Let’s face it: villains have all the fun. While the goodie goodies are running around protecting the populace from mayhem, the baddies are running around stealing, destroying, and mischief-ing their way into our hearts.
No truer is that than with these 10 female villains, who’ve outclassed their male counterparts on more than one occasion. Female super-villains aren’t just carbon copies though, and often have different sensibilities, motives, and strategies in defeating superheroes.
Much more likely to use sex, intelligence, and strategy in overcoming heroes, these femme fatales have long been a staple of comics culture. Long beloved characters, these women are now enjoying increased exposure with movies, tv, and the resurgence of comic books as a media juggernaut there has never been a better time to be a fan of these ten deadly women.
When we say ‘our’ list, we mean it – all of our writers made their own personal top 10 lists, then we applied a points-based system to those. This list is the final result. It’s an overall top 10 that reflects our preferences as a team, not any one individual’s top choices.
10. Harley Quinn
It’s hard to deny the popularity of Harley Quinn these days, but many people may not know that this femme fatale has her origins in Batman: The Animated Series. First debuting in 1992 on the show, Harley later took her talents to comic books a year later in Batman Adventures, which shared the same style of the cartoon.
Starting out as a criminal psychologist, Harleen Quinzel requested to meet Joker as she was a specialist in serial killers. Upon their first meeting, Harley and Joker bonded and began their tumultuous relationship, with Harley breaking Joker out of Arkham multiple times before she was caught.
Now ruling alongside Joker as the self-appointed Clown Princess of Gotham, Harley is Joker’s right-hand-gal, and accompanied him in his escapades throughout Gotham City. Recently though, Harley has moved out of the shadow of Joker, joining the ranks of the Suicide Squad and a star in her own right in her own solo series.
9. Silver Sable (Ultimate universe)
Silver Sable is a mercenary and anti-hero for hire in the Marvel universe, and sometimes an ally of Spider-Man. In the Ultimate universe though, Silver Sable is a callous femme fatale who will take any job thrown her way, uncluding kidnapping Spider-Man on multiple occasions.
One of the smarter characters in the Marvel universe, Silver Sable wanted to become a mercenary at a young age after witnessing her mother’s murder. Her father, a well-known Nazi hunter obliged when he saw her tenacity and intelligence, and trained her to be proficient in weapons and hand-to-hand combat. Silver Sable is one of the deadlier characters in the Marvel catalog, and is the leader of the Wild Pack, a group of mercenaries who catch international criminals.
A combat master, leader of a gang of mercenaries, and one of the smartest characters in the Marvel universe, Silver Sable isn’t one to mess with when she’s not on your side.
Mystique is a mutant shape shifter and second leader of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants after Magneto. Typically portrayed as an adversary to the X-Men, Mystique has used her shape shifting abilities to assassinate and infiltrate anti-mutant figures in the comics, and has been featured prominently in the X-Men universe of films.
An ageless villain with superhuman reflexes and agility, almost nothing is known about Mystique’s backstory as she is able to use her powers to stop the aging process. Apart from her shape shifting ability, Mystique is also highly intelligent, can speak up to 7 languages fluently and is proficient in weapons training making her one of the more dangerous non-Omega level mutants.
7. Dark Phoenix
Jean Grey was already one of the most powerful mutants in the Marvel Universe before she was possessed by the Phoenix Force. When the mysterious entity did take control though, it became obsessed with its new found power and quickly became too much for Jean to control.
The Dark Phoenix Saga is one of the most popular X-Men stories of all time, and it’s easy to see why. Jean Grey was a beloved mutant and her possession by this dark and unknown entity with immense galactic-scale power enthralled comic readers and has inspired many future storylines and movie appearances.
Dark Phoenix’s power set has no rival on this list, as she can use Jean Grey’s telekinetic powers at a much higher level, but also change the molecular structure of objects and fly at supersonic speed using the Phoenix Force.
Vampironica is the newest villainess on the list and will debut in mid March with her own solo series with Vampironica #1. We read the first issue ahead of release and you can check out our review for it here.
Written by the brother and sister team of Greg and Megan Smallwood, Vampironica sees fan-favorite Archie comics heroine Veronica Lodge bitten by a vampire at a party, turning her into a devil of the night in turn.
The first issue of Vampironica will hit stores on March 14th and delve deeper into Riverdale’s newly-undead-plagued issues as Vampironica struggles to sate her new appetite and fight off the demon hordes.
5. Black Cat
Felicia Hardy was born into crime. Her father was a world renowned burglar and after suffering a traumatic experience in college, Felicia took up self-defense and acrobatics. After mastering her training and deciding to take up the family business, she took the name Black Cat and began prowling New York City.
Originally a smaller Spider-Man villain, she grew to become a major adversary of his over the years. Eventually the pair fell in love but this fizzled when it was revealed Black Cat was only attracted to the Spider-Man alter-ego and not to Peter Parker himself.
A constant foil for Spider-Man, Black Cat originally had no superhuman powers until Wilson Fisk induced a test on her which gave her the ability to give her enemies ‘bad luck.’
Apart from being central in Spider-Man and The Defenders comics, Black Cat has been heavily featured in cartoons and video games.
4. Cheryl Blossom
The odd-woman out of the Archie comics love triangle, Cheryl Blossom immediately hit it off with Archie, while making nemesis of Betty and Veronica in the process. Originally conceived in the 1980s, Cheryl had made a name for herself as a new love interest for Archie while keeping him away from his blonde and brunette love interest of days old.
Cheryl could be cold, and manipulative and condescending to Riverdale townfolk. Cheryl’s original incarnation was tapered off in two short years though as her character was deemed “too sexual.”
With the new more realistic reboot of the Archie-verse and the hit TV show Riverdale, Cheryl’s mean rich-girl attitude has been ramped up to new heights, even going so far as burning her family home to the ground and very nearly killing her mother to take control.
3. Poison Ivy
Pamela Isley, better known as Poison Ivy is a classic villain in the storied Batman rogues gallery, and 1/3rd of the Gotham City Sirens alongside Harley Quinn and Catwoman. Boasting one of the more original power sets in all of comics, Poison Ivy has the power of ‘chlorokinesis’ – the control of plant matter.
There is some debate from passionate fans over whether or not Ivy is a villain at all, considering her motives are often to protect plants and ecology, but her frequent team-ups with some of Batman’s worst adversaries land her firmly in the villain category, for us.
Poison Ivy has a storied comic history, and as all DC characters things can get a little murky when it comes to origins, but her latest and accepted origin involves Pamela Isley’s college years, during which she earned a doctorate in botany and toxicology.
After her professor seduces her and subjects her to human experiments which nearly kill her, Isley learns she has new powers of control of plants, immunity to all forms of toxins, and a pheromone which allows her to easily seduce men – a deadly combination for any hero who goes against her.
2. Emma Frost
Leader of the hellfire club, powerful mutant, and X-Men foe, Emma Frost is the White Queen of the Marvel Universe. A powerful telepath with the ability to turn her entire body into a diamond-like substance, Emma Frost grew to view humans as inferior as her powers grew. Her notoriety rose fast and was eventually kidnapped by Magneto in an attempt to kill the human race with the use of Cerebro, and although Magneto was unsuccessful, Emma Frost was now on every mutant’s radar.
Her talents also saw her gain an invitation to the powerful Hellfire Club – a social club for the elite. The current leaders of the Hellfire Club had planned on using Sentintel robots to destroy mutants however, and though her telepathy gained information to take over and replace the inner circle of the Hellfire Club with mutants.
An Omega level telepath, Emma has since taken her skills to not only join the X-men at various points but also to teach at Xavier’s school, famously tutoring five gifted telepaths dubbed The Stepford Cuckoos, though she will always be bad at heart.
Catwoman, aka Selina Kyle is the grandmother of all female supervillains. First appearing in 1940, she actually predates Wonder Woman by over a year. Her role may be as more of an anti-hero these days – leaning more than ever towards hero with her engagement to Bruce Wayne – but her true nature has always leaned towards the bad side.
Selina started her crime spree as a jewel thief using her agility and cat-like dexterity to rob and at times seduce Gotham City’s upper crust, but has since taken a larger role in the affairs of Batman, becoming a lover, trusted confidant, and foil for the Dark Knight.
Apart from being the first female comic book villain, Catwoman is also one of the most popular being featured in not only numerous Batman stories, but her own solo series and the popular female villain group Gotham City Sirens, along with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. She’s also made the move to television and movies, being played by Michelle Pfeiffer in 1992s Batman Returns, and most recently by Camren Bicondova in Fox’s Gotham series.
Image credits: Marvel, DC, Archie Comics