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Read Like A Mother: 5 Comics and Graphic Novels About Awesome Mom Figures

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S.W. Sondheimer

Staff Writer

When not prying Legos and gaming dice out of her feet, S.W. Sondheimer is a registered nurse at the Department of Therapeutic Misadventures, a herder of genetic descendants, cosplayer, and a fiction and (someday) comics writer. She is a Yinzer by way of New England and Oregon and lives in the glorious 'Burgh with her husband, 2 smaller people, 2 cats, a fish, and a snail. She occasionally tries to grow plants, drinks double-caffeine coffee, and has a habit of rooting for the underdog. It is possible she has a book/comic book problem but has no intention of doing anything about either. Twitter: @SWSondheimer

Listen, as a mom, I firmly believe the world should celebrate moms and mom figures every damn day of the year. But we all have a lot on our plates right now so I’ll pencil that battle in for after the post–COVID-19 recovery. How does 2025 look for everyone?

All joking aside, being someone’s mom figure, no matter how much you love them, no matter how much you wouldn’t change a thing about deciding to be that being’s mother, is hard. It is grueling. And you never give it up, not even when they’re wholeass adults perfectly able to care for themselves. So if they want to give us a special day, I suppose we can accept it gracefully. As long as there’s coffee. Really a lot of coffee.

I checked the date about 85 times today just to be sure because March was 3,000 years long but it is, in fact, already May, which means Mother’s Day is just around the corner. So, in celebration of female parental units, let’s take a look at some awesome mom figures in comics!

Spider-Woman by Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum and Javier Rodriguez

The hero world has a hard time believing Jessica Drew wants to be a mom, and she has her moments of doubt as well. It’s hard enough to watch her lady squad head out on missions while Jess stays behind during her last few months of pregnancy, let alone contemplating leaving her infant with someone else while she kicks ass and takes names. And how, exactly, is she supposed to do the kicking of the ass and the taking of the names while also batting sleep deprivation, anxiety, and the tiny person she loves more than anything else in the world needing her so absolutely all the time?

I’m still impressed that an all-male team gave us one of the most realistic portrayals of motherhood to ever grace the pages of comics, one that took a deep dive into the mess and the terror and the absolute wonder that is realizing this kid you made fits you perfectly and that yeah, you can do the damn thing. I’ve recommended this run to every one of my friends (male, female, and nonbinary) who have had a baby since it was born and I will continue to shout its merits from the rooftops at five am when my son decides he really needs to be awake.

Lady Killer by Jamie Rich and Joelle Jones

Not every woman can spend her days preparing a perfect dinner party for her husband’s boss, keeping an immaculate home, turning out adorable and polite children, and then spend her nights garroting people for hire.

Josie can.

Lady Killer is one of my favorite comics of all time because it wiggles into all of those places where motherhood feels rote and repetitive and boring and pokes them with a sharp stick until they spurt absurdity and arterial spatter. The fact of the matter is, no matter how perfect someone’s life seems on Instagram, all mother figures have those moments where they want to run away and do crimes. Josie doesn’t just dream about it; she jumps in with both feet, a knife, and, sometimes, a mop. And while most of us wouldn’t choose “murder” as our escape, we can still appreciate the fact Josie refuses to be dismissed as “Mrs. Schuller, appendage to Mr. Schuller and the Schuller children.”

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu

Nova Huang’s parents died when she was young and she grew up with her grandmother and her grandmother’s wife. Both of the older women are witches, and while they’re proud of Nova’s accomplishments in the Craft, what she is has never been as important to them as who she is. Someone who will always help a friend. Someone who loves easily. Someone who worries about others before she worries about herself. Someone who takes her abilities seriously, who believes in her responsibility to the community even if they aren’t sure how they feel about her. A girl who can love the family she has and miss the family she’s lost. Smart. Brave. Wise.

Everyone should be lucky enough to have mother figures who love them not despite some qualities but because of the way in which they move through the world. Not for who they love but how. Not what they know but how they use the knowledge. Not for what they fear but for the ways in which they act despite it.

Stargazing by Jen Wang

Moon’s mother YuWen lost her husband when Moon was young. Her job barely pays enough to support their family. When Moon starts to experience mood swings and visions, YuWen must continue to work to keep her insurance and their home while taking Moon to doctor’s appointments, keeping her safe at home, and, ultimately supervising her daughter’s recovery. YuWen has some help, but ultimately knows the responsibility is hers and wouldn’t relinquish it even if she could. Because no matter how difficult the road, Moon is her daughter.

Mothers and mother figures will do things for their children they would never do for anyone else.

Things they wouldn’t even do for themselves.

They do it without thinking twice.

So think about it for them.

Mother’s Day 2020 is May 10th. Soon. If your mother figure enjoys comics (and a lot of us, despite yet another Twitter brouhaha suggesting the olds should see themselves out of fandom, enjoy them very much), the list above isn’t just a celebration; it’s a potential gift guide. And if she hasn’t read a comic or graphic novel before? Think of the new worlds you’ll be opening for her. To escape into. When everyone is fighting. And the dog peed on the rug. And dinner is burning. And the sink is backed up…