I am an entertainment enthusiast with six years experience as an online pop culture writer.
I wrote an article on "Sexiest Superheroines Explained" that comically analyzed why these comic-book women were considered beautiful. It was popular enough that I followed up writing some articles on a few of their costume evolutions over the years.
This writing required me to do a lot of researching into their characters' histories. I started to ponder why so many superheroines are simply female copies of their male counterparts. Is it a lack of imagination? Was it a way to attract a female audience? Are they attempting to make comics sexy? Were they making an effort to bring women into a male-dominated market? It is probably a combination of all the above.
Another fascinating thing about these female heroines is how they are translated for the public. The costumes become more revealing even though the characters are being sold to women and not men. Then models take on another interpretation that can be more sensual despite being pulled from books that are supposed to be appropriate for children.
Here are some of the heroines that are copies of popular heroes.
Batman to Batgirl
Technically, Batgirl was created in 1961 and her secret identity was Betty Kane but she was quickly replaced in 1967 with Barbara Gordon, who most people consider the original Batgirl. Barbara Gordon's character was created at the request of the producers from the 1960s Batman television show. In an attempt to increase their ratings they asked DC comics to create a female character they could incorporate into their television show. In Detective Comics #359 Barbara Gordon made her debut as Batgirl. Her character couldn't save the show but it did give DC comics a valuable character to add to their rich catalog of heroes.
In this case, there is no question of why Batgirl was quickly introduced. Producer Howie Horwitz said the character was added to “give the little girls and big boys someone to identify with.” They were hoping to bring in a female audience but were aware of appealing to their current male demographic.
Although their secret identities differ, with Bruce Wayne being a billionaire playboy and Barbara Gordon being a librarian and the daughter of Police Commissioner Gordon, their secret identities are almost identical. Costumes evolve over the years but these two could be twins with their bat masks and capes. Even their gloves have similar designs. Neither of them possesses any superpowers but instead rely on their fighting skills, wits, and an endless supply of bat gadgets.
Hulk to She-Hulk
Once again we have a female character created in response to a television show. However, this time around it was not in collaboration. The Incredible Hulk television series was extremely popular and Marvel Comics was worried that the show would create a female version of the Hulk. Wasting no time, Stan Lee and John Buscema created She-Hulk and made her first appearance in Savage She-Hulk #1. This series only lasted 25 issues but she would continue to make guest appearances in other Marvel storylines.
Here the character was quickly created for financial purposes. Marvel wanted to make sure they had the financial rights to a character before somebody else. I will count this one as a lack of creativity. Sorry Stan, but thanks for all your other wonderfully unique superheroes you have given us over the years.
Since Bruce Banner gave Jennifer Walters a blood transfusion it makes sense that she should be similar to him. They both have green skin, although when Bruce transforms into the hulk he becomes a mutated freak and Jennifer becomes a very attractive bodybuilder, who does not suffer from a loss of cleavage due to her low body fat. At the time, the Hulk did not possess the mental capacity of his alter ego but She-Hulk did retain her intelligence. However, she did become a lot more confident. They both possess super strength. While the Hulk is the strongest character in the Marvel Universe, She-Hulk is the strongest female. At one point she outperformed most of the men, including the Thing. While the Hulk would transform when he got angry, She-Hulk's strength would increase as she became more fearful or angry. She-Hulk's strength and ability to transform have evolved over the years separating her from her cousin Bruce Banner but at the core, they remain the same.
Namor to Namora
Namora was created in 1947 and made her first appearance in Marvel Mystery Comics # 82. She is the cousin of Namor but thankfully not by blood because they were in a relationship for several years. There is not a lot of information on the inspiration for her creation but it was almost 10 years before Supergirl came flying onto the page and decades before our other superheroines. I will give them the benefit of the doubt and say they were trying to create a richer world by adding a feminine element.
It is amazing how these two are not only the result of the rare mating between a human and an Atlantean but they would both mutate with the exact same powers, down to their winged ankles allowing them to fly. Her real name is actually Aquaria Nautica Neptunia. Namora is her nickname. In their Atlantean language, it means "Avenging Daughter" and Nomor means "Avenging Son". To prove marvel didn't lose all its creativity, in the 1972 issue of Sub-Mariner #50 a clone of Namora was introduced and named Namorita. She also likes to wear green bathing suits like Namor.
Spider-Man to Spider-Woman
Spider-Woman was another character created out of fear. She made her first appearance in the 1977 issue of Marvel Spotlight #32. I will use a quote from Stan Lee for this one. Discussing the creation of Spider-Woman in Hello, Culture Lovers: Stan the Man Raps with Marvel Maniacs at James Madison University", The Comics Journal #42, October 1978, p. 55 Stan said, " suddenly realized that some other company may quickly put out a book like that and claim they have the right to use the name, and I thought we'd better do it real fast to copyright the name. So we just batted one quickly, and that's exactly what happened. I wanted to protect the name,"
I guess it is true, fear does lead to the Dark Side.
Unlike other female spin-offs, Spider-Woman is much different from her male counterpart and of no relation. A lot of different women take on the role of Spider-Woman but for our purposes, we will talk about Jessica Drew, the original. Spider-Man was created by being accidentally bitten by a radioactive spider. Spider-Woman has two origins. In one she was given an experimental serum based on irradiated spider blood and in the other, she was hit by a laser beam carrying the DNA of several different spiders, while still in her mother's womb. As you can tell these are big differences. Like Spider-Man she has super strength, endurance, speed, reflexes and can stick to any surface. While she lacks his spider-sense, she possesses many powers far greater than our friendly neighborhood spider. She can focus bio-electric energy to create a "venom blast" capable of stunning or killing a human being. She is immune to radiation and builds up a tolerance to any poison. My favorite power the creators dreamed up was that she produces a pheromone eliciting pleasure in men but repulsing women. Thank goodness she can wear perfume to counteract this pheromone.
Superman to Supergirl
The first Super-Girl was a trial run at introducing another female character besides Wonder Woman into the DC Universe. In 1958, Superman #123, Jimmy Olsen wishes her into existence using a magic totem. At the end of the story, she was wished away. Fans loved her and a year later in Action Comics #252, Kara Zor-El took on the role of Supergirl. There have been clones, alternate realities and body merging (don't ask) but Kara is Supergirl.
As it turns out the Last Son of Krypton was not the last Kryptonian to survive and lucky for him the other survivor just happened to be his cousin. According to recent stories, thousands have actually survived but Kara was the first we knew about. As a Kryptonian living under Earth's yellow sun she is exactly the same as Superman. They have the same powers and weaknesses, although Kara is not at the same level as her older male counterpart. Her choice of costumes over the years have left no doubt that she was related to the Man of Steel.
There are many other copies made from male heroes like Batwoman and Thor Girl but the ones listed above are better known. Hawkgirl was not included in this list because she and Hawkman were created at the same time and have an intertwined story line. I did not include characters like Red Sonya or Harley Quinn because they didn't just switch the word "man" in the name with the word "girl" or "woman." There was at least some attempt at creativity.
Geekdom (author) on June 01, 2015:
Great mentions and thanks or bringing them up. I tried to focus on the more mainstream characters. Yes, the characters you mention deserve attention.
Christopher Peruzzi from Freehold, NJ on June 01, 2015:
It's an interesting hub. One that is full of potential for marketers looking to include girls within the merchandising.
I think you make some good points, but let me just mention a few characters just for completeness.
- Hawkman and Hawkgirl
- Captain Marvel (Kree) and Ms. Marvel (aka Warbird, Bianary, "Captain Marvel")
- Captain Marvel (DC and Faucet) and Mary Marvel
- Namor, Namora, and Namorita
- Martian Manhunter and Miss Martian
- Robin (Tim Drake) and Robin (Stephanie Brown)
- Wildcat (Ted Grant) and Wildcat (Yolanda Montez)
- Doctor Fate (Kent Nelson) and Doctor Fate (Linda Strauss)
- Crimson Avengers (Lee Travis) and Crimson Avenger (Jill Carlyle)
- The Joker and Harley Quinn