This morning, I found myself suddenly irritated in the bathtub when I discovered an unnecessary (and offensive) backstory retcon to one of comics’ highest-profile female characters, one that was likely designed to explain why she’s so kickass.  (Of course, given the state of continuity these days, it almost certainly doesn’t matter any longer.)  Either way, nobody needs to explain why this woman is awesome, she simply is.  Just like Mrs. Peel, The Valkyrie, or the sarcastic-but-deadly Lana Kane, she will smack you down, call you stupid, and enjoy it, all the while not caring that she looks good.  The Action Girl, when done properly, is one of my favorite adventure story tropes, and it’s always nice to see a female kickin’ butt and taking initials (because she doesn’t even have time for your full name!

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) will warn you, however, that you’ll probably be disappointed if you want her action figure, though, asking:  Who’s the coolest Action Girl in all of pop-culture?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. SmarkingOut Adam
    February 28, 2013 at 12:05 pm — Reply

    I’m always partial to the ninja, Kitty Pryde.

  2. Navarre
    February 28, 2013 at 12:08 pm — Reply


    Although, in fairness, I will have to give the nod to Lara Croft.

    Lara would also be my girlfriend’s personal choice, as Lara is her hero. … But Kitty is my fictional dream girlfriend so I foresee a fight coming my way. ;-)

  3. Dino
    February 28, 2013 at 12:32 pm — Reply

    Toph from Avatar: The Last Airbender. She’s pretty much a walking wrecking ball, and has an attitude to match. What I found awesome is that if the Gaang were considered a five man band, she would be the big guy.

    • February 28, 2013 at 5:39 pm — Reply

      Definitely Toph Beifong.

      Not to be trifled with at all, at all.

      Toph made her own rules.

      She mastered earthbending in her own way, compensated for her blindness using those same skills, and devised a previously thought impossible form of bending. A strong female character who was never a ‘damsel in distress’. She took care of her own business when she had to, proved fiercely loyal to those who earned it and responded with swift and blinding violence on those who would threaten those same friends. Great action adventure character. I adore her.

      Definitely the tank of the group, funny as hell.

  4. February 28, 2013 at 12:51 pm — Reply

    Does Amanda from the “Highlander” TV series count (but also not counting her own awful spinoff “Highlander: The Raven”)? She reminds me a bit of Catwoman in the way she was sometimes thief, sometimes hero, but usually pretty kick@$$. Shame her own spinoff was so terrible since she was such a fun character in the main series.

  5. Don
    February 28, 2013 at 1:05 pm — Reply

    I agree with Dino, Toph is pretty tough. In the first few Episodes of BSG Starbuck was pretty bad@$$.. can’t vouch for later in the series. Xena used to kick all kinds of butt… you almost need to break it down into categories..

  6. February 28, 2013 at 1:23 pm — Reply

    Can we define “Action Girl” here? Are we talking the no-powers, seasoned adventurer type a la Lara Croft, Danger Girl, or perhaps Agent 355 from Y the Last Man?

    Or are we talking about any female hero type, like Batgirl (pretty much any of them), Batwoman (modern incarnation), Jean Grey, etc?

    If we were to go with the former, I’d be all for Agent 355. She was a fully fleshed out and intensely interesting character.

    The latter would probably be either Batwoman or Black Canary (as written by Gail Simone in Birds of Prey).

    • February 28, 2013 at 3:47 pm — Reply

      Action Girls can have powers, yes… TV Tropes defines Action Girl as “a female Badass who can go toe to toe with her male counterparts without breaking a sweat.”

  7. AllenBT
    February 28, 2013 at 2:24 pm — Reply

    How about Myka Bering, from Warehouse 13. She’s super nerdy, kicks but, and in most ways is a better operative than her male partner (although his more instinctual and reckless perspective completes the team).

  8. Dan
    February 28, 2013 at 2:54 pm — Reply

    probably either The Bride/Beatrix Kiddo, Zoe from Firefly, Catwoman, punk Storm from the 80’s, or Emma Peel. now there’s a team I could get behind. wakka wakka.

    as far as best female villains though, i gotta echo Rodrigo’s thoughts from a billion episodes ago about The Baroness. she’s definitely near the top. also, speaking of being on top, Xenia Onatopp from Goldeneye definitely made me feel real funny in the theater as a 12/13 year old.

    oh also Gina Carano in general. she can choke me out with her legs anytime.


    • Dan
      February 28, 2013 at 2:55 pm — Reply

      ah crap, one more. Faye Valentine from Cowboy Bebop was pretty awesome too.

    • Navarre
      February 28, 2013 at 4:48 pm — Reply

      Gina Carano is amazing.

      Although her movie “Haywire” wasn’t a hit, she was stunning just the same.

  9. February 28, 2013 at 3:21 pm — Reply

    “Who’s the coolest Action Girl in all of pop-culture?”

    Well, if I define “coolest” as “the one I’d have the best shot with were they real,” I’d have to say, um… none.

    Okay, maybe Lana Kane, given that she doesn’t seem to have very high standards.

    • February 28, 2013 at 4:00 pm — Reply

      Well, if I define “coolest” as “the one I’d have the best shot with were they real,” I’d have to say, um… none.

      I hope that’s not how you define it, because my Grandma was kinda cool…

      • February 28, 2013 at 9:51 pm — Reply

        It’s only disturbing if that’s how YOU define “cool.”

  10. Hannah
    February 28, 2013 at 7:16 pm — Reply

    That’s a super-tough question, there are actually a lot of kick-!ass ladies out there to choose from. And I could come up with a list longer than my arm given the chance. As for the top favourite of mine right now though?
    She Hulk! I love She-Hulk! She-Hulk kicks all of the ass, beats the boys, and looks good doing it!

    Of course Zoe Washburn is also pretty high up on the list along with Toshiko Sato, Ororo Munroe, and Barbara Gordon.

    Like I said though, the list goes on and on.

  11. johnny
    February 28, 2013 at 8:40 pm — Reply

    Just curious, what’s the retcon Matthew is referring to? I must’ve missed it.

    I vote for She-Hulk as well. I’m surprised nobody has mentioned Rogue (at least in the comics,) who is usually one of the most powerful characters in a fight and has that “I can do anything the boys can do” persona.

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