Why I Don’t Read Comics (A Call for Recommendations)

[This could be more accurately titled "Why I don't read American Superhero Comics"... but I'm lazy]

“So,” you ask. “Why don’t you read comics, C.D.? “

Me: “Because I hate fun, that’s why. I’m a fun-hating, humorless feminist who couldn’t recognize a good piece of work if she tried. And I live a miserable, miserable, funless existence. With no fun. Did I mention I hate fun? ‘Cause I do. I hates it with every fiber of my un-fun-having existence.”

You: “…well, yes, but that’s pretty obvious. Any other reason?”

Me: “You really want to know?”

You: “I really want to know. Why don’t you read comics, C.D.? My existence will be meaningless if you do not answer this question.”

Me: *Sigh* “This is going to be a complicated one. And  rage-filled one. Are you ready for the rage?”

Hulk rage Avengers Loki

And you wouldn’t like me when I’m rage-filled

You: “Hey, I read your American Idol coverage. I can handle the rage.”

Me: “Okay… you asked for it. It’s time for some serious epic-ranty writing: I’m turning on the Daft Punk-and-Xray Dog itunes playlist.

You: “NOOOO! NOT THE DAFT PUNK AND X-RAY DOG PLAYLIST!”

Me: “TOO LATE! *maniacal laughter*

***

This post has been a long time coming. I’ve basically been planning to write it since last summer… back before I had a blog. Heck, I’m not sure I didn’t get this blog just so I could write this post. So, you know. There’s some bottled-up rage coursing through the prose. And some bottled-up fangirl SQUEE too – but mostly rage.

Part 1: My (Sordid) History with Comic Books

At some point during DC’s reboot last summer (*shudder*), I thought: “I love superheroes with the fiery passion I usually reserve for flourless chocolate cake and the writings of Tamora Pierce. So why don’t I read comic books?”

And then I thought: “Wait. I do read comic books. I’ve been reading comic books my entire life. I remember reading comic books before I remember reading actual books.”

Well, frack me. I do read comic books.

And I love them.

Madly.

The thing is, I didn’t read typical American comic books. My family is french, and I spent a good part of my childhood in France. I also had access to my mother’s massive collection of french BD (Bandes Dessinee = “drawn strips”). So I wasn’t reading Captain America and Uncanny X-Men and Wonder Woman. I was reading Tintin and Lucky Luke and Asterix.

And I was reading Roger Leloup’s Yoko Tsuno.

Yoko Tsuno is quite possibly the best thing ever. Don’t quote me on that. The heroine, Yoko, is a japanese electrical engineer who comes to France looking for work, and who ends up having a series of very science fictional adventures (in the first book, for example, she discovers that aliens are living under the surface of the earth after having escaped their dying planet).

Yoko Tsuno Les Trois Soleil de Vinea Roger Leloup Cover

[Hey, look at that semi-realistic anatomy!]

Yoko is my go-to archetype for action heroes. She practices aikido and kyodu (japanese archery); she can shoot a gun and handle any alien weaponry you give her; she flies helicopters and gliders; she rides a motorcycle, and she can fix her darn coffee machine when it breaks. Despite her many martial talents, she prefers using compassion and intelligence to solve problems. She’s fiercely loyal to her friends. She’s also prideful, egocentric, dangerously curious and puts personal honor above everything else. Which gets her into immense amounts of trouble.

I love her, and I am so annoyed there aren’t English translations, because I think other people would love her madly too.

I was also reading Sailor Moon. [A japanese manga, not a french BD] Which: say what you want about the ridiculousness of the heroes’ outfits, but that was a well-drawn, fun, intelligent manga that portrayed a group of competent women saving the world. It had awesome female friendships, it had lots of weird-ass mythology (like Usagi’s future daughter traveling back in time. Fantastic WTFrackery.), it had a male hero who in no way took away from Usagi’s agency, all the female characters were different and interesting…

[Are you noting a theme? I'm noting a theme]

WITCH Cordelia Will

As I grew older, I started reading WITCH. Sure, WITCH would not win a “realistic portrayal of anatomy” award – I, for one, would like to know where the girls store their organs when they transform – but it was another group of cool, interesting young women saving the world. With SUPERPOWERS. And awesome clothes [fashion junkie. Can't help it]. I’ve got three giant piles of WITCH comics on the floor of my room because I’d collected so many of them that they broke the bookshelf.
I’m not even joking.

Oh, and then I discovered Les Passagers du Vent. Super-inappropriate for a ten year old to read (Rape! Sex! GRAPHICALLY PORTRAYED Sex! Really accurate depictions of torture and violence!). But also one of the best BD series of all time (yes, I am willing to go there). It takes place in the 18th century, and follows the adventures of Isa, a former noblewoman whose identity was stolen by her best friend. Isa is a bit like the count of Monte Cristo… if the Count of Monte Cristo was a bisexual, cross-dressing adventurer-turned-abolitionist. You don’t want to mess with her. She comes up with the most creative (and vicious) forms of revenge. Isa was my first introduction to the twisted, tortured action hero, and I never turned back.

Les Passagers du Vent La Fille Sous La Dunette Francois Bourgeon

Not to mention the artwork, which is stunning

So my introduction to comic books involved a whole lot of strong, competent female superheroes and action heroes. And a lot of female-led titles. And even though these women all fit pretty standard “beauty” norms (thin, young etc.),  they also weren’t overtly sexualized. They were smart, competent, interesting women who happened to be beautiful. They weren’t posed specifically to show off their “sex appeal.” They made things explode and they punched people and they were awesome. [Nothing induces hero-worship in a ten year old so much as someone who can make things explode

Catwoman zero cover

What? The Everloving? Frack?

When I came back to the States, I started watching the Batman TV show (whichever one was on in the 90s). And I loved that too. Because Bruce Wayne was all brooding and efficient, and he had the best theme music ever (Na Na Na Na Na BATMAN). Plus, he was great at making things explode. This led to my discovery of the X-men: Evolution TV show. I became a huge fan of the X-Men in general, and of Rogue in particular.

Part 2: The Rage

Now, here’s where we’re going to get away from the SQUEE portion of the post and into the RAGE portion.

I was informed by a helpful friend that the X-Men TV show was based on a comic series.

And that’s when all the trouble began.

First I tried reading the X-men comics. The problem was that at the time, they were running the “House of M” arc. Which is a terrible place for a newbie to come in. I spent the entire time going:

“Well, this is boring. Who are these people? And where the frack is Rogue? Where’s Rogue? Where’s Rogue? Where’s – “

But, you know, stuff like this happens. So I tried some other comics. And I inadvertently managed to land on a group of comic books with some real WTF posing and major sexualization of female characters. I honestly can’t remember what these comics were, because I was so appalled with what was happening that I blotted the whole thing out. I’m talking MAJOR costume fails (and when I say costume, what I really mean is: lack thereof), and enormous breasts on top of tiny, tiny women, and… yeah. I wish I could remember the name of the comic, because it’s begging for an Escher Girls post.

Let’s be clear: I’d spent years seeing naked women in the Passagers du Vent comics with no problems at all. But these comics were just – they were so ridiculous. I could not take the superheroines seriously. Who in their right mind would go fight the Big Bad Guy wearing four-inch spike heels and a bra? A bra, which, I might add, provided no breast support whatsoever (because the breasts were practically popping out). The men in the comics, on the other hand, were fully covered, and stood like normal human beings do.

I probably could have overlooked this if the female characters themselves were good, but TWO of them were killed off in the same issue. And the third one was completely incompetent.

I was done. I went straight back to my Yoko Tsuno and Les Passagers du Vent, and I stopped trying to get into American Comics.

Until last summer.

Last summer, I heard that DC – one of the two major comic book companies – was rebooting and revamping all of its monthly superhero books. “Well,” I thought. “That would be a great way to get into American superhero comics! I’m going to keep an eye on that and see how it evolves.”

[Terrible ideas. I have them all the time]

Anyone who is at all interested in comics and/or feminism knows what happened next.

First hint that things were not going to end well: People realized that DC was going from 12% female creators (terrible) to 1% (even MORE terrible). Out of 160 artists and writers… three were women.

Second hint: the de-paralyzing of Barbara Gordon, AKA Oracle. Barbara Gordon was once Batgirl, before she was shot by the Joker. She survived, but was paralyzed and started using a wheelchair. She then became an icon for the (real world) disabled community when she got back into crimefighting, wheelchair and all, as a member of the Birds of Prey team.
And the DC 52 reboot completely got rid of that history and turned her back into Batgirl.
People were not pleased.

[It should be noted that my understanding of the Barbara Gordon canon is... less than perfect. If you know more than I do, please call me out on my mistakes]

Third hint: the cancellation of major female-led titles like Power Girl. The disappearance of major female heroes like Huntress and Stephanie Brown.

Fourth hint: the really gruesome treatment of female fans at Comic-Con when one of them dared to ask DC creators: “where are all the women?”
Turned into a PR disaster, because the creators and execs were downright rude and insulting.

Fifth hint: the books come out. The Catwoman and Starfire comics were complete and utter debacles. See photo of Starfire below.

Starfire DC 52 reboot

Starfire… I don’t even know.

Let me put it this way: I went to three comic book panels at WisCon, and the panelists were all STILL MAD about the reboot. A year later.

To be absolutely fair, the DC reboot was thrown together in such a hurry that they can’t possibly have had time to pull together a misogynistic conspiracy to alienate and exclude female readers. It all just happened by accident! Imagine what they could have achieved if they had been trying!” (Andrew Wheeler at No More Mutants)

Seriously.

Look, I understand if I’m not DC’s primary market. I think it’s a stupid move, personally, because comic books are dying and DC could use new customers… and you know who isn’t reading comics? You know what vast untapped group of potential consumers might start reading comics if the industry made a decent effort to market to them? [Yes, that would be women]

But okay, if you don’t want to appeal to women directly, that’s your terrible business decision. I’m not asking you to suddenly start catering to my every desire. I’m just asking you to stop actively offending me. It’s really not that hard.

To quote Lara Hudson at the Comics Alliance:  “(I have long maintained that to bring in more female readers, superhero comics don’t even need to specifically target women as much as they need to not actively offend them. This is not an insanely hard to thing to do, and yet here we are.)

When you make no effort to hire female creators, you show that you don’t care about women. When you cancel popular titles led by female heroes, you show that you don’t care about women. When you treat female fans rudely – refusing to answer their questions, dismissing their concerns, making pseudo-excuses about how DC is the ‘most diverse’ comic book company – you show that you don’t care about women.

When you take comic books that women could easily get on board with – like Catwoman – and you spend the first two pages of the comic showing shots of Selina Kyle in her lingerie (mostly of her breasts and butt) while refusing to show her face -

You’re showing who you do care about.

And it’s not women.

Here’s the thing, Mr. Comic Book Executive/Business Guy/Whatever
When they tell you that your artistic depictions of female heroes are losing you customers, they are NOT JOKING.
When they tell you that turning your female characters into a giant fanservice for straight men turns women off…
They are not joking.
I know you don’t get it. But trust me. Most women don’t want to see themselves portrayed just as fanservice. They don’t want to see female characters depicted as pure objects of male desire.
I can hear what you’re thinking:”She’s just sexy! You must hate sexy! You hate sexy women because you’re jealous! And you hate sex! You’re a slut-shamer!”
*Deep breath* There is a major difference between a comic where the female character is smart, competent, powerful and also sexy… and comic book where the first priority, in all cases, is to show the female character as being sexy.
Natasha Romanov/ Black Widow in The Avengers movie is sexy, because she’s a sexy woman. But she’s not fanservice.
Batman, when he stands around looking all broody, is sexy. But he’s not fanservice. He’s not being posed for the sole purpose of being “sexy.” (here’s what that would look like)

Catwoman up there?
Is fanservice.

Women want to connect with characters.
And it’s pretty hard to connect with a character when all you see of her for three pages are her boobs. I mean, nothing against boobs, but they don’t do much for me.

The DC reboot was hell on wheels. The months of internet debate, the accusations, the “all you humorless feminists just need to get laid” (ad infinitum) etc. Watching DC rolling out their products, and seeing that yes, in point of fact, women were right to be mad, women were right to be afraid, because they really were screwing up…

I gave up.

I stopped trying to get back into superhero comics.

Because I couldn’t take it anymore. I honestly couldn’t. I couldn’t take loving a product that was explicitly marketing away from me. That dismissed me as a potential consumer. I couldn’t take being in a fandom where I was treated like a unicorn, like an exception. I couldn’t take being in a fandom where people said: “but no women read comics anyways, so it doesn’t matter.” I couldn’t take loving a medium that uses female characters solely to appeal to the desires of straight men. I couldn’t take loving a medium that doesn’t care about me, that treats women as windowdressing or as cheesecake. That throws good female characters overboard to motivate the “emotional journeys” of male characters.

I cannot even get into the bullshit of the “but women don’t read comic books” argument. First, it’s not true.

And second: Yeah, lots of women don’t read comic books.

And this is part of the reason why.

Mr. Comic Book Executive/Business Person/Whatever.
Here’s the thing: I would like to read comics. I would like to read comics very much.
I have money I would like to spend. And I would like to spend it on your product. And I think you would like that.

But I’m not going to spend it on a product that couldn’t give a rat’s ass about women.

You are driving female readers away. You drove me away, and I have a pretty high tolerance for this sort of stuff. I read Science Fiction. I participate in SF fandom. It’s not the most female-friendly place on the planet.

*deep breath*

Okay. I’m calming down.

I know I’m being unfair. I really do. I know that -  if I take time, if I do research, if I find like-minded fans – I can find superhero comics that aren’t offensive. That tell great stories without turning the female characters into window dressing. I know this because, as previously mentioned, I am a science fiction fan. I spend a lot of time dealing with friends and acquaintances who don’t understand my love for the genre because they think science fiction is a sexist medium.

But as a fan, I know science fiction isn’t inherently a sexist genre. It has a lot of really problematic stuff, yes. The vast majority of the big-name series are headlined by white men, yes. The genre has a problem with self-examination and with accepting female fans as equal to male ones, yes. But there is space in science fiction for women. It’s not “inherently” a man’s genre. There are many wonderful feminist science fiction books. There are many wonderful feminist science fiction fans.

And I’m sure that the same thing is true of comics. In fact, I know it is – most of the comics I read when I was young had positive portrayals of women. if I put the effort in, I’m sure I could find some wonderful feminist superhero comics.

Part of the problem, frankly, is exhaustion. There’s only so much I can do. Unlike a straight white male comic book fan, I do have to put significant effort in if I want to find series with protagonists who look like me. I have to put even more effort in to find female protagonists who are portrayed respectfully. And since I already spend a lot of time doing that in the science fiction field…

I’m sort of sick of it.

Because I want to read comics to have fun, darn it. I know I joked about being a humorless feminist at the top of the post, but a big part of the reason I avoid comics is because they’re not fun anymore.

I don’t want to be angry all the time. I don’t want to be dissecting gender roles all the time. I don’t want to post five thousand word rants about how black female heroes are portrayed as animals. I don’t want to have to spend hours on the internet, sifting through reviews to try to find the three non-offensive superhero titles.

I want to have fun. I want to pick up a random comic book and see a bunch of awesome people having awesome adventures. And see things explode. A straight white guy can pick up almost any comic book and find people like him – straight white men – portrayed in a respectful, intelligent fashion. But I can’t do that.

It’s not fair to continually ask female fans – or POC fans, or queer fans, or disabled fans – to put more effort in, and to deal with more BS. It’s just not.

It shouldn’t be this hard for potential fans to engage in comics. It shouldn’t be this painful. It shouldn’t be this rage-filled. Because yes, some female fans will put the effort in, but a whole lot of them (like me) will look at the industry and say “if it doesn’t respect me, why should I put the effort in?”

So.

That’s why, three thousand words later, I don’t read comics. Or rather, why I don’t read American Superhero comics. I still read my french stuff.

Part Three: A Call for Recommendations

Here’s where it changes.

In the past few months, I’ve decided that I would like to give comics another try. I’ve taken a careful stock of my patience – and my rage – and decided that yes, I can, for a short period of time, put in the requisite effort to find the good stuff. For a few months, I can handle the female-unfriendly comic book fandom. Just long enough to see if it’s worth it. To see if I can handle it full time.

Because I do love comics. I do. I wouldn’t put this much effort into a medium that I didn’t love with a mad passion. And I miss them. I keep hearing people talking about Batgirl and Oracle and Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers), and I want to read those books so much.

More importantly, I believe in comics. I know that they aren’t an inherently misogynistic medium. And I know that the way to change comics is to get involved. It’s to read the works. It’s to support the good ones, and recommend them to others. It’s to call out the problems and cheer on the solutions. Not everyone can. Not everyone has the capacity to do so.

But right here, right now, I do.

Plus, I just want to have fun. And see some things explode. And people get punched in the face. You know. The fun stuff.

Comics seem like a good way to go.

So. This is a call for recommendations. What should I read? Ideas? Advice? I really need it! I’m going in pretty cold, and although I have some leads (*cough* Gail Simone *cough*), I trust personal recommendations more than I trust the internet.

A couple things to note. I have access to a library with a fair collection of trade paperbacks, and I’m willing to invest a (small) amount of money into this venture. So nothing… super expensive, thanks.

Obviously, I am not interested in reading overtly misogynistic work. I’m also not interested in dealing with comics that have a huge amount of fanservice. Some is okay (particularly if it’s gender neutral, although I’m not holding my breath). I’m also not interested in reading anything that’s racist or homophobic. I have a very high tolerance for portrayals of sex and violence, so long as the sex isn’t pure fanservice.

If you’ve got a comic, on the other hand, that has hilariously bad portrayals of women… I probably wouldn’t mind reading one. Just so I can snark about it afterwards. I do read Escher girls, after all.

I will gladly read male-led titles. I’m going to try to read at least 50% female-led titles (since I am a feminist blogger, after all), but there are some great male superheroes, and I’d love to hear about good runs. Although I’m concentrating on American superhero comics, I will also gladly read non-superhero comics (huge fan of Alison Bechdel, for example), and non-American comics (mangas, BDs etc.) as long as they’re available either in english or french.

I honestly do not have a preference between DC and Marvel.

I would also love recommendations for any comics-related blogs that have a feminist spin (like DC Women Kicking Ass) – or that at least have an awareness of gender issues. Comics-related blogs that comment on issues of race, class, sexual orientation, disability etc. are also of interest to me!

And yes, I will be blogging about this. Hopefully, it’ll be more fangirl SQUEE and less HULK SMASH RAGE…but no guarantees.

Hulk Rage Mark Ruffalo

This is what I look like every morning after reading the feminist blogs…

All right. Here we go. The great comic experiment of 2012.

Girl your loins.

And send your recommendations.

*Turns off the Daft Punk and X-Ray Dog Playlist. Everyone else breaths a sigh of relief*


36 Comments on “Why I Don’t Read Comics (A Call for Recommendations)”

  1. eileeny says:

    Batwoman is probably my highest recommendation for superhero comics. She has no superpowers. She only ever wanted to serve, but was kicked out of West Point under DADT, so she became a superhero. Batwoman: Requiem covers relevant stuff from before the reboot in a not-too-expensive collection, and she’s part of the reboot starting from Batwoman issue #0. The art is gorgeous, though the flow of the paneling takes getting used to.

    • C.D. says:

      Batwoman was actually at top of my list (that and Gail Simone’s run of Birds of Prey) – I’ve heard great things about both the pre-and-post reboot comics. And I saw some of the art from the rebooted comics, and it does look gorgeous. Good to know the reviewers aren’t lying! I think I ordered Batwoman: Elegy from the library, although I’m not sure. Whichever one Greg Rucka wrote.

      • eileeny says:

        Yes, Elegy’s the one I meant: could only remember ‘thing for dead people.’

        I’ve only read some of the reboot of Birds of Prey, and while it’s entertaining enough, I wouldn’t recommend it. Wonder Woman is better in the reboot than it’s been in ages, but it’s still kind of weird: you might like it for the mythos, but it wasn’t one of my favourites.

        Batwoman’s the only one that’s stuck with me a ton. I dressed up as Kate Kane for Halloween. She’s also interesting in her evolution within the DC universe. She started as a love interest for Batman. Her new incarnation only cares about Batman inasmuch as she’s ‘always on the Batman rule’ – she doesn’t kill people.

      • C.D. says:

        Yes – I’m not reading the reboot of Birds of Prey, not unless someone recommends it to me. Madison Public Library has a good run of the old books, though, so I’m… going with those (the ones written by Gail Simone). We’ll see how it goes. Ditto with Wonder Woman.
        Something tells me Wonder Woman will be my least favorite – for some reason, I’m not really into updated greek mythological stuff. Although I do like greek mythology. And Wonder Woman might be a bit too wholesome for my bizarre tastes (same reason Superman leaves me cold)
        Have Batwoman and Batman ever met in the new incarnation? Actually… maybe you shouldn’t tell me. SPOILERS.

      • eileeny says:

        Oh, not really spoilers: they make a point to have Batman appear in pretty much all of the early issues of the New 52 where it makes any sense at all, since he was the beginning of DC, so of course he shows up a little bit.

  2. earthfae says:

    I agree with you so much, I wish there were more french comics published in English, they seem so cool.

    At least a have manga, that catigrl cover makes my neck hurt just by looking at it

    • C.D. says:

      I’m trying to figure out if that Catwoman has a torso AT ALL. I’m not sure she does.
      To be fair (or unfair) to french comics, there are probably a LOT of bad ones, but I’ve either forgotten them, or my mother knew better than to buy them for me.

  3. Hélène says:

    I agree about Les passagers du vent – and Valérian (Laureline is an interesting character).
    Nowadays I read Girl Genius which is an OK kind of craziness ;)

    • C.D. says:

      *Gasp*
      I’m not the only person who has read Les Passages du vent! *faints*
      Sorry – living in the USA, it sometimes feels like I’m the only one who has!
      I’ve only read one book of Valerian (it’s the only one in our family collection), but I liked it quite a bit.
      And I really need to read Girl Genius. Everyone has told me it’s fantastic.

  4. Howard Bannister says:

    Probably my biggest comic that I continue to collect is Ultimate Spider-man.

    It’s got a lot of female characters. They are posey. The artist’s teenage women all have abs that are just ridiculous and that they show off.

    And, frankly, a lot of very interesting stories about the women in the book just don’t get told. They’re alluded to, and we understand they’re going on, but the story focuses on the dude, and that’s frustrating.

    But still better than, hmmm, the 616 (main continuity) Spider-man books.

    But Bendis either drives you absolutely crazy or you love him. There is no middle ground on him, I’ve found. (I adore his dialogue…)

  5. Wasp says:

    I feel like it’s probably an obvious suggestion because of his reputation in handling female characters with respect, but I enjoyed Joss Whedon’s run on Astonishing X-Men. There were several strong female characters and all were portrayed in a respectful manner; Emma Frost is a sexual character but she was presented as a character, not an object IMO. A character can be sexual without being objectified; I wish DC and Marvel realized this more often =/. I loved Shadowcat, Armor, and Agent Brand (I believe Armor and Agent Brand were both introduced into the Marvel universe in this series). With DC, it’s not a continuous series (it was a six-issue miniseries) but Huntress: Year One was a really good comic. This one was written by a feminist woman, Ivory Madison, and this story definitely reflected her feminism, which was a treat because it’s such a rarity to see such explicit feminist themes in a superhero comic. I also read that she really worked with the artist on this piece to ensure Huntress was not drawn in an objectifying manner. I’d also suggest Batwoman and Gail Simone’s work, but that seems to have been covered by previous commenters already ^_^

    • C.D. says:

      You know, you would think I’d have thought of Whedon right away, but I keep forgetting he wrote a run of the X-Men. I’ll definitely check it out.
      Often I think DC and Marvel get confused between sexuality and sexualization. Sexuality is something that comes from the character themselves, while sexualization is something done TO the character (ie: objectification, drawing in ridiculous poses etc.). A character can have a strong sexuality (like Emma Frost) without being sexualized.
      And thanks for the Huntress recommendation – from what I’ve heard about her, she seems like a really interesting character. Plus finding an explicitly feminist mainstream comic book writer is a rarity.

  6. Myriad says:

    Was talking about this with the female parental unit the other day. The thing I find hilarious is looking at this from a pure marketing angle, pissing off women is a comically stupid decision.

    Statistically, who reads more fiction, men or women?
    Who is more visually sensitive to colors, shapes, patterns, etc?
    Who loves looking at crazy/pretty clothes?

    Okay, the last two shade into stereotype territory, but still. Women would pour so much money into this industry if, as quoted, it wasn’t so busy trying to actively offend us.

    Let me know of any good reads you find…

    • C.D. says:

      So, wordpress put your comment in my spam box. Why, I don’t know, because you’re one of the most frequent commenters… and you have a wordpress account. But wordpress clearly wants to protect me from you. They must know about your evil plan to take over the world via the power of cute cats, astronomy and awesome knitting.
      But yes, I completely agree with you. Women have money. Women are willing to spend money on comics – if we look at Japan, where mangas aren’t marketed exclusively to boys, girls spend TONS of money on comics. And women and girls have spent lots of money on mangas in the United States too. Plus, as you pointed out, women are the biggest readers of fiction, so it wouldn’t be that hard to persuade them to try fiction… with pretty pictures!
      Because who doesn’t like pretty pictures?

      • Myriad says:

        Curses, they’re on to me. I’ll tell Rosie to suspend Project World Domination until their suspicions have faded.

        Ooh! Ooh! Me! I like pretty pictures!

  7. Heather says:

    I really liked Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman, I think it’s pre-reboot. I’ve just gotten into comics myself, so you may want to take my recommendation with a grain of salt, but I really liked his stories and didn’t find it fan-servicey. If I may add to the general consensus, Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey is also amazing.

    And, especially if you have a limited budget, the local public library may have some of the comics you’re looking for. Probably nothing really recent, and they may not have every book in a particular run, but I know the one at which I work has a ton of comics and graphic novels, and an agreement with other libraries to share materials, expanding what you can access even further. (I work at a library, so I shamelessly promote their awesomeness at every opportunity :D )

    • C.D. says:

      I love libraries with a mad passion, and they are generally so awesome that I want to bow down to them and do all their taxes (although libraries probably don’t want me to do their taxes, since I’m… terrible at doing taxes). And yes, I’m getting most of my comics from my local library – their selection is fantastic.
      I’ve heard really good things about Greg Rucka, and he gave an absolutely fantastic interview about writing strong female characters to i09 recently. Plus, I just read his graphic novel “Whiteout,” and was blown away. So I’ll give his Wonder Woman a try!

  8. DollHeart says:

    Hello, I came over from Feministe – nice blog & being quiet the comic fan I share your concerns. So here are some recommendations:

    As has probably been mentioned before, Greg Rucka usually features awesome ladies (and gentlemen, because it’s all about good writing). In fact here is an interview he did on the subject of female characters recently:
    http://io9.com/5912366/why-i-write-strong-female-characters

    Also worth a look is Ross Campbell. His new interpretation of Glory is…quite inventive, to say the least. His female characters most definitely do not fit the traditional mold of comic book heroines!
    Another good writer/artist/creator is Brian Wood. His new one is The Massive, but all his work is worth a look.
    At the moment also I’m really enjoying Saga – the new one by Brian K Vaughn with *gorgeous* art by Fiona Staples – I love her stuff.

    Out of the New 52, it’s not all bad. Batwoman is ok, and WonderWoman features one of my other favourite artists, Cliff Chiang.

    And it goes without saying that anything penned by Grant Morrison(Invisibles, WE3, The Filth), Alan Moore, Warren Ellis or Kieron Gillon is fantastic reading. Indeed, I find a lot of what I read on the recommendations of Warren Ellis, who’s site is always interesting even though it isn’t centered around comics: http://www.warrenellis.com/

    Hope this helps. ;)

  9. It’s a really good time to be getting into comics, I think. Despite the very visible debacles, there is some really good stuff out there.

    I’d recommend checking out the current Wolverine and the X-Men series by Jason Aaron. It’s about what happens when Wolverine decides to rebuild and run the old Xavier school that had been basically abandoned for the last few years, with Kitty Pryde as his second in command. Another great series going on right now is Daredevil by Mark Waid. It focuses on Daredevil trying to rebuild his life after his secret identity gets revealed in the press. You could also check out Animal Man by Scott Snyder, which features a storyline about Animal Man finding out that his daughter has inherited his powers.

    Also, starting in July, Marvel is launching a new series about Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, written by the very talented Kelly Sue DeConnick that I am really looking forward to.

    • C.D. says:

      Yes! I had the good fortune of attending a convention where Kelly Sue DeConnick spoke about her experience in comics. I’d never read any of her work before, but she was so wonderful that I immediately pre-ordered Captain Marvel. First comic I’ve ever pre-ordered! I’m really excited to see what she does with it (and from the previews I’ve seen, the art also looks good).

  10. Johanna says:

    In addition to many of the recommendations listed above, I would suggest Brian Michael Bendis’ “Alias” that stars Jessica Jones. It’s very well done. I would also recommend Dan Slott’s run of “She-Hulk,” despite the awful covers. I am very much looking forward to the new “Captain Marvel” and would suggest reading her earlier “Ms. Marvel” trades.

  11. Margaret says:

    Chris Roberson and Michael Allred’s “iZombie,” from DC’s Vertigo line, is, like most Vertigo titles, technically horror, but about the first fifteen issues or so of it (now available in trade paperback which your library may already have) actually come across more like “What if Veronica Mars was a smart zombie who solves mysteries and hangs out with likeably down to earth fellow paranormal beings like a were-terrier and a miniskirted 1960′s ghost–and winds up dating an amiable professional monster slayer (who is unaware of all of the above)?” Or, as I said in my contribution to the Read This or Die column on “iZombie” in the feminist comics and pop culture webzine *Sequential Tart* (www.sequentialtart.com), “Gwen [the protagonist] is a high-functioning twenty-something zombie whose best friend is Ellie, a mini-skirted ghost who’s been haunting her old neighborhood in Eugene, Oregon, since the early 1960s. (They met at the cemetery where Gwen, a struggling artist, works as a gravedigger.) The two of them sometimes hang out with Scott, alias Spot, a part-time were-terrier whose grandfather recently returned from the grave as a talking chimp. Scott also has a couple of Big Bang Theory-esque gamer geek buddies who’ve spent most of the series knowing nothing about any of this. As a result, they keep getting ticked off at him for repeatedly skipping game night whenever it conflicts with the full moon.

    As the above description suggests, iZombie has less in common with conventionally horrific rotting-flesh zombie stories–even the more thoughtful, psychological horror-oriented ones like The Walking Dead–than it does with tales of quirky friendships between supernatural beings like the BBCTV series Being Human. In a way, it’s a bit like the more low-key episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, except from the (benign) monsters’ point of view. Gwen, whose zombieism is manifested mainly via her silvery-white hair and slightly odd-colored eyes and complexion, does occasionally have to eat brains (retrieved from the corpses it’s her job to bury) in order to avoid deteriorating mentally–she’s already lost a number of memories of her own life, including how she died. But, unlike the somewhat analogous heroine of Diana Rowland’s novel ‘My Life as a White Trash Zombie,’ who begins to exude a slight whiff of decomposing flesh after a mere three days without that essential zombie fare, one hit of brains seems to last Gwen for months. However, ingesting others’ brain cells does have the side effect of giving her some of their memories, usually accompanied by a compulsion to do something to provide the dead person with closure, such as solving their murder or checking on the welfare of their estranged offspring.

    Gwen’s (after)life wasn’t exactly typical even in the early issues when, as she puts it in issue #17, ‘my biggest worries were solving a mystery, or rolling a perfect game of skee-ball.’ In more recent story arcs, she’s had to deal with additional complications such as Amon, a suave recluse (complete with sentient pet panther) who claims to be a reanimated survivor of ancient Egypt and wants to recruit Gwen for some kind of ill-defined mystical mission. Then there’s Horatio, a good-looking guy who came to town to hunt vampires with a multicultural crew of professional monster slayers, then wound up asking Gwen (whose post-dead status he is unaware of) out to play miniature golf.

    ‘iZombie’ is adroitly written by Chris Roberson, whose somewhat more cynical-in-tone ‘Fables’ spin-offs about Cinderella’s covert career as a secret agent are also well worth checking out. Although he isn’t officially listed as a co-plotter, I suspect that artist / co-creator Mike Allred contributes more than just his distinctive visual stylings to ‘iZombie,’ since the series’ occasionally whimsical, magical-realistic plotlines and offbeat characters sometimes remind me of the deadpan dream logic of his past solo series, such as ‘Madman’ and ‘The Atomics.’ In any case, the end result of their collaboration strikes my fancy more exactly than anything either of them has done separately. If you like supernatural-tinged stories, urban fantasy, or even sophisticated old black-and-white Hollywood supernatural comedies like ‘I Married a Witch’ and ‘Topper,’ you should definitely try this book, even if you usually hate zombies.”

    I also second the recommendation of Dan Slott’s run on “She-Hulk.” (I believe the trade paperbacks in question begin with “Single Green Female.”) The Peter David run that followed it wasn’t bad, either.

  12. [...] Female Friendship in Sci-Fi and Fantasy Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Posted in Academia, Culture, Feminism, Rants, sports and tagged Abby Wamach, Anna Tunnicliff, Body Issue, Candace Parker, Carmelita Jeter, Daniela Hantuchova, ESPN Magazine, Eye candy, Female Athletes, feminism, john berger, Sara Robles, Sports, Suzann Pettersen, Women in Sports [...]

  13. Captain says:

    You should read Cassandra Cain’s run as Batgirl. She’s one of the most badass characters DC has come out with recently, and she’s never sexualized that I can recall. She does wear a skimpy bikini in one issue, which makes her really uncomfortable, and the art actually reflects her discomfort (which is not even with her near nudity, but with the way men are ogling her.) Best of all, her most important relationships are with her mentor, Barbara Gordon, her best friend, Stephanie Brown, and her estranged mother. Batman, Robin, and her estranged father are all secondary.

    • C.D. says:

      Thanks, I’ll look for it! I’ve just started receiving some of the Stephanie Brown batgirls from my library (although I haven’t read them), so that should make an interesting juxtaposition.

  14. Jacquee says:

    Girl Genius! She occasionally shows up in her underwear (non-skimpy) but kicks butt, has real curves, and the other women on her side are strong and supportive while still having unique personalities and body shapes. Both print and online, it starts here: http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20021104

  15. Matt says:

    Just found this thread. Well said and good points all around. There are good superhero books out there with female leads, but you should definitely not feel obligated to slog through the mountain of suck to find them.

    Strangely enough, a book titled VOODOO was probably the best at handling a sexy hero in the reboot, and it was the one I was most worried about. The setup is literally a killer alien disguised as a stripper. It even opened with a strip tease scene! And yet, the character was well written, the sexiness only took place in scenes where it was appropriate for the context, the writer did fun things like show repeated panels of us watching the male patron watch Voodoo dancing via his mirrored sunglasses (inverting the male gaze), and her actual superhero costume was surprisingly modest and practical. Compared to the random posing of Starfire and Catwoman it was incredible.

    Unfortunately, I can’t recommend it, because about issue 4 or so the creators were switched and the whole storyline went south. Not in a cheesecake way but in a good ol’ fashion “now the story is totally derailed and sucks” way. They basically made the main character the villain and swapped in the “real” Voodoo. Except I didn’t know or care about that Voodoo and wanted to cheer for the awesome character I fell in love with those first few issues.

    Anyway, thanks for writing!

  16. Divya says:

    My advice is…to stick to Marvel. Most of DC is extremely mysoginistic, and I’m not JUST saying that as a Marvel fan. Marvel heroines are never just female clones of their male counterparts.
    That is all~

    • Divya says:

      Excuse the spelling error…
      *misogynistic

    • C.D. says:

      Interesting! I’ve actually had pretty decent luck with DC so far, mostly by steering towards comics written by explicitly feminist writers, or ones recommended to me by other feminists. The Gail Simone Birds of Prey and Wonder Woman run are pretty fantastic, as are the Stephanie Brown Batgirls. And the Ivory Madison Huntress? REALLY GOOD. Oh, and there’s this great run of Catwoman (okay, I need to stop) by Ed Benes (only catwoman comic I didn’t want to throw in the trash after I was done).

      Although Joss Whedon’s run on X-men was pretty astonishing (terrible wordplay, I know).

  17. Eliott says:

    I know I’m late to the party here, but may I suggest Astro City? It’s the best superhero comic being published today (and in my opinion, ever), hands down, and in most issues you won’t even find a fight scene in it that lasts for more than a few panels. Busiek’s treatment of the female characters is as stellar as his treatment of the male ones (Astra Furst especially comes to mind). And it’s the only superhero comic that’s ever moved me to tears.

  18. Releena says:

    I know this might come a little late but I have a couple of suggestions: Versailes no Bara (Lady Oscar), Claymore (hasn’t finished yet but it’s a great story, lots of good female characters and monsters), Rayearth, XXX Holic, Mermaid Forest (a bit of horror here but it’s very good)
    To be honest, I haven’t read many comics for the same reasons that you mentioned here but I do read lots of manga and thought there might be lots of misogynist mangakas there are also those of them who aren’t, and the manga industry is so big there are many different genres and many female mangakas.
    And it might not be a comic but Satrapi’s Persepolis is a great story, sad and shocking perhaps but very true in it’s depiction of human behavior.

  19. minimichi says:

    I’m just now discovering your amazing blog so this comment is super late, but if you’re still taking suggestions I’d recommend the Young Justice comic that ran in the late 90s – early 00s. Initially the team consists of three male superheroes, but they are joined by three female superheroes after the third issue.

    It’s been several years since I read it, and I wasn’t as conscious of these issues back then as I am now, but I don’t recall there being much fanservice; all of the team members were actually drawn as teenagers, with proportional, realistic body parts and everything. The only one who wears a revealing costume is Arrowette, but she isn’t drawn in an objectified manner.

    The comic really places emphasis on The Power of Friendship (aka MY FAVORITE TROPE), and I particularly loved how they portrayed the relationship between Wonder Girl and Arrowette (female friendships FTW!). Also, all of the female team members are complex characters that change and grow over the course of the comic run: Wonder Girl is struggling to gain self-confidence and prove her worth as a superhero, Arrowette is grappling with her motives for becoming a superhero, and Secret is just trying to figure out who she is.

    Also, Incredibly Lame Puns (yet another favorite trope) abound! Even though the comic dealt with serious topics, it still managed to maintain a lighthearted tone throughout its run, which is a nice deviation from the pervasive grimdark trend in superhero comics.

    So yeah, I think you should give it a shot :)


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