My previous article on the superiority of Marvel women got me wondering, are there any other human women of superior intelligence in the DC universe besides Oracle, and are there any whatsoever in Marvel? After scrolling through dozens of intelligence lists I did find a limited number of intelligent women in both universes, though again the numbers favored Marvel.
Before I go any further, I should explain how intelligence is explained in Marvel and implied in DC. In short, above average means an I.Q. over 115, brilliant is 130 to 160, genius is over 160, and any comparison to Mr. Fantastic, Lex Luthor, or Batman means an I.Q. over 190.
DC has Oracle who is in the highest echelon, and Dr. Light who is called a genius. There’s also Talia al Ghul and Selena Kyle (Catwoman) who fall into the Above Average category. Other women are considered intelligent – Supergirl, Powergirl, and Brainiac 8, but again they aren’t human.
Marvel has an equivalent to Oracle in Valeria Richards, who is said to have intelligence approaching her father Reed Richards. The Wasp is labeled a genius. Storm, Moira McTaggart, and Emma Frost are brilliant. A plethora of characters are labeled Above Average – Sage, Storm, Jean Grey, Jennifer Walters, Pepper Potts, Betsy Ross, Spider-Woman, Vindicator, Mystique, Ms. Marvel, Black Widow, Cassandra Lang, Moonstar, and Maria Hill.
By order of sheer numbers, it seems that Marvel again stands as the more progressive universe. Its women are definitely not equal to the men in intelligence, but they are far superior to DC.
This distinction goes back to the World War II period. In 1942, a psychologist created the character of Wonder Woman, and she quickly became as significant to DC comics as Superman and Batman. In the same stretch The Human Torch, Namor, and Captain America were Marvel’s big characters. But after the war, comic heroes declined and both DC and Marvel were forced to get into other entertainments — horror, westerns, etc. In the 1960s interest was returning, so Marvel invented a new line of characters to match the changing times. This began with the Fantastic Four, which featured a tremendously powerful woman who was the emotional center of the group and performed the function of being a good if safe role model. Its success led to other characters that dealt with the social climate; teen angst was central to X-Men and Spiderman, women’s rights would be given another nod with the power assigned to Jean Grey. Wolverine and The Punisher were a response to the general social climate.
By contrast, DC simply revamped their core characters and built around them. As they kept the characters, they kept their baggage. It has generally made them seem older (Batman is consistently placed in the Depression Era, Wonder Woman fights Nazis). But more importantly, because of their past, the core characters carry a legacy of a universe that’s more male centered. They have influenced the rest of the universe so much that it, too, is still in a pre-Women’s Liberation mindset.
One side bar; as Batgirl, Barbara Gordon was never considered anything more than a little above average intellectually. When she became a quadripeligic, the writers had the choice of either eliminating her as a viable character (a decision that might have been catastrophic for their fan base) or reinventing her as Oracle the information broker. Her intelligence, as the sole equal to the smartest men in the DC universe, is a simple by-product of their decision.