Wonder Woman gets all the attention as comic's pre-eminent superheroine, but there are plenty of other female crimefighters worthy of our attention — even back in the Golden Age of comics. Here are 20 more wonderful women heroes you should know.
Betty Bates, Lady at Law (1940)
Ms. Bates didn't have any superpowers, but that didn't stop her from fighting crime in the courtroom as a district attorney. Outside the courtroom, she used her detective skills and jiujitsu to take out gangsters. Seriously, this 1940 heroine straight-up punched criminals in the face.
Black Canary (1947)
The original Black Canary debuted in 1947, as a supporting character/love interest in Johnny Thunder, the back-up story in DC's The Flash comics. But Dinah Drake almost instantly overshadowed Thunder, and took over the spot in the comics — as well as his place in the Justice Society of America.
Black Cat (1941)
Well before Felicia Hardy was stealing things in Spider-Man, Linda Turner was putting on a one-piece blue bathing suit and an opera mask to fight Nazis and other criminals. She used her skills as an actress and a stunt woman, and thanks to her silent Western film actor father, she was also quite skilled with a lasso. She was created in 1941 by Harvey comics.
Black Venus (1944)
Mary LeRouche was an innocent Parisian exotic dancer whose fiancé was murdered by a Japanese diplomat. Vowing vengeance, LeRouch learned to fly, somehow got her hands on a black customized Lockheed P-38 long-range interceptor, and starting shooting down every Japanese pilot she could find.
Black Widow (1940)
Before Natasha Romanov ever put on her leather body suit, Claire Voyant used the name for the original Marvel Comics. Of course, Claire wasn't a spy as much as a servant of Satan, given powers to kill with a single touch and ordered to kill the most evil people on the planet for Satan's enjoyment.
One of Fletcher Hanks' weirdest creations — and if you know Hanks' work, that's saying something, Fantomah is known as the "Mystery Woman of the Jungle." She has immense and completely unexplainable powers, such as the ability to fly, transform people and things, and the bad habit of her face turning into a blue skull (but still with her long blonde hair).
Jill Trent, Science Sleuth (1943)
Partially an adventurer, partially a crimefighter, entirely a genius, Jill and her best friend Daisy used their smarts to thwart bad guys. Ms. Trent invented x-ray glasses, indestructible cloth, and much more. Imagine Marie Curie and Veronica Mars, and then you'll have an idea of the awesomeoneness of Jill Trent.
Lady Luck (1940)
Created by the legendary Will Eisner, Lady Luck was much like Eisner's more famous hero — someone with no particularly superpowers, but a preternatural ability to fight crime. Despite only wearing a veil over her face, somehow no one ever figured out her secret identity.
Lady Satan (1941)
After Nazis bombed the boat she and her fiancé was on, killing him, Lady Satan vowed to fight the Nazis and in occupied Paris as the awesomely named Lady Satan. She had no powers but her wits and beauty… until her third issue, when she suddenly had a magic ring that basically allowed her to do pretty much anything.
Liberty Belle (1942)
This DC heroine literally gained her powers when the actual Liberty Bell in Philadelphia rang. She'd somehow signal Tom Revere, a guard at the bell, and somehow ringing it would grant Liberty super-strength, super-speed and more.
Madame Strange (1941)
Great Comics only lasted three issues, but this star made an impression, both for her cape and bikini outfit as well as her ability to beat the hell out of her foes.
Miss Fury (1941)
Occasionally known as Black Fury, Miss Fury has the distinction of being the first superheroine created and drawn by a woman. Despite the fact she had a witch doctor-enchanted panther skin, she usually fought bad guys without it. She also adopted the son of her former fiancé and one of her villains, which made her an unmarried mother, too.
Miss Masque (1946)
Bored with her life as a young socialite, Diana Adams decides to fight crime with two pistols and a red fedora. Alan Moore recently brought back the character in his Tom Strong comics.
Ms. Victory (1941)
The original Ms. Victory never had an official origin, so her powers — super-strength, invulnerability — are a mystery. We do know her name is Joan Wayne and her day job was as a stenographer.
Phantom Lady (1941)
Daughter of a senator, Sandra Knight wielded a black light gun which had the dual effect of blinding her enemies and rendering her invisible. The scantily clad Phantom Lady — specifically, the cover to issue #17, here — was a key part of Dr. Frederic Wertham's proclamation that comics were ruining America's children.
Red Tornado (1940)
If you only know Red Tornado as the Justice League's android buddy, then I'm delighted to introduce you to Ma Hunkel, who puts on red longjohns and a pot on her head to fight bad guys. The Red Tornado was a superhero parody comic, of course, but that doesn't mean Ma Hunkel didn't kick her fair share of ass.
Spider Widow (1943)
After discovering the super creepy ability to control black widow spiders, athlete Dianne Grayton decide to fight evil while dressed as a traditional witch, complete with ugly green mask.
The Veiled Avenger (1944)
Seeing how rampant crime was as the secretary to the district attorney, Ginny Spears… you know the deal. ComicVine describes her more eloquently than I could: "Armed only with a bullwhip and anger management problems the Vailed Avenger was not above using deadly force against her enemies, going as far as using her whip to make her foes shoot each other and themselves. "
The Woman in Red (1940)
One of the very first Golden Age comic superheroines — yes, even before Wonder Woman — The Woman in Red is really a police woman named Peggy Allen, who gets fed up with the system and decides to make matters into her own hands. Dressed from head-to-toe in red, she cuts an imposing figure, even without superpowers.
Yankee Girl (1947)
Reporter Lauren Mason took a trip to the statue of Liberty, fell asleep on a bench, and had a dream where the American Spirit told her she had to start protecting America. When she woke up, she had superpowers which she could only access by saying "Yankee Doodle Dandy."
Thanks to Saladin Ahmed for the art assistance!
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