A great thing about comics is that, in my opinion, they are as ubiquitous as film or TV or any other medium. Saying you read comics should really mean nothing. It just means you like comics! But for some reason, comics have mostly remained, in the public’s eye, a guy’s thing. Perhaps the image of beefy male superheroes saving women who are curvy and skinny at the same time is too omnipresent for most people, especially women. In this article I want to talk a bit about comics that specifically glorify and explore women. The following comics and books, which are some of my favorites, show women as the complex and interesting creatures that we are.
“Dames, Divas, and Daredevils” by Mike Madrid
This book details the lost heroines of the Golden Age of comics””the 1930s-1950s. It gives terrific overviews of the period and the advancements in comics and then it dives into the comics themselves. A comic story starring each of the heroines of the era is included, so whether she appeared in three issues or a hundred, you’ll get to read at least one of her stories. Some examples of the ladies included? Lady Satan, Pat Patriot, the Spider Queen, Calamity Jane and the Blonde Bomber.
“Abortion Eve” by Joyce Farmer and Lyn Chevely
Just one example of the many female-centric “comix” (that means underground comic) of the 1970s, this one told the story of five women, all named Eve, who are each considering getting an abortion. It’s a friendly, pro-choice comic that offers a variety of perspectives on the topic, since each woman is at a different stage in her life. The team behind this comic also created the sex-positive feminist comic, “Tits & Clits Comix.”
“Dykes to Watch Out For” by Alison Bechdel
Alison Bechdel is the famed creator of the Bechdel Test, which originated in an old DTWOF strip. This is my favorite comic strip of all time, and it ran from the 1980s to the 2000s. It’s almost “For Better or For Worse” with lesbians, but it’s a lot funnier and more politically charged. Whether you’re queer or not, I’m sure most women could enjoy this one a lot.
“Wonder Woman” by William Morston
Sure, there’re some BDSM undertones in these old comics. Wonder Woman’s creator was a bit of a strange dude. But he definitely believed in the power of women, and there’s no denying the strength and courage Wonder Woman wields within the pages of her comics. I’m no expert on the Amazonian princess, but I know she has served as a symbol of feminine toughness for decades.
Anything by Lynda Barry
If you didn’t get a chance to hear her speak last year, you missed out, but you can still read her various books! Lynda Barry is a true gem; she is a versatile and creative artist whose works walk a beautiful line between childish and adult.
“Lost Girls” by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie
This very graphic comic book tells the famous stories of Dorothy (of Oz), Wendy (of Peter Pan), and Alice (of Wonderland), but with a sexually explicit twist. It manages to be simultaneously pornographic and literarily invaluable. Alan Moore, the famous author of “Watchmen,” “V for Vendetta” and “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” considered sex as a genre “woefully underrepresented” in literature, and this is his attempt at raising the standards. Ultimately, the book is, in many ways, about the power of female sexuality.
“Unlovable” by Esther Pearl Watson
Based on a diary Watson found in a truck stop bathroom, this book tells the inner thoughts of 1980s teen, Tammy Pierce, who lusts after boys (even when they’ve told her they’re gay), experiments with Nair, listens to all the top hits, fights with her turd of a brother and farts all too often. Tammy is directionless and dramatic, but there’s something endearing about her resilience. This is definitely one of the funnier ones on this list.
Anything by Trina Robbins
Though I don’t always see eye-to-eye with Ms. Robbins, I can respect the extensive work she has contributed to comics (and comix!) literature. Besides her own considerable body of work within comics, she has written several books about female comic book writers and artists, as well as women in comics. Check out “Pretty in Ink” or “From Girls to Grrrlz,” or just read her lengthy and fascinating Wikipedia page for a list of her publications!