ALL THE SOLO LADIES1 of 13We’re just weeks away from the premiere of Supergirl season 2, with a second headlining comic book for the Girl of Steel starting in December. And though the age of high-numbered mainstream comic books may be over, there’s no denying Supergirl’s staying power.
And she’s not the only leading lady who’s been around for a long time. 2016 marks Wonder Woman’s 75th anniversary. But that put us in mind of the female led comic books that did reach lofty numerical heights.
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 not of the superhero genre. Five of the titles come from outside the Big Two.
Our apologies if we missed anyone in our estimations, and remember that this is solo only (so Birds of Prey and Strangers in Paradise don't count). With that said, look onward...
PATSY WALKER (124 issues, 1945-1965)2 of 13Before she was Hellcat she was . . . a regular teenager? That's right. Patsy Walker spun out of Miss America Magazine 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 (Patsy & Hedy) and other spin-offs.
It's with irony, one supposes, that Patsy Walker #95 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 Patsy & Hedy 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.
Patsy has recently been a popular supporting character in Netflix's Jessica Jones, and is currently starring in a Marvel series titled Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat.
One thing's for sure: Patsy Walker? Staying power.
SUPERMAN'S GIRLFRIEND, LOIS LANE (137 issues, 1958-1974)3 of 13Despite 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.
Though it's perhaps debatable, Lois may be both the most recognizable and most important supporting character in comic books. 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?
And, of course, that popularity led to this long-running series.
Little Dot (164 issues, 1953-1976)4 of 13
Also clocking in with 164 issues is Little Dot, the Harvey character with an obsessive lot for dots.
Dot's solo series is notable not just for being plain, well, dotty, but because it's the title that introduced Richie Rich.
MARGE'S LITTLE LULU (164 issues, 1948-1962)5 of 13You 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.
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.
WITCHBLADE (185 issues, 1995-20156 of 13The wound's still fresh from Witchblade ending last year, but she had a title for the history books.
Dismissed by some as part of the bad girl trend of the '90s, the book nonetheless continued to thrive past the fad thanks to a number of strong creators, like the nearly decade-long run of writer Ron Marz. And it's notable that they've built an entire universe around her. Consider The Darkness, Angelus, Magdalena, Artifacts, Switch... Those all have one starting point, and it's Witchblade.
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 Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Sabrina, Painkiller Jane, Sheena, and... Not many others.
BETTY (195 issues, 1992-2012)7 of 13Every 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 (Not to mention Betty Page). Though, if you're from the Netherlands, you have Bettie Serveert.
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.
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!
Regardless, Betty (who also co-headlined 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.
MILLIE THE MODEL (207 issues, 1945-1973)8 of 13Marvel's longest-running solo female series isn't Spider-Girl, Spider-Woman, She-Hulk or Ms. Marvel. It's Millie the Model, 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 Justice League work) and Stan Goldberg.
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.
Interestingly enough, Millie and the aforementioned Patsy and Hedy all joined the Marvel Universe proper when they appeared in Fantastic Four Annual #3, the wedding of Reed and Sue. Most recently, she appeared in 2009-2010's Models Inc. miniseries, and her niece was the star of 15 Love.
VERONICA (210 issues, 1989-2012)9 of 13Since 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.
As we noted, Veronica co-headlined 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).
GOLD DIGGER (236 issues and counting, 1999-present)10 of 13Antarctic Press can proudly claim a spot on the list thanks to writer and artist Fred Perry, creator of Gold Digger. 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.
Still ongoing as of this writing, Gold Digger 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), Gold Digger shows no signs of stopping -- even as the cartoonist balances other projects.
WONDER WOMAN (Second series, 228 issues, 1987-2006)11 of 13Which is, of course, out-pointed by...
WONDER WOMAN (First series, 329 issues 1942-1986)12 of 13There wasn't really much doubt, was there? The Amazing Amazon is the leading lady of comic books for a reason, and that reason is, primarily, longevity.
Of course, when you total the various Wonder Woman series together between volumes and relaunches, 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.
We don't have to tell you about Diana's media impact, being as she's starred 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 -- which will be solved on June 23, 2017.
Does any character stand a chance of usurping this particular record? It's not clear. Doubtful. Gold Digger is the only member of this list still going, and is still 103 issues away from breaking Wonder Woman's record.
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: who's the next female character to step out into the spotlight, and how long does she get to hold it?
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