Marvel Studios is one of the biggest money-makers in filmmaking right now, and that’s largely due to the ample source material they have to work with — eighty-odd years of colorful heroes and villains to adapt into blockbuster movies and hit streaming shows for Disney+. Sometimes that world of Marvel Comics can feel overwhelming to newcomers, but here’s the trick: you don’t actually have to know all eighty years’ worth of stories and characters. The trick is to find a character you like, read some of their stories, and run from there.
With Black Widow now in theaters, here’s a sampling of some of Marvel’s superheroines and my favorite storylines spotlighting them for the next time you visit your local comic book shop.
Kamala Khan: Ms. Marvel
Art by Jorge Molina, Courtesy of Wikimedia
Created in 2014, Kamala Khan is one of the biggest smash hits Marvel has seen lately; she’s even due to get her own Disney+ show later this year. Once a normal Pakistani-American teen from Jersey City, Kamala wanders into some mad science mist and discovers that she has shape-changing powers. Inspired by her favorite superheroes, particularly Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel, Kamala decides to use her new powers for good as the protector of Jersey City.
Kamala is an absolute delight of a character, and you can see why Marvel is so eager to bring her to the screen soon. Kamala has had three main creative teams handling her stories: Ms. Marvel (2014-2019), penned by G. Willow Wilson (which made her the first Muslim superhero in Marvel history with her own comic book), Magnificent Ms. Marvel (2019-2021), led by Saladin Ahmed (who also writes the excellent ongoing Miles Morales: Spider-Man book), and this September, Samira Ahmed is set to take over as writer.
Riri Williams: Ironheart
Art by Jen Bartel, Courtesy of Marvel Database
Another teen heroine headed for the big screen soon, Riri Williams is a 15-year-old tech prodigy who’s designed her own advanced suit of armor. She was created by Brian Michael Bendis, but came into her own under Eve Ewing’s pen in her 2018 Ironheart series. Riri is also a member of Marvel’s teen superhero team, the Champions. If you want a place to start, I highly recommend Jim Zub’s Champions, especially the Weirdworld storyline.
Nadia Pym: The Unstoppable Wasp
Art by Elizabeth Torque, Courtesy of Marvel Database
Ant-Man and the Wasp are some of Marvel’s oldest superheroes, and there have been a number of characters to use those names over the decades. The most recent of these is Nadia Pym. This one calls for some soap opera-style nonsense to set the stage, but from there it’s a relatively simple standalone adventure. Nadia is the long-lost daughter of Henry Pym, the first Ant-Man, who was stolen away and raised by the villainous Red Room. Learning about her family history and discovering she’s inherited her father’s technical know-how, Nadia escapes and finds her way to America, where she has to learn the ins and outs of teenage life and fighting villains. It’s one of Marvel’s most heartwarming reads, especially whenever she teams up with the Wasp who came before her, Janet van Dyne.
Nadia has had only one major writer so far, Jeremy Whitley, who’s penned both of her solo books. However, like Kamala and Riri, she’s also a member of the Champions, and she has a very fun miniseries team-up with Scott Lang, a.k.a. Ant-Man, written by Mark Waid.
Lunella Lafayette: Moon Girl
Art by Amy Reeder, Courtesy of Marvel Database
At nine years old, Lunella is one of Marvel’s youngest superheroes, but one of the most fun. A certified child genius, Lunella meets and befriends Devil Dinosaur, and the pair of them have all sorts of wild adventures from her New York neighborhood to the moon and beyond. Later in the series, she gains the power to switch brains with the dinosaur, which leads to even more fun hijinks. Lunella has only had one series to herself, written by Brandon Montclaire and Amy Reeder from 2016 to 2019, but it’s definitely worth reading. She’s also slated to get her own animated series next year, so we’ll likely be seeing a lot more of this dynamic duo in the future.
Miss America Chavez
Art by Joe Quinones, Courtesy of Marvel Database
One of the all-too-rare Latina and lesbian heroines in Marvel Comics, America Chavez was born in the alternate reality known as the Utopian Parallel. After her mothers sacrificed themselves to ensure the continuance of their world, America committed herself to traveling to multiverse to help people in need all over time and space. Her most prominent storylines include her adventures with the Young Avengers in 2015, the Ultimates in 2016, and, of course, her solo series, penned by Gabby Rivera.
Cindy Moon: Silk
Art by Dave Johnson, Courtesy of Wikimedia
No tour of the Marvel Universe would be complete without at least one Spider-Person in the mix, and Cindy Moon is one of my personal favorites. Once a regular teenage girl, Cindy was bitten by a radioactive spider and developed astonishing arachnid abilities. But unlike Peter Parker, Cindy’s family found out immediately and freaked out, allowing a shady mad scientist to lock her away in a bunker. Years later, Spider-Man learns about Cindy and breaks her out, and after some convoluted vampire-hunting adventures, Cindy tries to build an adult life for herself, fighting supervillains as well as her own demons. With few exceptions (read: anytime she shows up in a book written by Dan Slott), Cindy stands out in the crowded spider-market, and I eagerly recommend her 2015 solo series by Robbie Thompson and its 2016 continuation. Marvel relaunched her series earlier this year with YA author Maurene Goo as the writer, which provides an easily accessible jumping-on point for newcomers. And if you’re interested in Cindy’s relationships with her fellow Spider-People, check out Spider-Women, a dimension-hopping adventure featuring Cindy, Jessica Drew/Spider-Woman and Gwen Stacy/Spider-Gwen.
These six women of Marvel are a few of my favorites, but there are plenty more to check out. Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Marvel Unlimited are great starting points, or you can go in person to a local comic book shop using this store locator. Looking forward to bringing you in to the merry Marvel marching society!
Katherine Lynch is a student at Emmanuel College in Boston, Mass. She studies Communications and Media with a minor in Marketing. She loves to read, write, and learn about the world, passions she is eager to share with the MEDIAGIRLS community.