Fantasy Girls – Top 10 Girls of Anime (Honorable Mention)

 

TOP 10 GIRLS OF ANIME (HONORABLE MENTION)

 

These are the honorable mentions for my Top 10 Girls of Anime in chronological order. As usual, I reserve honorable mention for entries of ongoing or at least prolific interest – which in this case involves ongoing or prolific art or cosplay.

 

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(1) MOTOKO KUSANAGI – GHOST IN THE SHELL (1995)

 

Motoko Kusanagi, or more precisely, Major Motoko Kusanagi (or just the Major), is the focal character of the Ghost in the Shell manga and anime franchise – a franchise that, particularly with the original 1995 film (adapted from the manga), “all but defined Western conceptions of anime for the better part of a decade”. (Well, it and Akira). The franchise has had a number of incarnations in film and television series, with different narrative continuities and versions of Kusanagi (including the live screen adaptation with Scarlett Johansson, which was sadly underwhelming)

 

Major Motoko Kusanagi is a cyborg police officer leading the counter-cyberterrorist organization (and cyborg SWAT team) Public Security Section 9 in a post-cyberpunk Japan. The cyberpunk or post-cyberpunk of the film’s story arises from a future in which computer technology has advanced to the point that it allows members of the public to interface their biological brain or mind (as the titular ghost in the shell) with various networks, varying from simple minimal interfaces to almost complete replacement of the brain with cybernetic parts, and with varying levels of body prostheses, extending to fully prosthetic bodies or cyborgs (being the titular shell) – with the primary example being Kusanagi herself. Of course, this high level of cybernetic interfacing opens the brain up to attacks from highly skilled hackers, with the most dangerous being those who can ‘hack’ a person to bend to their whims – such as the Puppet-Master in the original film. Hence the need for Public Security Section 9.

 

And of course, being anime, she’s a hot cyborg – which is further enhanced by her most definitive costume from the original film, her “thermoptic camouflage suit” which is essentially a skin tight body suit.

 

Or just, you know, being plugged in and naked, as in some of her most iconic images.

 

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In fairness, she does have different costumes (or bodies) in different incarnations of the franchise. And it’s not all about appearance – her prosthetic body makes her effectively superhuman, capable of physical feats beyond more biological human bodies, while her mind-body interface allows for powerful feats of hacking.

 

Of course, the franchise’s enduring influence and popularity have inspired cosplayers, typically of her definitive body suit costume.

 

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Or just, you know, being plugged in and naked.

 

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(2) FAYE VALENTINE – COWBOY BEBOP (1998)

 

See you space cowboy!

 

Cowboy Bebop is a classic anime series, which does indeed involve space cowboys after a fashion – a fusion of space Western and film noir (through the films of John Woo and other stylistic influences, not to mention the music or jazz ‘bebop’ of the title.

 

It’s set in the late twenty-first century, as the remnants of humanity have spread throughout the solar system using hyperspace gates, and terraforming to the extent that other planets resemble cities or settings on Earth – which seems a little ambitious, even for its late 21st century setting. Earth itself has been devastated by some hyperspace gate accident, which is not entirely clear as “the show partially defines itself by the thematic choice to give everything a rich backstory but explain almost nothing in full”.

 

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Its protagonists are the space cowboys suggested by the title – or more precisely space bounty hunters, as the Space Police have reinstated the bounty system of the Wild West. However, despite collecting some impressive bounties, the protagonists seemingly remain in perpetual poverty, partly as they have to pay for their ship and all the collateral damage caused in collecting the bounties in the first place.

 

Violet-haired, green eyed Faye Valentine is the original femme fatale of anime. As for what exactly she is wearing in her signature outfit, I’m not entirely sure, but it seems to be the jumpsuit style of the future – to enhance her charms of course. She was the first addition (other than the enhanced corgi Ein) to the male protagonist duo of Spike and Jet. They first encountered her as she was working in a smuggling operation posing as a dealer in a casino and where she slipped the special subject poker chip to Spike by mistake. They cross paths with her again before she ultimately ended up part of their crew, although she never seemed entirely trustworthy.

 

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TV Tropes sums her up best:

 

“Faye always approaches the world from an angle: she believes the world and other people are out to hurt, use and exploit you, so it’s best if you do it to them first. Anything is fair game to be used to get an advantage on people, including cunning, trickery, abusing the trust of others, her sexy good looks, and when all else fails, a ship loaded with machine guns and missiles…Her exact background is mysterious, and when pressed for answers about it she simply throws out one story after another, each more improbable than the last. When not taking down bounties, she tends to waste all her money gambling in an effort to get rich quick and pay off the ridiculously large debts that she has, which is just as mysterious as anything else about her past.”

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It might be noted that much of her past, including her real name, remains mysterious even to her – due to amnesia from cryonic suspension from the twentieth century, her century of origin (so that she is chronologically – 77 years – much older than her biological age of 23 years).

 

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And despite her jaded outlook on life, she has a softer heart than she likes to let on – including a touching heartfelt moment as she attempts to dissuade Spike from seeking his own doom (for his lost love and perhaps the ultimate femme fatale of the series, Julia). After all, who can forget that final scene?

 

“Bang!”

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(3) CC & KALLEN KOZUKI – CODE GEASS (2006)

 

CC is the green-haired and golden-eyed immortal ‘witch’ responsible for the titular geass in the popular anime Code Geass.

 

You get used to such eccentric hues of hair or eyes in anime. I assume that all anime, no matter how mundane or apparently based in our world, actually exists in an unspoken alternate history where Japan, somewhat like the United States, opened itself up to large-scale immigration, but that the European or mixed population has otherwise assimilated to Japanese culture.

 

In fairness, I don’t think CC is of Japanese origin – indeed, her origin is mysterious, at least in the anime itself. Also in fairness, Code Geass is actually set in an alternate history, in which Japan has been conquered by the Holy Britannian Empire, which is so dismissive of the conquered country that it has renamed Japan as Area 11 and the Japanese accordingly as Elevens. This being anime, the war-winning weapon is of course humongous mecha suits, known as Armored Knights or Knightmare frames, given the deliberately retro-futuristic tone of the Empire. The Holy Britannian Empire is apparently what evolved from the British winning the American War of Independence and retaining North America, but then subsequently losing the Napoleonic Wars and Britain itself.

 

And in which everyone looks fabulous!

And in which everyone looks fabulous!

 

Interestingly, the world is contested by three superpowers that bear an uncanny resemblance to those in Orwell’s 1984 – the Holy Britannian Empire substituting for Oceania (with Japan perhaps substituting for Britain’s Airstrip One), the Chinese Federation for Eastasia and the European Union for Eurasia.

 

That is of course just the (mostly unspoken) backdrop for the plot of the anime – a disaffected former Britannian prince, Lelouch vi Britannia (no seriously, that’s his name), exiled to Japan as Lelouch Lamperouge, conflates his own personal vendetta against his imperial father with the Japanese revolutionary insurgency against the Britannian empire. All of which would have just amounted to a hissy fit in his palatial estate and prestige high school Ashford Academy, but for the Geass power given to him by the mysterious CC.

 

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CC is a pseudonym, as her real name is never revealed to the audience (although she does tell Lelouch). By pure coincidence, Lelouch, while half-assing it around with the Japanese rebellion, rescues her as a captive from some sort of mysterious pod (from some equally mysterious Britannian research project or something). Her name and origin remains mysterious, as is the power (and its source) that she bestows upon Lelouch – the Geass power. Presumably it derives its name from the Celtic geas, a magical taboo in the form of obligation or prohibition, as it is somewhat similar, at least in the form possessed by Lelouch – he has the power to give irresistible commands, but can only ever do so once for each person. Armed with this power, he hams it up as the masked vigilante Zero, akin to a Japanese V for Vendetta, but also leader of the so-called Black Knights rebellion, who use captured mecha suits.

 

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As for CC, she spends most of her time lounging around his estate, wearing his shirts and not much else while eating pizza as a running gag – from Pizza Hut, which has somehow remained the same in this alternate history (perhaps because Pizza Hut sponsored the anime). Perhaps more importantly, she is second to Zero in the rebellion (being of course aware of his identity), while also attending Lelouch’s school, because anime! (No seriously, most anime is set in some school or other). Despite her apparent familiarity with Lelouch, he never becomes attached to her (or any of the female cast), presumably because he is too caught up with his, ahem, best friend, Suzuki – ironically a Japanese national but Empire loyalist. (They’re not actually gay. It just seems that way and would arguably be much cooler if they were. ).

 

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CC is the ‘fanservice’ girl of the anime, from her initial appearance is in a straitjacket thingy (matching her captivity), which she then seems to retain as a stylish outfit. In fairness, the girl can rock a straitjacket.

 

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Although…the girl can also rock her weird pseudo-aristocratic Black Knights uniform, complete with hot pants and thigh high white boots.

 

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The other notorious ‘fanservice’ girl for the anime is Kallen Stadfeld, or to use her Japanese name, Kallen Kozuki.

 

Her names originate in that she is half-Britannian and half-Japanese, although fortunately has the privileged status of her Britannian father. However, like Lelouch, she is disaffected with the Britannian empire (due to the poor treatment of her Japanese mother) and joins the Black Knights Rebellion, while posing as a sickly student at Ashford Academy – because, being anime, most of the main characters are students and indeed students at the same school. O well – I suppose it’s just as credible as the focus of a Galactic Empire and Rebellion being the one Skywalker family.

 

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Kallen was quite the action girl, being the ace pilot of the Black Knights. So naturally they ramped up her other, ah , attributes for the fans – with close-ups of her posterior while climbing in and out of her mecha suit (leading to a fan meme Code Ge-ASS). And of course, she had an undercover mission in a Playboy bunny suit – which like Pizza Hut also survived the transition between alternate histories, although I like to think of Playboy bunny suits (and bunnies) as something of a universal (or mutiversal) constant.

 

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Although…the girl can also rock her weird pseudo-aristocratic Black Knights uniform, complete with hot pants and thigh-high boots. Now that’s a revolution!

 

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 (4) LUCY HEARTFILIA & ERZA SCARLET – FAIRY TAIL (2009)

 

I’m only slightly familiar with the anime for my next place entry, Fairy Tail – which has proved itself to be the more successful long-running Japanese comic or manga series since its debut in 2006 and adaption to anime in 2009. The premise does appear to be interesting, in which ‘wizards’ band together in guilds rather than schools, and as the highest practitioners of the art in a fantasy world where magic is widespread and functional (“found in every home, bought and sold in every marketplace”). So essentially an anime version of Harry Potter, but with a much hotter protagonist – Lucy Heartfilia, a girl seeking to become a fully-fledged wizard through the titular Fairy Tail guild.

 

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Apparently named after the Beatles song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Lucy’s primary magic ability is her use of a set of magical Keys of the Zodiac to summon celestial spirits (the signs of the Zodiac) to fight alongside her or empower her.

 

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Apart from her Keys, she also whips it good – her weapon of choice is a whip, a suitably non-lethal weapon for her good-natured personality. And titillating – for the kinky-minded.

 

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Speaking of titillating, she commonly appears in different or exotic costumes, including as a cat girl, because it is anime after all. Meow! Or more precisely, in Japanese – Nyan!

 

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And because it is anime, she also appears in the obligatory anime bikini or beach scene. There is a beach scene in virtually every anime, no matter where the anime is actually set.

 

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And also because it is anime, there is of course cosplay of her.

 

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The other major female protagonist for the Fairy Tail guild is Erza Scarlet.

 

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Indeed, at times she eclipses Lucy, if only because she’s yet another redhead, that recurring fetish of animators and comics artists, and a badass swordswoman to boot – reminiscent of one of my comics favorites, Red Sonja.

 

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In short, she is apparently the strongest woman in Fairy Tail, both physically and in terms of her combat magic – through her magical ‘Knight’ ability, she can conjure armor and weapons. She also has an artificial magical eye (having lost one in her youth) that grants her immunity to illusions and optical magic. It also makes her one of the hottest one-eyed female characters in fiction – although to be fair, I can only think of one other (Rhona Mitra’s character in the film Doomsday).

 

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And of course, she’s in the obligatory anime beach scene as well.

 

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She also is a popular choice for cosplay, particularly given the variety of her costumes or magical armor

 

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Fantasy Girls – Top 10 Girls of Anime (Revised)

FANTASY GIRLS –  TOP 10 GIRLS OF ANIME

 

I’ve revised my Top 10 Girls of Anime to include new (and recent) entries for Kakegarui’s Yumeko Jabami (in tenth place), Akame ga Kill’s Esdeath (in ninth place) and Kill la Kill’s Ryuko Matoi (in eighth place) – with former entries Future Diary’s Yuno Gasai, Tiger & Bunny’s Blue Rose and the Ghost in the Shell herself, Major Motoko Kusanagi now as honorable or special mentions (although Yuno is still my feature image – I just can’t resist those crazy eyes!)

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Talking of a top ten girls of comics and a top ten girls of animation leads naturally to the combination of the two in their Japanese form – a top ten girls of anime, or Japanese animation, much of which is in turn adapted from manga or Japanese comics.

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As TV Tropes notes, animation is considered just another medium in Japan, lending itself to any story at any level, including erotica and horror. Yet much of it is directed at a similar audience to American comics. And so anime shares with American comics the idealization of its female figure, that uneasy dichotomy between fanboy male gaze and female characterization, although anime fanboys – or otaku – arguably take their, ah, enthusiasm, even further than their American counterparts. Such as dakimakura or body pillows with images of female anime characters…

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Anyway, let’s celebrate my top ten girls of anime, with or without body pillows.

 

 

(10) YUMEKO JABAMI – KAKEGURUI (2017)

“Gambling is more fun the crazier it gets!”

— Yumeko Jabami

 

I always have a soft spot for a hot slice of crazy, such as my tenth place entry, Yumeko Jabami from Kagegurui or Compulsive Gambler, one of 2017’s most popular anime.

 

 

She’s even got classic crazy eyes – her red eyes are literally her crazy eyes as her natural eye color is brown and it’s only when she is consumed by her madness for gambling that her eyes glow red as artistic symbolism rather than a literal color change.

 

 

As in so many anime, the setting is high school (seriously, there are high schools even in anime set in the afterlife) – and not just any high school, but one of those fabulously weird schools that you only find in Japanese anime. In this case, it’s Hyakkaou Private Academy, school for the very richest students of Japan, numbering many future leaders and professionals among its graduates.

 

Although I don’t remember having girls like this at my school. Of course, I did go to a boys’ school, but still!

 

Unlike other schools, where the main curriculum is such mundane things as academic study or sport, the focus of Hyakkaou Private Academy – or at least its absurdly powerful student hierarchy – is on gambling. Or perhaps rather, the art of gambling – “the art of reading others and taking advantage of chaotic situations”. In fairness, I’ve had something of the same thought myself – that everyone should be taught the two games that are the best games of skills for life, chess and poker. However, at Hyakkaou, the stakes are absurdly high – students are encouraged to bet their fortunes against one another, with the losers becoming slaves or house ‘pets’ to the whims of those who hold their money (typically the student council, or its unscrupulous President, Kirari Momobami). And those are just the penny ante bets – as the series continues, students make bets that are distinctly hazardous to life and limb.

 

Cosplay by Katyuska Moonfox

 

Enter the main protagonist (literally entering the school as a new transfer student) and titular compulsive gambler – Yumeko Jabami, who plays not so much for the win but for the thrill of putting everything on the line.

 

In the words of TV Tropes:

“Into this cutthroat environment, where survival of the fittest (and luckiest) is the law, enters Yumeko Jabami…whose disarmingly innocent facade belies a psychotic gambling addict, specializing in working around rigged schemes and beating her opponents at their own game, simply for the thrill of it all”.

 

Cosplay by Hane Ame

 

As such, she actively begins to disrupt the hierarchy of the school, while the school council tries to find ways to shut her down – embarking on increasingly insane games with the movers and shakers of the school, working her way through the school council with her goal set on a match with the President.

 

Cosplay by Eefai

 

I was particularly won over to Yumeko by recent lush cosplay of her, red eyes and all.

 

 

Cosplay by Andrasta

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What can I say? I’m a sucker for red eyes!

 

 

(9) ESDEATH – AKAME GA KILL (2014)

 

Followers of my Fantasy Girls will know I have a soft spot for bad girls (or a hot slice of crazy). And what’s better than a bad girl? A bad girl in uniform! After all, who doesn’t love a woman in uniform? Even if it is a Nazi-esque uniform in this case – but then, Esdeath is the villain of the piece.

 

 

 

Cosplay by Disharmonica (Helly von Valentine)

 

Akame ga Kill is an anime of a revolution against a corrupt and brutal fantasy empire (as opposed to the corrupt and brutal empires of reality). The protagonist Tatsumi nearly becomes a victim of its corruption and brutality in its beating heart of the Capitol, but instead finds himself recruited by Night Raid, a group of predominantly female assassins – including the titular heroine Akame:

As long as there is human nature, so too must there be malice. As long as there is malice, so too must there be evil. Evil beyond salvation. For those who don’t wield a sword, these vile demons are silenced in the darkness by a group of elite assassins.”

 

 

Cosplay by Vampy Bit Me

 

Of course, being anime, it’s not enough that Night Raid are predominantly female assassins (reminiscent of Kill Bill’s Deadly Viper Assassination Squad), but they are armed with magical totem weapons known as Teigu created in part from legendary animals known as Danger Beasts. (It is said that when two Teigu users fight each other, one must die – now that’s some danger beast action right there).

 

 

However, the Empire has a Night Raid or two of its own – primarily the Jaegers, led by the powerful and sadistic ice queen Esdeath. Of course again, being anime, she becomes infatuated with protagonist Tatsumi – although to his credit, he realizes that she is someone to run as far away from as possible, particularly given that her idea of a hot date is to chain him up by the neck.

 

 

That can’t end well – and it doesn’t – but needless to say, she was a favorite of fans and cosplay models, chains and all.

 

 

(8) RYUKO MATOI (SATSUKI KIRYUIN) – KILL LA KILL (2013)

“Fear is freedom! Subjugation is liberation! Contradiction is truth! Those are the facts of this world, and you will all surrender to them, you pigs in human clothing!”

— Satsuki Kiryuin, telling it like it is

 

Kill la Kill is a 2013 anime produced by Studio Trigger – the production’s director, writer, and lead character designer also worked together on the famously over-the-top Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and it shows. Except whereas Gurren Lagann featured giant mecha, Kill la Kill featured schoolgirls fighting each other in their super-powered school uniforms. No, seriously.

 

 

Ryuko Matoi cosplay by Helly von Valentine

 

Ryuko Matoi is a girl on a roaring rampage of revenge in search of her father’s killer, which brings her into violent conflict (is there any other kind in anime?) with (honorable mention) Satsuki Kiryuin, president of the usual anime absurdly powerful student council at Honnouji Academy, ruling both it and the city it is located with an iron fist. “Satsuki maintains absolute control over the school using Goku Uniforms, which grant supernatural strength to their wearer and are distributed only to her most loyal students. When Ryuko shows up in search of her father’s murderer, she immediately suspects that Satsuki knows something and declares war on her. With the aid of a sentient uniform called Senketsu and a giant red half-scissor blade that can destroy Goku Uniforms, Ryuko fights to avenge her father and take down Honnouji Academy in the process while learning more about the mysterious Life Fibers woven into the Goku Uniforms that aid such power to the people who wear them and their origins”. Wait, what?!

 

 

Satsuki Kiryuin cosplay by Alien Orihara

 

As I said, schoolgirls fighting each other in their super-powered school uniforms (or in the words of an IGN reviewer, “magical girl anime on speed”). Except that those super-powered uniforms seem to transform into stripperiffic costumes or fetish lingerie – “Ryuko’s underboobs-revealing ass-exposing uniform is perhaps the most iconic element of the series” (which even I hesitate to include here) and “it doesn’t help that Satsuki has one of her own” (which such an extreme thong that I again hesitate to include it here). Apparently there is also an entire organization of nudist freedom fighters, because the true villain’s plot involves controlling people through their clothing. No, seriously.

 

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(7) SAEKO BUSUJIMA – HIGHSCHOOL OF THE DEAD (2010)

 

Highschool of the Dead was a titillating zombie apocalypse anime, like The Walking Dead with breasts . The title is somewhat characteristic of anime, as it seems that the majority of anime are set in high school or at least have it as a substantial setting within their storyline (as well as having at least one beach episode, whatever the setting, leading to a particularly weird beach episode in this case).

 

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So naturally Highschool of the Dead features a zombie apocalypse from the focus of high school protagonists and at least initially from the setting of the high school itself – although being anime, a school where the criteria of admission appears to be bra cup size, both for female students and female staff, with the school nurse (accompanying the student protagonists) as the most voluptuous of all. Seriously, to paraphrase TV Tropes, it’s a school of buxom. It is of course a Japanese high school typical of anime – that is to say, consistent with my theory of an unspoken alternative history of widespread immigration into Japan, including European immigrants who have otherwise adopted Japanese names and culture, hence the varied character features.

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But back to the zombie apocalypse, a Japanese high school finds itself in the middle of an apparently global zombie outbreak – although no one actually uses the term zombie (as in The Walking Dead TV series) and instead refer to the zombie as “them”, a pronoun potentially lending itself to confusion (as opposed to The Walking Dead, which generally refers to its zombies as “walkers”). It’s also a little unclear how the zombie apocalypse could have spread across the globe – including to the American President on Air Force One – without becoming widely known, as in the opening episode a teacher is surprised and effectively ambushed by a zombie at the school gates, thereby spreading the pandemic within the titular school on an apparently otherwise normal school day. Maybe there’s something in the conspiracy theory by protestors subsequently in the anime that the zombie pandemic was a biological weapon of the US and Japanese governments. (Whatever the case, the world’s powers throw a little more apocalypse into the mix with other weapons of mass destruction, with nuclear strikes on each other).

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Amidst all of this is our main male protagonist, Takashi Komuro, pining for his childhood sweetheart Rei Miyamoto as she is dating his best friend Hisashi, although Hisashi is conveniently zombified in the opening episode – conveniently, that is, for Takashi’s prospects of renewed romance for Rei, less so for Hisashi. However, I, like most of other fans, wanted Takashi to just get over Rei already and pair up with Saeko Busujima instead, because she was awesome.

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Blue-eyed and literally violet-haired, Saeko was quite simply the most badass character in the anime. As president of the school kendo club, she was ready to fight off the zombie apocalypse with her wooden sword or bokken, which she subsequently upgraded to a katana for even more badassery (Everything’s better with a katana – just ask Michonne from The Walking Dead). She is always cool, calm and collected in poise, except when engaged in acts of violence, on which she seems to get off a little too much.

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Cosplay by Vampy Bit Me

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Of course, it doesn’t hurt that she was made for the male gaze. Seriously, the anime exploits its world of buxom to the fullest, combining bullet time with, ah, jiggle physics – particularly with Saeko, in a now memetic bullet time sequence, like Neo in the Matrix dodging bullets passing between her thighs and breasts. (It’s completely gratuitous, so of course I love it.)

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This is from the opening credits

This is from the opening credits

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*It also doesn’t hurt that she cooks breakfast looking like this.

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Sunny side up!

Sunny side up!

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Although I’m not sure how cooking breakfast in her apron and g-string tied into the plot…

 

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(6) REVY – BLACK LAGOON (2006)

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Black Lagoon is a not a fantasy anime, although in terms of realism the premise and setting are somewhat fantastic – akin to a Japanese fanboy’s or otaku’s fantasy of the world of international crime filtered through the films of John Woo and Quentin Tarantino. (Indeed, the author has admitted as much). That’s not to say it isn’t awesome, given suspension of disbelief – or morality. (Let’s just say that there’s not any good guys as such, just bad guys and less bad guys).

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Anyway, the anime is set in the fictional city of Roanapur in Thailand in the 1990’s – a city whose economy and existence seems to be based on international crime. I’m not entirely sure how that would work in practice, but it is the base of operations for virtually every international criminal organization – the Russian Mafia or Hotel Moscow as they style themselves (consisting of ex-Special Force veterans from Afghanistan), Chinese Triad, Colombian cartels and Japanese Yakuza, as well as intelligence agencies (notably the Central Intelligence Agency), corrupt local police and various independent operators or criminals (who tend to make the cartels looks positively restrained and sane by comparison).

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Among those independent operators, albeit boosted up the food chain by their good relations with Hotel Moscow, is the Lagoon Company of the title (although I am not sure that they are actually legally incorporated) – a team of American pirate mercenaries, led by Vietnam vet Dutch, named for their primary asset or patrol boat they use for smuggling. Essentially, they are couriers – ‘acquiring’ goods (legal or otherwise) or people and delivering them, no questions asked, on behalf of the various criminal elements who effectively run the city. The viewpoint character is a Japanese salaryman, Rokuro Okajima – soon nicknamed “Rock” – who originally was held hostage by the company and ends up joining it. See what I mean about otaku fantasy?

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This brings us to our fantasy girl entry, Revy. Revy is the muscle of the Lagoon Company. And by muscle, I mean guns. And by guns, I mean actual guns. She seems to be proficient in any gun she gets in her hands (including high powered rifles and grenade launchers), but particularly her signature weapons of choice – a pair of modified Beretta pistols – which she uses in the guns akimbo style so loved in action films (but which would get you killed in real life, due to the improbable aiming skills involved) and which has earned her the nickname “Two Hand”. Indeed, she has a near superhuman ability with firearms (and dodging bullets) unmatched by all but a few characters (such as the Terminator-like maid Roberta, whose skill Revy takes as a personal affront – as Revy tends to with all her more skilled adversaries).

 

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Her real name (occasionally referenced) is Rebecca Lee and she is Chinese-American, although we only see a few glimpses of her personal history and they’re not pleasant. She is easily the most foul-mouthed of the cast, no small feat in an anime in which the characters use the F-bomb as punctuation. Her mouth is matched by her vices as a heavy smoker and drinker, as well as her aggressive temper. Indeed, Revy tends to use force as her first and last resort, reveling in a love of violence bordering on sadistic glee (and characterized by what TV Tropes refers to as a Slasher Smile). She does seem to have an attraction to Rock (there’s that otaku fantasy again), which she keeps well hidden under a mask of belligerent sexual tension – and by belligerent, I mean threatening to kill him on more than one occasion (well, initially anyway).

 

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As a result of her past and constantly living on the edge of life, Revy has developed a rather cynical outlook on life:

“Rock, if you think about it, other than this, what do we really value in life? God? Love? Don’t make me laugh. When I was a brat, crawling around in that shithole city, it seemed God and Love were always sold out when I went looking. Before I knew better, I clung to God and prayed to Him every single night — yeah, I believed in God right up until that night the cops beat the hell out of me for no reason at all. All they saw when they looked at me was another little ghetto rat. With no power and no God, what’s left for a poor little Chinese bitch to rely on? It’s money, of course, and guns. Fuckin’ A. With these two things, the world’s a great place.”

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Her playful expression in this still shot from the opening credits is deceptive - normally, she only looks this happy if she's killing someone

Her playful expression in this still shot from the opening credits is deceptive – normally, she only looks this happy if she’s killing someone

In short, in the words of TV Tropes, she is a “sociopathic, nihilistic, Chinese-American thug” – so of course being anime, she’s a hot slice of crazy, accentuated by her trademark Daisy Duke denim shorts and tank top.

 

 

(5) SUPER SONICO (2006)

 

Super Sonico is a J-pop star come to anime life, the focus of a media franchise – not bad for her origin as a promotional mascot.

 

She started as a promotional mascot in 2006 for an annual music concert festival sponsored by Nitroplus, a Japanese company which seems to specialize in somewhat disturbing computer games or manga. “Nitroplus artist Tsuji Santa provided an illustration for a poster depicting a pink-haired girl wearing headphones and sporting a guitar…reception to this poster was overwhelmingly positive, and so, Super Sonico was born”. Super Sonico went from being the mascot for their music festivals to something of a mascot for the company itself – which, realizing her marketability, made her the focus of a media franchise, and ultimately her own anime series from 2014.

 

 

As for the character herself, Super Sonico is a gravure idol (a Japanese female model primarily modelling in magazines) and pop star in band FAV or First Astronomical Velocity (with two other females) – she does main guitar and vocals (and she has a weirdly demon-masked manager). Indeed, as part of her media franchise, the ‘band’ released music prior to her anime.

 

 

Her appearance is that of voluptuous girl with pink eyes and hair – and voluptuous means voluptuous, something emphasized in her art and figurines or statues (yes – figurines or statues!). Perhaps her most distinctive feature is her perpetual headphones – perpetual in that she’s always wearing them, even in the bath, although it’s something people are prohibited from mentioning to her.

 

 

She’s a particularly popular subject of cosplay. For one thing, there’s the ease of depiction by pink hair (and contacts if you’re keen) and headphones, as well as, you know, a bikini or something.

 

 

And a guitar if you’re keen.

 

 

For another, the character is a cosplay model herself – appearing in the style of other anime characters (as in the above image) or in different costumes such as ‘nurse’.

 

Hello nurse!

 

Or pink space cop…?

 

 

And finally, the queen of cosplay, Jessica Nigri, not only modelled as Super Sonico (in quite a few of the images in this feature, including the above pink space cop) but was also cast as her voice actress for the English-dubbed anime.

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(4) BOA HANCOCK (NAMI & NICO ROBIN) – ONE PIECE (1999)

 

“The world will never cease to forgive my actions! Why, you ask? Why, it is because I am beautiful!”

 

I am only slightly familiar with the anime One Piece, namely because it is one of the longest running (and best-selling) manga and anime series – originating in 1997 for the manga and 1999 for the anime. As such, it has accumulated a vast cast of characters and attracted prolific cosplay – indeed, for this entry I have featured the cosplay in preference to the anime’s art as it improves upon the latter, which is somewhat cartoonish in style (albeit it has evolved over time).

 

One Piece is an absurdist pirate fantasy (really) – with its protagonist Monkey D. Luffy (no, really) setting out to become the King of Pirates by finding the titular One Piece treasure with his crew of Straw Hat Pirates, and opposed by the World Government. It’s…that kind of series.

 

The world of One Piece is primarily an ocean world, inhabited by human and fantasy races, and with technology perhaps approaching steampunk levels – albeit with magical creatures replicating many modern conveniences, particularly electronic devices. And of course, there is magic – particularly the Devil Fruit, which give each person who takes it different magical powers.

 

 

But which One Piece girl to choose? The two female members of the Straw Hat Pirates, Nami and Nico Robin, get honorary mention, firstly because I can’t choose between them and secondly because there is one standout female character – renowned as the most beautiful woman in the world, the Pirate Empress and Snake Princess, Boa Hancock.

 

Boa Hancock is one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, powerful pirates that have allied themselves with the World Government and do its bidding in exchange for certain privileges.

 

 

Enslaved and branded (much to her enduring shame) in her youth (along with her two sisters), she rose up to become the empress of an Amazonian island – and renowned throughout the world for her beauty, ranked with that of mermaids. (Of course One Piece has mermaids).

 

However, that beauty is also her weapon. Apart of course from its usual effect on males and females (including her Amazonian subjects who adore her), her devil fruit ability allows her to petrify anyone who is attracted to her if she so chooses – which is to say virtually everyone, except for the obliviously love-blind series protagonist Luffy (and for whom she develops a hopelessly adolescent crush).

 

 

Apart from her beauty, she is also statuesque (at 6’3” or 191 cm) and is physically strong, consistent with her island’s Amazonian motto that beauty is strength, as well as being highly skilled in combat. She also has her, well, boa – a giant snake (which wears a wigged skull – it’s that kind of series) which serves as her companion, throne and weapon. (It’s that snake thing which features in some cosplay).

 

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As I said, honorable mention goes to the two female members of the Straw Hat Pirates, Nami and Nico Robin respectively.

 

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Which brings us to “cat burglar” Nami – originally a thief or pickpocket (who detested pirates), she is won over by Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates to become their navigator, motivated by her desire to map the world. Although her true love has tended to be money or treasure.

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Her navigational ability is reinforced by a magical ability to read and control weather, albeit through magical device rather than Devil Fruit. She has a number of costumes, but perhaps her signature costume is her bikini top and jeans.

 

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Nico Robin or “Devil Child” as she is known by her outlaw status to the World Government (derived from the ability to read things from the lost past censored by the World Government), is a subsequent addition to the Straw Hat Pirates, after they win her over with their crew loyalty as extended to her.

 

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Her Devil Fruit Power is the ability to project extra limbs or body parts, most demonstrably in the form of sprouting extra arms. Ultimately, her power extends to projecting limbs or any part of her body (or indeed, her whole body) from any surface, not just her own body or anything connected to it.

 

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(3) YOKO LITTNER – GURREN LAGANN (2007)

 

Yoko Littner is essentially the Red Sonja of anime – a similarly statuesque redhead, but with a massive sniper rifle (apparently modelled on the Barrett M82 anti-materiel rifle) instead of a sword. And just as Red Sonja fights in a chainmail bikini and boots, Yoko Littner shoots down giant mecha in the desert while wearing a bikini top, hot pants, pink stockings and boots. Indeed, when she wore a swimsuit to the beach, it actually covered more than her normal outfit. (It’s anime – of course, there’s a beach episode, even in a series about fighting giant mecha in the desert).

 

See? Eminently practical for fighting giant mecha in the desert

See? Eminently practical for fighting giant mecha in the desert

 

Any attempt at a short description of the plot of her anime series, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (or Gurren Lagann for short), doesn’t do justice to it, although as usual TV Tropes does it best – “a roller coaster ride of fan service” (primarily provided by Yoko herself), “over-the-top fight scenes between mecha, hot-bloodedness, epic sunglasses, massive badassery and mind-blowing heroism”. As TV Tropes observed, the series is what happens when Studio Gainax, the anime studio responsible for Neon Genesis Evangelion, is asked to create a Saturday morning cartoon. Indeed, the series could be described as the exact polar opposite of Neon Genesis Evangelion – similarly involving giant piloted mecha pitted against threats to humanity, but rarely taking itself as seriously and mixed with audacity rather than angst. Not to mention less of the “what the hell is going on?” mind-screw of Evangelion, although of course it is still present – it IS Studio Gainax after all.

 

Not to mention the mind screw of some very strange feelings for kids watching their Saturday morning cartoons...

Not to mention the mind screw of some very strange feelings for kids watching their Saturday morning cartoons…

 

As succinctly as possible, humanity has been virtually eliminated but for remnants in subterranean villages and some isolated surface villages, kept under the heel of ‘Beast-men’ (combining human and animal DNA) with giant mecha (large armored and powered robotic suits, controlled by operators inside them). And it just gets crazier from there, ultimately evolving to cosmic mecha IN SPACE fighting against eldritch abominations (so not too much different from Neon Genesis Evangelion).

 

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After all, this is a series in which one of the main protagonists, Kamina, declares “Go beyond the impossible and kick reason to the curb! That’s how Team Gurren rolls!” And in which one of the other main protagonists, Simon, spontaneously invents teleportation just to punch someone in the face (and knock some sense into them). And in which the title refers to piercing the heavens. And in which the most common catchphrase is “Just who the hell do you think we are?”, perhaps to capture the audience’s puzzlement as well as the cast’s audacity.

 

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Yoko herself literally bursts into the first episode as the main female protagonist (and eye candy) of the series – “a woman with a very big gun (and very little clothing)” firing at a beast-mecha as both collapse the roof of the subterranean village of the two male protagonists, Kamina and Simon. And that essentially defines her character for the balance of the series – “It can be a real pain being as tough as I am” as Yoko herself declares, as she continues to shoot down giant mecha through the series. As for her surname, that seems to derive from her surface village of origin.

 

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Given that her outfit consists of bikini top and hot pants (not too different from Suicide Squad’s Harley Quinn), Yoko is eminently cosplay-able, and has indeed been the subject of eminent (and prolific) cosplay

 

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(2) REI AYANAMI – NEON GENESIS EVANGELION (1995)

 

And now the iconic girl from my favorite anime, Neon Genesis Evangelion or Evangelion in general (as a franchise) – in which traumatized teenagers in a post-apocalyptic Japan pilot giant mecha suits to fight eldritch abominations known as Angels. Which may actually be Angels in the Biblical sense – I’m not sure that anyone, including its creator, knew entirely what was going on. It…was that kind of anime. In the words of the Comic Buyer’s Guide, “this is a giant robot saga the way that Twin Peaks is a cop show”. Or in the simpler words of the caption for the TV Tropes page image – “Not pictured: Sanity”.

 

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One might have expected that I might opt for the other female main character, fiery redhead Asuka Langly Soryu (and she is pretty cute), but mysterious blue-haired red-eyed waif Rei Ayanami is more popular and iconic.  Also, she’s adorable – certainly to protagonist Shinji Ikari, although it may help that she was cloned from his mother. Again, it’s that kind of anime. Actually, there’s quite a few clones of Rei in the anime – “if I die, I can be replaced”.

 

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Due to her iconic status, she became the origin of a recurring character type of emotionless and enigmatic girl – so much so that TV Tropes has the Rei Ayanami Expy trope page for it. Rei herself shows all the common characteristics of the type:

  • Female Love Interest
  • Mysterious Waif with a Dark and Troubled Past
  • Teenaged
  • Pale skin
  • Short, usually bobbed hair, with unnatural hair color, often in cold tones like blue, silver, grey or white (also occasionally pink) – with Rei herself having bobbed blue hair.
  • Unnatural eye color, often red, blue, yellow, or even purple – with Rei herself having red eyes
  • Appears emotionless, quiet, stoic, or otherwise odd.
  • A tendency towards talking in a machine monotone or similarly emotionless tone.
  • Is not quite human, such as a clone, alien or robot, explaining their odd behavior.
  • Suffers a major injury or illness, or at least is frequently hospitalized (with Rei herself being quite the bandage babe)
  • Occasionally has a strong connection to a parental figure, boss and/or antagonist, and may even display undying loyalty to them.
  • Eventually becomes more emotional, such as by becoming a Real Girl (a la Pinocchio) or turning out to have a “sugar and ice” personality.
That's Rei in the center - such is my fondness for the character type that I know a couple of the others

That’s Rei in the center – such is my fondness for the character type that I know a couple of the others

 

As for Rei herself, she is the “First Child…a Shy Blue-Haired Girl. She is beautiful, fey, and otherworldly, and has a Mysterious Past that is only partially revealed late in the series”. So of course, she was destined to appeal to anime fans – there’s just something about Rei.

 

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In this feature, I have tended to prefer fan art to her more waif-like appearance in the anime.

 

Well, perhaps a little more waif-like than this

Well, perhaps a little more waif-like than this

 

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And some of her cosplay is even more dazzling than her art – including some by one of my favorite cosplayers, Vampy Bit Me

 

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(1) SAILOR MOON

 

“I am the sailor suited Pretty Guardian who fights for love and for justice — I am Sailor Moon! In the name of the moon, I’ll punish you!”

 

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There could only be one girl for the top spot in my top ten girls of anime – the titular protagonist of the Sailor Moon anime franchise. The franchise and its protagonist are each one of the most famous beyond Japan or anime fandom. In the words of TV Tropes, “to this day, Sailor Moon remains one of the most recognized and mainstream anime titles in North America. If you approach anyone on the street and ask them to name a Japanese anime, Sailor Moon will almost certainly be one of the natural responses”.

 

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And as for its protagonist, most, if not all, of my top ten girls of anime are not widely known beyond anime fandom – except for Sailor Moon, even if, like myself, those who know of her are not overly familiar with her role within her franchise itself. She also popularized the magical girl genre of anime and remains the most famous magical girl outside (and inside) Japan.

 

Created by pharmacist-turned-manga-author Naoko Takeuchi, Usagi Tsukino is a schoolgirl (albeit perhaps the blondest Japanese schoolgirl), whose life takes a turn for the unexpected when she discovers that she is the reincarnation of an ancient lunar warrior from the Moon Kingdom.

 

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With the aid of a feline mentor called Luna, Usagi must take up the mission of defending the Earth from the various evils that threaten it while searching for the reincarnation of the Moon Kingdom’s princess (and ultimately destined to become neo-Queen Serenity). Usagi grows into her role as the magical girl Sailor Moon and greatly matures as a result, gathering a team of four other reincarnated warriors and realizing her true potential as a cosmic superhero. The anime series itself mostly follows a Monster of the Week format, with subsequent series introducing escalating foes and matching power-ups, and greatly expanding the mythos behind Usagi’s past life in the Moon Kingdom and her fated future in the utopian Crystal Tokyo.

 

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Her iconic status is enhanced by the distinctive visual appearance of Usagi’s Sailor Guardian or Soldier identity, “Sailor Moon”. Throughout most the series, Sailor Moon wears a white and blue sailor fuku uniform, white and red gloves, red boots and crescent-moon earrings. And above all, there is her hair – o my goddess! Her hair! – her distinctive buns (odango) in their red hairpieces and those impossibly long tails. However, I have preferred fan art adaptations to her classic anime or manga style throughout this feature.

 

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Indeed, there is some impressive fan art adaptations in different styles altogether.

 

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Her top ranking is further secured as part of a team of cosmic magical girls – Sailors Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter – which evoke the style of a K-pop group. (Sailor Venus sometimes resembles Sailor Moon in art, but for the distinctive hair style and coloring).

 

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Fantasy Girls – Top 10 Girls of Anime (Honorable Mention): Lust – Fullmetal Alchemist (2003)

 

 

FANTASY GIRLS – TOP 10 GIRLS OF ANIME (HONORABLE MENTION): LUST – FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST (2003)

 

Mmm… slinky! But also, ah…spiky?

 

 

 

 

Lust is one of the personifications of the Seven Deadly Sins in Fullmetal Alchemist. Or rather, ah, homunculifications?

 

You see, Fullmetal Alchemist is set in a fantasy world ruled by alchemy, typically by official State Alchemists (who automatically earn the rank of major in military forces). Alchemy is capable of producing almost anything through Transmutation Circles, although it is governed by the Law of Equivalent Exchange – in which you have to give up something equivalent in exchange for what you want. Almost anything, that is but for gold and humans – I’m not sure of the reasons for the former (which after all was the point of medieval alchemy transmuting lead into gold) but there’s a heavy exchange for the latter and success has proved elusive. That includes the two protagonist brothers of the series, who attempted to use alchemy to resurrect their mother – literally costing an arm and leg for the one and his whole body for the other. (He gets better – his brother sacrificed his arm to restore his soul to a suit of armor).

 

 

Anyway, it is possible to use legendary Philosopher’s Stones to short circuit the Law of Equivalent Exchange – and also to create (and ‘power’) homunculi, artificial humans with superhuman abilities. That includes the main antagonistic force in the series, the homunculi created from and named for the Seven Deadly Sins by the primary antagonist of the series known as Father. Each homunculi is identified by their bearing of the mark of the Ouroboros somewhere on their body (guess where on Lust) and possesses a heightened regenerative ability, rendering them nigh indestructible, though not invincible.

 

 

Which brings us to the homunculi Lust the Lascivious – and with a name and personification like that, it’s not hard to see why she’s one of my fantasy girl entries. That and, well, vavoom! Or in other words, a statuesque figure (the author has admitted that she likes drawing buxom women) poured into a slinky black dress to match her own dark brunette red-eyed beauty.

 

 

Just don’t get too attached – although she does evoke the usual definition of her namesake, her primary lust is blood lust and she can extend her fingers into absurdly long and sharp femme fatalons. You know, like Wolverine’s adamantium claws. Only sexier.

 

Of course, she has been a favorite with cosplay models, including two of my favorites featured here – Vampy Bit Me and Katyuska Moonfox.

Fantasy Girls – Top 10 Girls of Anime (Honorable Mention): Esdeath – Akame ga Kill (2014)

 

 

FANTASY GIRLS – TOP 10 GIRLS OF ANIME (HONORABLE MENTION): ESDEATH – AKAME GA KILL (2014)

 

Followers of my Fantasy Girls will know I have a soft spot for bad girls (or a hot slice of crazy). And what’s better than a bad girl? A bad girl in uniform! After all, who doesn’t love a woman in uniform? Even if it is a Nazi-esque uniform in this case – but then, Esdeath is the villain of the piece.

 

 

 

Cosplay by Disharmonica (Helly von Valentine)

 

Akame ga Kill is an anime of a revolution against a corrupt and brutal fantasy empire (as opposed to the corrupt and brutal empires of reality). The protagonist Tatsumi nearly becomes a victim of its corruption and brutality in its beating heart of the Capitol, but instead finds himself recruited by Night Raid, a group of predominantly female assassins – including the titular heroine Akame:

 

As long as there is human nature, so too must there be malice. As long as there is malice, so too must there be evil. Evil beyond salvation. For those who don’t wield a sword, these vile demons are silenced in the darkness by a group of elite assassins.”

 

 

 

Cosplay by Vampy Bit Me

 

Of course, being anime, it’s not enough that Night Raid are predominantly female assassins (reminiscent of Kill Bill’s Deadly Viper Assassination Squad), but they are armed with magical totem weapons known as Teigu created in part from legendary animals known as Danger Beasts. (It is said that when two Teigu users fight each other, one must die – now that’s some danger beast action right there).

 

 

However, the Empire has a Night Raid or two of its own – primarily the Jaegers, led by the powerful and sadistic ice queen Esdeath. Of course again, being anime, she becomes infatuated with protagonist Tatsumi – although to his credit, he realizes that she is someone to run as far away from as possible, particularly given that her idea of a hot date is to chain him up by the neck.

 

 

 

That can’t end well – and it doesn’t – but needless to say, she was a favorite of fans and cosplay models, chains and all

Fantasy Girls – Top 10 Girls of Anime (Honorable Mention): Ryuko Matoi & Satsuki Kiryuin – Kill La Kill (2013)

 

 

FANTASY GIRLS – TOP 10 GIRLS OF ANIME (HONORABLE MENTION): RYUKO MATOI & SATSUKI KIRYUIN – KILL LA KILL (2013)

 

“Fear is freedom! Subjugation is liberation! Contradiction is truth! Those are the facts of this world, and you will all surrender to them, you pigs in human clothing!”

— Satsuki Kiryuin, telling it like it is

 

Kill la Kill is a 2013 anime produced by Studio Trigger – the production’s director, writer, and lead character designer also worked together on the famously over-the-top Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and it shows. Except whereas Gurren Lagann featured giant mecha, Kill la Kill featured schoolgirls fighting each other in their super-powered school uniforms. No, seriously.

 

 

 

 

Ryuko Matoi cosplay by Helly von Valentine

 

 

Ryuko Matoi is a girl on a roaring rampage of revenge in search of her father’s killer, which brings her into violent conflict (is there any other kind in anime?) with Satsuki Kiryuin, president of the usual anime absurdly powerful student council at Honnouji Academy, ruling both it and the city it is located with an iron fist. “Satsuki maintains absolute control over the school using Goku Uniforms, which grant supernatural strength to their wearer and are distributed only to her most loyal students. When Ryuko shows up in search of her father’s murderer, she immediately suspects that Satsuki knows something and declares war on her. With the aid of a sentient uniform called Senketsu and a red half-scissor blade that can destroy Goku Uniforms, Ryuko fights to avenge her father and take down Honnouji Academy in the process while learning more about the mysterious Life Fibers woven into the Goku Uniforms that aid such power to the people who wear them and their origins”. Wait, what?!

 

 

Satsuki Kiryuin cosplay by Alien Orihara

 

As I said, schoolgirls fighting each other in their super-powered school uniforms (or in the words of an IGN reviewer, “magical girl anime on speed”). Except that those super-powered uniforms seem to transform into stripperiffic costumes or fetish lingerie – “Ryuko’s underboobs-revealing ass-exposing uniform is perhaps the most iconic element of the series” (which even I hesitate to include here) and “it doesn’t help that Satsuki has one of her own” (which such an extreme thong that I again hesitate to include it here). Apparently there is also an entire organization of nudist freedom fighters, because the true villain’s plot involves controlling people through their clothing. No, seriously.

Fantasy Girls – Top 10 Girls of Animation

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TOP 10 GIRLS OF ANIMATION

 

I started my Fantasy Girls feature with my Top Ten Girls of Comics, but talking of a top ten girls of comics leads naturally to a top ten girls of animation.

 

Or does it?

 

This top ten list was surprisingly tricky to compile – lacking the abundance of entries in comics art. Animation tends to be aimed at a younger demographic (with the occasional parental fanservice) and its art tends be more, well, of a cartoon style – although that didn’t stop Marge Simpson from her own Playboy magazine shoot, replicating previous Playboy photo poses.

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Moreover, my rules for my top ten exclude replicating comic entries for female characters that have been adapted from comics to animation – thereby excluding a number of potential entries, such as Wonder Woman, who rocks animation as much as she rocks comics, and so on. And yes, I know Harley Quinn technically was adapted from animation to comics, as she debuted in Batman: The Animated Series, so should have been included in this top ten rather than the top ten of comics – but I make my own rules and break them anyway. Besides, she has been so thoroughly adapted into the comics medium, that she is more readily identified by them.

 

Similarly, Disney princesses don’t count, as my rules also exclude replicating fantasy entries for female characters that have been adapted from fairy tales or literary fantasy to animation (as they have their own Top 10 Girls of Fantasy & SF – or Top 10 Girls of Fairy Tales). The rules for my top ten also exclude anime or Japanese animation, which will have its own top ten list.

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Even so, I was able to compile a top ten list, although it may be that the entries only become truly iconic (outside their respective fandoms) in the top three or so.

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Oh – and my featured image is Erin Esurance, the former animated mascot of American insurance company, Esurance, a cat-suited pink-haired superspy. She had to be retired, amongst other things, for being too sexy – resulting in a proliferation of, ahem, adult images on the internet, that overwhelmed (and still overwhelm) the actual marketing character. (In the words of Cracked, there’s only so much a “fictional character can take before she welcomes the sweet oblivion of the eraser”).  If you are surprised at such things, then you clearly don’t know the dark, dank recesses of the Internet.

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Anyway, excepting Erin, these are my top ten girls of animation – TV and film…

 

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(10) AYA – GREEN LANTERN: ANIMATED SERIES (2012)

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My tenth place wildcard entry is the newest girl on my animated scene, Aya from Green Lantern: The Animated Series. This CGI animated series, in the characteristic art style of Bruce Timm (albeit in CGI form), was of course based on DC Comics superhero Green Lantern, apparently to cash in on the 2011 film. Hmmm, that confidence might have been a little…misplaced. Although to be honest, the whole concept of the Green Lantern has always left me a little cold – it all just seems a little silly. Aya on the other hand…

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Technically, Aya is not a girl – she’s the artificial intelligence of Green Lantern Hal Jordan’s starship, who just happens to take the form or projection (or whatever) of a robot girl. And how!

 

Of course, she’s even better as a bad girl (because I do love my bad girls) – when she turns evil, or more precisely emotionless, all in black of course.

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As an artificial intelligence, she’s somewhat new to emotion, and when she experiences emotional pain, her response is to attempt to eliminate emotion not only in herself, but everywhere – which of course means the elimination of all organic life. It’s only logical, after all.

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(9) GWEN TENNYSON – BEN 10 (2005)

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What can I say? It’s the red hair and those green eyes. (Beware! Beware! Those flashing eyes! That floating hair!)

 

Although, there certainly is a high representation of redheads in animation (and comics) – there’s two other redheads in this top ten (indeed, in the top three). For that matter, there’s a whole trope in TV Tropes named for red-haired green-eyed girls.

 

Admittedly, I am not overly familiar with the Ben 10 franchise, having seen the occasional episode here and there, in the later series. (It has four different incarnations – Ben 10, Ben 10 Alien Force, Ben 10 Ultimate Alien and Ben 10 Omniverse – and apparently a fifth incarnation to come). However, it is an intriguing concept. The series follows a boy named Ben Tennyson who, on a summer road trip with his grandfather Max and his cousin Gwen, stumbles across an alien device known as the Omnitrix which bonds itself to his wrist like a watch. Ben finds that the device has alien DNA encoded in it, which allows him to transform to a variety of alien species – which he uses to take on any threats that come his way – usually other aliens. (As he grows as a hero, Ben learns that he didn’t gain the Omnitrix by coincidence and finds that his family has been involved with aliens long before he has).

 

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Gwendolyne “Gwen” Tennyson (as the Tennyson family obviously likes to rhyme) is Ben’s aforementioned cousin. At the start of the series, she is the same age as Ben (ten years), albeit much more capable than he is – a child prodigy, who can instantly master anything, be it athletics (including martial arts) or academics (and even the Omnitrix itself in an alternate universe). However, the series sees both of them mature into young adulthood (and a less antagonistic familial relationship between them), with Gwen attending college. It also sees Gwen acquire superpowers of her own, through – uh – magic? She discovers her own magical aptitude, which allows her to manipulate energy and be as formidable a hero as Ben himself.

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(8) AZULA – AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER (2005)

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There were a number of female characters to choose from in Avatar: The Last Airbender, an American animated series in an anime style set in an Asiatic world (in which some people are able to “bend” the classical elements – air, earth, fire and water – by psychokinesis in the style of martial arts). However, fans of my Fantasy Girls will know I have a recurring soft spot for the bad girls – and they don’t come much badder than Azula, crown princess of the Fire Nation.

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Azula is a fire-bending prodigy, capable of wielding the higher level of blue flame (a cut above boring old orange or yellow flame) and even generating lightning (which I would have thought of as part of the classical element of air but whatever). She’s also dangerously ruthless, manipulative, perfectionist and progressively more unhinged as the series goes on.

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She also plays a mean game of beach volleyball.

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"We have DEFEATED you for ALL TIME! You will NEVER rise from the ASHES of your SHAME and HUMILATION! Well, that was fun."

“We have DEFEATED you for ALL TIME! You will NEVER rise from the ASHES of your SHAME and HUMILATION! Well, that was fun.”

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Of course, given how unhinged she becomes, things…don’t end too well for her.

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(7) DR. GIRLFRIEND – THE VENTURE BROS (2003)

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“I was thinking of something that plays off my abilities more than my sexuality”. Hmm….

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For my seventh place entry we have one of my personal favorite animated series, The Venture Brothers, and the girlfriend of its butterfly-themed supervillain (and Venture nemesis) The Monarch – who has aptly adopted her own supervillain identity of Dr. Girlfriend. Of course, after they get married, she becomes Dr. Mrs. The Monarch (and they were recognized by the supervillain Guild of Calamitous Intent as “villain and villainess”).

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Visually, she bears a striking resemblance to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, even down to wearing the latter’s signature pink suit and pillbox hat prior to her marriage and formal villainess status. This is played for laughs in one episode, as she exclaims “Who the hell is Jacqueline Onassis?” upon hearing the name (when assigned it as an identity in the classic party guessing game).

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Vocally however, there is the dissonance for comic effect between her appearance and her comically husky masculine voice – she is indeed voiced by one of the series’ co-creators (with an awesome name itself ripped from the pages of a comic), Doc Hammer, apparently in his deepest and most masculine voice. (And when the resulting voice is deeper than that of Patrick Warburton voicing the impossibly manly Brock Samson, you know you’ve succeeded!). Even here, there is apparently something of a link to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, as a parody of the former First Lady’s relatively low voice, although of course much of the humor lies in the vocal dissonance itself. Hints of the character’s transsexuality in the first few episodes (notably the pilot) were subsequently displaced by her own explanation for her voice within the narrative – her former habit of three packs a day, prompting the exclamation of one of the Order of the Triad at her audition for their nemesis, “What did you do – eat them?”

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Subsequently to her marriage and villainous partnership to the Monarch, she adopts a more – ah – striking supervillain costume, closer to the Monarch’s in its appearance, albeit not so much with her costume’s absolute cleavage. Not surprisingly, the latter is featured more heavily in art and cosplay.

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It might be noted that she is a much more competent supervillain than the Monarch – indeed, probably more competent than most of the supervillains in the series (and is held in high respect by them and their Guild of Calamitous Intent). To quote TV Tropes, “the husky-voiced Dr. Girlfriend is perhaps the only voice of reason in the Monarch’s sad little world. Skilled and capable, she is often the only thing that makes the Monarch’s plans even remotely viable”.

 

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Close runner-up was recurring character (and parody of Black Widow), ex-Soviet agent (ahem) Molotov C0cktease (a play on the incendiary Molotov ‘cocktail’) – but there was no way I was headlining this entry with that name…

 

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(6) STRIPPERELLA (2003)

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“Stripper by night. Superhero later at night”.

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As its title might suggest, Stripperella was an “adult-oriented animated television series” created by none other than Marvel Comics doyen Stan Lee.

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The title character was the superheroine or secret agent alter ego of stripper Erotica Jones, voiced by none other than Pamela Anderson – and essentially an animated version of her as well, down to the tattoos. (So much so that she also played herself in the series, visiting Stripperella’s club Tender Loins with Kid Rock. Needless to say, Stripperella is a big fan and gushes how people compare them in appearance).

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Clearly, the series had its tongue firmly in its, or at least someone’s, cheek, as a parody of the superhero and spy fiction genres. I particularly liked the recurring villain, Cheapo – the world’s cheapest supervillain

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Just don’t get too excited by the reference to Season 1 on that DVD cover – not too surprisingly, it only had the one season of 13 episodes. And to be honest, I only caught the occasional episode.

 

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As for Stripperella herself, she not only relied on her spy gadgetry, but also a number of inexplicable superpowers (including her luxuriant hair, which also doubled as a parachute) – “she has strength and agility far beyond that of a normal human, she is impervious to all temperatures and weather conditions, and her breasts have the ability to detect when somebody is lying”.

 

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A promotional Stripperella comic was also intended to run alongside the animated series, but was apparently cancelled prior to publication – although a first issue or at least images from it appear to be floating about. In it, Erotica Jones or Stripperella was not an animated adaptation of Pamela Anderson, but that recurring staple of the green-eyed redhead, albeit with a similar physique and costume.

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(5) HOLLI WOULD – COOL WORLD (1992)

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HOLLI WOULD IF SHE COULD

…AND SHE WILL!

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I do like my bad girls and Holli Would is the bad girl at the center of Ralph Bakshi’s 1992 film Cool World – a fantasy film combining live action and animation.

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Center? Let’s face it – the only thing anyone ever remembers (or is aware of) from this movie is Holli. To be honest, I’m only aware of the film through a passing interest in the animation of Ralph Bakshi, whose animation was, uh, idiosyncratic at the best of times. (Basically, I have a passing interest in any animation or comic, albeit some much more passing than others).

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As for the film itself, similar to another more famous film (that just might happen to feature in this top ten), it involves the intersection of our real world with the eponymous animated ‘toon’ world, with the inhabitants of the latter known as ‘doodles’ (while humans are ‘noids’). In a nutshell, a cartoonist finds himself in a cartoon world which he thinks he created from his dreams, where he is seduced by the comic strip vamp Holli – all part of her plot to become a real human (including the inception of the dreams in the cartoonist). Of course, being a bad girl, she doesn’t flinch at murder – or the potential destruction of both worlds – to realize her aim.

 

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One wonders why, since she looks like she's having a damn fine time as a doodle

One wonders why, since she looks like she’s having a damn fine time as a doodle

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It’s even messier than it sounds and gets messier – the film was a commercial and critical failure, although it subsequently achieved something of a cult following.

 

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But who cares? It’s all about Holli! Voiced by Kim Basinger, she was also drawn to resemble her voice actress (not surprisingly, given that Kim Basinger also played her in human form in the film). Her dancing scenes were particularly notorious.

 

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(4) SHE-RA (1985)

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“I am Adora, He-Man’s twin sister, and defender of the Crystal Castle. This is Spirit, my beloved steed. Fabulous secrets were revealed to me, the day I held aloft my sword and said, ‘For The Honor Of Grayskull! I AM SHE-RA!!!’

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She’s got the power!

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I don't quite remember her showing this much leg...

I don’t quite remember her showing this much leg…

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As TV Tropes notes, She-Ra Princess of Power is the sister series (literally) to He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, presumably because She-Woman and the Mistresses of the Universe sounds a little silly (or kinky). As noted, it is literally the sister series as the titular character is Adora, the twin sister of He-Man or Prince Adam of Eternia. Adora was apparently kidnapped as an infant to the planet Etheria and is subsequently given the power to become the superheroine She-Ra in order to form the planetary resistance against Etheria’s tyrannical ruler Hordak (although by invoking the honor rather than power of Greyskull, which sounds a little off to me).

 

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Yeah, I’m not really up with the backstory of this one – or He-Man for that matter. I mean, come on – they were basically toy commercials! Not to mention vaguely fascistic…

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However, they certainly were iconic figures, not least because the animation was to market the toys or so-called action figures for the Masters of the Universe.

 

Cosplay by Alyssa Loughran and Jeff Zoet Visuals

 

Of course, She-Ra was designed to extend the market to the female demographic. To quote TV Tropes – “She-Ra was made specifically to appeal to girls, which explains the large number of mentally and physically strong female characters, like Adora, Glimmer, and Madame Razz, not to mention the vivacious, Zsa Zsa Gabor-like nature of several of them, daaaaaarling — and quite a number of female villains like Shadow Weaver, Scorpia and Catra” (the latter essentially a dark action girl version of She-Ra herself).

 

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(3) LANA KANE – ARCHER (2009)

 

“LAAAAAANAAAA!” Well, it was either that or Sterling Archer’s other favorite quote to her – “Danger zone!”.

 

My third place entry is Lana Kane, the top female agent in the animated series Archer, second only to the titular spy himself (although a large part of that is due to his mother running the agency), with whom she has a complicated love-hate relationship. She is also the most competent agent, although Archer tends to excel at the stereotypically active role of an agent, killing people and so forth (although a large part of THAT is due to his reckless childlike joy and disregard for his own mortality). However, she is not too different from Archer in that her competence is undermined on occasion by her own emotional or psychological insecurities – she just has less of them than Archer (and a large part of THAT is his mother Mallory).

 

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In appearance, she is statuesque, both in height (six foot or so) and figure, and she dresses to accentuate the latter – her signature style consists of short turtleneck sweater dresses (in various colors but typically white) and thigh-high stiletto boots. Indeed, she always seems to wear heels, even in space. For that matter, even when not wearing outfits tailor made to accentuate her figure, she’ll almost invariably end up in a situation where she’ll be stripped down to her underwear.

 

Archer even comments on her stripperiffic wardrobe, when he finds himself distracted by her impressive, ah, jiggle physics in the middle of a gunfight, in an example of their characteristic repartee:

Lana: Now?! Really?!

Archer: Oh, right! Because you walked into Strippers Discount Warehouse and said “Help me showcase my intellect!”

Lana: Discount?! This is Fiocchi.

 

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In fairness, every major character in the series commonly ends up in situations where they’ll be stripped down to their underwear or naked. It’s that kind of agency. And then things get even kinkier…

 

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Indeed, her memetic attractiveness in the series is such that even the girls want her (most notably her fellow female employees, although they are not the most emotionally balanced individuals). Even the gay guys want her, as when her gay colleague Ray Gillette literally takes a number with the rest of her male employees for the opportunity to bed her – “Girl, please. Nobody’s THAT gay”.

 

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Given her signature outfit, Lana is relatively easy to cosplay – but it’s hard to go past her voice actress, Aisha Tyler, for resemblance to the character.

 

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(2) DAPHNE BLAKE (VELMA DINKLEY) – SCOOBY DOO (1969)

 

We all know Scooby Doo, that enduring animated franchise centered on four teenage hippies and the titular talking Great Dane driving around in their “Mystery Machine” van, getting high and hallucinating monsters (not to mention their dog’s speech). “And I would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for you meddling kids!” (Not likely, since the villainous plans always involved impersonating a supernatural being with basic special effects). It’s a cultural icon, man! Even the infamous Scrappy Doo couldn’t kill it, although he came close and became the ultimate archetype of unlikable characters in the process.

 

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And Daphne Blake has been an enduring childhood crush within that franchise. It’s not hard to see why – with her shoulder-length red hair (once again demonstrating the striking prevalence of redheads in animation or comics), blue or violet eyes, hourglass figure – not to mention her distinctive purple skirt and pink tights. On second thoughts, her fashion choice was questionable, but then, so was that of the rest of the cast. I mean – who wears ascots, Fred? Although maybe there’s something in wearing an ascot after all, as Fred always seemed to end up with the girls or at least Daphne herself whenever the group split up to investigate (while Shaggy would invariably end up with Scooby as comic relief, like the sad dog food-eating hippy he was).

 

Of course, Daphne’s role within the group originally tended to be more decorative than functional – most likely to end up as damsel in distress, often while bound and gagged to boot (because, well, who wouldn’t?), and even nicknamed danger prone Daphne as a result. Fortunately, her character has become somewhat more developed over time – becoming more competent and even badass in various incarnations (interestingly, often in direct contrast to a converse decline in Fred’s competence or badassery).

 

Jinkies!

Honorable mention should go to Velma Dinkley.

 

 

In fairness, when you get right down to it, the most useful member of the Scooby Doo gang – and the one who tended to solve the mysteries – was Velma. Indeed, she could have driven around solving the mysteries by herself. It may even have been faster, albeit not funnier as the comic relief highlights were Scooby and Shaggy. Daphne may have been the face of the group (and she tended to be more decorative than functional and typically damsel in distress ‘danger-prone Daphne’ earlier episodes), but Velma was the brains. Even if she was prone to losing her glasses and blindly groping for them, often to comic effect with the monster of the week.

 

So it’s a little unfair that Velma was overshadowed by Daphne, although that’s probably what you get for wearing a dumpy sweater. Of course, Daphne was always drawn to a more pinup appearance, while Velma was drawn in a less flattering manner and dressed to match – with her customary orange baggy turtleneck sweater, pleated skirt, knee socks and Mary Janes.

 

Interestingly, there has been something of a reinvention of her character, perhaps reflecting the rise of s€xy nerd girls. After all, it doesn’t take too much to s€x up her traditional appearance – shoes with a little more heel, a shorter skirt, a tighter sweater. Keep the knee socks (or perhaps a little longer for that true zettai ryouiki style) and of course the glasses – and voila!

 

Of course, it also helps if you ditch the skirt altogether – and your cosplay model is Jessica Nigri

 

Indeed, Velma has tended to scrub up nicely in live action versions, played fetchingly by Linda Cardinelli (even if overshadowed by Sarah Michelle Gellar as Daphne) in the cinematic releases and by Hayley Kiyoko (much cuter than Kate Melton’s Daphne in my eyes) in the Cartoon Network live-action films.

 

And that has carried over into cosplay (and art), as featured in this honorable mention – there’s just something about Velma that adapts so much better from animation to cosplay. Perhaps it’s the glasses?

 

 

Yes, probably the glasses…

 

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(1) JESSICA RABBIT – WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT (1988)

 

“I’m not bad – I’m just drawn that way”

 

Like Wonder Woman for my Top 10 Girls of Comics, could there have been any doubt for the top spot? The top position has to go to THE animated sex symbol, even though her exposure is primarily limited to the animated film Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (and a few other shorts – notably as nurse and park ranger). I only vaguely remember the plot and characters of this film (including Roger himself) – but everyone remembers Jessica.

 

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That is because she is designed as the ultimate fantasy figure drawn as a pinup cartoon – green-eyed and red-haired in that irresistibly rare combination (even more so in her signature pose of hair worn over one eye) and an impossibly accentuated hourglass figure in a slinky red dress. Indeed, she was modelled on classic screen sirens Lauren Bacall, Veronica Lake and Rita Hayworth – apparently face and voice (voiced by Kathleen Turner) on Lauren Bacall, hair on Veronica Lake and dress on Rita Hayworth (in the film Gilda).

 

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As her name indicates, she is the human ‘toon’ wife of the titular Rabbit. Although she is a sultry nightclub singer literally drawn as a femme fatale of noir, she actually plays against the type in film (as opposed to the original book) – she is indeed a good girl deeply in love with her ‘honey bunny’. Why? He makes her laugh. (She also proudly lets slip that he’s a much better lover than driver).

 

Cosplay by Claire Ana and Jeff Voet Visuals

Fantasy Girls – Top 10 Girls of Comics (Special Mention): Cult & Pulp

 

FANTASY GIRLS – TOP 10 GIRLS OF COMICS (SPECIAL MENTION) :CULT & PULP

 

And now we round out my Top 10 Girls of Comics with my roll call of cult and pulp favorites that fall short of the ongoing interest (or more prolific art and cosplay) of my honorable mentions or the iconic status of my special mentions.

 

 

(1) GIRLS OF GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY – GAMORA, NEBULA & MANTIS (MARVEL COMICS 1975)

 

I am Groot, baby! Marvel Comics got cosmic with Guardians of the Galaxy

 

The Guardians of the Galaxy originated as a superhero team in 1969, although the team from the films was a new and different team that originated in 2008. And it’s particularly striking that the films work as well as they do – given that they take an ensemble from Marvel Comics C-list roster into its equally bizarre and psychedelic cosmic setting. I tend to stay aware of a wide range of comics, and I hadn’t heard of the Guardians (although I was aware of elements of Marvel’s cosmic setting).

 

 

And the top girl of the (new) Guardians of the Galaxy is of course Gamora, played in the films by Zoe Saldana’s Gamora, with my personal favorite highlights including when she proclaims their heroism “we’re just like Kevin Bacon” (from a reference by ‘Star-Lord’ Peter Quill to Footloose) – and when she dances, ever so slightly, at the end (after rejecting the idea of dancing – prompting Quill’s Footloose reference).

 

 

Gamora herself predates the newer Guardians of the Galaxy in the comics, as she was introduced in 1975. Gamora – or Gamora Zen Whoberi Ben Titan – was in the comics, as in the film, the adopted daughter of the mad Titan, Thanos. She is the last of her people, the Zen-Whoberi – hence that part of her name. Enhanced with superhuman strength, agility and hearing, she is an elite combatant and titled “the deadliest woman of the whole galaxy”. After all, Thanos did raise her to be his weapon, complete with cybernetic and technological enhancements – but then, Thanos, is a bit of a weirdo, and a necrophile to boot. No, not in that sense – he loves the literal personification of Death in the Marvel Comics Universe, trying to woo her by killing every living thing in the universe.  (In fairness, depending on depiction or choice of appearance, she is pretty hot)

 

Gamora’s history in the comics gets quite convoluted, particularly as it gets caught up with those psychedelic Infinity Gems or Stones. Indeed, she ends up with the Time Gem or Stone at one point. She also hooks up with Iron Man Tony Stark at one point, but then like all Starks, the man is a memetic sex god.

 

 

Of course, she also originally appears in a costume in the usual style of female characters in comics (lingerie or swimwear if you haven’t been paying attention to my Fantasy Girls so far), so her more functional costume in the films definitely improves on it.

 

 

In fairness, however, the comics did subsequently adapt her costume into a more functional enhanced body suit.

 

 

And the comics have certainly shown her as a badass in combat – with guns or her bladed weapons of choice.

 

 

And of course there’s cosplay of her.

 

 

There’s also Gamora’s (adoptive) sister, Nebula.

 

 

In the films, Nebula seems to be striving for redemption (primarily in the form of vengeance against their abusive foster father, Thanos). From her introduction in comics in 1985, however, she has very much consistently been the alien supervillain (and pirate). Also in the comics, she essentially claimed kinship with Thanos for villainous kudos, although that backfired on her when Thanos took an interest in her – particularly when he turned her into some sort of zombie pet in the Infinity Gauntlet saga. (She got better – by seizing the Infinity Gauntlet for herself when Thanos dropped the ball so to speak).

 

 

As can be seen in the Infinity Gauntlet saga, she had a somewhat more human form in the comics.

 

 

In the films, however, she has a more alien cyborg appearance, albeit played by the delectable Karen Gillan.

 

 

And of course there’s cosplay of her, even blue and bald

 

 

Actually, that’s pretty awesome cosplay (and cosplay of her earlier appearances as in the comics is rare).

 

 

And then there’s Mantis, played by Pom Klementieff, introduced in the second film. In the comics, she’s of human, terrestrial origin – indeed, half-Vietnamese and half-German – although she subsequently morphs into an antenna-ed green-skinned space babe through getting it on with the Silver Surfer (because that dude’s weird) and also becomes the Celestial Madonna of the alien Kree (because cosmic Marvel’s even weirder). She has psychic powers, as in the film, but is also a skilled martial artist (although who isn’t in the Marvel Universe?)

 

Her appearance and costume in the film is definitely an improvement.

 

Well, maybe not over this…

Or hot damn – over this!

 

However, in the film, she is an alien, albeit still of Asian appearance to match her actress, and the adoptive daughter of Ego the Living Planet – although she retains her empathic or psychic abilities.

 

 

And she “is easily the cutest and most innocent of all the Guardians next to Baby Groot”.

 

You wouldn’t expect there to be much bug-girl cosplay, but you’d be wrong – check out the Mantis in this cute Japanese Guardians of the Galaxy cosplay.

 

 

I’d totally watch them in their own spinoff! Or even just that Rocket Racoon…

 

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(2) SHI (CRUSADE COMICS 1993)

 

Runner-up Shi is not strictly a ninja. Created by William Tucci at the height of the so-called ‘bad girl art’ of comics in the 1990’s, she showed a little more depth – having witnessed her father’s murder by the Yakuza, she swore revenge.

 

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Trained in martial arts, she disguises herself by painting her face white to resemble Tora No Shi (Tiger of Death), a legendary female warrior of medieval Japan – and soon acquires the name of Shi (literally translated as ‘death’ in Japanese) “for her ferocity and ruthlessness”.

 

 

(3) DARKCHYLDE (MAXIMUM PRESS 1996)

 

Darkchylde is representative of the so-called Dark Age of Comics in the 1990’s – and not merely in name but also its ‘bad girl art’, a play on the previous pinup ‘good girl art’.

 

 

The comic itself, by creator Randy Queen, was published in 1996 and dominated the comics market that year – with an unusually large female following to reflect its young adult female protagonist. It was originally published by Maximum Press and then through a variety of different publishers in fits and bursts.

 

 

The protagonist, conveniently named Ariel Chylde, is a girl cursed from birth (apparently from a pact with the devil by her mother) with the ability to transform into the demonic creatures from her nightmares, while unleashing others. Presumably the former comes in useful for dealing with the latter.

 

 

So yeah, in other words very much a characteristic ‘grimdark’ figure both of the Dark Age of Comics and bad girl art protagonist.

 

(4) RED MONIKA (IMAGE COMICS 1998)

 

Battle Chasers, published by Image Comics in 1998, was, in the words of TV Tropes “artist Joe Madureira’s take on a sword-and-sorcery comics series sometimes deadly serious and sometimes with tongue planted firmly in cheek, or in Red Monika’s case… cheeks”. So yet another characteristic series of the Dark Age of Comics in the 1990’s (and in Red Monika’s case, bad girl art).

 

 

The series is typically remembered for two things – “a punchline for Madureira’s infamous lateness and for late comics in general” (or ‘schedule slippage’, which resulted in a total of nine issues in four years, although some of that is explained by Madureira’s ornate art), and of course, Red Monika herself. Ultimately, Madureira left it on a cliffhanger ending in the ninth issue to pursue a career as a video game designer, although his return to the series has been recently rumored.

 

 

The series takes place in “an arcanepunk” fantasy setting, with a basic Seven Samurai or Dirty Dozen plotline, except involving a quintet of characters, including Monika – “the entire plot was basically a pastiche of every cool thing Madureira saw in an anime or video game”.

 

 

As for Red Monika herself, Madureira’s concept notes refer to her as a “sort of the Jessica Rabbit of the Battle Chasers world”. And how! The ridiculously voluptuous Red Monika makes Jessica Rabbit look like a waif in comparison. Even Wikipedia was so awestruck it had to resort to the word pulchritudinous to describe her. And she’s not shy about showing it either.

 

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(5) ABBEY CHASE & SYDNEY SAVAGE – DANGER GIRL (IMAGE COMICS 1998)

 

Danger Girl originated in Image Comics (in one of their myriad imprint labels), created by artist J. Scott Campbell with his characteristic sexy pinup style (and taken by him to another comics publisher IDW). The series “stars an eponymous group of female secret agents who engage in adventures in the style of James Bond and Indiana Jones…led by a former British Secret Service agent named Deuce”. And in the style of high camp Bond, the nemesis of the Danger Girl agency is the Hammer Empire, or less subtly, the Fourth Reich.

 

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Danger Girl’s primary agents are blonde Abbey Chase and brunette Sydney Savage. Abbey Chase particularly combines Indiana Jones and James Bond – she “began her career as a freelance treasure hunter” (where does one find job vacancies for that?) before becoming member and ultimately team leader of the Danger Girl organization. Her appearance seems to have been inspired by earlier Bond girls and in particular often pays homage to Ursula Andress’ classic Honey Rider from Dr. No.

 

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Her colleague Sydney Savage is more vivacious – hailing from Australia (fittingly enough given her name), typically sporting black leather skintight catsuits (in the style of Black Widow) and wielding a bullwhip (because why not?). Sydney is the Danger Girl most fond of deploying her femme fatale charm to – ah – disarm her opponents. Her appearance is based on Elizabeth Hurley, especially as the leather-clad Vanessa Kensington in the Austin Powers films – again fittingly enough, from one Bond spoof to another…

 

 

(6) CLAUDIA DEMONA – REQUIEM VAMPIRE KNIGHT (2000)

 

The Franco-British comic Requiem Vampire Knight – or its sexier French title Requiem Chevalier Vampire – by British writer Pat Mills and French artist Olivier Ledroit is exactly what is says on the tin – the protagonist Requiem is, ah, a vampire knight (or chevalier).

 

The intriguing part is that it is posthumous fantasy of the darkest kind – I am a fan of posthumous fantasy or fantasy set in the afterlife, and that’s before you throw in Mills’ characteristic blackly comic misanthropy. Life sucks and the afterlife sucks more. Literally. The protagonist, a German soldier from the Second World War, is killed on the Eastern Front only to find himself in the posthumous fantasy setting known as Resurrection – a literally hellish inversion of Earth in which land and sea are reversed (with seas of perpetual fire in the place of the terrestrial continents) and whose resurrected inhabitants age in reverse, growing younger into infancy (and beyond into non-existence) with fading memories. Worst of all, the more evil one was in life, the better they are rewarded in Resurrection as various classes of monster, with the vampires as the elite aristocracy (populated by such characters as the historical Dracula, Nero, Caligula and Attila the Hun) and former innocent victims as the lowly lemures, “outcasts at best and food or entertainment at worst”. The protagonist finds himself resurrected as the titular vampire knight – but still plagued by a conscience, particularly towards the love of his former life, the Jewish Rebecca, now a lemure bent on her ticket out of Resurrection (expiring her former tormentor).

 

In the words of TV Tropes, “an age-old adage was that, if you were bad in life, when you died it generally got worse. Nowhere is this idea more assaulted, mugged, curb-stomped and left for dead face-down in a rancid gutter than in the world of Résurrection, the brainchild of Pat Mills and illustrated in excruciatingly loving and gory detail by Olivier Ledroit”.

 

 

And there are a number of female characters to choose from Ledroit’s sumptuous art – Rebecca herself, not to mention Dracula’s bride and queen Elizabeth Bathory. However, I do like my bad girls and they don’t come much, ah, badder than Claudia Demona – a major character who is developed in her own line of comics, reflecting her popularity with readers. In her mortal life, she was evil, but she “became one of the most wicked creatures on Résurrection”.

 

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(7) CASSIE HACK – HACK SLASH (DEVIL’S DUE PUBLISHING – IMAGE COMICS 2004)

 

This series created by Tim Seeley has an intriguing premise, somewhat like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but with ‘final girl’ (horror survivor) Cassie Hack fighting supernatural serial killers instead of vampires. Oh wait – vampires are supernatural serial killers (even in True Blood or Twilight). Scratch that – fighting monsters called “slashers”, that do indeed resemble movie psycho slashers (who themselves often seem to be supernaturally inexorable), from undead rage-filled revenants to insane humans and more.

 

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However, Cassandra “Cassie” Hack is essentially a much more hardcore version of Buffy – determined to hunt down slashers after her mother returned from death as one and had to be killed by teenaged Cassie. Holy crap – that’s dark! And I’ve only told the half of it!

 

And so she hunts down slashers across the United States, wielding an assortment of weapons (including guns, unlike Buffy) – particularly her trademark baseball bat – and wearing a fine assortment of highly revealing Goth wear…

 

“Because I’m Cassie Hack. I’m mean, I’m hard to kill and I hunt slashers”.

Fantasy Girls – Top 10 Girls of Comics (Special Mention)

 

TOP 10 GIRLS OF COMICS (SPECIAL MENTION)

 

In my top tens, I reserve special mention for a category of entries that are typically iconic or noteworthy but have some special quality that sets them apart from the top ten (or honorable mentions). Obviously.

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What is that special quality? Well it varies, although it tends to be thematic or idiosyncratic (but I make my own rules and break them anyway).

 

 

(1) LOIS LANE & MARY JANE (DC 1938 & MARVEL 1965)

Few female figures in comics are more iconic than Superman’s love interest, Lois Lane, who has endured as a core part, indeed even the heart, of the Superman mythos – and has followed the Man of Steel through his screen incarnations in film and television.

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But surprise! She’s tied for special mention with a Marvel redhead (and another superhero love interest) – Mary Jane (“MJ”) Watson, and of course, ultimately Mary Jane Parker or Mrs Spiderman. She may not be quite as iconic as Lois in wider popular culture (outside of Marvel Comics fans) but she certainly has better appearances in comics art. Of course, it helps that Mary Jane is canonically a model (and actress) by profession – and perhaps even more that comics artists seem to be enamored of redheads. (It would be easy to compile a top ten girls of comics from redheads alone).

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What cements her place in this special mention is her famous catchphrase, possibly the most famous line of any female character in comics, which was her very first line to Spiderman himself as Peter Parker when he sees her for the first time and is stunned by her striking appearance:

“Face it, Tiger! You’ve just hit the jackpot!”

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(2) SUPERGIRL (POWER GIRL) (DC 1959)

 

Although she has become an important character in her own right (and with her own titles in comics, film and television), Supergirl earns special mention as she was originally a derivative character of Superman – created to be a female counterpart of Superman in 1959. After all, an opposite gender counterpart is an easy way to double the potential of a character.

 

(And as Rule 63 of the internet demonstrates, it’s also an easy gender-bending way to increase the sexual or fetishistic potential of character. Rule 63 is that for every male and female character, there is a variation of the opposite gender of that character. Of course, Rule 63 is related to the more infamous Rule 34, which reflects the bottomless pit of p0rn that is the internet – if it exists, there is p0rn of it. No exceptions. But I digress).

 

Supergirl has had various incarnations in different costumes, “with the most popular and enduring version of the character being Kara Zor-El, Superman’s cousin, who shares his super powers and vulnerability to Kryptonite”.

 

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To some extent, Supergirl represented the start of Superman’s Silver Age silliness, the first crack in the wall of Superman’s status as sole survivor of Krypton, which expanded to let in a whole flood of survivors – Supergirl, Krypto the Super-Dog, Beppo the Super-Monkey (I’m not kidding – there was a whole Legion of Super-Pets), General Zod and other Kryptonian criminals in the Phantom Zone, the bottled city of Kandor (again I kid you not – it was miniaturized and bottled by supervillain Brainiac), the entire city of Argo blown off-planet, and eventually the real parents of both Supergirl and Superman…

 

I mean – it gets to the point where I wonder if anyone actually died in the destruction of Krypton, or whether the entire population just moved to Earth. Or the Phantom Zone (come to think of it – why didn’t they just all move to the Phantom Zone, since it saved Zod and his colleagues?). Or Kandor, Argo and every other city or dimension DC Comics pulled out of its ass.

 

(Mind you, I have the same thoughts about the Terminator franchise. In the first movie, the time travel was meant to be limited to just two travelers – the Terminator itself and Kyle Reese – as the Human Resistance destroyed the time machine. But in the second movie, no – we find out that there were two more time travelers – the bad liquid metal T-1000 and the good reprogrammed Arnie-style Terminator. And in the third movie, no again – there were still two more time travelers, the sexy bad girl TX and another good reprogrammed Arnie-style Terminator. By the time we reach the Terminator TV series or Terminator Genisys, that time machine’s like a damn train station, with cyborgs and humans commuting through time. But again I digress).

 

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Anyway, Supergirl is Superman’s hot blonde Kryptonian cousin, who wears incredibly short skirts while flying. Up, up and away indeed!

 

 

Close runner-up to Supergirl is Power Girl.

 

Mainly because she IS Supergirl – Supergirl from an alternate dimension in the convoluted multiverse of DC Comics. (Although in fairness, what multiverse wouldn’t be convoluted?). She became trapped in DC Comics’ ‘home’ dimension after one of DC Comics’ characteristic dimensional crises, coexisting with her alternate self Supergirl.

 

Though they are biologically the same person, Power Girl has a different superhero moniker, public identity (Karen Starr), personality, costume and appearance.

 

As Supergirl’s alternate dimensional counterpart, she shares Supergirl’s origin as a cousin of Superman, along with all the usual Kryptonian superpowers (in short, everything – the superpower kitchen sink or superpower lottery). Of course, her most prominent superpower is that dubbed by TV Tropes as the most common superpower (a voluptuous bust) – indeed, she literally embodies it, as “quite possibly the Most Common Superpower incarnate” and certainly the most buxom superheroine of the DC Comics Universe.

 

What’s more, she flaunts it to match – with her costume’s famous (or infamous) cleavage window (in the place of the Superman logo in Superman’s or Supergirl’s costume). No wonder “my eyes are up here” is almost her catchphrase.

 

She has been depicted as a member of a number of superhero teams, as well as being paired up with other female characters – with perhaps the most striking odd couple as her partnership with Harley Quinn (in the so-called New 52 DC Universe reboot).

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(3) SPIDERWOMAN (MARVEL 1977)

 

Spiderwoman is yet another special mention as a derivative character from a male superhero. Marvel Comics’ major domo Stan Lee even admitted her creation was to secure the copyright for a Spiderwoman character. Like Supergirl and Batgirl, Spiderwoman has had various incarnations – indeed, there has been a bewildering proliferation of Spiderwomen and Spidergirls, including alternate versions of both Spiderman’s most famous love interests, Mary Jane and Gwen Stacy (Spider-Gwen!).

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For that matter, I don’t want to alarm you kids, but there may be a Spiderman or Spidermen in the house – there has been a bewildering proliferation of Spiderpeople in general, a virtual Spiderverse that makes even the ridiculously expanded Kryptonian world of Superman and Gotham family of Batman look positively restrained. At least Superman and Batman tend to consistently be Kal-El (or Clark Kent) and Bruce Wayne respectively, except in weird Elseworld stories), but Spiderman isn’t always Peter Parker, even in the ‘mainstream’ Marvel universe – not to mention the abundance of Spiderclones. And that’s not getting into the arachnophobic nightmare of spider-themed characters or superheroes throughout comics.

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Although I was very disappointed by the film Kiss of the Spider Woman. Where the hell was Spiderwoman?

Although I was very disappointed by the film Kiss of the Spider Woman. Where the hell was Spiderwoman?

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Anyway, the original Spiderwoman remains the classic character of that name – the costumed alter-ego of Jessica Drew with her comics debut in 1977. In her first appearance, she was to be an actual spider evolved into human form. Eww! Fortunately, Marvel decided that would simply be too implausible for comics readers – as opposed to, say, Spiderman’s origin from being bitten by a radioactive or genetically engineered spider. (Let’s face it – we’re talking technofantasy magic spiders here). Spiderwoman’s origin story has varied between a spider-blood serum experimental cure and her mother’s womb being hit by a laser beam containing the DNA traits of several different species of spiders. Wait – what? That makes Spiderman’s origin seem rigorously scientific by comparison. Just…forget it. Jessica’s Spiderwoman powers are similar to Spiderman’s powers (and equally as variable), except that she also exudes pheromones that attract males (well – more than her skintight costume and figure) because of course she does. She can also fly or glide, which may or may not be related to her weird web-like wings.

 

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Jessica Drew’s Spiderwoman has had a fluctuating history of publication, with the character being resurrected like every true comics superhero for a revived solo title – unfortunately not without controversy, as Marvel engaged artist Milo Manara (better known for his erotic art) for the cover, resulting in a strikingly sexual superheroine pose that broke the internet. She has also been an Avenger – so it will be interesting to see if the Marvel Cinematic Universe includes her in their roster. Black Widow could do with the skintight-suited spider-themed superheroine company!

 

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(4) SHE-HULK (MARVEL 1980)

 

And yet another special mention for a derivative female character from a male superhero, albeit somewhat more unexpected than our previous superheroines – Marvel Comics’ lean, green She-Hulk. She’s also my last special mention for a major superheroine counterpart of a superhero. There are other such counterparts – Mary Marvel (from Captain Marvel – Shazam!), Miss Martian (from the Martian Manhunter) and Hawkwoman (from Hawkman) – but they are minor.

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Refreshingly, unlike my other superheroine counterpart special mentions – Supergirl, Batwoman and Spiderwoman – and their bewildering proliferation of characters, She-Hulk has consistently been Jennifer Walters, cousin of the Hulk’s Bruce Banner. Of course, being comics, there are other She-Hulks, to some extent corresponding to other versions of the Hulk such as Red Hulk.

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However, like Clark Kent as Superman or Bruce Wayne as Batman, Jennifer Walters has been She-Hulk since her appearance in 1980 – in her own title, Savage She-Hulk. She, uh, hulked up after receiving an emergency blood transfusion from her cousin, which led to her acquiring a milder version of the Hulk condition – where she becomes a large powerful green-hued version of herself, while still largely retaining her personality, intelligence and emotional control. This might also explain why her artistic depiction varies from muscular to petite (and her clothes remaining more intact).

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Apart from her own solo adventures, she has also teamed up with other Marvel Comics teams – the ubiquitous Avengers, of course (is there any Marvel Comics character who hasn’t been in the Avengers, especially when you throw in all the Avengers spin-offs?), but more unusually she has also replaced the Thing in the Fantastic Four.

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She also has a few other distinctive features. She broke the fourth wall before the more notorious Deadpool. And what’s more – she’s a lawyer! Perhaps the best lawyer in the Marvel Comics universe, as she successfully argued for the universe’s continued existence before the Living Tribunal. Voluptuous, green and a lawyer – she’s my dream girl!

 

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(5) JUNGLE GIRL & CAVEWOMAN (VARIOUS 1937)

 

The Jungle Girl and Cave Woman is not an individual character (although there ARE characters with each of those titles) but a type of character, which could have a list of its own, if Wikipedia hadn’t done it for me already.

 

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The Jungle Girl is an archetypal character of fiction, particularly recurring in comics or fantasy – a female adventurer, superheroine or even damsel in distress in a jungle setting. Essentially, she’s the female equivalent of Tarzan or Tarzanesque characters – or an actual Tarzan character, in the case of Tarzan’s jungle bride, Jane Porter. Very often, she originated as a feral child or girl, abandoned or orphaned in the jungle like Tarzan. She typically wears a scanty animal fur bikini (leopard more often than not), the tropical equivalent of Red Sonja’s chain mail bikini, and is armed with primitive weapons such as a knife or spear (instead of my jungle weapon of choice – a gun). Interestingly, she also often tends to be blonde, perhaps because it is more exotic, as well as impossibly statuesque and well groomed (just like Tarzan always seems to be clean-shaven).

 

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Very often, the Jungle Girl is in a prehistoric or ‘lost world’ setting, typically (and anachronistically) with dinosaurs, because everything’s cooler with dinosaurs, or at least some sort of megafauna, and hence the Jungle Girl overlaps with the Cavewoman. Raquel Welsh’s iconic pose is the classic cinematic example in One Million Years BC.

 

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Jungle Girls were the first superheroines in comics, predating even Wonder Woman with characters such as Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, and continuing through to characters such as Shanna She-Devil, Marvel Comics’ own Jungle Girl in the Savage Land, a prehistoric jungle lost world within Antarctica. (It’s complicated).

 

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Indeed, there is even an eponymous Jungle Girl and Cavewoman in comics, or Jana Sky-Born (published by Dynamite Comics) and Meriem Cooper (published by various independent publishers) respectively. The latter at least has an explanation for her superhuman statuesque form – narratively in that it was part of her time travel back to the age of dinosaurs, and less narratively in that her creator Budd Root was influenced by Playboy comics.

 

Bikini model Lindsay Pelas cosplaying as a Jungle Girl

Bikini model Lindsay Pelas cosplaying as a Jungle Girl

 

And of course there’s Jungle Girl cosplay. After all, you just need that animal skin bikini…

 

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(6) BETTY COOPER & VERONICA LODGE (ARCHIE COMICS 1941)

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Special mention must go to the blonde and brunette corners of the longest running love triangle in comics – Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge, better known simply by their first names, Betty and Veronica.

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Betty and Veronica are the competing love interests – “best friends and worst enemies” – of lucky redhead Riverdale High School student, Archibald “Archie” Andrews, of Archie Comics fame. And it is this love triangle of Betty, Veronica and Archie that became the hallmark of the Archie comics, both in their storylines and their wider impact on popular culture, so much so that it has its own TV trope named after it. Indeed, it became one of the great dichotomies of popular culture – as to which one prefers, Betty or Veronica.

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There is the matter of hair color – blonde vs brunette – but it is also a matter of personality. After all, Betty is easily the nicer of the two (perhaps befitting a character named for a former girlfriend of her creator) or proverbial ‘good girl’ – “the sweet, reliable, everyday girl next door type (which could mean kind of a dull”). Sadly, she just can’t seem to compete (at least in Archie’s affections) with the allure of proverbial ‘bad girl’ (not to mention rich Daddy’s girl) Veronica (fittingly named for film star Veronica Lake) – “alluring, exotic and edgy, but has more of a mischievous or icy personality (which could mean kind of a bitch”). Sigh – who can resist a bad girl?

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Betty and Veronica have even scored their own ongoing title within Archie Comics. Of course, the ‘cartoon’ art style of traditional Archie comics may not have quite the same appeal as other female figures in comics art.

Well, maybe just a little

Well, maybe just a little

 

Fortunately, other artists – led by Adam Hughes – have tried their hand at depicting the duo and I have used these artists throughout this feature.

 

 

(7) JUDGE ANDERSON – 2000 AD JUDGE DREDD (1980)

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Judge Anderson – or Psi-Judge Cassandra Anderson – is Judge Dredd’s (and anthology publication 2000 AD’s) most iconic and enduring female character, something which may be related to her status as the comic’s primary pinup girl. (A status that may also be in the actual narrative or ‘in-universe’ in the comic as well, depending on how seriously we take the advertisements with her as model for Yess Trousers, the contractor for those judicial leather uniforms).

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She was introduced, along with the comic’s most iconic and enduring supervillain, in the Judge Death story arc, as the primary female character in Judge Dredd – in both senses of the first major female character (discounting the fleeting childhood appearance of Dredd’s niece Vienna, as she was only substantially re-introduced as an adult two decades later) and the most substantial major female character, even spinning off in storylines in her own name.

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She also served as the introduction to Mega-City One Justice Department’s ‘psychic’ judges against such supernatural threats as the titular Judge Death, although they use the characteristically science fiction nomenclature of ‘psi’ for the Psi-Division or Psi-Judges. Anderson is introduced as Psi Division’s leading telepath (and precognitive), with her appearance originally modelled on contemporary singer Debbie Harry.

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Well I suppose when you put it like that…

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She was also introduced as something of a foil to Dredd, albeit not in the same villainous way as Judge Death – as opposed to Dredd’s laconic and taciturn expression, she has a cheery disposition (regarded by Dredd as flippant), which lends itself to cracking jokes, often at Dredd’s expense. Then again, this is part of her nature as a Psi-Judge, as they all tend towards eccentric personalities by Justice Department standards (and tolerated as part of their useful abilities). In Anderson’s case, her ability earned her the enduring trust of Dredd – and she remains one of the few people who regularly calls him by his first name Joe or that he trusts enough for his most important missions. It wasn’t just her ability that earned his trust, but her strength of character and courage, however hidden under her ‘flippant’ disposition – demonstrated in her introductory story arc by her heroic self-sacrifice to save the city, sealing herself and the villainous Judge Death within a protective encasement Mega-City One’s ‘miracle’ plastic boing.

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Of course, both she and Judge Death were far too interesting and popular characters to remain wrapped in plastic…

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Such was her iconic popularity that she featured in the 2012 Dredd movie, portrayed by Olivia Thirlby, as Dredd’s rookie in a somewhat non-canonical narrative departure, although otherwise reasonably faithful to the character.

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Much to my surprise, given her low profile outside of Judge Dredd or 2000 AD fandom, there’s even cosplay of her.

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Although I’m not entirely sure her cosplay decolletage is Justice Department regulation uniform…

 

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(8) BARONESS – GI JOE (1981)

 

And now you know (and knowing is half the battle) – Baroness is the femme fatale villain in Cobra, the antagonists organization to G.I. Joe. Of course, with their serpentine title (as well as the various names within their organization), they’re hardly going to be good guys.

 

GI Joe is more distinctive for being a line of toys (or action figures as G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero) but the franchise has extended into comics (initially as a series by Marvel Comics), animated TV series and live-action movies. Baroness, the femme fatale villain for antagonist organisation Cobra, actually originated in the Marvel Comics series – which is appropriate for a special mention in my top ten girls of comics – although she has also featured in other media (and as an action figure).

 

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Baroness serves as Cobra’s intelligence officer and lieutenant to its Cobra Commander, as well as being in a romantic (and presumably kinky) relationship with its resident tinhead, Destro. She began as Anastasia, the spoiled offspring of European aristocrats, who drifted from student radicalism into international terrorism (as you) – acquiring an impressive CV terrorist curriculum vitae as an expert in cryptography, psychological warfare, bio-chemical weapons and firearms (as well as being a helicopter and fixed wing pilot).

 

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Of course she wears the obligatory form-fitting black leather catsuit of female comics characters – in the style of Catwoman, Black Cat or perhaps her closest counterpart, Black Widow. Well, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Although she does mix it up a little with glasses – “with long black hair, black-rimmed glasses, and a black leather outfit, Baroness is a dark, sensual femme fatale whose beauty is matched only by her ruthlessness”.

 

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She even has a trope named for her in TV Tropes as the Baroness, although she is not so much the origin of the trope as she is a striking example of it (and inspiration for the name) – “a female baddie with a chilly disposition and more than a touch of the dominatrix about her”, with the latter often tending to sadism. Needless to say, Baroness is the sexpot style of the trope.

 

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Hail Cobra indeed.

 

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She is readily depicted by cosplayers, as it is a matter of recycling the usual black leather catsuit (albeit with red cobra flourishes).

 

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And she was depicted by Sienna Miller in the live-action movies.

 

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(9) APRIL O’NEIL – TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (1984)

 

In these days when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been an enduring media franchise for two decades, it is easy to forget that they originated in comics in 1984. (In fairness, the franchise did peak in the 1980’s and 1990’s, although it has been questionably revived by the recent live-action movies).

 

Although she is understandably overshadowed by the protagonist Turtles, April O’Neil originated with them in the comics, but she wasn’t as recognizable as in subsequent media adaptations. She was a computer programmer – and worked for their adversary Baxter Stockman programming his robots, although she was not aware of his villainy (until she did find out and fled, pursued by the robots into the sewers, where she was saved by the Turtles).

 

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But who knows about any of that? No one knows about April (and few know about the Turtles for that matter) from the comics – the April we all know is from the animated series (hence her special mention), where she was a television news reporter for Channel 6 News (in New York City), in her distinctive yellow jumpsuit. Once again rescued by the Turtles – this time by street punks working for their most iconic adversary, Shredder – she became one of their closest allies and collaborator (along with hockey-masked vigilante Casey Jones).

 

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That distinctive yellow jumpsuit made April relatively easy for cosplay, although some cosplayers do her better than others.

 

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April has remained with the Turtles through their various media incarnations, albeit with some variations on the theme – most recently, portrayed by Megan Fox in the live-action movies, although sadly without the yellow jumpsuit.

 

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(10) NANCY CALLAHAN – SIN CITY (DARK HORSE 1991)

 

“Skinny little Nancy Callahan. She grew up. She filled out.”

 

Possibly the sexiest black-and-white line drawing in comics – and Frank Miller’s finest artwork apart from blood splatter, something (both finest artwork and blood splatter) which recurs frequently in Miller’s “absurdly macho” comic noir Sin City. Its black and white line art is matched only by its black and grey morality. (And we’re talking a pretty dark grey!) It’s a mystery how the city of the title, Basin City, isn’t completely depopulated, as its economy seems to consist entirely of sociopathy and of course whoreswhoreswhores…

 

From the webcomic Shortpacked!

From the webcomic Shortpacked!

 

It helps Sin City’s population that virtually every woman in Sin City is strikingly beautiful – twins Goldie and Wendy, Gail, deadly little Miho, Delia “Blue Eyes”, Ava Lord “A Dame to Kill For. And it’s not entirely fair to say that they’re all whores – some of them are strippers. Nancy Callahan dances as a cowboy-themed stripper in the seedy Kadie’s Bar to pay her way through law school.

 

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Indeed, she’s the shining light not only of Kadie’s Bar, where everyone is utterly absorbed by her routine when she dances, but also of Sin City generally – one of the few genuinely decent characters, “an angel living in a wretched hive”. It helps that she has her guardian angels – John Hartigan, the other of those few genuinely decent characters, and Marv, a hulking man mountain made of iron. After all, it needed two shocks of the electric chair (and one of my favorite lines) to kill him – “Is that the best you can do, you pansies?!”

 

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Her line drawing was memorably embodied by Jessica Alba in the cinematic adaptations. Filled out nicely indeed…

 

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(11) TAROT WITCH OF THE BLACK ROSE (BROADSWORD 1999)

 

For my next special mention, I just couldn’t resist an entry that is perhaps more dishonorable mention – the star from Tarot Witch of the Black Rose, one of the worst comics in the world. Now I can’t say it is THE worst comic. For one thing, it is so compellingly bad at times that it transcends mere comics and becomes sort of inverse high art. For another, part of what makes Tarot Witch of the Black Rose so compellingly bad is that you can see that there is a level of art or craftsmanship that has gone so wildly awry.

 

Its creator, Jim Balent, who writes and draws this ongoing bimonthly comic, obviously has talent as an artist and is particularly drawn to the female form, as demonstrated by his years as an artist for Catwoman. However, his art in this comic is exploitative on a scale that makes other comics, not known for their modesty, blush – and indeed made it something of a challenge to find images that were the least exploitative. And in an industry where cup size unofficially tends to be the most common superpower (among female superheroes or characters in general), his art fetishizes this aspect of the female form to truly impossible proportions – Balentine proportions as it were.

 

As for the writing, Balent constantly undershoots the potential of its neopagan fantasy storyline and modern witch heroine – such as by seemingly depicting every fantasy or mythical creature in the form of a pinup girl, sometimes to terrifying effect, intentionally or otherwise.

 

And of course his art and writing is on full display in the female cast of the comic. There’s our witchy heroine herself, red-headed and green-eyed Rowan, or to use her adopted ‘magical’ name as swordmaiden of the Black Rose Coven – Tarot. Her ‘witch’ costume might best be described as two strings and a wish – although one has to give full credit to her awesome but impractical spiked boots, which would seem to potentially endanger not only herself but anyone around her. Of course, that is when she actually wears her costume, as she often is ‘sky-clad’ or naked, although there is little difference between that and her costume in any event.

 

A more realistically drawn Tarot by artist Colleen Coover

A more realistically drawn Tarot by artist Colleen Coover

 

In fairness, Tarot does resemble an idealized depiction of Balent’s wife Holly Golightly (who also does the lettering and coloring in the comic) – while Tarot’s partner, Jon Webb or ‘Skeleton Man’, perhaps the most useless superhero ever, uncannily resembles Balent himself.

 

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All this in a comic which Balent has touted for “his interest in both entertaining and educating his readers about the folklore and actual theology of Wicca and witchcraft with interviews with leading witch authors and spells from witches around the world”. May the Goddess have mercy on them all!

 

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(12) EMPOWERED (DARK HORSE 2007)

 

Empowered is the titular heroine of Adam Warren’s ‘sexy superhero comedy’ graphic novel series. Empowered, the character and series, originated from commissioned ‘bondage’ sketches of a comics superheroine ‘damsel-in-distress’, which then became the basis for the episodic shorts for the commencement of the series, illustrated in Warren’s characteristic ‘manga’ influenced style. The series started (and still continues to some extent) as a playful deconstruction of superhero comics tropes, particularly those involving female superheroes, along with (in the words of TV Tropes) “healthy doses of bondage, fanservice and comedy”.

 

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Empowered herself is a “plucky D-list superheroine”, who is precariously dependant and constantly betrayed by the fragile, fickle source of her superpowers – her skin-tight ‘hypermembrane’ suit. It gives her superpowers while it is mostly intact, it tears easily – leaving her without powers at critical moments (although as the series progresses, the full nature of her suit and its powers becomes more complex and mysterious). As a consequence, Empowered spends most of her time with her suit in tatters or various states of undress, bound and gagged by supervillains or even common criminals (in accordance with the unspoken code of conduct towards captured superheroines), a joke to her superhero peers and supervillains alike (albeit something of status symbol as arm candy to the latter). As the series has progressed however, it has developed deeper, darker and longer story arcs – and Empowered has emerged as an increasingly formidable superheroine, relying on her wits and strength of character to overcome the flaws of her suit.

Fantasy Girls – Top 10 Girls of Animation (Special Mention): Velma Dinkley – Scooby Doo

 

 

FANTASY GIRLS – TOP 10 GIRLS OF ANIMATION (SPECIAL MENTION): VELMA DINKLEY – SCOOBY DOO

 

Jinkies!

 

To reiterate, we all know Scooby Doo, that enduring animated franchise centered on four teenage hippies and the titular talking Great Dane driving around in their “Mystery Machine” van, getting high and hallucinating monsters (not to mention their dog’s speech). “And I would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for you meddling kids!” (Not likely, since the villainous plans always involved impersonating a supernatural being with basic special effects). It’s a cultural icon. Even the infamous Scrappy Doo couldn’t kill it, although he came close and became the ultimate archetype of unlikable characters in the process. Of course, Daphne Blake is my pinup girl of Scooby Doo and second entry in my Top 10 Girls of Animation (as well as one of my enduring childhood crushes), but honorable mention should go to Velma Dinkley. And yes, I know that I have informally mentioned Velma before when talking about Daphne, but I’ve been spring-cleaning my Top 10 Girls of Animation and have decided upon a formal honorable mention in Daphne’s entry.

 

 

 

In fairness, when you get right down to it, the most useful member of the Scooby Doo gang – and the one who tended to solve the mysteries – was Velma. Indeed, she could have driven around solving the mysteries by herself. It may even have been faster, if not funnier – I mean, the comic relief highlights were Scooby and Shaggy. Daphne may have been the face of the group (and she tended to be more decorative than functional and typically damsel in distress ‘danger-prone Daphne’ earlier episodes), but Velma was the brains. Even if she was prone to losing her glasses and blindly groping for them, often to comic effect with the monster of the week.

 

 

So it’s a little unfair that Velma was overshadowed by Daphne, although that’s probably what you get for wearing a dumpy sweater. Of course, Daphne was always drawn to a more pinup appearance, while Velma was drawn in a less flattering manner and dressed to match – with her customary orange baggy turtleneck sweater, pleated skirt, knee socks and Mary Janes.

 

Interestingly, there has been something of a reinvention of her character, perhaps reflecting the rise of s€xy nerd girls. After all, it doesn’t take too much to s€x up her traditional appearance – shoes with a little more heel, a shorter skirt, a tighter sweater. Keep the knee socks (or perhaps a little longer for that true zettai ryouiki style) and of course the glasses – and voila!

 

 

 

 

Of course, it also helps if you ditch the skirt altogether – and your cosplay model is Jessica Nigri

 

Indeed, Velma has tended to scrub up nicely in live action versions, played fetchingly by Linda Cardinelli (even if overshadowed by Sarah Michelle Gellar as Daphne) in the cinematic releases and by Hayley Kiyoko (much cuter than Kate Melton’s Daphne in my eyes) in the Cartoon Network live-action films.

 

And that has carried over into cosplay (and art), as featured in this honorable mention – there’s just something about Velma that adapts so much better from animation to cosplay. Perhaps it’s the glasses?

 

 

Yes, probably the glasses…

Fantasy Girls – Top 10 Girls of Comics (Honorable Mention)

 

TOP 10 COMICS (HONORABLE MENTION)

 

These are my honorable mentions for my top 10 girls of comics, in chronological order of first appearance.

 

 

(1) BLACK CANARY (DC 1947)

 

The Canary Cry! Um, chirp – I guess?

 

It is a little hard to take a superpower by the name of Canary Cry seriously – or for that matter a superheroine by the name of Black Canary, particularly when she’s part of a superhero team by the name of the Birds of Prey. Has someone told DC Comics that canaries aren’t in fact raptors or birds of prey? I mean, canaries aren’t known for their fierceness – when I think of canaries, my first thought is of the proverbial canary in the coal mine, which is known for, you know, dying.

 

However, you should take the Black Canary seriously (well, as seriously, as you take any comics character). For one thing, she is one of DC Comics earliest superheroines, with her debut in Flash Comics in 1947 – although not only did she not appear in her own title, she appeared as a backup character to a backup character, Johnny Thunder. Of course, she proved a lot more durable than Johnny Thunder. Who’s Johnny Thunder? Exactly.

 

 

From there, her history is convoluted – as it is for any long-standing DC Comics character, with its multiverse (Earth-1? Earth-2?) and its reboots (Crisis in Infinite Earths?! New 52?! DC Rebirth?!) I mean, it’s enough to drive anyone mad. Black Canary’s history is so convoluted that the character was effectively split between mother and daughter, Dinah Lance nee Drake and Dinah Laurel Lance respectively (although I think even those names might change), with the emphasis on the latter for modern comics.

 

Actually, that’s not too convoluted compared to her television incarnation in Arrow and the wider Arrowverse – where the character is split between Dinah Laurel Lance, her sister Sara Lance (who dies but is resurrected as the White Canary), an evil doppelganger from Earth-2 known as Black Siren and another Black Canary entirely by the alter ego of Dinah Drake.

 

Speaking of Arrow, it’s fairly consistent that the modern Black Canary is professionally and romantically involved with one of DC’s most useless superheroes, Green Arrow. (I’m not a fan of archer superheroes. A bow is not a superpower! It’s not even Batman levels of badass!).

 

 

Another consistency is her costume – you’ve got to admire a superhero who fights crime in a leotard and fishnet stockings, although she usually accessorizes with a jacket and occasionally has variant costumes.

 

 

Of course, fighting crime in a leotard and fishnets is a little easier when you are a “prodigious hand-to-hand combatant”, as the modern Black Canary has been portrayed.

 

It’s all about the kicks

 

In addition to her martial arts skills, she has also been detected “as an expert motorcyclist, gymnast, covert operative, and investigator” as well as “excellent leader and tactician”. So like the avian-themed female version of Batman? Unlike Green Arrow or Batman for that matter, she also has an actual superpower, the so-called Canary Cry – a high-powered sonic scream which can severely damage both inorganic and organic objects, with people being the most obvious example of the latter.

 

 

The origins of the Canary Cry have varied over the years – from outright magic, literally “a wizard did it” through the metahuman gene to alien genes.

 

 

Black Canary has also been adapted into various media, including video games as well as animated and live-action television series (such as the aforementioned Arrow).

 

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(2) FANTASTIC 4 – SUE STORM / INVISIBLE WOMAN (MARVEL 1961)

 

The Fantastic Four was the first superhero team of Marvel Comics in 1961 (predating the X-men in 1963) and still remain one of their most iconic teams, although sadly without the successful cinematic adaptation of other Marvel titles (unless you count The Incredibles). Sue Storm is of course the leading lady of the Fantastic Four – and arguably, by extension, of Marvel Comics itself.

 

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Like the rest of the Fantastic Four, Sue acquired her superpowers through a cosmic radiation storm, as opposed to dying horribly as in real life, but that’s superpowers in comics for you. Her superpower was originally a somewhat passive one of invisibility (by manipulating light), but subsequently extended to the more active one of projecting powerful energy fields. The other members of the Fantastic Four were her brother Johnny Storm or the pyrokinetic Human Torch (“Flame on!”), her husband Reed Richards or the humbly named Mr. Fantastic (although as TV Tropes tells us, Reed Richards is Useless) and the team’s walking brick, Ben Grimm or the Thing (“It’s clobbering time!”).

 

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Sue not only married Reed Richards, but was also the object of infatuation for Marvel villains, not least the team’s nemesis, Doctor Doom. (That’s an honorary title, not an actual doctorate of doom). However, none contended for Sue’s affections as much as Namor the Sub-Mariner, whose main power is making DC Comics’ laughingstock Aquaman look cool by comparison (because Aquaman’s costume isn’t a green scaled swimming thong). Jessica Alba memorably played her with dyed hair and blue contacts in the bland 2005 Fantastic Four film (and blander sequel Rise of the Silver Surfer). Kate Mara played her less memorably with a blonde wig in the even worse 2015 reboot.

 

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(3) ZATANNA (DC 1964)

 

DC Comics occasionally defaults to outright magic as a superpower and its magical superheroine of choice is Zatanna Zatara. She first appeared in 1964, as the daughter of magician Giovanni Zatara from the earlier so-called Golden Age of Comics.

 

 

Zatanna is both a stage magician (or illusionist) and a real magician (of the mystical or magical branch of humanity or so-called ‘homo magi’ as opposed to ‘homo sapiens’). She is one of the most powerful users of magic in the world of DC Comics, a sorceress casting her spells through the focus of speaking backwards (although there are exceptions) – so that potentially there would seem to be little limit to her magic and indeed she has used it to manipulate the fabric of space or time. Even without magic, she has almost superhuman dexterity and skill as a stage magician.

 

Zatanna-smallville

 

Interestingly, Zatanna is a character that has been given some real depth, by two of my favorite writers of comics – Neil Gaiman used her (albeit in a blonde version) in The Books of Magic, an exploration of DC Comics’ magical universe (which has always fascinated me), and Grant Morrison used her as one of his Seven Soldiers, a characteristically Morrisonesque revamping of more minor DC Comics characters. She has seen screen adaptations, most notably in by Serinda Swann in the Superman series Smallville, although she has yet to see a cinematic adaptation – which perhaps awaits the expansion of the DC Cinematic Universe.

 

 

(4) WANDA MAXIMOFF / SCARLET WITCH (MARVEL 1964)

 

A witch called Wanda…

 

Outside of comics, Wanda Maximoff or the Scarlet Witch is best known as superheroine and Avengers team member played by Elizabeth Olsen in Marvel Cinematic Universe. Or not, since she’s not exactly prominent there, surfacing only as recently as Avengers: Age of Ultron. Perhaps you might know her better as the female other than Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow breaking up the Avengers’ sausage party.

 

 

Which is unfortunate, because in the comics, Wanda is one of the most powerful superhumans on the planet – with her power of being able to alter reality in unspecified ways, so…magic! It was originally written as her hex power – or dare I say it, hex appeal? – which consisted of pointing in some direction and some unfortunate event would occur. (Although that pretty much sounds like my everyday life). That then evolved into a mutant power of probability, which in turn evolved into actual magic – and in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, having red glowing light from her hands and being “weird”.

 

Art by Greg Horn

 

Like anything else in the Marvel Universe, her backstory is incredibly convoluted and subject to change, even more so when you factor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She originated as a mutant – which is complicated in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as Marvel sold off its mutants or X-men to Twentieth Century Fox. That typically included the actual mutant characters themselves, but through some strange loophole Marvel retained the rights to Wanda and her brother Pietro or Quicksilver – although there are two versions of Quicksilver, a Twentieth Century Fox Quicksilver (in the X-men films) and a Marvel Cinematic Universe Quicksilver, with the former being much cooler (and less dead-er) than the latter.

 

Art by ‘Artgerm’ or Stanley Lau

 

In the comics, they were famously the children of recurring X-men adversary (or ally as it keeps changing) Magneto – but Fox owns him too so they’re orphaned in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Of course, Marvel could have gone with the cinematic adaptation reflecting that she was originally the daughter of Golden Age superhero the Whizzer – but no one could have referred to her as the daughter of the Whizzer without laughing. She and Quicksilver have been subsequently ret-conned as non-mutants kidnapped and experimented on by the High Evolutionary, which makes one glad that they keep this sort of crap out of the cinematic adaptations. They were then misled to believe that Magneto was their father. Well, that was needlessly complicated.

 

 

In the comics, she has a relationship with the Vision, the Avenger’s resident android – and it looks as if she’s headed that way in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with the Vision (played by Paul Bettany) wearing his best sweaters to impress her.

 

 

Speaking of clothing, Wanda has had a variety of costumes, if by variety one means primarily variations of swimsuit. Her signature costume in the comics is ridiculous, although in fairness all costumes in comics are ridiculous, but arguably more so for female characters. In this case, it essentially consists of a red leotard, pink stockings and…what is that, a wimple? Anyway, in the words of TV Tropes, “Wanda has the dubious distinction of being one of the least dressed Avengers”, which led to her more practical design in the cinematic adaptations in which she dresses in everyday clothes. Apparently director Joss Whedon reassured actress Elizabeth Olsen that she would never wear the “red bathing suit”.

 

I have to confess that I’m almost more intrigued by the guys in the background – who are they meant to be?

 

Interestingly, the “red bathing suit” style of costume seems to be the costume of choice for cosplay models.

 

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(5) MS MARVEL / CAPTAIN MARVEL (MARVEL 1977)

 

Ms Marvel – or Captain Marvel (although that becomes a little more complicated) – is the first superheroine to be allocated a film in her own name in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (now slated for release in 2019), to be played by Brie Larson.

 

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More precisely, since there have been a number of superheroes in that name in Marvel Comics, my focus will be on the original Ms Marvel, Carol Danvers – who was kind of the blonde Wonder Woman of Marvel Comics, empowered by alien technology (or something) as opposed to classical mythology. (The alien technology being that of the Kree, one of the two major perpetually warring alien empires in Marvel Comics, the other being the Skrull. If you were paying attention in the Guardians of the Galaxy film, Ronan the Accuser was a renegade Kree. Basically, they’re blue humans).

 

Carol Danvers was originally a non-superpowered member of the United States Air Force.

 

Top guns!

Top guns!

 

She became the superpowered Ms Marvel (or Binary or Warbird or Captain Marvel – it changes) from a fusion of her human genes with alien Kree genes after – wait for it – being caught in an explosion of a Kree device in proximity with the Kree hero Captain Marvel (while he was impersonating a human). Subsequently, it was revealed that the explosion of this device, a – wait for it – Psyche-Magnetron, caused her genes to meld with that of Captain Marvel, turning her into a superpowered human-Kree hybrid, because that’s how science works in comics (and conveniently allowing her to adopt the Captain Marvel mantle in her subsequent superhero identity).

 

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(The history of Captain Marvel is quite interesting, as there have been a number of characters from different publishers in that name. Forgotten comics publisher Fawcett Comics originally published the most well-known Captain Marvel – or Billy Batson or Shazam! DC Comics – the cads! – sued for copyright infringement for Superman, although Captain Marvel was a boy empowered by magic into a costumed superhero, albeit one that visually resembled Superman. Marvel Comics then took the opportunity to trademark their own alien superhero Captain Marvel character. Ironically, DC Comics subsequently acquired the rights to the Fawcett Comics character, but then had to publish him under the name Shazam, because of the trademarked Marvel Comics character).

 

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Anyway, Carol Danvers acquired the usual superhuman powers – strength, endurance, flight and invulnerability along with a limited precognitive “sixth sense”. She has also subsequently obtained varying degrees of energy absorption and manipulation, so she can shoot blasts of energy from her fingertips. This was on top of her being pretty capable by human standards as an Air Force pilot (along with skills of espionage, hand-to-hand combat and marksmanship).

 

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She has had a number of costumes, from the usual superheroine costume in the style of swimwear or lingerie (with boots!) to more modest costumes in the style of the original alien Captain Marvel.

 

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She also had her own title, as well as becoming a mainstay of the Avengers (and even joining the X-men).

 

Both the Captain Marvel and Ms Marvel identities have had other characters in the role – with the latter also being assumed by Sharon Ventura, the supervillain Dr Karen Sofa or Moonstone, and perhaps most interestingly, Kamala Khan, Marvel Comics’ first Muslim superhero to headline her own title.

 

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Ms Marvel in her Carol Danvers incarnation seems to be a popular choice for female cosplayers, possibly because of the relative ease of costume.

 

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(6) STARFIRE (DC 1980)

 

Starfire is everyone’s favorite alien princess. Both DC Comics and Marvel Comics can get pretty cosmic – the latter notably so in its cinematic Guardians of the Galaxy, although Superman has always famously been an alien. Starfire is not unlike Superman – an alien princess of the planet Tamaran, fled to Earth to join the Teen Titans (after complicated interstellar war and politics involving her rivalry with her sister). Her alien physiology absorbs ultraviolet light energy for use in various powers – like Superman, come to think of it. Is there any DC Comics alien that isn’t superpowered by sunlight? Her original art design was apparently that of Red Sonja in space – her classic image is perhaps that by artist Michael Turner above, although I have a soft spot for her incarnation by artist Amanda Conner.

 

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But then who doesn’t like an orange-skinned alien space babe?

 

 

(7) ELEKTRA (MARVEL 1981)

 

What can I say? I have a soft spot for ninja girls.

 

Elektra is another Marvel Comics heroine – or anti-heroine. Created by Frank Miller in 1981, Elektra Natchios is a highly trained assassin, of Greek descent but trained in Chinese and Japanese martial arts, including ninjitsu – albeit a school of ninjitsu that apparently favors highly conspicuous red costumes. Her trademark weapons are a pair of bladed sai, but she is also skilled in other weapons – katana, dagger, three-section staff and shuriken (as opposed to guns or snipers’ rifles one might associate with modern assassins).

 

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Miller introduced her as a star-crossed love interest for Daredevil, a superhero notoriously unlucky with – or for – his love interests, so unsurprisingly she ends up killed by the villainous Bullseye, but soon returned through the traditional revolving door of death and resurrection for comics.

 

As usual for comics characters, Elektra has exceptional physical abilities and athleticism (apart from her mastery of martial arts and weaponry), but these are reinforced by the usual fantastic mystical ninja abilities we love in popular culture and developed by my favorite Marvel Comics ninjas, The Hand.

 

 

As for Elektra herself, she was portrayed by Jennifer Garner in the 2003 Daredevil movie and her own spinoff film in 2005, but I choose not to acknowledge those films. Fortunately, she resurfaced in the Daredevil television series, played by Elodie Yung.

 

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(8) GEN 13 – CAITLIN FAIRCHILD (IMAGE – DC 1993)

 

Founded in 1992 as a confederacy of studios by artists seceding from Marvel Comics, Image Comics embodied the so-called Dark Age of Comics in the 1990’s in many ways – amongst them, the sexy pinup superhero team of Gen 13 and its sexy pinup flagship character Caitlin Fairchild, both of which owed much to the sexy pinup art style of J. Scott Campbell.

 

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Published by Image’s Wildstorm studio (named for the two flagship teams in its story universe, WildCATS and Stormwatch) Gen 13 was derivative of many other titles “focusing on ridiculously attractive teens or teams with superpowers”, in particular, the X-Men – its focus was a group of five youths who escape from a government project to locate young people with “Gen-Active” genes and weaponize their manifested superpowers. As TV Tropes noted, while it was derivative, “it occasionally took it upon itself to hang a lampshade on the very conventions of the genre, including the constant clothing damage, the rambling villains and more, which allowed it to not only cater to its audience, but to wink at them as well”.

 

 

As for Caitlin Fairchild herself, the manifestation of her Gen-Active status transformed her from an ordinary girl to give her superhuman strength, agility, speed and endurance – “redhead resident shrinking violet geek girl turned Amazonian team leader”.

 

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The title did well enough at first, but its popularity waned until Wildstorm killed off the entire team with a 6-megaton nuclear bomb. In the usual style of comics, that didn’t take, and the team resurfaced in various forms, ultimately ending up in the DC Comics universe when DC Comics bought Wildstorm.

 

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(9) APHRODITE IX (IMAGE / TOP COW 1996)

Our next honorable mention is again from Image Comics, but this time from their Top Cow studio – a studio notorious for their ‘house style’ of ‘bad girl art’, as evidenced by its Witchblade flagship title. Aphrodite IX was a series published by Top Cow in 1996 and again in 2013-2014.

 

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The title character Aphrodite IX was a female android (which would technically make her a gynoid, but that’s a word you don’t see too often). What’s more, she’s a female android assassin, but then I’ve always had a soft spot for sexy robot bad girls (second only to sexy vampire bad girls). She is apparently part of a series of Aphrodite gynoids, hence the IX nomenclature.

 

 

She is designed to carry out undercover missions of infiltration and assassination – a purpose which seems a little at odds with her conspicuous appearance of green hair and makeup (including a large spot on her cheek), form-fitting revealing outfit ringed with ammo belts, thigh-high boots with lug heels and of course very large guns. She retains no memory of her actions as her brain is designed to experience amnesia after each mission – although she increasingly becomes more self-aware of her purpose and rebels against it.

 

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(10) ASPEN MATTHEWS (IMAGE / TOP COW – ASPEN 1998)

 

Aspen Matthews is yet another of my top ten girls of comics honorable mentions that originated in Image Comics – in the ongoing comic series Fathom from their Top Cow Productions imprint, by Michael Turner with his characteristic art style. (Indeed, Top Cow was known for its ‘bad girl art’ style). Starting in 1998, it was Turner’s first creator-owned series and he took it with him when he founded his own company, Aspen MLT, named after his delectable aquatic heroine.

 

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As for Aspen herself, she – ah – wears a lot of bikinis and swimsuits. That is, when she’s not wearing less. What? You expect me to remember the plot in this one? Sigh. Okay then, it’s essentially your Aquaman-Atlantean-Abyss style story of aquatic alien superhumans. Sexy aquatic alien superhumans. A cruise ship reappears in San Diego after it was reported to have disappeared ten years previously. However, no one on board even remembers having been ‘missing’, and what’s more, they picked up a mysterious girl at sea. She can only remember her name as Aspen, but is fortunately adopted by a vacationing naval officer.

 

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Even more fortunately, Aspen proves to have a strange affinity for water, so that she spends a lot of time in bikinis and swimsuits – I mean, her favorite sports of surfing and swimming, indeed becoming a gold-medal winning Olympic swimmer before being disqualified for an abnormal result to a drug test. She studies marine biology, before joining a secret underwater facility for more bikinis and swimsuits. Ultimately, it is unveiled that she is one of the Blue, an aquatic humanoid race with the power to control water – although Aspen has powers unique even for a Blue. The Blue come into conflict, not only with terrestrial humanity, but also with a warring aquatic humanoid race, the Black – Aspen herself is descended from parents of both races and…bikinis and swimsuits. Sorry – what was that story again?