So, is a Black Widow movie ever going to get out of early development?
Will Disney ever get over its fear of having its new superhero sub-department contaminated by the female market segment, and give girls everywhere the stories and toys they’re clamoring to pay good money for?
Will our daughters’ daughters someday be able to live in a world where a movie that lists a female hero’s name second in its title isn’t considered radically progressive?
I don’t know.
But in this particularly difficult time of setback for women, I’d like to take a moment to recognize the fact that we’re living in a renaissance of actual, paper-and-ink comic books that respect and celebrate female power.
I’ve written before about why Harley Quinn is an important character for women in spite of being a terrible role model, and I continue to enjoy her antics, flaws and all, in the New 52, but thankfully, she’s far from being all we have.
So, while you’re waiting and campaigning in righteous frustration to end the shut-out of women in the mainstreamiest of mainstream storytelling, remember to take occasional, much-needed refuge with…
This alternate DC timeline follows some of the most prominent female characters of the universe as they develop their identities – independent of the often male-mentored circumstances of their main universe origins – against the backdrop of World War II.
The sexual prejudices of the forties exist here to be faced but never hold the characters down for long, especially once Amanda Waller begins to earmark superpowered women for her alternate universe, Hitler-fighting Suicide Squad – The Bombshells.
4: She-Hulk (Charles Soule)
Sadly, this title didn’t run for long, but I highly recommend grabbing the two volumes that exist.
Jennifer Walters (a.k.a She-Hulk) is the professional woman’s hero. After leaving a prestigious law firm that expected something different from her than good legal work (ostensibly because of her superpowers, but the parallel to her gender is clear), she’s determined to start up her own successful law firm. Naturally, her first solo case drags her into a far-reaching conspiracy that tests her skills, her principles, and most importantly, her ability to count on her substantial brains instead of her physical talent for smashing.
3: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl
This is possibly the funniest and most good-hearted comic in existence. It’s self-aware and optimistic, and Doreen Green’s confidence and genuine kindness are wonderfully infectious. She loves her curves, she loves her friends of both the human and squirrel variety, she loves her work helping people, and she goes out of her way to love her villains.
She’s the unbeatable Squirrel Girl, because she’s the hero who takes the time to chat with Galactus about his eating habits, after a discussion on the evolution of gendered pronouns that warms this English major’s heart.
She’s exactly what’s needed for both young girls looking to get into comics that welcome them, and for adult readers who need a break from the doom-and-gloom of other comics.
2: Jessica Jones: Alias
…Then again, sometimes you need a hit of the grown-up dark and serious. That’s where Jessica Jones comes in. She’s the gritty anti-hero with all the flaws and baggage of her most popular and fascinating male counterparts, which makes her refreshing in her own way, because flaws are exactly the critical character component that’s so often lost in the effort to make female characters “strong” enough.
Jessica’s a hardboiled private investigator with a drinking problem and a past made of horror and failure. She’s an inconsiderate, self-destructive mess, and she’s exactly who you want on your side when you need to get to the bottom of a mystery for the right cause. She’s crude and sad and smart and infuriating, and utterly compelling on every page.
1: Ms. Marvel (G. Willow Wilson)
There are no words adequate to express the importance or coolness of Kamala Khan (a.k.a. Ms. Marvel). She has the kind heart and optimism of Squirrel Girl in the #3 spot, but with far less insulation from serious, real-life issues.
Kamala is the new hero of Jersey City, somewhere people like the Avengers don’t tend to pay much attention to protecting. She’s also in the thick of growing up a millennial Muslim girl in the U.S, facing challenges both universal and specific, and always complex and relatably presented.
She’s new to her powers, bringing back the superhero metaphor for the combined terror and empowerment of puberty, and through everything from family fights to bad dates to chaos-sewing visits from Loki, the reader gets to watch her grow into a hero for a new generation.
Got more favorite female-led comics to recommend? Comment below!
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