Female versions of superheroes have been a mainstay of both the DC and Marvel Universes for years. Hawkgirl first debuted in the ‘40s kicking off a change that would continue with Supergirl, Batgirl, She-Hulk, Spider-Woman, and many others. More recent examples include the Jane Foster Thor, X-23 taking the mantle of Wolverine, and Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel. Their popularity can not be dismissed. It’s a very flexible tool. Renee Montoya took over as The Question; Stephanie Brown was Robin, briefly; and the new Spider-Gwen has amassed a legion of loyal fans.
What I’m talking about is a little different. Rather than simply creating separate female versions, I’m talking about characters who would be more interesting as women. I’m not advocating for these changes to occur in their respective books, necessarily (I’m also not not advocating for them), but when one takes into account how sexist comics were when most of the iconic superheroes were created, it’s fascinating to think that there might have been more females if things had been different, culturally. It’s a semi-known fact that Spider-Man villain Venom was originally conceived as a woman, but editorial didn’t believe she would be a credible threat. Let’s imagine other characters conceived as females and see if it makes them more interesting…
1. Ben Grimm
Before you bring up She-Thing, remember that I’m talking about Ben Grimm, member of the Fantastic Four and best friend of Reed Richards, specifically. Ben is cursed to live as a hideous rock monster, but he can at least pride himself on being a man of physical strength. If a man wants to solve all his problems with his fists, it’s hardly frowned upon. In many cases it’s encouraged. But if a woman was turned into the Thing, she would not only have to deal with being ugly, she would have to cope with being reduced to a brute as well. Like Brienne of Tarth times fifty. There is unquestionably a double standard of beauty for men and women. Whether you think it’s justifiable or not, it’s there. Just look at the visual differences between the Hulk and She-Hulk: one is a savage ogre and the other is a pin-up girl. And if you like it that way, more power to you. But you have to agree a Brenda Grimm would have a rougher time than Ben.
2. Booster Gold
A failed athlete from the far future who steals a power granting super suit and travels back in time to become a famous superhero, Booster Gold’s initial selfishness and glory-seeking makes him the scourge of the superhero community. At first. Booster soon resolved to be a true hero, but struggled to be taken seriously by those who dismissed him because of his early behavior. I would tweak the character slightly, and have Booster as a young woman fleeing an oppressive, patriarchal future to a time when the sexes are on more equal ground. She would see the present day as an almost mythical time, but in the same way a Ren-Faire lover would be quite disappointed if he actually visited England during the reign of Elizabeth I, Booster finds herself fighting to be taken seriously by the male superhero community. She would have a Cassandra-like quality because she would have knowledge of the future and advanced technology, but Batman and Superman would never hear her out.
3. Swamp Thing
What started out as a pretty formulaic story about a scientist named Alec Holland who is mutated into a muck monster became something much more complex in the hands of Alan Moore, who turned Swamp Thing from a science fiction menace to a mystical totem of all plant life. It turned out that Holland wasn’t turned into a plant creature; instead, the swamp absorbed his memories and personality and they became one. Swamp Thing’s consciousness spreads throughout all of the plants in the area. The earth and plant life are usually associated with feminine qualities (Mother Earth, fertile soil, etc.), so it just makes sense for Alec to be Alexandra. It’s interesting because it’s novel. Women are rarely permitted to become hideous monsters (because, of course, their primary purpose is to be pretty). Plus, Moore retconned that Swamp Thing has inhabited previous individuals, including a World War II fighter pilot. This female Swamp Thing would just be one in a long line of many, so it doesn’t really “ruin” the character at all.
4. Mister Freeze
Or rather, Ms. Freeze. Up until the Batman animated series, Freeze was a joke character. But the cartoon added a new tragic backstory in his sick wife, whose incurable disease necessitated cryogenic freezing. The man funding his research, however, didn’t quite see eye to eye with him on diverting company resources for personal use, and sabotaged the process, resulted in Freeze’s condition: confined to a special suit in order to move around outside of a frozen environment. Naturally, Freeze vows revenge. A woman on a path of revenge brings to mind Uma Thurman’s The Bride from Kill Bill. The Bride’s motivation is the loss of her daughter, so I imagine Ms. Freeze would be trying to save her own child. One of Freeze’s hallmarks is a lack of emotion. A stoic, coldly logical woman whose child has been hurt? That might be the most menacing threat possible.
What do you think? Any other male characters that would be better as women? Let us know in the comments!