Where the hell are all the great female supervillains?

So the other day, I run into this guy in a weird uniform. He tells me he found an abandoned milk truck with a body inside, so he took the clothes, and now he's masquerading as The Milk Man, and trying to unite the disparate peoples of the post-apocalypse by reminding them of the milk service America used to provide. Obviously, I killed him and took his milk. What an asshole, right?


Eve and Evil

Jude K.:

Sir - My apologies for raising something which surely has been addressed before, however perhaps it is worthwhile to revisit. What's the deal with there not being any prominent supervillainesses? Aside from the difficulty of spelling supervillainess I mean. I can think of a couple villains from DC, Catwoman and Poison Ivy. I'm not a major comic book guy but I'd say I'm a fair bit ahead of the norm and those are all I can think of off the top of my head. Neither are remotely the same league as a Lex Luthor or Doctor Doom. Marvel is if anything even worse! I seem to vaguely remember an X-men foe called the White Queen. While there aren't a ton of female superheroes there are at least a few, and Wonder Woman is commendably high profile. I have no clue who her equivalent of the Joker would be.
Hang in there!

First, Wonder Woman's arch-nemesis is the Cheetah. The crazy cat-lady. She's technically imbued with the power of the Goddess of the Hunt, which ostensibly means she's an actual threat to Wonder Woman, but in reality she's just a furry with a bad attitude, and while she's been a frequent antagonist for WW, she's not a particularly formidable one. Certainly not in the Lex Luthor/Joker/Doctor Doom league.

As you've pointed out, this is indicative of a larger problem in American comics, which seemingly can't handle major female villains. Hell, once a villainess gets too popular, they soften her image and even occasionally turn her into an anti-hero, which is what happened to Poison Ivy, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Emma "White Queen" Frost. Meanwhile, the other villainesses are minor threats, unless they team up with other, invariably male villains like the Legion of Doom or Masters of Evil.

I think the basic problem is that most superheroes are men, and their powers are primarily based around action. And the comics industry finds it (understandably) problematic for big, muscled men to punch women in the face, even if those women are about to kill a bank full of hostages, say. Regardless of superhero gender equality, it just looks bad, and it's no wonder they avoid it, by either having villainesses face off solely against heroines (because women punching women is totes okay) or by having villainess who do tangle with male heroes do so not with physical harm, but through "womanly wiles" like mind control, seduction, and mind-controlled seduction (looking at you, Poison Ivy and Enchantress). Then a matter of the hero defeating the villainess is simply a matter of breaking the spell or seeing through the deceit, and no one has to beat up girls.

The end result of all of this is there a few supervillainess out there that rank among the great supervillains. And that's a shame.


Where the hell are all the great female supervillains?Expanding Your Mind

Ben Z.:

Postman:

I came of age in the 90's and latched onto everything Star Wars after the Special Editions came out. I read most of the Expanded Universe books and comics up to the early 2000's, when I became disenchanted with the saga after watching the prequels. I developed a real fondness for the post-Return of the Jedi books written by Timothy Zahn, Michael Stackpole, and Aaron Allston. I haven't re-read them since, but I started to like those books as much as the classic films. Ever since they announced Episode 7, I have been simultaneously grieving the death of post-Jedi Expanded Universe continuity and excited that Disney is trying something new.

Lately I have been listening to the Star Wars Minute podcast hosted by two guys who grew up with the original movies and bash the Expanded Universe as much as they bash the prequels. When I go on Episode 7 news sites, I see a lot of comments written by prequel fans who also like to bash the post-Jedi Expanded Universe. I feel sandwiched in between two groups of haters. My question is: Were the Star Wars books in the 90's actually any good or am I experiencing delusions of grandeur?

Some of them were, to be honest, quite godawful. I remember The Courtship of Princess Leia in particular being so awful that I gave up on Star Wars novels entirely, and this is when I was still reading Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms novels, so you know it must have been dire. To be honest, while I liked Timothy Zahn's Thrawn trilogy, the novels that kicked the expanded universe off, I hardly think they were perfect, what with their "Luke" clones and animals that projected Force bubbles.

Since I quit pretty early, I can't tell you if all the Expanded Universe novels are crap, although odds are they aren't. I don't think the Zahn novels are crap, I just don't need them to be the basis of the new trilogy. But if you enjoy them, that's what matters. Even if they are crap and I could give you detailed evidence as to why they're problematic, who cares? I love a lot of crap. It's not a crime.

I will tell you this, though: A few years ago, I picked up one of my favorite Forgotten Realms books — R.A. Salvatore's The Crystal Shard — and tried to re-read it for nostalgic kicks. It was so terrible I had to tear my eyes out and throw them into a fire. Just keep that in mind, okay?


Where the hell are all the great female supervillains?

Her and Herc

Brian:

Dear postman,

Do you think Marvel's Hercules would get along with Wonder Woman?

Hell yes. Another person of ancient Greek decent? Another powerful warrior? Another child of Zeus? Of course he'd get along with Wonder Woman, by which I mean he'd try to get into her star-spangled underwear. Now, would Wonder Woman get along with Marvel's Hercules? Probably not so much.


Where the hell are all the great female supervillains?

Toying with our Emotions

Utsav:

Hey Rob,

My question is about the relationship between studios, franchises and merchandising. Why does merchandising affect the fate of a franchise so strongly? Take Tron, Young Justice, Tower Prep or any other such show/movie, their fates had been sealed the moment the producers realized that they were not selling enough toys! How much of revenue do toys bring in, and should this culture be done away with? I mean Batman & Robin and the whole Transformers franchise are just shameless multi-million dollar Toy commercials, I can be fine with that, but if studios start basing their entire revenue models on the success or failure of toy lines, then something is terribly wrong!

Well, first of all let me assure you something is terribly wrong, although this is a problem that primarily affects animation. Again, major movies are so big that they don't give a shit what happens to anyone else; remember how Paramount delayed G.I. Joe 2 at the last minute, thus effectively destroying Hasbro's toy sales? Hollywood enjoys merchandising profits, but they aren't beholden to it in any way.

Animation, on the other hand, is another story. Because of the glory days in the '80s when every cartoon was accompanied by a zillion dollars in toy revenues — e.g. He-Man, Transformers, G.I. Joe — companies make these cartoons with unrealistic and completely invalid expectations that Teen Titans, Young Justice, Tron: Uprising and the like should also sell a zillion dollars worth of toys, when that's no longer how the toy market or animation industry work. Which is why you can have perfectly good, popular shows —again, Teen Titans, Young Justice, Tron: Uprising and the like — that have fine ratings, but get canceled so the network can try another show that could sell a shit-ton of toys but never will.


Where the hell are all the great female supervillains?What's Up, Doc

David H.:

Do we really have to have Peter Parker back? Octavius is superior.

As I told everybody who freaked out when Peter Parker "died" and Doc Ock took over Peter's body, "Don't worry. It's a comic book. He'll be back eventually."


Where the hell are all the great female supervillains?Sign for the Package

Robert M.:

Hello Mr. Postman,

Given your demonstrated expertise in fictional character genitalia, I thought you'd be the appropriate resource to answer this: What in the hell do you think is the deal with Baron Ashura's genitals?

If we go by the last Mazinger animation out there (spoilers ahead), Dr. Hell decided that taking two tragic lover's bodies in suspended animation, rotting half of each via alien waste, then stitching the remains together to create a half-man, half-woman hybrid was a better method of mind control than, say, hypnosis, brainwashing or lobotomy. But, practical decisions aside, how would such a madman resolve the genitalia part?

I think it would be impossible to stitch half a penis to half a vagina, but I somehow think Dr. Hell would not simply preserve both sets as individual systems for each side. I can't decide if he'd go for full mutilation, or by frankensteining something like a, I don't know, a pegina? A vagenis? What do you think?

It's a vagina with a retractable penis inside it, which extends exactly like the tiny mouth inside an Alien's mouth. Don't ask me how I know.


Do you have questions about anything scifi, fantasy, superhero, or nerd-related? Email the postman@io9.com! No question too difficult, no question too dumb! Obviously!