s History Month.
Inspired by Sue’s efforts I thought I’d do a piece about some of the moments that have meant the most to me over my years of reading. I make no argument that these are the “best ever” moments…just that they’re the moments that have curled my toes. Which ones curled yours? Let me know, and better yet, submit your own over on THIS!
Word of warning – if you haven’t read the story I’m talking about, be careful of spoilers!
Click to enbiggen on any image!
25. DV8: GODS & MONSTERS #8. Brian Wood and Rebekah Isaacs.
While all of her teammates fight each other and let themselves become both gods and monsters to the local population of the planet they’ve been dropped on, Jocelyn (aka Freestyle) just endeavors to make the planet better. She spends the entire series learning about the people, caring for them, and using her incredible gifts to improve their lives. When the team learns that the planet is destined for destruction, Jocelyn uses every ounce of her power to try to prevent the catastrophe. It’s an action that ultimately fails and kills her in the process anyway. A powerfully inspiring and desperately sad moment that left me breathless.
24. SECRET AVENGERS #18. Warren Ellis and David Aja.
Not having ever read too deeply into The Avengers or SHIELD, I’ve never known much about Sharon Carter, but she certainly made an impression here in the appearances she made in Warren Ellis’ Secret Avengers run this past year. My favorite is this brilliant fight scene by David Aja, which makes me smile every time I see it.
23. NEXTWAVE: AGENTS OF H.A.T.E. Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen.
My deepest comics reading is the X-Men and all its many variations. They were my introduction to comics, and were usually the thing to lure me back when I would take breaks from mainstream comics. As a I read pretty much every X-book there was for years and years and was thus exposed frequently to Tabitha aka Boom Boom (and at one time Boomer – blech). I was honestly never that impressed. But it took only one page of Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen bringing me THIS Tabitha that changed my mind entirely. Reading this action scene with Boom Boom turned me around completely and now this is what I think of when I think of Boom Boom. Definitely an upgrade. And proof of what great creators can do with just about anything when given the opportunity.
22. CHASE #8. Dan Curtis Johnson and J.H. Williams III.
You gotta have big balls to go after Batman with the intention of “giving him a talking to”, and Chase does it without hesitation, in fact, she seems kind of grouchily determined about it, which I suppose you have to be if you’re going to go after Batman. It only endears her to me all the more…in fact, though I liked Chase from go, this is the moment when I fell in love with her.
21. BLACK WIDOW #4. Marjorie Liu and Daniel Acuna.
Nobody is as cool as Natasha Romanov. You have to get up very early in the morning to outsmart her…like never go to sleep early, and chances are you can’t look as flawlessly elegant or as calmly badass as she is even if you do manage to get the jump on her. Case in point here when Lady Bullseye thinks she has the jump on Natasha only to find that Natasha won the game before Lady Bullseye even knew she was playing. Very cool stuff.
20. I KILL GIANTS. Joe Kelly and JM Ken Niimura.
Barbara Thorson has got to be one of the greatest comic book characters ever created, and while she’s not a traditional superhero (there are a few of those on here), I can’t think of many characters more heroic and inspiring than Barbara. Our introduction to Barbara in I Kill Giants is as she effortlessly puts an obnoxious self-help guru type in his place. It’s a hell of introduction and she doesn’t ever let up – being amazing and simultaneously breaking your heart.
19. X-MEN #173. Chris Claremont and Paul Smith.
Rogue has long been one of my favorite characters, and was in fact my first ever favorite character the entire reason I got into comics (she was the first character I laid eyes on in X-Men The Animated Series which eventually led me to comics). As a result I honestly have a lot of favorite Rogue moments, but few of them are as defining as the one from Chris Claremont and Paul Smith with Rogue saving the life of both Mariko and Wolverine, and almost getting herself killed by Viper. It was a great turning point for the former villain, and the moment when Wolverine first began to think of her as a friend and teammate.
18. Y: THE LAST MAN. Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra.
Like any secret agent 355 gets plenty of cool stuff to do, and because she’s written by the wonderfully talented Brian K. Vaughan 355 gets a ton of character development too, but it’s still this moment, which is cool and sacrificial as all get out, but almost matter-of-fact in its badassery that makes my heart go all pitter pat. There’s something about 355’s trademark laconic speech and dry sense of humor paired with such bold action that gets me every time.
17. UNCANNY X-FORCE #4. Rick Remender and Jerome Opena.
Psylocke has a lot of weight on her shoulders as the sole female team member of Uncanny X-Force but in Remender and Opena’s hands it’s not even an issue, and Betsy holds her own effortlessly. Opena in particular deserves thanks for this amazing moment when Betsy stands off against her own team to protect a child that will become apocalypse. If only more lady superheroes looked as Opena draws Psylocke my troubles would be over (or nearly over)!
16. BOOSTER GOLD #34. Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Chris Batista.
Sometimes it’s the simple things in life. Like Barda. Ah Barda, of course it’s no trouble to punch out dragons! Need I say more?
15. ELEKTRA ASSASSIN #2. Frank Miller and Bill Seinkiewicz.
In two simple panels and with a handful of words, Miller and Seinkiewicz define Elektra as the ultimate unstoppable badass. It’s not just the fact that she deflects a bullet with her bare hand, or her unflinching expression as she does so, but it’s also the off panel reaction of her attackers. Wonderful, brilliant, badass stuff.
14. THE WALKING DEAD #31. Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard.
Michonne is arguably the best character in The Walking Dead from her very first appearance, and she has no shortage of unbelievably great moments, including standing up to brutal (and controversial) torture at the hands of the Governor. Some would highlight her well-deserved revenge on him instead, but I prefer her initial defiance when he sends her into the ring to fight and she disobeys every order she’s given, as only Michonne can.
13. WONDER WOMAN #37. Gail Simone and Bernard Chang.
I’ve posted this page several times before and there’s a simple reason…it moves me every time I read it. There are so many great examples of Diana being a badass (I’ve got two of them on this list!) but it’s harder to find those smaller moments that showcase Diana’s tender heart so perfectly. This is, quite frankly, the best one I’ve found yet.
12. CATWOMAN VOLUME 3 #1. Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke.
One of the great things about Ed Brubaker’s Catwoman is that he gets all her layers. All her intricacies. Selina Kyle is not just one thing, she is an infinite tapestry of things – theif, hero, villain, lover, friend, and so much more. From the very beginning Selina’s complicated layers were acknowledged and perfectly captured by Brubaker and Cooke in this great rooftop conversation between Selina and Bruce. It set the tone for the entire excellent series.
11. NEXTWAVE: AGENTS OF H.A.T.E. Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen.
Monica Rambeau is one hell of a team leader. From wrangling possibly the hardest team on earth to wrangle, to fighting both the serious and the absurd, and even somehow getting away with wearing all white and looking absolutely flawless while doing so. But there’s nothing better than watching her finally cut loose with pure power. Love it!
10. BATMAN/PLANETARY: NIGHT ON EARTH. Warren Ellis and John Cassaday.
I’ve posted this moment before as well, because it’s just that cool. Anytime someone can fight Batman to a standstill without blinking is a good day in comics, and it’s never better than when Jakita Wagner does it with a smile on her face and some flirty jokes on her lips. Go Jakita, go.
09. X-MEN #170. Chris Claremont and Paul Smith.
There have been some great moments for Storm, and some of my favorites are not necessarily fan favorites (I happen to love Mohawk punk rock Storm), but I think we can all agree that Storm’s fight against Callisto is a shining moment in illustrating that Storm has layers that nobody expected. In one incredible wordless fight (the entire fight takes three pages) Storm reveals aspects of herself that readers never would have suspected, and changed herself in our eyes forever.
08. WONDER WOMAN #210. Greg Rucka and Drew Johnson.
No matter how many times I read this Wonder Woman arc by Greg Rucka, I never cease to be moved by an action on Diana’s part that is so selfless and compassionate and yet ultimately as badass as you can get. The idea of blinding yourself in order to defeat a villain – an act so intense and horrifying and hardcore that most of us cannot even imagine it – and yet Diana does it without a thought, because it’s what it takes, and it’s what’s right. This is one of the moments when I first started to understand what makes Wonder Woman one of the best characters in comics. True heroism. Beautiful.
07. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: SEASON NINE #6. Joss Whedon, Andrew Chambliss, and Georges Jeanty.
I wrote about this moment from a recent issue of Buffy in extreme detail several columns ago, so I won’t bore you all again with it, except to say it was one of my proudest moments as a feminist and Buffy fan to see such a complicated and controversial issue dealt with in such a remarkably honest and sensitive way. I’ve never been prouder of Buffy or Joss Whedon (and that’s saying a lot).
06. JLA CLASSIFIED #14. Warren Ellis and Butch Guice.
Ah Barbara Gordon, only you could save the entire Justice League with only a laptop. This scene is so quintessential Oracle and what made her one of the most powerful and loved characters in the DC Universe. It’s so elegantly hardcore I just love it. Particularly Barbara’s statement that she’s bringing the JLA home, even if it’s just to bury them. No tears for this girl. Solve the problem, be brilliant, be a hero. End of story.
05. BATGIRL #50. Dylan Horrocks and Rick Leonardi.
As one of my all-time favorite characters I could fill this list entirely with Cass Cain moments – her fights with Shiva, when she creates her own Batgirl costume out of Barbara’s old one, when she trains Spoiler…there are so many to choose from. However one of her defining moment is her fight with Bruce to prove she deserves to wear the costume. Go here to see most of this fantastic scene. Her simple words about what she’s fighting for – the bat symbol and what it represents to her – is so key to what makes Cass one of the best heroes around. And she’s more like Bruce in many ways than any other Bat character around – I think he sees that, respects that, and also worries for her because of it. It’s wonderful stuff and it’s scenes like this that make me weep for what has happened to this amazing character.
04. DETECTIVE COMICS. Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III.
Batwoman, since her inception has had no shortage of stunning moments thanks to the best of the best bringing her to us in the pages of Detective Comics in 2009. But this heroic non-costumed moment remains a favorite of mine. A moment that showed the steel and honor inside her long before she ever donned a cape.
03. NEW X-MEN #116. Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely.
I’ve been a fan of Emma Frost for a long damn time, but under Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s pens she reached new heights of bitchiness and awesomeness. Never better exemplified than when she comes in and saves the day (sorta) by breaking Cassandra Nova’s neck without a thought. Ever since Morrison and Quitely Emma’s voice has been surprisingly consistent with great writers from Joss Whedon and Warren Ellis to Kieron Gillen and Matt Fraction, all of them finding that heroic bitchy badass that she doesn’t even try to hide and letting her run free.
02. ASTONISHING X-MEN. Joss Whedon and John Cassaday.
Joss Whedon and John Cassaday took Kitty Pryde from a character I felt ho-hum about for most of my life and turned her into the kind of hero that literally brought me to tears. At the end of Astonishing X-Men Kitty Pryde phases a massive alien bullet through the entire Earth and it remains one of the single coolest things I’ve ever seen in a comic book.
01. NEW FRONTIER VOLUME 1. Darwyn Cooke.
My absolute favorite moment for any woman in any comic is Wonder Woman sending Superman packing with his antiquated ideas about right and wrong in the middle of a complicated and controversial war full of millions of shades of grey. It’s a scene that warms the cockles of my cold dead feminist heart every time and it’s come to represent so much to me about women in comics. Of course it also gets bonus points for a Wonder Woman that’s taller than Superman…something that should always be true, but almost nobody gets right.
So that’s all for me (for now at least) but what about all of you? Got a curl your toes, goose bump worthy moment you want to share? Share it here and on the tumblr – a great community for sharing the defining moments of superheroines.
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