Are you guys anticipating Ms. Marvel at all? These days, does it not seem commonplace to watch a Disney film with a dark woman as the lead character? This is also true of the fact that Wonder Woman is one of the most successful DCEU franchises, along with Superman and Batman.
With numerous superhero figures freely waving the LGBTQ+ flag in the last ten years or so, including the most current Superman, who also happens to be bisexual, society has seen a significant change towards equality in all spheres. However, things were radically different in the 1980s.
The figurative “glass ceiling” of today was far more literal back then, and women’s roles in the majority of media were confined to that of arm candy or damsels in distress, with the cliche of the Final Girl only lately being popularised by horror films. And, let us just say, the presence of Kamala Khan in Disney during the 1980s would not have been as marvelous as it is now.
However, even at a time when popular entertainment publications were more interested in publishing gossip columns than creating real role models, the latter was already taking place thanks to animated cartoon shows, which were both the most unexpected and the most suitable form of entertainment for America’s young television viewers at the time.
Cartoons were an excellent platform for female representation at a period when they were most needed because they were works of pure fiction, and none more exemplify the word “badass” than this Dynamite Dozen.
These 12 women, who range from cosmic cyberspace cops to seductive-yet-stealthy secret operatives, prove that they are just as capable of kicking butt and taking names as their male counterparts, if not more so. Here are the Top 12 Badass 80’s Female Cartoon Characters – Explored, without further ado.
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Steelheart – Silverhawks
What better way to kick off a list about badass ladies than talking about one with a literal Heart of Steel? Well, stainless steel, but we’ll explain what we mean. In 1985, American kids were introduced to a crossover sci-fi treat of a TV series in the form of ThunderCats; a cartoon that was produced by the now-defunct Rankin/Bass Animated Entertainment with artwork from the Japanese studio Pacific Animation Corporation.
The wild success of this story about a group of humanoid, cat-like group of aliens wandering through “Third Earth”, which we will get to in a bit, emboldened the company to commission another animated series with the premise reversed: instead of aliens coming to human society, this story would see humans engage in inter-galactic police activities in a galaxy not-so-far away called Limbo.
Debuting in September 1986, Silverhawks was this absurdist piece of galactic sci-fi buffoonery that was absolutely delightful in our opinion, and it’s a shame that it only lasted for one season; but we’re so glad that it gave us the badass existence that is Steelheart, aka Sergeant Emily Hart from planet Earth. In the world of Silverhawks, humanity must have become an intergalactic civilization, because they had a base of operations in the Limbo Galaxy and commissioned the creation of a whole new kind of soldier to police its boundaries.
Those soldiers? You guessed it; the Silverhawks. Part-human, part-machine, and 100% one of the coolest characters in cartoon history, simply based on their design! There are only 5 Silverhawks in the Limbo Galaxy under the aegis of Commander Stargazer; and despite not being the squad leader, Steelheart is the axis around which her team rotates. How awesome can she possibly be, we hear you ask?
Well, the rules of space work a little differently in the Limbo Galaxy; while you can breathe freely in the open vacuum of the void- which is the kind of nuanced detailing today’s cartoons lack- you need a mechanically-enhanced body just to enter it. The procedure is dangerous, and only high-ranking military officials are allowed to go through with it.
Sergeant Emily Hart and her twin brother Will were amongst the ones chosen for the project, but their augmentation procedure hit an unexpected snag when their doctors got to their hearts; so they simply replaced them with hearts made of literal steel! Sorry, stainless steel. Details, details.
But yes, this alone makes Steelheart one of the most badass characters in existence, period, but that’s not all folks. She’s the brains of the entire Silverhawks operation, representing the “brains” of the fraternal twin combo. After observing Commander Stargazer’s pet/bird weapon Tally Hawk, Steelheart & Steelwill got to work on creating similar companions for their entire team.
It was the former’s efforts that got the project to work out as smoothly as it did, and for the rest of the series, Stronghold serves as her bird weapon. Steelheart also shares a psychic link with her brother, much like the one Cyclops has with Jean Grey, but this isn’t Game of Thrones, so sorry to disappoint any fans of incest out there. This telepathic link might just be their greatest asset as a team, however, because it has allowed the twins to save each other’s butts from Mon*Star’s Mob many a time.
Also, despite calling her the brains of the operation, make no mistake, Steelheart was one heavy hitter. In one of the episodes, her brother is struggling to defeat Mumbo Jumbo: one of the series antagonist Mon*Star’s minions. Mumbo Jumbo is the Minotaur if he was a Decepticon, so you can see why Steelwill was having trouble.
On the flip side, Steelheart made short work of the gangling beast, so there goes your argument for her being a one-dimensional character. Although Silverhawks never quite reached the same mainstream success as ThunderCats, it did give us one of the most-badass female space rangers in the history of sci-fi, and we’ll take that gladly. And speaking of ThunderCats…
Cheetara – ThunderCats
“I am a woman! You hold no mystery for me!” That has to be either the cheesiest or most accurate piece of dialogue to come out of a female cartoon character’s mouth. But such is the mind-speaking, street-speeding Cheetara, the first- and for a time, only- female member of the Thunderian contingent that landed on Third Earth and came to be known as ThunderCats.
For nearly 4 years, Cheetara bedazzled young boys and girls alike with her super-speed, battle smarts, and a look that can only be described as the predecessor to the furry-dom tradition. Google that at your own risk. But having said that, Cheetara is not just the only one, there is eye candy for Lion-O and Tygra (and later Panthro in the comics); she’s actually kind of like the glue that keeps the team together.
Before their arrival on Third Earth, Cheetara was one of the warriors holding off the Mutant assault on the vessel they were using to travel to a hospitable planet. She put up a brave fight and managed to wake up Lion-O from cryosleep despite the objections of Snarf, gaining her trademark staff in the process. This thing could transform from a baton to a bow in an instant and suited her fast-paced attack style perfectly.
After fending off that attack and arriving on Third Earth, Cheetara becomes an integral part of the ThunderCats’ efforts to build a new home; and keep it safe. She is often the voice of reason when things get a bit macho up in the Cat’s Lair, and is kind of the lynchpin of the whole thing thanks to her superpower. As you might have guessed, most ThunderCats are inspired by their “real-life counterparts”: Cheetara is inspired by Cheetahs, hence her ability to take a casual job at 120 miles per hour.
But she also has something called a “Sixth Sense”, which allows her to get visions of the past and the future. This ability manifests itself involuntarily at first, and as she gains mastery over it she realizes that the more she uses it, the more it drains her, being capable of putting her out of commission for weeks potentially. She calls it a curse, and rightly so in our opinion, but it does become integral to the plot; most notably when Lion-O witnesses the death of Bengali.
Despite being “cursed” with precognition, Cheetara is a front-line soldier through and through and has often led the charge against Mutants and the evil Mumm-Ra directly. Her speed is such that when Tygra entered a mysterious Cave of Doom and started aging so fast he would’ve died if no one got him out of there, Cheetara was able to finish the job without aging a second!
During Lion-O’s Anointment Trials, Cheetara had him beat, but a chance intervention by the Mutants and a dirt path reminiscent of the one made infamous by 300 and his pure determination to win allowed the future Lord of the ThunderCats to prevail. Cheetara is, simply put, a pure inspiration; and we cannot wait to see Milla Jovovich play her in a live-action capacity, hopefully sometime soon.
The Baroness – G.I. Joe
Calm down, Falcon and the Winter Soldier fans; this is a powerful baroness, yes, but the one you’re thinking of is a Contessa, which is an entirely different rank of nobility. But we don’t have time to get into that; not when Baroness isn’t even this character’s official name! That would be Anastasia Cisarovna aka Anastasia DeCobray. If you’re looking for a badass femme fatale that knew what she was about and carried herself accordingly, it doesn’t get better than The Baroness.
Born the daughter of a pair of rich Europeans, we don’t know which country specifically, a young Anastasia showed great promise, but also seemed to be a walking sticker that said, “Available for radicalization 24*7”. Her studies into economics and politics could have helped make America a better place if she’d managed to find a way to break through the red tape that reinforced the glass ceiling that existed above her head.
As the years went by, she went from being an outspoken activist to an outright extremist, holding anarchic views as to what the future of the United States should be; and rather self-serving ones as to who should lead this great nation into it. Eventually, it spilled over into outright acts of terrorism, and after she had crossed that line, Anastasia cared only about one thing; power.
Well, two things, power, and Destro on occasion. She was believed to have been trained in the arts of cryptography, psychological warfare, and the manufacture of bio-chemical weapons at a super-secret intelligence agency’s facility which was believed to have had ties to the Warsaw Pact. When we see her first in the stories of G.I. Joe, she is already pretty much at the top of the food chain of the Joes’ worst enemies: The Cobras.
She rose through the ranks using her wits, wiliness, and perhaps some seduction to become the lieutenant of the feared Cobra Commander, but often worked at usurping his position himself, which made her a constant threat to not just her enemies but her allies as well.
As a character, Anastasia is filled with contradictions: she is a romantic at heart but dresses it up with cynicism, she has one of the most calculating and ruthless minds in the entire world but can be blind to certain things that are right in front of her. These flaws, combined with her general badassery, make The Baroness one of the most-layered female cartoon characters in the history of animated television.
Her bespectacled look combined with the combat gear that has the Cobra sigil emblazoned upon it has become iconic, and Anastasia herself remains one of the most compelling and conniving enigmas that we’ve ever come across, which is proven by the fact that she was the first character that crossed over from the G.I. Joe comics into the animated series!
Evil-Lyn – He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
I mean, her most-recent incarnation is voiced by none other than Lena Headey, so you know that this woman is one you should not mess with. Also, to any Evelyns watching this video, please know that this isn’t personal. We love you, appreciate you, and value your likes, so please don’t hesitate to drop them on this here video. Oh, and don’t forget to subscribe as well! Thanks, Evelyns.
That being said, Evil-Lyn has to be the epitome of a fierce and independent femme fatale who gives no effs and takes orders from no one; though she does love to play pretend with GIF-Legend Skeletor in every incarnation of her character. We would love to talk about her origin story, but somehow, this evil lady has a background more convoluted than Hawkman’s; and that is saying something.
Originally, she was launched as a diametric opposite to the Teela figurines by Mattel to capitalize on the fact that their Evil Masters lacked the requisite lady member that He-Man’s Gang had; by the way, petition to rename He-Man and the Masters of the Universe into He-Man’s Gang. It just sounds cooler. As the lore of the He-Man Universe began expanding, Evil-Lyn was explored further, and has been positioned as both Skeletor’s nefarious vizier and his devoted former flame; depending on the adaptation you’re talking about.
The original animated series’ companion Bible listed her as an Earth scientist who was fiercely competitive with and jealous of the woman who would go on to become her eternal enemy: Teela. Masters of the Universe: Revelations shows us a different story, telling us that she had always survived in harsh conditions and that her parents nearly turned her into a meal at one point; which is as grim a thought as it gets.
But keeping all that aside, it cannot be denied that Evil-Lyn is one of the best female antagonists of the 80’s cartoon landscape, if not the 20th century as a whole. Even though she was Skeletor’s second-in-command and his best asset by far, she never was truly committed to him, opting to usurp his throne for herself in the original animated series.
Evil-Lyn is an extremely powerful sorceress who can control people’s minds, which always makes her a threat to anyone around her just on a baseline level. However, what makes her inspirational, is her ability to think and act independently of her “master” and her all-destructive yet all-too-understandable fallibility, both of which make her the most-relatable villainess by far.
Evil-Lyn doesn’t like Teela but comes to grudgingly respect her over time. She feels trapped with Skeletor, but also can’t leave him because of her love for him. In Revelations, she turned into a Zamasu-esque goddess who tried to destroy all creation and start over because of the years of villainy that had warped her perspective on “doing the right thing.”
She is the perfect mix of tragic and evil, independent yet caged, vulnerable yet deadly, and is the quintessential cartoon femme fatale in our eyes. And did we mention that Lena Headey is voicing her most recent outing on the big screen? It’s pure perfection, we tell you.
Princess Ariel – Thundarr the Barbarian
Nope, not the one that was in My Little Mermaid, though that Princess Ariel is a whole different class of 80’s badass if we do say so ourselves. No, we’re talking about the one we meet at the beginning of the 80s, not towards its tail-end. Thundarr the Barbarian was an admittedly ahead-of-its-time creation. In this world, which is time-stamped 3994, by the way, humanity has experienced a catastrophe that has left them locked in an oxymoronic state of civilizational development.
In 1994, somehow, an entire friggin’ planet passed in between Earth and the moon, shattering the latter in the process and sending the world in a post-apocalyptic version of the Middle Ages, essentially; think Mad Max but with sorcerers and ridiculously well-designed futuristic homages to current American cities.
In this “New Earth”, humanity had progressed but also regressed. Magic became the main source of power, replacing science, but as a result, mankind fell back into a primitive system of civilization with kingdoms replacing governments. That is an awful lot of thought put into a story for children. Who could’ve created such an artistic juggernaut? Check notes; of course, Jack Kirby is involved!
Though Kirby’s contribution was strictly restricted to production design, his influence is felt throughout the series, and nowhere is it felt more than with Princess Ariel: the brave, defiant sorceress who risks her life to rescue an enslaved barbarian and a lion-human hybrid warrior. Ariel is the literal embodiment of the phrase “I told you so”, and we cannot stop stanning her for it.
Like, we get it Thundarr, you are mighty, might makes right, blah blah blah, but most situations in the real world require logic to solve problems, not fists; and making Ariel the conduit of that logic is not only fantastic from a character-comeuppance perspective but a gender perspective as well. Without getting too much into the debate of her breaking the mould of the damsel-in-distress princess, we’re just gonna say that Disenchantment’s Bean is highly-inspired by Princess Ariel; but that’s just us.
Keeping that bit of sass aside, she is also the brains of the entire operation, much like most of the stunning ladies that have featured on this list so far. Ariel is portrayed as a strong sorceress, a tome of knowledge, and a literal pop culture guide for her comparatively-witless companions; that would be us, the viewers at home, of course.
Beautiful, dutiful, and yet filled with an aura of daring and playfulness, Ariel was a welcome highlight of the sadly short-lived Thundarr the Barbarian animated series. Here’s hoping they reboot the series sometime soon because Ariel’s “I told you so” shenanigans would just ring truer in the 21st century.
Lady Jaye – G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero
Staff Sergeant E6 Alison R. Hart-Burnett, better known by her codename Lady Jaye, is one of the rarer characters that translate from an animated existence into the pages of a comic book. But given the fact that she is probably the best thing that the Joes have going for them in terms of a fearless researcher and team leader, we don’t think they mind this late canonical addition at all.
In fact, if anything, they might just welcome it; because Lady Jaye is a pure, unfiltered badass in combat gear. The only character behind Cobra Commander to get featured time on the animated show, Lady Jaye made sure she made every second on-screen count; and managed to get us to rally behind this uber-confident master of espionage who feels more Bene Gesserit than James Bond, and that too in a series specifically about the military! But that isn’t to say she hasn’t trained hard for this.
Jaye is a Bryn Mawr and Trinity College graduate, has been certified as a pilot and a ranger, and is often the Joes’ “lead tester”; that goes for both equipment and new Joes, by the way. That’s right; Lady Jaye is the one who does the breaking in around these parts, boys! And she isn’t just a corporate shill, either; she fights like she has a chip on her shoulder, and that chip must be the size of a boulder because she’s a demon in the field.
Her weapon of choice is a javelin that comes with various fittings for various purposes; think Kate Bishop, but instead of archery, she picks up Olympic-class javelin-throwing. Oh, and you better believe that Lady Jaye didn’t forget her trick javes back at home, either. Her introduction to the animated series has to be one of the coolest for any cartoon character, period; she took down 6 Cobra gliders and the Commander herself with 2 friggin’ javelins.
How can you NOT love her?! When she isn’t out saving her fellow Joes’ butts, which is most of the time, she’s infiltrating terrorist operations worldwide without utilizing the usual amount of heavy make-up when disguising oneself. Her espionage and acting skills are so on point that she can mimic a person down to the minutia of their mannerisms, something that comes very handy when she impersonates the Baroness and infiltrates Cobra Command to find and destroy the “Vortex Cone”.
While her relationship with Flint is quintessential 80’s drama with the latter’s “heroics” swaying Jaye towards caring for him, it can’t be denied that they do make a powerhouse of a couple. Lady Jaye is one of those few characters for whom life seems to be made; and yet she insists on kicking butt and taking names personally, which is exactly why we love her so much.
She-Ra – She-Ra Princess of Power
Okay, NOW we’re getting into true badass icon territory. Say hello to She-Ra: the infinitely cooler, stronger, and more-compelling twin sister of He-Man and the woman who should have become the Mistress of the Universe, we don’t care what anyone else thinks. She-Ra’s story is kinda like Mister Miracle’s, except it’s set in Etheria, not Apokolips, and she wasn’t swapped as part of a peace treaty.
Her birth name is Adora. She was the princess of all Eternia alongside her twin brother Adam, but soon after her birth, she was kidnapped by the evil Hordak and spirited away to his lairs in the malevolent planet of Etheria. There, he brainwashed her and made her a part of his Evil Horde, raising her to the rank of Force Captain over the years.
Adora was unaware of her true parentage, and served Hordak faithfully as a result; that is until one day when she encountered the Sorceress, who manifested herself in front of the lost princess to view the jewel entombed within the Sword of Protection.
The Sorceress reveals to her that she is, in fact, Princess Adora of Eternia and that the He-Man her horde had kept captive so far was her brother. Having already sensed a weird kinship with the hero, Adora instantly accepts The Sorceress’ explanation of the truth- which is kind of stupid of her in retrospect, because like, sorceresses are usually the evil ones, but thankfully that isn’t the case in the He-Man Universe.
She re-affirms her allegiance to her royal house, and her commitment to her newfound duty; that of liberating Etheria from the oppression of Hordak’s Evil Horde. She utters the phrase, “For the honor of Grayskull” and is instantly transformed into She-Ra: the Keeper of the Sword of Protection, and the Defender of the Defenceless on Planet Etheria. As She-Ra, Adora becomes the leader of the Great Rebellion that is unraveling in opposition to Hordak’s rule and helps them secure great victories thanks to her intimate knowledge of the Horde’s tactics.
She shares her male counterpart’s fervent devotion to “doing the right thing”, but that’s about where the similarities end for us because as far as we are concerned, Adam is a pampered baby and Adora is a hard-knock insurgent with years of experience in the trenches working for a cause that isn’t even hers in the first place.
You tell us who sounds more heroic to you. Oh, and as an extra bonus, her Sword shape-shifts into any weapon or tool she wants, and she doesn’t have to point its tip towards Spirit to turn him into Swift Wind either. On top of that, she can telepathically communicate with animals, and also, Swift Wind is a friggin’ unicorn; so she sounds like Freyja from Norse Mythology at this point.
Indeed, She-Ra’s efforts to stop the horde can only be seen as god-like. At a time when female leads in comics were not as relevant a thing as it is today, She-Ra had an entire TV show dedicated to showing us exactly how badass this rebel princess was; it’s just a shame she couldn’t finish her journey on-screen back then, which is why the 2018 reboot was such a pleasant surprise for us. And we’re glad they chose She-Ra over He-Man to reboot because honestly, Adam’s put-on meek persona gets rather tiresome over time; we’d rather root for the fiery rebel leader instead, but that’s just us!
Firestar – Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends
It is borderline-terrifying to think that perhaps one of the best screen-to-comic translations of a character was almost ruined by naming her after an ECW Pay-Per-View; though to be fair to Marvel, the Extreme promotion wasn’t around at the time they came up with Firestar.
The story behind her conception itself is fascinating. Back in the 80s, Marvel was facing a LOT of difficulties getting The Human Torch onto their animated shows because of disputes that we are sure Kevin Feige and his crew would laugh at and call petty today. But because Torch wasn’t going to be able to show up to fill out the planned trifecta of superheroes, the show’s creators decided to go back to the drawing board and come up with an entirely new character to replace him. Enter Angelica Jones: a mutant with the ability to control microwave emissions.
Remember when we said they were going to give her a ridiculous superhero name before? That was going to be Heatwave, and now you know why we’re glad they went with Firestar. Her superpower essentially is the same as The Human Torch’s, but her background isn’t, because, unlike Johnny Storm, Angelica Jones is a mutant. She has been since the day she was born. She grew up in extreme poverty with her father and was relentlessly bullied by a girl called Bonnie. The reasons were varied, but they mostly centered on her social status.
The first time Angelica’s mutant abilities manifested was when Bonnie was giving her a hard time while building a snowman; young Ms. Jones unwittingly melted the entire thing into a puddle. Angelica kept trying to become genuine friends with Bonnie, but there was no end to her vanity. This other time, they were playing with a dollhouse, and Bonnie triggered Angelica to the point she melted the entire dollhouse.
This is around the time the latter figured out that she had superpowers, and got to work on learning how to use them. Other than that one sprinkler incident which was rather reminiscent of that Prom scene from Carrie, Angelica had managed to find out pretty much the full extent of her powers by the time Charles Xavier tracked her down and invited her to his School.
After spending a few years training, learning, and fighting with the X-Men, Angelica was sent to college in New York alongside Bobby Drake (aka Iceman), which is where they met Peter Parker and discovered he was Spider-Man and began teaming up as Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends! Despite her fiery superpowers, Angelica was often the voice of reason in the trio, being more level-headed of the three.
Firestar’s oxymoronic relationship and chemistry with Iceman made for an entertaining watch, and the fact that these three teenagers had a full-blown Rick Sanchez situation going on in Aunt May’s home has to be one of the coolest things we’ve seen. Firestar might have been intended as a replacement, but she came into her own thanks to the show, to the extent that she was absorbed into the mainstream X-Men continuity (albeit with a different backstory).
Her penchant to verbally dress down her opponents whilst simultaneously managing two of the most combustible young adults we’ve seen on-screen is commendable, to say the least. Firestar is still fondly remembered as one of the inherently cooler original cartoon characters, and we’re hoping she shows up somehow whenever Marvel drops X-Men ’97.
Teela – He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
Kinda ironic to see two female characters from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe end up on the same list, isn’t it? Well, three, if you count his sister, but we digress. We’ve already raved about the evil sorceress and the twin sister, now let’s come to the main reason why He-Man and the Masters of the Universe is still remembered so fondly, and that’s Teela. Okay, yes, He-Man is an icon, but Teela is right up there with him, keeping pace if not outpacing him.
There are a bunch of origin stories for her as well, that range from cloning to being brought to Eternia as a captive but the one we’re going to explore is the classic tale of Teela from the animated series. The story goes a little something like this: Master-At-Arms, the, well, master-at-arms for the ruling family of Eternia, saved the mystical bird called Zoar from the clutches of the evil Mer-Man a long time before Adam grabbed the Sword of Power.
As thanks, Zoar allowed him to ascend to the top of her nest where he came across a being of enormous power and import: the daughter of the mythic Sorceress of Castle Grayskull, whose name was, you guessed it, Teela! Turns out Zoar was the OG Sorceress in disguise and she wanted Master-At-Arms to do her a solid and raise her daughter as his own for her safety and well-being. You know, one of those, “Promise me, Ned” type of scenarios.
And so he does; he raises Teela as his daughter and she becomes one of the bravest warriors in all of Eternia, rising to the position of Captain of the Royal Guard. Bold, beautiful, and sometimes brash, Teela served Adam’s family faithfully and was ever at the side of He-Man, though for someone who knew both men intimately, it’s confounding that she never puts 2 and 2 together; at least in the timeline of the original series, anyway.
Eventually, Teela figures out her true identity and even takes up her rightful place as the all-powerful Sorceress for a brief period. In the recent Masters of the Universe: Revelation series, Teela has fully come into herself as the Sorceress and is the only reason that Eternia even exists. If she hadn’t talked Evil-Lyn out of her plans to commit universal genocide, who knows where He-Man and his friends would’ve been today?
Teela is the unsung axis around whom the He-Man Universe rotates; and, if you’ve seen any footage from the show, you’d know that she has more than earned her reputation as a total badass. Anyone who can smart-mouth their Prince into shame without fear for their own lives counts as a badass in our books, at least.
Gloria Baker – M.A.S.K
If you combine the absolute car-crashing mayhem that is the Transformers franchise and mash it up with the GI Joes and take away all semblance of a backstory from the entire equation, you’ll get this rather oddly successful little slice of 80’s animated perfection that is M.A.S.K. Short for Mobile Armoured Strike Kommand. Rather ironic that the title of the last episode before the series was canceled was “Cliff Hanger”, but we’d like to think that was deliberate.
But, yes, getting back to the point, M.A.S.K is an elite strike force that is comprised of human beings who can basically transform their vehicles into semi-autobots and use cool masks with different abilities to fight a terrorist organization called V.E.N.O.M. Now, you’d think that an organization that is focused on combatting vehicular-based terrorism with its own medicine would hire better drivers, but the entire M.A.S.K squad is a bunch of guys who can only be defined as misfits: we got architects, lumberjacks, rock musicians, history teachers, you name it, it’s a free for all.
And to top it all off, all of ‘em are men; well, all of them except Gloria Baker, a champion race car driver and a black belt in kung fu (although the latter could be up for debate). Based on her credentials alone, it looks like Gloria is the only one who is actually appropriate for the team; and when you see her in action, you will agree with us instantly. Gloria is the only girl on the team, so you already know that she’s the toughest out of the entire lot. And she’s also the proud owner of two rather sweet vehicular weapons.
The first is Shark: a white Porsche 928 that can transform into a friggin’ submarine, y’all! Her second car is somehow even more ridiculous; dubbed Stiletto, it is a beautiful Lamborghini Countach that can transform into a helicopter and allow her to make a quick getaway or strike with the element of surprise.
Even her mask-based powers were outrageous; her first mask Collider was capable of producing a shield that could absorb energy, while her second mask New Collider could project a clone of her body that would be very, very useful in an infiltration mission now that we think about it.
Gloria already stands out in a group of badasses by being the only female there; the fact that she’s also the best at fulfilling their core job description, which is thwarting terrorists via car-based violence, is what makes her such a memorable character. If you haven’t heard of this animated series before, trust us; drop everything, go watch it, and then come back and rave here in our comments section. We’ll be sure to reply as soon as we can!
Arcee – Transformers
Man, is Arcee just the coolest Autobot or what? We’re just going to focus on the character that was shown to us during the original Transformers cartoon and ignore all the events that came before/after it; especially whatever happened in Revenge of the Fallen. This pink-tinted female Autobot has 2 things that make her one of the baddest Autobots in existence; the first is her obscenely elegant car transformation, and the second, is the fact that she is an absolute force of metal when it comes to combat situations.
At the beginning of the series, we see this play out in front of our very eyes. As Decepticons are raining proverbial hellfire on Autobot City, Arcee helps Springer flip on the city’s defenses and manages to get its fortress transformation completed just in time. After a small unit of Autobots recovers from Megatron’s attack, she is amongst the ones leading the charge against the ancient enemy of the Autobots’ god Primus: the planet-devouring Unicron.
She is able to take down Unicron’s henchman Galvatron and stop him from destroying Cybertron itself; all the while acting as the protector of the young human known to us as Daniel Witwicky. Yep; Shia LaBeouf could’ve had the chance to go space-ranging instead of scrambling through the desert had the live-action creators of the Transformers movies paid any attention to the actual lore, but we digress.
Arcee goes on to prove her worth and one of the best Autobot soldiers against beings as ancient and powerful as the Quintessons, and she even manages to take down a zombified Optimus Prime; all Herculean feats in this fantastic world of sentient robots. It’s almost as if Arcee is an anti-damsel-in-distress trope; her creator, Ron Friedman, fought for her inclusion in the Transformers series despite serious pushback, and he made sure to make her strong enough to live up to that fight.
Arcee is compassionate and kind, and shows a genuinely unparalleled level of friendship to the human Daniel Witwicky; but makes no mistake, she is a deadly-smart tactician with a battle record that would put most Decepticon generals to shame, and is single-handedly responsible for making the color pink punk AF.
Diana – Dungeons and Dragons
Move over, Dwayne Johnson, with your Jumanji sequels and your awesome tequila you absolute beefsteak of a man. Dungeons and Dragons did the entire kids-get-stuck-in-game shtick first, on syndicated television no less, and they did it way better than you guys with your safari-themed adventure rides.
I mean, how can Jumanji measure up to a show that almost got canceled because their good guys contemplated offing the big bad? There’s simply no comparison. But putting that aside, the Dungeon and Dragons animated series was a thing of beauty for the children who partook in that role-playing game; we picture a 20-year-old Stephen Colbert eagerly waiting to watch the cartoon show based on the board game, that he has admitted was essentially his childhood, every week with bated breath.
And if we know anything about the World’s Greatest Conservative, it’s that he would’ve been the greatest supporter of Diana the Acrobat. So, if you’ve seen any Jumanji film, you basically know how this story begins. A group of naïve children enter a dark adventure ride themed after the board game Dungeons and Dragons and miraculously end up inside the game’s realm.
There, they encounter the Dungeon Master and are bequeathed weapons and character roles that suit them best so they may survive the trials of this realm. Though Hank is clearly positioned as the group’s leader, we’d argue that the one who actually leads them is Diana. And she doesn’t do it with her words, though she does have a very, very charismatic personality.
At 14 years old, Diana was an Olympic-level athlete in the real world, which makes her an unstoppable physical beast in the realm of Dungeons and Dragons. And armed with her re-sizeable glow-pole of doom, there is no way you will look at this woman and think that she is anything less than a heroine.
She is bold, outspoken, and often the first to charge headfirst into a situation; and although it doesn’t always work out in her favor, she does manage to make it out of most scenarios relatively unscathed and with her friends in one piece, thanks in large part to her inhuman acrobatic skills.
She can pole-vault over entire chasms, can naturally take the lead in a situation in Hank’s absence, and is consistently portrayed as a strong, female badass whom nobody can punk into submission so easily. It’s also shown that she isn’t a selfish person, and is capable of putting the needs of others before herself.
The most notable example of this comes in the episode titled “Child of the Stargazer”, where she finds her literal soul mate and ends up rejecting him in favor of saving her friends. It’s not hard for us to guess why any little girl who sees Diana in action would get inspired by her; heck, I’m 23 and I’m inspired by the lass!
Even though they cater to a younger audience than most other forms of media, ironically enough, cartoons and animated series’ are where you find the best kind of commentary and social discussion taking place. Take this Dynamite Dozen, for instance. You guys can look up any “big movie” from the ’80s and do a side-by-side analysis of character treatment and 10 times out of 10, cartoons will emerge on top in terms of how they’ve portrayed women as being at the same level as, if not above, men.
These badass women don’t always fight for the right side; after all, we’ve got a character called Evil-Lyn on this list, and it doesn’t get more on-the-nose than that. But what they represent goes deeper than that. They represent the fact that women can, and are doing more than they are given credit for; something that resonates with the reality that we live in, in 2022, but was still a fantasy in the 1980s. From She-Ra’s heroic rebellion to the Baroness’ Machiavellian schemes, they are all badasses in their own right, and nothing can take that away from them.