Right up front: Jem, She-Ra and Rainbow Bright will not be on this list. It’s not because those characters are lame or bad role models or what have you, but because I didn’t watch their cartoons when I was a youngin’. I think I’ll save those ladies for another list in the future, maybe after I do some more research (ie sitting around watching cartoons). This one’s all about the rad animated females who brought an air of feminine mystique and radness to the toons of the 80s and 90s aimed at boys. Bear with me because most of these entries will be based on the some pretty old memories. I don’t pretend to be an expert on these gals, but do think they kept it class while kicking butt. If anyone wants to send me DVDs to correct any mistakes I’ve made, I have no problem with that.
APRIL O’NEIL (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
It’s never easy being the only girl surrounded by a bunch of immature dudes, but April O’Neil handled herself with grace, poise and a badass attitude that let her in the thick of interdimensional and mutant conflicts for decades. Sure, the Ninja Turtles had to come to her rescue from time to time, but April handled herself well and was also a professional newscaster. Heck, anyone who can get a job wearing a one-piece yellow jumpsuit should be lauded, am I right?
STEELHEART (Silverhawks)Like a lot of the women on this list, Steelheart was usually the only woman on a team full of men. Back in the 80s–and probably still today to some extent–cartoon and toy makers didn’t think boys would like watching girls in the their shows or buy female action figures. Still, some broke through the glass ceiling and made an impression. The twin of fellow Silverhawk Steelwill, Steelheart (a.k.a. Sergeant Emily Hart) not only threw down against Monstar and his goons, but was also a gearhead!
LADY JAYE & SCARLETT (G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero)I’ll be honest, as a kid I didn’t really pay attention to the names of characters, especially when I had them in toy form. However, I do remember G.I. Joe members Lady Jaye and Scarlett. One had red hair and the other threw javelins at people. One dated Flint while the other was all about Snake-Eyes. Anyway, the point is that they were tough chicks fighting the international terrorist organization Cobra. At least that’s my memory of it all, but it turns out that Lady Jaye got knocked out a lot. I might have to watch these again before showing Lucy. I guess I need to pick up Shout Factory’s DVD sets!
TEELA (He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe)Even with the skimpy costume and the fact that she always played at least second (sometimes third and fourth) fiddle to He-Man, Teela still earns a spot on the list for not only being Man-At-Arms’ protege, but also because she at least went out there and got her hands dirty. Sometimes trying is enough, you know?She was also a pretty good fighter and always spoke her mind, especially when it came to giving Prince Adam trouble for being a lazy coward. Turns out She-Ra was more of a badass, but I didn’t know that growing up. I do have some of the DVDs, though, so Lucy and I can watch them when she gets a little older.
GLORIA BAKER (M.A.S.K.)
While her name might bring up images of an 80s politician rocking perfectly coiffed hair and shoulder pads, Gloria Baker was actually an integral member of the M.A.S.K. team. But, she wasn’t just the token lady, she was also a black belt, drove badass sports cars that turned into submarines, helicopters and planes and also rocked a helmet called Aura that could throw up a force field. Eat it fellas. Thankfully, Shout Factory has most of Gloria’s adventures coming to DVD so dads like myself can share them with their kids.
Unlike a lot of the other women on this list, Cheetara wasn’t the only female in her group, the Thundercats. She was joined by what we would now call a tween Thundercat named WilyKit. A huge part of the team, Cheetara sported super speed, excelled bo staff manipulation and was no slouch when it came to hand to hand combat. She was also a kind and loyal member of the team with the ability to briefly see the future. More importantly, Cheetara wasn’t always at the mercy of her male counterparts. She’s pretty much the best member of the team and that earns her the top spot on my little list here. Cheetara for the win!