Bringing a well-known cartoon or comic book personality to life requires much more than the proper attire, a big name director, or a CGI backdrop. Here’s our list of talented actresses who we feel manage to make the characters their own while still satisfying audience expectations.
Penny Singleton as Blondie Bumstead Other film series may break box office records, but few can match the impressive run inspired by Chic Young’s famed comic strip Blondie. Between 1938 and 1950, Singleton and co-star Arthur Lake appeared in a total of 28 movies chronicling the misadventures of Blondie and Dagwood and their family. With her sweet, mousy tone and coiffed hair, she rolled along the ups and downs of middle class life at the time, including childbirth and World War Two, in a wholesome, comedic style. Fun fact: Singleton originated the voice of future homemaker Jane Jetson in Hanna Barbera’s animated series The Jetsons.
Linda Carter as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman She may be overly squeaky clean by today’s standards, but Carter’s Wonder Woman definitely knew how to get down to business. From 1975 to 1979, television audiences tuned into Wonder Woman to watch the Amazon princess smash up Nazi spy rings, halt alien invaders, and tackle the occasional rampaging robot or gorilla. A former Miss World USA, Carter’s disarming smile, raven hair, and dynamic figure helped set the standard by which all future portrayals of the iconic superwoman will be judged.
Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl Though the role may have originally been offered to Saturday Night Live cast member Gilda Radner, it was Duvall who wound up portraying the über slender, big footed damsel opposite Robin Williams in Robert Altman’s 1980 muscial Popeye. Her inflection is spot on and remains so even in song. And in true melodramatic fashion, our lovely heroine finds herself hugging an octopus (or vice versa) and waiting for her dashing sailor to save the day: “Popeye! Help! Help!”
Linda Cardellini as Velma Dinkley The star of the short-lived television show Freaks and Geeks followed up her initial success as the bespectacled, orange sweatered member of Mystery, Inc. in Scooby-Doo (2002) and Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004). Unlike Sarah Michelle Gellar’s vapid Daphne, Cardellini’s Velma manages to be smart, funny, and even a tad sexy as she helps her team put a stop to the dastardly doings of the ghosts and monsters they bump into.
Dina Meyer as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl/Oracle The short-lived series Birds of Prey (2002–2003) never really took flight, but one bright spot was Meyer’s portrayal of the heroine who, years after being shot and paralysed by the Joker, steps in to fill the void left by the departure of her mentor Batman. Meyer brings a mature, experienced quality to the role of Gordon as she serves as team leader and den mother for the Huntress and Black Canary’s daughter in their continuing the war against the criminals that plague Gotham City.
Annette O’Toole as Martha Kent While previous portrayals have tended to show her in more advanced years, the Martha Kent of the series Smallville (2001–2011) took a fresh approach with Superman’s adopted mother as is evident by the casting of O’Toole. She remains a devoted wife and mother, but her intelligence and confidence keep her from being stuck on the family farm. Over the course of the show, O’Toole’s Martha manages a local coffee shop, becomes the object of unrequited affection for billionaire businessman Lionel Luther (father of Lex), and, following the death of husband Jonathan, heads to Washington D.C. as a United States senator from Kansas. Fun fact: O’Toole also played Lana Lang, Clark Kent’s boyhood love interest, in Superman III.
(Image: Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl in Popeye, Paramount Pictures)