Publisher: Marvel Comics
First Appearance: Avengers #112 (1973)
Created By: Steve Englehart & Don Heck

Mantis (her full real name is unknown) had a typically rocky comic book start. The child of a German father who went on to become a fairly minor supervillain and a Vietnamese mother, she lost her family at a young age when her mom was killed and her dad abandoned to be raised by a sect of aliens, the Kree, who believed her to be the Celestial Madonna.
Even though they figured she’d eventually be giving birth to the Messiah of the entire universe, the Kree erased her memory once she reached adulthood and pushed her out the door to experience the world. Unfortunately, that experience ended with her becoming a prostitute in Vietnam, but things got somewhat better when she met up with the Swordsman, a D-list former Avenger, and used her awesome martial arts skills to help him out of a scrape. That led to her hanging out with the Avengers as well. Yay!
Only yay cannot last long in comics. After a spell on the team, she witnessed the Swordsman’s death and only then realized she was totally in love with him. But luckily (?), his body ended up inhabited by a basically tree-shaped alien warrior, so she could sort of make him the baby daddy of the Celestial Messiah.
She gave birth to a son, Sequoia, and raised him for one year before handing him off to his father’s alien people. But giving him up wasn’t what she wanted, and after some space adventures with Silver Surfer, she slowly started to break down, her mind splitting into fragments of her personality. Mantis pulled it together in time to save her half-tree son from getting murdered (apparently his alien half made him grow to adolescence at a speedy rate). Oh, and she turned green along the way, for some reason.
From there, she became one of the new Guardians of the Galaxy, though she ruined her chance at being voted Guardian of the Month when it was revealed she’d helped mentally manipulate some of her colleagues.
So What’s So Great About Her?

Mantis has one of the weirdest, most convoluted histories in comics—and I mean her real-world history, not her backstory, though that’s admittedly pretty weird too. Essentially, she’s one of those characters whose writer fell in love with her—like Shard—only this time, he just couldn’t say goodbye. According to Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed, when Steve Englehart started writing for DC, he took Mantis along for the ride, calling her Willow and continuing the storyline he’d left behind in Avengers. From there, Mantis and Englehart continued their working relationship at Eclipse (Mantis went by Lorelei there) before making their grand return to Marvel.
What makes this story particularly hilarious is that no reader in the history of the world could possibly care as much about Mantis’ storyline as much as Englehart did. When you set up a character as being basically the Virgin Mary (except for the being-a-virgin part), only even bigger in scope because she was going to give birth to the Celestial Messiah, not just your run-of-the-mill Earth Messiah, it’s just so mind-boggling and hard to pull off that readers are a lot more likely to check out than get invested.
Considering that Mantis’ son, the Jesus-with-branches known as Quoi, has made less than a dozen appearances over the years, other creators have largely chosen to ignore Englehart’s grand plans as well. And yet Mantis remains, becoming a more important and visible character than she’s been since her Avengers days.
I actually think Mantis works a lot better when you ignore the Madonna stuff. For one, you get to ignore the awkward theological implications. Second, her character ceases to be entirely defined by her motherhood. (I accidentally typed ‘motherwood.’ MOST APPROPRIATE TYPO EVER.) Yes, Quoi remains an essential part of her history, and her interactions with her son, few as they may be, are very poignant and moving. But she’s also a martial arts master, a fierce warrior, and a superhuman with vast telepathic and precognitive capabilities. To reduce her to some kid’s mom is incredibly unfair.
Establishing her as a largely space-based hero has also done Mantis a ton of good, I think. She’s always been an otherworldly character, and with her being raised by aliens and marrying an alien and being the Holy Mother of the Universe and all, confining her to Earth just doesn’t make sense. She just feels more natural in the space-set comics, and I can only imagine the human world leaves her with a lot of dark memories anyway.
With the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie on the horizon, it’d be amazing to see Mantis on the big screen—even just a cameo!—and have that lead to her having a bigger comics presence. I just don’t see enough of this one.
Notable Appearances

Avengers #112-135
Defenders #9
Captain Marvel #33
Giant-Size #2-4
Silver Surfer (vol.3) #3-9; 19-21
West Coast Avengers Annual #3
Avengers: Forever #6-9
Galactus the Devourer #4
Avengers: Celestial Quest #1-8
Annihilation: Conquest—Starlord #1-4
Annihilation: Conquest #2-6
Guardians of the Galaxy (vol.2) #1-25
She-Hulk: Cosmic Collision #1
The Thanos Imperative: Ignition #1
The Thanos Imperative #1-6
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Irene Adler (Destiny)

Mom Month at Dimestore Dames continues! Say hi to your mother for me.
Publisher: Marvel Comics
First Appearance: X-Men #141 (1981)
Created By: Chris Claremont & John Byrne

Irene Adler’s precognition powers were somewhat of a curse. The more she could ‘see’ vision-wise, the less she could see, well, in a literal sense. After a year spent furiously transcribing her predictions for the next hundred years or so in a series of notebooks, she was totally blind. To make matters worse, the diaries made very little sense, because writing something like, ‘A gosling named Ryan shall be born, and lo, he will be hot’ would be way too easy. These predictions were like Nostradamus-level murky.
This being decades before Google, Irene went to the next best thing to help her make sense of the diaries: a private detective. This actually turned out to be shapeshifting Mystique in disguise, and while they didn’t really get to the bottom of Irene’s visions, they did totally fall in love. Even though they’d part a few times over the years, long enough to even have kids with other partners, Irene and Raven would undoubtedly prove to be the loves to each other’s lives. They even raised Rogue, their foster daughter, together in a little dysfunctional family unit.
Irene and Raven also served as the backbone for the Brotherhood of Mutants, a terrorist group. Even though Irene was about the age of every other members’ meemaws (except Raven, who doesn’t appear to get older) and couldn’t see, she handled herself well in battle with a badass crossbow and wasn’t afraid to show off her shapely gams. Unfortunately, it was during one of the team’s battles that she ended up getting killed by Legion.
These days, Destiny’s legacy is mostly apparent in her scattered diaries, which hold clues to the future of mutantkind. She also has been resurrected several times in the last few years, which probably freaked Rogue and Raven out a lot.
So What’s So Great About Her?

There are a lot of things I find awkward about Destiny. Like her soul-crushingly creepy alien-head mask, for one. And the fact that X-Men writers have never tried to smooth out her timeline, so she still officially met Mystique as an adult in the late nineteenth century, making her at least over a century old when she died in battle in 1989. Major props for being one of the only elderly women supervillains, though. And then there are the, ahem, ‘clever’ hints that she’s the basis for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Irene Adler character, who serves as Sherlock Holmes’s primary love interest (other than Watson, of course). Which, you know, shut up, trying-too-hard writers. Shut up forever.
What’s not awkward: that Irene serves as half of one of the longest lasting couples in the Marvel universe. The fact she and Raven are both women makes their deep, emotionally intense romance all the more poignant, considering the lengths it took to establish them as lovers. At the time, the Comics Code Authority didn’t allow overt references to homosexuality, and in response editor-in-chief Jim Shooter became a homophobic Scarlet Witch, whispering, ‘No more gay people’ and making them all disappear from Marvel. Chris Claremont went to a lot of effort to hint at the romance at just the right pitch that readers might tilt their head a little but an editor wouldn’t immediately red-pen the lines. By the time they could be officially deemed a couple, it was considered one of the worst kept secrets in comics.
So yeah, theirs is a love that even the Comics Code and editorial mandates could not kill. And speaking of killing, Raven is a total cold-blooded murderer, and Irene hasn’t been exactly reluctant to roll up her own sleeves and commence terrorist activity (though I guess you could argue that she’s passively following the whims of Raven and, to an extent, her own prophetic visions). A love story isn’t exactly what you expect to crop up in the middle of their supervillainy, so it’s kind of awesome to find it there at all.
The one person Irene loves as much as Raven is Rogue, the daughter they quasi-adopted and raised together. And okay, maybe Irene’s not the best mom ever—she did encourage Rogue to follow their footsteps into the terrorist lifestyle—but their interactions are usually tender, and she also probably had an inkling that Rogue was going to head onto a better path eventually. So she’s a good mom, sort of? Better than Raven, anyway, but it’s not hard to beat the women who threw her newborn off a cliff. It’s also interesting to note that, like Raven, she has other children—but daughter they share is the one who appears to get the bulk of her attention and affection.
Her relationships aside, one of the coolest things about Destiny is that she was technically only alive and active in comics for about a decade, but she’s one of the most important mutants to ever live. Long after her death, her predictions are still coming true in current storylines. In fact, the search for her missing diaries was the basis for the entire X-Treme (siiiigh) X-Men series. Not many relatively minor characters make that much of an impact on the universe they leave behind.
Notable Appearances

X-Men #141-142 (title switches to Uncanny X-Men with #142)
Avengers Annual #10
Rom #31-32
Dazzler #22-23; 28
Uncanny X-Men #170; 177-178; 185; 199-200
X-Factor #8-10
Avengers Annual #15
Uncanny X-Men #223-226
New Mutants #65; 78
X-Factor #30-31
Marvel Fanfare #40
Uncanny X-Men #254-255; 265
X-Factor Annual #6
X-Factor #108-109
Sabretooth and Mystique #1-3
X-Men Forever #4
X-Treme X-Men #1
Rogue (vol.3) #10
X-Men: Legacy #208; 231-233
X-Force (vol.3) #19
X-Necrosha #1
Chaos War: X-Men #1-2
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Monica Rambeau (Captain Marvel/Photon/Pulsar)

Publisher: Marvel Comics
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16 (1982)
Created By: Roger Stern & John Romita, Jr.
You know how it is: You’re minding your own business, doing your job, and all of sudden you’re being zapped with extra-dimensional energy by a supervillain. At least, that’s how Monica Rambeau went from being a cargo ship captain with the New Orleans Harbor Patrol to becoming a superhero. And a card-carrying Avenger, no less! This would be like acting in your high school performance of The Glass Menagerie and seguing directly into winning an Oscar. Zero to A-list!
The media chose Monica’s first superhero alias, Captain Marvel, and despite the fact that many of the Avengers were friends with the original, deceased Cappy M, they uncharacteristically (for comics and for, um, Avengers) decided not to be assholes about her keeping the name. In fact, she even led the team for a while, but eventually had to take early retirement when overexertion temporarily wiped out her powers and nearly killed her.
Once she was back in action, she mostly focused her energies on fighting the good fight in space rather than her former rogue’s gallery of, like, zombies and Dracula (which was kind of random considering her own powers were in no way supernatural). Monica did, however, continue serving with the Avengers as a reserve member, and she led the Nextwave team, where she could not stop bragging about leading the Avengers back when. Can you blame her? If I were her, I would have that tattooed on my forehead.
Her days as Captain Marvel are long over, though. When the son of CM 1.0, Genis, showed up and wanted the title for himself, Monica let him have it out of respect for his dad and dubbed herself Photon instead. A few years later, Genis decided that, no, just kidding, now he wanted to be Photon. Monica realized it was so not freaking worth it and switched to Pulsar, but at least half of the time she just goes by Monica Rambeau, presumably because it’s the only name Genis can’t justify stealing from her. Besides, being Monica Rambeau is plenty awesome enough.
So What’s So Great About Her?

When the original Captain Marvel, an alien who just happened to look like an incredibly Aryan Earth dude, died of cancer in 1982, it was considered incredibly revolutionary for a hero to not only succumb to mundane, natural causes, but for a hero to die at all. He certainly wasn’t the first of his ilk to pass away, but he was definitely one of the highest profile to do so. So you have to admit, it was pretty brassy of Marvel to replace him almost immediately…and with a woman of color no less.
Granted, some of this was absolutely out of necessity. You know how there’s a Captain Marvel at DC too? One who never appears in a comic actually called Captain Marvel? That’s because Marvel Comics owns the copyright to do such a thing, and to keep it, they need to actually publish something with the name Captain Marvel in the title every once in a while. Which they will never, ever stop doing. It’s their special little way of saying, ‘Suck it, DC.’
But still, they certainly could’ve just not killed Mar-Vell off (this is for-serious his name. COMICS!) or passed the name off to another dude or a Valkyrie-type blonde. Hell, there was already a blonde, stacked Ms. Marvel waiting in the wings who could’ve easily taken the role. (And in fact, she finally has—make sure to check out the awesome-sounding new Captain Marvel series!) Instead, they gave it someone who is part of one of the most underrepresented demographics in comics—black women.
I’ve written before how no black women joined the X-Men between Storm’s 1975 introduction and Shard in 1994. Similarly, there’s a general deficit of black women superheroes throughout the Marvel Universe as a whole. It’s plain to see why—Native Americans can wear feathers and beads, Asian heroines can slip into their sexy dragon lady dresses. What stereotype could black women possibly wear? (Please don’t punch me in the face, I’m being facetious.)
They at least tried to make up for the fact she was part of an extreme comics minority by making Monica so freaking awesome. I seriously love her. I love that she became Captain Marvel while she was an actual boat captain. I love that her costume is traditionally space-y and not overt-sex-bomb, and I love that her hair actually looks like what you might see on the head of an average black woman (side-eyeing you, Storm). I love that she had no idea there was even another Captain Marvel before her when she took up the cape. I love that everyone realized she was so great that she joined the Avengers immediately, and I loved that her mentors were Captain America and Wasp, since come on, women need to help each other out now and then. In fact, Monica took up the leadership reins immediately after Jan, so there was a decent stretch of incredibly cool women leaders of the Avengers.
The only problem, though, is that people never really understood what to do with Monica. It’s bizarre to me that a hero with space-derived powers, the successor to an alien, got her start battling magical villains and Dracula. It took literally (read: not actually literally) forever for someone to go, ‘Oh, huh, I guess she can fight in outerspace, I guess.’ And she also just kind of faded away after a while, appearing sporadically from the mid ‘90s through early ‘00s. They even screwed her over and reverse-awesomed the situation by giving her name back to an Aryan alien dude, only one who was much, much more of a douche than his dad. (His sister, also a later Captain Marvel, is like 400% cooler.)
Luckily, Nextwave happened and reminded everyone that Monica is great, leading to a slew of sudden appearances. She was also front and center in Marvel Divas, which served to spotlight a bunch of lady hero besties that had fallen by the wayside in terms of maintaining a strong Marvel presence over the years. It’s a great start, but can we please get some more Monica on the page? I don’t care if she’s Photon or Pulsar or what—as long as she’s Monica to the core.
Notable Appearances

Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16
Avengers #227-294
Doctor Strange (vol.2) #60
Marvel Team-Up #142-143
Solo Avengers #2
Marvel Fanfare #42
Captain Marvel Special #1
Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #9-10
Avengers #329-333
Starblast #1-4
Captain Marvel (vol.2) #1
Avengers: Unplugged #5
Avengers (vol.3) #16-18; 36-38; 46; 48; 53; 55; 501-503 (renumbered)
Avengers: Infinity #1-4
Nextwave #1-12
Marvel Divas #1-4
Firestar (vol.2) #1
Heralds #1-5
I Am An Avenger #2

Greer Grant Nelson (The Cat/Tigra)

Publisher: Marvel Comics
First Appearance: Claws of the Cat #1 (1974)
Created By: Linda Fite, Roy Thomas, & Marie Severin

Chicago native Greer Nelson had recently been widowed when she went on a job search and somehow ended up a test subject for a scientist working on advancing human potential. As a result, Greer ended up with superhuman powers and quickly set about working as a D-list hero known as the Cat.
Things took a turn for the WTF when it was revealed that Greer’s scientist pal was actually a member of the Cat People, a mystical, hidden race of…cat people. It’s pretty much exactly like you’re picturing it. When Greer was dying from radiation poisoning after a battle, the Cat People offered to transform her into the Tigra, a hybrid warrior and defender of their people. She was all, ‘Hell yes, I’d rather not die,’ and it was done.
It turned out that Greer made for a much more effective hero as Tigra. Now wearing a sporty bikini to show off her new stripes, she was a member of several Avengers line-ups over the years. She also tried to get busy with several of her male teammates, thanks to her cat-like need for affection, but eventually her human and cat sides were able to merge more effectively. An off-on relationship did emerge between her and Hank Pym, though, because Hank gets all the awesome ladies.
This actually led to trouble when they rekindled the romance. This time around, Greer didn’t know that Hank had been replaced by a bad-guy Skrull. The Skrulls were defeated, but when she realized she was pregnant, she was unsure who the father actually was. After initially deciding on an abortion, she changed her mind and went through with the normal two-month cat gestation, giving birth to a perfectly normal…cat-person hybrid. He was named William, after her deceased husband.
These days, Greer’s mostly focusing on being a mom, rekindling her relationship with the real Hank (she hopes), and teaching at Avengers Academy.
So What’s So Great About Her?

Every comic book company seems to have at least one sexy cat-themed lady on their character roster. I’m pretty sure this was one of the requirements mandated by the original Comics Code Authority. [Citation needed.] Marvel’s definitely not an exception, with women like Black Cat, Shadowcat, and Hellcat populating one comic or another. But Tigra, nee the Cat, has them all beat, seeing how she is actually part cat.
I sort of get where the association between women and felines comes from (graceful, dainty, restrained, clean, stereotype stereotype, etc.), but as a cat owner, the idea that cat = sexy kind of baffles me. When I catch my own cat staring at me vacantly, my thought isn’t, ‘She looks hot,’ so much as, ‘KITTY FACE,’ but different strokes for different folks and all. In any case, Tigra especially epitomizes the SexCat idea, what with her skimpy bikini outfit and numerous (canon) sexual partners.
And you know what? I am totally okay with that. At one point, she says something like, ‘The bikini isn’t the costume, the stripes are,’ which I found really clever and refreshing. For a character who spent a lot of her early history in monster-themed comics, she’s never really wrung her hands or spent time dropping to her knees and screaming WHY up at the rain over her transformation. Instead, she totally accepts herself and, in fact, revels in it. Why not show off those stripes if she thinks they’re awesome? And hell, I can’t really blame a gal for hooking up with some hot dudes, especially when one of them is one of my major nerd-crushes, Hank Pym.
And while I don’t think Greer has ever been a character we were intended to take very seriously (for God’s sake, her flagship title was West Coast Avengers, which I can barely even type without laughing), I do like that we’ve seen her mature over recent years. Rather than just be depended upon to strike a pose and claw some eyes out, Tony Stark recently gave her a major vote of confidence by making her his spy during Civil War, albeit a totally unsuccessful one. She’s also become a teacher for younger heroes, both in the Initiative and Avengers Academy titles, which is pretty damn cool, and moreover there’s her long-standing devoted service to the Cat People, and oh, there’s the laughing again as I type.
Greer’s also become a mother recently. Abortion is a always a touchy issue, to say the least, and I’m glad to at least see a comic book character strongly consider the option, especially since for a while she wasn’t even certain who the father was. (It turned out to be the Skrull, by the way. But with Hank’s DNA. It’s Facebook complicated.) But I also like that the birth of William has only renewed her drive to make the world a better place.
Because hey, a slightly ridiculous T&A character can still be noble.
Notable Appearances

At the moment, Tigra is appearing as a regular character in Avengers Academy, appearing monthly from Marvel Comics.
The Cat #1-4
Marvel Team-Up #8
Giant-Size Creatures #1
Monsters Unleashed #10
Marvel Chillers #3-7
Marvel Two-In-One #19
Fantastic Four #177-184
Marvel Team-Up #67
Marvel Premiere #42
Avengers #211-215
Uncanny X-Men #155-156
Marvel Team-Up #125
Spider-Woman #49-50
Avengers #240-241
West Coast Avengers (vol.1) #1-4
Iron Man Annual #7
Avengers #250
Iron Man #191; 193
Avengers #253-254
Marvel Graphic Novel #16
Vision and the Scarlet Witch #1-2
West Coast Avengers (vol.2) #1-46
Fantastic Four #293
Avengers Annual #15
West Coast Avengers Annual #1-3
Marvel Graphic Novel #27
Avengers #302-303
Avengers: West Coast (continuation of West Coast Avengers) #47-50
Avengers Annual #18
Marvel Super-Heroes #2
Avengers Spotlight #38
Avengers: West Coast #66-74; 83
Excalibur #37-39
Avengers: West Coast Annual #8
Marvel Comics Presents #162-165
Avengers: Infinity #1-4
Maximum Security #2-3
Tigra #1-4
She-Hulk (vol.2) #7
Civil War #2-6
Fantastic Four #539
Mighty Avengers #3
Avengers: The Initiative #6; 14; 19-35
Ms. Marvel #19-20
New Avengers #35
New Avengers Annual #2
Mighty Avengers #17
Hulk (vol.2) #8-9
Avengers: The Initiative Featuring Reptil #1
New Avengers: The Reunion #2
War Machine (vol.2) #8-10
Avengers (vol.4) #1
Enter the Heroic Age #1
Avengers Academy #1-15
I Am An Avenger #2
Fear Itself: The Home Front #1
Amazing Spider-Man #661

Amanda Waller

I had planned on writing about Scandal Savage this week, since I’m featuring women who have not been included in the new DCU, but I changed my mind a few days ago when I saw this. The woman featured below is in the DCnU, but not in any way that I recognize.)
Publisher: DC Comics
First Appearance: Legends #1
Created By: John Ostrander, Len Wein, and John Byrne

Amanda Waller was living in Chicago’s infamous Cabrini-Green housing projects when her husband and two of her children were murdered. She left the projects, obtained a doctorate, and began working as a congressional aide, where she learned of a past clandestine government agency, the Suicide Squad. Seeing potential, she started a new Suicide Squad, where fourth-string supervillains could commute their sentences by going on suicide black ops missions for the US government. (Now you know why the DCU authorities can’t seem to keep criminal masterminds like, um, Punch and Jewelee behind bars.)
Waller had an acrimonious relationship with basically everyone involved with the Sqad: the government couldn’t control her, the villains on the Squad didn’t like her, and the heroes on the Squad didn’t trust her ruthless methods. Still, her combination of brains and callousness got the job done more often than not. Eventually, the existence of the Squad was revealed to the public and Waller was put on trial for her actions; still later, she and a small team of villains tracked down and killed the heads of an organized crime cartel called the LOA. Waller allowed herself to be jailed for this, knowing she’d be out again the moment the government needed her.
Sure enough, the Wall was soon released to reform the Suicide Squad. She served as Secretary of Metahuman Affairs under President Lex Luthor and was jailed again following his impeachment-via-publicly-attacking-Superman-in-flying-green-space-armor. Politics, man.
However, following the face-heel-turn and subsequent head-neck-turn of Checkmate’s Maxwell Lord, Waller was pardoned by Luthor’s successor and asked to take command of the floundering UN organization. Despite the fact that as White Queen she was forbidden to take part in ops, Waller continued to run a covert Suicide Squad in order to further America’s agenda and her own. She also organized Operation Salvation Run, the mass deportation of supervillains to an alien planet.
Waller’s non-UN-sanctioned activities were eventually revealed and she was forced to resign. Her last appearance in the old DCU showed her newly-formed Squad clashing with the Secret Six, revealing that unbeknownst to the Six, Waller was their mysterious leader, Mockingbird. Why would she pick a fight with a team she already runs? Only the Wall knows for sure.
So What’s So Great About Her?

In my very first post on this blog, I said that out of all the characters in comics, I’d want Dinah Lance to be my best friend. I have a whole bunch of these: I also want to hang out with Stephanie Brown and Jaime Reyes, bake cookies with Mary Batson, punch Hal Jordan in the face, and marry Ralph Dibny.
And never, ever do anything to get Amanda Waller pissed at me.
The Joker might get distracted and forget to shoot me. Lex Luthor has a kernel of goodness somewhere very deep down. So does Waller, actually, but that won’t stop her from utterly destroying me if she thinks I’m a threat to her agenda.
See, ‘the Wall,’ isn’t just a cutesy nickname. It’s a statement of fact. Amanda Waller is unmovable. You can’t get around her, you can’t get through her, and she will make your life living hell if you try. She’s Batman without the privilege of the Wayne fortune and ample time to study tiger-wrestling in the Himalayas or whatever. She took personal tragedy and used her grief to become one of the most badass people in the world, and she did it wearing an 80s power suit. (Speaking of Batman, by the way, the first time they met, she backed him down by pointing out that she could very, very easily figure out his secret identity. PWNED.)
This isn’t to say that Waller doesn’t have morals, because she does. She’s a patriot, and believes first and foremost in furthering America’s interests, even if that means snarking at Reagan about his lack of social programs, abusing her position in a UN-affiliated program to push an American agenda, or, um, shooting mobsters and terrorists in the head. She’s not a nice person, or even really a good person, but she always does what she believes she has to.
And it must be said: she’s African-American, and she’s plus-sized. (Or at least, she was.) Her physical appearance is a hugely important part of her character. She’s an extremely important, influential government figure, and she got there while being black, plus-sized, and female. And from the projects. And old enough to have five (five!) adult children. All of those characteristics are impediments to political power, which means that one look at Waller tells you how hard she had to work to get where she is. Plus, God knows we could use more women of size and color in comics.
I’m glad Amanda Waller made it into the DCnU, but by changing her weight, DC has also drastically changed who she is, and removed something unique and remarkable from their universe. Amanda Waller never used to have to compromise to hold power in the DCU. She shouldn’t have to now.

Notable Appearances:
Suicide Squad v1 #1-67
Checkmate v1 #1, 8, 16-19
Suicide Squad v2 #1-12
52 #24, 33, 34, 45
Salvation Run
Suicide Squad v3 #1-8
Checkmate v2 #1-20
Secret Six v3 #17-18, 26-28, 36

Rita Farr Dayton (Elasti-Girl/Elasti-Woman)

Publisher: DC Comics
First Appearance: My Greatest Adventure #80 (June 1963)
Created By: Bob Haney, Arnold Drake, and Bruno Premiani
Rita Farr was already an Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer and famous actress when she was exposed to strange volcanic gases on a film shoot in Africa. Suddenly she found herself with the ability to grow tremendously tall or shrink to microscopic heights. Shunned by the world as a ‘freak,’ she was recruited by Dr. Niles Caulder, a.k.a. ‘the Chief,’ for his Doom Patrol, a team of superheroes whose powers rendered them outcasts.
As Elasti-Girl, Rita thrived on the Doom Patrol. Even once she got her powers under control and was approached to return to the movies, she refused to leave her new ‘family’ or give up helping others. She even wound up marrying one of the team’s allies, Mento (Steve Dayton), and adopting another, Beast Boy (Gar Logan). However, thanks to the machinations of the evil Madame Rouge, the entire team (minus Steve and Gar) was seemingly killed in an explosion when they sacrificed themselves to save a small fishing village.
Gradually it was revealed that some members had survived and others had been resurrected, but Rita did not return until Infinite Crisis and its aftermath. The Chief, it seemed, had regrown her from a bit of her skull that he had salvaged in the explosion (and can I just say: ew?), but this new Rita was docile and unwilling to question the Chief’s authority, even when he was being creepy and amoral. It wasn’t until Steve confronted the Chief that Rita, too, was able to break free from the Chief’s control and announce that she would be called Elasti-Woman from now on, thank you very much.
So What’s So Great About Her?

Sometimes when talking about a female character, you have to make allowances for how she was depicted in the Silver Age. Though Sue Storm and Lois Lane are awesome now, they’re often relegated to the damsel-in-distress role in comics from the 60s.
Not so with Rita. One of the reasons her early adventures are a delight to read is because she’s always been right there in the thick of things. Her power is a much more corporeal one than women usually got in the Silver Age; instead of invisibility or telekinesis, she spends her time slugging it out with giant robots and catching rockets, or shrinking herself down to defuse bombs from the inside. She’s determined to share the danger with her male teammates, and saves them as often as they save her. Plus, she’s smart, and gets to share the zany banter. Pretty groovy, daddy-o!
Furthermore, she’s a woman who knows her own mind. When the fairly douchey Steve Dayton starts courting her, she’s not impressed by his money, brilliance, or goofy helmet, but (eventually) by his good heart. She marries him against the wishes of her teammates, but refuses to give up superheroing when Steve asks her to, because she can’t see someone in trouble and not help. She’s the only one who sees that Gar is a troubled kid in the clutches of a murderous, thieving guardian, and insists that Steve uses his resources to help. She’s surrounded by loudmouthed, domineering men, but is determined to go her own way and do what she believes is right, no matter what. Even her death is awesome: a heroic sacrifice shared with her ‘family,’ and not a fridging.
Sadly, it’s only since her resurrection in the twenty-first century, for crying out loud! that she’s been portrayed as being under the thumb of, alternately, Steve and the Chief. Come on, guys. A weakwilled, subservient woman manipulated by her sketchy father figure and whackadoodle husband? Rita was too good for that hackneyed kind of depiction even in 1963. Hopefully when the Doom Patrol returns in the DCnU, Rita will be present, and as kickass as she was in the Silver Age.

Notable Appearances:
The title of the Doom Patrol’s starring vehicle, My Greatest Adventure, was changed to Doom Patrol with issue #86. The original run has been collected in both Showcase and Archive editions.
My Greatest Adventure #80-85
Doom Patrol v1 #86-121
Doom Patrol v4 #1-18
Doom Patrol v5 #1-22

Suzanne ‘Cissie’ King-Jones (Arrowette)

Publisher: DC Comics
First Appearance: Impulse #28 (August 1997)
Created By: Tom Peyer and Craig Rousseau

Cissie’s mother Bonnie was Miss Arrowette, an extremely minor Silver Age character
who popped up in a handful of appearances to tag along after Green Arrow and Speedy
and try to get them to let her join the team. When that failed, she took journalist/fanboy
Bernell ‘Bowstring’ Jones on as her ‘sidekick’ until her carpal tunnel syndrome forced her to retire from archery. Bowstring died a few years later, leaving Bonnie with a young daughter to mold into the repository of all her failed hopes and dreams…I mean, raise.
Bonnie became the ultimate stage mother, training Cissie to be the new Arrowette,
endangering and verbally abusing her. Eventually Cissie was taken away by Child Welfare Services and placed in the Elias School for Girls. She continued fighting crime and became a member of Young Justice. However, when her state-appointed therapist and close confidante was murdered, Cissie flew into a rage and nearly killed the murderers before being stopped by Superboy. Realizing she couldn’t trust herself as a vigilante, Cissie quit being Arrowette.
She didn’t retire from archery, however, and wound up winning the gold in the 2000 ‘Summer Games’ (read: Olympics) and becoming a minor celebrity. She also volunteered as medical aid during the Imperiex war alongside her former YJ teammates. Since the end of Young Justice, Cissie’s appearances have been few and far between, but she’s shown up a couple of times, usually helping out her best friend Cassie Sandsmark (Wonder Girl II). In the most recent of these, the Wonder Girl miniseries, Cissie donned the Arrowette costume again, but it remains to be seen whether she’s back in the game for good.
So What’s So Great About Her?

As is probably clear by now, I loves me some plucky teen girls, and I loves me some archers. Cissie fits the bill both ways.
But I also love Cissie for what’s going to sound like a weird reason. I love that she doesn’t really get along with other girls. I know that sounds odd, especially since I love strong depictions of friendship between girls, but hear me out:
Cissie and Cassie (Wonder Girl II) hated each other in the early issues of Young Justice, not least because Cissie was good at flirting with the boys on the team and Cassie wasn’t. And Cissie and Anita had a fairly fractious relationship when Anita ‘replaced’ Cissie on the team. And the sad truth is that that’s how a lot of women view each other: as competition.
The great thing about Cissie’s story, though, is that she gets past that. She becomes close friends with both Cassie and Anita, not to mention their other teammate Secret and her roommate Traya. She’s not unaffected by the intense social pressure to view other women as the enemy (probably in large part thanks to her mother, who raised her to view all of life as a competition), but she has the maturity necessary to move past that and make deep and abiding friendships. And that’s a wonderful thing to see.
She also has the maturity to give up the superhero lifestyle when she realizes it’s not right for her. How many other superheroes have pulled a Spider-Man No More and stuck with it? (Heck, Ted Kord ‘retired’ four times before his death!)
Also, one time she told off the Justice League. And she has really pretty hair. And having been a tween in the 90s, that Britney-Spears-circa-1998 costume really charms me.
Basically, Cissie is fantastic. And even though it seems like she and Young Justice have been retconned out of the DCnU, pick up some back issues. You won’t regret it.
Notable Appearances:
Cissie was a regular cast member of Young Justice from issues #4-17 and appeared frequently afterwards, most notably in:
Young Justice #23-24 (the Summer Games)
Young Justice #33-34 (Cissie guest stars on Wendy in the Werewolf Stalker)
Young Justice #35-37 (the Imperiex War)
Other appearances include:
Impulse #28, 41, and 59
Teen Titans v3 #7
Teen Titans and Outsiders Secret Files 2005
Wonder Girl #2-4


Publisher: Marvel Comics
First Appearance: Journey into Mystery #102 (1964)
Created By: Stan Lee & Jack Kirby
Sif was born in Asgard, a land of immortality and adventure. While her brother Heimdall became the keeper of Bifrost, the rainbow bridge linking Asgard to Earth, Sif distinguished herself as an incredible warrior, even by Asgardian standards; in fact, she was the best female warrior in the whole land. Also notable was her status as the lover of Odin’s son, Thor. In other words, life was pretty awesome.
Once Thor was banished from Asgard, though, things got more complicated. While her feelings for him never wavered (in fact, she only seemed to become attracted to men who wielded his hammer, Mjolnir, such as Eric Masterson and Beta Ray Bill), Thor became intrigued with a number of women. Sif was especially befuddled by his romance with Jane Foster, a mortal woman, but even still, she did everything she could to save Jane on several occasions, even merging life forces for a brief time.
Upon Odin’s death, Thor took the Asgardian throne and decided it would be a major time saver if he settled Asgard on Earth, so he could mortals out of harm’s way. In doing so, he reshaped the world as he saw fit and became a tyrant. Despite her love for him, Sif protested his reign and ended up exiled. Later, she encouraged Thor’s son Magni to revolt against his father, and eventually Thor realized he was being a douche and turned back time.
Unfortunately, this was just in time for Ragnarok, aka the end of the Norse world. Sif fought bravely with the other warriors, even continuing to battle after losing an arm, but she fell with the rest of the Asgardians. But luckily, being gods, they were resurrected before too long. Not so luckily, Loki ended up possessing Sif’s body at first, while she was stuck inhabiting an elderly terminal cancer patient. Once she was back in her true form, she was more than ready to get back to kicking ass.
So What’s So Great About Her?

It’s probably not surprising that I was recently reintroduced to Sif via the Thor movie. As a strong supporting character, she was portrayed as an incredible warrior, trusted friend, loyal subject, and all-around gorgeous person. Pretty much as awesome as canon Sif, except more so. Because, you know, there’s less fixation on how much she loves Thor but he doesn’t want her anymore. Ugh.
But you know, it’s interesting how wildly comic book movies can differ in terms of how their female characters are portrayed. Thor was kind of wonderful in that the filmmakers were able to take the major women—Sif and Jane Foster—and extract the very best from their characters and build on that. So instead of Sif mooning over Thor all the time, we get a few moments where she looks a little wistfully at him, then she moves on to battling frost giants with the best of them. Then we have movies like Green Lantern and how Carol Ferris was treated and…well. The less said about that, the better.
Like a lot of comics women, particularly women imagined by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Sif’s stayed mired in her original characterization for far too long. Yeah, okay, she loves Thor. We get it. But with any luck, the movie will end up influencing what we see in the comics. Will it hold? Who knows. I mean, it’s not like the X-Men are wearing their post-movie trilogy leather costumes anymore.
Notable Appearances

Journey into Mystery #102
Thor (vol. 1) #136-150; 154-157; 163-164; 176-177; 201-221; 231; 236; 249; 274-276; 313; 334-335; 349-359; 442; 450-455
Thor (vol. 2) #41-75; 79-85
Thor: Son of Asgard #1-12
Thor (vol. 3) #1-5; 8
Thor #601-603
Sif #1

Debra ‘Deb’ Whitman

Publisher: Marvel Comics
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #196 (1979)
Created By: Marv Wolfman & Al Milgrom

One of the times Aunt May was presumed dead/dying/just taking a really long nap, Peter Parker found a sympathetic ear in Debra Whitman. A secretary at Empire State University, where Peter was a student, she had recently separated from her husband and was up for some hot sad sack lovin’. However, being Spider-Man meant that sometimes Peter had to unexpectedly cancel dates or just not show up altogether, so they never got truly serious.
At the time, Debra was seeing a therapist due to some issues she was having, one of which was her tendency to idealize people. This was what kept her from divorcing her husband, whom she still saw as a good guy despite the fact he’d been physically abusive. It also led to her having hallucinations that Peter was — gasp — Spider-Man, because apparently this was the only way her brain could justify him being a douche. Luckily, her completely awesome therapist decided to break any implicit promise of confidentiality and tell Peter this. (Please note that the previous sentence should be read with a totally sarcastic tone in your mental voiceover.) So Peter put on his Spider-suit, told Debra that she was right and, faced with how absurd the idea actually was, she was shocked into realizing that Peter couldn’t possibly be Spider-Man. She decided to start fresh, divorce her husband and move away, leaving Peter behind.
Years later, when Peter revealed to the world that he really was Spider-Man, Debra reemerged at the co-writer of a tell-all book about how he’d ruined her life. Peter was, understandably, rather butthurt about this, and to be honest, Debra wasn’t crazy about it either. It turned out that the editors of the book (who just so happened to be Daily Bugle staff members) had pressured her into portraying Peter as being worse than he actually was, and since she needed the money to take care of her sick mother, she went along with it. This information ended up being leaked to the Daily Globe, the Bugle‘s arch-rival.
So What’s So Great About Her?

Forgive me, I’m going to open with an anecdote from Friends. In one episode, as Phoebe regales the group with her happy memories of watching Old Yeller as a little girl, they quickly realize that Phoebe’s mom had been turning off the movie before it reached its ultra-depressing climax. Phoebe’s horrified by the real ending, along with the sad endings to a lot of other movies she’s just finding out were edited for her consumption.
That’s kind of how I feel about Debra Whitman. My introduction to her was the incredibly rad mid-1990s Spider-Man: The Animated Series. You know, the one where Peter always ran around in really tight jeans and sounded suspiciously like Greg Brady. But anyway, on that show, Debra was one of Peter’s college classmates. She had a hot-nerd thing going on, with huge glasses and a tall blonde pony and cheekbones for days. She was also sharp, a brilliant student, and kind of bitchy in a wonderful way that made me want to be exactly like her. Eventually, she also started dating Flash Thompson, the resident Big Dumb Boy of the Spidey mythos and, well, I don’t exactly hide my love for Big Dumb Boy and Uptight Girl pairings.
So imagine my dismay when, years later, I found out that the Debra of my childhood was gussied up for the show. Instead of a snide, borderline genius college student, she had insecurities about her intelligence, and rather than just being banter buddies with Pete, they were rather underwhelming steadies. Moreover, a lot of the time Debra’s portrayed as being rather hysterical, and it’s sometimes played off for laughs.
But for all I prefer my caustic animated Debra, there’s still a lot to like about her four-color counterpart. For all she had to be ‘shocked’ into it, she did leave an abusive marriage, which takes an incredible amount of strength and courage, especially at a time when resources for women were even more limited than they are now. I also admire that she realizes she needs therapy and is actively seeking treatment.
And of course, the biggie—yes, Debra is among the first to realize that Peter Parker is Spider-Man, even if it’s a result of her hallucinations. Of course she, along with several others who’d seen Peter being unmasked, immediately realized the ludicrousness of Peter being a superhero and shrugged it off, but the fact that she was able to figure it out at all, in any state, is a testament to her level of intelligence. Plus, she’s the co-writer of a bestseller. Even if a lot of that bestseller was lies. Um.
So, Debra Whitman, you may not be my Debra Whitman, but hey, you’ve got potential. Maybe when Spider-Man sold his marriage to the devil, things somehow worked out so you got a university scholarship and are now discovering your untold aptitude for science and sarcasm.
Notable Appearances

Amazing Spider-Man #196
Spectacular Spider-Man #36; 42-43
Amazing Spider-Man #207
Spectacular Spider-Man #47-48
Amazing Spider-Man #209
Amazing Spider-Man Annual #14
Spectacular Spider-Man #50-51
Amazing Spider-Man #211-213; 215-218; 221
Spectacular Spider-Man #60-62
Amazing Spider-Man #228
Spectacular Spider-Man #67-70; 72; 74
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #14-16

Valeria Richards

Publisher: Marvel Comics
First Appearance: Fantastic Four (vol. 3) #15 (as Valeria von Doom); #50 (as Valeria Richards)
Created By: Chris Claremont & Salvador Larroca
For a very little girl, Valeria has gone through some major drama. In fact, when she first showed up, it was a grown adult randomly materializing in the Baxter Building and announcing herself to be the daughter of Invisible Woman and Doctor Doom, the FF’s arch foe. Needless to say, this was incredibly weird, even for a superhero team, especially since Sue was already happily married to Reed. It all made a little more sense when Reed ended up trapped in the Doom armor and pretended to be him, even marrying Sue in this guise. (Though it leads one to wonder—how the hell would Valeria have been conceived while he was trapped?)
Maybe things would have been tied together more neatly if the creative team on the book hadn’t changed then, freeing Reed and changing Valeria’s backstory. It turned out now that she was the fetus that Sue had miscarried years ago, when Franklin was still a toddler. Franklin’s incredible reality-changing powers saved her, and she was raised by Sue and Doom in an alternate reality, where they actually were married.
Eventually, someone realized this was stupidly complicated, and Valeria was regressed to fetus-hood and took up residence in Sue’s tummy. Her subsequent birth was fraught with complications, though, and since Reed was off saving the world, Doom had to deliver her. (He is Doctor Doom, after all.) He also took the opportunity to cast a spell on her and make her his familiar, which was eventually set to rights.
Since her rebirth, Valeria’s mostly been a normal little girl. Except her parents are world-famous superheroes, and she and her brother were nearly taken from them by Child Protective Services for their own safety. Oh, and she has superhuman intellect and is already almost as brilliant as her father. But other than that, she’s normal.
So What’s So Great About Her?

Personally, I’m not much of a fan of the whole ‘adult kid from the future or alternate universe shows up to fight crime with hero parents’ plot, which is unfortunate because it’s, like, one of Marvel’s very favorite things to do. (Besides Valeria 1.0, please see also: Cable, X-Man, Phoenix/Marvel Girl, Franklin Richards…etc. etc.) So I was totally pleased to see Valeria take on a new direction, what with getting born again and all.
And, in general, I like seeing children in comics. Not necessarily fighting as adult-sanctioned sidekicks — in fact, that’s another thing I dislike — but as supporting characters, definitely. Interestingly, when actual prepubescent children show up in comics, they’re girls at least as often as boys. This is my totally unscientific observation, but think Luna Maximoff, Danielle Cage, Lian Harper, Layla Miller, Traya Red Tornado (that’s her real name, right?), Molly Hayes. Why? I think it’s because little girls seem more delicate and vulnerable, especially when contrasted with the ginormous steel-jawed superdudes who are often their daddies.
One thing I love about Valeria Richards is that she’s not cast in that role. Instead, someone came up with an awesome idea and, rather than contrast her with her father, made them similar. They both have incredibly huge, amazing brains. Not only that, but Valeria will probably grow up to be even smarter than her father. And everyone’s okay with that! Reed and Sue are proud of her! Franklin isn’t particularly jealous of her smarts! (It probably helps that he can create entire universes with his brain, but whatevs.) She’s a little girl who’s brilliant and could probably get herself out of most supervillain-related jams if she really needed to.
The Fantastic Four are the First Family of comics, and for a reason — they squabble, tease, and fiercely love each other. But you can’t be a quintessential family without kids. (No offense to my fellow child-free peeps out there…I just mean in an iconic sense.) When you read Valeria Richards, you’re reading a kid who’s essential to the group dynamic without ever having to throw a punch. Her parents couldn’t be prouder.
Notable Appearances

Fantastic Four #267
Fantastic Four vol.3 #15; 22; 50; 54; 67-70
Fantastic Four #500; 558
Mighty Avengers #24
Secret Invasion Fantastic Four #1-3
X-Factor #200-202
FF #1-5