As I promised in the comments thread on this post, here is a post about comics*.
I think a lot of people who don’t read comics have the impression that they are mostly for boys – that they are all about superheroes, explosions, and women with giant tits, impossible waistlines, and no personality. And there certainly are comics that are like that. Plenty of them. But there are also rich, fascinating, multi-layered comics out there. And some of my favorite female characters in fiction are from comics like these. Below I mention some greatest hits, which I’ve loosely divided into comics which incorporate feminist ideas or themes explicitly, and comics which are more generally just about interesting women.
Comics with feminist themes:
Persepolis – This is writer and illustrator Marjane Satrapi’s memoir, recounting her childhood during and after the Islamic revolution in Iran. I read this from cover to cover in one sitting – couldn’t put it down.
Fun Home – Another memoir, this time from Alison Bechdel (of “the Bechdel test” and the wonderful Dykes to Watch Out For). This recounts her experience of growing up gay in a small town and her slow realization that her father is gay as well.
A Game of You, The Sandman – This is the comic that turned me into a comics fan. (Until I read this, I’d pretty much had the attitude I describe above.) It’s all about gender, identity, and sexuality. And it is awesome.
Comics with strong female characters:
Queen and Country – Edge of your seat spy action? Check. Political drama? Check. Strong female lead character? Check. I didn’t hold out much hope for these comics when they were pitched to me as “female James Bond”. But they’re great, and the lead character is complex, interesting, and never objectified.
Promethea – You can’t really “get” comics until you’ve read something by Alan Moore. He’s not always the most feminist-friendly writer in the world, but his work does amazing things with the medium. Promethea gets overly preachy (and if you ask me, kinda boring) in its later books, but its beginning is a great depiction of a strong female character and a unique representation of shared female power. Also, it’s worth reading just for JH Williams’ amazing art.
Fray – This may be my favorite thing that Joss Whedon has written. And that is saying a lot. A lot.
Batwoman – When you combine Greg Rucka and JH Williams, odds are you’re going to get a good comic. Rucka writes female characters well, and JH Williams draws women who are supposed to be kicking ass to look like they can kick ass (no tiny waist and oversized tits in sight). This run of Batwoman is notable for being the first mainstream (read: DC or Marvel) comic with a lesbian lead character.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Comments are open, comics fans!
* I’m using the term “comics” to incorporate what are sometimes called “graphic novels”. A graphic novel is really just a non-serialized comic.