Pick a superhero team, any team, and I can guarantee you that team has a male leader. X-Men? Cyclops. JLA? Superman. Avengers? Captain America…or Iron Man…or Thor. You get the picture. There aren’t many female leaders in comics. Well, that’s not entirely true. There have been a number of female team leaders, but they were only temporary leaders. Sadly, most female leaders in mainstream comics only get to be interim coaches. An interim coach is the immediate replacement coach whenever the real head is fired or quits. These stop-gap leaders get to stay for the remainder of the season, backed publicly by all the important people, only to be replaced in the end. For most interim coaches, the shortened, problem-plagued season is their only opportunity to show people they can be effective leaders; they rarely ever get a chance to show their skills in a more promising situation. Sadly, almost every female leader in comics has been an interim coach.
Not all interim coaches simply walk into the role of leader, some fight for it. In the X-Men, goddess and mutant Ororo Monroe aka Storm, thought that de facto leader Cyclops was becoming weak and irrational as a leader, and openly challenged him for the position of head of the X-Men. And she won! Rather than truly changing roles, however, Storm’s actions were written as a motivational strategy to encourage Cyclops to be a better leader. Despite her very high power level and proven leadership skills, Storm stepped down the moment Cyclops declared he was ready once again to lead.
Other female leaders have terrible luck. For example, Dinah Lance, aka, Black Canary was appointed the leader of the Justice League of America only months before the Final Crisis. Black Canary comes from a family of crime fighters, has been on five other superhero teams, has been taught by the greatest fighters and strategists in the DC universe, but none of that experience could have prepared her for the death of Batman and her granddaughter, the mutilation of her son, and the resignation of Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Green Lantern. This is one of the very few times she gets to be a leader, and everyone either dies or quits.
Ultimately, almost every female leader is made to be a pawn within the comic universe, or a throw-away plot device. For some, at least, there is a moment in time when they are truly the established leaders; for Ms. Marvel, however, she was only a leader in name. After the Civil War, Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, decided the world needed a new group of Avengers. He asked Ms. Marvel to be the leader. Despite being the “leader”, Ms. Marvel had no say in choosing the roster, didn’t pick the missions and was left out of the loop on every major case.
One can only hope that we will see more long-term female leaders. There doesn’t make sense that most creators not only use males exclusively for leadership roles, but also use the same males. I mean really, how many teams does Wolverine need to lead/join?