Female Comic Book Characters and What They Mean to Comics

Early female comic book characters were limited to supporting roles or used as damsels in distress. They were the Lois Lanes and Lana Langs; characters that mattered to a certain extent, but not as much as the male leads. But since comics were primarily marketed to the male population, this was acceptable and expected.


With the role of women becoming more prominent in society in later years, though, more and more female comic book characters took on larger roles, like Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl. These women were not simply supporting characters, but lead characters who took a backseat to no one as they trail blazed the way for the future of female comic book characters.


In modern times, female comic book characters are as diverse and plentiful as their male counterparts. Whether in the superhero genre or various other genres, more and more women characters are seen every day. This is especially the case in Manga, the Japanese comic book form, and Anime, it’s television equal. The bulk of these stories are primarily targeted towards a female audience and thus feature lead female comic book characters like Cardcaptor Sakura.


Traditionally, superhero comics with female leads have been hard sells for whatever reason. Many heroines have had their own series only to be canceled after only a few issues. There are a few exceptions, though, like Birds of Prey, a DC Comics book that features a team of female comic book characters fighting crime, which has lasted well over 100 issues. And Marvel Comics’ Spider-Girl, featuring Spider-Man’s daughter, May Parker, which was saved from cancellation three times thanks to fan support.


In the early 2000s, Crossgen Comics also created several books with strong female leads, like Sojourn, Meridian and Crux, that forced other companies to take another look at their own female comic book characters. Today, Ms. Marvel and Catwoman are both doing well with their own titles, and Image’s Bomb Queen has had several mini-series and continues to carry a strong fan base. And when mentioned female comic book characters, one can’t forget Aspen Comics’ Aspen Matthews and her book Fathom, which became popular in the 90s and still has a strong following even though it’s not currently producing many issues.


The rise of strong female comic book characters, especially in superhero comics, is obviously intended to extend the audience beyond the typical target market, giving female readers something to relate to as well. And with female characters stepping up even in male dominated team books, like Emma Frost and Storm in the X-Men books, should comic companies continue to cater to this growing audience it should reach its goal. And more readers for comics is always a good thing for the medium.


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