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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Badass Week Finale: The Toughest Woman in Comics!

Sisters are doin' it for themselves!


Yes, it's the pulse-pounding conclusion to Badass Week, and tonight, it's all about the ladies.

After all, when I kicked things off on Monday, I'm sure a few of you were wondering why I limited the vote to the Toughest Man in comics, rather than the toughest character, or even the toughest Super-Hero. And with good reason: there's no shortage of badass women in comics.

Just from the top of my head, there's Sasha Bordeaux, who was Batman's bodyguard before being abducted from prison under mysterious circumstances to head up Checkmate; Sif, who fought the battle of Ragnarok single-handedly (after the other one got chopped off); 355 (of Y - The Last Man fame) who, as Douglas Wolk put it, "stopped her own mentor from assassinating President Clinton by RIPPING HER THROAT OUT WITH HER BARE TEETH"; ISB favorite Elsa Bloodstone, who has recently taken to decapitating robot samurai and broccoli monsters with a shovel while doing backflips; and, of course, Amanda Waller, who pulled herself out of poverty and depression by sheer force of will and went from living in the projects to running the shadow government of the United States and talking shit to Batman.

Clearly, there's plently of material there for a good solid vote. But that's the whole thing: I don't need a vote to know who the Toughest Woman in comics is, and while this may come as a surprise, it's not any of them.

It is, in fact...

Princess Projectra

Yeah, I'm probably going to need to explain this one.

If you've been following Badass Week from the beginning, you may recall that when I nominated Karate Kid for the title of Toughest Man in Comics, I referenced the 1984 Paul Levitz/Keith Giffen Legion of Super-Heroes relaunch, which is the single most badass story to come out of the future since Douglas Quaid got his ass to Mars. The story, as I mentioned, involves the Legion of Super-Villains getting together and absolutely thrashing the Heroes. Seriously, not even in the Great Darkness Saga, which pit the Legion against a reborn Darkseid, had things ever gotten this rough. Because in this one... Somebody dies.

And by somebody, I mean Karate Kid.

See, the Villains were led by Nemesis Kid, who made his first appearance alongside Karate Kid and Projectra (and Ferro Lad, incidentally) in Adventure Comics #346, and turned traitor about three minutes later. He has, as far as I'm concerned, one of the greatest super-villain powers ever: He can instantly adapt to whatever threat he faces, developing super-powers that counteract every danger, pretty much fitting the classic definition of a Nemesis, and that makes him hard to beat.

At this point in Legion History (or at least, that Legion history), Karate Kid and Princess Projectra had both retired from the Legion after getting married, and were returning to Orando from their honeymoon when the Super-Villains put their plan into motion. And after Karate Kid finally rips himself out of Nemesis Kid's will-power draining machine through sheer determination alone, he faces off against Nemesis Kid who instantly develops the ability to beat Karate Kid to death. See? Handy power to have.

With his dying breath, Karate Kid wrenches his flight ring back from Nemesis Kid and flies off in a desperate suicide run, destroying the ship that carries the Super-Villains' army before crashing back to the surface.

And that's where Legion of Super-Heroes #5 picks up with one of the most badass things I have ever seen in comics starts.

That charred corpse? Yeah, that's Val Armorr right there. Steve Lightle and Larry Mahlstedt drew this issue, and they did an absolutely awesome job, if for no other reason than Projectra's face in this panel. That, my friends, is not a look of sadness, or of mourning, or of any emotion you'd generally associate with a newlywed that just became a widow. That, the way she stares at the reader, head up and eyes forward, is a look of fury.

Keep in mind, she's the Queen of Orando, and Nemesis Kid and his flunkies have nearly destroyed her planet, put her in chains, and killed her husband. And even then, she gives them one last chance.

Reminding someone with that look on their face that you just killed someone they love? Yeah, that's probably not a good idea.

At this point, a few more Legionnaires show up to deal with their opposite numbers in the Legion of Super-Villains (because being a Legionnaire means never having to stand alone and all that), but when Ultra Boy--who literally has more super-powers than he knows what to do with--jumps into action to take Nemesis Kid on, Projectra tells him in no uncertain terms, "No. He's mine."

That's Princess Projectra, whose only super-power is making pretty convincing illusions that Nemesis Kid is completely immune to. You know, just so we're clear on what happens next.

I'll admit, I'm probably a bigger fan of a good chunk of vengeance than anyone else I know, but in the whole of fiction, there is very, very little that is sweeter than watching a villain realize that he is about to be thoroughly and utterly destroyed. And in that last panel, Nemesis Kid is just figuring that out.

Prepare yourself. What happens next may well rock your world.

(Click for a Larger and more legible version)"You took my world, made my people slaves, and slew the man I had given my heart to. I need no power to destroy you save the strength born in my blood."

Last year, when Wonder Woman snapped Max Lord's neck to keep him from turning Superman into an unstoppable killing machine, people got mad about it, and she was acting to save lives. But here?

Not only does Projectra snap that dude's neck purely for revenge, but she then turns around and asks her friends if anybody's got the balls to tell her that wasn't the right thing to do.

And that? That's the hardest shit since Straight Outta Compton. FACT.


The Toughest Woman in Comics

And that's the end of Badass Week on the ISB! Be here tomorrow when we return to our usual schedule of only talking about the most badass moments in comics history ninety-four percent of the time! Special thanks go out to everyone who voted in the Toughest Man competition and made this thing a smashing success!

And remember: Sgt. Rock is The Point!


Blogger Ragnell said...

Okay, now I want a Princess Projectra Barbie, along with a Nemesis Kid Ken who's head twists all the way around.

7/09/2006 4:43 AM

Blogger jblackstone said...

Can you imagine if Projectora and Sgt. Rock got married and had a baby?

That would be one badass baby, I tell you what!

7/09/2006 4:55 AM

Blogger Brandon Bragg said...

Your scholarship in the field of badassery continues to impress.

7/09/2006 7:21 AM

Blogger SmoothJimmyApollo said...

The man is correct. Marrying your cousin, Meg Ryan, or having manorexia may be viewed as cool by "the kids" but it does not qualify as leaving the planet and hanging with Kuato.

7/09/2006 8:02 AM

Blogger Matthew E said...

I was wondering who the Toughest Woman in Comics would turn out to be, and I did think of Projectra. Not only for the sequence you showed here, but also for the time she spent as Sensor Girl, during which she was extremely formidable. But there have also been times when she didn't appear to her best advantage (i.e. when the Khunds take over Orando early in LSH v4, or in her early appearances in LSH v5) so I figured she had no shot, and that even among Legionnaires Shadow Lass and Shrinking Violet were probably ahead of her. Shows what I know.

7/09/2006 10:15 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well played, sir.

Still, Big Barda didn't get nominated? For shame.

7/09/2006 12:02 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you are forgetting the time that Dennis Quaid stop an ,intergalactic war all by himself

7/09/2006 12:20 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If killing for revenge is more badass than killing out of necessity, than isn't the most badass thing of all killing for fun?

The Joker: the most badass man in comics.

7/09/2006 1:01 PM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

No, I'm afraid Revenge is the most badass emotion of all.

I didn't actually list nominees for this one, just whomever came to mind. Barda (and Lady Shiva) didn't make it in there because I was trying to be balanced, and quite frankly, DC has a lot more badass women than Marvel, even if the Invisible Woman did totally beat Wolverine during Enemy of the State.

And the Total Recall joke has been fixed, you grim and cheerless bastards.

7/09/2006 1:12 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Revenge doesn't guarantee quite as much senseless slaughter as killing for fun. And senseless slaughter, above all things, is badass.

7/09/2006 1:39 PM

Blogger jblackstone said...

No, revenge isn't badass. Anybody can just let their emotions take over and seek revenge, but to take control, and coldly asses the situation, and kill for the sake of cold justice, is truely badass. It's the same reason the Punisher is badass for staying in his prison cell and reading during a riot. Revenge is for the weak. A stronger person put their emotions behind them and assesses the situation. Cold, justified killings are the most badass.

Look at the situation with Projectra. She shows no emotion after her husband was killed. Then she offers Nemesis kid the chance to escape her jurisdiction. Then she coldly assesses the crimes he is guilty of, again, showing no emotion. She doesn't charge at him or scream, just tells him his crimes. Then she exorises her rights as monarch of he planet by exercising her powers over the justice system and acting as judge, jury, and executioner. That cold assessemnet, followed by the just killing (because she executed him as the head of state).

The other leigionaires are shockes not because she killed him out of revenge, but because she killed him at all. Most mainstream heros have a "no-killing" policy, so that would indeed shock them.

So Projectra is not badass for her revenge, but for her lack thereof. Cold justice > revenge.

7/09/2006 2:28 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's much harder to find badassery in the women than in the men. Guys like Sgt. Rock and Conan don't just do badass things, they are badass. When it comes to the women, however, the characters that should be badass (Wonder Woman, Barda, Hawkgirl, etc.) are rarely treated as such, or they kick someone in the head and apologize for it. Really, Wonder Woman, supreme warrior of a warrior people, should have more than just Kingdom Come and a few Morrison moments of 'splodey stompage to her name. So it's more of a competition between single moments of awe than ouvres of toughness.

My list...

-Big Barda wipes the Watchtower floor with the 853rd Century Wonder Woman (JLA #1,000,000)

-Sif gets pissed and charges into Surtur's horde (THOR #351)

-Storm stabs Callisto and lays down the law to the Morlocks (UNCANNY #170)

-Wonder Woman talks shit to Darkseid during OWAW (WONDER WOMAN #173)

-Illyana leaves the Enchantress to S'ym's imagination (NEW MUTANTS SPECIAL EDITION)

-Huntress staves off the Joker's goons and gets three bullets for Christmas (No Man's Land)

-Tulip O'Hare (every other issue of PREACHER)

7/09/2006 6:42 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Promethea #3 (Grace Brannagh edition) was pretty bad-ass. Not all that well-developed, though.

Verification word: fkskughh, which happens also to be Nemesis Kid's last word (well, sound).

7/09/2006 7:07 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I love is how not only do we get a sound effect for the dreaded Orando NeckSnapper finisher, but that the sound effect itself snaps.

7/10/2006 12:22 AM

Blogger Brent McKee said...

Projectra's power is illusion so why not the illusion that she's a weak spoiled princess when in fact she's got a steel or some sort of unobtanium spine that can crush Nemesis Lad like the bug that he is, worthy of no more attention than she'd give to picking a thread off a dress. And she's able to destroy him, not because of anything that she's learned from a man - even Karate Kid - but simply because it's part of her heritage. An absolute monarch disposing of a minor threat to her power that believed himself to be far more of a danger than he was. Badass (but a badass with a good ass).

7/10/2006 2:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I realize I'm late commenting on this at all, let alone the men's competition, but I don't see how you can neglect the badassery of Rorschach. "I'm not locked up in here with you. You're locked up in here with _me_." Now _that's_ badass.

7/15/2006 12:52 AM

Anonymous Viagra Online Without Prescription said...

In my opinion the toughest woman in comics is Storm, because since she exist she has had to fight with stronger characters, and never has been humiliated.
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8/31/2010 12:59 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for giving Projectra the credit she deserves.

10/25/2013 4:46 PM


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