As a person who grew up both loving comics and possessing lady-parts, I had a hard time seeing many representations of myself that didn’t involve the tiny costumes of Wonder Woman or the female-version-of-a-dude-ness of Lady Deadpool. And while Wanda Wilson is fabulous, I couldn’t really go around whipping katanas out of my backpack to slice up my bullies without facing, like, one or two consequences, so I still found myself sort of at a loss. Also, she wasn’t really her own person. Where were the regular ladies in comics? Where, moreover, were the people who weren’t necessarily white or straight or physically perfect in every way?
Fortunately for the young (and old) comics lovers of today, comics creators are coming out with some of the best representations of women that I’ve ever seen. The women in the comics on this list aren’t necessarily “super” (although some of them are), they’re just women relying on their natural awesomeness to get them through whatever insane situation they’ve encountered. It’s so great that all of these comics exist.
1. The Kitchen (Ollie Masters, Ming Doyle, Jordie Bellaire): This is my current favorite comic in existence. Set in Hell’s Kitchen in the 1970s, it follows the wives of three Irish mobsters who have been put in jail for, um, mobster things, leaving the women behind to run the streets in their absence. The Kitchen is vibrant and affecting, and it doesn’t hurt that the art style calls to mind some of the coolest comics of the 1970s. I was rooting for these ladies from the get-go.
2. Bitch Planet (Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro, Cris Peter, Clayton Cowles): This is the badass, take-no-prisoners-because-there-are-already-too-many-prisoners feminist comic I’ve been waiting for. Bitch Planet has important things to say about the way women - women of color, in particular - are seen as second-class citizens. This comic might be a representation of the worst-case scenario, but it doesn’t seem impossible, and that makes it terrifying - and an amazing read.
3. Lumberjanes (Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, Brooke Allen): Woo, Lumberjanes! To take things back a peg from the super-serious tone of the first two comics on this list, let’s look at the greatness that is Lumberjanes. Five best friends have a blast hanging out at the summer camp that they go to every summer, and on the side, they fight three-eyed wolves, take on zombified dudes from the nearby boys’ camp, and solve cave riddles using *science*. It’s hilarious and empowering all in one neat little package.
4. The Wicked + The Divine (Gillen McKelvie, Wilson Cowles): Another one of my favorite comics at the moment, The Wicked + The Divine just has SUCH a cool premise that I heard about it and was like “UM, yes, give that to me, I will devour it immediately.” It follows a 17-year-old girl who becomes besotted with the reincarnation of Lucifer, known as Luci, a stunning, androgynous version of the Prince of Darkness, and a handful of other gods in teenage bodies, as well. It’s fascinating and beautiful and you won’t be able to put it down.
5. Rat Queens (Kurtis J. Wiebe): Rat Queens is the story of four badass ladies (some with magical powers, others with awesome beards and excellent sword-weilding abilities) who have formed a vigilante gang to protect the streets of their city from petty criminals and, I don’t know, ogres? They’re awesome and writer Kurtis Wiebe has done an excellent job making the dialogue pithy and hilarious. This is escapism at its very best.
6. Ms. Marvel (G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Ian Herring): “Oh, wow, I definitely haven’t heard of the new Ms. Marvel, describe it to me,” said no one. I know, everyone’s heard of Ms. Marvel, but JUST IN CASE you haven’t, it’s super great. Ms. Marvel is funny, fantastically drawn, and adds a human aspect to the superhero story that’s often lost among the Clark Kents and even the Barbara Gordons of it all. Non-white, diversely-religious women can be superheroes, too! Who knew?
7. Wytches (Scott Snyder, Jock, Matt Hollingsworth): If you haven’t been reading Wytches since it came out last year, you need to start, because it is great and gorgeous and TERRIFYING. Seriously, I have not been genuinely scared by a comic in a long time. The writing is spectacular. And Sailor, the main character, has depth and, to borrow a word from my grampa, gumption.
8. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (Ryan North, Erica Henderson): Look, this comic is about a girl with the proportionate strength and abilities of a human-sized squirrel. Even if it weren’t written by one of my favorite comic writers (Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics!), that sounds awesome. As it is, it’s funny, the art is great, and there are so many awesome cameos by other Marvel superheroes! This series is fantastic, and we’re only on issue #2.
9. Pretty Deadly (Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios, Jordie Bellaire): I’ll be the first to admit that when I read through the trade paperback of this comic, I had a hard time taking it in. There’s so much going on on every page, and so many little details to absorb, that I had to read through it at least twice before I felt like I had a good grasp on the story. But let’s lay all the cards on the table: Pretty Deadly has some of the most beautiful art I’ve ever seen in a comic. If for no other reason, check it out because you won’t see a more beautiful one on the shelves for a long time.
10. Gotham Academy (Becky Cloonan, Brendan Fletcher, Karl Kerschl): Let no one say that DC isn’t making an effort to create comics that appeal to young women. Gotham Academy is definitely a fun romp (and let’s be honest, MAPS is everyone’s favorite character), and it’ll be even more fun if it continues to feature cameos from established DC superheroes (issue #1 has Bruce Wayne) who are, in this universe, kind of old fuddy-duddies.