<i>By <a href=http://twitter.com/TroyBrownfield>Troy Brownfield, Newsarama Columnist</a></i> <p>It is my sad duty to inform you that I am almost obligated to begin with some variation of, "All the solo ladies, all the solo ladies..." <p>With that unfortunate business out of the way, it's time to take a look at the solo female title. Much has been made in the comic book press of late concerning female-fronted books, so we decided to try to figure out which solo females have held books the longest in the U.S. <p>Our criteria includes single volumes; we won't be stacking multiple titles into one entry. Even with that stipulation, the number one will probably be obvious from the outset. What might shock you is half of the titles on the list are <i>not</i> of the superhero genre. Five of the titles come from companies other than the Big Two. And had the list been 12 entries long, that number would have jumped to seven (hello, <i>Vampirella</i>'s Warren run and <i>Sabrina</i>). <p>Our apologies if we missed anyone in our estimations, and remember that this is solo only (so <b>Birds of Prey</b> and <b>Strangers in Paradise</b> don't count). With that said, look onward... <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p>
Before she was Hellcat she was . . . a regular teenager? That's right. Patsy Walker spun out of <b>Miss America Magazine</b> and into her own title. It followed her, her boyfriend Buzz, and her rival Hedy. The teen comedy was enormously popular, even giving rise to a second regular book (<b>Patsy & Hedy</b>) and other spin-offs. <p>It's with irony, one supposes, that <b>Patsy Walker #95</b> was among the first books to have the Marvel logo on it when the exploding Marvel Universe was part of what would push Patsy aside. The main title folded in '65, and <b>Patsy & Hedy</b> followed in '67. Patsy came back in the '70s, reintroduced to the 616-proper, becoming Hellcat along the way. Over time, she's been an ally of the Avengers, a staunch Defender, a member of the Initiative, the bride of the Son of Satan, dead, alive, and the official superhero of Alaska. <p>One thing's for sure: Patsy Walker? Staying power.
Antarctic Press can proudly claim a spot on the list thanks to writer and artist Fred Perry, creator of <b>Gold Digger</b>. Though Gina's been around since the early '90s (starting in minis and another series of some length), she earns her present rank with the color series that began in 1999. <p>Still ongoing as of this writing, <b>Gold Digger</b> follows the multi-talented Gina Babette Diggers as she has cross-genre adventures around the world. Influenced here and there by Indiana Jones and Final Fantasy (by Perry's own admission, as well as a discernible nod to other manga and the whole of adventure serials), <b>Gold Digger</b> shows no signs of slowing down.
Despite being saddled with having her description placed before her name, Lois Lane nevertheless headlined her own book for 16 years. Lois actually deserves quite a bit of credit for being a talented, driven career woman at that time in America, even if that was occasionally mitigated by marriage schemes and other negatives foisted upon her as a type rather than an individual. <p>Though it's perhaps debatable, Lois may be both the most recognizable and most important supporting character in comics. Arguments can be made here or there about a few other candidates (Alfred, Aunt May, etc.), but very few have achieved the level of pop culture awareness that Lois enjoys. Can you name anyone else that could get their name into the title of a related TV series? <p>And, of course, that popularity led to this long-running series. Of late, there's been <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/lois-lane-twitter-campaign-101213.html>a movement afoot</a> to get Lois her own book again. Considering that The New 52 has removed the Clark and Lois marriage, it's certainly worth investigating. She wouldn't even have to be referred to as Girlfriend in the title.
Top Cow's leading lady just keeps on going. Dismissed by some as part of the bad girl trend of the '90s, the book has nonetheless continued to thrive thanks to a number of strong creators, like the seven-year run of writer Ron Marz. And it's notable that they've built an entire universe around her. Consider <i>The Darkness</i>, <i>Angelus</i>, <i>Magdalena</i>, <i>Artifacts</i>... those all have one starting point, and it's <b>Witchblade</b>. <p>Witchblade also has the distinction of being one of the few female comic book characters to transition over to headlining a live-action TV show. That's a small club, including Wonder Woman, Sabrina, Painkiller Jane, Sheena, and... not many others.
You may have noticed that some of these titles exist in a certain range of dates, speaking to the power and reach of the newsstand back in the day. Clearly, that had impact in being able to reach larger audiences, including young women. The youngest woman on our list is Little Lulu, herself a headliner of a number of books. The longest, though, was this particular title. <p>First appearing in strips in 1935, Lulu made the jump to Dell's Four Color before getting her own book. She also had a strip, simply called Little Lulu that ran from 1950 to 1969. Another transmedia darling, Lulu's been seen in film shorts, multiple animated series (including one on HBO), and anime. <p>We'd like to see more books carrying Lulu's torch for humor that young girls (and boys!) can find relatable. So here's a plug: Jimmy Gownley's <i>Amelia Rules!</i> and <i>Gracieland</i>. <p><b>Little Dot (164 issues, 1953-1976) TIE</b> <p>Also clocking in with 164 issues is Little Dot, the Harvey character with an obsessive lot for dots. We admittedly overlooked the little lady on the first pass, but decided to include her with fellow humor character Little Lulu as both had exactly 164 issues. Dot's solo series is notable not just for being plain, well, dotty, but because it's the title that introduced Richie Rich.
Every generation has an important Betty. If you recall World War II, then yours was Betty Grable. After that there was Betty White and... well, still Betty White. Though, if you're from the Netherlands, you have Bettie Serveert. <p>Anyway we come now to the great battle of the ages. Not good versus evil, not less filling versus tastes great, but Betty Cooper versus Veronica Lodge. <p>I don't know if there's some kind of psychological litmus test that you apply to interpret what it means if you yourself prefer Betty or Veronica. It all basically comes down to this: Archie quite simply doesn't appreciate his station in life. He even gets to meet KISS! <p>Regardless, Betty (who also co-headlines long-running books with Veronica) is an icon. She's smart, talented, capable, and her mother is Alice Cooper. OK, not that particular Alice, but it's fun to say.
Marvel's longest-running solo female series isn't Spider-Girl, Spider-Woman, She-Hulk or Ms. Marvel. It's <b>Millie the Model</b>, which was also Marvel's longest running humor title. Among the legends to work on the book were Stan Lee, Ruth Atkinson (who drew the first issue), Dan DeCarlo (ten years, man!), Mike Sekowsky (who earned comic immortality for his <i>Justice League</i> work) and Stan Goldberg. <p>Though the book went through many phases, including an adventure period and times where the book centered on more broadly humorous situations, its appeal remained consistent for many years. It also launched a number of spinoffs over the years of its existence. <p>Interestingly enough, Millie and the aforementioned Patsy and Hedy all joined the Marvel Universe proper when they appeared in <i>Fantastic Four Annual #3</i>, the wedding of Reed and Sue. Most recently, she appeared in 2009-2010's <i>Models Inc.</i> miniseries, and her niece is the star of <i>15 Love</i>.
Since we noted a couple of iconic Bettys, it's fitting we employ a favored nations strategy for Ms. Lodge. There's of course, Veronica Lake. Veronica Mars. And Elvis Costello's masterful song "Veronica," which happened to come out in 1989... the same year that Veronica's current solo title began. <p>As we noted, Veronica co-headlines books with Betty and regularly appears throughout the variety of Archie titles. Though her short-hand description might be "spoiled rich girl," Veronica's been given more depth than that over time. However, she's still competitive with Betty and prone to fighting with Jughead. (Uneasy hangs the head that wears the crown). <p>Veronica and Betty seem, at present, in no danger of going away. In fact, the profile of the Archie titles has steadily increased in the past couple of years, giving them a new boost in terms of awareness. In fact, at the current rate, Betty would overtake Millie by next December, and Veronica would take over the number two spot 19 months from now. <p>As for that number two...
Which is, of course, out-pointed by...
There wasn't really much doubt, was there? The Amazing Amazon is the leading lady of comics for a reason, and that reason is, primarily, longevity. <p>Of course, when you total the various Wonder Woman series together, you're past 600 issues. And she's the only one on our list that's been in continuous publication since the early '40s, regardless of series length. <p>We don't have to tell you about Diana's media impact, being as she was in live-action TV, multiple animated series, and a well-received direct-to-DVD animated feature. The only thing eluding Wonder Woman at this point is a modern feature film. (The tanking of the recent abortive TV series had a lot more to do with misguided choices than the character itself). <p>Does any character stand a chance of usurping this particular record? It's not clear. Veronica would need another 10 years or more to catch it; frankly, though, that's possible at Archie, as they favor long runs. By then, maybe the whole of comics will have gone digital, and we'll have to rethink our counting system. <p>At any rate, these leading ladies of comics have demonstrated that female characters can quite capably headline a book for decades, thank you very much, and they've done it in a variety of genres. The question now is this: what's the next female character to step out into the spotlight, and how long does she get to hold it?