Women in Comics Part III: 10 Awesome Graphic Novels by Women

Posted by Hilary Lawlor

For the final part of this series, I want to talk about all of the incredible graphic novels by women that are floating around in book and comic stores out there. These women are putting out beautiful, lengthy, amazing works of art and calling them graphic novels, and you can just buy them! With regular money! At a store! WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE!

1. This One Summer (Jillian Tamaki, Mariko Tamaki): Jillian and Mariko Tamaki are Canadian powerhouse writing-and-illustrating cousins who each produce their own comics, but with their powers combined, created the incredibleness that is This One Summer. Centered around the lives of two young girls (think: Kids Bop Ghost World) who spend their summers in a small-town beachside haven, this book contains an impressive amount of heavy feelings and real lessons. Plus, how did they get so many emotions and so much depth out of that monochromatic color scheme? It’s not really fair.

2. Through the Woods (Emily Carroll): What is it with the Canadians and the fantastic comics? I’m going to need that country to reel it in, they’re making the rest of us feel a little bit inadequate. Anyway, Through the Woods is a fantastic collection of TERRIFYING and wonderful short stories in comic form. How does Emily Carroll manage to make her vintage-roaring-twenties art style so scary? Maybe it’s that everyone is so bright-eyed and rosy-cheeked until their teeth start doing horrifying things, Oh god, I’ll never eat an apple again.

3. The Undertaking of Lily Chen (Danica Novgorodoff): Here’s a thing I never knew about China: in some of the northern parts of the country, they have a tradition of ghost marriages, or burying unmarried men with the corpses of young women so that they don’t go into the afterlife alone. Well, The Undertaking of Lily Chen is based on that tradition, and the main character, Deshi, has no idea what he’s getting himself into when he sets his sights on Lily Chen as a possible ghost bride for his recently-deceased brother. It’s a thoroughly entertaining read, and I just have to say, the way Novgorodoff depicts haunting is SERIOUSLY creepy and will really stick with you.

4. Relish (Lucy Knisley): Ready to get hungry? Lucy Knisley grew up in a family of chefs and foodies, and we get to benefit in the form of this cute, funny, touching graphic novel filled with actual recipes (that are delicious). Knisley has written several graphic travelogues that are also wonderful, but relish, with its depiction of a family that eats and loves together, is my favorite.

5. Fun Home (Alison Bechdel): Alison Bechdel is a famous artist for good reason. She has a deceptively simple gothic drawing style that underscores the darkly comic aspects of her memoir in a fantastic way. Plus, her family lived in a funeral home! What? This book is so wonderful, it's insane.

6. Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi): Persepolis follows Marjane Satrapi’s early life in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution, showing how her life changed and what happened to her family. Marjane, called “Marji” as a girl, had to learn about so many difficult things at such a young age. I can’t overstate how important I think it is that young American people – particularly women – read this book, if only because they’ll see that even in dire circumstances, young women sometimes want to do very normal things (like play Monopoly).

7. Anya’s Ghost (Vera Brosgol): Anya’s Ghost is funny, heartbreaking, and creepy all rolled up into one beautifully-drawn comic… ball.  Anya is a Russian transplant trying to fit in at her New England private school. She stumbles upon a ghost who promises to help her, but, as usually happens, things do not go the way Anya predicted. This book is about accepting yourself, and it’s everything that is adorable and good.

8. Marbles (Ellen Forney): In Marbles, Ellen Forney addresses one of the greatest fears of any person who needs to take medication for their mental health: what if it changes me in a bad way? What if I lose parts of myself that are important to me?  The best part is, she does it all in a great, relateable black-and-white style that is fun and easy to read.

9. How To Be Happy (Eleanor Davis): Eleanor Davis's How to Be Happy is a collection of gorgeous graphic short stories. Don't be fooled by the title – there's a lot of sadness in this book. But it's beautiful, so it doesn't feel so bad. In fact, it feels pretty great.

10. The Encyclopedia of Early Earth (Isabel Greenberg): Remember the stories you used to hear as a kid about how the earth came into being, the ones with crazy wind gods and lands sitting on the backs of giant turtles and what have you? No? Who was telling YOU bedtime stories? Look, the point is, Isabel Greenberg made this beautiful book about a storyteller who tells those kinds of stories (and lives them!), and it’s wonderful. And hilarious. And beautiful. You should read it, is what I’m saying.