Trying to get my friends and family into comics has been a rough journey. Comics are my favourite medium, but I will be the first to admit that they don’t have the best reputation. Comics is an incredibly diverse and experimental medium, but their public image is so dominated by one spandex-clad genre that it’s sometimes hard to get past, particularly in the representation of women. Luckily, we’re living in a new golden age of comics that star women, are written by women, drawn by women, and are aimed at women. Everyday the medium is changing, becoming more inclusive and diverse, and there are more and more amazing titles to recommend to the curious and dubious new reader. Here’s a few.
STRONG FEMALE PROTAGONIST
Brendon Lee Mulligan (Writer), Molly Ostertag (Artist)
So, superheroes: fun as they are to watch and read about, aren’t really equipped to tackle the real worlds ills, right? “What are you going to do, Mega-Girl? Fling poverty into the sea? Smash us all into a better tomorrow?” Mainstream comics do sometimes address this, and it’s often cringe-worthy. But, the first rec on this list makes superhero ineffectiveness a central theme. Strong Female Protagonist is a smart, gorgeously drawn webcomic updating Tuesdays and Fridays, following the life of Alison Greene, aka Mega-Girl, formerly America’s leading superheroine, physically invulnerable, and the strongest human being who has ever lived. She’s also a twenty year old Uni student, who’s desperately trying to find an identity for herself outside of heroics that defined her teenage years and to understand how she can more effectively help the world beyond punching people in the face.
The comic explores the ethics of superheroing and social justice issues in a world just as messed up as our own. This can make for a pretty somber reading experience sometimes — SFP doesn’t shy away from explicitly addressing homophobia, racism, poverty and privilege. Still, all these issues are treated with sincerity and honesty, and you never feel as if the writer and artist are using them for cheap shock value. And for all the darkness inherent in the stories themes, SFP doesn’t come across as nihilistic. It’s a fundamentally hopeful story, about continued action in the face of injustice and the importance of cooperation over individualism in tackling complicated issues. After all, you can’t just kick homophobia through dimensions all on your own.
G. Willow Wilson (Writer), Adrian Alphona (Artist)
Ms Marvel began early last year, after the former Ms Marvel, Carol Danvers, claimed the title of Captain Marvel (actually a step down, she was a full Colonel when she left the Air Force. Lady outranks Captain America.). Kamala Khan of New Jersey is the “average girl” of the Tumblr age: obsessed with superheroes, writing fanfic, and stifling under parents who just don’t understand how important this gifset is. She’s also developing bizarre superpowers after exposure to a plot device. Inspired by her favourite superhero Captain Marvel and her inherent desire to do good, she sets out to protect the youth of New Jersey from various supervillains. Ridiculous teenage shenanigans ensue, iconic characters guest-star (Wolverine thinks Kamala is awesome), and writer G. Willow Wilson manages to intelligently and sensitively tie Kamalas Muslim faith to her heroic identity and motives. Kamala isn’t defined by her faith, but it is an important aspect of her character and her life that the comic treats with utmost respect.
Ms Marvel is also a magnificent rebuttal to every “teenagers today are useless and lazy and will contribute nothing to the future” argument. Teenagers today are as varied and wonderful as the rest of the world, whatever out-of-touch baby boomers say. And let’s be real, they didn’t screw up the economy or fry the polar ice caps, but they are the ones who are going to have to live with it. I’ll be honest, talking about Kamala and what a magnificent hero she is was about 98% of what motivated me to write this rec list. She’s not Marvel’s first female Muslim hero (X-Men has Dust and M, and Captain Britain has the delightful Dr Faiza Hussain, aka Excalibur), but is the first to headline her own ongoing title. Ms Marvel is about inspiration, hope, initiative and perseverance, doing what you can because it’s RIGHT, to make a difference, even if it’s hard, even if your parents don’t like the giant space dog you just brought home.