Today is National Redhead Day, the one day a year where we acknowledge the many contributions our redheaded brethren have made to society. While redheads only account for a mere 1% of the population, it sometimes seems like there’s a lot more redheads in the comics, especially when it comes to female characters at Marvel. Although some fans like to blame the dearth of gingers in superhero comics on an editor with a thing for redheads, the actual explanation is probably a lot less scandalous. It was simply easier to make a character’s hair red instead of brown due to the coloring technique used in most Golden and Silver Age Comics.
Whatever the reason, there’s plenty of prolific redheads in comics today. Here’s a look at five of our favorite female characters with red hair:
Professor X might be the brains of the X-Men and Cyclops might be the eyes, but Jean Grey is the heart and soul of Marvel’ merry band of mutants. One of the Xavier’s original five X-Men, Jean Grey was originally a stereotypical Silver Age female superhero with a non-physical power (she moved things with her mind) and a slow burning romance with the leader of the team. However, as the X-Men moved out of Stan Lee’s original image, Chris Claremont transformed Jean into the most powerful X-Men of all time. After saving her friends from a doomed shuttle re-entry, Jean transformed into the Phoenix, a cosmic entity with near limitless powers. However, the illusionist Mastermind corrupted Jean’s power, causing her to become Dark Phoenix. After killing a planet full of sentient broccoli people, the Shiar sentenced Jean to death, leading to one of the greatest X-Men stories of all time. Jean sacrificed herself to control the Phoenix’s powers, although she returned in the pages of X-Factor a few years later due to some convoluted retconning.
Jean would eventually marry her one true love Cyclops and died (again) at the hands of Magneto in Grant Morrison’s New X-Men. While Jean has yet to return from the dead a second time, a time traveling teenage version is currently running around the Marvel universe accompanied by an older version of Wolverine, which isn’t at all creepy.
Mary Jane Watson
“Face it, Tiger. You just hit the jackpot!” After a year of near misses and hasty retreats, Peter Parker finally met the stunning Mary Jane Watson after over a year of Aunt May trying to set the two of them up on a date. Although Peter presumed that Mary Jane wouldn’t be his type (since May had tacky taste in women), the two dated for a bit before deciding to remain friends as Mary Jane was a bit too flaky for Peter’s liking, especially with Gwen Stacy also wanting to date him. After Gwen died, Peter and Mary Jane reconnected and eventually got married.
Although their marriage had its ups and downs, it seemed like nothing could break the two of them apart for long…until Peter exchanged his marriage to Mephisto (the devil of the Marvel Universe) in exchange for saving Aunt May’s life. With their relationship annulled, Mary Jane remains an occasional member of Peter’s life, although she’s largely moved away from his superhero lifestyle. Mary Jane’s about to appear in Brian Bendis’s new Iron Man series, working for Tony Stark in an as of yet unknown capacity.
Like Jimmy Olsen, Harley Quinn and several other popular DC characters, Barbara Gordon’s origins lay outside of the comics. The producers of the popular 1960s Batman TV series asked DC to develop a new female sidekick for Batman that could appear on both the television show and in the comics at the same time. Barbara was the librarian daughter of Commissioner Gordon, trained in martial arts with a mind as sharp (if not sharper) as Batman’s. Barbara served as Batman’s sidekick for almost 20 years, until Alan Moore crippled her in the controversial Batman: The Killing Joke. John Ostrander revitalized the character as Oracle, a powerful hacker and information broker. As Oracle, Barbara founded the Birds of Prey and also served as a vital resource for DC’s superhero community. When DC rebooted its continuity in 2011, it restored Barbara’s ability to walk and made her Batgirl once again. Currently, Barbara stars in a popular Batgirl series that updated the character’s costume and mentality to bring it more in line with today’s “hipster” culture.
The She-Devil with a Sword, Red Sonja was a supporting character who first appeared in Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian series. In the original Marvel series, Sonja was a mercenary and rival to Conan, although the two often became allies during grim situations. Although there were sparks between the two, Red Sonja vowed never to sleep with a man who couldn’t best her in combat, something that Conan never achieved in all their adventures together. Red Sonja became the star of her own series and even teamed up with Spider-Man during a Marvel crossover event. After Marvel discontinued their fantasy line of comics, Dynamite obtained the rights to Red Sonja and published several new series starring the female warrior. Dynamite has fiddled with Red Sonja’s character and origin several times and is about to reboot the character once again, replacing her famed “metal bikini” with a more practical type of armor.
Angela’s one of the few comic book characters whose publication history is more interesting than her origin story. Angela originally appeared in an early issue of Spawn guest written by Neil Gaiman, whom Todd McFarlane had hired to help promote his new series. A bounty hunter angel, Angela became a popular recurring foe (and sometimes lover) of Spawn over the next decade. Gaiman and McFarlane eventually feuded over the rights and ownership of Angela, leading to a lengthy legal battle involving several Spawn. After several years, the courts ruled that Gaiman was a co-owner of Angela along with McFarlane and Gaiman would eventually gain full ownership of the character after he and McFarlane settled out of court.
Marvel bought the rights to Angela from Gaiman in 2013 and introduced the character to the Marvel Universe in the aftermath of the Age of Ultron event. Marvel revised Angela’s origins to make her part of a race of angels from “Heven”, a lost tenth realm that once waged war upon Asgard. Angela was later revealed to be Thor’s lost sister, kidnapped by the Angels and raised as one of their own. After learning of her true origins, Angela became an assassin working for Asgard. Recently, Angela forcibly took control of Hel (the Asgardian afterlife) to rescue her lover, Sera, from an eternity of punishment.