Top Ten Biggest Bad-Ass Moments for Women in Comics


(Spoiler alert: If you haven’t read these stories, this will ruin them for you. Go read them first if you want to be surprised.)

Elektra1. Elektra in Elektra: Assassin
You know I love this book, so I’ll try not to go on. Breaking though the drug haze and escaping from the mental institution is incredible to watch, you can feel the wrench as she fights within herself to pull her mind back to coherence. This is the first clue that Elektra is more powerful than anyone anticipated, particularly her enemies. By the second chapter, she’s killing S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in droves, deflecting bullets, slicing and dicing, throwing them back with her silent shout (which hits like a mack truck). Ultimately she saves the world, maneuvering her man into the presidency and beating back the forces of the Beast. There is barely a moment in this book which isn’t bad-ass, it’s impossible to pick only one.

Phoenix2. Phoenix in The Dark Phoenix Saga
The journey from insipid and unsure Marvel Girl to a planet-eating level of violent power is a marvelous thing to behold. There was something intensely satisfying in watching Jean Grey gradually discover the various aspects of her power, which is seemingly without limits, until she finally embraces it in all of its aspects. While her character has gone through many changes in direction, and historical rethinks, in this book at least, her power is all her own and she revels in it most when she devours an entire planet and everything on it. For me, this is a perfect example of personal continuity; I’m always going to see Phoenix as part of Jean Grey because that’s how it was written then, and that’s how I like it. Something external didn’t possess her, the phoenix effect is part of her, and an expression of her own power.

Dara3. Dara
in The Sword, Volume 2
This is the bad-ass moment which inspired this list. For their part in shaping my life, the top two positions have to go to Elektra and Phoenix, but this month in The Sword, Dara really blew my mind. Throughout their work, The Luna Brothers have impressed me with their depiction of women and examination of the gender experiences. Now in The Sword, they’ve created a woman who is already a hero in overcoming the limitations of a crippling accident. But with her discovery of this sword (the depository of ancient powers of healing and strength), and undertaking the mission to avenge her families murder, she becomes a true warrior. In issue 12 this month her legs are chopped off by her adversary. Instinctively she grabs the sword, seeking it’s healing powers. But the sword begins to heal up the stumps of her legs, the skin quickly growing over the blood. She flings the sword away, rips the skin off, pulls her dismembered legs to their place and only then picks up the sword again. It’s pretty impressive.

Wonder Woman4. Wonder Woman in Kingdom Come
Until Kingdom Come, I thought that Wonder Woman was simply an out-dated concept. She was obviously intended to give the author an excuse to depict a scantily clad woman tying people up. For me, she lacked intensity, and although I always loved her back story as an Amazon princess warrior, I just wasn’t really feeling it. But in Kingdom Come she really stepped up. At one point she tells a placatory Superman “If they want to act like warriorsI’ll show them war.”, this is the book where I first believed in a really pissed off Wonder Woman. Superman might be the central hero in this book, but it’s Wonder Woman who brings the battle to the story. When she dons her battle armor and flies above the clouds with Batman, ultimately to disable the nuclear weapons, she is fearsome and decisive, and every bit Amazon warrior royalty.

Carrie5. Robin in The Dark Knight Returns
This little girl’s got balls. Carrie Kelley jumps right in and becomes Robin all on her own, with not a single bit of encouragement from anyone. She sees the need, and decides to do something about it. Basically, she saves the big guy’s life and does it without help or encouragement from anyone. Carrie is The Dark Knight’s polar opposite in every way, and she fills in the gaps for him, with her youth, energy and enthusiasm. In the end she works with Alfred as the secret engineer to Batman’s triumph, to the rebirth of a city that they witness, and she is at his right hand all the way. The fact that she’s a girl, not a woman, only reinforces the fact that there is not a moment when she’s fighting that she isn’t flying in the face of her natural instincts to cower and hide. The level of bravery here can’t be underestimated.

Jakita6. Jakita Warner in Planetary, Volume 2
In the first issue of Planetary, Jakita jumped out of a helicopter, landed with an earth shattering bang, and her role as the mover and shaker on the team was firmly established. This is truly a superwoman, she’s tough, brave and incredibly strong. In Volume 2 of Planetary Ellis creates a scenario straight out of a 1960’s monster movie; Giant mutated ants are attacking, and only Jakita can fight these massive behemoths. This isn’t a job she’s forced into, but one she actively seeks out. Wrestling these beasts down and punching them through buildings is her idea of a good time and she relishes the experience. Her teammates know this is her deal, and they leave her to deal with problem quickly and effectively.

Tulip7. Tulip in Preacher, Volume 8
Throughout the series, Tulip is every bit her man’s equal partner, fighting against his need to shelter her from danger. She is strong, skilled, and smart, saving Jessie’s life again and again. Pitting herself against the most horrible enemies, she isn’t fearless, but her fury carries her pretty far. The moment in the series that really gave me pause, the moment when I felt like Tulip showed her grit, was when she walked away from Cassidy. Despite what could only be the worst hangover imaginable she leaves (6 months of brain-destroying quantities of valium and alcohol, plus the knowledge that the love of your life is dead, has got to make a lady feel pretty wobbly). When she hears Cassidy’s blustering threats, and simply tells him, “Cassidy. Really. This is me.” you know that’s it, she’s done with this and he needs to just move out her way.

Promethea8. Promethea in Promethea, Volume 3
While on her tour through the metaphysical levels of the Kaballah/tarot/planets/the afterlife, Sophie leaves Stacia and Grace in charge of the embodiment of Promethea on earth. Stacia/Grace is a much wilder, better dressed, more bloodthirsty, baser version of Promethea than Sophie’s (as she says herself “as for that other Promethea, the nice one… I’m afraid she’s elsewhere”). In her final battle with the Goetia (demons inhabiting the mayor) she exhibits her most fearsome side, the side that revels in her role of wild warrior princess. Unexpectedly, it’s not her sword-wielding persona (though she does do that part really well), but her willingness to embrace her demons which is truly chilling. She literally and metaphorically consume the Geotia, making the demons her own, a part of her, and she’s victorious at last.

Tara9. Tara Chace in Queen & Country, Volume 2
Tara’s a tough, gritty government agent, so her being a bit of a bad-ass is a given. Her intense commitment to this job is almost a prerequisite to her success and survival, so it’s not surprising to see her deal with any given situation. The shock is always in her joy, her love of what could almost seem like an untenable career. Clearly she gains tremendous satisfaction from her ability to deal with the untenable, and it’s when she is fighting for her life that she seems most present in her life. When she’s captured by inept agents in  “Operation: Stormfront”, despite suffering the after-effects of a car-wreck which just killed her colleague, she smiles up at her would-be rapist/kidnappers and says “Your muzzle control sucks mate.” before shooting 3 of her 4 captors with their own gun.

Kitty10. Kitty Pryde in Astonishing X-Men, Volume 4
I never really liked Kitty, from the minute she appeared, she seemed ineffectual and gimmicky. It seemed kind of like when all the cute little babies grew up on The Cosby Show, and suddenly they got a new one who was all tiny and adorable. Maybe it’s because I was about 12 when she was, or because I was also a dorky, awkward, Jewish kid who didn’t feel quite at home anywhere, but I wanted her to step up in a way that never seemed to happen. When Astonishing X-Men started, I was following the artist and writer, because I’d sworn off X-Men comics long ago. But Whedon did something incredible. He made Pryde an adult, but still herself. She had massive resources, depths of strength and that could carry her team. In the final story, it’s Pryde that saves the earth and her determination and sacrifice was fantastic to witness.

 


Sonia Harris is a woman who gave up being a bad-ass long ago, in favor of a nice, mellow existence. You can point out the inconsistencies, typos, and massive omissions in this article to her via comment, or email her at sonia@ifanboy.com.

Comments

  1. Sweet article!!  Great highlight of some amazing moments not only for women in comics, but for comics in general.  If I may be so bold, I would include Willow’s general kick-assery in all of Buffy Season 8.  As well as the scene at the end of Civil War where the Invisible Woman just completely ruins Taskmaster’s shit by flattening him with an invisible stomp!

  2. Awesome article!

    I’m trying to decide on the best moments for a certain secret agent in Y The Last Man.   

  3. My X-men memories are a little hazy, but I maintain that Storm stabbing Callisto through the heart while infected by a plague is pretty bad-ass. That led, in part, to her mohawk. And mohawks are pretty bad-ass. And then powerless, she challenges Scott to lead the X-men. C’mon. I guess I just remember that as a teen and really realizing that Storm wasn’t just some wussy goddess chick who was afraid of small spaces. She was actively transforming herself. So she gets honorable mention in my Bad-Ass list.

  4. Can’t wait for Sword Vol. 2! Thanks for the spoiler;)

  5. Fantastic suggestions fellas. Keep ’em coming, ’cause I know I’ve missed out on a ton more! You should have seen my apartment last night, about 50% of my books were strewn about as I tried to research EVERY possible option.

    @s1lentslayer: I added a spoiler alert. Too late to save you, but it’s there now.

  6. glad to see Kitty at #10- that was pretty badass, she took a bullet for the world. 

  7. Kitty Pride should be number one on this list only because Whedon made her so fucking fantastic. From issue one of Astonishing to the final Giant Sized issue, she was the main character through out the tale. He made her more relevant to the X-Men and made her a much more responsible person. The Giant Sized issue with her in the bullet missle might be one of the best moments in comics period.

    Still that is a great top ten and I can see why Elektra is the most bad ass in the group.

     

  8. Great column.  I also think Wonder Woman from New Frontier is a pretty amazing, kick ass woman.

     

    Btw, what about the little girl in Kick Ass?  By definition she’s Kick Ass no? 

  9. "The journey from insipid and unsure Marvel Girl"

    Aww, do we have to hate on Marvel Girl?  She was squaring off with the thing and telling Magneto where to stick it a long time before Claremont or the Phoenix got their claws on her.  Just saying!

  10. Barbara Gordon and Renee Montoya.  Both badasses.  Both women.  Both badass primarily because of their minds and without bullshit magical powers.  There are women on this planet who, with enough effort and intelligence, can become these heroes.

    If my two daughters grow up to have Barbara Gordon’s heart, intelligence, and work ethic and Renee Montoya’s curiousity, I will be one happy pappy.

  11. I love me some Dara and I love me some Sword.

    Maxine Manchester from Alan Moore’s Wildcats was scary but also strangely alluring.

  12. Kingdom Come and New Frontier brought a whole new dimension to Wonder Woman’s personality. I like the angle you take on Carrie Kelley. Really the true hero of Miller’s The Dark Knight. I have to get caught up on Astonishing X-Mmen. I thought how Kitty took on the Hellfire Club, while just about everybody else had been taken out by mind-control, was pretty cool.  

    Kind of a bummer that there aren’t many kick-ass moments that come to mind for any other DC women. I know Barbara Gordon has had some; I’m thinking just developing the Oracle persona has got to be one… 

  13. Can’t leave out Jessica Jones, one of my favorite mainstream female characters.  She’s got a lot of great moments – laying the beatdown on the Purple Man was a good one.

  14. Cool article. May I addendum? Huntress cutting off Omerta’s tongue in Year One.

  15. Oh yes, and Jenny Sparks from the Authority.  "Don’t piss us off."

  16. I can’t believe you left out the Wonder Woman vs. Superman fight, leading up to WW killing Maxwell Lord.  Supes was mind-controlled by Lord, and Wonder Woman and Supes beat the crap out of each other.  It was one of the coolest super hero fights I’ve ever read.

  17. @josh – Dug(g).

  18. Ah, I love the comments — you guys are reminding me of some bad-ass moments that I’ve completely forgotten. I keep thinking…"so-and-so was a bad-ass at some point, but I can’t remember exactly when or where…"

  19. I like this gem from Morrison and my favorite X-Man besides Cyclops:

    Jean Grey: What makes you such a bitch, Emma?
    Emma Frost: Breeding, darling. Top class breeding.
  20. First they started wearing pants…….THEN we let them vote……Now they’re takin’ over our funnybooks….

    The only female superhero I ever dug was The PRO.

  21. Great to see The Sword getting some love, however Tulip is more badass than anyone on this list.

  22. Don’t forget about the grandmama of Marvel heroines, Janet Van Dyne. There has never been an Avengers team that was right without her.

  23. Dara from the Sword, because we witness her transformation.  She didn’t start out as a superhero, but found the strength within her not from training, but from her experiences as a daugther and sister. 

  24. Didn’t the Wasp wimp out of a fight because of her hair one time?

  25. thought all of these women were very badass

    cant wait for the sword thanks for the spoiler lol

    and i loved the preacher reference!!

  26. Sonia, another excellent article!

    I, too, am a very big fan of  The Sword.  Dara is one of my top favorite characters in comics right now.

    Oh yes, I agree with the rest of the list too, but I also think Barbara Gordon deserves a place of honor as well!

     

  27. yay girl power! great job Sonia!

    although seeing Carrie on this list makes those slutty Robin costumes I saw at Halloween look *really* tacky.

  28. neat! I’ve gotta contradict you a little on Kitty, though. Astonishing might have been her best moment, but she’s proven herself over and over again, pretty much since day one. Check out X-Men #143. 

    Also, How about Casey in Ronin? Dani Moonstone going up against the Demon Bear? Illyana usurping Belasco?

  29. Love Tara Chace.  She is one bad ass chick.

  30. Nice list, Sonia, but I think Tulip should be higher! Also, I’d have to throw Batgirl (Cassandra Cain) onto that list somewhere. The best martial-artist/hand to hand fighter in the whole DCU (male or female) is nothin’ to sneeze at.

  31. I always remember the time sue richards ripped the shit out of a celestial all the way back in FF400, told the watchers and celestials to quit their shit or earth would fuck them up, ran the team for several years and was pretty badass against namor, thor, nathaniel richards, blackbolt, zarko, kristoff, even bloody doom.

  32. Or when she tore a hole in the Baxter building while arguing with Reed. "Do I look like I need protection?" That was a very gripping moment for me.

  33. Agree completely with Kitty. She was pretty much the token teen on the team in the early 80s when I was reading Uncanny. Her "big moment" in 143 has her running from room to room before she remembered the end of Alien and frying the demon with engine exhaust. Then she became a ninja in Wolverine-Kitty Pryde mini (the WORST miniseries of the 80s, btw), but was still ineffectual. By the time Excalibur rolled around I was out of comics for 15 years. Maybe she did something then, I dunno.

    Then Joss comes around and makes her the most compelling character out of a slew of other well developed choices. And the way she went out…man, still makes me tear up. No one else on that team would’ve had the intestinal fortitude to pull off that sacrifice, IMO.

    Oh, and Dark Phoenix ate a star. The planet was collateral damage. 

  34. Stacia/Grace – totally bad-ass! Just look at that hair! 

  35. @RobAsten, if you think Kitty Pryde & Wolverine is the worst 80’s mini, you haven’t read "Fallen Angels," The Iceman mini, X-Men/Micronauts, or Secret Wars 2. And yes, Kitty was awesome in Excalibur and you missed it.

  36. Gail Simone writing Secret Six. That’s bad ass.

    Ivory Madison adressing feminist issues in Huntress Year One. That’s a bad ass moment for women in comics.

  37. I can’t disagree with this list. I would add Hippolyte in Phil Jimenez’s run in Wonder Woman!

  38. Just the fact that you got Number One soooo right is worthy of compliments alone.  ELEKTRA: ASSASIN is maybe my favorite book of all time…and she is so mind-bendingly badass.

    If you didn’t get a chance to read the Morgan / Sienkiewicz Black Widow mini-series that came out recently, you are missing another great bad-ass.

    and don’t forget BOMB QUEEN!

  39. I really Love TWD I gotta say the seen when she totally gets back at the Govenor is bad ass

  40. My selection of bad ass women: Alex DeWitt, Karen Page, Huntress, Frankie Raye, Gwen Stacy, Namorita, Illyana Rasputin, Mockingbird, Threnody. Special mention to Wanda Maximof and Dona Troy. lol

  41. My number one badass woman is still Rachel Summers/Grey.

  42. This is a brilliant list. It made me realize that Phoenix was such a strong character transformation that I literally thought of Phoenix and Marvel Girl as different characters until I read this and reflected on it.

  43. @jimski: Imagine how shocking it was when it happened? It really blew me away as a little girl.