Women don’t get their share of cred in the comics world (for more to combat this, see #VisibleWomen). But there are tons of them out there, and they’re doing some spectacular work.
When I first started reading comics, the thing I was most excited about was the stunning way panels could bring to life the wild, the strange, the terrible, and the weird that is so prevalent through comic book storytelling.
In the hands of a great illustrator, there is beauty in the bizarre, and yes, even the monstrous. It’s a remarkable and unique demand on the imagination to create artwork that is so strange and unique.
But monsters are a domain that is still considered very masculine. It’s not something women creators often get to be associated with, no matter their passions, talents, or actual work.
And, well, fuck that.
There are a number of women creators in the biz who are killing it.
And hey, it’s Women’s History Month, and that makes it even more worthwhile than always to celebrate some talented ladies.
So here’s a few lady comics illustrators who rock the domain of monsters, aliens, and other things strange and weird.
Right out of the gate, I’m going to pull the “people can be monsters too” card here, but bear with me. Jones got her start on Vampirella, but I came across her later through Lady Killer, and I was instantly enchanted by the way she so gracefully infused Rockwell-inspired retro scenes with gruesome shock value. I never get tired of the way she can turn old-fashioned clichés into biting feminism (usually dripping with blood ).
Since then, she’s gone on to apply her uncanny ability to expose the monstrous behind the classic for Marvel and DC.
Also known for Brides of Helheim, Harley Quinn, Ms. Marvel, and more.
Levens is the comics artist behind Madame Frankenstein, which offers up a tribute to the tropes of the classic Universal monster movies that first made Frankenstein a pop culture icon, set against the opulence of a dying jazz age. This unusual combination of the horrific and the glamorous makes for a particular compelling combination within her imaginative hands.
Also known for Angel City, Gooosebumps, Fables and more.
It seems Tula Lotay has done a little bit of everything. I associate her most with The Wicked + The Divine, but really, she’s been a lot more heavily involved in other comics like Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Red Sonja, American Vampire—and may more widely be associated with her work on Supreme: Blue Rose.
Her art features lots of electric color and gritty inking, and strong, sometimes menacing women.
Rios is best known for her work on Pretty Deadly, a western fantasy horror featuring Death’s daughter that is full of magical realism vibes.
The world of this story is both elegant and savage, with a kind of forlorn and restless mood to it, and this is largely derived from Rios’s haunting artwork. With inspiration from mythology and folklore, this story of a girl in the wild West quickly takes on epic proportions.
Also known for Dr. Strange, among others.
I first came across Staples’s work in Saga, where she absolutely took my breath away. The magic of this quirky, expansive space opera is mind-bending—largely due to the magic of her artwork.
From teen ghosts, to alien spider assassins, to robots with screens for heads, she always surprises and delights. And on every new planet Alana and Markus land, her art does the heavy lifting to create a completely new and distinct creation.
Also known for North 40, Gods and Monsters, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, and more.
Really. If you find me in the wild, don’t bring up Fiona Staples unless you want to stay a while. I will not stop.
In Monstress, Takeda brings to life a matriarchal fantasy world inspired by early 20th century Asia. Drawing from steampunk and manga for artistic inspiration, the result is stunningly original and highly detailed.
But best of all is the story’s heroine, who is at once both a normal girl and monstrous—she has become host to a demon who possess significant power.
Monstress has been compared to both George R.R. Martin and J.R.R. Tolkein for the sprawling extent of its world-building, and Takeda’s illustrations are as elaborate as the narrative.
Through Tamaki’s work on She-Hulk: Deconstructed, she has created an embodiment of female rage, strength and power (brains too! Never forget She-Hulk is also a formidable lawyer)—even as the hero wrestles her way through the aftermath of trauma. Each frame is wrought with tension.
Also known for X-23, Harley Quinn, Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me, and much more.
Zama’s bio reads that she “draws robots, meds and monsters mainly.” The lady has a niche, and she owns it—one that’s perfectly aligned with her excellent work on the Transformers Optimus Prime and Death Head series.
Her artwork brings humanity to the robotic characters of her stories, with wild designs that overstimulate with extensive detail and electric coloring.
Also known for GI Joe, Scarlet Witch, and more.