Okay, so I kind of have a thing about sassy, kickass women. It’s what drew me to TV shows like Buffy and Veronica Mars, and it’s what pulled me back into comics a few years ago too. While I was raised on my dad’s old superhero comics from the 70s and 80s, when I started reading comics again I was looking for something that treated women as more than just the eye candy that they tended to be in the comics of my youth.
Thankfully, comics have come a long way in the last few years – female readership is up, there are more female content creators than ever before, and likewise there are more female comic book characters for women to relate to. I’m here to help you navigate all that. Geek 101: Women in Comics is a brief introduction to some of the badass ladies in comics that should be on your radar. I won’t get too in-depth; rather, I’ll be giving a broad, general overview of what comics have to offer in the way of strong female characters and diversity. For more in-depth character introductions check out what fellow iggle blogger Aj-Archer is doing over on her Geek 101 series, which is an intro to specific characters like Poison Ivy. Now let’s dive in shall we?
Rat Queens might be one of my all-time favourite comics, so forgive me…I might fangirl a bit in what follows. Rat Queens is set in Palisade, a fantasy RPG-style world complete with goblin slaying, bar brawling, questing for gold and candy! The Rat Queens themselves are a group of sassy, kickass heroines-for-hire consisting of Hannah, the sarcastic Elven Sorceress with a mouth like a sailor (and my personal favourite); Betty, the hippie Goblin thief with a love for all things candy and drugs; Dee, the (human) cleric that comes from a family whose cult-like dedication is to a giant flying squid; and Violet, the dwarf warrior who’s damn good at what she does and she shaved her beard to prove it.
Aside from being incredibly sarcastic, witty, and entertaining, this comic is fabulously diverse, which is something, much like the strong female character, that has been lacking in comics until recently. With Rat Queens we get racial diversity, LGBTQ+ representation AND strong female characters. These are badass women who openly express themselves (including their sexuality) can take on a boss fight with ease (…kind of), and don’t back down even when it seems like the whole town is against them (which they kinda are…); if these aren’t the kind of women you want to be reading about, I don’t know what is.
Lumberjanes is the story of Jo, April, Molly, Mal and Ripley, the girls of Roanoke cabin at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types, a scout-type summer camp. The story centers around the girls seeing some strange and supernatural things (think shapeshifting, and eventually some hipster sasquatch) happening in the woods outside of the camp. We follow the girls as they try to investigate what they saw, not annoy Jen their scout-leader too much , and acquire Lumberjane patches in the process.
The comic does an amazing job at balancing the traits of the girls in a way that proves that female characters don’t have to be so one dimensional, they can be cautious and sensitive (like Mal), a little naive (like Ripley) but they can also be strong ( like April), and an extremely intelligent leader (like Jo). Lumberjanes also plays with reversing gender-role stereotypes, and introduces an overall great cast of characters that have the ability to empower female readers (or any readers really…) because of its accessibility. Lumberjanes is a fun and somewhat nostalgic adventure, and a recommendation I make to everyone looking for a book with great female leads. Friendship to the max!
I debated including the A-Force because it’s so new… at the time that I’m writing this there’s only been 1 issue, but it’s just so good I couldn’t leave them out. The A-force was introduced to us a part of the secret wars crossover event, and it’s essentially Marvel’s all-female answer to the Avengers. The She-Hulk led team initially starts with members Dazzler (X-Men), Medusa (Inhumans), Nico Minoru (Runaways) and Singularity (a newly introduced cosmic superhero). Being set in the matriarchy that is the island of Arcadia, the team also features many other fan-favourite superheroines throughout it’s first issue including Captain Marvel, Spider-Woman, and Ms. America (who throws a shark, how badass can you get?!).
This is basically the one stop-shop for all of Marvel’s awesome lady heroes and it has definitely done enough in its first issue to give me hope that it will continue to be a great representation of the female characters of the Marvel U without being a watered down version of the Avengers, as it so easily could have been. If superheroes are more your forte, these ladies will do a great job at satisfying your needs for more strong female representation.
Jem and the Holograms
Another newbie that needed to be mentioned, the newly revamped Jem and the Holograms does way more than just bring you a sense of nostalgia; it’s doing great things in the way of diversity and strong female leads in the comics genre. Jem is a re-imagining of the popular 80s cartoon and revolves around two rival bands – the Holograms (Jem/Jerrica Benton, Aja, Shana and Kimber) and The Misfits (Jetta, Roxy, Stormer and Pizzazz). Jerrica Benton of the Holograms struggles with stage fright so paralysing it keeps her from fronting the band, but with the help of Synergy, a program that helps transform her into Jem, she’s able to command the stage.
Aside from being just plain fun, the comic manages to incorporate lots of diversity in the definition of family, body types, and LGBTQ+ issues. This, like Lumberjanes, is an incredibly accessible introduction to diversity, and great female characters in comics and one that’s appropriate for more age groups than some of the previous ensembles mentioned.
Bitch planet is set in a reality where women can be labelled “non-compliant” for everything from being too fat to having murdered someone. Those labelled “non-compliant” are then sent off to the Bitch Planet which is essentially a space-prison reminiscent of Orange is the New Black. This is Kelly Sue DeConnick’s feminist response to the exploitation genre, and she does it well. Once again, not only are there strong female characters (a whole prison full of them!) but there’s diversity in more ways than most other comics. We see a wide range women of colour, LGBTQ+ representation, a variety of body types are represented, as well as touching on religious and political issues. This is a hardcore (but humanizing) empowerment comic that’s gained a huge following. It can be a little hard to digest at first, but I promise you it’s worth it.
And there you have it! I hope you enjoyed the first part of my Geek 101 Women in Comics series, and that I’ve introduced you to some new all-female ensembles. Stay tuned for an introduction to more kickass ladies in comics soon!