January is a time of fresh starts and new beginnings. The way we kick off a new year informs the months that follow, and that's why we're living our best Capricorn-season lives and declaring it the Month of the GOAT, celebrating the Greatests of All Time in genre. From the best Star Trek captains to our favorite strong female characters, we're honoring the greats all month long.
Before Marvel became the genre empire it is today, sparking a tidal wave of storylines, characters, and an entirely unique take on a shared cinematic universe, it told its tales on the pages of a comic book. First founded back in 1939 as Timely Publications before later becoming known as Atlas Comics, it provided a platform for some of comics' most legendary creators to craft some of the most memorable characters ever in genre.
But behind every great male character often resides an even greater lady kicking ass and taking names, and we'd be remiss if we didn't recognize some of the best and most iconic female characters that this publisher has offered throughout its 80-year history. Our latest GOATs are none other than the women of Marvel.
Who needs superpowers or special serum to make them an awe-inspiring ass-kicker? Not Peggy Carter. This English agent fights the forces of evil — be they HYDRA or a catcalling cadet — with a keen intelligence, unflappable pluck, and a mean right hook! She'll suffer no fools, fearlessly run into the fray, and get the guy, all while rocking a perfect red lip and a skirt suit that worships her curves. Debuting in a Captain America comic back in 1966, Peggy was redefined by the MCU and Hayley Atwell, who brought an enthralling verve to the character that made her a fresh inspiration to new generations of fans. In the movies and her spinoff series Agent Carter, Peggy fought for justice in a man's world, but on her terms! She was never afraid to embrace her femme side with fashion, fun, and a bit of romance between fight scenes. And with every smirk, every punch, and every victory, she makes our hearts pound with pride and continues to inspire us to rise above and do what's right. - Kristy Puchko
Jubilation Lee, specifically pre-M-Day, doesn't have the coolest powers. (Plasmoids? Those are FINGER FIREWORKS, nice try.) She isn't the strongest mutant. She's not always the best in a fight. When I was a kid reading comics, she seemed the most like me — she just wanted to hang out and pal around with the other mutants. She never seeks to be the star, she just wants to be helpful. And that is what makes her so great: Jubilee is a good friend. She's there when you need her, even if she is hopelessly in over her head. She's dependable, she has your back — how many times did she save Wolverine? Jubilee never really fit in as one of the fighting X-Men, but she is always there when someone needs backup or support. She's there in a pinch, using her stupid finger fireworks to help you out with whatever mess you've made now. Even when she lost her powers in M-Day, she didn't stop being a buddy system expert. Jubilee is often mocked for her admittedly dumb powers, and beyond cameos, she's been benched from the current run of superhero movies. She's never been properly appreciated for her true power, that of being a good friend. Most superheroes suck at interpersonal relationships, but not Jubilee. She's the one you call when you need bail money. And now she's a vampire, so she has that going for her, too. - Sarah Marrs
This New Mutant alumnus has been one of Marvel’s most interesting heroes since her first appearances in the early ‘80s. Dani Moonstar was the character that saw the most focus and growth during the team’s earliest storylines as she went from a timid kid unable to control her powers to being the teammate most likely to go up against impossible odds with zero hesitation. She's been co-leader of the New Mutants, defeater of the Demon Bear, Valkyrie of Hel, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., member of X-Force, and teacher at the Xavier Institute. Through it all, Dani does what’s right, no matter what others think. Torn between her responsibilities to her family, her friends, and her own life mission, Dani is one X-Man with a lot to balance who works through her problems maturely and tries to come out a better person on the other side. Dani is great because she always remains steadfast and defiant in the face of complex, morally ambiguous foes. - Sara Century
There are plenty of Marvel characters that would be handy in a battle, but there is one I would like by my side in both conflict and peace. Okoye (Danai Gurira) is fiercely loyal and incredibly good at her job as the head of the Dora Milaje. There is no BS to Okoye; she'll call out whichever person is making a dumb remark, but being no-nonsense doesn't mean she lacks a sense of humor as her Starbucks and Olympics remarks in Infinity War prove. When Scarlet Witch is brought into play late on in the battle she is quick to ask why someone with that power was being held back. Out of Wakanda she also serves up excellent style and fighting moments using an itchy wig as a weapon. Okoye has enough side eye to vanquish an army, the fighting skills to do the same and a level head for when it really hits the fan. Something which will be required as she is one of the survivors of the snap. - Emma Fraser
It’s hard to live up to the moniker “Earth’s Mightiest Hero,” but that’s exactly who Carol Danvers becomes. Whether as Ms. Marvel or Captain Marvel (or one of the other several codenames she tries out), Danvers fights for the people of Earth on this planet and in space. She surrounds herself with female friends including Spider-Woman and a bunch of cool civilians, and she even lets them help her. Well, after they make the stubborn hero accept the help. Danvers mentors and occasionally assists the young Inhuman Kamala Khan as she takes on the Ms. Marvel mantle and teams up with many of our favorite female heroes on A-Force (led by the inimitable She-Hulk). And, she’s headed to the big screen later this year. In fact, I’m currently writing this from my favorite theater where I am standing in line for Captain Marvel, which premieres on March 8. It’s never too early to get in formation for my #1. – S.E. Fleenor
Kamala Khan is the first Muslim character to headline her own comic book and headline it, she does! After the “Inhumanity” storyline in Captain Marvel #14, Kamala Khan realizes she’s a shapeshifter and decides to become Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers has become Captain Marvel by this point). So, not only do we have a female superhero whose idol is another female superhero, but she’s a riot! We also get to see her struggles as a Muslim American teenager. Like Peter Parker in earlier comics, Kamala is dealing with being a young woman, her family and how being a superhero affects her, her insecurities and what could be coming up for her in her life. She’s relatable. We’ve all felt like Kamala. Okay, our arms aren’t as stretchy, but still. Hey Netflix or Disney or whomever is going to have control of whatever is happening, can we please get a Kamala Khan series? - Jenna Busch
Excuse me for one second here, because yeah, being a superhero obviously is all well and good, and all of us here at FANGRRLS love ourselves some tights-wearing, fists-swinging action. But can we just talk for a moment about the awesomeness that is May Parker? First off, yeah, Uncle Ben dying was real sad for Peter, and with great power comes great yada yada yada, but you know who had to take on great responsibility without getting bit by a super spider? Aunt May. She and her husband have already been raising the orphaned son of her in-laws, and then when Ben is murdered she’s got to deal with a teenager going through the most elaborately metaphorical puberty ever. And she just does it. She’s there giving Peter a home when he has no one else to turn to, and she does it with warmth and love. Regardless of the adaptation, whether she knows Peter is Spider-man or not, no matter who is playing her or what secret bases she may or may not have under her house, May is there and that’s what makes her as heroic as any member of the Avengers. - Riley Silverman
One half of Marvel’s most underrated dynamic duo with her best friend Colleen Wing in Daughters of the Dragon and on-again-off-again lover of Danny Rand for some reason, Misty Knight is one of those characters that we see most often working in teams. Her appearances are almost always in supporting roles or in group projects like Heroes For Hire or The Fearless Defenders. She won over MCU fans through her appearances in support of Luke Cage and then later in the Defenders. It’s definitely true that Misty is long overdue for some solo adventures, but we can’t deny that she really shines in a group. Her irreverent humor and no-nonsense approach are at their most entertaining when paired with more stoic characters like Valkyrie. Regardless of where or when she pops up next, be it teaming up with Daredevil or a new take on the Daughters, Misty is one character it would be impossible to get tired of. It’s her ability to make fast friends with pretty much everyone in the Marvel Universe while never backing down from anyone that has made her one of the best-beloved characters of Marvel. - Sara Century
Mary Jane Watson/Parker
There’s a moment in Amazing Spider-Man, when Peter Parker decides to finally tell Mary Jane about being Spider-Man. After years of being together, Peter finally comes clean and tells her that he’s, y’know, and surprise! Mary Jane already knows, and it turns out she’s supported him quietly and waited for him to tell her his secret. I loved this moment because it’s so perfectly MJ. Mary Jane Watson has not always been given her due, but she is one of the most lasting and compelling non-super characters in Marvel canon. She’s an entrepreneur, a model, an actress, and when Dan Slott pulled the rug out from under her forcing a dissolution of the Parker/Watson marriage, she went on to work for Tony Stark. Despite everything, MJ is not defined by her relationship to Peter, she’s strong-willed, smart, and determined to be successful in whatever it is she chooses to do (even if that’s being a superhero in her own right, Spineret). I can’t wait to see what the future holds for her. - Preeti Chhibber