Beginner’s Guide To Female-Led Comics
Very slowly over the last few years the mainstream comic book industry is beginning to realise that, not only do they have a female audience, but that their male audience is, for the most part, ok with this. They’re ok with female fronted comics, they’re ok creating a community where ladies are welcome. It’s all happening slowly, but it’s happening. Indie comics have always been great with varied representations and inclusions, and it’s about time the big leagues started catching up more. With the announcement of a female stepping up to wield Thor, and Sony’s announcement of a female fronted Spider-Man movie, I’ve been inspired to take a look back at the greatest female fronted comic books of all time (according to me, anyway.)
The Dark Phoenix Saga
Chris Claremont, renowned for writing 3 dimension characters as well as being one of the only male comic book writers who is actually able to write women accurately (he’s like the Joss Whedon of the comic book world), penned one of the best stories in X-Men’s history. Generally known as a two-parter, the first being the Phoenix Saga and the second being the Dark Phoenix Saga, it is often said to be one of the most influential and best things Marvel has ever produced; it was certainly one of their most popular. A quick spoiler-full run-down of the best parts of the storyline; Jean Grey gains ultimate powers and becomes Dark Phoenix, the most powerful being in the universe. She gets in trouble once she starts accidentally setting off supernovas and the like, since the X-Men generally disagree with genocide. She ends up sacrificing herself for the protection of the people she loves once she realizes she is no longer in control of her powers.
This series is also famous for being the one to introduce Kitty Pryde and Emma Frost, two great female characters which are still rocking around the X-Men world. With this series, Claremont turned Marvel Girl from a vulnerable kid who could move random things with her mind, and turned her into one of the powerful beings in the universe who could kick everyone ass. Kudos.
Rat Queens contains arguably the four coolest ladies ever. Written by Kurtis J. Wiebe and drawn by Roc Upchurch, this Image Comics comic centers around Hannah- an Elven Mage with a rockabilly streak, Violet- a Dwarf warrior who’s a little bit hipster, Dee- a Human atheist with a monster cultist upbringing, and Betty- a Halfling hippy thief. Together they make up the Rat Queens; adventuring assassins. It is a darkly comedic comic full of monster killing, and partying, and each of the four main characters have refreshingly individual personalities and full rich back-stories. They are some of the most interesting and three dimensional female characters with flaws and strengths, equal amounts of love and hatred, and physically they are each unique in size and shape. Despite being partially made up of mythical creatures they are some of the most realistic, believable and relate-able female characters written in a long while.
Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan)
Ms. Marvel, aka Kamala Khan is Marvel’s first Muslim character to have their own title. She is a teenage Pakistani-American and the comics are written by G. Willow Wilson and drawn by Adrian Alphona. This series isn’t just full of Kamala kicking the ass of a bunch of super-villains, but takes into account her conservative home life and Islamic obligations. The series is about identity and struggling with balancing the person she wants to be with the person her parents expect her to be. This whole identity ideology is mirrored nicely with her ability to shape-shift. This series is funny, interesting, well written, and tackles a group of people almost completely ignored in the comic book world. Kamala’s brilliance is in her believability as a teenager; she’s obsessed with superheroes, she’s sarcastic, imaginative, obsessive, and has a wild desire for freedom. While her Muslim background is not relate-able to some, the ignorance she faces from the world is still something universal. From the moment she steps on the page you’re rooting for her. Hell, I was rooting for her the moment I saw the cover of the first issue (drawn by Sara Pincelli.)
Judge Anderson: Psi-Division
Originally a supporting character in Judge Dredd of 2000 AD comics, Alan Grant propelled Judge Cassandra Anderson into new heights in Anderson: Psi-Division. Created by John Wagner and Brian Bolland, the comics start with Anderson waking up from a vision (a pre-cog flash) of an attack on the Megapolitan Museum of Modern History. Anderson is psychic and can read people’s minds, which attracted attention from the PSI-Division. As a young child she was recruited to undergo training at The Academy of Law. She is funny, personable, and stands up for her beliefs. She is a pleasant mixture of strong and vulnerable, and recently seen an incredible filmic interpretation by Olivia Thirlby in 2012’s Dredd. Plus she’s based on Debbie Harry so you know she’s gonna be awesome.
First released in 1988 in an issue of Deadline, Tank Girl centers around an Australia outlaw named Rebecca Buck who lives in a tank. Before becoming an outlaw she was a Tank pilot and a bounty, before accidentally shooting a super important officer guy and fleeing. Tank Girl is a punk chick with a kangaroo mutant boyfriend called Booga and her life revolves around sex, violence, alcohol and hair dye. Although set in post-apocalyptic Australia, it played a lot on the British culture of the time. The comics became somewhat of a symbol in the women in punk-rock revolution, as well as the pro lgbt and anti-Maggie Thatcher movements. You might recognize the drawing style as, co-creator of the series, Jamie Hewlett went on to co-design for Gorillaz. The Tank Girl comics are bizarre, gross, funny, and brilliant in every way (and just a little bit NSFW!)
I know there’s plenty I’ve missed out on, so tell me, what are your favorite female characters in comics? Leave them in the comments!