Saving the world in spandex isn't just for guys. We've compiled a list of memorable and bad-ass superheroines. From Wonder Woman to Captain Marvel, here are some super-women you don't want to mess with.
Whether you met her first in DC Comics, played by Linda Carter in the 1970s, or played by Gal Gadot in Patty Jenkin's 2017 hit film, if you know only one name on this list, chances are it's this one. Created in 1941 by William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter, Wonder Woman is the immortal, super-strong, magical genius daughter of Zeus and Hippolyta. After moving to the world of mortals as an emissary of the Amazons, she fights for justice and equality solo and as a founding member of the Justice League against a rogues list that includes literal gods and colorful criminals like Cheetah. Good thing she has a magical lasso and an invisible jet to help her out.
Superman's cousin Kara Zor-El -- known on earth as Kara Danvers in the very excellent The CW series starring Melissa Benoist -- is another survivor of Krypton's destruction who fights for truth and some very needed social justice while protecting earth from threats like time traveling supervillains and Martian authoritarians. She's also a very good journalist. Her superpowers aren't just flight, invincibility, laser vision and so on, she's also just an excellent person.
Originally known as Ms. Marvel (a title now used by another entry on this list), Carol Danvers assumed the Mantle of Captain Marvel in honor of her mentor, the alien hero Mar-Vell. Created by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan in 1968, she's an air force pilot and feminist activist who fights supervillains as Captain Marvel, and sexism in her civilian guise. Played by Brie Larson in the 2018 film, Captain Marvel has superhuman strength, stamina, durability, and agility, and can fly faster than the speed of sound. She has the “Seventh Sense,” which allows her to predict future danger. She can also heal from injuries quickly, has immunity to toxins and poisons, and can shoot light beams from her hands.
Ruby Rose played the openly lesbian superhero Kate Kane, a.k.a. Batwoman, in the first season of The CW series "Batwoman. In the series, Kane returned to Gotham to take over for the Caped Crusader and save the city. For the second season, Javicia Leslie was cast as Ryan Wilder, a brand-new character (not in the comics) who takes on the Batwoman persona.
Sister to King T'Challa, the current Black Panther, Shuri is Wakanda's top scientist -- which makes her pretty much the world's top scientist. As played by Letitia Wright in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Shuri not only designs Black Panther's ultra-advanced tech and numerous other world-changing inventions, she's also a powerful warrior in her own right. Her comics counterpart, created in 2003 by Reginald Hudlin and John Romita Jr., is even more badass: she's been given Black Panther powers, she can transform into animals, and she's even managed to come back from the dead.
Black Widow emerged as one of the crucial heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe thanks to her portrayal by Scarlett Johansson. Created by Stan Lee, Don Rico and Don Heck, she's a former Russian spy who defected to S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers. In the comics, her powers include resistance to disease and aging, ability to suppress and replace memories, agility. In the films, she's just a run of the mill extreme badass, master athlete and martial artist with a talent for psychological manipulation -- and a great leader too. Her backstory will be fleshed out a lot more in her self-titled solo film, whose release is set for May 2021.
Created by Brian Michael Bendis for Marvel's "Alias" comics in 2001, Jessica Jones has been a hard drinking expert private detective, an Avenger and even a high school classmate of Spider-Man. She's strong, she can fly, and she isn't here for your B.S., especially on her Netflix show, where she was played by Krysten Ritter.
While formerly an absolute villain, Harley has since crossed over into a more heroic, or at least, non-villainous role. Introduced in the 1990s show "Batman the Animated Series," originally she was Dr. Harleen Quinzel, an Arkham Asylum psychiatrist manipulated by the Joker into helping him escape and joining his gang. After years of cruelty, she finally left him and since then DC comics stories have emphasized that she's an abuse survivor trying to figure out her own way in a world. Incredibly smart and immune to almost all toxins, she frequently teams up with fellow supervillains Catwoman and Poison Ivy. She's played by Margot Robbie in "Suicide Squad" and 2020's "Birds of Prey," and by Kaley Cuoco in DC's animated "Harley Quinn" series.
More than one Marvel hero has been known as The Wasp, but the best known is Hope Van Dyne, played by Evangeline Lilly in "Ant-Man" and "Ant-Man and the Wasp." In both the movies and comics, she's the daughter of the original Ant-Man and The Wasp, Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne -- though unlike her comics counterpart, in the movies she doesn't have innate powers. No worries though. She's a gifted strategist and formidable martial artist who, thanks to some pretty sophisticated technology, is also able to shrink to the size of an insect (with proportional strength) and fly. She can also punch really, really hard
She-Ra is the superpowered alter ego of Princess Adora, long lost twin sister of Prince Adam/He-Man from "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe." Raised on the far away planet of Etheria, Adora uses the Sword of Protection to transform into She-Ra, leader of the resistance against the tyrannical Evil Horde. Originating in the 1985 cartoon "She-Ra: Princess of Power," She-Ra was brought back on Netflix's acclaimed ongoing series "She-Ra and the Princess of Power."
Thunder, a.k.a. Anissa Pierce, is the eldest daughter of the superhero Black Lightning. But she's more than just a family legacy. Thunder can increase her body density at will, making her immovable and almost completely invulnerable. She is also bullet proof and can create shockwaves by stomping on the ground -- really handy when taking down bad guys. She's memorably portrayed by Nafessa Williams in the CW's "Black Lightning" series, where like her comics counterpart she's an out lesbian.
One of Batman's most enduring love-interests and, like Harley Quinn, somewhat reformed from crime in recent years, Catwoman is an expert cat burglar with acrobatic prowess whose preferred weapon is her brains, and a bullwhip. Catwoman has long had an uneasy relationship with Batman, though in a recent storyline the two got engaged -- until she called it off. She's most notably been played in live action by Michelle Pfeiffer in "Batman Returns" and by Anne Hathaway in "The Dark Knight Rises."
Marvel Comics/Art by Robbi Rodriguez
GWEN STACEY / SPIDER-GWEN
In the Mainstream Marvel Comics universe, Gwen Stacey was Peter Parker's college girlfriend, who died tragically when she was dropped off the George Washington Bridge by the Green Goblin. But in the 2014 "Spider-Verse" storyline, it's revealed that in an alternate universe, Gwen was the one bitten by a radioactive spider, becoming that world's Spider-Woman. She got her own comic book series called "Spider-Gwen" in 2015 and played a major role in the Oscar-winning animated film "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse."
Black Lightning's other daughter, Jennifer Pierce, can manipulate electricity and generate it from her own body, as well as fly. So don't mess with her. She's best known for being played by China Anne McClain on The CW's "Black Lightning," a show all of you should be watching.
THE BIONIC WOMAN
A spinoff of the 1973-78 sci-fi action series "The Six Million Dollar Man," "The Bionic Woman" followed Jaime Sommers (Lindsay Wagner), a tennis player critically injured in a sky diving accident whose life is saved with bionic implants including an ear, an arm and both legs, giving her fantastic abilities. Though the show lasted only three seasons, its enduing popularity led to several TV movie revivals, and it influenced a ton of subsequent female heroes.
Created by Christopher Priest and Mark Texeira in 1998, Okoye was long one of Marvel's lesser-known heroes, until she became a straight up icon thanks to Danai Gurira's performances in "Black Panther," "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Avengers: Endgame."
Okoye is the head of Black Panther's personal bodyguards, the Dora Milaj. And what she lacks in Black Panther's literal superpowers, she more than makes up for with martial arts expertise and a genius at tactical and strategic thinking. No wonder she not only went toe to toe against the children of Thanos and lived, she also single-handedly saved Wakanda after The Snap wiped out trillions, including Black Panther.
Black Canary has been fighting crime since her debut in DC Comics' "The Flash" in 1947, first as the alter ego of Dinah Drake -- who eventually married police detective Larry Lance -- and later by her daughter, Dinah Laurel Lance, who most frequently teams up romantically and crime-fightingly with Green Arrow. Originally written to have no powers, she later acquired a sonic scream called the "canary cry" that can shatter objects and kill enemies.
She was voiced by Morena Baccarin in Cartoon Network's "Justice League Unlimited," and three different versions of the character have been played by Katie Cassidy, Caity Lotz, and Juliana Harkavy in The CW's Arrowverse. Jurnee Smollett-Bell will play her in the upcoming "Birds of Prey" live action film.
DC / Cartoon Network
DC Comics' Katana is a Japanese superhero whose power lies in the blade of her sword, called the SoulTaker -- which contains the soul of her dead husband, Maseo. Created by Mike Barr and Jim Aparo, Katana is part of the Justice League, the Birds of Prey, and the Outsiders, Batman's hand-picked team for black-ops missions. She's played by Rila Fukushima in The CW's Arrowverse, was by Karen Fukuhara in Warner Bros.' 2016 film "Suicide Squad."
Marvel / ABC
DAISY JOHNSON / QUAKE
Aptly named because of her ability to generate earthquakes, Quake, a.k.a. Daisy Johnson, is the daughter of the super villain Mister Hyde. A high ranking member of S.H.I.E.L.D. (behind only Black Widow and Nick Fury), she's best known for being played by Chloe Bennet on "Marvel's Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D.," where her powers come from the fact that she's an Inhuman (an element later imported into the comics).
DC / Cartoon Network
Created in 1971 by the legendary Jack Kirby, Big Barda is one of DC Comics' New Gods. Raised on planet Apokolips to serve the cruel dictator Darkseid, she changed sides after falling in love with Mister Miracle and eventually escapes with him to Earth, where she's been a big part of teams like the Justice League and Birds of Prey. She's immortal, super strong and nearly invincible, and a highly trained soldier whose weapon of choice is the mega-rod. Audiences will see for themselves in the upcoming "New Gods" movie -- director Ava DuVernay says Barda is her favorite superhero.
Best known for being played by Jennifer Garner in 2003's "Daredevil" as well as her own standalone 2005 film, this Marvel superheroine is an expert martial artist and assassin who has worked on both sides of the law (until she eventually killed the evil aspects of her personality in a duel.) She was created by Frank Miller in 1981.
BATGIRL / ORACLE
Created in 1967, Barbara Gordon, adopted daughter of Commissioner Jim Gordon, has been a superhero in multiple forms. As Batgirl she operates alongside Batman and Robin in Gotham. After being paralyzed by the Joker in a 1988 storyline, she because the information broker known as Oracle, who assembled the Birds of Prey and basically served as tech overlord to Gotham City's heroes. In recent years, a timeline reboot (long story) has her back in the suit as Batgirl but still capable of serving as oracle when needed.
KAMALA KHAN / MS. MARVEL
A Pakistani American teenager from New Jersey, Kamala Khan is also descended from the Inhumans, and when exposed to terregin mists developed the ability to shape shift and recover from almost all wounds. She operates under the name Ms. Marvel in tribute to the original, Carol Danvers, who has since assumed the name Captain Marvel. Created by Sana Amanat, Stephen Wacker, G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona and Jamie McKelvie, she's the first Muslim character to headline a Marvel comic book, "Ms. Marvel," which has been praised for its writing, and for bringing greater visibility to Muslims in comics. A Disney+ series featuring in the character is due in 2021.
Not to be left out is Elastigirl from "The Incredibles." The alter ego of Helen Parr, wife of Mr. Incredible (Bob Parr) and mother of Violet, Dash, and Jack-Jack, she can stretch any part of her body and mold herself into different shapes and sizes. She's voiced by Holly Hunter.