The Shelf Is Half Full

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The 30 Sexiest Comic Heroines – #10-1

It’s been a long, fun and interesting journey to get to the end, and I feel pretty confidant about these final choices. However, the list went through a few changes and edits while I was putting it together and I figured it’s only appropriate to recognize some of the honorable mentions who almost made this list.

Some came down to personal preference, like Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat. While she’s definitely got her fans, I’ve never really enjoyed the character or understood her appeal. For similar reasons, Power Girl was not really considered either.

A couple of notable omissions are anti-heroes like Emma Frost, Harley Quinn and Catwoman. All certainly have their appeal, but I’ve chosen to save them for another take on this list where we look at the sexy side of villainy. This list is more about acknowledging heroic women with strong moral ideals, and those characters just didn’t seem to fit the overall theme.

And then there’s a few who just didn’t make the cut because I only had thirty spots. Some notable ones include the Huntress, Renee Montoya as The Question, Flash’s love interests Iris West and Patty Spivot, Rachel Summers, Dazzler and Mary Marvel.

Carol Danvers

#10. Carol Danvers (Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel)

Whether she’s going by Ms. Marvel or Captain Marvel, the alien-enhanced U.S. airforce captain is one of the most powerful and capable women in the Marvel universe. But don’t blame yourself if you haven’t heard of her; Carol’s gone through some serious down times; she’s been an alcoholic and was even put in a coma for years when the then Brotherhood member Rogue absorbed all of her powers. But she’s also been a valued member and even leader of the Avengers, and has been starring in some of the better comics Marvel has been publishing in recent years. And in a few years she’ll be coming to the big screen as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

From a personality standpoint, I tend to describe Carol as a cross between two DC heroes: Wonder Woman and Hal Jordan. She’s a warrior, a leader and a negotiator, but she’s also an adventurer and an explorer. And a bit of a dork. She’s a devoted Star Wars fan and even has a dog named “Chewie”. But perhaps the blonde bombshell’s most admirable trait is that the character has overcome so much adversity to be better than ever. Perseverance under pressure is always cool, and trust me; people want a significant other who is inspirational on some level.

Sue Storm

#9. Sue Storm (The Invisible Woman)

When compiling this list, Susan Storm was a name that came to mind a little late in the game, but once I thought about her she quickly ascended the ranks. I am a huge Fantastic Four fan and have a deep love for all of the characters, and Sue is pretty near the top of that list. More commonly known as the Invisible Woman, Sue is known both for her signature ability to vanish from sight as well as her energy shields that arguably make her the most dangerous member of the Fantastic Four. But while the FF are adventurers, scientists and superheroes, they are above all else, family. And Sue is really the glue that holds it all together.

It’s said that you can best judge the character of the person you’re dating by how they treat the people around them. If that’s the case, Sue is one of the best catches in comics. She is the older sister that both cares for Johnny and makes sure that his ego doesn’t get out of line. Even without their romantic interest, Susan is a grounding force for Reed Richards, reminding him that there are more important things than science and work. Ben Grimm can count her perhaps his best emotional support; she has helped keep from falling into despair. Sue is a woman whose presence strengthens everyone around her and makes them better than they may be. Hard not to fall for someone like that.


8. Jean Grey (Marvel Girl/Phoenix)

Jean Grey was probably modeled off of Sue Storm and serves a similar function for her team. But I think Jean stands out a little bit more and is a better, more interesting character, so she narrowly edges out Sue. Throughout her history, Jean has been many things. Marvel Girl was a quiet introvert, Phoenix was a more outgoing and passionate person, Dark Phoenix was an extremely powerful megalomaniac with a dominatrix thing going… Pardon me, I seem to have lost my train of thought there for a moment. My point is that the appeal of Jean is sort of a mix between the “girl next door” archetype and the “danger is sexy” trope I’ve brought up a couple of times. On one hand she’s this incredibly nice, loving person who will do anything to help other people. On the other hand there’s a monster inside of her that can be incredibly damaging when it gets loose.

That mix of elements is probably what most defines Jean. Whatever you’re attracted to, it’s likely you can find at least some of it in the character of Jean Grey. And while that is great, it is a bit of a double-edged sword for the purposes of this list. Her personality is harder to nail down and thus it’s harder to analyze what exactly makes her so appealing. But then, there’s a lot of appeal in that too; she’s got layers, so she’ll always be interesting. If perhaps fatally so.

Black Canary

#7. Dinah Laurel Lance (Black Canary)

Ah, Black Canary. Crime-fighting martial arts expert, flirty and witty girlfriend of Green Arrow, brilliant and capable leader of the Birds of Prey, wearer of fishnet leggings, owner of an excellent singing voice… what’s not to love? For those not familiar with the comic version of Black Canary (or any of her excellent animated counterparts), Dinah is kind of a softer version of Black Widow. And no, I don’t mean more vulnerable, I just mean that she doesn’t have the colorful past history that Romanoff has. So she’s got a lot of the appeal of a dangerous, knowledgeable woman who’s on top of things, but doesn’t come with so much baggage. That makes her a little less intimidating.

Another key aspect of Canary is that while she is completely viable as a solo character, she has some key relationships that really flesh out her character. She’s the sometimes girlfriend, sometimes wife of Green Arrow, and while they have their issues they are an excellent example of a couple that respects each other’s abilities and support one another. So she’s got a pretty good history of being a loyal, supportive and loving partner. Definitely a plus. She’s also a big sister of sorts to Barbara Gordon and Huntress, her Birds of Prey teammates. She’s helps keep Helena’s dark side in check, and helps keep Barbara optimistic during some of the toughest times of her life. So, take everything awesome about Sue Storm and everything awesome about Black Widow and you get Dinah Lance.


#6. Lois Lane

As probably the first significant female character in comic books, Lois Lane has a very long history and not all of it is good. She started as a constant damsel in distress for Superman adventures; some could argue that falling through the sky to be saved by Superman was her defining trait. Fortunately, Lois Lane has evolved into a much more fleshed out character. She’s smart and extremely quick-witted, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, and perhaps most importantly, she’s just as relentless about pursuing truth and justice as Superman. Lois is the kind of reporter who doesn’t care what feathers she ruffles or what personal danger she puts herself through; where there is crime and corruption, she will be there to shine a light on it.

Lois is arguably intended to be the “feminine ideal” in the same way Superman is for men. She’s independent, intelligent, confident and passionate. She’s got respect for herself and expects everyone else to respect her in turn. Her moral center is what drives her work and she is always trying to help other people. One could argue that this is an impossible standard. But much like Superman, I think Lois Lane is a pretty good role model for anyone. She fights for what she wants and does it for the right reasons and without compromising her integrity or her self respect.

Wonder Woman

#5. Diana of Themyscira (Wonder Woman)

If you’re read more than a few of my columns, you’re probably well aware of my undying love for Wonder Woman. Diana is my favorite superhero, but I don’t think she outranks the other four women ahead of her. The iconic prototype for female superheroes, Diana combines the physical strength and martial skill of male heroes like Superman and Batman, and adds a more feminine touch to it. Wonder Woman’s primary traits are her unconditional love and her honesty. Diana cares about everyone, fights for everyone, and tries to make life better for as many people as possible. She is also extremely honest and expects the same out of others, and isn’t afraid to use force (and a magic lasso) to get it.

Women love her because she’s a symbol that women can have strength and skill, and that they deserve equal respect. Men love her because even though she is representative of female strength, she is an equalist; men and women should be respected equally. She’s physically stunning and imposing, but also emotionally vulnerable. She’s supportive and caring but also has high standards. She’s fierce and competitive and driven but also gentle and kind and wise. By whatever measure one wants to measure beauty, Wonder Woman is going to knock it out of the park.


4. Zatanna Zatara

Many women who have made this list are physically imposing and a lot of the appeal is that they are stronger than the man or woman who is crushing on the character. Strength is largely attractive because we equate it with security, and safety is conducive to intimacy which paves the way for sexual fireworks. But there’s the opposite end of that too, and Zatanna’s a perfect example. DC’s most famous magician is generally depicted as petite and not the best hand to hand fighter. Her sex appeal isn’t in her physical power; Zatanna’s more the kind of person one describes as “cute” or “adorable”. Which I totally go for. See Gordon, Barbara. She’s outgoing, flirtatious, unpredictable and likes to create her own fun. Without being too stereotypical, I’d have to imagine that many comic book fans like me tend to be more on the introverted side and creatures of habit. If opposites attract, it’s no surprise so many of us love Zatanna.

But the cool thing about Zatanna is that her magical powers make her both one of the best escape artists and potentially one of the most powerful heroes in the DC Universe. She has unbelievable magic power at her disposal and has used it to help save the world numerous times. But if left to her own devices she’d rather use her gifts to put on a show and entertain others. She is a performer, the center of attention who manages to do so without being arrogant or annoying.


#3. Koriand’r (Starfire)

Starfire is sadly a name that is synonymous with controversy. Many artists have made her the poster child for stripperiffic, impractical costumes that make her a sex object. Sadly, some writers have also found it acceptable to strip away her personality as much as her clothes, making her something that is less of an actual character and more of a pin-up model. These are all valid arguments, but sadly it has taken away from a very simple fact; when written with some actual care, Koriand’r is one of the most fun, likable, and yes, genuinely sexy characters in comics. After all, she’s a Marv Wolfman creation and Marv simply doesn’t create bad characters, especially when they are one of the main characters of a long running and beloved comic book series like The New Teen Titans.

So for those who may only know Starfire for being the subject of some incredibly poor writing and shameless artwork, let me explain what it is that makes us love Kori. First, it’s important to understand that she is very much a counterpart to fellow Teen Titan member Raven. Raven is an introverted pacifist who keeps her emotions bottled up. Starfire is an extremely curious and outgoing person who loves life and tries to squeeze as much out of every day as possible. For those who read Red Hood and the Outlaws and took issue with her having sex with two guys really quickly, there’s nothing wrong with that. Women are people, not things; they deserve sexual autonomy and Kori has always had that. She’s not going to wait around for a boy she likes to make a move; she’ll take the first step because life is too short to wait. What is out of character was the lack of emotion involved; Kori is all emotion; joy and anger and sadness, all felt intensely and coming across transparently. That’s what readers love about Kori, and that’s why she’s so high on this list.


#2. Anna Marie (Rogue)

An often repeated phrase in this series has been “danger is exciting, and thus danger is sexy”. Rogue may be that truth to the absolute extreme; her mutation causes her to drain the life force, powers and memories of anyone who comes in contact with her skin. Super deadly. Even worse? Rogue couldn’t control it for the longest time; so she literally could not have sex ever without killing someone. That’s way beyond forbidden fruit there. On its own, it may have kept Rogue from ever being considered attractive by some. But when you take that power and mix it with a feisty, flirty powerhouse with a Southern accent, you have perhaps the most sexually frustrating character in comics. And one of the most common fan crushes in the industry.

Heck, for many of us, seeing and hearing Rogue on the 1990’s X-Men cartoon was the spark that made us realize that we actually did want to have a girlfriend. It also made us feel incredibly bad for Rogue and her main love interest, Gambit. These two always seemed to be made for each other, enjoying each other’s company and obviously caring for each other even they were butting heads. But Rogue’s mutation made it impossible to even kiss for more than a moment. Rogue raises a lot of questions for readers; would we be able to be a committed lover to someone if sexual contact was out of the question. For many, Rogue was worth it. So she went from being this incredibly source of sexual frustration to helping us realize there are more important things.


#1. Ororo Munroe (Storm)

Trying to pick the top woman for this list was very difficult, but ultimate I feel confident in putting Storm at the top of this list. Ororo has consistently been a major part of the X-Men for a long time and has maintained a high level of popularity from her initial appearances and all the way to today. Other than Wonder Woman, she’s probably the most well known female superhero to the general public. And she has many of the same traits that Diana has. She’s got power, both physically (she’s usually depicted as six feet tall and very well muscled) and because of her ability to control the weather. But she’s also a gentle, loving soul who is very much a pacifist and a nurturer. Somehow she manages to come across as both wise beyond her years and able to enjoy life with reckless abandon.

Ororo’s definitely got some of the exotic appeal to her, and not just because she’s one of the few truly iconic black female characters in comics. The white hair and blue eyes would stand out even if she were a real person. Many of her earlier appearances put her in the position of a stranger in a strange land, someone who isn’t used to Western customs or ideals. Though it isn’t as drastic as say, Kitty Pryde, Storm has still shown considerable growth. She started as a young, almost naive woman who felt out of place to a woman who felt at home with the X-Men and was soon capable of leading them. Ororo has many aspects that could appeal to someone, whether they want someone who is strong and steady, emotionally vulnerable, wise or curious, mature or young at heart. And unlike some characters, Ororo’s personality seems to blend perfectly into one definite character, as opposed to various interpretations that don’t always match up.


The 30 Sexiest Comic Heroines – #20-11

It’s time for the second part of this list, and just in case you haven’t gotten the memo from the first part, this is more of a critical look at why readers fall in love with certain comic book women. This is not an excuse to post pictures of comic book characters in revealing clothing. I actually nearly gave myself a headache trying to find pictures of some of these women that were in relatively normal clothes and were still quality art.

At the end of the day, personality is a lot sexier than a pretty girl in a bikini. These are the DC and Marvel heroines that fit all that criteria.


#20. Betsy Braddock (Psylocke)

One of the archetypal character types for making a woman who is, shall we say, designed to have sex appeal is to make them an exotic beauty, a woman who doesn’t look like everyone around here. Exotic is different, different is exciting, it makes us want to know more about that person because we feel like they’ve lived a life we don’t know about. Elizabeth Braddock is a British model whose signature is her purple hair. Well that should already make her stand out from the pack. But nope, Marvel did us one better; through a crazy psychic body swap, Betsy’s mind is now in the body of Kwannan. So now she’s a British model living in the body of a Japanese ninja with purple hair. And those don’t come around too often. So Psylocke is already super attractive just because she stands out from virtually everybody.

Psylocke is also the first psychic to be on the list (she won’t be the only one), and that is an interesting trait. The idea of a woman being able to read a man’s mind can be utterly terrifying, especially given Betsy is best known for her stripperiffic outfit shown above in the most tasteful pose I could find. But on the other end, the idea that Betsy could fall in love with us even though she knows what we are thinking is really attractive. People want to be accepted for who they are and at the end of the day you can’t lie to a psychic. So if Betsy’s in love with you, you must be pretty special. The idea of being that in tune with someone is a pretty awesome thing to think about.


#19. Kara Zor-El (Supergirl)

And from the extremely exotic to the epitome of the “girl next door” trope, we know have Supergirl. Like her cousin, Kara is kind of meant to embody the “feminine ideal” for readers. This of course means that she’s gone through some phases in different points in history that don’t exactly hold up to feminist standards. And no, Supergirl in her original incarnation is not a character I particularly enjoy; she’s pretty and compassionate and well… “nice”. But she lacks agency or layers to her personality, and Superman is in far too much control of her life. The only thing I like about this Supergirl is that I can at least look at her outfit without feeling a dirty old man.

But the more modern takes on the character are much more interesting. She’s no longer obedient, she rebels from time to time and sometimes that works out for her and sometimes it gets her in trouble. Which is a much better take on teenage characters, something that is easier to relate to. I enjoy her even more in the New 52, where she has little to do with her cousin and is instead a girl trying to find her place in the world. She’s somebody who feels like she could be your best friend, somebody who would go on an adventure with you.


#18. Jennifer Walters (She-Hulk)

I am a firm believer that many men are attracted to women who can beat them up. There’s a sense of danger there and danger is exciting. But especially in a genre with as much action as comic books, it’s also nice to know that our partner can take care of themselves and can save us if we need them too. Yeah, there’s appeal in the “damsel in distress” character, but it can also get really annoying in a hurry. One look at She-Hulk, Strongest Woman There Is, and we know she can take care of herself.

Fortunately, She-Hulk’s personality is as much of a force of nature as her body. Jennifer Walters is Bruce Banner’s cousin, a lawyer who is a bit timid but very smart and very funny; the She-Hulk however, lacks her inhibitions. She’s not afraid to be funny or outspoken or confident in her abilities. This again is very appealing trait; She-Hulk just doesn’t know how to be fake. She’s always honest and always blunt, and there’s a lot of appeal in that. And of course, this can’t be overstated; She-Hulk has never hesitated about pursuing relationships; she’s not going to be chased, she’s the chaser. Again, blunt honesty and aggression is a turn-on for plenty of guys; the fact that she’s funny is even better.

Gwen Stacey

#17. Gwen Stacy (Spider-Woman)

Peter Parker first met Gwen Stacey in college, and despite a few obstacles, they quickly hit it off and were a well-functioning couple. Being the girlfriend of one of the most popular characters in comics, especially the one who was most designed to relate to teenagers, Gwen was sort of an “America’s Sweetheart” type; everyone loved Gwen. She was kind of the Betty to Mary Jane’s Veronica; not as outgoing or “exciting”, but kinder, more mature and more capable of handling a stable relationship. Honestly, were it not for her death, I imagine that Peter and Gwen would have become married. Many consider Gwen’s death to be the moment when comics lost their innocence and “grew up” to face the real world, which wasn’t always happy. Gwen is a symbol of that childlike innocence and the hope that we could have a happy ending.

Gwen was before my time, although her impact was still felt in later media. The Mary Jane Watson from Sam Raimi’s movies honestly has a lot more in common with Gwen than the comics MJ as far as personality goes. And conversely, the Gwen Stacey that Emma Stone plays (a much better love interest) has a bit of MJ’s fire, but is still definitely Gwen. Marvel has tried different ways to bring Gwen back (clones… ugh), but I think by far the most successful has been “Spider-Gwen”, an alternate reality where Gwen is bitten by the radioactive spider. And… yeah, that is pretty much a perfect idea. Gwen Stacey as Spider-Woman is awesome. Definitely a good way to update the character for more modern tastes.

Pepper Potts

#16. Pepper Potts

Pepper Potts is kind of an interesting case. Though she was introduced as Tony Stark’s personality secretary with a crush, their relationship was never one that went anywhere. No, she eventually fell in love with and married Harold “Happy” Hogan, Stark’s butler. And yep, the idea that a smart, funny, pretty girl like Pepper would eventually give up on the selfish, arrogant pretty boy for the steady, reliable guy who doesn’t look like Hercules is a huge point in her favor. I am sure most comic book fans have a lot more in common with Happy Hogan than with Iron Man. The “nice guy wins” is a story that is always going to make that guy’s partner more attractive.

However, Pepper seems to be subject of a bit of a war between some writers who want her with Tony and others who want her with Hogan. Sadly, Tony eventually won out in order to make things more in line with the Iron Man movies, where Gwyneth Paltrow stars as the character and is the primary love interest of Tony. Fortunately, I am a big fan of that couple and Paltrow definitely brings a lot of personality that has influenced the comics version in positive ways. Pepper fulfills two things that will always be attractive. She’s got that blunt honesty that I talked about with She-Hulk; she always calls out Tony on his crap; self-respect and standards are always a good thing. But she’s also the ultimate caretaker; her job is basically the same as Alfred Pennyworth. She is the ultimate support system for Tony, and that is probably what makes her stand out most.


#15. Kate Kane (Batwoman)

Again, being unique is always a good way to endear readers. Being easily the highest profile lesbian in comics gives Batwoman a huge edge in that department; she’s the standard that future gay characters are probably going to be held to. Kate Kane is actually the second version of Batwoman; the Silver Age version of the character was, ironically enough, created to make a love interest for Batman to show that he was not gay after concerns raised by the book “The Seduction of the Innocent”. Fortunately, we have evolved a bit as a society and there is a growing desire to see LGBT characters be represented in comics. Kate is an excellent example of this. While being gay is not her only defining trait thanks to her superhero career, close relationship with her father and her military background, it is not a simple personality quirk either. A major part of Batwoman comics is about Kate’s relationships with other women.

And not just the sex stuff either. The dates, the personality clashes, the ups and downs of a relationship. Kate’s relationship with Maggie Sawyer is one of my favorite in comics, and one of the more unique. In addition to being an example of a lesbian relationship that is given a lot of time and development and is usually pretty healthy, it’s also a generational gap. Maggie is much older than Kate and that is a key dynamic of their relationship. While there is plenty to love about Batwoman comics, from the supernatural element to J.H. Williams III’s gorgeous art style, what always stands out to me is that it is a romance comic done right. And well written relationships with two likable yet distinct characters will always be sexy.


#14. Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat)

From one Jewish Katherine to another, it’s time to take a look at the X-Men who can walk through walls, Kitty Pryde. When it comes to examining why Kitty is on this list, it comes down to a pretty simple reason. X-Men fans have grown up with her, and she has grown up with them. Kitty was introduced as a fourteen year old girl who wasn’t quite ready to be on the team; in many ways, a link between the typical reader and the fantastic world of X-Men comics. And she’s likable from the start; full of spunk, creativity and courage but also emotionally vulnerable and often out of her depth. Easy to relate to, Kitty is a character that many people saw themselves in, and many fell in love with.

Fortunately, Kitty has been anything but stagnant. We’ve seen her take on rigorous warrior training from Wolverine, so we know that she’s tough and has self-discipline. We’ve seen her leave the team to join Excalibur, so we know she’s independent and willing to take risks. We’ve seen her become a teacher and a leader, so we know she’s intelligent and capable and confident. And yet through all of that, Kitty has never stopped being the optimistic, compassionate person that we first knew. And she recently became one of the spokesman for why the anti-bigotry message of the X-Men will always be important; she’s proud of who she is, unafraid to claim it, and inspires us to be the same.

Black Widow

#13. Natasha Romanov (Black Widow)

The fact that Black Widow has become a breakout character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is played by one of the most attractive women on the planet has certainly raised awareness of the character and helped make her a more major player. But this isn’t about Scarlett Johanssen and how awesome she is. Black Widow from the comics still has plenty to like about her. She’s still the best spy in the Marvel Universe and is an incredibly dangerous fighter, and a member of the Avengers. There’s that danger thing I keep bringing up. She’s also a bad girl turned good; she debuted as a villain but eventually had a change of heart and joined The Avengers. Yep, there’s another mark in her favor.

But perhaps the most important difference between the comic version and the movie version is that Black Widow is a much older woman. So instead of being the incredibly hot twenty something who we probably shouldn’t mess with, she’s the incredibly hot older woman who is so dangerous that she could eat us alive.Yeah, that about seals the deal. Natasha’s mix of intelligence, skill as a warrior, willingness to use her sexuality to her advantage, ability to bend the rules, and a long life of experience make her an extremely intimidating woman. And that is always going to appeal to certain people, including me.

Donna Troy

#12. Donna Troy (Wonder Girl)

To understand the appeal of Donna Troy, Wonder Woman’s sidekick/protegy, one first needs to understand what makes Wonder Woman appealing. Wonder Woman is a warrior, but one who fights for peace and equality. She holds up very lofty ideals and is very capable of standing up for them. She is simultaneously fierce and gentle, compassionate and ruthless. That is all very awesome. Now take these traits, and add them to a younger girl who is closer in age to the target audience. Where can you go wrong? Donna Troy has Diana’s lofty ideals, but has a younger perspective on things. When Wonder Woman gives a speech about equality it can almost come across as a scolding mother. When it’s Donna, it feels like a friend giving helpful advice to help you grow as a person.

But beyond that, Donna is mostly just a girl who feels like she just knows how to handle the world and whatever it throws at her. If you read George Perez and Marv Wolfman’s run on Teen Titans, you’ll notice that Donna is the only Titan holding down a job. She’s got her own boyfriend and it isn’t another superhero, but a teacher without superpowers. And she has enough experience as a fighter not to be afraid of the danger that goes on around her. And like Kitty Pryde, she’s a character that grew along with the audience, going from a young teenager to a young woman; that feeling that you’ve grown up with someone and seen them reach their potential provides an intimate relationship that lends itself to fan crushes.

Mary Jane

#11. Mary Jane Watson

Can I just take a moment to please ask any fans of Mary Jane Watson who have pictures of her where she isn’t undressing, wearing Spider-Man clothes, or showing off impossible flexibility, please put them up on the internet? I love Mary Jane, but man it was hard to find a picture of her that was more current and didn’t make me feel like I was one step away from looking at pornography. And that’s really why I’m doing this list; there is so much more that goes into sexual attraction than just physical attractiveness and these should be realized. A good writer and a good artist should be able to make their characters appealing and yes, even sexy, without showing them undressing. That way, when the character does show off a bit we have an established emotional connection to the character. This is the difference between “fan service” and “cheesecake”; one is showing off the sensuality of a beloved character and the other is just sexual objectification.

Now that I have that out of my system, let’s talk about Mary Jane Watson, the iconic girlfriend/wife of Spider-Man. There’s basically two key phases of Mary Jane’s life that are extremely sexually appealing, but in different ways. She first shows up as a confident, self-assured party-goer who is way out of Peter Parker’s league but doesn’t see herself that way. The character has flaws, being a bit stuck up and shallow, but that just makes her a bit more human. And it means all the more when she grows out of that after Gwen Stacy’s death; she was just as close to Gwen as Peter was and that death causes her to grow up a bit. This brings me to other important aspect; MJ and Peter married and spent a very long time as a couple. And as the ultra-supportive, loving wife of Spider-Man she fulfills a fantasy that a lot of people don’t get; a loving, committed partner who is in for the long haul.

The Top Twelve – Superhero Movies

This list is just my own person favorites and not intended to be a scientific or definitive list. I don’t expect my opinions to be shared by everyone, but at least that should make this a refreshing read, right?


#12. X2: X-Men United (2003)

Not enough credit is given to Bryan Singer’s X-Men films these days. I think the poor quality of X-Men 3 (2006) and X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) as well as the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has made people forget that before X-Men released to positive reviews in 2000, superhero movies were pretty much a joke. The Batman franchise was dead and buried thanks to Batman and Robin (1998) and the most successful comic book franchise was Blade. Anyway, the first film was good but the second one was even better. Wolverine’s origins were explored, the tension between humans and mutants took center stage, Nightcrawler was a worthy addition to the cast, and everyone from Mystique to Pyro got meaningful character development. Twelve years later this film still stands as one of the best ensemble superhero movies and arguably the blueprint for The Avengers movies.


#11. Superman (1978)

The first modern superhero film is still one of the best. The movie told us that we would believe a man would fly, and thanks to the cutting edge special effects, it’s still easy to believe Superman can fly almost four decades later. But more importantly, thanks to Christopher Reeve we believed that Superman could act; his portrayal of the Man of Steel was so different from his portrayal as mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent that it was easy to believe nobody could make the connection. To me this is the standard for everything that was to come; it’s also so much better than Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel (2013) that it isn’t even funny.


#10. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Yesterday I wrote about how awesome Doctor Octopus was in this film and how the movie raised the bar for action in the genre. But there is plenty more to love about Sam Raimi’s second Spider-Man movie. The characters are older and more complex. Peter feels more of the toll that being Spider-Man takes on his personal life, which is probably the most important dynamic of the character in the comics. Harry Osborn really comes into his own in this film as well. While the franchise took a nose dive after this, this is still a high point and I feel is the film that should be most closely modeled when Marvel brings Peter Parker into their cinematic universe.


#9. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

The most recent addition to this list, Age of Ultron is a worthy follow up to the most successful superhero movie of all time and another hit in Marvel’s recent flurry of creative successes. The all-star casts returns and by this point could play the characters in their sleep. Jeremy Renner’s increased role as Hawkeye arguably makes him the breakout star of the movie, but everyone has their moments. The Maximoff Twins worked better than I could have hoped and the Vision ended up as one of the best parts of the movie instead of the straw that broke the camel’s back. Ultron was also a strong antagonist who entertained me in ways I didn’t expect. While not as good as the first one, it’s still a great time at the movies.


#8. The Wolverine (2013)

Hugh Jackman has been playing Wolverine for about fifteen years at this point, but for my money, it’s this film where he gave his greatest performance as the character. I love this movie because it is a great character study and a solid action film and doesn’t try to be more than that. I also enjoy the film for helping wipe away the bad memory of Logan’s first solo film, and for not trying to insult me for being a comic book fan like other movies from 2013. If you haven’t had a chance to see it yet I highly recommend it.


#7. Iron Man (2008)

I remember going to the theaters to see this movie and not having overly high expectations. As difficult as it may be to imagine now, Tony Stark was hardly a pop culture icon. I knew of him mostly because I played War of the Gems on Super Nintendo. By the time the movie was over I was in love with Iron Man and even more in love with Robert Downey, Jr. Turns out I wasn’t the only one; this movie helped launch Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and made Robert a high profile star once again. And it still holds up as one of the most fun comic movies out there, and is far better than its sequels.


#6. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

I remember when Marvel announced that they were doing this movie shortly after the release of The Avengers and thinking that they may have gone in over their heads a bit. Sure, Iron Man and Thor weren’t exactly cultural icons but the Guardians of the Galaxy were obscure even by comic book standards. I expected this to bomb hard, but that is why Kevin Feige is a millionaire and I am writing about his movies. Guardians of the Galaxy was irreverent, innovative and glorious entertainment, introducing audiences to a slew of new characters that almost all comic book fans have come to adore. Including myself. This movie is fantastic and arguably the best launch of a franchise ever.


#5. Batman Begins (2005)

Then again, this is a pretty good argument too. While I have gained a certain appreciation for the 1989 Tim Burton film Batman, especially Michael Keaton’s performance as the caped crusader, I have to say that on the whole those movies fell flat for me. And let’s not even talk about the Joel Schumacher films. But Christopher Nolan’s reboot of the character in movies was the breath of fresh air that the character needed, the most serious dramatic film based on a comic book to date. This told the origin and training of Batman so well that I don’t think it ever needs to be addressed again.


#4. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

It was a long and bumpy road, but the third Bryan Singer directed X-Men film was more than worth the wait. Featuring a story that was loosely based on one of the best stories in the X-Men’s history, this film brings together the cast of the original series with the younger cast from X-Men: First Class (2011) to stellar results. In many ways this is my favorite comic book movie, because it felt like a reward for sticking with the series even after it burned me as a viewer more than a couple of times. Unfortunately, being a movie that runs on time travel, there are some serious logic problems that sometimes distract from the experience, but other than the film is a blast. Especially when Pietro is involved.


#3. Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)

Here’s a bright idea; take a World War II soldier, a Norse God, Frankenstein’s monster, a female James Bond, a male Katniss Everdeen, and a man in a flying robot suit and make a movie. This should have been a disaster, but Marvel’s careful world building mixed with talented actors mixed with Joss Whedon’s writing and directing somehow formed the perfect mixture for what may be the best comic book movie ever. It’s a miracle that this film works as well as it does. Which is spectacularly. I think I saw this movie around five times in theaters and was never bored, and I still like to throw it in when I have nothing better to do. One of the best popcorn flicks ever put together.


#2. The Dark Knight (2008)

Batman Begins was a great… beginning, but it turned out to be a mere appetizer for the most critically acclaimed film based on a comic book ever. The Dark Knight is more of a serious crime thriller than escapist popcorn fun, though it does have its moments. However, this was one of the first movies to take the heroes and villains seriously and show that they actually can be symbols with greater meaning. Even if it did beat those points into the ground. Still, it’s got a ton of great performances and an Oscar-winning Heath Ledger as The Joker, one of the all time great antagonists in cinema; not just comic book movies, but movies in general. It’s a remarkable piece of film making, and it just happens to involve a guy in a bat mask.


#1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

If one takes the comic book escapism of The Avengers and blends it with the real world seriousness of The Dark Knight, you get the conspiracy thriller action film called Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I was a huge fan of the first Captain America film but the sequel was an improvement in every single way. Chris Evans is brilliant as Steve Rogers, there’s a strong supporting cast and a genuinely compelling plot. The action scenes are gorgeously choreographed and feature a lot of practical stunt work, and the film even brings in political concepts from the real world to discuss them. It’s my favorite comic book movie and I think it’ll be a while before anything challenges it.

The Top 50 Marvel Cinematic Universe Moments – #40-31

Before you read this post, if you haven’t checked out #50-41, I strongly suggest doing so. Other than that, I just want to give a few brief reminders that this list A) only involves the ten theatrical Marvel Cinematic Universe films, and B) is completely subjective and not meant to be a definitive or objective list. It’s a collection of the moments that made me happy to watch this universe unfold.

Captain America: The First Avenger

#40. Not Meant For Ordinary Men (Captain America: The First Avenger)

The first substantial scene in Captain America: The First Avenger may seem like an odd choice for this list at first. It’s an introduction to Johann Schmidt (a memorable performance from Hugo Weaving) and to the Tesseract, the all powerful weapon of both this film and The Avengers. Okay, so Thor had a brief scene after the credits, but this was where we got a sense of what the cube was and where it came from. And this is the important thing. Up until this point, the MCU had struggled to create a sense of real connection. Iron Man 2 felt awkward with it’s references, but this was the first time an important element from one film affected another. Norse Mythology is established as being real in the MCU in the first Thor film, which allows this scene to feel connected to that movie. It was the first time that Marvel real got it right when it came to presenting their movies as feeling like one giant story.

Trouble Sleeping

#39. Trouble Sleeping (Iron Man 3)

One of the few story elements that I really enjoyed in Iron Man 3 was Tony Stark’s post traumatic stress after the events of The Avengers. While for us fanboys that battle was pretty much the greatest moment ever, in the universe itself it’s a truly horrible moment with a lot of consequences. For Tony Stark, it’s a wake-up call that his Iron Man suit isn’t the answer to everything. He can keep peace on Earth, but what about the greater cosmic forces at play? In this movie we see him creating suit after suit after suit because he feels unsafe and anxious to the point of paranoia. This point really hits home when the Mark 43 armor attacks Pepper Potts in her sleep because Tony is calling out for it. It is here that we see how big of a problem Tony’s anxiety can be for the people he loves and nicely sets up the idea that he could be desperate enough to create Ultron in the new Avengers film.


#38. Emil Blonsky: Crack Addict (The Incredible Hulk)

Emil Blonsky is my favorite character in The Incredible Hulk and is the main reason I keep coming back to it despite it’s flaws. Tim Roth is a treasure with a unique charisma that elevates any role he’s in, and this is no exception. Blonsky is the complete opposite of Bruce Banner; Bruce gets ultimate power in an accident and wants to get rid of it, while Blonsky pursues that some power relentlessly because he can never have enough of it. Watching the transformation from mercenary to super soldier to monster is the true delight in this flick and makes Abomination one of my favorite villains in the MCU. My favorite scene in particular is when he stares into a mirror, looking like he’s going through heroine withdrawal before his spinal column starts trying to push through his skin. It’s great stuff.


#37. Thor vs. Malekith (Thor: The Dark World)

Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith is an underdeveloped personality, but in terms of providing an imposing villain he was a definite step up for Marvel movies. One of the smartest decisions in this film was keeping Malekith and Thor separated for the bulk of the movie. They have a brief interaction where Thor scars his face with a lightning bolt after Malekith has Thor’s mother killed, but they never come to blows because Thor is preoccupied with destroying the Aether or fighting Malekith’s allies. So when we get to the climax, it feels fresh and there’s enough damage on both ends to make us really believe they hate each other. And with the Aether powering him up, he’s a believable threat to Thor as well. Their confrontation was one of the best in any Marvel film, and really stands out because of the portals that makes the fight literally span worlds.

Oh Crap

#36. Pepper Potts: Extremis-Powered Action Girl (Iron Man 3)

Pepper Potts was always one of the best characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, played by Gwyneth Paltrow and always keeping pace with Robert Downey, Jr’s Tony Stark. Their chemistry has been a highlight of all of the Iron Man films. In the bounds of normal reality, her intelligence, self reliance and refusal to take crap from even Tony Stark make her a strong character without being overstated. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t immensely satisfying when she gets a power boost from Extremis in Iron Man 3 and beats the living daylights out of Aldritch Killian in the film’s final act. It allows the strength of her character to be showcased in a way that’s more traditionally “Marvel” as opposed to a grounded reality.

Black and White

#35. “What Do You Want Me To Be?” (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)

One of the smartest choices in The Winter Soldier is the addition of Natasha Romanoff to the story. Black Widow is a character that helps highlight the conspiracy thriller nature of the film; the movie is a web of secrets and so is Nat, so this is a character that establishes the tone. But the real brilliance here is that even though Steve Rogers and Natasha have worked together as Avengers, they have totally different ideologies that conflict with one another. Steve comes from a simpler time and doesn’t believe in compromising for the sake of good, while Natasha is a product of the modern political climate and has no problem bending the rules for the greater good. Over the course of this film they learn to trust each other and begin to affect each other; Steve learns how to handle the modern world better and Natasha becomes more of an idealist who realizes where she stands. This is all signs that Steve’s response to that question has merit. “How about a friend?” The Winter Soldier has strong themes of friendship throughout and this is one of the best examples.


#34. Iron Man and War Machine vs. Whiplash (Iron Man 2) 

Colonel James Rhodes has been an important part of all three Iron Man films, and Don Cheadle was a definite upgrade from Terrence Howard. While the first film hinted at Rhodes being in a suit, the second film delivered on the premise. Tony and James come to blows when Rhodes takes the Mark II Armor, but the real highlight is in the finale when we get to see them fighting together. The War Machine amor stands out from Tony’s as a heavier, more military style suit. The scene where two best friends mow down Hammer drones despite a tactical awful location is riveting and the follow up suit with Anton Vanko (Mickey Rourke) is a satisfyingly explosive conclusion to the movie.


#33. A Man Standing Above Everyone Else (The Avengers)

The Avengers is a movie that’s pretty much made of awesome moments; it’s essentially the climactic chapter of a six-film story, after all. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki returns and is used to magnificent effect, and I feel really came into his own in this scene in Germany. Commanding everyone to kneel before him and giving a grand speech about how humans crave subjugation really made him a grander villain that he was in Thor and helped us believe he could be a threat to all of the Avengers. I think the scene probably works best because Joss Whedon’s atheist and humanist beliefs allowed him to write the religious undertones of this speech in a way that really got under our skin. And the scene takes a new turn when perhaps the perfect contrast to Loki arrives in the form of Steve Rogers. He reminds of his World War II history and challenges Loki despite being severely outmatched. It’s a great moment featuring two characters that honestly have no business being in the same film together.


#32. The Hulk vs. The Abomination (The Incredible Hulk)

I struggled with the placement of this fight on this list, but I always knew it would be on here. I feel like later fight scenes (even the Malekith vs. Thor fight I placed earlier on this list) were done better, but there’s an extra meta layer to this one that deserves to be acknowledged. This fight is an apology to fans who were disappointed with the 2003 Hulk film and it’s lack of a decent villain fight. This movie delivered it in spades; the clash between Hulk and Abomination was epic and had a lot of force and weight behind it, and some impressive creativity. Hulk doesn’t just smash Blonsky with his fists for ten minutes, he makes uses of his surroundings and fights intelligently, something that I do have to admit is missing from Hulk in The Avengers. There’s also a perfect moment where Hulk says his iconic “HULK SMASH!” line for the first time on the big screen. However, I do feel this fight was a little excessive, both in length and in the brutality department. It’s an imperfect gift but it was heartfelt and therefore I still greatly appreciate it.

I am Iron Man

#31. “I Am Iron Man” (Iron Man)

The secret identity has been a major trope of pretty much every superhero comic and especially in movie adaptations. Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and Daredevil all had dual lives, and it would have been very easy for Marvel to do this with Iron Man. After all, Tony kept his identity a secret in the comics for decades. Instead, the first film in the MCU ends on an emphatic statement where Tony says that he is Iron Man. While this may seem trivial, it sets a precedent. There is no duality to the big screen heroes of the MCU; they are who they are. Tony Stark and the suit are one. We all know that Bruce transforms into the Hulk, Steve Rogers is a living legend who everybody knows, and Thor is… well, Thor. This movie changed the game by letting us fans know that we could see a lot of conventions done away with. And it’s just a great line on its own merit.

The Top 50 Marvel Cinematic Universe Moments – #50-41

When I chose to start writing this blog, this was a project that I had planned out well in advance as a celebration of the first ten films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and to countdown to The Avengers: Age of UltronAmerican release in the theaters on May 1st. So, starting today and ending on Friday, I will be writing about ten moments from the Marvel Cinematic Universe that made me happy to go to the movies.

So, first off, it should be fairly obvious that this list contains a lot of spoilers and if you have not seen some of these films you may wish to skip over moments from them. Each moment will have the movie it is from next to it in parenthesis. I also chose to limit this countdown only to the movies; I haven’t watched enough Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or Agent Carter to accurately consider them, and in fairness to those I chose not to rank moments from Daredevil either.

Lastly, this list is completely subjective and 100% my opinion. These are the moments that entertained me, the ones that made me cheer, laugh, cry and fall in love with the characters of this universe. From the epic action scenes to the conversations that thrilled us in another way to the outright silly moments, these are the 50 greatest moments from the Marvel Studios films.

Frost Giants

#50. Escape From Jotunheim (Thor)

In an optimal world, this scene would rank a little higher. It’s got Thor and Loki working together and leading a band of warriors into Jotunheim, world of the Frost Giants. There’s a huge battle and an enormous beast that Thor kills in memorable fashion, and it’s proceeded by a rather good monologue from Lauffey where he describes Thor as “a boy trying to prove himself a man.” But the reason it always falls short for me is the lighting. Jotunheim is very darkly lit and has a limited color palette, so very little stands out visually. It’s a scene that could have been better with more well thought out cinematography. However, it’s still an important moment as it showcases the bratty, foolish Thor that we need to be introduced to before he becomes a great hero.


#49. The Star-Spangled Man With A Plan (Captain America: The First Avenger) 

I would have to imagine that this is probably a divisive choice, as it was definitely the silliest scene in the Marvel Cinematic Universe when this film was released. Personally I found it hilarious and a plausible way to get the ball rolling on what is a very cartoonish character. In the context of the film, Captain America is a marketing ploy designed to make children happy and to encourage their parents to sell war bonds. It establishes what the persona is supposed to be and revels in it, but then the film gives a serious case of mood whiplash by transitioning to a deathly serious scene where Steve Rogers visits troops in Germany. Cap’s gimmick has been a goldmine for humor in later films and I think it works well because of this moment here.


#48. “I’m Not That Kind of Doctor” (Iron Man 3)

I am not a fan of Iron Man 3 and you will not see very many moments from the film on this list. Even this is just a tacked on scene at the end of the credits. But this is one of my favorite easter eggs. Tony Stark and Bruce Banner were well established as good friends in The Avengers, and getting to see more of them here was a real treat. Tony tries to use Bruce as a therapist, and Bruce replies that he isn’t that kind of doctor, admitting that he doesn’t have the temperament for it. Little moments like these where we can just enjoy the characters mean as much as the biggest action sequences.


#47. Little Talks (Thor: The Dark World)

After the events of The Avengers Loki is brought back to Asgard to pay for his crimes, and is sentenced to a very long life in the dungeons by his adoptive father Odin. These two characters have a surprisingly small amount of screen time in the MCU, and I think it’s a testament to the actors and the writers that the broken relationship resonates so strongly. This was a nice bookend after their first major confrontation in the original Thor movie and also showcased that Loki had a bit of a soft spot for his mother. Loki’s line “It’s not that I don’t love your little talks, but… I don’t love them,” is one of my all-time favorites because it starts smarmy and sarcastic but then even Loki realizes it’s too serious to joke about.

Iron Man

#46. First Flight (Iron Man)

Sadly I couldn’t find a good picture of Tony Stark’s first flight in the Mark II Iron Man armor, but I definitely want to talk about the flying in this movie, and the subsequent ones. Flight has been a part of superhero movies since the 1970’s with the Christopher Reeve Superman film, but Iron Man was surprisingly one of very few characters to be shown flying routinely in films. The repulser blasts add an extra visual flair to the image and we get a sense of the science behind how the suit flies, which is a major departure from Superman. Marvel also wisely chose to use close up shots of Tony Stark’s face inside the suit where we get to see Robert Downey, Jr. sell the sensations of what it’s like to fly. It’s a big payoff to several scenes of Tony putting the armor together and it works wonderfully.


#45. The Hulk Unleashed (The Incredible Hulk)

2008’s The Incredible Hulk is a fairly unique film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Hulk had previously been in a movie directed by Ang Lee that underwhelmed fans of Hulk comics with it’s slow pace and limited action scenes. Marvel promised to deliver a tighter narrative that was perhaps less ambitious than the original movie but certainly better fit the tone comic book fans were looking for. Taking several cues from the Bill Bixby show (and making several amusing references to it in the process),the film smartly underplayed the first appearance of Hulk to whet our appetite. When Bruce finally hulks out in plain view halfway through the film, it’s a deeply satisfying moment and has an extremely fun action scene that follows. While Marvel hadn’t quite perfected Hulk yet, this was a huge step in the right direction.


#44. Ragtag Bunch of Misfits (Guardians of the Galaxy) 

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is largely defined by the diversity of its heroes. There’s a super soldier, a monster, a Norse God, a brilliant scientist with a suit of flying armor, and a network of secret agents. The fact that everybody is distinct keeps things remarkably fresh. The Guardians of the Galaxy is a big group that almost feels like the B-Movie version of the Avengers. There’s a talking tree and a talking racoon for starters. Then there’s two roughly humanoid aliens, and in the middle of it all is a charismatic leading man that is best described as “Indiana Jones in space”. Four of them have questionable morals and one of them has a three word vocabulary. The fact that this scene of them walking towards us manages to subvert blockbuster expectations while still feeling epic is a tribute to how entertaining and flat out good this movie was. They may be dirty and easy to underestimate, but they are heroes and they are glorious.


#43.  “A Rain Check On That Dance” (Captain America: The First Avenger)

The last major scene of the first Captain America film is pretty iconic in Marvel’s canon, but I have to admit that I’ve always felt slightly underwhelmed by it. There’s some good ideas here as Steve Rogers makes a sacrifice to protect the world from Hydra’s bombs, and the dialogue between Steve and Peggy Carter is heartfelt. I think this could have benefited from some tighter editing that didn’t drag so much. It doesn’t help that we know Steve is still going to be alive, so a lot of the drama of his “death” is kind of sucked out of it.


#42. Howard Stark’s Greatest Creation (Iron Man 2)

Iron Man 2 is a cluttered mess of a film with far too many plots going on at once, but it still has a small handful of moments that manage to stick with the viewer. This scene where Tony is watching old clips of his father while trying to solve the problem with his arc reactor is one of them for me. He eventually finds a hidden video where Howard Stark tells him that Tony will solve the mysteries that Howard was never able to, and ends with him saying that his greatest creation will always be Tony. It’s a very touching moment and one that I think will resonate a lot with both parents and children.


#41. “On Your Left” (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is my favorite MCU film to date, and one of the major reasons why can be summed up in the opening scene. We are introduced to Sam Wilson as he jogs through the nation’s capitol city only to constantly be passed by Steve Rogers, who alerts him that he is “on his left”. The actors are able to let this scene be more humorous that it would be on paper, and the moment feels genuine. The conversation they have afterward is one of my favorite bits; these characters have never met and come from totally different eras, but have a common bond as soldiers. The dialogue is very natural and it’s easy to believe these two are clicking instantly. Winter Soldier was the absolute best Marvel film in terms of meaningful conversations and this started it off on the right (or left) foot.

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