Chris Peruzzi is a comic book superhero historian who is passionate about how today's comic book heroes are the new mythology for America.
My wife and I talk comics a lot.
I’m the comic geek of the couple and I’ve dragged her into this world kicking and screaming. At first, I didn’t think this was going to work. I had spoken to her mother when we first started dating and my future mother-in-law bragged how she used to read comic books as well. I thought that genetics was going to be on my side until she told me that her idea of comic books were Archie Comics and Harvey Comics with a concentration of Casper, Little Lotta, Hot Stuff, and Wendy the Good Witch.
That was like taking three steps backwards.
No, the comics I was talking were Marvel and DC. And while it was possible that my mother-in-law might have accidentally found and read some of the silver age Batman and Superman comic books, it was unlikely and possibly a blessing in disguise.
I realized that my job wasn’t going to be to introduce my wife to the BIFF, BOFFO, and BAM world of silver age Batman comics but of the KA-THOOM! and KRACKA-POW! world of Marvel that only could come from Jack Kirby. The good news was that the seeds I’d planted twenty years ago blossomed just in time for the Marvel movie franchises.
So my wife has come with me to comic conventions and has graduated from geek girlfriend to a proper well-formed geek.
It got to the point where my wife has read twenty-five or so of my comic book articles and asked me why I don’t write more articles about the women in comic books. She was right, of course. The only woman I’d done any concentrated work was with The Scarlet Witch and I’d listed a few others here and there, but nothing was really featured.
So I thought about it. I wanted to do an article about the women the Marvel Universe forgot. There are plenty of female heroes like the Black Widow, Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers), She-Hulk, and Spider-Woman—those are the easy ones. I want to talk about the ones that no one talks about anymore.
I decided that I was going to start with six women. Some were justifiably forgotten and others really are overdue for a return. Let’s start with a woman who can kick some ass anytime she's brought forward.
6 Underrated Marvel Women
- Doctor Minerva
- Impossible Woman
- The Star Dancer
One of the earliest Marvel tough women I can remember from my youth was Thundra. Oh boy! Could she kick some ass!
Thundra comes from an alternate future where she is a Femizon. A Femizon is where you take an Amazon and you amp up her strength by about a million. In her future, the Femizons lead a matriarchal society where the men of her age have diminished and women have enslaved them. When we first see her, she has journeyed into the past where she encounters the Thing and believes him to be the strongest man in the world. With that presumption, she makes it her business to try and beat the living tar out of Ben Grimm.
You should know that beating the hell out of the Fantastic Four's Thing is not easy. The Thing has stood toe to toe regularly against the Hulk and every manner of cosmic powered alien and bad guy Stan Lee and Jack Kirby could think up.
Thundra just comes into to town to beat up the Thing with no questions asked.
You’d think that the Thing would just polish off his orange-rocked skin and make short work of her.
Thundra beat the rocks off of the Thing (that actually wasn’t as dirty as it sounds). Thundra has been the muscle of groups like the Frightful Four, the Grapplers, and the Lady Liberators. In her mind, all of this is just a warm-up session before she goes back to the future to battle the male champion of the planet Machus.
Let me tell you; when she fights, she means business. When a warrior Femizon opens her can of whupass on you, this one brings a large steel chain to beat you with. She has gone toe to toe with the Thing many times and almost every time her great strength, speed, stamina, and agility have made her nearly unbeatable.
Recently, she’s been seen helping the Red Hulk in his work with the group of scientific geniuses known as the Intelligencia and then later left the group with the Red Hulk.
Karnilla is a woman who is just magical. No, really. She’s one of the Asgardian Norn sorceresses and she’s really good at what she does.
She is the queen of the Norns, which means she’s a powerful magician. Normally when she enters the plot you know there’s going to be problems for Thor or Odin. Often working with Thor’s half-brother Loki to cause more than a little mischief, she’s created villains like the Wrecking Crew (the Wrecker, Piledriver, Bulldozer, and Thunderball) and activated the Destroyer automation (an indestructible Asgardian robot).
While she certainly causes more than her share of trouble, she has a tragic soft spot for the Asgardian god, Balder. She has fallen in love with the god of light and would do anything to have him stay with her in Nornheim, where she lives. On the bright side, Balder loves her, too. When she was kidnapped by Utgard-Loki and the Frost Giants, they subdued her and shaved off her hair.
Balder came to her rescue.
And that's the thing, half the time when she's with Balder, she doesn't seem so evil. As a matter of fact, when Balder had let himself get out of shape, he left Asgard to spend time with Karnilla for the seclusion he'd need to get battle hardened. While he was with Karnilla, she was his host. She took care of him and made sure he did what he had to do.
On the surface, she plays the villain. However, Karnilla’s personality has more depth than most of the Asgardian characters. What she does, whether she helps a hero or not, is subject to how she’s feeling that day. She’s been known to work with Loki in making things terrible for Odin, at the same time, she’s rescued the lives of Balder and the Warriors Three from forces like the Thermal Man.
She’s been around recently during the Fear Itself storyline when she attempted to replace Thor on earth with a new thunder god, Taranus—who was the troll Ulik in disguise.
3. Doctor Minerva
This character was quite obscure prior to the Captain Marvel movie.
When Captain Mar-Vell of the Kree died, he took a bunch of villains with him. Very few of his antagonists have seen the light of day since he went to that big Avengers Mansion in the sky.
Toward the end of Captain Marvel’s career, he encountered a Kree scientist named Doctor Minn-Erva. Her ultimate plan after kidnapping his former sidekick, Rick Jones, was to get together and mate with Mar-Vell so they could create powerful Kree children.
No, I’m not kidding.
In fairness, that’s part of the Kree’s bottom line. They’ve reached the end of their evolutionary ladder and have had no luck getting up one more rung on it. So, when a blue Kree woman wants to mate with a compatible and prime member of their pink race, the Supreme Intelligence (their brain conglomerate leader), is all behind it.
Only Captain Marvel never really got a chance to sew his wild “Compound-13” contaminated roots with Minerva as she was ordered at the last second to abandon the mission.
Later on, she partnered up with Kree officer, Captain Atlas (another blue Kree), and after what must have been a raid on Mar-Vell’s old costumes, they attempted to steal Quasar’s quantum bands from off his wrists. She hasn’t been seen much since she was banished from Earth aside from her part in the Kree/Shi’ar Wars—although she did make a brief appearance in the 2015 Spider-verse storyline where she started some static with the latest Ms. Marvel.
She was last seen performing unsanctioned experiments by the Kree Empire and has been on the run from them ever since.
4. Impossible Woman
Hey, trick question: who’s the most obnoxious character in the Marvel Universe?
If you said the Impossible Woman, you’re only partially right.
It turns out that the all-time winner of getting under people’s skin is the Impossible Man from the planet Poppup. I’ve gone into the Impossible Man’s history before in my article Five Really Lame Marvel Characters. All you really need to know is that Impossible Man can change into any shape, is always green and purple, and is really, REALLY annoying.
Oh yeah, and he reproduces asexually.
The running joke is that Poppupians don’t have any names, they all know who each other are because they share a collective consciousness. The Impossible Woman, it turns out is a female variant of the Impossible Man with female features. They are on a mission to repopulate their planet Poppup with their brood of Impossible Kids.
The Impossible Woman hasn’t been seen in a while, it’s assumed she’s at home doing impossible things with her impossible kids… impossibly.
I have to believe somewhere in this real universe, there’s a human mating with a merperson.
Why not? It seems to be the thing to do. In the DC Universe, lighthouse owner, Tom Curry, rescued a woman from Atlantis and they eventually mated to make Aquaman. I believe Neptune Perkins has very much the same origin. In the Marvel Universe, this is the story of Namor, Namorita, Namora, and yes, Llyra. They are all Homo mermanus/human hybrids.
The thing about Llyra is that she just got an extra helping of crazy with her Lemurian heritage. Like Namor, the Submariner, she can breathe equally well on the surface and underwater. Ordinarily she has green Lemurian skin, which is unlike the typical blue skin of Atlanteans because Lemurians have a reptilian nature to their genetics. Llyra can change the color of her skin from green to pink at will—which is the good news. The bad news is that this worked toward her multiple personality disorder in helping her think that her pink self was a different person entirely.
Llyra is just a cocktail of crazy. Like Namor, she is a mutant. Unlike Namor, she can control marine life. She used this power to usurp the rightful king of Lemuria. Eventually, her ploy failed and she was rendered comatose in a sperm whale accident.
No, I’m not kidding.
Another power that Llyra has that is unique to her is that like a chameleon, she can change her shape and disguise herself as another person. She used this disguise to turn herself into the likeness of Namor’s fiancé, Lady Dorma, so she could marry him. Fortunately, due to a quirk in Atlantean Law, if Namor thought he was marrying Lady Dorma, it turns out he actually did, despite her not being there for the ceremony.
Aside from perpetually trying to take over the undersea kingdoms, she spends her time being a priestess of Set and occasional partners with Deviants like Ghaur in their machinations.
She was last seen when Namor left her to die after the Atlantis Rising storyline where the city was crumbling around her. Whether this was truly her end is unknown.
6. The Star Dancer
One of the phenomena of the Marvel Universe is its abundance of beings that use unconventional ways to make space travel.
The Silver Surfer surfs his way into hyperspace. Firelord uses cosmic fire on a stick to pull him across the universe. Terrax the Tamer floats on a telekinetically charged boulder. Then we have Shanga Fia Delph'goram, the Star Dancer, ballet-dancing her way across space.
Shanga a bored alien with cosmic powers just wanted to get out… and out… and out of her planet. Her method of dancing is a very deliberate calculated series of dance moves to propel her around the vacuum of the void. She is cosmically powered much like the Silver Surfer and the other heralds of Galactus, only she has no real agenda.
She found her way to Earth when she’d gotten hopelessly lost across the cosmos and settled here momentarily to find herself a mate.
Strike that, she actually sensed her mate from space, landed in a Massachusetts town, and used a force field to quarantine it so he couldn’t get away. Fortunately, the Fantastic Four’s Thing intervened and found her mate, the World War II adventurer, The Blue Diamond. She prepped him for space travel and they have since resumed their wanderings across space.
Aside from possessing the power cosmic, the Star Dancer has some form of precognition and is extraordinarily graceful. Her body is naturally adapted to space travel and she can project energy blasts from her hands.
What I was really looking for was a Marvel heroine that was truly forgotten. There really aren’t many. Even the most obscure heroine I could think of was Spitfire from the Invaders. She’s been extremely active within the MU even recently.
Marvel likes to use their women.
Other female heroes worth mentioning are The Blonde Phantom, who was the She-Hulk’s sidekick back in the early 90s. There is also Andromeda, another one of the Atlanteans who decided to work with the Defenders at one point.
However, while Marvel likes to continuously use their female heroes, their femme fatales get used and disposed of like Kleenex. Since the Golden Age of comics, female antagonists have made their appearances, often dressing in impossibly made fashion items that defy gravity and good taste, and then issue terrible threats to men like Captain America or the Avengers in order to make their own power plays.
Some would look at the list above and say that many of these characters weren’t villainesses. They were merely strong-willed women with a few personality quirks or women who knew what they wanted and went to get it. In a man, they might not even seem evil—only aggressively obsessed with their goals.
We see men and women like this in corporate America every day. Well, without the death rays, and the mutant monsters, kept in a sub-basement to unleash on an unsuspecting public. These characters often go unsung or unpunished in the real world and that makes them tragic figures.
Like all things, once we find and recognize them for what they are, many times they are dusted off and put into action.
Questions & Answers
Question: Why didn't you include the original Captain Marvel, Monica Rambeau?
Answer: Because she's not really forgotten. If you read my article "Superhero Academy 101: Six Captain Marvels for the Price of One", you'll see what she's been up to.
© 2016 Christopher Peruzzi
Christopher Peruzzi (author) from Freehold, NJ on January 08, 2020:
Mad Mike - The problem with characters like Clea is that they're intrinsically linked to their romantic interests. I think the last time I'd seen Clea was when the Defenders went against the Red Hulk, Baron Mordu, and whatever antagonists the Submariner and the Silver Surfer had to keep their romantic interests alive (Clea, Shalla Bal, Lady Dorma, and Jarella). Although, I'm not 100% certain of this, I'm pretty sure that the good doctor does not have a regular title anymore and it's unlikely we'll see his love interest appear until the second or third Doctor Strange movie.
Mad mike on January 07, 2020: