Comics: A Positive Influence on Girls’ Self-Esteem

There is a new need for superheroes, and it is not fighting crime. We all know that growing up is not easy. So many of us have struggled with self-esteem issues from childhood through adolescence, and for girls, this period can seem like one never-ending battle. During this time, girls struggle to fit in among their peers, face challenge after challenge in everyday life, and attempt to figure out the strengths they possess. In girlhood, believing in oneself can seem like an illusion. Possessing positive self-esteem can seem out of reach at times, but, luckily, self-esteem is a learned collection of thoughts. Sometimes girls need inspiration to help them in learning how to have self-respect and value oneself. That inspiration can be found on the pages of comic books. Female superhero comic book characters are not just saving the day; they are inspiring girls to have positive self-esteem.

A True Wonder

When one delves into the adventures of female comic book characters, it is quickly obvious that there is more to the measure of heroines than superhuman powers. Storylines created by Marvel, DC Comics, and the like include well-rounded characters who have histories and meet challenges often relatable to the lives of young female readership. Even when a girl’s life does not compare to a superhero’s, her admirable qualities can still inspire a reader into being her best self. In 1941, DC Comics introduced the Amazon princess Wonder Woman to comic book readers. Like young girls, she finds herself in a world that she cannot always comprehend. Wonder Woman excels at combat and battle strategy, and her ability to fly and wield her superhuman strength helps her bring peace to mortals on Earth. Wonder Woman’s bulletproof bracelets and trademark Golden Lasso of Truth help her to carry out justice. When not Wonder Woman, she is Diana, a beautiful woman with brains to boot. Wonder Woman has inspired girls and women for many decades. She resonates with females because of her skills and unyielding desire to make the world a better place.


Reading the stories of another young woman, Barbara Gordon, can be a positive influence on growing girls too, especially those being raised by overprotective parents. Barbara’s dream is to be a police officer, but her father, Gotham City’s Commissioner Gordon, forbids it. Barbara believes in herself and recognizes how she can use her skills to fight crime. She defies her father by becoming Batgirl, a martial arts expert and ace detective. Plus, she is a computer whiz, too. Girls can look up to this confident woman who knows how to trust her own judgment.


Comics show readers that women can be leaders too. Ororo Munroe is better known as the wise and trustworthy Storm. As a member of the X-Men, Avengers, and Fantastic Four, Storm excels at fighting evil by not only using hand-to-hand combat but also by being able to control the weather and manipulate wind, giving her the ability to fly. Storm’s backstory is relatable to those who have lost a parent. When Ororo was a child, her home was hit by a missile, trapping her in the rubble and triggering Ororo to develop claustrophobia. Even worse, Ororo’s parents were killed, leaving Ororo to fend for herself on the dangerous streets of Cairo. Through Storm, female readers can see how even an orphan can persevere to become a powerful leader.


Not every female superhero is a full-grown woman; many are teens who fight crime but also deal with the same issues confronted by average schoolgirls. Kara Zor-El is one such teen superhero. She is a lonely girl who came to Earth because her planet, Krypton, was dying. She is struggling to fit in with her peers and find her own identity. It is no easy task when her cousin is Superman and she has the same superhuman strength, speed, and hearing as he does. Like the Man of Steel, Supergirl has special powers too: the gift of flight, heat and x-ray vision, freeze breath, and a healing ability. Supergirl, however, is more dangerous than her cousin. This is because of her youth, her immaturity. Just like many of her peers in the real world, Supergirl lacks restraint. Teens don’t always think their decisions through to their consequences, and they can see how Supergirl learns from her mistakes.


An up-and-coming Marvel character is one girls are sure to look up to also. Riri Williams, fan of Maya Angelou’s poetry and M.I.T. student, fights against the forces of evil as Ironheart. She has had to face numerous adversities in life. Growing up, she encountered one bad experience after another. Her superior intelligence was evident early in life. Due to this, she was able to skip grades in school. Being in class with older students made it difficult to fit in. Following a different course of development than her peers, Riri missed out on learning many of the social cues used by her classmates, making her seem weird to them. To make matters worse, she has many bad memories, especially those about her best friend Natalie whose life ended brutally. As Ironheart’s stories unfold, readers see her soaring above life’s conflicts with a little help from her friend Xavier who gives her a reality check when needed.

Female superheroes learn to cope with personal problems and growing pains. They handle all their challenges – the ordinary and the juggernaut – with courage. Many girls can look up to these exciting characters for personal inspiration. Sometimes life seems like it requires superhuman powers, but mostly it takes the faith to persevere.