Where to Find Strong Female Characters in Comics

This week, I’m posting lists of my favorite stories that have female protagonists or POVs. Today I’m featuring comics, including series and individual books. Leave your recommendations in the comments, especially if they’re nothing like these, and check back Friday for open discussion on strong female characters!

Comics can be hard to get into if you don’t know where to start. If I’m recommending a character rather than a book, I’ll include some title recommendations!

Abadazad coverAbadazad by J. M. DeMatteis – A combo prose children’s book and graphic novel. I have no words for how great it is… There are three in the series, and the third one is really hard to find, and I spent an exorbitant amount of money (fifty dollars? sixty?) to get it from eBay at the age of 20.

Batwoman – Kathy Kane was a prominent lesbian character in DC and she was supposed to marry her girlfriend recently, but the editors shot that down and the writers resigned. So, I’m pretty pissed. That said, the early volumes are really great! Start with Batwoman: Elegy.

Catwoman – One of my favorite villains… And heroines! Try Catwoman: When in Rome or Catwoman Vol. 1: Dark End of the Street.

Courtney Crumrin by Ted Naifeh – A great “cute goth” fantasy/horror series, but not just cute. Gripping. Scary.Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things cover

Dramacon by Svetlana Chmakova – The first manga I ever read! It’s about an aspiring artist at a con, with some romantic elements. Complete in three volumes.

Fray by Joss Whedon – For Buffy fans, this is a great comic Joss wrote about a slayer in the far future.

Hark! A Vagrant – Come on, it’s a classic. The whole comic is great, but this is the relevant one: http://harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=311

I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly – A one-volume story about a girl, bullying, and parents dying. I cried.

Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson – I do monthly reviews of this ongoing comic. Suffice it to say it’s amazeballs.

The Plain Janes by Cecil Castelluci – Jane and her friends do art attacks. I think they also cope with some terrorist attacks, struggling with comparisons to themselves, but that may be the sequel.

Power Girl – I like this collection: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1401209688/. It’s got some of the major turning points in Power Girl’s history, and the quote that made me love her. (Read to the last panel). I also like the Gray/Palmiotta/Conner series.

Power Girl always show em what you got

Promethea by Alan Moore – Artists and writers can call up the spirit of Promethea, an ancient goddess, and either become her or sort of “bestow” her on their muses. It gets really boring and pseudo-philosophical in later volumes, but I really liked the first one.

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan – Clever, strange, over-the-top space opera, with an awesome married couple. I love a good married couple because it’s so rare, and the woman herself is both a mother and a soldier. The art is colorful and embraces the strangeness. Basically it’s really good sci-fi!

Ultra: Seven Days by the Luna brothers – In Ultra, superheroes straddle the line between crime fighters and celebrities. It adds something to the superhero conversation, especially since the main characters are women. I wish they had looked more physically different from each other, but their personalities are varied, and the concept of superheroes-as-celebrities was believable and well done. Complete in one volume.

Wonder Woman – The New 52 Wonder Woman brings her back to her Greek mythology roots, with updated gods and goddesses and a plot that seems like mythology but isn’t. It starts with Volume 1: Blood. And if you already like that version, try the one-volume story Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia!

Tomorrow: TV shows!

Where to Find Strong Female Characters in Books

This week, I’m posting lists of my favorite stories that have female protagonists or POVs. Today I’m featuring books, both fiction and nonfiction. Leave your recommendations in the comments, especially if they’re nothing like these, and check back Friday for open discussion on strong female characters!

Fiction

Antigoddess coverAntigoddess by Kendare Blake – I adore Percy Jackson, so I don’t want to set up too many comparisons here, but Antigoddess is sort of the YA female version of that (in all the best ways). A little more mature, and a heck of a lot more women. Even the goddesses aren’t stereotypes — They’re archetypal in some sense, but they have feelings and motivations and strengths and weaknesses and all those things aren’t necessarily governed by one thing (war, or love, or whatever). Blake makes the myths new again, not by retelling an old myth but by extrapolating that big dysfunctional family into the present day, and her skill in writing horror is put to good use.

The Ashford Affair by Lauren Willig – I think I talk about this book all the time and nobody cares but me. :D It’s a historical romance.

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale – This book was a really great YA fairy tale retelling. Its first sequel, Enna Burning, is one of the most intense books I’ve ever read, because it follows Enna through a horrible journey to the dark side and back. It was really difficult to read but so worth it.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – I hated this book, honestly, but it’s also a must-read.

Jack Glass coverJack Glass: The Story of a Murderer by Adam Roberts – A space opera noir mystery. The main character is male, but the other main character is a teenage girl from an elite family. About two-thirds of the book is from her POV. She’s entitled, shallow, and she doesn’t give a fig for the welfare of the servants except as far as they amuse her. She’s insanely annoying… But then she’s not. I appreciate a book that can make me love the kind of character I’d usually hate.

Just One Day by Gayle Forman – It’s about a girl falling in love with a boy in one whirlwind day in Paris, but that’s not What It’s About. It’s about a girl falling in love with who she was that day and learning how to be that girl again. It’s lovely.

Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw – A favorite from my childhood, about a spy in ancient Egypt!

The Monster Garden by Vivien Alcock – Another childhood favorite about a girl who accidentally creates a monster using her scientist father’s samples.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler – A young woman creates a new religion in a dystopian society.

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen – My favorite of her books, because it’s the snappiest! Different versions of these women crop up in her other books, but I think P&P’s are the most fully-realized.

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy – It’s like Harry Potter, if Harry was an awesomesauce girl and Hagrid was Jack Skellington.

The Summer Prince coverThe Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson – I just reviewed this recently… In a futuristic sci-fi Brazil, an artist collides with a king doomed to die at the end of the year.

Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston – I always describe this as Dr. Seuss for middle graders. Or, you know, twenty-something history students… or anyone else… It’s one of my favorite books, y’all! A novel in verse about a little girl named Katrina Katrell, who goes looking for the missing Zorgles of Zorgamazoo.

Nonfiction

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff – Correspondence between an American reader and a british bookseller. It’s simply lovely.

Bonk by Mary Roach – Everything you ever wanted to know about the science of sex!

The Cloister Walk coverThe Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris – It’s about her religious experiences with monasteries. It was really difficult to read at first because would hate living in a monastery, but somewhere in there I had this lightbulb moment that I can care about someone else’s experience without sharing it. After that realization, I really appreciated what she had to say!

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh – The book of the blog. I’m sure you’ve seen the “ALL THE THINGS!” meme — that comes from Hyperbole and a Half.

Any collection of Sappho’s poetry.

Tomorrow: Comic book recommendations!

Where to Find Strong Female Characters in Movies

This week, I’m posting lists of my favorite stories that have female protagonists or POVs. Today I’m featuring movies. Leave your recommendations in the comments, especially if they’re nothing like these, and check back Friday for open discussion on strong female characters!

Albert Nobbs – This is an odd example because the title character, played by Glenn Close, is undeniably a man. I don’t wish to misgender him, so I’m breaking my POV requirement in the very first example, I just think the movie as a whole is an affecting look into how women on the fringes might have lived in 18th-century Ireland. It’s worth a watch especially if you’re interested in gender as performance.

Disney Princesses

Not all of them.

Disney – Frozen and Brave, by all means! But also Sleeping Beauty, and The Princess and the Frog, and The Little Mermaid, and every one of the other princess movies, because not all girls are alike. Watch all of them and talk about how every princess is different. And don’t forget Tinker Bell!

Gravity – The relative strength of the female character in this movie is debated. It does contain one of the tropes I hate, “My name is ____ because my father wanted a boy,” but I enjoyed the movie for its artistic value and for the real sensation of spacewalking it gave me. The fact that it’s an entire movie held down by one character, who is female, is also noteworthy.

The Hogfather – I’m pretty sure I’d marry Susan if she’d let me. This three-hour movie thing is based on a book by the same name by Terry Pratchett about Discworld’s version of Christmas, and Susan is the no-nonsense granddaughter of the Grim Reaper, currently working as a governess for two young children.

Susan from Hogfather

Susan (Michelle Dockery)

The Hunger Games – Another duh, but its fame is well-deserved.

The Last Unicorn – The last unicorn in the world goes searching for her lost siblings. In my opinion, this movie says everything that needs to be said about unicorn stories, and anything else is but an echo.

Pacific Rim – Mako Mori has given her name to the Mako Mori Test for a reason!

Paradise Recovered – The story of a young woman in a cultish fundamentalist religion, and her journey out of it to a more healthy religious experience. I really liked this movie because it dealt with the issue from her point of view, as a member of the group being introduced to a new way of thinking. It didn’t offer a simple answer at the end, so it didn’t come off preachy.

The Terminator – People tend to think about Arnold Schwarzenegger and forget the movie’s about Sarah Connor…

Sarah Connor

She’s mad because y’all keep forgetting about her…

Wit – Emma Thompson stars in a movie based on a play of the same name (written by a lesbian playwright) about a professor of John Donne’s poetry dying of cancer. She sees Donne’s poems about life and death in a visceral new way. I sobbed all the way through reading the play for personal reasons, then borrowed the movie from my literature professor and sobbed all the way through that too, but I don’t think it was just me.

Tomorrow: Book recommendations!

Where to Find Strong Female Characters

I don’t always like to lump things together based on a trait like “being about a woman.” However, after a Ms. Marvel post a while back, I got to looking at my bookshelves. I realized that even with all my ranting, I don’t necessarily have all that many items that are about women. So, I looked through my lists of favorite things and put together a list of the ones about a woman or women. Sometimes it’s fun to check out a list of things based on one factor and see how they compare and contrast, so I’ve put together lists of movies, comics, TV shows, and books I can recommend, and I’ll be posting one a day starting tomorrow. These aren’t feminist movies and books, or stories with “lessons” I’m approving… This isn’t even as comprehensive a list of my favorite things as I’d like. These are just stories I love that jumped out at me, that happen to have female protagonists or female points of view.

The main thing I learned from this exercise is I’ve read an awful lot of books with female second-most-important characters, but very few where the woman is in the central or POV role. I decided to limit it this way because there are awesome female characters in a lot of places, but so many of them blend together for me because they end up these token “awesome woman” characters as seen through a male gaze — and also because these lists would be enormous if I just counted all the women I liked! If there is a common denominator, especially with the TV shows, it’s showing a variety of women in the same series. There are some gimmes, like The Hunger Games and Frozen, but also some things y’all may not be familiar with and that you might like.

I want to pay more attention to this in future, so please leave your recommendations in the comments, especially if they’re nothing like the ones on the list! The “rules,” like being from a female POV, are really more like guidelines, if ya know what I mean.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s Summary, I’ll be hosting the Feminist Friday discussion this week on the topic of Strong Female Characters in general and whether or not characters affect culture, so be sure to check that out on Friday, and check back in just a few minutes for a list of movie recommendations!

Doctor Who Review: “The Caretaker”

I enjoyed “Time Heist,” but as the week wore on, I was less and less satisfied with it. “The Caretaker” just left me unimpressed from the start. (I did have extremely vivid dreams about being Twelve’s companion after watching it last night, though, for whatever that’s worth!) For starters, why did the Doctor appear just to tell Clara “no trip today”? He’s a time traveler. He can just come on that same day whenever he gets done with his business.  I guess he really did think Clara wouldn’t recognize him in a different coat and just thought he was being clever, telling her he was going into “deep cover” and then being able to tease her about not seeing him.

The Doctor and Danny The Caretaker

At any rate, we’ve been waiting for Danny and the Doctor to meet for a while now, and this whole episode is basically devoted to that meeting. Even though we’ve been waiting, I’m glad we took that time. We’ve had a chance to actually see Danny and Clara get together. They’re still very new in the relationship, but there is a relationship there, and we have a sense of the two of them together, rather than just throwing them together for the sake of immediate drama.

Danny reacted with fear, but also with capability. I think his main shock was that Clara had been hiding her space life — he coped pretty well with the aliens and robots and stuff. I like that he has yet another answer to “Doctor who?” — a commanding officer, like others he’s had. The Doctor doesn’t like that at all, but I think he can tell there’s a whisper of truth to it. I liked the way they ended things, it turned out the Doctor was mostly thinking of Clara and worried a soldier would hurt her, but I’m not sure they’ve really addressed the Doctor’s soldier issue itself yet. I do really like his fatherly attitude to Clara though, and the new quality to their relationship. I can believe that it grew out of the relationship we’re told Eleven and Clara had, and it’s more real to me as a viewer because I can see it there, I’m not just told they’re besties.

Doctor Who Danny and Clara The Caretaker

But back to Danny and Clara and secrets coming out — I wonder if Danny can really trust Clara anymore, or if he will. She didn’t tell him about the Tardis, okay… It would be hard to tell him that and be believed, especially since the Doctor was/is so hostile to soldiers. But even when Danny SEES an alien robot and is nearly killed by one, and sees Clara and the Doctor bickering about the robot, and rightly demands answers, Clara still tries to lie to him. If I were in Danny’s position, that’s the point where I would start thinking she might not be a person I could trust, and eventually that would get the better of me. Plus, there’s Danny’s pointed observation that it’s magnificent things, wonders, that she didn’t want to tell him about. It’s a huge, dramatic, majestic part of her life she just didn’t think he should know about. (It’s all in character for her, I just don’t think it reflects well on that character. I’m not saying she should be written differently, because I love that she’s an individual now and her flaws make sense… I’m just saying I think this is gonna be a trust issue in the future, and I’ll be a bit upset if it’s just swept under the rug.)

We do have one arc-related scene in which we learn that Missy has a staff. I’ll point out that this new arrival to heaven is most definitely dead — we saw his charred hand — and he didn’t die because of or on behalf of the Doctor. But maybe his lack of direct connection to the Doctor is why Missy pawned him off on an underling?

Skovox Blitzer The Caretaker

Skovox Blitzer

In the end, I’m just not sure this episode was everything I wanted it to be. The Doctor going into “deep cover” as the caretaker creates some jokes, but no hijinx with the normals in the school administration or anything like that. (The culmination of the exchange with the problem student was great, though.) Clara gives Danny an invisibility watch so he can watch her and the Doctor interact inside the Tardis, but I feel like that was entirely for later plot reasons, and the scene itself wasn’t that dramatic or satisfying. The villain was perfunctory at best. I like that they gave a whole episode to the Doctor/Danny/Clara meeting, but that stuff is clearly not finished yet, and the episode itself wasn’t great.

Pics from We Geek Girls: here and here 

Sunday Summary 9/28 – Wrapping up Banned Books Week

The Banned Books Week Blog Party was great, thanks entirely to you fine bloggers out there! I’m surprised and pleased by how many posts there were. My friend Gene’O of Sourcerer and Just Gene’O was kind enough to create a Pinterest board for all of them:

Here are my five posts from this week, in case you missed any amongst the reblogs:

This party was one of my best weeks stats-wise, but more importantly, the flurry of linking sent me to some really cool book blogs I’m now following, and I loved getting to talk to y’all about books that mean a lot to us. I was also pleased that so many people not only wrote about specific books, but also expanded the conversation to do book lists or overall discussions on censorship. Hopefully we’ll be able to expand the party next year, and I’ll keep that in mind. Thank you to everyone who participated!

But wait… there’s more!

I’m scheduled to host the Feminist Friday discussion here on October 3rd, on the subject of strong female characters in fiction. I’ve informally dubbed this week “Strong Female Characters Week,” and leading up to Friday, I’ll be posting daily lists of recommendations. I’d love for all you readers and story-lovers to come by and leave recommendations as we go along, and if you feel moved to write a whole post about female characters, you won’t hear me complaining. ;) Of course, if you can only pick one day to visit, pick Friday and come prepared to discuss! These discussions often last all weekend, and the more the merrier. I’ll have a little intro post for the week tomorrow, before the first list of recommendations.

In that spirit, my cool link for the day is Take Back Halloween, a repository of costumes for women that do not involve the modifier “sexy.” I’d also like to go ahead and thank Poorly Thought Out Thoughts for the One Lovely Blog Award, because I’m already firing on all thrusters and doubt I’ll be able to do a real acceptance. Thank you!

Reblog: Banned Books Week: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

hannahgivens:

Last reblog, y’all — another important personal story. I’ll have more of a tie-up in the Sunday Summary tomorrow. Thanks everyone!

Originally posted on Reshaping Reality:

Inspired by the Banned Books Blog Party hosted by Hannah Givens over at Things Matter.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

I don’t remember exactly when I picked up this book. I’d put it anywhere between senior year of high school and second year of college. I was reading a lot of young adult novels back then, mostly because they were fast reads, and it was nice to just take a break from reading all that textbooks and English novels for class.

The reason this book stands out to me so much is the subject matter. A very traumatic moment happens to the main character, Melinda Sordino, and for months afterward, she stops speaking. People began to scorn her, rumors abound, and still she doesn’t speak up. Melinda begins to lose her friends, as one by one they drift away because of her weirdness. It is through her art class…

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Reblog: Pear Trees Are Obscene! Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God”

Featured Image -- 1361

hannahgivens:

Another example of people clearly not understanding the book they want to ban…

Originally posted on BOOKING IT:

I'm a sexy beast.

I’m a sexy beast. Click here for source of photo.

 This post contributes to the Banned Books Blog Party hosted by hannah at her blog Things Matter.  Click here for more about her blog and the banned books blog party.

Pear trees in bloom should be banned.  They are just too sexy, too alluring.  They are, in fact, positively obscene.

This is the message I took away from learning recently that Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston is on the list for Banned and Challenged Books.   You may be aware that September 21-27 is Banned Books Week.  Sponsored by the American Library Association, Banned Books Week

“is an annual  event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community –- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists…

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Reblog: Reading with Wild Things

hannahgivens:

Lovely reflection on reading Where the Wild Things Are with a little boy. :)

Originally posted on Part Time Monster:

(This post is part of the Banned Books Blog Party at Things Matter.)

Last night, we read Biscuit and The Color Kittens and Where the Wild Things Are. Sometimes it’s Clifford or Ninja Turtles or Goodnight, MoonThe little Jedi at 4

I read banned books. And I read them to my son.

I say this loudly. I wear it like a badge. I write it.

But why?

Because books teach us empathy, imagination, critical thinking, and open innumerable worlds. Because books allow someone who we might never meet, perhaps because they’re on the other-side of the world and perhaps because they’ve been dead 200 years, to speak to us. Because books create a multiplicity of voices in a world that pushes master narratives. Because books show us the capacity of our language. Because there’s pleasure in the forbidden.

Because learning to read and having the freedom to decide what to read are…

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Reblog: Fifty Shades of Censorship

hannahgivens:

I agree with Mrs. H — I thought Fifty Shades was basically an awfully-written book, and furthermore, I think the people who found it so sensational have never been on the internet. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be banned.

Originally posted on Mrs Holpepper: Bookworm:

Part of the Banned Books Week Blog Party over at Things Matter.

On May 25 2011 Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James was published.  For the years following this E.L. James has been on the ALA Top Ten Challenged Book Lists.  The reasons given for the challenges are “nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.”

Personally, I’m not a fan of Fifty Shades. When they first started to get media interest I downloaded the first of the trilogy onto my kindle.  I’m really nosy and at the hint of a little bit of controversy about a book I tend to want to buy or download it straight away.  I wanted to know what was driving women who didn’t usually read to pick up this book.  I also hadn’t read any erotica before and wanted to know what all the fuss was about.  I’d…

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