Originally published on Comics Bulletin
Since I was little, I’ve been here for girls. Maybe it was because my neighborhood was largely little boys, and when we played together they wouldn’t let me be a boy character– and that’s when it became clear to me how few options there were. You can only be April O’Neill a finite number of times before you want to be a turtle like everyone else. Or maybe it’s just because I like seeing myself in comics, role models that are enough like me that it seems feasible for me to be like them someday. Either way, even today my pull is 90% female fronted titles. And as I’ve grown older, my tastes have become more discerning. And lucky me, comics are not a desert for sympathetic female characters anymore, with complex, multidimensional, unique women being written every week for nearly every publisher. Here were my favorites this week:
Abigail & The Snowman #3
Published by Boom! Studios
Written, illustrated, & lettered by Roger Langridge
Colors by Fred Stresing
You may remember this from arguably our most adorable Slugfest ever. Abigail is a sweet little girl who is struggling with school & socialization. Plus, she’s a bit of an obstinate weirdo. She had an invisible dog named Claude, who she knew wasn’t real, until she met an invisible yeti, Specimen 486, to whom she promptly re-gifts the name “Claude,” since she knew dog-Claude wasn’t actually real anyway, but she also knew that an imaginary friend was better than none.
This issue follows Abigail & Claude’s best-friends montage, it features Abigail’s love of Phoenix comics and her distraught reaction when Claude accidentally dumps out her shortbox, and it sees Abigail transferred to a new school with new kids who have never rejected her and who she has never rejected. This is a perfect all-ages comic that adults can relate to too. The art is cute and expressive, and the character designs are on point– Abigail’s hair, for instance, is every bit as quirky and stubborn and unruly as she is, and her dad clearly has stuck a bow on it because she deserves to feel pretty no matter how well her hair conforms to what the brush is trying to do.
Princeless: Pirate Princess #2
Published by Action Lab
Written by Jeremy Whitley
Art by Rosy Higgins, Ted Brandt
I’ve also written about Princeless before, and done an interview with the writer, so I’m definitely what you would call a fan. This new series is set in the established reality from the previous books, so if you haven’t read them, you have a little catching up to do. The most important things to know are: Adrienne’s father locked her in a tower so a nice prince would come rescue her & they would marry, because that’s the proper thing to do. Adrienne instead grabbed a sword, befriended her dragon, and flew off to liberate her sisters from their own similar towers. Along the way, she meets Amelia, a dwarven blacksmith, who accompanies her on her many adventures.
The new series follows Raven Xingtao, granddaughter of the pirate queen Ming Two-Tails, who grew up on the high seas. Raven is a classically trained fighter, hell with a bow, and has even been dubbed “The Black Arrow” by fraidy-pirates from shore to shore, until her brothers decide a pirate princess is more trouble than it’s worth and lock her in a tower as well. Enter Adrienne and Bedelia, who offer both rescue and instant friendship.
I like this series for presenting a wide perspective on gender norms. Adrienne’s desire to be a knight doesn’t translate into automatic fighting skills; Raven’s fighting skills don’t make her less likely to spend time getting her hair right; Bedelia’s forge has made as many chainmail bikinis as practical breastplates. For literal princesses riding a dragon around the countryside, these girls are incredibly real, multidimensional, and complex.
Curb Stomp #1
Published by Boom!
Written by Ryan Ferrier
Illustrated by Devaki Neogi
Colors by Neil Lalonde
Letters by Colin Bell
Unlike the previous titles, under no circumstances should this be picked up as an all-ages book. This is bloody and violent, but it’s fun and it’s real and it’s fresh. Forget gritty urban comics, this book is bright and punk, it’s about protecting your home and loving your family and maybe a little bit about jumping up on stage and screaming Black Flag lyrics to let off some steam.
Curb Stomp follows 5 women, all with names that wouldn’t be out of place on a roller derby team, who belong to a gang called the Fever: Machete Betty, Violet Volt, Daisy Chain, Bloody Mary, and Derby Girl. It chases themes of political intrigue, of poverty and gentrification, in a reality not so different from our own. And of course it features the titular curb stomp, which the Fever think is the incident that sets all of the conflict in motion– but is it?
Like Princeless, Curb Stomp has a diverse cast of women, all with a unique back story. They’ve been written complexly, and in one issue established several of the little dynamic intricacies that occur between longtime friends: who is closer to whom, who takes care of the gang, who leans on the group, and who keeps her problems mostly to herself.
Judge Anderson Vol 1
Published by IDW Entertainment
Written by Matt Smith
Art by Carl Critchlow
Letters by Shawn Lee
Collected as a trade and in comic shops today, Judge Cassandra Anderson is with the Psi Division in Mega City One. She may be occasionally prescient and be able to plant images in the minds of criminals to make them stop dead in their tracks, but she can’t remember almost anything before her life in the Academy.
This book is not only a good book for people interested in female-fronted books, but it’s a great introduction to the world of Mega City One. It doesn’t presume pre-knowledge– you don’t even have to have seen the movie– but nor does it condescend. It throws you in with exactly as much explanation you need for you to parse together the rest, so if you’re good at context clues, you can fly in blind on this one.
This trade collects 4 issues and follows Anderson as she investigates a break-in (that she foresaw) of a Cursed Earth artifact exhibit at the Megapolitan Museum. Through this, she discovers the possible existence of a time-traveling hyper-powerful criminal, Ashberry, who may be the boogeyman of organized crime or may be the biggest threat Mega City One has seen. Her interactions with her colleagues are powerful– she is not in awe of Dredd, unlike many of the other Judges, and unlike Dredd, she sees her job as exactly that, and resents when she feels she has to come in on her time off. This book also sees her learning new ways to use her psychic powers; for instance, psychogeography, in which she and Degroot astrally project and search the swampland of the Alabama Morass.