1. Cassandra Cain. Love, love, love Cass. She is tough, strong, and terribly sweet. It's her sweetness and (if you can use the term for someone who's torn a man's throat out with her fingers) her innocence that make her an endearing character -- you don't just want to follow her adventures; you want to be her friend.
It's a shame that her book was cancelled just when DC found a writer who really, really got her. For pretty much her whole existence, Cass has been arguably the hardest character in the DCU to write; witness the fact that Gail Simone, currently my favorite DC writer and one of the company's best at characterization, *cannot write Cass to save her life.* Even Chuck Dixon, who defined a lot of Cass's character and who was the first to define her singular voice, still managed to get that voice very wrong on occasion.
I will miss Cass a lot. But she's the best new character DC has created in years, and there's still a lot of potential for her. I'm glad to know she's out there in the DCU, somewhere.
2. Barbara Gordon. One of those characters you just keep finding new reasons to love. I always loved the original Batgirl, but Oracle is one of the greatest women in comics, and John Ostrander's creation of Babs's identity as Oracle is one of the single greatest strokes of the inter-crisis DCU. From her interaction with the Suicide Squad to her role as coordinator for the Batclan to her ass-kicking leadership of the Birds of Prey, Babs has grown in leaps and bounds as a character that the ham-fisted efforts ("Congresswoman Gordon," anyone?) of earlier years failed to accomplish. Babs is brilliant, charismatic, tremendously tough, cerebral -- and even though she's crustier than she was in her youth, she still has one hell of a big heart.
I'm a fan of the Gordon family, in general, and Babs's dynamic with her father is one of the best relationships in the Batfamily, and in all of the DCU. It's sweet, strong, supportive, and they're cute as the dickens when they're playing off each other.
3. Ma Hunkel. Yer dang straight, the original Red Tornado. DC keeps mumbling something about putting together a SCRIBBLY archive one day. Y'know what? I don't buy archive editions -- too expensive -- but I would eagerly shell out one hundred dollars in cold hard cash for a complete hardcover edition of SCRIBBLY AND THE RED TORNADO.
I have not been able to read a lot of Ma's Golden Age adventures, but what I have, I friggin' LOVE. Ma Hunkel is one of the all-time great humorous superheroes, and she offers plenty of room for serious storytelling, as well, so I'm pleased that she's turning up in recent JSA. But if you look beyond the spoof, you'll see a character who seems years ahead of her time. From her debut, Ma was loud, large, and in charge; she never conformed to the typical image of the superheroine, then or now -- in fact, because of her physical prowess and burly physique, everybody assumed that the Red Tornado was a man. It was a great cover for a secret identity, and Ma made full use of it by dressing up in long underwear, a cape, and a saucepan helmet and beating the stuffing out of mobsters, skinflints, domineering bosses, and anybody else offending common decency, always to hilarious effect -- and still managing to run a business and raise her two kids.
Honorable Mentions, in no particular order
1. Jennifer Walters, aka the She-Hulk. Do I even need to list the reasons? Tough, smart, ass-kicking, sexy, and witty -- and clever enough to realize that she's in a comic book, though sometimes she ignores that fact (depending on who's writing her). When she's at her best, Jen mingles the funny and the action-packed like no other hero or heroine in the business.
Hey, there's an idea -- next time Marvel and DC do a cross-over, how about having Jen meet up with Ambush Bug? They're both funny, they both know they're in comic books, and they're both green. Plus, Irwin Schwab is not exactly a fighter, so the obligatory battle between them would last about one panel, leaving more room for wisecracks.
...dang, I really want to see a She-Hulk/Ambush Bug cross-over now.
2. Silver Age Supergirl. I have no idea who the heck the new snake creature is. My Kara Zor-El keeps her midriff decorously covered, but if she didn't she would still look like a human woman and not A HIDEOUS FREAK OF NATURE. Plus she's incredibly sweet and cheerful for a kid who suffers what is, in retrospect, terrible treatment at the hands of her only family:
KARA. "Hi, cousin Superman! I'm your only living relative. My whole family was killed when --"
SUPES. "Great! Here, go live in this orphanage."
SUPES. "You'll do all my work whenever I have to be somewhere else, or want a vacation or something, and I'll take all the credit for everything you do because I want your existence to be a secret. If you get a foster family, they might find out about your powers, so forget ever leaving that orphanage, kiddo. -- and look! You get to wear this wig!"
SUPES. "It's got pigtails."
SUPES. "Did I mention you'll be flying around wearing a very short skirt?"
3. Mary Marvel. Another of the "sweet girl" type of superheroines. Big fan of the Golden Age Marvel Family, me.
4. Amanda Waller. Ruthless, cruel, often extraordinarily unsympathetic -- but she's very, very good at what she does, and she's a big part of what makes Ostrander's SUICIDE SQUAD one of the great series.
5. Stargirl, formerly aka the Star-Spangled Kid. This is one of those "I have no idea why" favorites; there's something about the way Courtney works that's just really appealing to me.