Anita Fite (Empress)

Anita Fite’s grandmother was a voodou priestess who relocated from Haiti to the Louisiana bayou, where she raised Anita’s mother. When Anita’s mother met and married Donald Fite, agent of the government’s All Purpose Enforcement Squad (A.P.E.S.), the young couple permitted Anita’s grandmother to beseech the gods’ favor for their unborn child.
Whether it was divine intervention or not, young Anita was born with enhanced athleticism, plus a piece of the Anti-Life Equation in her brain that allowed her to telepathically command others to do simple tasks. Her grandmother finished the job by training Anita in voodou, giving her the ability to perform various spells and teleport.
Years later, Anita happened to be at the mall when she witnessed Cissie King-Jones (who had just hung up her Arrowette mantle) stopping a thief, and was inspired to become a vigilante. Taking the codename Empress, she started hanging around Young Justice in a semi-creepy fashion, every so often stepping in to save their bacon. Eventually she officially joined the team, started a sort-of romance with Li’l Lobo/Slo-bo, and even befriended her idol Cissie, who was initially hostile towards her ‘replacement.’
When Anita’s father was killed by the evil voodou practitioner Agua Sin Gaaz who, years before, had killed Anita’s mother Anita went after him seeking revenge. Instead, thanks to Sin Gaaz’s experiments with cloning and resurrection, she found her parents again, reborn as infants. She took a break from Young Justice (which was soon to disband anyway) to concentrate on raising her parents. Comics, everyone!
So What’s So Great About Her?

I’m not going to lie. There are aspects of Anita’s character that make me go ‘Wait, what?’ Like, did the only non-white member of Young Justice really have to be the voodou-spell-casting granddaughter of a voodou priestess? Did she really sometimes have to get naked to perform her oh-so-exotic-and-spooky bloodletting spells? And why does she speak with a Jamaican accent, mon, when she’s from Louisiana?
But if you can get past the problematic origin (unfortunately all too common with characters of color in comics) and train your eyes to gloss over the ‘accent,’ Anita is a welcome addition to the YJ crew. She’s witty and entertainingly badass. She’s open-minded enough to date someone like Li’l Lobo, and is able to see the humor in the inevitable farce that is their date. And though she has a certain amount of hero worship for Cissie, she’s both empathetic enough to understand why Cissie is being catty towards her when Anita takes her slot on the team, and bold enough to tell Cissie where to stick it when Cissie tells her to quit.
That last bit is important, because if Anita’s got anything, it’s the courage of her convictions. She becomes a superhero simply because she realizes that she wants to use her exceptional abilities to help sadly, a rarity for female characters. She charges fearlessly into danger both to rescue her father and to revenge herself upon his murderer (though due to plot machinations, she’s not the one who kills Sin Gaaz). And when she finds herself a bizarre comic book version of a teen mom, she goes right ahead and raises her parents (presumably A.P.E.S. is footing the bills?).
Anita hasn’t been seen much since the cancellation of Young Justice, though a guest spot in Supergirl shows that she’s still taking care of her folks even if that means fighting a Kryptonian. But she’s a great, fun character, and hopefully some writer will pull her out of limbo soon.
Notable Appearances
Young Justice #16-55
Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day
Infinite Crisis #6
Wonder Girl miniseries
Final Crisis #1
Supergirl v5 #33Anita Fite (Empress)

Raven Darkholme (Mystique)

Publisher: Marvel Comics
First Appearance: Ms. Marvel #16 (as Raven) & 18 (as Mystique) (1978)
Created By: Chris Claremont & Dave Cockrum

Not much is known about the early life of the shapeshifter knowb as Mystique—not even her real name; Raven is merely her most favored alias. She is certainly much older than she looks, having been an adult at the turn of the 20th century, when she met her partner and love of her life, the blind seer Irene Adler. Years later, Mystique active in the espionage game during World War II, apparently unaged.
During the Cold War era, she was both busy as a spy and assassin and getting busy, if you know what I’m saying. First she knocked boots with crazed murderer Sabretooth, which resulted in a son, Graydon; she later abandoned the boy when he turned out to not be a mutant. She then had an affair with a demon-y looking asshole, Azazel, which led to a second son, born with blue fur and a tail; to save herself from the resulting freaked-out mob, she threw the newborn off a cliff. Being comics, he landed in a river and safely floated into the arms of a fortune-teller, growing up to be the X-Man Nightcrawler.
You might guess that Mystque isn’t too into kids, but actually, she and Irene went on to adopt and raise a little girl, Rogue, from a very young age. Being the great mom that she is, Mystique convinced Rogue to join her team, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (guess what: they were bad guys). Rogue’s powers, which cause her to absorb the powers and memories of others through skin-to-skin contact, almost unhinged her; she went to the X-Men for help, which made family reunions kind of awkward.
Mystique sort of reformed for a while, renaming the Brotherhood a more PR-happy ‘Freedom Force’ and working for the government, but Irene’s death led her to fall off the murder wagon. In time, a chip was implanted in her brain to control the use of her powers and she was forced into the service of another government team, X-Factor. Obviously, that goes really well; once the dust had cleared, her mutant-hating son and presidential nominee, Graydon, was dead by her hand, and Mystique was on the run again.
She spent some time impersonating a senator’s wife and living it up as a top European model, but most of her focus was investigating a widespread anti-mutant conspiracy. Repeated flip-flopping from the side of good to the side of evil and back again (she’s worked with the X-Men many times, despite having tried to kill Xavier’s son and successfully killing his lover; way to be, Charles) has done little but leave a trail of bodies and confusion in her wake. At the moment, Norman Osborn’s infected her with nanites, which would blow her up if she tried anything funny, and more or less forced her onto his Dark X-Men. She’s impersonating Jean Grey right now, which probably isn’t upsetting anyone (note: this is a lie).
So What’s So Great About Her?

Whereas Ms. Marvel was Marvel Comics’ optimistic take on what women’s lib might lead to — strong, powerful, heroic women who follow the American Way and just so happen to be blue-eyed blondes who look great in a bathing suit — her first major arch-rival, Mystique (haha, get it?) represented the horrors that could result. She was tirelessly self-serving, inflicted pain without remorse, and was a traitor to the USA. Her racial origin was impossible to ascertain with a glance, and she was in love with another woman. Possibly worst of all, she had a daughter and was encouraging her to take a similar path! Ooooh, terrifying, right?
Or, you know, awesome. I think it’s pretty telling that while Ms. Marvel eventually went more or less dormant as a character, only popping up now and then to freak Rogue out (they’ve been using her more effectively in recent years), Mystique went on to become one of the company’s most iconic villains. From her frankly bizarre design — bright blue skin! bright red hair! bright yellow eyes! it’s like a preschooler colored her in with some jumbo crayons — to her slinky, pristine white fantasy bad-girl getup, she cuts a memorable figure to say the least.
But even more striking is how totally terrifying Mystique is, when you really think about it. Yes, part of that is the fact that she could be anyone, but even scarier is her total lack of predictability. When it serves her to be, she’s an excellent ally, but she’ll also kill you if you happen to stand of the way of her goal. Even if you’re her child.
I think you could spend days trying to analyze Mystique’s motherly instincts and not get very far; they’re complex and confusing and thus totally realistic. Her firstborn is heartlessly abandoned when it seems that he won’t be useful, yet even when he becomes mutantkind’s worst enemy, she still seemed reluctant to actually kill Graydon. Then she tossed her second son off a cliff to save herself, but many years later, she confessed that she had dreams where she killed Rogue, but couldn’t bear to harm Kurt. So, does she love them? Hate them? Lukewarm about them? Who the hell knows! Probably not Mystique.
And then there’s Rogue. Jeez louise, talk about a mother-daughter relationship from hell—Rogue abandoned her, Rogue tried to thwart her, Rogue faked her death and failed to send Mystique the memo, Mystique keeps trying to kill her friends, Mystique tries to seduce Rogue’s boyfriend, she shoots Rogue, they stab each other. As you do, right? But when you don’t have to look to closely to realize that it’s ultimately the classic tale of a parent and child constantly seeking validation from each other, only to lead to disappointment again and again. They do love each other—and I wonder if Rogue’s Mystique’s favorite because this is the child she raised with Irene.
Oh, Irene and Mystique. It’s the love that former editor-in-chief Jim Shooter’s homophobic ‘no gay people in the Marvel Universe’ policy could not kill. For all the dudes who have come and gone in Mystique’s life, her true love will always be a soft-spoken blind woman. It’s the one touch of sweetness in Mystique’s entire history, and their interactions are incredibly moving. Oh, and P.S. apparently they were Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Irene Adler and Sherlock Holmes (with Mystique masquerading as the male detective). COMICS, YOU ARE STUPID AND I LOVE YOU.
But soft spot or no, Mystique is clearly not a person you want to tread lightly with. Especially if she happens to be your mommy.

Notable Appearances
Ms. Marvel #16; #18
Uncanny X-Men #142
Rom #31
Uncanny X-Men #177-178; 183-185
Marvel Fanfare #40
Uncanny X-Men #199
X-Factor #10
Uncanny X-Men #223-224; 225-227; 254-255; 266; 269
X-Factor #69-70
Uncanny X-Men #289-290
Sabretooth #1-4
X-Men Unlimited #4
X-Factor #108
X-Men Prime
X-Factor #112-139
Uncanny X-Men #359
X-Men #93-94
Uncanny X-Men #379
X-Men #99
Uncanny X-Men #380
X-Men Forever #1-6
X-Men #104-105
Uncanny X-Men #388-389; 401-406; 428; 431
X-Treme X-Men #1
Mystique #1-24
X-Men #171-174
Wolverine #62-65
X-Men: Manifest Destiny #1-5
Dark X-Men: The Beginning #1-3
Uncanny X-Men #513-514
X-Men: Legacy #226-227
Dark X-Men #1-5
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Martha Clark Kent

It’s May, which means Mother’s Day is coming up (in North America, at least)! This month, we’ll be spotlighting the mothers of comics: the good, the bad, and the crazy.
Publisher: DC Comics
First Appearance: Superman v1 #1 (Summer 1939)
Created By: Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

Jonathan and Martha Kent were just your average, everyday, salt-of-the-earth Kansas farmers, until a rocket crashed into their property and changed their lives. When they found a beautiful baby boy inside the rocket, Martha, who had longed for a child for years, insisted on keeping him. Luckily, a major snowstorm swept through Smallville, keeping them stranded at home for months, and allowing the Kents to pass their foundling off as their own: Clark Kent.
As little Clark (Martha’s maiden name) grew, he began to display superpowers. In order to protect Clark and allow him to live a normal life, his parents taught him to hide his powers. When he reached adulthood, Clark decided to take on a new identity as Superman; Martha sewed him a costume out of the Kryptonian blanket he’d been wrapped in as a baby, and helped him come up with a disguise for Clark (yes, a pair of glasses counts as a disguise. I guess).
Since then, Jonathan and Martha have been crucial members of Clark’s support network as he juggles his dual lives. When Clark brought them an alternate dimension Supergirl named Matrix, the Kents took her in and cared for her like a daughter. Later, they took in Clark’s half-clone and their sort-of grandson Conner Kent (Superboy). Soon after, Conner died in Infinite Crisis, and Jonathan died of a heart attack. Despite this, Martha remained independent, sending Clark off to New Krypton rather than be a burden on him. Luckily, first Krypto, Clark’s dog, and then a resurrected Conner moved in with her, easing her loneliness and grief.
So What’s So Great About Her?

The way the Superman mythos works, Martha Kent is required to be the greatest mother in the world. It’s that simple. Superman is the best dude in the world, and he learned it from his parents, so Martha is the best mom in the world (and Jonathan is the best dad, but this blog is about the ladies. Sorry, Pa).
This could easily mean that Martha is nothing but an elderly Donna Reed figure, sewing up Superman’s cape and baking him pies and letting the men do the talking. The awesome thing is that she’s anything but. Yes, she does sew up his cape when he needs it (though she also taught him to sew), and yes, she does bake a mean apple pie, but she’s also smart and practical and unwilling to put up with any nonsense from her husband, her son, or the host of superpowered teenagers the latter keeps dropping on her doorstep. She’s battled a Black Lantern, and helped Jimmy Olsen trick a crew of partying aliens off of Earth. In her Birthright incarnation, she’s tech-savvy, studying UFOs and keeping up with Clark via encrypted email; on Lois and Clark, she had a host of non-farm-related interests, including modern art and sculpting, and used them to save the day on more than one occasion.
Furthermore, she doesn’t fall into any hackneyed mother-in-law stereotypes. She loves Lois like a daughter and is always there with either advice or a kick in the pants, depending on what Lois needs. Awesomely, she also has a really close relationship with Lana, Clark’s ex-girlfriend. Martha Kent blows the myth of female competition right out of the water, which is great to see after so many years of Clark being fought over by women.
Superman has been a cultural icon for over 70 years now. He’s honest and true and brave and dependable, and it ain’t because of a pair of red booty shorts and cape. Superman’s a hero because he learned it from his mom. Way to go, Martha.

Notable Appearances
Martha Kent has appeared in countless Superman-related comics and other media, but here are a few of her greatest hits:
Superman v1 #1 (as Mary Kent)
Superman v1 #53 (as Mary Kent)
Superboy v1 #12
New Adventures of Superboy #1
Superman v1 #161
The Man of Steel
The World of Smallville
Superman: Birthright
Superman: Secret Origin
Superman: New Krypton Special
Blackest Night: Superman #1-3

Jessica Campbell Jones-Cage (Jewel/Power Woman)

Our month-long tribute to comic book momsthe good, the bad, and the completely insanecontinues!
Publisher: Marvel Comics
First Appearance: Alias #1 (2001)
Created By: Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydros

When Jessica Campbell was a teenager, her life irrevocably changed when her family’s car was struck by a truck carrying radioactive material. Though everyone else she loved was killed, she ended up in a coma for several months. When she awoke, she discovered that she now had enhanced strength, limited invulnerability and fight—and soon, a new adoptive family, the Joneses.
Inspired by Spider-Man, she decided to become a super-hero named Jewel. Her super-career was pretty unextraordinary until she ended up in the thrall of the mind-controlling Purple Man. He spent months torturing her by forcing her to watch as he raped other women and making her strip naked and beg to have sex with him. Eventually, he sent her to the Avengers mansion to kill Daredevil. Considering Daredevil wasn’t an Avenger, she was unsuccessful and soundly beaten by the Vision and Iron Man until Carol Danvers intervened, resulting in another coma.
As Jessica recovered, Jean Grey helped her regain control of her mental state and build up more resistance to mind control. Considering the trauma of her ordeal, though, and the fact that she went missing for eight months without anyone caring, made her seriously question her super-heroing. She briefly tried a darker persona, Knightress, before throwing in the towel.
She was much better suited working as a private eye, which was her next career choice. Around this time, she also started dating Scott Lang (Ant-Man) while also picking up a casual affair with Luke Cage. When Jessica got pregnant with the latter’s baby, their relationship became serious. From there, she switched to journalism, working for The Pulse, a supplement for The Daily Bugle, which of course ended poorly because, hey, J. Jonah Jameson is not a good boss. During that time, her pregnancy was put at risk several times by the Green Goblin, which, um, only made it clearer how much she wanted the baby (see the illustration below for evidence).
After the birth of their daughter, Danielle, Luke and Jessica married. Despite some friction (they struggled when Jessica opted to support the Superhuman Registration Act to protect Danielle…plus there was that time when an alien kidnapped their baby), their relationship has been strong. In fact, Jessica even decided to try super-heroing again and joined the New Avengers, eventually choosing the name Power Woman in honor of her husband.

So What’s So Great About Her?
In comics, a lot of women become superheroes after experiencing sexual violence. Whether it’s as revenge targeted against criminals as a whole or as a means of empowerment, they don the proverbial cape, leap into the night…and often never mention the abuse again. I find this upsetting for numerous reasons: A) it’s so common that it’s practically cliche; B) the idea of all these creators blithely subjecting their characters to this kind of trauma is stomach-churning; C) male characters don’t usually need such a dark reason to get into the hero game (they’re a lot more likely to do it because it’s the right thing to do or just because it’s cool); and D) it’s almost never well-handled.
According to the George Mason University Worldwide Sexual Assault Statistics (2005), 1 in 3 American women will be sexually abused during the course of her life. That number is both horrifying and troublingly unsurprising, at least to me. But then, I’m a member of that third of the female population, so maybe it’s understandable that I’m not naive when it comes to this subject. And maybe it’s also understandable that whenever I come across one of these abuse-heavy backstories, I feel like punching the writer in the face.
But then, here we have Jessica Jones. Instead of becoming a hero in response to sexual violence, she stopped being one.
Don’t get me wrong, I have tons of problems with Jessica’s plot, most of which have nothing to do with her. It’s painful to read the flashbacks to her time in thrall to Purple Man. It blows my mind that we’re supposed to just accept the fact that two male heroes (well, one male hero and one male-identified robot) beat a woman into a coma, though I do like that the people who subsequently came to her rescue are women, Carol and Jean.
But considering the horrific abuse she suffered, Jessica emerges as arguably the most realistic survivor of sexual violence in comics, because she needed time to recover. She tried to bounce back like the others, picking up the Knightress persona for about a week, but it didn’t work. So instead, she took time off, dealt with being broken and depressed and self-destructive sometimes, and did other things. Her experience with Purple Man wasn’t glossed over — it became a very important part of her past, something that molded a great deal of her personality as it is today. That may not be how it is for all sexual abuse survivors, but it is for a lot of them.
And ultimately, Jessica has returned to being a full-fledged superhero in her own right. While I can’t say I love her new codename (Power Woman? The female form of her husband’s codename? Which is one of the most bland codenames of all time, to the point where it’s barely even used?), I do love that she specifically did it to serve as a role model for her daughter. Not that she actually needed to. After all, Jessica survived horrible sexual violenceas so many doand still managed to carve out several respectable careers, create a stable, loving relationship, and become a terrific mom to a child she obviously adores. That, I think, is more than enough to make her a role model.

Notable Appearances

Jessica’s currently appearing in the rebooted New Avengers, but for other Jessica-heavy comics…
Alias #1-28
Daredevil (vol.2) #36; 48
The Pulse #1-14
New Avengers Annual #1
New Avengers Annual #2
Secret Invasion #7-8
New Avengers #49-51
New Avengers Annual #3
New Avengers (vol.2) #7-8

Jade Nguyen (Cheshire)

Jade was born in Vietnam to a local woman and either a French visitor or a U.S. senator, depending on which version of events she feeds you. She was sold into slavery as a child, but killed her master and went on to learn absolutely everything about poisons from an assassin named Kruen Musenda, to whom she was briefly married.
A criminal mastermind and international terrorist, Cheshire soon came to the attention of the Teen Titans, and the government sent Roy Harper (Speedy/Arsenal/Red Arrow/Arsenal/sigh) on an undercover mission to gain her confidence. However, they fell in love, and he walked out, knowing he could never turn her in. Later, he found that she had borne him a daughter, Lian, who he took custody of.
Unencumbered with a child, Cheshire decided to blackmail the world, Dr. Evil-style. To prove she was serious, she nuked the fictional nation of Qurac. She didn’t manage to collect her blackmail money, but escaped retribution and founded a team called the Ravens, who broke her out of jail after she was sentenced to life imprisonment. She then attempted to kill the senator she swore was her father, hoping to frame Lady Shiva for the crime and flee the country with Lian, but was stopped by the Birds of Prey.
She reemerged as a member of the Secret Six, blackmailed into joining by the mysterious Mockingbird, who threatened to kill Lian if she didn’t cooperate. Cheshire took matters into her own, um, hands, by sleeping with Catman and becoming pregnant. With a replacement child on the way, she betrayed the Six and disappeared to the Himalayas to raise her son, Thomas.
Despite this, when Lian was killed by Prometheus, Cheshire hunted down Roy and attacked him, blaming him for Lian’s death. She then lost her younger child when Thomas was kidnapped. Catman hunted down the kidnappers, ensured his son’s safety, and then told Cheshire that Thomas was dead to protect the boy from his mother.
Most recently, Cheshire has become a member of Deathstroke’s Titans, working with him and Roy in a complicated web of secrets and double-crosses.
So What’s So Great About Her?
As a villain, Cheshire is terrifying. Black Canary called her ‘the second most deadly assassin in the world,’ and when your competition is Lady Shiva, coming in second is no shame. She’s triple-jointed and trained in several lost martial arts, and just as capable with weapons as hand-to-hand. Moreover, when it comes to poison, she’s nearly as deadly as Poison Ivy, whose body manufactures it naturally; a bite or a scratch from her will leave you puking your guts out all night, and that’s if you’re lucky. She’s a master manipulator, always ready with a double cross, and totally unpredictable. And she’s utterly ruthless. I mean, she nuked a country to prove a point. A fictional country with a hilariously silly name, but still a country. And she does it all while wearing a dressing gown!
As a mother, Cheshire’s even more terrifying.
Oh, there’s no doubt she loves her children, for whatever given value of ‘love’ Cheshire is capable of feeling. On the one hand, that means she’ll let herself be apprehended to protect Lian. Aw, touching.
On the other hand, it means that she’ll contact an insanely convoluted revenge scheme against Black Canary because, as Lian’s sort-of aunt/sort-of grandma/general mother figure, Dinah gets to sing Lian to sleep and Cheshire doesn’t. Less touching.
When Lian’s life is used as a bargaining chip against her, Cheshire goes ahead and gets knocked up with what she literally calls a ‘replacement’ but when Lian is killed in an unrelated disaster, she tracks down Roy and lays her grief and rage at his feet. She’s not blasé about her children or their deaths, real or faked. She’s just determined to always stay one step ahead of her enemies.
All this adds up to a character who is super entertaining to read. She’s got just enough complexity to make her almost sympathetic and totally unpredictable, while still remaining dangerous to any hero she happens to be facing off with. She’s gleefully bad: she genuinely seems to enjoy what she’s doing, whether it’s dropping nukes or picking up stubbled ‘n’ troubled hero-types. And hey, you can’t fault her taste in baby daddies!
In conclusion, I’m really really glad Cheshire’s not real.
Notable Appearances:
New Teen Titans Annual #2
Tales of the Teen Titans #51-52
New Teen Titans v2 #20-21
Action Comics Weekly #613-618
Deathstroke the Terminator #17-20
Birds of Prey: Ravens
Birds of Prey v1 #4-6, 29
Titans v1 #10-12, 21-22, 30
Birds of Prey v1 #63-67
Villains United #1-6
Secret Six v2 #1-6
Secret Six v3 #1-7
The Rise of Arsenal #2-3
Secret Six v3 #19-24
Titans: Villains for Hire Special #1
Cheshire has been co-starring in Titans v2 since issue #24.

Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Allan Osborn

Publisher: Marvel Comics
First Appearance: Amazing Fantasy #15 (1962)
Created By: Stan Lee & Steve Ditko
Gorgeous Liz Allan was Peter Parker’s big high school crush, but she was far more interested in her popular jock boyfriend, Flash ‘Douchebag’ Thompson, to pay any serious attention to Midtown High’s brainy wallcrawlerflower. In fact, it was way more fun to tease him along with the rest of the school’s popular crowd.
It wasn’t until he started dating his Daily Bugle colleague Betty Brant that Liz started having second thoughts about her feelings for him. She even began to openly pursue him, though neither ended up winning the hand of fair Peter in the end. Also, the fact that her stepbrother happened to be the Molten Man, one of Spider-Man’s rogues, probably didn’t help.
Liz and Peter lost touch for several years. When she did come back into his life, it was as the girlfriend of his bestie, Harry Osborn; ironically, she’d met him at the wedding of her old rival, Betty. Eventually, she and Harry married and became the loving parents of Normie.
Maybe naming him after Harry’s insane, murderous father, Norman Osborn, aka the Green Goblin, wasn’t the best choice. In time, Harry picked up his late father’s mantle and even tried to get little Normie into the family business. Liz begged her husband to give up the mask for their son’s sake and was horrified to watch Normie idolize Harry more and more. Luckily (?), Harry ended up dying before he could fully sway Normie over to the dark side.
With both Norman and Harry dead, Liz picked up the slack at OsCorp by running the company. After a while, she even found new romance with Foggy Nelson, a partner at Matt Murdock’s law firm, though it ended acrimoniously. (Mysterio made him cheat. You know. As happens.)
‘One More Day,’ the storyline that infamously undid Peter and Mary Jane’s marriage and the worldwide knowledge of his secret identity, also bizarrely resulted in the undeadening of Harry Osborn. It was explained that his death was faked so he could spend time in rehab. Because, um, that’s logical. Liz was not having these shenanigans, and they’ve since divorced.
So What’s So Great About Her?
Peter Parker is just one in a long line of heroes who’s inexplicably with someone who’s a total douchewagon. Sure, Liz was a gorgeous high schooler, but for the most part she varied between not knowing he existed and actively joining in on taunting him. There are pretty girls who are nice, Pete! (Which he eventually found out. Granted, he started dating a nice, pretty, adult woman, but that’s probably better left for Betty’s post.)
Most people experience bullying in school to some degree; if you didn’t, you probably were the bully. (Please don’t swirly me.) These can be really painful experiences, and it’s tempting to read fiction where the mean kid becomes a mean adult and then gets her just desserts by being pantsed in front of dreamy Johnny Storm or getting punched in the face by a hundred angry bonobos.
But sometimes a leopard does change her spots. Liz has never been a central character in the Spider-Man mythos, but she’s one of its most long-lasting, and I’m glad that we get to see her evolve. Distanced from the petty dramas of high school, she eventually matured into a loyal sister, loving spouse, a good mother, and a conscientious boss. Not unlike most comic book women, she happens to have unbelievably bad taste in men — a chronic bully, a struggling drug addict/crazy murderous super-villain, a sad sack (I still love you, Peter!), and Foggy, whose name alone should disqualify him from any sort of lasting relationship. (He also cheated on her, though Mysterio, like, hypnotized him into doing it. Never change, comics.)
And Liz has really suffered through a lot of supremely crappy situations, like dealing with her father-in-law Norman McMurderface, being widowed — not that she remembers — and trying to make marriage to the Green Goblin work. Through the worst of it, she seems to keep Normie’s well-being her number-one priority. I have to respect her for that. Besides, ultimately, I’d really rather the high school jerkwads of the world reform and contribute to society than see them suffer through sweet, sweet revenge. (Except for you, Astrid. You know who you are.)
Notable Appearances

Liz is still an occasional supporting character is Amazing Spider-Man, which is published twice monthly.
Amazing Fantasy #15
Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #4,10,12-15,17-18, 22, 24-26, 28, 30,139, 156-157, 166, 170
Spectacular Spider-Man (vol. 1) #85
Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #260-261, 263
Web of Spider-Man #69
Spectacular Spider-Man (vol. 1) Annual #14
Spectacular Spider-Man (vol. 1) #177
Spectacular Spider-Man (vol. 1) #189-190
Spectacular Spider-Man (vol. 1) #234
Sensational Spider-Man (vol. 1) #5
Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #412
Daredevil (vol. 1) #358
Sensational Spider-Man (vol. 1) #10
Daredevil (vol. 1) #362, 363, 366
Spectacular Spider-Man (vol. 1) #250
Daredevil (vol. 1) #370
Daredevil (vol. 2) #8
Amazing Spider-Man Annual 2000
Spectacular Spider-Man (vol. 1) #255
Peter Parker: Spider-Man (vol. 2) #18
Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #581

Bonnie King Jones (Miss Arrowette)

Bonnie King was a gifted archer gifted enough to win an Olympic bronze medal. But her controlling mother expected her to win the gold, and the ensuing fight caused Bonnie to cut ties with her mother.
Inspired by Green Arrow, Bonnie decided to use her archery to fight crime alongside them, creating an arsenal of ‘girly’ arrows, including powder puff arrows and mascara arrows. Hey, it was the early 60s. Ollie was not at all pleased by his new would-be sidekick, and did his best to talk her out of superheroics (though he wasn’t above dating her in his civilian identity, because that’s just how Ollie rolls). Undaunted, Bonnie kept fighting crime as Miss Arrowette. She even got a sidekick of sorts: her biggest fan, journalist Bernell ‘Bowstring’ Jones.
When her job as a secretary gave her carpal tunnel syndrome, Bonnie was forced to give up archery. She talked Bowstring into marrying her and they had a daughter, Cissie (though Bonnie has implied that she’s actually Ollie’s). Bowstring died a few years later from food poisoning, and Bonnie used the insurance money to turn Cissie into the superhero she’d always wanted to be. She drove Cissie so hard that soon after Cissie’s debut as Arrowette, Child Welfare Services intervened and Bonnie lost custody of her daughter.
Cissie retired from superheroics after nearly losing control and killing a criminal, and she and Bonnie attempted a tentative reconciliation. In fact, with Bonnie’s encouragement, Cissie entered the ‘Summer Games’ (read: Olympics) and won the gold thanks, in part, to Bonnie foiling attempts at sabotage from the other competitors.
So What’s So Great About Her?

Just like Bianca Reyes is a believably good mother, Bonnie King is a believably bad mother. She has no plans for world domination. She didn’t train Cissie to be an assassin or sacrifice her to a cult. She’s just the world’s most overbearing stage mother, where the ‘stage’ is ‘shooting potentially-lethal projectiles at super-powered criminals while wearing a tiara.’ Like you do.
And there’s no question about Bonnie being a bad mother. She subjects her daughter to years of emotional and verbal abuse along with reckless endangerment. Even when she loses custody of Cissie, she’s still trying to market her daughter as the star of Young Justice, still laughing off Cissie’s serious injuries and trying to convince herself this is the life Cissie wants. It takes Cissie nearly committing murder to make Bonnie finally acknowledge that her daughter is angry and unhappy and that Bonnie made her that way.
But there’s also no question that Bonnie loves her daughter. Cissie is Bonnie’s entire world to an unhealthy degree, certainly, but the love is there. And once Cissie retires from superheroics, Bonnie’s obsessive focus turns into a protective Mama Bear instinct that winds up working for for Cissie; at the Summer Games, Bonnie spots the Golden Age villain Huntress training a disguised weapon on Cissie, and takes Huntress out with a well-thrown lighter.
Most importantly, though, Bonnie does genuinely try to improve. Once it’s made clear to her that the vigilante lifestyle is not a good fit for Cissie, she tries to find other ways of connecting with her daughter, without pressuring her. She tries to show Cissie that her talent for archery is innate, not just something forced on her by Bonnie, and that Cissie can still enjoy archery, competition, and even the spotlight when she guest-stars in an episode of Wendy the Werewolf Stalker without dredging up all the negative memories from her time as a superhero. Rather than shape Cissie into a better version of herself, she presents Cissie with opportunities and lets Cissie choose whether or not to take them.
Bonnie isn’t going to win Mother of the Year any time soon, except maybe on a very special episode of Toddlers and Tiaras. But she’s a fascinating character who feels very real in her failings, and who’s trying to do better. And at the end of the day, she does love her daughter. That’s got to count for something, right?
Notable Appearances:
…or, you know, all her appearances. Same diff.
World’s Finest Comics #113, 118, 134
Justice League of America v1 #7
Impulse #28
Young Justice #7, 16, 18, 20-21, 24-25, 29-30, 33-34, 49-53, 55
Young Justice 80-Page Giant

Bianca Reyes

Publisher: DC Comics
First Appearance: Blue Beetle v6 #1 (May 2006)
Created By: Keith Giffen, John Rogers, and Cully Hamner

Bianca Reyes had a good life: a job as a nurse, a loving husband, and two wonderful kids. That is, until her son Jaime went missing and her husband was shot, leaving him dependent on a cane to get around. Then Jaime returned after a year of being gone, full of wild stories of fighting evil satellites in space with the Justice League, and with an undetectable piece of alien technology bonded to his spine. That allowed him to fly. And shoot things. And get shot at.
Did I mention the aliens who owned the tech planned on invading Earth?
Bianca coped as well as any mother could, laying down ground rules (if you’re going to be out late fighting monsters, call first) and cowing various sketchy superheroes who showed up to mentor or hassle Jaime. When the Reach, the aliens who’d messed with her son, attacked the rest of the Reyes family, she fought back along with her husband and Jaime’s friends and helped repel the Reach’s attempted invasion of Earth.
The last we saw of Bianca, she was still supporting her son in his new life as a superhero, and though we haven’t really seen her since Jaime’s solo series ended, I think it’s safe to assume she’s still doing just that.
So What’s So Great About Her?

Comic books are full of extreme personalities. The characters are larger than life, and so mothers, for example, veer wildly between the Greatest Mother Ever (Ma Kent) and the Worst Mother Ever (hoo boy, some steep competition there). But every so often I come across a mother who reads as real to me; a mother who, if I ever make my own mother happy, marry that Jewish doctor, and crank out the babies, is the kind of mother I’d like to be.
Bianca Reyes is that kind of mother.
Bianca was a woman with a hard job to do raising two kids and then the Reach went and made it harder by sticking their scarab in her son’s spine. And as hard as she tries, she doesn’t always get it right. When Jaime first shows her the Blue Beetle armor, she accuses him of not being her son anymore. She struggles with guilt over that reaction, along with frustration at not being able to help Jaime in a medical capacity despite being a nurse, and fear that her son will be killed or lost to her now that he’s fighting the neverending battle.
But she copes with all that, and she copes admirably. She’s nurturing and loving: she makes sure Jaime knows he can tell her anything, whether it be scarab- or sexuality-related, and she’s the one he turns to when his best friend Brenda is emotionally devastated and needs somebody she can trust. She’s fun, teasing and bantering with her kids and getting as many laugh-out-loud one-liners as the rest of the cast. But she’s anything but a pushover: Jaime is subject to the same rules about not attacking guests and watching his language that he was before he got his fancy-pants bugsuit, and homework still comes first.
And badass? Everyone loves the scene where Bianca backs down an enraged Guy Gardner with nothing but her angry face, but I prefer the scene where she coolly sedates Peacemaker, who’s attempting to strangle her, then snarks at him. And let’s not forget that when the Reach tries to wipe out Jaime’s family, Bianca makes sure her daughter is safe, then picks up a gun right alongside her veteran husband, a gang, and a handful of superheroes, and kicks some alien ass all while quizzing her son’s new girlfriend on her college prospects. Way to multitask, Bianca!
Bianca was the coolest mom in town before her son got superpowers, and she remains the coolest mom in town after he gets them. If that hypothetical Jewish doctor and I ever make my mother a grandmother, I would prefer my kids not have dangerous extraterrestrial tech hooked up to their nervous systems…but other than that, I want to be just like Bianca.

Notable Appearances:
Bianca was a regular supporting character in Blue Beetle v6. She doesn’t appear in all 36 issues, but you should read them all anyway, because they’re great.
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Kara Zor-L/Karen Starr (Power Girl)

Karen is the Earth-2 counterpart of Supergirl, first cousin to Superman. When her universe’s Krypton (Krypton-2?) exploded, Karen, like Superman, was placed in a rocket to Earth. However, hers took years to arrive, and so unlike Supergirl, who debuted as a docile teenager in the 1950s, Power Girl debuted as an adult woman in the liberated 1970s. In her very first appearance, she defies Superman’s orders to keep her powers hidden and helps the Justice Society save a village by singlehandedly putting out a volcano. It’s great.
Karen served as a member of the JSA until the Crisis in 1985. In the new continuity, Earth-2 and Supergirl no longer existed, but somehow Karen squeaked through. Now she was the granddaughter of the ancient Atlantean sorcerer Arion, sent 1000 years into the future to protect her from his enemies. Her powers became magic-based and were also severely downgraded, thanks to an injury. She became vulnerable to ‘organic material’ (so, like…sticks), gave birth to a magical immaculately conceived baby who thankfully quickly aged to adulthood and disappeared forever, and discovered that drinking diet soda made her irrational and temperamental (read: ‘bitchy’). It wasn’t a good time for her.
In the late 1990s, Karen joined the reformed Justice Society, and has been a major player on that team ever since. In 2006 the multiverse was restored, as well as Karen’s origin as a survivor of Krypton-2 and her Kyrptonian powers. With her superheroic identity settled, she moved to New York, reopened her software company Starr Enterprises, and is now working on her civilian identity as well in her very first ongoing series.
So What’s So Great About Her?

DC’s attempts at writing feminism in the 1970s were often awkward. (Hell, they’re often awkward now there’s a reason this site exists.) ‘Feminist’ characters were often written as crazed, overly-strident harridans, shrieking about the hapless men on the team opening doors for them. Karen was a feminist right from the get-go, butting heads with cranky old Wildcat and demanding her rightful place in the JSA’s boys’ club, and her combative attitude often put her firmly in the ‘harridan’ category.
The thing is, though, while characters like Wonder Woman and Lois Lane eventually stopped being vilified for demanding equality, Karen’s aggression and self-confidence meant that she was constantly being taken to task for her ‘bad attitude.’ One Earth-2 she was patronized by her cousin and her teammates; during her tenure in the JLE she spent her time being depowered, impregnated by wizards, subjected to ever more offensive theories about what was ‘wrong’ with her, and leered at by Wally West. And that’s not even getting into all the grief she’s received about her costume, on-panel and off.
A lesser woman would have caved under all that pressure, but not Power Girl. Karen remains the same aggressive, independent, shitkicking vocal feminist she was in 1976. In recent years a lot has been done to make her a more complex and well-rounded character; she’s gained a sense of fun, built stronger relationships with other characters in the DCU, and found a steady home with the JSA. Her mentor/protégé relationship with the current Terra, her reclaiming of Starr Enterprises, and the sheer magic that occurs when Amanda Conner draws her have done a lot to broaden the character’s appeal.
But at the end of the day, the shitkicking feminist is the core of Power Girl’s character. She’s tough and she’s unafraid to speak her mind and she knows she deserves every bit of respect the men around her get. Yes, she’s got a big rack. Yes, there have been numerous stumbly explanations for the boob window that only make things worse. Who cares? What’s important is that she kicks ass, and that she knows that she kicks ass. So here’s to Power Girl, the shitkickingest Kryptonian of them all.
Notable Appearances:
All-Star Comics #58-74
Showcase #97-99
Infinity, Inc. v1 #1-12
Secret Origins v2 #11 first post-Crisis origin
Power Girl v1 #1-4
Justice League Europe #1-50
Justice League International v2 #51-67
Justice League America #105-108 the…sigh…mystical pregnancy
JSA #31-87
Justice Society of America v3 #1-33
JSA Classified #1-4
Infinite Crisis #2-6
Karen is currently starring in Power Girl v2 and JSA All-Stars #1-18, though the latter is scheduled to be canceled in a couple of months. If you read nothing else with the character, pick up the trades Power Girl: A New Beginning and Power Girl: Aliens and Apes, which collect the delightful Jimmy Palmiotti/Justin Gray/Amanda Conner arc that kicked off her ongoing series. The trade Power Girl is a good overview of the post-Crisis, pre-Infinite Crisis Karen.

Tara Markov (Terra I)

Tara Markov was the illegitimate daughter of the king of Markovia. Like her half-brother Brion, the legitimate prince of Marvokia, she was experimented on by a doctor named Helga Jace, who gave both children the power to manipulate earth and rock. Brion became the superhero Geo-Force, while Tara was sent to America to avoid a scandal. There she adopted the name Terra and started using her powers to steal. When the New Teen Titans apprehended her, she explained that she’d been kidnapped by terrorists, who were forcing her to steal for them. The Titans took down the terrorists and offered Terra membership.
Unbeknownst to the Titans, though, the whole thing was a set-up, and Terra was a spy, employed by their enemy Deathstroke the Terminator to join the team and ferret out their secrets. While the Titans saw her as a scared and defensive young girl (and Beast Boy found himself smitten with her), she was in reality a ruthless sociopath who was disgusted by the Titans’ do-gooderness and gleefully anticipated their deaths. Even her employer (and lover, because creepy) Deathstroke was alarmed by her power and heartlessness.
Terra helped Deathstroke capture the Titans, but before the prisoners could be killed, Deathstroke was possessed by his heroic son Jericho, who released the Titans. Furious at what she perceived as Deathstroke’s betrayal, Terra went completely insane and pulled the entire complex down on herself while trying to kill…well, basically everyone else. The Titans gave her a heroes’ funeral and kept her betrayal a secret in an attempt to protect her brother, but it has since become common knowledge, at least in the superhero community.
So What’s So Great About Her?

Since the original Terra plotline, there have been several other takes on the character. A heroic Tara Markov doppelganger showed up claiming to be from the future and displaying the same powers as the original Terra; though it’s not clear whether she is really the original Terra somehow brought back to life or not, she’s certainly allied with the side of good. The most recent character to take on the Terra mantle (that’s a little geology joke for you), Atlee, is also unshakably good at her core (zing!). And the animated version of Terra in the 2003 Teen Titans show is what readers expected the comic book character to be: a troubled but essentially decent girl who is led astray by Slade/Deathstroke.
But the original Terra doesn’t bother with any of that. She was a shock when she was introduced: a somewhat rabbit-faced little blonde kid, cute as a button, and determined to slaughter the Titans without a hint of remorse. She never betrays any compassion or affection for her teammates, and goes to her grave absolutely crazy with hate. Even knowing how her story ends, reading The Judas Contract today is surprising, with its uncompromising depiction of her sheer maliciousness.
Even beyond the context of her story and the power of the betrayal, Terra’s a fantastic character to read. For starters, she’s a powerhouse, an elemental force who gives the far more experienced Titans and Deathstroke a run for their money. She’s not just a strong fighter, she’s a cunning fighter who learns fast and is an effective member of the team before her true nature is revealed. She’s also smart enough to live with the Titans for months and still manage to hide the truth. And to be perfectly honest, there’s something refreshing about her foul-mouthed disregard for the Titans. Even though the Titans are a likable bunch, it’s hard not to be delighted when Terra mocks their sanctimoniousness and melodramatic romantic entanglements. Sure, she’s evil, but she’s such a fun evil.
Terra had a very brief lifespan, all things considered only about 20 issues. But she’s an enjoyable character and a memorable villain, and her actions continue to have ramifications for the Titans today. Not a bad legacy.
Notable Appearances:
New Teen Titans v1 #26-40
Tales of the Teen Titans 41-44, Annual #3
…Or you can just pick up the trades Terra Incognito and The Judas Contract.