1-2) Lucy Van Pelt and Peppermint Patty (Peanuts)
The tough, young, tomboyish female trope is a classic animation staple, so it helps to make them stand out in some way that goes beyond being irritable most of the time. Lucy Van Pelt, Linus’ sister, spends most of her time admiring Schroeder and destroying Charlie Brown’s career as a NFL kicker, but her motives in other areas are heartfelt, if blunt; after all, at some point Linus DOES need to be weaned from his blanket. And she welcomes Charlie Brown back (in her own strange way) after failing a spelling bee. Peppermint Patty, on the other hand, is ruining his baseball career, but she’s always supportive of the guy anyway, save for the time Charlie blew Patty’s 50-run lead in a baseball game.
3) Gosalyn Mallard (Darkwing Dark)
The spirited daughter of a deceased brilliant scientist, Gosalyn has no qualms in going toe-to-toe with the most diabolical villains and crazed brain-sucking aliens, between various bouts of Whiffle Boy. Still, it’s pretty endearing that such an energetic girl is the perfect complement to DW’s ego, forcing him to hold it back as he balances being a father and a superhero. Props to the power of that spirit to maintain a good amount of balance as an adopted child in such a crazed household, and still maintain some sort of sanity. She is the Companion to Drake Mallard’s Doctor.
4) Ashley Spinelli (Recess)
I imagine Spinelli is running over to kick my ass right now for mentioning her first name; in no way would she want to be associated with “The Ashleys,” a group of stuck-up, wealthy girls who shout “Scandalous!” in unison. A boot-wearing toughie, Spinelli hosts a wool hat in the heat before hipsters thought it was cool, and loves to rough it up and threaten the physical health of those who betray her and her friends. She isn’t completely against all things girly, she just would prefer not to engage in them. There are rumors she has a crush on Recess’s titular leader TJ; I dare you to say it to her face.
5) Helga Pataki (Hey Arnold!)
Creepily breathing behind this girl’s back WILL net you one punch in the face. Helga’s aggression and attitude is well-known to the children of PS 118, bossing other kids around and even standing up to the goofy bully Harold. Her schtick, however, not only masks a deep longing for a romantic relationship with titular character Arnold, but also, and more dramatically, her depressing home life underneath the rule of an extremely overbearing father, the neglect of an easily distracted mother, and the shadow of a perfect, dotting older sister.
6) Buttercup (The PowerPuff Girls)
Definitely representing the “Spice” in Professor’s Utonimum’s accidental Chemical X creation, Buttercup is the hot-head of this superpowered, preschool trio. She’s the sport-lover, the fighter, the “hit-first-and-ask-questions-later” kind of child. She has her moments of sweetness though – how can a character named Buttercup NOT – but even she was taken back when Bubbles became her own bad-assed self (albeit temporarily) in “Bubblevicious”.
7) Mandy (The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy)
It’s tricky to adequately describe Mandy, the blonde, no-neck, no-nonsense “protagonist” in Cartoon Network’s underrated, chaotically wonderful cartoon. Her purely cold, grim demeanor is already powerful enough to bully most villainous, underworld creatures, but she is also willing to back that attitude up with spine-tingling, calculated action. Billy survives being around her by being purely idioctic; he is the “chaotic good” to her “lawful evil.” The best part is that Maxwell Atoms, the show’s creator, doesn’t hang his hat on her stoicism, which makes her most monstrous moments rare but awesome to behold.
8) Gaz (Invader Zim)
At the risk of alienating the legions of Invader Zim fans, Gaz is pretty much Mandy with a passion for handheld videogames and pizza. Gaz is too capable of horrific action, unloading a barrage of threats onto her alien-obsessed brother Dib, and quite often following through. Unlike Mandy, who more or less manipulates the people around her to their eventual destruction (and, despite everything, does save the world more or less), Gaz is more direct, using her rage to start fires, levitate, and control the weather. If she and Mandy ever paired up, the apocalypse would be nigh.
9-14) Ty Lee, Suki, Mai, Katara, Toph, Azula (Avatar: The Last Airbender)
All the characters in Nickelodeon’s spectacular series are wonderfully awesome, but definite props to the female cast for being a particular batch of awesome, without being resorted to eye-candy or female tokenism. Katara masters waterbending and makes a great teacher and motherly figure; Toph is the premiere master of earthbending and singlehandedly discovers metalbending, just cause; Azula is the dark wielder of firebending and the psychopathic future leader of the Fire Nation, so help them all. But being unable to bend doesn’t mean you’re useless: Ty Lee (chi-blocking, which restrains movement and bending), Mai (stilettos, similar to ninja stars), and Suki (fans and kitanas, leader of the Kyoshi Warriors) all manage to be formidable fighters sans elemental control.