6 Seriously Silly Vintage Comic Book Heroines

by JR Thorpe

Comic book movies are all the rage these days, obviously – and between the upcoming Ant Man film, the Wonder Woman revival, and the plethora of superheroes showing up in Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron , it's pretty clear that comic book companies are mining their archives for anything that they think might appeal to modern viewers. But, because this is comic-book land, digging up the past can be seriously treacherous – and seriously sexist – territory for ladies. Because there are some heroines from the annals of comic book history who really, really shouldn't ever show up in a movie, lest we all die of chronic, eye-rolling anger.

Most discussions about feminism and comic books tend to focus on the medium's often questionable depictions of the female body — which, let's not lie, can get pretty ridiculous. But over the past few decades, some truly empowered (and powerful) female characters have turned up in comics. There's Scarlet Witch, who has developed into one of the most formidable comic book heroines in history, and who will be appearing in the new Avengers film; we've had Jean Grey's Phoenix Force, which made her into one of the most powerful characters to ever show up in the Marvel universe; and there's also recent DC creation Elaine Belloc, who's the daughter of the Archangel Gabriel and eventually becomes God. Yep. While the big guns in comic book universes still tend to be men, women are on the rise.

But things weren't always like this for female comic book characters (and, indeed, sometimes they still aren't). While comic book history contains some very cool forgotten heroines – Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, anybody? – there are also some that, whether they're notable for being grotesquely sexist or just really, really weird, need to stay in the past. So I'm pleading: let's leave these 6 ridiculous vintage comic book heroines on the shelves, and just focus on having a Wonder Woman reboot that isn't complete nonsense. That'd be great. Thanks.

1. Big Bertha

I genuinely don't know where to start with Marvel heroine Big Bertha. Let's try this: she's a supermodel by day, superhero by night, and her superpower is gaining huge amounts of weight, which she then uses to squash villains. And guess how she loses the weight? She vomits. Top marks to everybody involved on this one!

2. Asbestos Lady

Not as much an unfeminist character as just a seriously troubling one, Marvel villain Asbestos Lady was created in the '40s, before anybody knew asbestos was a Seriously Bad Thing. A scientist, criminal, and adversary of the Human Torch, Asbestos Lady is invulnerable to fire because she wears an asbestos suit. She isn't at much of a risk for being revived, however — the creators gave her cancer and killed her off once asbestos's carcinogenic properties were discovered. Classy.

3. Katy Keene

I actually kind of liked Katy Keene, who debuted in 1945 (and has had a renaissance ever since people noticed how much she seemed to inspire Katy Perry's early look). Part of the Archie Comics universe, she was a fashion model who had several boyfriends and... well, that's pretty much it. All she did was possess a tiny waist, look good in clothes, and get into various giggly shenanigans, often involving fights with other glamor girls over boys. She may have been cute, but despite the fact that she was briefly revived as a character in 2005, that type of thing needs to stay in the past.

4. Rainbow Girl

DC heroine Rainbow Girl's power is having mood swings. Seriously. She can "harness the power of the emotional spectrum", which basically means she has super-powered PMS on command. Because oh my god, ladies and their moods, right? There is nothing I can say to make this better, but rest assured that if nothing else, Rainbow Girl is one of the most-mocked ideas in the comics canon.

5. Infectious Lass

Yes, that is genuinely her name. And to be fair to DC character Infectious Lass, she (along with Rainbow Girl) was a member of the Legion of Substitute Heroes, people with powers so strange that actual superheroes were weirded out by them. But the concept of a woman whose power is to spread disease (which she sometimes does by accident, just by being really nice) is a bit too close to an STD metaphor for comfort – plus, her suit is actually made of phlegm.

6. Pink Pearl

Pink Pearl isn't so much a supervillain as, well, an evil fat lady. A Marvel villain who is evil purely because she happens to be obese, Pink Pearl was literally a "Fat Lady" in a circus sideshow who tried to take over Canada. While she has no actual powers, her obesity seems to protect her during any sort of encounter with actual superheroes (for instance, she was stabbed in the chest by members of Alpha Flight, but wasn't killed by it). Pink Pearl obviously deserves to remain a mostly forgotten part of comics history — but she did end her career on a cruise ship full of other female super-criminals, which actually sounds kind of great.

Images: DC Comics,Giphy, Marvel Comics