Maya Lopez (Echo/Ronin)

Publisher: Marvel Comics
First Appearance: Daredevil (vol. 2) #9 (1999)
Created By: David Mack & Joe Quesada
Biography

As Maya’s father, a Cheyenne mob enforcer nicknamed Crazy Horse, lay dying, he did two things that changed the course of his young daughter’s life: he touched her face, leaving a bloody handprint on her skin, and asked his boss to raise her. This was readily agreed to, despite the fact that the boss, Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin, was the one who killed Crazy Horse in the first place.
Deaf from birth, Maya was initially placed in special education classes, but it soon became obvious that she was, in fact, a prodigy; she had a talent for music, art, and dance, and thanks to Kingpin, she also the benefit of the best education money could buy. She never forgot her roots, though, and when she was a young woman, she asked her foster father how Crazy Horse had died. The answer: he’d been murdered by Daredevil.
From there, she made it her mission to avenge her father’s death. Painting a memorial handprint on her face, she made the most of her powers (the ability to mimic whatever motion she sees) and sought to destroy Daredevil. She almost succeeded too, only stopped by the discovery that Daredevil was Matt Murdock, the man she was dating. (Kingpin had actually kind of set them up to exploit Matt’s weaknesses. What a matchmaker!) Once she figured out what the hell was actually going on, she was understandably furious and ended up shooting Kingpin in the face, blinding him. Poetic justice?
One ended relationship and a vision quest later, Maya reformed completely and joined the New Avengers as Ronin, a ninja whose costume completely concealed her identity and gender; later, she ditched the persona and went back to Echo. This was a pretty unawesome time for her, considering she got murdered and resurrected, and also because she basically had no friends on the team, other than Wolverine (sort of). But at least she got to bang her hottie bad boy teammate, Hawkeye.
Since leaving the team, she’s been working undercover as a stripper, because this is comics.
So What’s So Great About Her?

In the late ‘90s and early 2000s, Daredevil went through a renaissance of sorts, becoming a top-shelf book (not the porno kind) with both high quality art and writing. I read it avidly for several years, but when it comes down to it, the things I remember best about the era were the amazing Kevin Smith/Joe Quesada run…and Maya.
More than anything else, this was because of her design, which is incredibly striking, and the arty splash pages that mark her time in the book. But the more I think of it, the more I realize that Maya has the potential to be an absolutely amazing character, if she were just given a little more face time and room to grow.
I mean, look what she’s got going for her. She has a beautiful, memorable design (honestly, I remembered her costume details but not the fact that she can’t hear, which is actually not a good thing). She’s brilliant in a fairly unusual way for comics, but it’s still a huge asset to her crime-fighting. She’s a woman of color who is usually depicted as being such, instead of a white girl with a great tan; as an added bonus, her Native American heritage doesn’t tend to get very stereotypical, the occasional vision quest aside. She’s also a hero with a disability, which is very, very rare in comics, though Marvel’s not depicting that as well as they should.
So Maya has all the marks of becoming a strong, progressive, thoroughly kick-ass hero. And yet she gets ignored; she only pops up occasionally in the Marvel Universe, despite a stint on an A-list superhero team. There are so many places where she could shine—I just wish she were given more of a chance.
Notable Appearances

Daredevil (vol. 2) #9-15; 51-55
New Avengers (vol. 1) #11-13; 27-39; annual 2
Secret Invasion #1-8
New Avengers (vol. 2) #7
Moon Knight (vol. 4) #2

Lulu Moppet (Little Lulu)

Publisher: Originally, The Saturday Evening Post. When Lulu joined the comic book world, she was published by Dell. Dark Horse Comics currently owns the reprint rights.
First Appearance: February 23, 1935 edition of The Saturday Evening Post
Created By: Marjorie Henderson Buell aka ‘Marge’
Biography

Lulu Moppet lives with her parents, George and Martha, tiny dog, and cat (a female inexplicably named Christopher) in a suburb where a kid can get nearly anywhere just by walking. Her best friend is supposedly a little girl named Annie, but her main partner in both crime and adventure is the aptly named Tubby Thompkins; their relationship goes from a mutual quasi-crush one minute to barely tolerated disdain the next. That’s pretty much how I remember my grade school crushes too.
Lulu’s a bright, creative girl, and she usually has the best of intentions, but sometimes her imagination gets the best of her, leading to accidental mayhem. She’s also feisty and has a well-developed sense of moral outrage, which usually emerges when the neighborhood boys tease her for being a girl. A lot of her adventures center around her attempts to infiltrate their ‘boys only’ club, much to their dismay. Unfortunately for the boys, she’s smarter than all of them and almost always gets the better of them.
When not championing feminism, Lulu is often found babysitting neighborhood sociopath Alvin Jones (the elaborate fables she tells him are amazingly hilarious), running errands for her mother, and playing with dolls. Oh, and she sometimes helps ghosts solve their problems. For serious.
So What’s So Great About Her?

When I was a little girl, my familiarity with Little Lulu came from a few animated shorts. I don’t think I even realized she was a comic book character, and even if I had, it wouldn’t have mattered. When I initially got into comics, my interests were solely superhero-based and remained so for well over a decade. I wish I’d read Little Lulu as a kid, though, because in the two years since I’ve discovered these comics, Lulu’s become one of my very favorite female characters, full stop.
Lulu is one of those very rare characters who’s mischievous but manages to also be totally likable. She usually doesn’t mean to cause chaos; in fact, more often than not she’s a nice, helpful girl, a voice of reason for selfish, opportunistic Tubby to clash with. But while she’s very clever, she’s also never takes the time to ponder the full effects of what she’s doing. In this way, despite the cartoon-y nature of her stories, she’s also a very realistic child, which I love.
It also helps that she’s extremely brave and rather fierce. Granted, Tubby is a coward, but he’s also a male chauvinist. Yet he’s the first to acknowledge that Lulu has a way of solving problems, whether it’s with her brain or a fearsome snarl. But she’s also so feminine—she’s often busy minding her baby dolls, almost always wears her little dress and matching cap, and is absolutely always depicted in her signature ringlets.
So Lulu proves that you can be a strong, forceful person without sacrificing your femininity. No wonder Friends of Lulu, a group that promotes women readers and creators of comics, chose her for their mascot. Lulu’s constant attempts to break into the boys’ club was also pretty symbolic to FoL, which was frustrated by the male domination of both the comics industry and fandom. I think Lulu would heartily approve of her namesake, and not just out of vanity (though, being Lulu, that would be part of it).
Also, I have to say that her comics are genuinely some of the most hilarious I’ve ever read, and considering some are over 60 years old, that’s really saying something. (Have you ever read ‘funny books’ from the Golden Age? Let’s just say that sometimes tastes in humor don’t pass down from generation to generation.) There’s a timeless quality to them, and it always lifts my spirits to find an amazing comic that I would feel comfortable handing to a child.
In conclusion, go read Little Lulu. I mean, right now. I’ll wait.

Notable Appearances

Yeah, okay, you could go back and try to collect 40+ years of individual comic books, in which case you’re far richer and more patient than I am, or you can pick up the extremely comprehensive reprint trades from Dark Horse. There are currently 27 slimmer trades, featuring about five comics’ worth of material each, and many of them are in full color. Giant Size Little Lulu trades are in black and white (which I prefer, but that’s just me) and contain around 15 stories. Dark Horse has also been reprinting Little Lulu’s Friend Tubby comics in their own volumes, which obviously feature Lulu from time to time.

Janet van Dyne (Wasp)

The world came crashing down on happy-go-lucky socialite Janet van Dyne when her scientist father was killed. Vowing revenge, she talked his genius colleague, Hank Pym, into sharing his ‘Pym particles,’ which give people the ability to grow or shrink. For good measure, he also added wings and fire blasts to her power roster, and together they started teaming up as Ant-Man and Wasp. It wasn’t long before their relationship grew romantic, even if they had a tendency to bicker.
Jan and Hank remained a couple for several years, during which they also became founding members of the Avengers. (In fact, Jan named the team.) But it wasn’t until after Hank had an accident with some chemicals, causing him to start developing different personalities, that they headed down the alter. This ended up not working out so great for her as his mental state grew more erratic. During the course of her breakdown, he was verbally and, on one occasion, physically abusive. Understandably, Jan divorced him, though they continued being a couple off an on after Hank stabilized. She also dated some of her hot teammates, like Tony Stark and Hawkeye. (Him again!)
During the recent Secret Invasion storyline, a Skrull posing as Hank injected her with some super-cool-fun growth hormones. Turns out this really turned her into a bomb of sorts, and she was on the verge of exploding and taking out civilians when Thor was forced to kill her. Everyone was sad.
In her honor, Hank took up the mantle of Wasp, except now he’s Giant-Man again. I guess he’s over her.
So What’s So Great About Her?

I’m hard pressed to think of a superhero, male or female, who’s more fun than Jan. From her powers to her friendly, flirtatious personality to her endless stream of costume changes (for an amazingly exhaustive list of her eight billion costumes, check out this site), Jan is just an exuberant force of nature. With every scan I looked at for this post, I found myself wondering whether I’d rather have a BFF just like her or be more like her myself. She’s magnetic.
What’s even more interesting is that she’s always been this way. In the 1960s, particularly under the legendary Lee-Kirby helm, women were mostly present to serve as both a domestic mother figure and a place to stick a thought bubble filled with tearful, secret pining for some dude. When they were actually heroes, they often joined the good fight through relatively passive means (i.e., Sue accidentally getting hit with cosmic rays, Jean just being born a mutant, etc.).
Not so with Jan! She actively wanted to be a hero…or, she wanted to avenge her father with superpowers, and heroics came as a side dish. Either way, it was something she knowingly courted. And while her early comics with Hank are filled with typical romantic hemming and hawing, Jan often muses about her feelings for him right in front of him. Screw you, thought bubbles! And when he ignores her, Jan has zero problems flirting with any warm man-body to make him jealous—and to have a little fun.
Speaking of Hank, for someone with the reputation for having one of the worst relationships in comics, Jan is actually a rare woman in comics who doesn’t have terrible taste in men. While he might have been a squoosh old for her and maybe a little staid at times, Hank was actually a pretty good guy at first. It just so happened that he lost his mind. None of the abuse happened before his accident, and the one time he hit her, he was particularly lacking in lucidity. Which is not me trying to say that this makes it totally okay that he abused her—not at all. But if it’s not clear that there were mitigating circumstances to the abuse, it makes the fact that she got back together with him down the road sort of horrible.
In any case, Jan is beautiful, vibrant, and strong, and provides an enduring legacy to the Marvel Universe. So, naturally, she was killed off, and despite a recent tease at a resurrection, she remains dead. Shortly after her death in the main Marvel U, her Ultimate version was also murdered. When you do a Google Image search for ‘Janet van Dyne,’ the first result that pops up is a full-page illustration from Ultimatum graphically depicting her corpse being eaten by the Blob.
That pretty much sums up almost everything I hate about comics these days.
Notable Appearances

Tales to Astonish #44-69
The Avengers #1-75
Marvel Feature #6-10
The Avengers #137-278
Marvel Team-Up #59-60
West Coast Avengers #32-69
Solo Avengers #15
The Avengers (vol. 3) #1-84
The Avengers #500-503
Avengers Finale
Beyond! #1-6
Mighty Avengers #1-20
Secret Invasion #1-8
Incredible Hercules #129

Elvira Coot Duck (Grandma Duck)

For this last day of May, we’re ending our month-long tribute to mothers with a bit of an odd duck. rimshot The world of comics is not all superheroes!
Publisher: Disney, and whatever companies currently hold the Disney licenses in various countries (so, like, a lot of companies).
First Appearance: Donald Duck newspaper strip (as a painting in 1940, in person in 1943)
Created By: Al Taliaferro
Biography:

Elvira was born in Duckburg, Calisota, the daughter of Clinton Coot, founder of the Junior Woodchucks, and granddaughter of Cornelius Coot, founder of Duckburg itself a very illustrious pedigree, duckishly speaking. She married Dabney Duck (sometimes called Humperdink), with whom she started a farm and raised three children Quackmore, Daphne, and Eider.
When Scottish billionaire Scrooge McDuck moved in next door, hot-tempered Quackmore fell in love with one of Scrooge’s sisters, the equally hot-tempered Hortense. They eventually married and had twins, Donald and Della, and then seem to have just…disappeared, leaving the twins with Elvira and Dabney. Matters were made even more difficult when Dabney passed away, leaving Elvira to run the farm and raise her grandchildren no mean feat where Donald was concerned!
At the tender age of 20, Della married and had triplets: Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Then she abandoned them to the tender mercies of their ‘Unca Donald,’ and hasn’t been seen since. Somehow, Donald managed to turn three even worse hellions than himself into model young ducklings, but it’s widely agreed that he wouldn’t have managed without the calming influence of Elvira, as well as her father’s Junior Woodchucks.
Now Elvira is the matriarch of four generations of ducks, running her farm with the ‘help’ of her lazy great-nephew Gus (and, occasionally, the mice from Cinderella. Disney comics are weird).
So What’s So Great About Her?

Disney comics have a long and storied tradition, though they’re not very widely read in the US. The biography above is based mainly on the work of Don Rosa, following an informal family tree laid out by the all-time king of Duck comics, Carl Barks. In older Italian comics, Scrooge and Elvira are brother and sister, and in others, they’re cousins, though those traditions have mainly been supplanted by the Barks/Rosa storyline.
But Donald and his family are cartoon characters, existing continually in the present and wearing the same thing every day, and so the details of the past are less important than those of today. Regardless of tradition, some things are always true about Grandma Duck: she runs a farm, she raised Donald, and she helps him keep Huey, Dewey, and Louie in line.
That alone would be enough to make her awesome. Running a farm is really freaking hard work, and Grandma has done it basically alone since her husband died, since Gus is pretty much useless. (Actually, considering his main characteristics are ‘lazy’ and ‘gluttonous,’ he’s probably worse than useless.) Raising three kids is also really freaking hard work, especially as difficult kids as the Duck family tends to turn out, and Grandma Duck was, by all accounts, an excellent mother.
But Elvira went above and beyond, raising her grandchildren and running the farm alone despite her grief (not only had her husband just died, but it’s probable that Donald and Della were left with Elvira because Quackmore and Hortense were dead). That’s a heroic effort. And though no one really knows what became of Della, Donald turned out all right hot-tempered and foolhardy, sure, but basically good-hearted and happy. And the nephews are paragons of little ducky virtue (in the comics, at least).
Disney comics can be unkind to female characters (Barks’s depiction of Daisy makes one want to weep), but Grandma Duck is consistently portrayed in a positive light. The undisputed matriarch of the whole motley clan, she’s strong, capable, and self-reliant, yet also nurturing and cozy, ready at a moment’s notice to provide a plate of fresh-baked cookies and some sound advice or a boot in the bottom and a no-nonsense talking-to. She takes no guff from her hot-headed grandson or his blustery uncle, and is Daisy’s go-to for help and guidance despite the fact that until Donald puts a ring on it, they’re not actually related. (Well, probably not. The Duck family tree is tangled.)
Donald may be a star and Scrooge may be a fantasticatrillionaire, but there’s no question who wears the pants in the Duck family…
…Actually, no one. Lack of pants-wearing is a longstanding family tradition. But Grandma Duck is most definitely the lady in charge.

Notable Appearances:
Grandma Duck has never had her own title in the US, but she’s had over ten thousand appearances worldwide (I told you Disney comics were big!), and over 500 comics in the US alone. You can find a full list of her appearances here. Nowadays, you’re most likely to find her in Walt Disney’s Comics, currently being published monthly by Boom! Studios.

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
Biography

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

Biography:
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
Biography

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
Biography
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