Comics · Fantasy · Sci-Fi

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!

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20 thoughts on “Where to Find Strong Female Characters in Comics

  1. It’s a shame that with mainstream comics, female characters generally don’t sell as well as male characters. That said, Marvel’s been doing very well on this front lately. In the last year, they launched a bunch of female-led titles.
    Black Widow is a great espionage series.
    Captain Marvel, while not the greatest seller, has a very loyal and well deserved fanbase. There’s a huge movement asking for a Captain Marvel movie.
    X-Men (adjectiveless) is an all-female team of X-Men characters. The X-Men in general have always had a number of great female characters.
    She Hulk is a very entertaining superhero/comedy/legal drama hybrid with who might just be the ultimate female power fantasy.
    And of course like you mentioned, Ms. Marvel is fantastic. It’s actually Marvel’s top digital seller right now, which is very encouraging.
    All of these are titles that could exist with male characters; they just happen to feature well-written female characters.
    With DC, you also have Batgirl, Birds of Prey (female-led team in the Batman franchise) and Supergirl.

    I haven’t read Ultra: Seven Days, but I feel that I should. I’ve heard good things about it, and I’ve read other material from the Luna Brothers that was good.
    I’ve also heard good things about Saga. Maybe one day I’ll check it out.

    It might not be as lucrative with comics as it is for novels, and there’s a dreadful shortage of female writers, but there’s plenty to choose from in the comic industry.

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    1. I’ve been a fan of Captain Marvel in the past but I’m not up on her current series… I need to get on that and She-Hulk.

      I do love Batgirl and Birds of Prey, I just didn’t have particular titles to recommend. That’s an issue for a lot of comics for me… Sometimes there are characters I love but I’ve never read a book about them that I liked! (Not that extreme with Batgirl or Birds of Prey, more of an issue with me just not remembering particular titles today…) Anyway, they’re showing up tomorrow. 😉

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      1. There’s almost too much to keep up with. I fell behind on Birds of Prey a while back and haven’t even started to catch up. With all the newer titles around, I doubt that I ever will.

        It also doesn’t help that collecting comics gets kind of expensive.

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        1. Yep. No “almost” about it for me, I just can’t do it. I’m fortunate to have access to several libraries that buy trades, so I can read most of the major things, but I stay pretty far behind. I’ve read up to the major Volume 2s of the New 52, for instance… Apparently there are already volume 5s coming out this fall. The completist in me hates it, but the approach of reading things with good buzz does seem to be working pretty well. Right now I’m actually digging into X-Men stuff, I’ve got Age of Apocalypse, Schism, the Dark Phoenix Saga, and some other stuff on my desk. After that I’m going back to catch up on New 52. (Back on topic: I didn’t like the New 52 Birds of Prey very much so I may not catch up with it either…)

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  2. ElfQuest by Wendy and Richard Pini
    (It’s almost all online, for free).
    There’s lots of different types of strong, too: warrior, archer, conservative, progressive, leader, healer, etc. Multiple species (though most are elves): elf, troll, human, Preserver. Some are heroes, some are villains, all are well-rounded. And they aren’t all “white” either: some of the elves have brown skin, the trolls are green (though one adores pink), the Preservers come in a rainbow of colors. The later issues of the “Original Quest” have graphic violence and sexual art.

    A Distant Soil by Colleen Doran
    Some of the art is very 80s 🙂 but still beautiful. The storyline is complex and fascinating. The women are both protagonists and antagonists (some are downright evil). Gender identity is more fluid, especially visually, and there is definitely an LGBQT vibe running through it. Some folks might not like that.

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  3. Mary and Bryan Talbot’s ‘Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes’ is amazing and well worth a look! It’s part biography of Lucia Joyce (James Joyce’s daughter) and part autobiography of Mary Talbot (whose Dad was a leading Joycean scholar). It’s a beautifully drawn graphic novel following the lives of two very interesting and intelligent women.

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      1. Right?? I follow the author on Twitter and Tumblr and she’s just so sweet and cool. I’ve been following this comic since it first started and it makes me so happy to see it become steadily more successful. She just completed a Kickstarter, too!

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