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The Best Animated Female Villains Of The 1980s

The 1980s brought us a slew of new iconic cartoons that still resonate today, even if they were just cleverly disguised toy commercials. From "Transformers" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" to "ThunderCats," these exciting shows captured the minds of young children and shaped their ideas of fantasy, morals, character, and strong figures of the opposite sex. Those looking for a good female role model in these programs often only had a few choices, as there were only a handful of shows with women in the lead, and it was even harder to locate an outstanding lady evildoer.

This was probably partly because most animators had trouble getting permission to show their characters throwing a punch or swinging a sword, much less having the hero attack a woman past the censors. There was also the belief that action figures of female characters didn't sell as well, so studios weren't willing to focus much on them when their male counterparts might generate more money. Instead, most cartoons targeted at young boys added token women into the groups or as love interests, but a few shows in this decade did have female villains, even if they weren't the main antagonist. Putting a list of the best villainous women from this period together can be difficult — especially since we never got that female Decepticon everyone always wanted — but here are a few that stand out above the rest.

Miriya Parina (Robotech)

Miriya Parina is an ace pilot with a vicious streak who is seen as one of the greatest Zentraedi warriors. She stands out with her green hair, eyes, and massive size — she's a Zentraedi, after all. A major character in the series, she is even involved in the battle that costs Roy Fokker his life. But Miriya finally meets her match the same day in Max Sterling. Her pride can't take being bested by a Micronian, so she volunteers to be shrunk down and sneak aboard the SDF-1 to find the mysterious pilot who gave them so much trouble. After losing to Max at a video game, she decides that two defeats can't be tolerated and attempts to kill him in the park on their first date, but he wins that fight as well.

Ultimately, Miriya is a fierce warrior who finds her weakness in one person. Her experiences with the humans soon change her perspective on the conflict, and she switches sides, agreeing to marry Max without knowing what it actually entails. Although time as a villain doesn't last too long, she plays for keeps while she is fighting against the Veritech pilots. After betraying her people, taking Max's last name, and bearing his child, Miriya continues to fly when needed and proves herself as a valuable asset in combat. Although she wants to settle down and simply be a mother and wife, we're often reminded of when Miriya was on the other side and found love in battle.

Madame-O (Bionic Six)

Those who remember the "Bionic Six" cartoon tend to talk up its animation and main villain, Dr. Scarab, as the high points. The family of heroes is a little bland, and their powers are almost interchangeable (except for the ones that act as plot devices), so it's no wonder that the criminal minions stand out more. Enter Madame-O, a mysterious masked figure in a strange pink suit, blue skin, and wild hair who adds a sense of femininity, deviousness, and venom to the antagonist team. With her enhanced strength and weaponized sonic harp, she is able to create a lot of chaos and cause trouble for the heroes.

The character is often remembered for regularly ending each sentence with the word "darling" – charming, but annoying. It's a characteristic befitting her origin, as apparently, Madame-O was an older woman before being altered by Dr. Scarab. The voice actress who portrays her is also named Jennifer Darling, which makes her constant use of the word a bit funnier to those who know. 

Madame-O is quite flirtatious and seems to have a crush on Scarab until he scorns her. Afterward, her affections float back and forth to whoever is in power. The character is featured quite a bit in the 65-episode run, but we could have used another few episodes with her at the center to learn more about her background. Nevertheless, she is definitely one of the unsung attractions for "Bionic Six."

Vanessa Warfield (M.A.S.K.)

The Ice Queen of V.E.N.O.M. (Vicious Evil Network of Mayhem) is not a woman to be taken lightly. Vanessa Warfield and her Nissan 300ZX — aka Manta — run circles around the M.A.S.K. (Mobile Armored Strike Kommand) team as leader Miles Mayhem's most valuable agent and a master of subterfuge and tactics. Her vehicle is specialized for stealth, giving her an upper hand in covert operations as it goes from a car to a sylph-like jet with an arsenal of hidden weapons. Combine that with her demolitions skills and use of disguises, and she makes for one brutal enemy.

Vanessa herself is a sensual and dangerous redhead with a mean streak, but like so many others, this villain's overconfidence is often her downfall. She mocks the heroes and her teammates alike and uses her specialized helmet, Whip, to harm her foes or bind them in certain situations. If that weren't enough to establish her hardcore resume, at one point, she trains ravens, and like most pet owners, she treats them better than any human. Vanessa also doesn't seem too fond of men, even chiding her boss at times, standing out as her own woman. 

Ultimately, there is a reason Vanessa is Mayhem's second in command, but under different circumstances and with a different team, she might have actually beaten M.A.S.K.

Magica De Spell (DuckTales)

Magica De Spell is a fan-favorite character who first appeared in the "Uncle Scrooge #36" comic. However, she reached true stardom with the "DuckTales" cartoon thanks to her attempts to steal the Number One Dime and claim Scrooge's success and luck with money. Magica was designed as less of an aging sorceress and more to look like an attractive witch who was inspired by Morticia Addams. Another femme fatale with a raven pet, her jet black hair, purple eyeshadow, and dark wardrobe give her a great villainous look. She was designed as an Italian woman, but the voice actress gave her more of a Slavic accent, sealing her as an incredibly memorable character.

As Magica's name implies, she has a wide range of sorcery and throws a little bit of everything at the heroes in Duckburg. Although she has everything from enchanted items to fear clouds, most of her spells and potions involve some form of disguise or transformation. She's also a skilled manipulator and has little trouble tricking others into betraying their nature. Magica embraces the life of the evil villain, often incorporating a slew of minions to do her bidding, and her sanctum is an uncharted island complete with a volcano. Sadly, many of Magica's schemes end with her failing miserably or even looking foolish. For being such a main antagonist on the show, this sorceress deserved better, but it can't be denied that she is incredibly entertaining and steals many of the episodes she's in.

The Misfits (Jem and the Holograms)

Everyone loves girls that can rock, and though the "Jem and the Holograms" cartoon provided two whole bands worth of badasses, The Misfits are clearly better. The music business can be perilous and downright cutthroat at times, but Pizzazz, Roxy, Stormer, and Jetta are here to play for keeps and do whatever it takes to get the No.1 spot. To upstage Jem, The Misfits make songs about taking charge, causing mischief, and being assertive, all while being fashionable and committing some small crimes to be the real bad girls of rock. This isn't an act, a secret identity, or a computer-generated hologram — The Misfits are raw and driven.

These ladies of the '80s aren't evil, but are usually pushed by their manager, Eric Raymond, into doing their worst deeds to help his agenda. Still, none of these girls are angels (well, maybe Stormer), and their brand of trouble usually doesn't have too much collateral damage. Each of them is fleshed out more as the series continues, and the show even concludes with the group mending fences with their rivals. This doesn't mean that they can't still be selfish, however, as the group truly believes their music is better. Indeed, this is a show that solidifies the notion that a formidable antagonist improves a series, no matter how interesting or bland the heroes are. The Misfits excelled at showing what strong women should be, more so than their adversaries. It's plain to see that The Misfits are the truly outrageous ones.

Catra (She-Ra: Princess of Power)

"She-Ra" wanted to shake things up by making a show that wasn't focused so much on the boys, but even in its failure, it gave viewers more female characters than most shows did at the time. Catra stood out in the crowd and became a favorite among viewers who could get past her animalistic accent and near-falsetto register. Even back when the show aired, it was easy to see that this feline foe had issues — she seeks power, holds a serious grudge against Adora/She-Ra, and shows hints of being unhinged. Nevertheless, these are the things that make her a great character.

Catra is more of a key character to "She-Ra" than most know. In both the toy line and cartoon, she is considered at one point to be the main antagonist before being replaced by Hordak. Indeed, she's a powerful enemy, and most of her abilities come from magic or her mask. Notably, the red face covering from the Magicats' Queen transforms her into a purple panther, granting Catra enhanced agility, instincts, reflexes, and strength, as well as the ability to teleport in one episode. In fact, some believe that the mask can do more — like the freeze ray shown in the "Magicats" episode — with no limitation put on the item other than that it can be corrupted by evil. Her real name is C'yra, and she comes from a planet called D'riluth III, but all this cruel cat seeks now is to conquer Etheria and be rid of She-Ra once and for all.

Mother Brain (Captain N: The Game Master)

Most know Mother Brain better as the primary antagonist of the Metroid series, but "Captain N: The Game Master" was a giant amalgamation of all the properties Nintendo wanted to push to children at that time, so it makes sense that this alternate version of her would want to conquer the weird world of Videoland too. Though her form limits her mobility, she has a large arsenal of tools at her disposal, tendrils, the ability to generate electricity, a planet full of minions, and an endless supply of evil schemes to try and take over the Palace of Power. Needless to say, she is a huge hurdle for the heroes. Mother Brain has many other video game characters who work under her, but her biggest bumbling assistants are Eggplant Wizard and King Hippo (from "Kid Icarus" and "Punch-Out!!" respectively).

Mother Brain's attempts are usually thwarted by Kevin, Princess Lana, and their pals, but each new plan seems more sinister than the last, and she comes close to getting rid of them on multiple occasions. She's an intimidating foe whose cruelty and evil nature match her outward appearance — a living organism with a little extra tissue inside of a tough cylinder with yellow eyes and big red lips. Her visage could be considered frightening, but it doesn't take long for the goofiness to ensue as she scolds her henchmen with an unforgettable voice provided by Levi Stubbs, lead singer of the Four Tops.

Evil-Lyn (He-Man and the Masters of the Universe)

They say the power of evil is seductive, and Evil-Lyn proves that rule and a whole lot more as one of the finest antagonists in He-Man's gallery of villains. The character's background is a bit wonky depending on the source — though she was initially envisioned as a warrior-goddess, the toyline minicomics portray her as a yellow-skinned sorceress, and the bible for the cartoon deems Evelyn Morgan Powers as a scientist aboard Queen Marlena's ship. Regardless, there's little need for any of that when her crown, cape, and the rest of her outfit say enough, and she has a tremendous amount of dark magic to back it up.

Evil-Lyn isn't just a capable foil for musclebound heroes — she's a savagely driven woman who can improvise and even change when situations prove her wrong. This is evident in "The Witch and the Warrior" episode in the form of her respect for Teela. In a group of dolts and fools, she's Skeletor's most effective and intelligent soldier. Though Evil-Lyn shows interest in the bone-faced villain, she isn't naive, often working for her own interests and even being upfront about the desire to rule herself. Surely, one of the reasons Skeletor keeps her so close is to maintain a very good watch on her, as many of her spells work with disguise, deceit, mind control, and she is often at the center of his more successful plans.

Ursula (The Little Mermaid)

Released right at the end of the decade, this little film about Ariel and her quest for legs made a big splash for Disney and is still held as one of the giants in the studio's catalog. Part of the reason for that is the love for Ursula, the delightful and devious sea witch who wants to help the protagonist make her dreams come true — for a price (who steals a voice, really?). She was the right level of awe-inspiring and scary, especially with that laugh and her massive form during the end battle. Whatever your thoughts on her, never let anyone say that Ursula didn't leave an impression.

The "Little Mermaid" character has its roots in drag and is inspired by Divine, and this Cecaelia's (part-woman, part-octopus) unique look and theatrics help make sure everyone knows she's a queen in waiting. Ursula provides a service using contracts to help poor unfortunate souls, and no one ever reads the fine print. An arrogant abuser, Ursula's schemes often underestimate her victims, but she has the power and manipulative abilities to sway any situation in her favor. She also has her helpful "babies," Flotsam and Jetsam, to do the dirty work. Ariel was just a tool to get back at King Triton, who banished Ursula for black magic, and we have to give Ursula points for biding her time and waiting for the right opportunity to show just how much of a witch she can be. A lot of Disney villains die, but Ursula goes out like a boss.

Baroness (G.I. Joe)

Anastasia DeCobray is better known by her codename, Baroness, and is the most prominent woman in Cobra's ranks. The long dark hair and black-rimmed glasses became a trademark look for her in "G.I. Joe," along with a sleek leather suit, while she kept the lace and bikinis for undercover missions. As the terrorist group's intelligence officer, there is little she's not aware of, and she is the only person in the organization to know the true identity of Destro, her frequent lover. She is a skilled combatant, proficient in a slew of firearms, as well as a HISS tank operator and pilot, making her quite the threat to the Joes.

This bright student of the political sciences and economics is heavily involved with activism and attempts to sway global financial markets, making her known to several spy groups. She not only deals in information but misinformation as well, often discovering the military's secret plans and helping to disseminate bad intel — even within Cobra itself. This means that anything people hear or think they know about the Baroness could be a lie, and she and her lover are always looking for ways to take over the organization (when they aren't fighting). The ruthless former aristocrat seems to favor whoever has the power and therefore should never be trusted, but she's also too efficient not to utilize. In many ways, DeCobray is more loyal to the ideals of Cobra than its top leaders, but she's too smart to put that kind of target on her head.