Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

You know what I hate? The obligatory, spinoff female version of any character. See, the tragedy is- I usually don’t hate the character herself. In fact, many of them turn out to be among my favorites: Supergirl, Batgirl (Barbara Gordon AND Cassandra Cain), Batwoman… But that’s the problem. Is the Christopher Nolan Batman franchise ever going to get so deep into the Batman mythology that Batgirl shows up? Unlikely. And is Marvel ever going to crank out a She-Hulk movie? I think She-Hulk is an awesome comic book. Seriously- it’s funny, touching, smart, sexy…loaded with obscure marvel comics references… Jennifer Walters is one of the coolest characters in the industry. The problem? Her name is ‘SHE-Hulk’. Her name is literally: “I am the female version of another popular character.” She’s substantially different than the original; far less prone to violent, random outbursts. But most people would never know that given her name. She’s her own character, but she’ll never garner the press that really recognizes that she IS her own character, very separate from the Hulk mythology- because she’s intrinsically tied TO the Hulk Mythology. And not because of the actual plot of her book. Sure, she’s Bruce Banner’s cousin- but Wanda Maximoff is Magneto’s daughter and she doesn’t run around calling herself “Magnetette” or something, right? JUST because of the name. Than, you know, there are also the characters that they just get…wrong. Like Lady Bullseye. Or Scorpia. I mean…what the hell? I’m pretty sure there was even a female Doc Ock at one point. I’m sure most woman who read this will be able to jump on board with the concept that after thousands of years of being oppressed by men, they deserve to have female superhero and supervillian characters that aren’t cheap knockoffs of…other male characters. Of course, part of the problem is that unless you’re reading X-Men, there just aren’t enough cool, interesting female characters to go around. So on that score, maybe it isn’t fair to rule out female iterations of whatever classic superhero. There’s some nice middle ground too. I’m not bashing female-clones as a rule. It’s taken a while for me to warm up to the idea, but I give ‘Arana’ some credit by now. First introduced in Amazing Fantasy as a somewhat deliberate female version of Spider-man, Anya Corazon has grown into a pretty fascinating character in her own right. To begin with, I could write a whole other column about diversity in DC and Marvel comics: but slowly, they’re starting to get it together in this regard too. Anya is half Puerto Rican and half Mexican, as opposed to the culturally faceless multitudes of superheroes out there. A lot of Anya’s story, too, is tied up with understanding her father and her mother (deceased). As she learns more about her family, why her father made the choices he did, and how she feels about it- well, isn’t that what growing up is? The complexity of Arana as a character isn’t easy to sum it- suffice to say, it involves a totem-esque war between spiders and wasps, a big corporate entity named ‘Webcorps’ that represents the former half of the struggle, and a mystical indoctrination into having spider-powers (J. Michael Strazynski has been playing around with the whole ‘mystical’ angle in Spider-man for a while). What I’ve really loved, however, is her relationship with Carol Danvers (A.K.A. Ms. Marvel). Now, in theory, Ms. Marvel is exactly the kind of character I was venting about when I started writing this. Originally introduced as a love interest for Marvell (Captain Marvel), her superhero name is literally ‘I am the bride of another popular character.’ Fortunately, over the years, Carol has become a more well-known and unique character than most female spinoffs, to the point where people rarely even think about her association with the now deceased Kree hero. The arc where Danvers kind of took Corazon under her wing- well, two things. The first: like I said, there aren’t enough female heroes… but here’s one training the other, showing her the ropes. The second: It had to be the first moment I stopped and considered the possibility that the Superhero Registration Act might not be such a bad thing after all. In the right circumstances, Stark and the others could reach out and bring new heroes into the fold- give them the chance at greatness that maybe they deserved. After all, Anya is working at Chicken Cow at the start of the comic. So you know: bonus points for making me doubt my convictions. If you want to see more about what I’m blabbering about, check out Amazing Fantasy, Arana: Heart of the Spider, or Ms. Marvel. All worth the read.