Marvel’s Girl Power by Eric S Brown

Marvel’s Girl Power
Eric S Brown

Most people likely think that Marvel’s tendency to recreate their male heroes as women of power is a modern thing, but it’s not. The first popular character to be gender swapped was Captain Marvel at the end of the 1970s. Carol Danvers was a friend of Mar-vell, Marvel’s original Captain. An exploding Kree device wounded her badly and when she next appeared it was as Ms. Marvel. Though this wasn’t a direct swap, she had gained Kree powers and become a hero in her own right. Decades later, in 2012, she changed her name to Captain Marvel, fully taking up Mar-vell’s mantle. Carol Danvers might have been the first female to assume the powers or title of a previously male Marvel hero but she was far from the last. Many, many more followed after her.

Two of the best happened with Thor and Daredevil.

In the case of Thor, he became unworthy of carrying his hammer and while he continued on with his own adventures, wielding a battleaxe, the hammer summoned someone who was worthy enough to wield it – that being Jane Foster who was dying of cancer. Taking over the role of the god of thunder, Jane took his place battling the evils of Asgard, and the dark forces loose on Earth as well. At the end of tale, she dies a noble death but is reborn as a new Valkyrie. While some fans truly hated this arc of the Thor storyline, others loved it. In truth, the story was very well written, the art fabulous, and most people who are willing to take the time to actually read it instead of just having a knee jerk reaction, will likely fall in love with Jane as the god of Thunder.

Elektra taking over as Daredevil was even more well done. At the very beginning of the latest Daredevil series, Matt accidently kills a low life thief, then spends a great deal of time hunting for who framed him for that killing before finally realizing it was indeed his fault. When he does, Matt surrenders himself as Daredevil to the police. His only worry about going to jail is that Hell’s Kitchen will be left without a protector and prepares to defend himself in court to avoid doing time. The day of the trial however, Elektra shows up and whispers so that only Matt can hear her that she intends to protect the Kitchen in his abscene. Matt enters a guilty plea and is sentenced to two years in jail, atoning for his actions while Elektra takes over as Daredevil. Given the history between Daredevil and Elektra, everything makes perfect sense and thus far is proving to a great story for long time Daredevil fans.

On the flip side, two of the worst gender swaps in Marvel’s history might be She-Thing and Lady Punisher.

She-Thing was originally a professional wrestler who was given super human strength by the Power Broker. She developed a romantic relationship with Ben Grimm, joining the Fantastic Four, only to later be exposed to the same radiation that changed Grimm into the Thing. While there was a minor level of depth to her story, overall, it was the same sort of low quality writing that most comics published during the 1990s suffered from.

That said, Lady Punisher was far worse. Lynn Michaels started out as a police officer tracking down a serial rapist (no cliché there), who is wounded as both her and the Punisher comfort him together. After recovering, she has a bad rep. within her department for working with the Punisher, and eventually finds herself in a position where taking a life is the only way to stop a villain who has gotten the drop on Frank Castle. This is a line crossed that she can’t come back from, at least in her own mind, and Lynn suffers a complete mental breakdown, assuming the role of the Punisher. Her costume was over-sexualized, and her hair style equally so, yet despite this, she briefly had some popularity before falling off the radar. Marvel didn’t kill her off though. Instead, Lynn ends up being recruited by S.H.I.E.L.D. and becoming one of the organization’s agents, if a somewhat corrupt one.

Without question, the most pointless gender swap at Marvel Comics is Lady Deadpool. She dresses the same, has the same foul mouth, the same weapons, powers, etc. Her name is even Wanda Wilson, so that they even have identical initials. Truly, only her gender separates her from Deadpool himself. I’ve heard that the only good thing about Lady Deadpool is that her existence gives female cosplayers a means of dressing up like Deadpool without swapping their own gender in the process.

But these women of power are only a few examples of Marvel’s gender swapping with its characters. While it might be close to impossible to compile a complete list of the characters at Marvel who have been changed from male to female over the decades, what follows is likely the most complete list you will find:

She-Hulk

She-Hulk, aka Jennifer Walters, was among one of Marvel’s earliest attempts at making an iconic male character, female. Jennifer is the cousin of Bruce Banner, as well as one of the most talented lawyers in the Marvel Universe. She made her debut in 1980 in the first issue of her own series. After being gravely injured, Jennifer received a blood transfusion from Bruce and thus, She-Hulk was born.

X-23

X-23, aka Laura Kinney, didn’t make her first appearance in the comics but rather debuted as a new character in the 2003 X-men cartoon. She is a clone of Wolverine, or his biological daughter, depending on which version you prefer as Marvel has claimed both. In 2015, Laura takes up her “dad’s” mantle and dons an updated version of his original yellow suit as the “All New Wolverine”.

Rescue

Rescue, aka Pepper Potts, is a long time, vastly important character in Tony Stark’s life. She’s been his lover, his friend, and even ran his business. In 2009, she got her own suit of power armor and becomes a super hero of the Iron Man/War Machine variety. In the MCU, Pepper joins the final battle with Thanos wearing her Rescue armor.   

Iron Heart

Iron Heart, aka Riri Williams, was a polarizing character for Marvel, because some fans believed she would be replacing Iron Man, and they wanted more of Tony Stark thanks to RDJ’s stellar performances, but got her instead. Riri is a certified super-genius who builds her own suit of Iron Man armor. Stark hears about her, pays her a visit, and then gives her his approval as a young hero.

Red She-Hulk

Red She-Hulk, aka Betty Ross, appeared in the original Hulk # 1 as Hulk’s romantic interest and    later wife. After a tragic death, Betty was returned to life by the Leader, then altered to become a Red Hulk, like her father Thunderbolt Ross. Red She-Hulk has been both an enemy and friend of the Hulk.

Spider-woman

Spider-Woman, Jessica Drew was the first of many female “Spider-men” debuting in 1977 within the pages of Marvel Spotlight # 32 as an agent of Hydra. She soon left behind Hydra’s evil, becoming a hero and even an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. It is important to note that she had many more powers than Spider-man, though she had all of his as well. Peter Parker wouldn’t stand a chance against Jessica Drew – and not just because of her additional powers but also because of her combat training obtained from both Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D.

Spider-Woman II

Spider-Woman II, aka Julia Carpenter, made her first appearance during Marvel’s epic Secret Wars mini-series in the 1980s. She was injected with a bio-enhancer that gave her abilities much like Spider-man’s but also the power to create psionic webs. She has been a member of both the corrupt government sponsored team Freedom Force and the West Coast Avengers.

Spider-Girl

Spider-Girl, aka Mayday Parker, was the next in the long line of Marvel’s “spider-women” though she exists on an alternate Earth and timeline. She is the daughter of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson. Mayday first appeared in an issue of What If and was so well received that she was later given an ongoing series of her own which ran for thirty issues.

Spider-Gwen

Spider-Gwen, (aka Gwen Stacy), like Spider-Girl, exists on an alternate Earth and is part of the Spider-verse arm of Marvel Comics. On her world, she was bitten by the radioactive spider instead of Peter Parker, calling herself Spider-Woman. Like Peter Parker, Gwen has also bonded with the Venom symbiote for a time becoming known as Gwenom while under its sway. ‘

Silk

Silk, aka Cindy Moon, has perhaps the strangest first appearance of Marvel’s “spider-women”. Spider-Man is exposed to energy from the Watcher’s eyeball and sees that he wasn’t the only person bitten by the radioactive spider that gave him his powers. Cindy was as well and held captive by one of his enemies. Spider-man sets her free and Cindy decides to use her powers to become a hero like Peter. An odd fact about Silk is that unlike all the other spider-women, whenever she and Peter Parker are close to each other, they are struck by the need to mate. This likely comes from them being born of the same original spider.

Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel, aka Monica Rambeau, held the mantle of Captain Marvel between Mar-vell and Carol Danvers (the original Ms. Marvel) and had powers completely unlike the Kree heroes. She could become invisible, intangible, and even turn into a being composed completely of energy, as well as being able to fly, shoot powerful energy blasts, and control of most forms of energy.  And in addition, she is immortal and does not age.    .

Sin

Sin, aka Sinthea Schmidt, is the daughter of the Red Skull. He wanted an heir but almost killed Sin when she was born for being a girl. Sin led her own group, the evil Sisters of Sin, but eventually taking over as the Red Skull after her father’s death.

Lady Bullseye

Lady Bullseye, aka Maki Matsumoto, became an assassin after witnessing Bullseye kill an entire group of people. She has no super powers but is highly skilled in combat and has been able to defeat Marvel heroes like Daredevil on occasion. Before becoming an assassin, Maki was a lawyer, allowing her to engage Daredevil in the courtroom as well as on the streets.

Viv Vision

Viv Vision is an artificial lifeform created by her “father”, the Vision. Her early life was tragic with her brother being killed and her mother taking her own life. Somehow, Viv managed to survive the    horror and go onto be hero like her father – armed with powers that are nearly identical to his.

Ghost Rider

Ghost Rider, aka Alejandra Jones, was a short lived hero during the Fear Itself event. Jones displayed all new powers that the Spirit of Vengeance had never used before but lost them when Johnny Blaze reclaimed his power.

Mole-Woman

Mole-woman, aka Kala, was once queen of the Netherworld but now is obsessed with the Mole-man and hopelessly in love with him. She used his technology to attack the surface world during Alicia Masters’ bachelorette party.

American Dream

American Dream, aka Shannon Carter, is the Captain America of Marvel’s A-Next universe. Although Shannon has no super powers, the real Captain himself has judged her worthy of carrying “the shield”.

Moon Knight

Moon Knight, aka Tabitha, exists in Marvel’s 2099 universe but has only made one appearance to date. Very little is known about her but she appears to have all the original Moonknight’s powers.

Stature

Stature, aka Cassie Lang, is the daughter of Scott Lang (Ant-Man II) and gained her powers from being mutated by Pym particles. She is a female version of the heroes Giant Man and Goliath. Cassie has been a member of both the Young Avengers and the Initiative.   

Polaris

Polaris, aka Lorna Dane, is the biological daughter of Magento and is a long time member of the X-men. Her powers are, for the most part, the same as her father’s, though she has lost them and had them altered a few times over the years.    With Marvel regaining the film rights to the X-men, many    expect to see Lorna Dane on the big screen very soon.   

Namorita Prentiss

Namorita Prentiss is the daughter of Prince Namor, the Submariner. Her powers are essentially the same as her father’s. Namorita has been romantically linked to the hero, Nova the Human Rocket, and was also a member of the team known as the New Warriors.    She died at the beginning of Civil War but was later returned to life by a temporal paradox created by Nova during a battle with the cosmic level villain the Sphinx.

Vindicator

Vindicator, aka Heather Hudson, was the wife of Mac Hudson, the original Vindicator. Following his death, she stepped up, donning his power suit, to lead Alpha Flight in protecting Canada. If Vindicator ever appears in the MCU, it is expected that it will be Heather that is wearing the suit.   

Ultron

Ultron was created by Hank Pym and is an evil robot intent on wiping out the human race. He/She has appeared as both male and female over the years, though in reality, gender terms don’t truly apply to Ultron., He/She/It has been lauded as Marvel’s first trans-sexual character even though robots don’t actually have genders in the sense that humans do.

Lady Loki

Lady Loki came into existence when Loki stole a body that was meant for Lady Sif after terrible events had killed most of Asgard. She is truly Loki simply clad in a female form. There have been rumors that Lady Loki will appear in the upcoming Disney Plus Loki series.

Yellowjacket II

Yellowjacket II, Rita Demara, was originally a villain who had stolen a Yellowjacket suit. Eventually though, Rita became a hero and served as a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Thor Girl

Thor Girl, aka Tarene Olson, was a sidekick of Thor’s for a short while. She was born on an alien world and is said to be prime being.    It is believed that one day she is destined to help life evolve to its next level. Thor Girl has fought villains as powerful Thanos and the Nullifer.   

She-Venom

She-Venom, aka Anne Weying, was the wife of the original Venom, Eddie Brock. Also known as the Bride of Venom, she has all of her former husband’s powers and abilities.

She-Venom II

She-Venom II, aka Patricia Robertson, was a soldier that the Venom symbiote lured to it to use as a host after surviving being hit by a small scale nuclear strike.

Scream

Scream, a female version of the Carnage symbiote, has actually had three hosts including Patricia Robertson, though its original host was a woman named Donna Diego and its last host Andi Benton.

Flag-Smasher

Flag-Smasher, aka Karli Morgenthau, is a terrorist super villain with powers born of a new version of Captain America’s super soldier serum in the MCU. However, in the comics, Flag-Smasher was originally a man named Karl Morgenthau though the character is female in the Falcon and Winter Soldier series on Disney Plus.    He was a foe of many Marvel heroes including not just Captain America but also Punisher, Ghost Rider, Moon Knight, and other street level characters.

Falcon

Falcon, aka Samantha Wilson, is an alternate reality version of Sam Wilson. She has only appeared twice (as of this writing), aiding the Avengers against the time travelling villain, Kang.

Abominatrix

Abominatrix, aka Florence Sharples, is a female version of the Hulk villain, Abomination. She was given her powers by a failed medical experiment and has fought heroes like She-Hulk on numerous occasions.

Green Goblin/She-Goblin

Green Goblin/She-Goblin, aka Norma Osborn, is an alternate reality version of Norman Osborn. She remains an enemy of Spider-man but has only made two appearances thus far.

Silver Surfer

Silver Surfer, aka Juno, is an alternate reality version of the Silver Surfer.    She appeared in the Hercules: Twilight of a God mini-series.

Kamala Kang

Kamala Kang was an amalgamated version of Kang the Conqueror and Kamala Khan, aka Ms. Marvel. She existed only briefly as a temporal anomaly before Loki and the Scarlet Witch were able to separate Kamala and Kang, correcting the timeline.

Black Panther

Black Panther, aka Shuri, is the sister of T’Challa and has fought to protect Wankanda in her brother’s absence, taking up the Panther mantle herself. Shuri is a very popular character and was a part of the first Black Panther movie.    It is possible fans will see her pick up the mantle on the big screen given the untimely death of Chadwick Boseman.

Lady Octopus

Lady Octopus, aka Carolyn Trainer, is the daughter of one of Dr. Octopus’s students who was able to get her hands on a set of his tentacles while he was thought dead. She donned them to become a super villain, challenging both Spider-Man and the Scarlet Spider.

Galacta

And to end this list on a cosmic note, there is Galacta, aka Gali, who is the daughter of Galactus the Devourer of Worlds. This teenage, female Galactus has only appeared in one issue as of this writing. She feels the same hunger her father does, but attempts to channel the pain it causes towards more positive things than eating planets.

As one can see, the trend of Marvel swapping up gender roles with its characters has been around for a very long time. Sometimes it has worked out well, greatly adding to their ever expanding universe, and at other times, not so much. And this changing up of heroes and villains will surely continue on, not just in the comics but in the MCU as well.

 

Marvel's Girl Power by Eric S Brown 1

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