Comic Book Bootcamp Day 4: Girl Power
What we’re reading…
If you haven’t heard by now, Lumberjanes (2014), by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Brooke Allen, is changing the comics landscape.
This is a good thing; the comic is created by women and features a cast of characters that is about 90% female. The girls are incredibly funny, and each one has a distinct personality. Their adventures focus on friendship and exploration, and there is little to no drama between the characters. When it comes to showcasing female characters, I can think of no better series than Lumberjanes. Oh, and this is an Eisner Award-winning series. Plus, it’s all about camp :-]
Before you read…
Let’s take a look…
Camp is in session! And at the Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types, anything goes. The Lumberjanes – April, Jo, Mal, Molly, and Ripley – fully embrace their camp lifestyle. The girls are headstrong and smart, and their priority this summer is finding out what the junk is going on with the bearwoman they spotted one night.
The five friends are certainly fearless as they set out on their adventures while at camp. When faced with a large group of three-eyed foxes, the girls get into formation to push the animals back. A river monster is no match for their ingenuity. A moving statue is defeated in an arm wrestling match. Every weird moment the girls encounter is matched with their unique strengths and personalities. April is a born leader. Mal and Molly balance each other out perfectly. Jo is brilliant and logical. Ripley is impulsive and silly.
That’s the biggest benefit to having a story with a variety of girls. Where we normally have ensemble casts with only one woman (who is subsequently tasked with representing all women), Lumberjanes gives us the opportunity to see just how amazing and diverse girls can be without relying on stereotypes.
Lumberjanes has the perfect storm of unique characters and interesting setting. The camp setting allows for the girls to explore nature around them as well as explore what it means to be both self-sufficient and reliant on others. For instance, the campers are encouraged to work towards earning their badges. The badges symbolize the acquirement of certain skills needed for survival. Conversely, the five girls recognize the personal strengths they each group to the group. Mal is there for you in a pinch. Molly has some wilderness experience. April is the one to step forward. Jo is brilliant and an observer. And Ripley is an initiator.
The first volume mostly sets up the relationship between the girls as they are thrust into impossible situations. Readers’ focus is more on the dynamics between the girls rather than the bearwoman plot. In fact, for the majority of the issue, the bearwoman plot comes across as background noise as the girls explore their environment. As the series progresses past volume one, the plot becomes more important to the Lumberjanes. However, the decision to make this first volume more focused on establishing the girls and describing their friendships is brilliant. Readers become invested in the characters rather than the story, which in turn allows the creators to use the girls to tell a variety of stories.
Lumberjanes does a great job of expanding the universe to the reader. Immersion into this story is important, especially since there is an emphasis on friendships and caring for one another. The Lumberjanes comic is poised to build a community, which they do through the supplemental material in the book. The Lumberjanes handbook is featured in different parts of the book, as well as badge descriptions. Badges are available for sale, which also helps bring the comic to life. For many female fans who have years of experience being shut out from communities, it is refreshing to see one so eager to embrace them.
Comics that feature girls should be much more than just showing them as strong. Diversity in representation is important, as well as being aware that female characters have the capacity for nuance and contradiction. Further, it’s great to see creators of these comics so adamant about female representation.
What was your initial impression of the Lumberjanes? Of the Scouting Lads?
Do you see yourself in any of the main girls? What about Rosie or Jen?
What impression do the girls’ exclamations (what the Joan Jett, etc) make?
What badge do you want to earn?