Thursday, June 20, 2024

Lady Geniuses in Comics

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We at the Fandomentals love us some comics. So much so, that we have our own team, the Fanfinites, committed to reviewing our favorite titles every month. WE. LOVE. COMICS. However, Ian made a note of something Bobbi Morse aka Mockingbird mentioned to Nadia Pym in The Unstoppable Wasp #1.

Yeah. We called shenanigans at first; surely there had to be more lady geniuses than Bobbie and Nadia let on. So the Fanfinites sat down and started compiling a list. Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd it’s a very small, shameful, pathetic list. No lie, we only came up with a handful of names from both Marvel and DC. In universes where you can’t shoot a kinetically-energized spitball without hitting a male superhero who is also a genius, the utter lack of their female counterparts is inexcusable. So, we decided to choose some of our favorites from the (pitifully limited) list and showcase them below. Also, support the ladies we do have. You can start with issue #2 of The Unstoppable Wasp.

Barbara “Bobbi” Morse/Agent 19/Mockingbird

Perhaps better known now-a-days for her appearance on ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Mockingbird has been a part of Marvel comics since the early 70s. Possibly even less well-known is that Bobbi isn’t just a brilliant spy, tactician, and master of hand-to-hand combat, she also has a Ph.D. in biochemistry. When Bobbi Morse was introduced to Marvel comics, it was as a biochemist working for S.H.I.E.L.D. to re-create the Supersoldier Serum that created Captain America. (Yes, they’ve been at that a long time. One would think they’d have figured it out by now).

Kara Zor-El/Kara Zor-L

Hear me out. I’m combining the Kara’s on this list instead of saying Supergirl because the DC version of Supergirl has more identities than you can shake a stick at. Really. Like the time she was a split of a shapeshifting energy being aka Matrix who was created by Lex Luthor and a seriously not pleasant Linda Danvers. And this is before ‘Supergirl’ starts dating a part man, part woman, part horse version of Comet and they all became entities called Earth Angels to fight off a demonic vampire named Carnivore and his side demon Beelzebub.

No, I’m talking about the House of El/L branches. Back when they finally reintroduced Kara Zor-El after her prolonged period of being dead-ed thanks to Crisis on Infinite Earths, she found her way to Earth and Superman, having been sent by her father, Zor-El. While I’m not going to delve into the shenanigans that went down, we do get to meet her parents, particularly her mother, Alura In-Ze. We find out Kara was a science genius, even by Kryptonian standards. I shouldn’t need to elaborate that being a genius on Krypton puts you ahead of just about every other genius on earth. Now if only we got to see her use those mad science skills.

With Power Girl, her Earth-2 counterpart aka Karen Starr, we saw her learn computer coding. And she became so good at it that she founded an R&D company, Starrware Industries. Did it reach the heights of, say, Wayne Enterprises? No, but part of that is because Karen saw the IT bubble bursting and sold the company, leaving her with more money than she’d ever be able to spend. Which she promptly used to help needy children and the less fortunate. See, Power Girl also realized she couldn’t punch her way out of everything and set up a network of programs to address what she couldn’t physically fight.

And then she got bored and started buying the company shares back all over again. Because smartypants needs a hobby. Whaddya gonna do? (Besides get a better costume without a boob window. PLEASE.)

Moon Girl

If you don’t know Lunella Lafayette aka Moon Girl, that’s a damned shame because she’s the smartest, most determined buttercup in the buttercup field. Also, her best friend is a giant T-Rex named Devil Dinosaur. Seriously, how can you not love this precious cinnamon roll? Lunella is “low-key smart”. She keeps her genius to herself, and devotes most of her time at the beginning of her arc trying to prevent herself from undergoing terrigenesis and becoming a monster. You see, Lunella is a latent Inhuman, and thanks to Black Bolt deciding to drop ALL the terrigen mist onto earth, it’s only a matter of time before a cloud finds her, and she is terrified.

But then, thanks to some handy tech she recovered, she accidentally helps open a portal and lets Devil Dinosaur and a not so nice Killer-Folk through. Things happen, Lunella ends up undergoing terrigenesis after all (yes, we totally cried when Devil Dinosaur curled his big ass around her terrigen coccoon to keep her safe), and comes out the other side completely normal. Almost. She’s still figuring out what her Inhuman abilities are, but she may just be the smartest person on the planet. This is coming from Hulk-lite (Amadeus Cho) who gave her a test. Thinking it was a regular aptitude test, Moon Girl completes it as you please and returns it to Cho. Except it wasn’t an ordinary test. It was a test designed by Bruce Banner that was so hard, even he couldn’t complete it.

How do you like them apples?

Barbara Gordon

The first woman who comes to mind when I think of “comic genius” is Barbara Gordon. Well, she’s also the first person who comes to mind, since her intelligence is portrayed in a rather impressive amount of ways. She’s not just good with computers or strategy or one particular thing. Barbara is a genius because she learns extremely quickly. She adapts, and applies old knowledge in new ways no one would ever consider.

The best example of that I can recall was during 1999’s No Man’s Land storyline, where Gotham City was all but destroyed by an Earthquake clocking in at over 7.5 on the Richter scale. The only buildings in Gotham that were “quake-proof” were, of course, buildings owned by the Waynes or retrofitted by them. Her clock tower was one of them.

Throughout that year, with little to no electricity or modern technology, she helped organize what little remained of society in the unincorporated Gotham. She used the phone company’s old emergency lines to set up a network of informants to be her eyes and ears, relaying that information to what remained of the GCPD along with the rest of the Batfamily. She helped distribute food and medical supplies across hostile and friendly territory, making impossible choices that were literally life and death.

Congress would eventually reincorporate Gotham City, and Lex Luthor would go on to rebuild the entire city (which turned out to be a massive scheme to falsify land rights as most of the original owners either fled or were killed in the quake), but they had to survive that year in hell first. And sure, Batman did his part to make sure as many people as possible made it through that nightmare. So did Nightwing, Azrael, Batgirl and the rest of the family. Even a few rogues lent a hand. But that was about survival, at the most basic level.

Y’know who saved and preserved what little remained of Gotham City’s sense of society and civilization?

Barbara Gordon, that’s who.

Kitty Pryde

A long time X-Men staple, Kitty Pryde might be the most dangerous hacker on Earth-616. Oh, and she’s also a certified genius. Kitty’s had a lot of ups and downs in her tenure as an X-Man. Like when she phased herself onto a giant ass bullet bent on destroying the earth and rode it for a long damned time into space. Or when she had her dragon, Lockheed. Or that whole Days of Future Past arc. Also that ill-fated romance with her former fiance, Peter Quill aka Star-Lord. You can do better, Kitty.

Regardless of what she’s been put through, Kitty always bounces back stronger and smarter. From her glorious rebuttal to Alex Summers pro-assimilation speech about not wanting to be called a mutant (see above), to her stepping up time and time again in leadership roles in Excalibur, X-Men, and more… if you want the job done, you call Kitty. And it sounds like someone finally bought a clue, because Ms. Pryde is going to be in official command of her own team this spring, with X-Men Gold.

Tanya Spears/Power Girl

What’s this you say? There’s another Power Girl? You bet your blessed ham hocks there is! Tanya Spears is, with no exaggeration, the most intelligent 17-year-old on the planet (Earth-2). Check it out: she’s 17 and is already a postdoc at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and she was working with Karen Starr at her newly reborn Starrware Industries on portals to Earth-1. (There’s a whole backstory where she works with Karen’s bestie, Huntress, to retrieve stolen isotypes. You should read it.) After she also gained superpowers like invulnerability and super strength, Karen passed the Power Girl mantle down to her and she joined her world’s Teen Titans. Sort of. New 52 is a mess, and you should just let it go without thinking too hard about it. We haven’t seen her in a while, since before DC’s Rebirth even got off the ground. But fear not, she’s back with a bang this spring with none other than… Deathstroke. That should be fun.

Riri Williams

It’s not a secret that we really didn’t like the latest Marvel event, Civil War II. Between puzzling delays and the total character assassination of one Captain Marvel, there’s not a lot to be thrilled with. However, it did give us Riri Williams, aka Ironheart, aka the girl who is smarter than Tony Stark. Whereas Tony was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, being the son of the famous inventor/scientist Howard Stark, Riri hasn’t had those advantages. Instead of Tony’s billions to use for any idea that struck her fancy as she grew up, Riri had to build and learn on what she had around her. And she still managed to make a suit that rivaled Tony’s, earn a free ride to MIT, and attend classes by the age of 15. Check back this spring, because you bet your ass we’re reviewing her series.

Images courtesy of Marvel and DC Comics

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