Looking Back At Female Led Super Hero Films and TV Shows

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WONDER WOMAN (1974)- Appropriately, Wonder Woman was the first-ever female super hero to get a live-action adaptation. This 1974 made-for-TV movie was a pilot for an intended series. It starred former professional tennis player Cathy Lee Crosby. The blonde-haired Crosby doesn’t seem like the natural choice to play the Amazon Princess, but then again, this version of Wonder Woman was not a typical adaptation. For one thing, she had no super powers. This was based on the 1968-1972 era of the Wonder Woman comic known as “Diana Prince: The New Wonder Woman” when she lost her powers and stopped wearing her trademark costume. During this time, she fought crime simply as Diana Prince, using martial arts—taught to her by judo master I-Ching—to defend herself. The Cathy Lee Crosby version was similar to this, using only her Judo fighting skill to stop bad guy Abner Smith (the worst name for a master criminal ever!) who has been stealing secret codes from the US government. Richardo Montalban (Kahn from Star Trek 2: the Wrath of Kahn) played Smith. Her costume looked more like a jogging suit than a Wonder Woman outfit. ABC TV passed on this misguided pilot.

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THE SECRETS OF ISIS (1975-1976)- CBS created their own Goddess super heroine as part of their Saturday morning line-up. Isis was part of the Shazam/Isis Hour, along with DC’s Captain Marvel, who had his own show. The two heroes occasionally crossed over into each other’s series. Joanna Cameron played schoolteacher and amateur Egyptologist Andrea Thomas who could transform into a super heroine by shouting “Oh Mighty Isis!” The character was later inserted into the DC Comics universe.

01 lynda WW

WONDER WOMAN (1976-1979) – DC and ABC went back to the drawing board and made another, more faithful adaptation of the character, starring former beauty queen (Miss World of 1972) Lynda Carter, who has been the face associated with Wonder Woman ever since. (Although that may change, now.) The first season of the show was set during ww2, although later seasons (after the show switched networks to CBS) shifted to a modern 1970s setting to save money. Lyle Waggoner co-starred as Steve Trevor. (Waggoner also did a TV pilot playing Batman in the 60s.) The image of Wonder Woman spinning to change into her costume was invented by this show and became part of her mythos for years.

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ELECTRA WOMAN & DYNA-GIRL (1976)- Another Saturday morning series that introduced a new super-heroine. Inspired by the 1960s Batman TV show, this campy kid’s show was part of the Krofft Super Show, which also included Dr. Shrinker and Wonder Bug. Deirdre Hall played Electra-Woman and Judy Strangis was her sidekick Dyna-Girl. The series was dropped after only 16 episodes but it started the career of Deirdre Hall, who would go on to become very successful in daytime soap operas.

01 Helen Slater as Supergirl


SUPERGIRL (1984)- This was the first feature film to have a female super hero as the lead character. After the Christopher Reeve Superman films became so profitable, it was natural for DC and producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind to attempt a spin-off of the franchise, utilizing the cousin of the Man of Steel. The movie had a canonical connection to the Reeves films. Helen Slater starred as Supergirl, (she would later go on to play Superman’s mother Lara in Smallville), and Oscar winner-Faye Dunaway was the villainous Selena. Marc McClure reprised his role as Jimmy Olsen from the Superman films. The film was a critical and financial flop, being nominated for several Razzie Awards.

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BIRDS OF PREY (2002)- DC attempted to adapt their all-female team from the comics to live-action but with disappointing results. The series takes place in Gotham City after Batman has abandoned it, leaving it in the hands of crippled Barbara Gordon, AKA Oracle (Dina Meyer) the former Bargirl. She gets help from the Huntress (Helena Scott), the daughter of Batman and Catwoman , who has enhanced cat-like super powers inherited from her mom. They are assisted by Dinah Redmond, (Rachel Skarsten)  the telekinetic daughter of the Black Canary. Alfred the butler (Ian Ambercrombie) is also along for the ride. The main villain of the show was Harley Quinn, played by Mia Sara. Ratings for the show were poor and it was cancelled after 13 episodes.

01 catwoman halle berry

CATWOMAN (2004)- One of the worst super hero movies ever made and a multi-Razzie Award winner. This sad, cinematic misfire was a career low for Oscar-winner Halle Berry. It lost money at the box office and was savaged by the critics, with 9% on Rotten Tomatoes and 27% on Meta Critic. Roger Ebert has it on his list of ‘Most Hated’ films. Film critic Bill Muller of the Arizona Republic joked that Berry should give back her Oscar as a penalty for this travesty. Berry was a good sport about the bad press, even appearing at the Razzie awards to collect her Worst Actress trophy, saying “First of all, I want to thank Warner Brothers. Thank you for putting me in a piece of shit, god-awful movie… It was just what my career needed.” Sharon Stone played the villain, getting a Razzie nomination for Worst Supporting Actress.

01 elektra jennifer

ELEKTRA (2005)- A spin-off to the disappointing Ben Affleck Daredevil film, Jennifer Garner of Alias starred in the title role. Although many praised the gorgeous Garner’s work, the overall film was not well-received, either critically (10% on Rotten Tomatoes) or financially (making $56 million from a $43 million budget.) Despite the presence of Terrence Stamp (who played General Zod in Superman 2) this was a very lackluster effort.

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JESSICA JONES (2015)-Part of the Netflix Marvel Universe, this well-written and entertaining 13-episode series is supported by an excellent lead performance from Krysten Ritter as the formidable but very screwed-up Jessica Jones. David Tennant, of Doctor Who fame, is outstanding as the villain Kilgrave. This was the second entry in the Marvel Netflix series of shows, which are leading to the upcoming Defenders. The show has received much critical praise, with a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and 81% on Meta Critic.

 01 melissa supergirl

SUPERGIRL (2015-Present) – Originally aired on CBS, the show is now part of the CW “Arrow-verse”, occasionally crossing over with the Flash , Green Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow. Melissa Benoist stars as Supergirl/Kara Danvers, giving the heroine from Krypton a sweet, vulnerable quality. The show started off strong but the ratings quickly declined, causing the show to make the jump to the CW, in order to save money on production.