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No Spandex
October 20, 2013 7:58 AM   Subscribe

Name Five Strong Female Characters Who Don't Wear Costumes And/Or Don't Have Superpowers.
posted by MartinWisse (119 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Name any character in any visual media who isn't wearing a costume
posted by smackwich at 8:07 AM on October 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


garfield
posted by pyramid termite at 8:08 AM on October 20, 2013 [25 favorites]


Don't pretty much the super heroes wear spandex period?
posted by Carillon at 8:09 AM on October 20, 2013


Oh, apparently it requires obscure comics characters.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:09 AM on October 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


What? No Strangers in Paradise?
posted by crush-onastick at 8:09 AM on October 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


Ah, this is just for comics; at first I was like "easy, just list the female cast of Pretty Little Liars" but yeah, okay.

I'd be interested to see a little more discussion of these; I don't really know a lot about many of these women and I'd like to see what makes them strong and, if we're excluding superpowers, perhaps different types of strength.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:11 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know you've been on mefi for too long when you're trying to figure out if this is just a harmless Top 5 list or subtle critic on the state of equality in the comics industry.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 8:15 AM on October 20, 2013 [18 favorites]


Re: costumes... I think the list is not asking for superheroines without costumes or powers. It's asking for non-superhuman female characters who are strong characters.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:18 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Every woman on a Joss Whedon television show
posted by smackwich at 8:23 AM on October 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Peggy Olson?

Oh wait just comics. Um, the cast of dykes to watch out for?
posted by The Whelk at 8:25 AM on October 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


Peggy has that magic spear.
posted by box at 8:27 AM on October 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


( can you submit the entire Love and Rockets canon as an answer?)
posted by The Whelk at 8:27 AM on October 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


Malory Archer
posted by Behemoth at 8:31 AM on October 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


Is this comics only or are movies, TV, and books on the table? Because from non-comics media I can list at least a dozen off the top of my head:

Dana Scully (X-Files)

Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games)

Michonne (Walking Dead)

Maggie (Walking Dead)

Carol (Walking Dead)

Ripley (Aliens)

Joyce Summers (Buffy) (all the other female characters become superpowered at some point or there would be at least 5 more from Buffy)

Fred (Angel)

Zoe (Firefly)

Kaylie (Firefly)

Inara (Firefly)

Maria Hill (Avengers)

Melinda May (Agents of SHIELD)

Arya Stark (Game of Thrones)

Brienne of Tarth (Game of Thrones)

Catherine Tully Stark (Game of Thrones)

Ayla (Earth's Children) (might fail the non-superpowered test depending on how you view her visions)

Iza (Earth's Children)

Aeryn Sun (Farscape) (unless her genetic endowments/enhancements as a Peacekeeper count as superpowered? she's not superpowered relative to the rest of her race)

Joan Watson (Elementary)

Leslie Knope (Parks and Rec)

That's without going to Wikipedia to look up the names of characters I otherwise remember. If I checked the Wikipedia pages for all the shows, movies, and books I like then this list would be many times as long despite having to leave off dozens of women for having superpowers.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:31 AM on October 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


Does Mary Worth have superpowers? She killed Aldo Kelrast with rejection, but I don't know if that counts.
posted by ernielundquist at 8:32 AM on October 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


( can you submit the entire Love and Rockets canon as an answer?)

Well, except Penny and the Ti-Girls.
posted by Bigfoot Mandala at 8:33 AM on October 20, 2013


There are Serenity comic books, so I'm going with

Zoe Washburne
Zoe Washburne
Zoe Washburne
Zoe Washburne
Zoe Washburne
posted by lydhre at 8:33 AM on October 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


Name any character in any visual media who isn't wearing a costume

Irene Adler
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:34 AM on October 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


Mary Jane, Peter Parker's girlfriend. She is among the superheroes in my son's Top Trump deck of cards. I say she isn't a superhero, but my son insists that she must be or she wouldn't have a card - which I must concede is a fair point.
posted by three blind mice at 8:35 AM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


How are we defining strong? Like, well developed? If so, I name the entire cast of Azumanga Daioh. DONE.
posted by maryr at 8:35 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Renee Montoya, Moira MacTaggart, Barbara "Oracle" Gordon, Leslie Thompkins, May Parker.

There, what do I win?
posted by entropicamericana at 8:37 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


some people are sure confrontational about this - just seems like a fun list thing to me. also, seems pretty clear it's just about comics if you click the link.
posted by nadawi at 8:42 AM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is a question tailor-made for the classic Amanda Waller.

Before they sexed her up, at least.

You could make it more difficult by adding "whose primary role is not 'love interest for the protagonist.'"
posted by delfin at 8:44 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Maggie, Hopey, Izzy, Chelo, Carmen
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:51 AM on October 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Name any character in any visual media who isn't wearing a costume


Lois Lane doesn't wear a costume and I think she's one if the powerful figures in the DC universe.

As for ALL visual media? c'mon, but I watched a shit ton of Hannibal recently, so Alana Bloom and Freddie Lounds.
posted by The Whelk at 8:52 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Catherine Tully Stark

[nerdpedant]Catelyn Tully Stark[/nerdpedant]

I haven't actually read the Walking Dead comics and I know the TV show made up some characters, but surely there's some overlap in the strong-female-character department?

I was amused at how many times Lucy Van Pelt got mentioned, but I have to agree. Also:

5. Aunt May Parker (apart from that one time she was Herald of Galactus)

wait, what?? I mean, I love me some Aunt May (and don't especially love Silver Surfer) but good lord, have Galactus's hiring standards have gone all to hell or what?
posted by mstokes650 at 8:54 AM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sometimes it seems weird to me just how huge the cultural gulf is between American comics and manga -- it always seems on lists like these that people will name tiny indie comics, and newspaper strips, and mainstream superhero comics, and sometimes BD/ European comics, but not manga.

Sarasa from Basara, Amelia from Amelia Rules, Lois Lane, Maya from Ohana Holoholo, Tenjou Utena.
posted by Jeanne at 8:56 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I love me some Aunt May (and don't especially love Silver Surfer) but good lord, have Galactus's hiring standards have gone all to hell or what?

Thinking about Assistant Editor's Month makes me (a) nostalgic for the days when the Big Two actually had fun sometimes, and (b) old.
posted by Shepherd at 8:56 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


It annoys me that the more people didn't immediately say Modesty Blaise. It might just be that I grew up reading those stories, but to me she is among the most cool heroes ever created in any medium of either gender.
posted by gkhan at 8:57 AM on October 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Alison Bechdel. Julie Winters.

Zero Girl technically has superpowers, but they're almost incidental to the action. And kinda useless.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:58 AM on October 20, 2013


[nerdpedant]Catelyn Tully Stark[/nerdpedant]

Ugh, I knew something looked wrong about her first name but if I went to Wikipedia to check it I would have been tempted to check the names of too many other characters so I decided to stick with what I could quickly recall.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:58 AM on October 20, 2013


Five? That's easy:

Consuelo
Mercedes
Katsuda
Patrice
L.Z. Reinhart's secretary

It helped that they were all in Radiant City.
posted by Smart Dalek at 9:01 AM on October 20, 2013


Does having a tank count as a costume?
posted by Artw at 9:04 AM on October 20, 2013 [25 favorites]


(and/or superpower)

TBH "is not always punching/shooting people in the face" would probably be the more limiting factor for me.
posted by Artw at 9:07 AM on October 20, 2013


Ms. Tree
posted by pxe2000 at 9:15 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


the electric grandmother
posted by camdan at 9:18 AM on October 20, 2013


Comics only?

Margarita Luisa "Maggie" Chascarillo
Esperanza Leticia "Hopey" Glass
Molly Medea
Adèle Blanc-Sec (doesn't wear a costume, but does wear disguises)
Fee Carmichael

And those are just some of my favorites.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:18 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Arsenal Hopeless-Savage gets a mention, but all the Hopeless-Savage women should be included. Pira and Lono from Spera go on my list as well.
posted by gc at 9:27 AM on October 20, 2013


Korra from The Legend of Korra. On the same lines, Toph and Lin Bei Fong.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 9:29 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bit suprised to see mention of 2000AD characters that aren't Halo Jones.
posted by Artw at 9:29 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hermione Jane Granger, for one.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:37 AM on October 20, 2013


Jane Martin
Betty Bates
Jill Trent
Mlle. Marie
Gabrielle Haller
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 9:38 AM on October 20, 2013


Astoria
Jaka Tavers (subsequent retconning aside)
Fujiko Mine
Kate Corrigan
Calvin's Mom
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 9:41 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


You do not KNOW how happy I am that I clicked the link and saw a big ol' picture of a smiling Shauna Wickle from Bad Machinery, looking up at us from her book ("Books Not Boys!"). Because I almost huffily posted "Um, how about the three main characters of Bad Machinery by underrated genius John Allison?! It passes the Bechamel test with flying colours!"

But, to be technical about it, Shauna is wearing her school uniform in the picture, which may be a technical DQ? Are uniforms costumes?
posted by erlking at 9:41 AM on October 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


It is, BTW, the weekend of GeekGirlCon - lots of celebration of female characters there with costumes/superpowers as well as without.
posted by Artw at 9:42 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


But, to be technical about it, Shauna is wearing her school uniform in the picture, which may be a technical DQ? Are uniforms costumes?

See also Judge Hershey. I guess being a PSI Anderson is right out.
posted by Artw at 9:43 AM on October 20, 2013


Just got turned on recently to a webcomic called Strong Female Protagonist -- the young adult SFP in question actually does have super-powers, but she's dropped out of the superhero world, enrolled in college, and gotten involved in real-world political activism, basically because she's realized that superpowers are a fake idea. It's pretty great so far, early days but I can't wait to see how it progresses!
posted by slappy_pinchbottom at 9:48 AM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


All the lead lady operatives from Danger Girl ( ok, some of them have favorite outfits but they're not costumes and they don't wear them all the time )
posted by Bwithh at 9:49 AM on October 20, 2013


(Being a highly trained special ops/black ops irregular commando does not count as superpowers)
posted by Bwithh at 9:51 AM on October 20, 2013


Bit suprised to see mention of 2000AD characters that aren't Halo Jones.

Ma-Ma, who seems to have made it into the comics. And the female artist from "SHOK! Walter's Robo-Tale" who turned into Stacey Travis in the film Hardware.

Er, that's all I got, unless Shako was female.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:54 AM on October 20, 2013


Every woman on a Joss Whedon television show


Except for the ones that are Slayers, witches, demons, former demons, vampires, or in some other way have superpowers.
posted by hepta at 9:58 AM on October 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Nancy
posted by zippy at 10:01 AM on October 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yoko Tsuno
posted by McSly at 10:02 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sir Integra Wingates Fairbrook Hellsing, Katsuragi Misato, Casca, Winry Rockbell, Elizabeth Midford.
posted by sukeban at 10:14 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


All the Nanas from Nana
Yamano Ayumi from Honey and Clover

These are admittedly josei manga but they've been translated to English.
posted by fiercekitten at 10:16 AM on October 20, 2013


Artw,

Yeah, I totally just realized I forgot Halo Jones.

Halo Jones is the best.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:17 AM on October 20, 2013


Lucille Butler / "Boy" (The Invisibles)
Johanna Constantine (Sandman)
Donna Cavanagh / "Foxglove" (Sandman)
Channon Yarrow (Transmetropolitan)
Yelena Rossini (Transmetropolitan)

Could be wrong about Boy, but I think she was one of the few major characters who wasn't psychic or a sorcerer.
posted by Foosnark at 10:25 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Daisy Cutter (Daisy Cutter)
Deunan Knute (Appleseed)
Jade (Beyond Good & Evil)
Kat Donlan (Gunnerkrigg Court)
Yelena Rossini (Transmetropolitan)

Edit: Dammit Foosnark. ;-)
posted by belarius at 10:29 AM on October 20, 2013


It's probably gauche of me to follow up to myself, but I just figured out that Mary Worth's superpower is the Death Meddle.
posted by ernielundquist at 10:48 AM on October 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Er, that's all I got, unless Shako was female.

Old One Eye.
posted by Artw at 10:59 AM on October 20, 2013


Lucy (from Peanuts)
Peppermint Patty
Smurfette
Modesty Blaze
Ms. MoneyPenny
posted by Renoroc at 11:04 AM on October 20, 2013


I'm more interested in whose lists they published. Are those folks all readers of the Comics Reporter? Did they just happen to get the overwhelming number of responses from men? (Judging based on names; even assuming some unusually gendered names, the vast majority of lists there seem to come from men.) Or did they choose to only publish a handful from women? Kinda annoying in any case.

I think this is the next frontier in equal representation: not only do we have to start creating and celebrating more women (characters, creators and all), the men need to start sitting down and listening while the women talk more.
posted by jiawen at 11:09 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Addendum: I get really sick of discussions about gender egality where it's just men arguing with each other and talking over the women. I was just subjected to one of those yesterday. The 'enlightened' guy was saying the right things, but totally clueless to the fact that he wasn't letting the women in the room actually say anything. Talking the talk, but really not walking the walk. Yuck.
posted by jiawen at 11:10 AM on October 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


jiawen, I feel like this is an opportunity for me to mainsplain to you what Mansplaining is. Ideally, I'll repeatedly cutting you off as I do so, while simultaneously talking about how awful it is when women are treated merely as the silent affirmers of a man's adequately feminist opinions. :-D
posted by belarius at 11:19 AM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Death of the Endless is still one of my "How to be an Interesting & Kind Woman/Human Being" role models, actually, even though in adulthood I've seen people dismiss her as a "MPDG," which I think is a completely unfair, biased and even borderline illiterate reading of her character. She's so cheerful and kind (and she wasn't always) to everyone because, more than anyone, she understands mortality and the fleeting nature of life. Being positive in the face of uncertainty and perpetual change and our own tiny lifetimes is a genuine kind of "strong."

Tank Girl is similarly heroic to me because I have had to learn how to be a kick-ass gender rebel in a big desert postapocalyptic wasteland, and her gung-ho let's-go queer-positive attitude is one that was a positive influence on me when I needed a support the real world wasn't giving me.

Lonely Girl is one of the most beautiful people in fiction, to my eyes. I am honestly more than a little bit in love with her. I love that her body is realistically beautiful, I love that the shape of her life has actual texture instead of the bland superficiality many protagonists in these kinds of stories have--and her mind... Her thoughts and dreams and hopes and memories and pleasures and fears are all so intimately recognizable to me. Her soul looks so much like someone I knew, someone with true strength who was vital to drawing out my own potential as a person, that I just can't read the book without crying. One of the few fictional characters who I 100% understand.

Ragged Robin sometimes wears leather and gets all sexy spied up, but because she enjoys it, not because she gives a fuck about fitting into anyone's stupid adolescent fantasy. She writes the comic she appears in. She's just such a superhumanly cool character, whose human vulnerability still shines through the cracks in her created persona. I like her for being sex positive without being objectified, for being a writer/creative without caving to the "neurotic writer archetype," for going from being a poor kid on the margins of society to literal self-made enlightened demigoddess.

Also: Enid Coleslaw. I never actually realized that it was an anagram until I read that about a week ago. I like and related to movie-Enid a lot better, so I'm not sure if this one counts but I'm going to stick with it anyway.

Anyway, this wasn't hard at all. I wish the English speaking comics world would get over the idea that superheroics are "normal" or "mainstream" or whatever. Lots of us comics readers could care less, and we're probably a minority because of the stereotype more than anything.
posted by byanyothername at 11:20 AM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Lois Lane doesn't wear a costume and I think she's one if the powerful figures in the DC universe.

Dead right. Lois believes she's the hero of every Superman story in which she appears and she's right.

Lois isn't just smart, she's genre savvy. She's a hero on the Green Hornet model. That kind of hero is active, driving the story by investigating crimes and bringing dangers to light. Lois is so ridiculously good at tracking down evil that she can out-report a man who can see through walls. The Hornet-style hero's sidekick is reactive, tagging along with the hero and fighting off threats that would keep her from doing her job. Being Bruce Lee's friend is a pretty great superpower. Admittedly, readers read these stories because they want to see Kato or Superman bust heads but the sidekick's not the one making the story happen.

She gets rescued every week not because she's weak but because any day on which she is not five minutes from death is a day she is not making full use of available resources. She was used to normal investigative tactics like rooting through the mob boss's garbage, but with Superman in her pocket she can find out more news faster by sneaking into the villain's compound. She's remarkable for being tough enough to survive that five minutes before Superman arrives. Here she is swinging hand over hand down a cable above an active volcano (5:50).

Of course Lois knows Clark is Superman. She'd be dead if she didn't. Any day on which Clark is "home sick" (smashing asteroids) is a bad day to investigate Lex Luthor's Omni-Beam facility. She likes Clark even though he's a bit screwed up, and if he'd get mature enough to go after her openly and honestly she'd give him a shot.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:21 AM on October 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


Aeon Flux (Peter Chung's Aeon Flux)
Leona Ozaki (Masamune Shirow's Dominion: Tank Police)
Miranda Zero (Warren Ellis' Global Frequency)
posted by Zack_Replica at 11:26 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm more interested in whose lists they published. Are those folks all readers of the Comics Reporter? Did they just happen to get the overwhelming number of responses from men?

All CR readers, yes: this is part of a weekly series in which comics professionals and fans get asked a question on Friday, to be published on a Sunday.

For the most part the Comics Reporter is a one man band as well, written and run by Tom Spurgeon.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:35 AM on October 20, 2013


Marlys, Maybonne, Arna, and the Nearsighted Monkey from Lynda Barry's comics.

Although Marlys does tend to make herself costumes.

Her characters function like spirit guides to me; just completely honest representations of a certain kind of female childhood that is so fucking rare and awesome and funny and sad.

(Oh my god, my life was just changed because I found out Barry has a Tumblr!)
posted by emjaybee at 11:37 AM on October 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


The list becomes a lot smaller if you include the criteria that 1) they are never gratuitously sexualized and 2) they are never shown crying at some point.
posted by dephlogisticated at 11:54 AM on October 20, 2013


All but a few of the characters in Y: the Last Man.
posted by Ndwright at 11:56 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The list becomes a lot smaller if you include the criteria that 1) they are never gratuitously sexualized and 2) they are never shown crying at some point.

I'll take female characters having emotions over female characters giving gratuitous fanservice any day of the week.

And mind you, of the male protagonists of the five manga I've referenced, they've all cried out of sadness or anguish. Even Alucard (Hellsing) and Guts (Berserk).
posted by sukeban at 12:08 PM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Strong" like physically strong; can lift heavy things? Or like warrior strong; a talented fighter? Or influential strong; a politician or captain of industry? Or strong like resilient strong: calmly persevering through perpetually shitty circumstances? Or strong in the sense of having a forceful or boorish personality? Or strong as in independent; non-conformist or self-reliant? Or strong in a mundane shit-together sense; gainfully employed, dignified, competent, sober, reliable, responsible?

That's broad and vague. Pretty much any fictional female character will fit in at least one of those categories. And the recommendations do seem to span every random character (Smurfette, Olive Oyl, Cathy... sure why not).
posted by dgaicun at 12:13 PM on October 20, 2013


I read "strong" to mean "well-developed," but that is one of the inherent flaws in describing characters as "strong."
posted by erlking at 12:16 PM on October 20, 2013


Per dgaicun above.

No one remembers Sylvia?
posted by vapidave at 12:20 PM on October 20, 2013


like erlking, I always take "strong" as a descriptor of a "character" to mean "well-developed" which is to say: multifaceted, realistic, and interesting, with a meaningful role to play in the story and some indication of an inner life unrelated to the to the primary character (if a supporting character)/some indication of an inner life unrelated to Pleasing the Mens (if a female character).

A list of physically strong female characters in comic books is functionally meaningless because the basic problem of female characters in comic books is not that they are 90 pound weaklings. So I don't really think "strong" is a flawed word to use. Because you are not using "strong" to describe the character, but "strong" to describe the characterization of the character. The writing. The drawing. The creation. Would you say to the author "this character is a good effort, a solid addition to the story, a meaningful character." Then it's a strong characterization.

I mean, Francine Peters in Strangers in Paradise has some pretty maddeningly stereotypical Girl characteristics and plot lines. The same with the girls in Girls with Slingshots. But the books manage to convey them as a bit more than that. They're all strong characters because they are quite realistic and while their storylines often revolve around romance, there are indications of inner lives that are more robust than their romantic travails.
posted by crush-onastick at 12:50 PM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Comics specifically - and my interpretation of strong is the literary one, ie well-written, complex (within the context of the piece):

Molly O'Reilly (Books of Magic - eventually somewhat magical, but more interesting when mundane)

Thorn (Bone - I'd count her grandmother too, but Rose definitely has superpowers)

Rose (Sandman - did she have powers? I remember her mostly being the human avatar for the story)

The Shogun in the first issue of Ooku: the Inner Chambers - the Tokugawa shogun in another issue was also a well-written character.

I did want to see more of Yukiji (20th Century Boys); what we saw of her was very interesting. There is some sense that she was sidelined (by the other characters) because she is female (sent out of danger, etc) - but she also ends up being the one holding the fort. Kanna probably also counts as a "strong female character" but she's also less interesting because (as the main protagonist for the second part) she is more of an every man woman.

it is hard to think of characters from graphic novels, male or female, without some powers. If I were to include personifications, gods, muses, witches, magicians and fates, Sandman alone could fill this list several times.
posted by jb at 1:00 PM on October 20, 2013


Oh! Also! Joyce Brabner, Harvey Pekar's wife and a frequent supporting character in American Splendor.
posted by pxe2000 at 1:11 PM on October 20, 2013


Not sure what the point of the exercise is. It's not like it is much easier to answer the question if you ask it about men. Capes, spandex and superpowers are pro forma comic tropes all-around. IOW, This is not a gender thing but a comic thing. But, here goes:

Gwen Stacy, Aunt May, Betty Brant, Betty Ross, Virgina "Pepper" Potts, Jane Foster, Kayla Ballantine, Lee Forrester, Kat Farrell, Alyssa Moy, the Mercy Sisters, Dakota North, Betty Swanson.

That's all I can think of right now, and they are all from Marvel, but that's still plenty (plus making the list made me wonder who over at Marvel has a thing for girls named Betty?).
posted by misha at 1:32 PM on October 20, 2013


The list becomes a lot smaller if you include the criteria that 1) they are never gratuitously sexualized and 2) they are never shown crying at some point.

Again, happens with the men, too. Male comic superheroes are all about the skintight stuff. muscle (and package) displaying costumes all over the place. One reason why gay men make up a huge proportion of the comics fan base.

And, yeah, the men cry, too. I can't count how many comic hero guys, for example, have mourned the loss of their friends, girlfriends, wives and other loved ones; their grief taking over or their desire to avenge these losses is a common comic plotline.
posted by misha at 1:43 PM on October 20, 2013


Behold! Aunt May, Herald of Galactus!
posted by asperity at 1:51 PM on October 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Carrie Stetko, from Whiteout.

Luba, Love and Rockets.

Manya.

Special non-comics shout out to Olivia Dunham and Nina Sharp from the tv show Fringe.

Finally, as good as it is to have more strong female characters, hopefully there will be a transition to interesting female characters, which more fully capture the range of human experience.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:14 PM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


the point is to talk about strong female characters in comics. it's not saying anything about men.
posted by nadawi at 2:21 PM on October 20, 2013


Why do people want female characters in media to be "strong"? Isn't it more important they are interesting? I don't just want to see "strong" male characters on screen or in literature. William H Macy's character in Fargo is weak and brilliant for it. Jasmine in Blue Jasmine is weak and is fantastically compelling.
posted by Brian Lux at 2:28 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm glad Alice Otterloop got a mention. Alice is the best. The strips where she goes to preschool in a bad mood are classics.

I would nominate Diana Palmer from The Phantom, Cobra from Rip Haywire and Mary Worth. Yes, Mary Worth. She is the iron will that all meddling springs from.
posted by Biblio at 2:29 PM on October 20, 2013


as good as it is to have more strong female characters, hopefully there will be a transition to interesting female characters, which more fully capture the range of human experience.

It's been said that the problem with "strong female characters" is that they only get one adjective.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:31 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dot.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:52 PM on October 20, 2013


I absolutely agree with these remarks about Lois Lane. She is far more dangerous than some glorified flying boy scout with heat vision. Superman is a hazard to bystanders. Lois is the high-handed enemy, the velvet glove cast in iron.
posted by Alexander J. Luthor at 3:01 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Roseanne.

in any and all forms.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 3:22 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seriously, no Emma Peel on this page or that? What is wrong with everybody?

(Unless you count a catsuit as a costume, but it's more functional clothing than costume and she doesn't wear it often.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:22 PM on October 20, 2013


1 Ripley
2 Poppy from Happy Go Lucky
3 the girl in Beasts of southern wild
4 Mary poppins ;)
5 Mallory Knox
posted by ReeMonster at 3:52 PM on October 20, 2013


My group would be:

Marlys (Ernie Pook's Comeek)
Modesty Blaise (Eponymous)
Anne Merkel (Why I Hate Saturn)
Mo Testa (Dykes to Watch Out For)
Rat (Norb, plus several of Daniel Pinkwater's novels)

It took a bit of brain-wracking to come up with this list, which is probably a function of age. But damn, if these characters weren't utterly talismanic for me at various times in my life.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 3:53 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tami Fucking Taylor.
posted by unknowncommand at 5:00 PM on October 20, 2013


Oh...comics. Oh...similar disappointment earlier in the thread. Oh...reading. Oh...Tami Taylor.
posted by unknowncommand at 5:03 PM on October 20, 2013


Does Death from The Sandman count?
posted by Dr. Zira at 5:08 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


MENTION OF PROF. GARBANZO, I MUST GUSH. (Although I must add, to the Beans sex is more of a flavor than anything else, the Hes and Shes are pretty much identical. Physically, I mean.)
posted by JHarris at 5:27 PM on October 20, 2013


And another for Alice Otterloop!
posted by JHarris at 5:32 PM on October 20, 2013


Gwen Stacy, Aunt May, Betty Brant, Betty Ross, Virgina "Pepper" Potts, Jane Foster, Kayla Ballantine, Lee Forrester, Kat Farrell, Alyssa Moy, the Mercy Sisters, Dakota North, Betty Swanson.

The interesting thing is that from the above list, half could be argued to have at least briefly violated the criteria. Aunt May had the aforementioned Power Cosmic, Betty Ross was mutated into a villain and now is the Red She-Hulk, Pepper Potts has her own armor now, Jane Foster was given Asgardian power once and then shared a body with Sif, Kayla Ballantine got the Starbrand, Alyssa Moy became a floating brain in a robot body and Betty Swanson, while undercover when she met Deadpool, almost assuredly wore the traditional A.I.M. beekeeper suit through much of her career.

Dakota North only counts if you accept that her having had sex with Daredevil means she has the superpower of About To Be Killed, Maimed Or Institutionalized. (Matt Murdock has a Death Penis.)

Also depends on whether you consider uniformed supporting cast (police, government agents, etc.) to be quasi-costumed. Jean DeWolff, Maggie Sawyer, pre-Question Renee Montoya, and, er, well, Lady Cop come to mind as notable badge-wearing women in comics.

You would think Betty and Veronica would count as non-costumed strong female characters. But you would be wrong.
posted by delfin at 6:51 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


No one has mentioned Digger-of-Unecessarily-Convoluted-Tunnels or Boneclaw Mother yet? For shame!
posted by tdismukes at 9:00 PM on October 20, 2013


To answer the earlier question: to me, a strong female character is one that exists on her own terms. She doesn't exist as an adjunct to a man, she doesn't depend on men, she is self-rescuing. There's the sense that she has a past and her own independent future, though it may be interrupted by the events of the comic.

It's pretty easy to find people like that in webcomics. Here's a few lesser known ones.

Digger, "Digger".
Harriet Barber, "Widdershins". (Heck, add to that Verity Cunningham, Alexa King, and others)
Marion Sark "Spare Keys for Strange Doors"
Dang Thu Mai, "Derelict" (Note: being a strong woman doesn't mean life has to be easy)
Eva Wingfield, "Clockworks"

Second list!

Alice Purcell, "Namesake" also, Wendy Shepard.
Miyna "Godseeker"
Matilda Sakura "A Mad Tea Party
Alice "Dead Winter" (Elizabeth too)
Viviana "Gaia"

Third List- whee!

Faye Whitaker "Questionable Content" (Also Dora)
Luna "Everblue"
Anaïs Phalèse "Curvy"
Willow, "Fox and Willow"
Haley Starshine "Order of the Stick"
posted by happyroach at 9:09 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait, what, Betty Ross is the Red Shee-Hulk now?! Now I am sad.
posted by misha at 10:05 PM on October 20, 2013


Dizzy from 100 Bullets has got to count, right? Absolute badass, as well as a clearly developed character that extends beyond being a badass.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:49 AM on October 21, 2013


This challenge is a great form of criticism. It gets people talking about great female characters, and what makes for a great character in general, female or no. Not all forms of criticism have to be in the form of, "here is something bad, let's talk about how bad it is."

...

With regard to comics, people who know more than me have already chimed in with the characters I'd offer (Rose from Sandman, various Transmetropolitan characters, etc.).

That said, I offer up Jessica Jones from Alias (unrelated to the J. J. Abrams show). She's a former superhero, turned private eye. It's been a while since I've read it, but I don't think she really has any superpowers?

...

I second Brandon Blatcher's recommendation for Olivia Dunham and Nena Sharp from Fringe. That show is the business. I'm only wrapping up Season Four now...

One of its many fine features is the fact that it's able to have a woman for a main character, without leering over her, or making a her Strong Female Character™. It's also interesting that the other main male characters are a mentally ill older man and a younger-seeming cohort who is more than slightly a walking McGuffin. They're also interesting and important, but there's never a doubt as to who the main character really is. There's no need to make them gratuitously dumb just to make Olivia look good. They actually make sense as a team, with her as the leader.

Nena Sharp is also a lot of fun, because they're able to have a powerful character who is on the side of good, while also being at a remove from the main action. Again, it's a sign of a well-made show that the show makes it seem like that's the real accomplishment. The fact that her character is a woman is not a big deal at all - it's not like the writers are tearing their hair out, trying to figure out how a !!!WOMAN!!! could be an intriguing, well-rounded character.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:27 AM on October 21, 2013


I gonna recommend Fringe again, just because for various reasons, you get to see a very three dimensional and rounded view of all almost every character, but particularly the two women. Bonus points for Nina Sharp being an obviously older woman and super bonus points for the other characters being comfortable with women in command.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:29 AM on October 21, 2013


Daria and Jane.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:06 AM on October 21, 2013


Off the top of my head...

Diziet Sma (from Iain M. Banks' Culture books)
Rydra Wong (Samuel R. Delany's Babel-17)
Alyx (from several Joanna Russ works)
Hollis Henry (Wm. Gibson's last two books)
Art3mis / Samantha (Ready Player One, Ernest Cline)
Oedipa Maas (Pynchon's Crying of Lot 49)
Thassadit Amzwar (Richard Powers' Generosity)
Lisbeth Salander (Dragon Tattoo books, Steig Larsson)
Swan Er Hong (Kim Stanley Robinson, 2312)
Ash (Mary Gentle, Ash - A Secret History)
Tira Sahai (Adam Roberts' The Snow)
Chelle Sea Blue (Gene Wolfe's Home Fires)
Zula Forthrast (Neal Stephenson's Reamde)
Jael (Joanna Russ' The Female Man)
posted by aught at 7:13 AM on October 21, 2013


I can't seem to find the wording of the original poll - were we given a definition of what sense of the word "strong" they're looking for? Otherwise there's gonna be a whole lot of No True Scotswomanning goin' on.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:31 AM on October 21, 2013


Tieta do Agreste
posted by Tom-B at 11:51 AM on October 21, 2013


I love that Lacey and Joanie both came up, but no love for Alex Doonesbury?
posted by naoko at 11:52 AM on October 21, 2013


Maria Bonita (bonus: real)
posted by Tom-B at 11:54 AM on October 21, 2013


Do real-life transgender gangsters from the 30s count? Madame Satã
posted by Tom-B at 12:01 PM on October 21, 2013


In addition to the titled criteria, I'd add "Not in Love and Rockets" (I love L&R, but that's the easy setting) and "Not an adjunct/sidekick/relative/love interest of the male protagonist", because it's difficult to argue that a female character is strong when they're not really the protagonist of the story. So:

Mo Testa, Dykes To Watch Out For. I actually thought this one over because Mo tends to be strongly neurotic and negative, but she's also one of the only people in the strip who tends to question her beliefs and assumptions, which takes strength.

Marcie Grosvenor-Lockhart, Finder. This might seem like a bit of a cheat, as the earlier Finder stories centered around Jaeger, a sort of clawless-and-sexed-up Wolverine, who still appears in the later stories, but Carla Speed McNeil has definitely pushed Jaeger to the background to where he's a fairly minor character in Talisman, the book that stars Marcie. Marcie's sister Rachel also gets her own book, Voice.

Joanie Caucus, Doonesbury. The strip has a number of strong female characters, but Joanie was really the first one. Bonus points for this strip, which was banned by several newspapers at the time of publication. (Context)

Tara Chace, Queen & Country. Greg Rucka writes some of the strongest female characters in comics, and may be the best male writer of female characters in comics ever.

Tie for fifth place: Faye Whitaker, Questionable Content, and Clarice, Girls with Slingshots. This is the webcomics category, and while Faye is an obvious favorite, I skipped over the two main characters in GWS (Hazel and Jamie) in favor of Clarice, simply because she's recently had a very good storyline regarding her trying to establish a relationship while keeping her life as a domme secret.

Honorable mentions: Eve Hammond in V for Vendetta (disqualified in the last chapter), Promethea, The Ballad of Halo Jones (all three by Alan Moore and various), many others in GWS and QC, Renee Montoya (as with Evie, a late-career adoption of a costumed identity counts), Amanda Waller (a non-costumed character who works almost exclusively with costumed characters seems like a cheat), Sally Forth (who honestly seems to be free of the fail that the characters in For Better or For Worse descended into in the latter years), Lucy van Pelt, Nancy.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:14 PM on October 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


But Olivia has superpowers.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:01 PM on October 21, 2013


She gets and exemption for being such a great character.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:18 PM on October 21, 2013


In addition to the great character exemption, her superpowers are pretty soft-pedaled. Basically, she has to be heavily drugged, and also be under emotional distress, in order to turn christmas lights off with her mind.

(I know there's more to it than that, but still, they're pretty soft-pedaled.)
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:23 PM on October 21, 2013


Also she spends the bulk of the series without Being Jean Grey*. Plus we get the heavy implication the Non Superpowered Version of her is like, a better adjusted, more functioning human being.

*She is totally Jean Grey BTW
posted by The Whelk at 9:19 PM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Clarice, simply because she's recently had a very good storyline regarding her trying to establish a relationship while keeping her life as a domme secret.

A good storyline ruined by the love interest, who was another of the weedy, whiny, obnoxious and dull male characters that haunt Girls with Slingshots (see also Hazel's current wannabe love interest).
posted by MartinWisse at 12:45 AM on October 22, 2013


the weedy, whiny, obnoxious and dull male characters that haunt Girls with Slingshots

Dude, what? That doesn't describe Joshua (Clarice's date) at all; he's sorta homely and a little shy but is otherwise sweet and shares a lot of Clarice's interests. And Vincent is still holding a flame for Hazel from high school, yeah, but he's not really the potential love interest in the current storyline (well, either of them). The guys in GWS aren't generally as well-developed as characters as the ladies, but it's a female-centered strip.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:17 AM on October 22, 2013


Oh, they meant in comics?

Any of Greg Rucka's protagonists - Tara Chace, Carrie Stetko, Renee Montoya (I refuse to accept any of the crap DC's done to the character after Rucka left.)

Practically the entire female cast of Love & Rockets, not to mention Maggie & Hopey.

And Roberta Gregory's Bitchy Bitch.

How's that?
posted by ooga_booga at 7:41 PM on October 22, 2013


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