Top Ten: Heroines of DC Comics

Am I alone in just not liking Jean Grey?

I mean, apparently not, but in my recent Top Heroines of Marvel article, Jean Grey was the most divisive character in the comments. Some said my leaving her out was “tragic” or “outrageous”; others noted she is “meh” or “sucks”.

She didn’t make my Top Ten, and honestly would not have made my Top Fifteen; I just find Jean to be tedious. Marvel knows how to tell exactly ONE Jean Grey story–Jean gets really powerful and dies, and everyone is sad!–and they just tell it over and over.

Look at what getting Cyclops away from Jean did. He went from being one of the most universally disliked and boring X-Men to a character with a vast amount of depth and interesting stories. All he had to do was get away from the Entertainment Vacuum that is Jean Grey.

Even the excellent 90’s cartoon X-Men had little for Jean to do that cry out and faint. She’s just the pits.

But I didn’t come here to write an entire article on why Jean is a boring nothing character! I could! But I won’t.

No, to keep going with Women’s History Month, we are moving on to the Distinguished Competition to see what my favorite heroines of theirs are!

And boy… “heroine” is barely the word for some of these. But like Emma Frost and Black Cat in Marvel, DC has a good history of creating powerful women who dance so close to the line between good and evil.

Like, oh let’s say…

10. Catwoman

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Selina is #10 on the DC list. Felicia Hardy was #4 on the Marvel list. Takeaway? Black Cat is Catwoman done better.

That’s… not a great way to start off talking about how Catwoman made the Top Ten DC Heroines, I guess.

Still, Catwoman is the prototype for what Felicia ended up perfecting: the bit-too-literal CAT burglar with a heart of gold who is carried into the heroic world by the best-selling character she has crossed claws with.

It’s still a shame that DC didn’t just let these crazy kids get married, but hey… a lot of this list is going to by my lamenting when DC did wrong by their own great characters in the last few years.

I attack because I love.

But as for Selina, she’s obviously important to DC and has had some great moments. My personal favorite? When In Rome. Good yarn, that.

9. Starfire

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This was the hardest spot for me, because I wanted one of the classic Teen Titans ladies here, but I couldn’t figure out which one. Raven is the most tragic and interesting. Donna has the most history and story. But Starfire is just the most fun. She came in all rage and fire and had to learn to adapt to human life. She had a relationship with Dick Grayson, but it never felt like it was going to work out; Nightwing has had so many loves. It’s kind of tragic that she’s just… One Of Dick’s Ladies.

Kori is a character DC hasn’t always done right by–lookin’ at you, New 52 Starfire who was 100% fan service wankery–but when they’ve done her well, they’ve done very well. She is a powerful, angry character with a soft spot for others and intense loyalty. She learns from humanity as she goes, but never loses her edge.


8. Poison Ivy

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… Really stretching the boundaries of the word “heroine” on this one.

But Poison Ivy has rarely ever struck me as a villainess. She does bad things, but her motives are usually pure. In a world of climate change and deforestation and the like, having a character whose ideals are “We should probably stop fucking up the Earth” is hard to paint as pure evil.

Luckily, thanks to her relationship with Harley Quinn, Ivy has started skating somewhat into anti-hero territory. The last I read, they had kind of undone that (the Poison Ivy & Harley Quinn mini-series that came out in the wake of Heroes In Crisis split them up), but honestly? I mostly ignore anything DC has done in the last three years or so. So nyah.

Anyway, I do dig the more modern complexities of her character in an evolving world. And the aforementioned dynamic with Quinn has really fleshed her out a great deal. She’s #7 and rising.

As long as they don’t just keep her a dumb villain going forward.

DC. Come on, guys.

7. Miss Martian

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Miss Martian has been in frightfully few comics I have read. I’m not actually sure where to start in the comics medium to find her (and apparently I don’t have a DC Universe Infinite account, but at least I’m therefore not paying for one… I hope).

I have read a bit of her in the last run of Titans before that book was cancelled (shortly after bringing Kyle Rayner into the group, which is more of my fuel in that I’m mad at DC). Mostly I know Megan from the impeccable Young Justice cartoon series.

YJ the cartoon may have been wildly different from any iteration of YJ the comic, but it was excellently done. Much better than some of the more successful tripe like Teen Titans Go!. There were real relationships and long-term storytelling there, and for my money, Miss Martian was THE most entertaining character on the whole show.

I wonder when season four is going to happen. I probably need to rewatch the first three seasons before it comes out.

6. Stargirl

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I quite enjoyed the first season her her TV show. I thought it moved a bit fast overall–it got into full-on JSA territory real damn quick–but the cast was great.

Stargirl was my favorite aspect of Geoff Johns’ JSA book from the early 2000’s. It was such a fun juxtaposition to have all of these old timey heroes like Sandman, Hawkman, Wildcat, and Alan Scott all working with the next generation like Courtney and Jakeem. There was a lot to love about that book, and that was one of the more enjoyable aspects.

Johns dedicated a lot of work to making Stargirl feel like a wholly realized character who belonged on a team of legends, and that was back around the turn of the century when he was batting 1.000 across DC.

5. Cassandra Sandsmark

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I’ve always been a big fan of the core Young Justice Quartet: Superboy, Time Drake, Impulse, and Cassie Sandsmark. YJ was a tremendous book under Peter David and Todd Nauck. Teen Titans with Geoff Johns and Mike McKone at the helm was equally fantastic, even if in an entirely different way. Across both series, Cassie had some delightful growth.

I still reread both titles to this day with some frequency, and it’s amusing to see the original Cassie in her stupid wig and goggles. Thank god she lost that look and became less awestruck by her partners as she grew into the role of a leader.

From there, much like her teammates, she had a rough New 52, and the Rebirth Young Justice title was cancelled after 20 issues. But I still try to check out anything she and her teammates are appearing in.

4. Renee Montoya

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Gotham Central and 52 are required reading. Both are tremendous, 52 in particular if you ask me, and Renee Montoya is a stand-out character in each.

She was actually introduced in Batman: The Animated Series–more on that in one more entry!–but was then migrated into the comics where she was fleshed out. And wonderfully so.

Like I said… just read 52 and Gotham Central. Brilliant books.

3. Harley Quinn

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That Harley Quinn cartoon series formerly on DC Universe is pretty rad. But DC has always done well by animated Harley. Hell, it’s where she came from!

Harley is obviously a pop culture phenomenon. She has had her own movie, which was the spin-off of a team movie of which she was the star, to go along with her cartoon and several monthly comic titles. Harley has a very Deadpool-esque journey from villain to lovable ‘tweener to anti-hero all the way to full-on good guy. She was just too popular to stay an antagonist for long.

She’s marketable, and her entire story is a great tale of leaving an abusive relationship and finding yourself. Absolutely deserving of a Top Three spot!

2. Wonder Woman

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I’ve honestly never been a HUGE Wonder Woman fan. But come on; it’s WONDER WOMAN. She has to place highly here. She’s the benchmark! But even then, I couldn’t put her as my #1.

Diana is THE female super hero. If you ask the layperson to name a super heroine, odds are they would think of her first. It’s the unquestionable #1 answer on Family Feud. Like I said… she’s WONDER WOMAN.

It really wasn’t until Gal Gadot’s portrayal of the character that I started liking her. To me, she had previously always been just the more boring parts of Superman combined with the more boring parts of Thor. And DC stories like Red Son or Injustice have seldom helped because they basically portray her as Superman’s lovesick toadie instead of her own independent force. THIS is the strongest woman in comics? The “I’ll be whatever he wants me to be” Diana? No. What? Come on, guys.

Kingdom Come got it a little right, even while keeping the love angle in play. She wasn’t afraid to disagree with Clark and break from him for what she thought was right. She is not and should not be a character who follows Superman around and does whatever he says. What terrible portrayals. Yuck.

Again, she is WONDER WOMAN. She is a centuries-old warrior who constantly has to struggle with bringing war to create peace.

I gotta find me some classic Wonder Woman runs and get more into her.

1. Barbara Gordon

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Alan Moore essentially “fridged” Barbara Gordon in his classic The Killing Joke story. That could have been it for the once-and-future Batgirl. She was paralyzed and abused and could have been easily either killed off or shunted into the background to be a victim.

Instead, DC made her one their very best characters.

She basically told her disability to screw off, but not in the insulting way where she just got better and moved on with her life (remember: Batman got his back broken, too, but then just no-sold it). She found a way to be important to the entire hero community even while unable to stand.

She was a role model character. There have been characters in comics with disabilities, but they usually had powers to supplement that. Barbara was just a smart, determined young woman.

And then DC just made her get better again anyway.

WHICH! I would be madder about, but her second go ’round as Batgirl had some greatly entertaining stories. Even if it was a Status Quo Is God regression for the character. But it was Gail Simone and the Batgirl of Burnside stuff, so I’ll allow it.

For me, as Oracle or as Batgirl, Babs is the gold standard of heroines in the DC Universe.

That was… a lit of kvetching about DC across that list! But it just infuriates me. DC has my absolute favorite era of comic books era–Post-Crisis, from the late 80’s to the mid 2000’s–but it feels like most of what they’ve done since Flashpoint has just been eradicating as much good will as possible.

But no matter… they still have a solid line up of female heroes. That’s a great top ten, and I didn’t even get into well-deserving characters like Raven, Donna Troy, Cassie Cain, Spoiler, Batwoman, and others who were right on Catwoman’s tail for inclusion. This was a HARD list to cull is what I’m saying.

So that’s a lot of room for negotiating. Who are YOUR top ten DC Super Heroines? Who was my most glaring omission? Who would you shuffle around?

Let me know in the comments!

Until next time… take care!

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