This post is part of our International Women’s Day celebration. See all the posts here.
Comics are gaining more women creators and more books than ever are directly aimed at women readers. This is a big shift given that comics have been aimed at young boys for so many years. It’s been a slow change, but a perceptible one, and despite pushback and regression from Marvel and DC (the big two comic book publishers) many great women-oriented reads are now available. A sea change is happening in the comic book industry and even if you have never read a comic book in your life now is a fantastic time to dip your toe in the water and see what modern comics are all about.
I know that it’s difficult for new readers to get into comics. I hear the same confused and frustrated questions from women again and again. What do I buy? Do I need to know decades of backstory? Will this be offensive/upsetting? I’ve been asked these questions so I have the answers, and I’m here to help ease you into the escapism of good comics for women. You won’t need to know years of comic history to read my recommendations, and you can be sure that they are women-friendly books.
We all know that women aren’t yet equal in society, especially when looking at religious male-dominated societies like Iran, Saudi Arabia and…the United States. It’s especially tough for women of colour and transgender women. Feminism has a long road to walk yet. Progress can be seen all over the world as women push back against inequality. It’s hard work, though, and everyone needs some relaxation time. What’s better than slipping into a new book? Here is a curated list of trade paperbacks that you can pickup from your local bookstore or online:
This is a hack-and-slash adventure comic starring an all women group of badasses. It’s set in a fantasy Lord of the Rings-like world and it is very much for adults with bloody battles, sex and a lot of fun.
Saga Volume 1-5, Image Comics
A Hugo-winning space opera mixed with fantasy that is heavily influenced by Star Wars– but Saga is far more progressive and modern than its progenitor. A husband, wife, and young daughter flee from both sides of a long running galactic-wide war, and their relationship is at the core of the book.
Sex Criminals Volume 1, Image Comics
A decidedly different take on the super power story: the protagonists can stop time by temporarily by having sex. If you could stop time, what would you do? A non-explicit (no, really, despite the premise) comedic and emotional book that doesn’t sex shame.
Lumberjanes Volume 1-4, Boom! Box
Another all-ages mystery and adventure story, but this time set in summer camp in an oddly mystical forest. It’s a little deeper and wiser than it first appears to be, and has the best coming out scene ever written in comics.
Bitch Planet Volume 1, Image Comics
About a prison planet where women are held captive: disobey the strict rules of society and you’re sent to Bitch Planet. Strong feminist following and the book has a thoughtful article about feminism in each issue, too.
Hellcat Vol 1 (June 28th 2016), Marvel
Fun, silly all-ages super hero adventure book that’s light, fluffy, and a feel good read. This book really is the comic book equivalent of a long warm bath.
Another all-ages comic, but like a Pixar movie it works on different levels for everyone. A great story of a non-traditional superhero who tries to talk her foes into submission before using her fists. It’s also the funniest book in this list.
The Wicked + The Divine Volume 1-3, Image Comics
One to sink your teeth and brain into. Every 90 years, twelve gods return to earth– but the catch is they can only live for two years and time is already running out. It’s a tale of celebrity, power, love, and loss and one of the most deeply emotional comics I’ve read.
*Editor’s Note: The artist on the initial run of Rat Queens was removed from the project for domestic violence. The current artist, Tess Fowler, is an amazing feminist and the book itself is excellent, so I’ve kept it on this list. –Amanda Nelson, Managing Editor
Also In This Story Stream
- The Women in Science We Don’t Write About
- Terry Tempest Williams on Women and Books
- Lauren Beukes On Writers and Their Cats
- Fatima Mernissi, Morocco’s Feminist Icon
- Sonali Dev on Why She Writes The Heroines She Writes
- All Around the World: Women Writers from Every Continent
- On Worldviews and Reading Widely
- 50 of the Best Heroines from Middle Grade Books
- Between Worlds: Finding Home in Fantasy