In recent years, the conversation of female superheroes has started to change. Where we once saw the industry largely dominated by male readers, the ratio of male to female comic book readers has certainly changed. Some of the more optimistic and less cynical comic book fans believe that movies like The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy having more prominent female characters in their line-ups, and the fact that the upcoming Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice film will finally be bringing us a big-screen version of Wonder Woman, that comic books are finally becoming more accessible to women.
Others believe that women have always been a sizable readership, and the industry has always served men and excluded women, citing common sexist tropes and the fact that many female characters are often scantily clad and have physically impossible body types that accentuate the breasts and buttocks. While this statement is 100% true, some say this is sexism, and others say this is just simply marketing to a core demographic to make safe and cost effective business decisions.
Why we may not agree on the hows an whys, one thing that we can probably all agree on: the industry certainly does seem to be trying to eliminate these issues with the portrayal of females in their comic books.
DC has restructured continuity with events that have put more female characters in the forefront. DC has always had a vast number of powerful female characters, but they typically served as fan-service for heterosexual male readers, they were girlfriends or secondary characters to more prominent male characters, or just "re-skinned" versions of male heroes.
Marvel has begun marketing themselves as an "All New. All Different" Marvel. In addition to including more strong female characters, they've also included a variety of races and religious backgrounds as well.
While both major companies have made a number of mistakes in their role-out of new and exciting female characters, it is at least nice to see them trying. Let's check out some of the strongest and most powerful female characters in the rosters of "The Big Two."
Note: This list is not ranked in particular order.
15 Thor (Jane Foster)
Marvel's new initiative is an "All New, All Different" Marvel. This initiative moves to take Marvel's largely white male base of popular characters and make their roster more accessible for all readers that enjoy comics. In addition to Asian-American teen Amadeus Cho becoming the new Totally Awesome Hulk and the African-American character Sam Wilson (formerly Falcon) becoming the new Captain America, it turns out that Thor's love interest Jane Foster is also a worthy enough hero to wield Mjolnir, the magical hammer of Thor.
Many thought this new female Thor was going to be Thor's sister Angela as Marvel didn't reveal who exactly this new female Thor was until a handful of issues had already hit the store shelves.
Considering we've seen Thor go toe-to-toe with the Hulk, it's no surprise that Jane Foster makes this list.
14 Super Girl
Clark Kent (Ka-El) wasn't the only Kryptonian from the House of El to be sent to planet Earth just moments before the destruction of Krypton - Kara Zor-El (aka Kara Danvers) made it to the planet too and is equal in ability to Superman, though Superman seems to have made it to Earth first, is older, and has had some time to grow accustomed to his role as "the big blue boy scout." Of course, anyone with the seemingly limitless power of a Kryptonian under Earth's yellow sun is going to make the list.
Melissa Benoist is playing the character in a new series from CBS and it looks nothing short of fantastic. It's a shame, however, that she won't be joining the growing CW universe of DC comic's characters.
If you're a "Gleek", you'll probably remember Melissa from the popular FOX series Glee. This is the second time DC has used a Glee regular to play one of their major characters. Grant Gustin currently plays The Flash on the CW series of the same name.
13 Emma Frost
In the world of X-Men, Emma Frost/The White Queen is well known for her vast telepathic abilities and the additional ability to go into an organic diamond state, granting her highly increased invulnerability and increased strength. Her telepathic abilities are so strong they can do anything from create mirages in the minds of her foes, astral projection, bend people to her mental bidding, read thoughts, and project thoughts. In addition, this increased mental state gives her telekinetic abilities, and has helped her obtain several degrees in higher education. Basically, she can get away with whatever the heck she wants.
In the comic books, Emma started as a villain but has since become a valuable hero and team leader to the X-Men and has served as a teacher at the Xavier Institute for Gifted Mutants.
Unfortunately for the character, her artistic depictions have always been as a fantasy symbol for heterosexual males, and those representations have always been very blatant with that fact. The sole exception to this might be when she served as a teacher in the series Generation X. In this series she largely wore white pantsuits as opposed to her usual cape and bikini.
While Emma is incredibly powerful in the comics, she's consistently been severely understated in the X-Men films.
Zatanna is another character that can practically do whatever she wants. She might look like the assistant to some hokey stage magician, but she is actually a true master of magical forces. Zatanna has an ability that only seems to be limited by her imagination and how quickly she can think on her toes.
Zatanna can pretty much do anything she desires so long as she says it backwards. Do you want to send some cat-calling jerk on the street to the top of a skyscraper? If you're Zatanna, all you have to do is say "Tup mih no a reparcsyks" and BOOM! That man is on a skyscraper.
Stating things backwards isn't the key to magic in the DC Universe. Zatanna has a genetic ability that helps pull this off. Simpler tasks can be accomplished simply by saying the desired outcome normally. She can perform remedial tasks without any spoken spell components.
Zatanna has been referred to as the most powerful sorcerer in the DC comic book universe.
11 Kitty Pryde
While the first characters have seemed to be almost infinitely powerful, Kitty Pryde aka Shadowcat aka Ariel aka Sprite, has one core ability that is just extremely useful. She can "phase" making herself completely intangible. This allows her to avoid almost any physical attack, only being susceptible to energy or magic based attacks. This same ability allows her to pass through solid objects as long as she can hold her breath. Passing a "phased" part of her body through a machine causes it to malfunction. Phasing through a human can render them immediately unconscious.
What really makes Kitty powerful is the dark side of her ability. She can cause other things to go intangible through contact. She can conceivably leave someone stuck into a wall forever, or phase an object through someone's head and revert it back to its solid state in the middle of their brain.
Kitty is the youngest mutant to ever join the roster of the core X-Men team.
10 Jesse Quick
Jesse Chambers aka Jesse Quick has inherited two sets of abilities from her parents Johnny Quick and Liberty Belle. Like her father and the more widely known character The Flash, Jesse is able to tap into the Speed Force, a force that allows Jesse to run, fly, and move at incredible speeds. In addition to these already incredible abilities, Jesse inherited super-strength from her mother.
Just imagine someone who was so strong and so quick that they could throw a car at you before you had time to blink.
The character of Jesse Quick has been cast for the second season of CW's The Flash television series. She will be played by up-and-coming actress Violett Beane. Currently, none of her television of film credits have aired or hit theaters. In addition to The Flash October premier, she'll be seen in the October premier of HBO's The Leftovers.
9 Sue Storm
Unfortunately, Sue is probably one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel Universe. The comics have done some justice for her powers and persona. She's no longer relegated to the arm candy of Namor or husband Reed Richards. Heck, during the Civil War story-arch she left Reed and literally blew the roof off of their skyscraper home, the Four Freedom Plaza. This is not something the character would have done in her first appearance in 1961.
In addition to her ability to render herself invisible, she can create invisible force fields that seem to gain strength equal to her level of concentration. She can create invisible blasts that, as mentioned, can blow the roof off of a skyscraper. She can also create invisible floating disks that she can fly or move heavy objects around on.
Like Kitty Pryde, Sue has a dark side to her power. She can conceivably create a small invisible force field in an enemy's body, potentially cutting her foe off from air or even stopping the flow of blood to their brain.
Starfire is a very well known character thanks to her inclusion in Cartoon Network's number of Teen Titans series. In the comic books, Starfire has served as both a teen and an adult, depending on the era you're reading.
Starfire isn't a human who gained powers that resulted in her outlandish look. She is actually an alien that absorbs ultraviolet radiation (much like Supergirl) that manifests in her body as a powerful form of energy. This energy allows her to fly at super-sonic speeds and can then be expelled to a devastating effect. This energy also grants her a high degree of super-strength and invulnerability that has allowed her to go toe-to-toe with Wonder Woman.
Her racial abilities also allow her to learn any language through physical contact with the speaker.
Starfire has come under fire in recent years due to her Nu52 incarnation. She's very scantily clad and has a good degree of indiscriminate sex. Obviously, we do not see this version in the Teen Titans cartoon series.
Mera, like Aquaman, gets a lot of flack for being a "useless underwater character." The thing is, Aquaman and Mera are far from useless and are quite possibly two of the most powerful characters in the DC universe. The flack Aquaman and Mera receive is largely due to old and tired jokes on shows like Family Guy and Big Bang Theory that create the false idea Aquaman's only ability is that he can talk to fish and that he is useless unless in water.
Like Aquaman, Mera is actually stronger and more invulnerable on land due to being used to a life in the oceans depths. She's also a trained warrior and infiltrator. While Mera lacks Aquaman's ability of a psychic push with ocean life (and to some extent land life), she is able to control water to do her every whim. She can turn it into fierce creatures, make it hard to protect herself, and she has even sent every source of water around her erupting out from its source and destroying everything around her.
Mera, too, has a dark side to her powers. She could conceivably pull all the water out from the body of her foes, instantly and completely dehydrating them.
6 Wonder Woman
Of course Wonder Woman was going to be on this list. Wonder Woman, like Superman, almost too powerful. A lot of people think this makes the character unbelievable because she could apprehend any foe in a matter of seconds. Obviously DC raises the stakes with villains of equal ability, but their is another reason characters of almost immeasurable power are interesting to read: despite the fact that they can do almost anything they want, they still always choose to do the right and moral thing. Sure, there have been some disappointing occasions where this rule has been broken, but for the most part this rule stays in place within the pages of Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman has been a very popular character for decades. At times her treatment has been dated, questionable, and extremely sexist. In this new modern era of comics, the industry seems to be trying to rectify that. A failed television show featured the character wearing pants, very much an oddity on female characters (The pilot was awful by the way. It did not fail because of the pants).
It also appears that Wonder Woman will be the first solo film featuring a female character in the genre of superhero films. The character, played by Gal Gadot, will first appear in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
5 Jean Grey
Jean Grey is what's known in Marvel comics as an Omega-grade mutant, putting her on a level with the likes of Magneto and Professor X himself.
She has telepathic powers equal to those mentioned with Emma Frost, and her telekinetic abilities put Frost's to shame.
Jean Grey has merged with an entity know as the Phoenix, that increases her powers to immeasurable levels. When in the Phoenix state, Grey's abilities are so strong she can rearrange matter at the sub-atomic level, causing just about any object (or living thing) she concentrates on to completely disintegrate. This Phoenix Force has made Grey mentally unstable in the past, resulting in her becoming on of the X-men's greatest threats. This idea was shown in the depressingly bad X-Men film, X-Men: The Last Stand. However, the story line was done quite well in the now classic X-Men animated series of the 1990's.
The character has been portrayed in films by actress Famke Janssen.
Raven, like Starfire, is another character that didn't see much in the way of mainstream popularity until her inclusion in Cartoon Network's various Teen Titans animated series. In Raven's case, it isn't so much about how powerful she is, it's more about her range of and number of abilities. Get ready, this list is pretty long.
First, Raven has the almost obligatory superhero power of flight. She can even do so unaided in space. She can rapidly heal herself and others, even deadly wounds at a risk to her own life. In addition, Raven can create an astral projection of herself that can serve as an extension of her eyes and ears for her physical body. Though it is an astral projection, it can physically fight her foes.
She can manipulate, diminish, and create shadows and darkness. She can also bend other forms of energy to her will, up to and including time and the emotions of others. Bending emotions allows her to instill fear in others and even create mirages that aren't there.
We aren't done. She has been seen almost magically inducing unconciousness, firing devestating flame and electric blasts from her cloak. She can also travel through other dimensions and teleport.
Though they are anchored to her emotional state, Raven also has telepathic and telekinetic abilities.
Raven can induce any of the seven deadly sins into the minds of others, but this results in nausea.
Finally, Raven can even predict future events, though involuntarily.
Yes. We're done now.
3 Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers)
Captain Marvel might be one of the least known characters on our list, but Marvel comics has already announced that Carol Danvers will be Marvel's first solo film for a female character. Surprisingly, DC will beat Marvel too the punch with their Wonder Woman film. Generally, Marvel has been the trendsetter when it comes to the battling comic book companies place in the world of cinema.
Carol Danvers has strength, flight and invulnerability, much like that of any Superman clone. Outside of these pretty basic superhero abilities, Danvers can fly unaided in space, she can also absorb energy and emit it as a photonic blast. Her energy absorption powers can also enable her to become increasingly stronger and more invulnerable, equal in power to that of a nuclear explosion. She's even been known to be able to absorb magical energies.
In addition to her powers, Carol has other talents. She is trained in han-to-hand combat, espionage, and she's a highly skilled pilot.
Thanks to the Marvel movies, I'm pretty sure we're all familiar with how powerful the Hulk is. No one has been able to do more than simply subdue the character temporarily.
Many people think that She-Hulk is some sort of weaker version of the Hulk, but in fact she is just as strong and her powers aren't triggered by anger and rage. Her powers were at one time weaker (she received an emergency blood transfusion from Bruce), but she too was given the ability to increase her power with anger to unknown levels in later issues. When Jennifer Walters (Bruce Banner's cousin) transforms, she totally keeps her intelligence, emotional state, and wits about her. This gives her an edge that Bruce Banner does not have.
By day, Jennifer works as a lawyer, often taking cases for superheroes. She has also served as an Avenger and trusted member of The Fantastic Four.
1 Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan)
If there is one character that can be credited as the first to really generate more conversation about representing other people in comic books besides white males, it would be Kamala Kahn. Not only is she a powerful female character with her own solo book, but she's also of a non-white race and she's the first Muslim character to ever headline their own Marvel comic book.
In addition to being a new powerful cultural icon, Ms. Marvel has her super-powers of course.
Kamala founds out she was an Inhuman, having the racial traits of increased longevity, and the speed, strength, reaction time, and endurance of an athlete in prime condition. In addition, her exposure to Terrigen Mists (a birthright to all Inhumans) has given her the ability to morph any part of her body into any shape she can imagine, a powerful ability to heal herself (even from deadly bullet wounds), and a bioluminescence. The exposure to th Terrigen Mists also increased her racial Inhuman abilities.
It's extremely likely that Kamala will make an appearance in the announced Captain Marvel or Inhumans movies. Unfortunately neither film has yet been cast or gone into production as they have been announced for 2018 and 2019 respectively.