These 10 awesome female TV superheroes helped pave the way for Captain Marvel

Let's not forget Electra Woman and Web Woman.

Captain Marvel kicked butt at the box office. The first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to feature a female hero in the lead, Captain Marvel is well on its way to grossing a billion dollars and breaking into the top ten superhero films of all time. Perhaps Marvel shouldn't have waited until their 21st movie to introduce her. 

Anyway, Brie Larson is hardly the first actress to slip into a star-spangled costume and punch aliens. Lynda Carter was doing the same four decades ago. But there are many other female superheroes who often go overlooked in the history of TV.

Here are some of our favorites from the 1960s, '70s and '80s. 

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1. Wonder Woman

The conversation about female superheroes on TV begins with Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman. She embodied the role, both as the bullet-reflecting Amazon and the brainy Diana Prince. What's often overlooked is how the character of Wonder Woman dates back a little further on TV. William Dozier, the creator of the Adam West Batman series, tried to take a similar camp approach with a 1967 sitcom pilot, which never made it to air. It would be on the cartoon The Brady Kids, of all places, that Wonder Woman would make her screen debut in 1972. Cathy Lee Crosby would then play a jumpsuit-wearing Wonder Woman in a 1974 made-for-TV movie. That more grounded approach was tossed aside for the star-spangled Carter version.

2. The Bionic Woman

In England, at least, Jaime Sommers was far more popular than The Six Million Dollar Man. The Bionic Woman became the only sci-fi series to hit No. 1 in the ratings in the U.K. in the 20th century. The cyborg woman was no slouch in the States, drawing a 22.4 ratings share in 1976, her debut season, a smidge behind The Six Million Dollar Man's 24.2. The role made Lindsay Wagner a superstar, as she appeared on watch faces, lunch boxes, sleeping bags and dolls as the Bionic Woman.

Image: The Everett Collection

3. Isis

The Filmation animation studio made the leap into live action with Shazam!, based on the comic book character Captain Marvel. The Saturday morning adventure was paired with The Secrets of Isis in the mid-'70s to form The Shazam / Isis Hour. Isis replaced the Greek mythology of Wonder Woman with Egyptology. High school science teacher Andrea Thomas (Joanna Cameron) finds an ancient amulet that granted her the "power of the animals and the elements." A Shazam! movie made it to theaters in April 2019. Due to the unfortunate name association, Isis is not likely to see the silver screen.

Image: The Everett Collection

4. Electra Woman and Dyna Girl

The Krofft Supershow introduced live-action wonders like Dr. Shrinker and Wonderbug. A goofy glam band called Kaptain Kool & The Kongs hosted the Saturday morning series. But the real breakout stars of the show were Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, two reporters from Newsmaker Magazine who slipped into spandex to nab the bad guys. In many ways, they combined Superman with Batman and Robin, which is probably what made them click with kids. In 2016, the show was rebooted with two YouTube celebrities as the superheroes.

Image: The Everett Collection

5. April Dancer

Stephanie Powers' character had no powers, but we would be remiss to overlook April Dancer. At the peak of the spy craze in the Swingin' Sixties, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. proved that a woman could do the work of a Napoleon Solo or James Bond. Actually, Ian Fleming himself came up with the name "April Dancer." (That being said, the 1966-67 series would not grant Dancer a license to kill. A man would off the bad guys.) The Man from U.N.C.L.E. spin-off nevertheless put a female action her on the cover of TV Guide and got little girls dreaming of spy games.

Image: The Everett Collection

6. Microwoman

In 1978, the umbrella program Tarzan and the Super 7 brought a handful of new short cartoons to Saturday morning. There were familiar faces like Tarzan (naturally) and Batman, but also fresh creations like Superstretch and Microwoman, a married couple named Chris and Christy Cross with Wonder Twins–esque powers. Superstretch could morph into any shape, while Microwoman shrunk down her size.

Image: Filmation

7. Web Woman

"When Kelly Webster risked her life to rescue a strange insect creature, she was endowed with the powers of all insects!" So began every episode of this cartoon, another segment on Tarzan and the Super 7.  The purple-clad Web Woman flew in a golden spider car with her sidekick Spinner, a little green creature not unlike Snarf from ThunderCats. If you're already confusing Web Woman with Spider-Woman, you are likely not alone. Because…

Image: Filmation

8. Spider-Woman

Voiced by Joan Van Ark, this wonderful woman changed costumes by spinning around, like Wonder Woman. The production company behind the cartoon, DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, also created the popular Pink Panther shorts, as well as The New Fantastic Four. Thankfully, they had the rights to characters here, which means guest appearances from comic characters like Spider-Man, Kingpin and Dormammu in the brief 16-episode run.

Image: ABC / Disney

9. She-Ra

He-Man and all his muscled-up friends and foes looked like bodybuilders. She-Ra, his female counterpart in the 1980s, was far more approachable and relatable. The twin sister of He-Man, She-Ra traveled on a talking unicorn pegasus named Swift Wind, which is cooler than a frightened cat named Cringer, no? Though she wielded super strength, She-Ra was just as apt to use her intelligence to outwit enemies. She also had healing abilities. The 1985-86 series was recently rebooted on Netflix.

Image: The Everett Collection

10. The Greatest American Heroine

Greatest American Hero co-star Robert Culp was so fond of his job that he was one of the principle forces pushing for a sequel series, The Greatest American Heroine. The plot revolved around Ralph Hinkley (William Katt) passing his red costume off to a teacher named Holly Hathaway (Mary Ellen Stuart). A pilot was made, though the series was never picked up. It has sometimes been included as the final episode in syndication packages, though.

SEE MORE: 13 Black TV superheroes who helped pave the way for Black Panther

A brief history, from Black Vulcan and Microwoman to M.A.N.T.I.S. and Moleculad. READ MORE

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pumkinheadfan 3 months ago
Electra Woman and Dyna Girl had a failed reboot(or more technically a pilot that was aired once on the WB, but never went past that) in 2001 with Markie Post(of Night Court and The Fall Guy fame) playing an aged Electra Woman teamed with a super-fan who donned the Dyna Girl costume to do some crime fighting.
csaaphill 3 months ago
I wouldn't mind bringing back a few Sid and Marty Croft shows, but want my favorite Martian, along with more Saturday morning Cartoons, like George of the Jungle, Bullwinkle and Rocky, Underdog, and more.
On topic, I liked ISIS some and wonderbug, been racking my brain on that name of the other weird car cartoon type of show, other than speed buggy.
Amalthea csaaphill 3 months ago
Wheelie & the Chopper Bunch?
thedude1500 3 months ago
When I was a little kid, I loved Isis. Too bad the name has been so tarnished. I would love to see that concept on the big screen. It might work with some rebranding.
MaryKleinsmith 3 months ago
How about Firestar, female member of the cartoon series with Spiderman and Iceman? And I agree with some other posters. Personally, I don't include April Dancer as a superhero.
Barry22 3 months ago
What! How about Diana Riggs as Emma Peel, Yvonne Craig as Batgirl. Also in the 60's The Superman-Aquaman Hour had Wonder Girl in their Teen Titan segments. I have seen that episode of TGAH, that girl was really cute and I would have liked to have seen the series go on.
thedude1500 Barry22 3 months ago
They did an Avengers movie, but it flopped (I think too many movie goers had it confused with the comic superheroes. Ralph Fiennes was John Steed and Uma Thurman was Peel).
Lacey thedude1500 3 months ago
I think it flopped because it was a bad movie AND nowhere connected with the style of the original TV show. What a waste of good talent.
cperrynaples Lacey 3 months ago
I actually liked the 1998 movie and hate the fact that Stan Lee stole the name for his group of superheroes.
JudithReboy 3 months ago
Actually, Isis - Rechristened Zari - currently fights crime throughout history on The CW's Legends of Tomorrow.
Pacificsun 3 months ago
If we're going to include April Dancer (and I'm all for that!) then Honey West needs to be part of the list. True, not as fantasy/action driven as GFU, but a strong feminine PI heroine all the same when there weren't too many other roles like hers at the time.
thedude1500 Pacificsun 3 months ago
I read somewhere Honey West was canceled because ABC decided it was cheaper to import The Avengers than produce West on its own. Anne Francis was kick butt in that. I don't think you could get away with her keeping an exotic wild feline pet these days.
cperrynaples thedude1500 3 months ago
It could have also been the color issue as HW was among the last B&W shows. ABC also didn't renew Patty Duke or Ben Casey
cperrynaples 3 months ago
Exactly what name association did you mean for 3? Guess we'll never see the new adventures of Al Quida either...LOL! And "sugar", how could you leave out Christy Love?
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