Category Archives: Comics Herstory

Graphic Policy Celebrates Women’s History Month: Our Favorite Women in Comics

patsy walker aka hellcat 1 featuredLogan: Kate Leth, Brittney Williams, Megan Wilson, and Rachelle Rosenberg’s Hellcat has been a joyful celebration of superheroes, young people, and queerness. I will miss its humor, chibi style art, and especially my bi bae Ian Soo when it ends in a couple months.

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Alex: Faith (Valiant) I really can’t understate just how enjoyable this series is. There have definitely been some issues stronger than others, but each and every one in the ongoing series (and preceding miniseries) has been nothing short of a pleasure to read.

Jody Houser, Marguerite Sauvage and the revolving cast of artists have taken Faith to stunning heights in an effortlessly charming and warm series that will make you fall in love with comics all over again.

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Shay: Gail Simone brings me LIFE! As does Roxane Gay! And I’m really loving Amanda Conner and her hubby’s direction for Harley Quinn! Also, loving Marguerite Bennett for the realistic portrayal of lesbians in Batwoman!

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Joe: One of the best titles in the last year is Animosity from Aftershock. This fantastic story is written by Marguerite Bennett who has taken the comic book world by storm lately, and drawn by Rafael de Latorre. Basically, society has collapsed when animals can talk and decide to take over the world from humanity. Instead of a boy and his dog adventure like we’ve seen so many times, we get a girl and her dog. Jesse and her hound, Sandor are not only an awesome pair, but the story is about Jesse’s growth into womanhood without a mother figure. Sandor knows he cannot help like her mother could, but he learns to rely on the other female animals to guide her. It’s brilliant, and everyone should be reading it.

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Patrick: Ann Nocenti’s run on Daredevil blew my mind when it was coming out. It was so different from what I’d been used to seeing from Denny O’Neil and Frank Miller – a strange urban poetry that was as close to magic realism as I’d ever seen in mainstream comics. With an off-kilter humor – the Human Torch showing up in a tight t-shirt reading “Bad!” – twisted romance, and psychodrama. Her writing was like nothing else on the stands.

A huge thanks to the editors and publishers behind the scenes who made a ton of great comics happen: Jenette Kahn, cat yronwode, Diana Schutz, Louise Jones/Simonson, Ann Nocenti, Shelly Bond, Alisa Kwitney, and most especially the inestimable Karen Berger.

Troy: It was a bit short lived, but I think there was a Defender’s title by Cullen Bunn about Valkyrie being tasked with assembling Midgard’s Valkyrie. Fear Itself the Fearless was kind of the prelude series to that. I really would have loved to see this series fleshed out.

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Madison: It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with Monstress and Bitch Planet. They’re not for everyone, but they’re two of my go-to recommendations for people who love science fiction or fantasy. Elizabeth Breitweiser, Rachelle Rosenberg, and Jordie Bellaire consistently blow me away with their incredible colors.

Brett: I’m slightly obsessed with M. Goodwin’s Tomboy which is published by Action Lab: Danger Zone. The series follows a teenage girl whose best friend is murdered in a corrupt cop/conspiracy and she gets posessed by an avenging ghost in a way. Think Kick-Ass but a teenage girl in the lead and a manga influence to it all. An amazing mix of horror, action, and manga the hero Addison is a teenager that can kick ass and get some vengeance.

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Challengers Comics + Conversation Celebrates Women’s History Month

Award-Winning Chicago comic retailer Challengers Comics + Conversation launched an ambitious plan to highlight local female and non-binary artists in daily tabling events to commemorate Women’s History Month. From horror to heroes, from established artists to comic-related art, the talent Challengers has put together allows for comic fans of all ages a great chance to find something new to love. New creators are being added regularly so make sure and check out their website to see the latest additions. Creators can email challengers@challengerscomics.com to participate. Challengers Comics + Conversation is located at 1845 N Western Ave in the Bucktown neighborhood. Swing by and celebrate Women’s Comics Month!

The current schedule is as follows:

Thu Mar 02: Chloë Perkis, 11am-7pm
Fri Mar 03: Bianca Xunise, 3pm-7pm
Sat Mar 04: Lauren Burke / Monica Ras, 11am-5pm
Sun Mar 05: Amber Huff, 11am-5pm
Mon Mar 06: Rosie Accola, 11am-5pm
Wed Mar 08: Isabella’s Crafts, 5:30pm-7pm
Thu Mar 09: Sara Kloskowski, 3pm-7pm
Fri Mar 10: Marie Enger, 2pm-7pm
Sat Mar 11: Andrea Bell, 11am-5pm
Sun Mar 12: Rebecca Rothschild,
Tue Mar 14: Natalie Andrews, 2pm-5pm / Isabella’s Crafts, 5:30pm-7pm
Wed Mar 15: Kat Leyh, 5pm-7pm
Thu Mar 16: Stephanie Mided, 2pm-7pm
Fri Mar 17: Ashley Riot, 11am-5pm
Sat Mar 18: Amy Peltz, 11am-5pm
Sun Mar 19: Sheika Lugtu / The Ladydrawers 11am-5pm
Tue Mar 21: Sage Coffey, 11am-7pm
Wed Mar 22: Isabella’s Crafts, 5:30pm-7pm
Thu Mar 23: Vickie Perez-Segovia (Vixtopher) 11am-7pm
Fri Mar 24: Yewon Kwon, 5pm-7pm
Sat Mar 25: Cathy Hannah, 11am-5pm
Sun Mar 26: Corinne Halbert, 12pm-3pm
Tue Mar 28: Leila Abdelrazaq, 11am-5pm
Wed Mar 29: Isabella Rotman, 11am-7pm
Thu Mar 30: Delia Jean,
Fri Mar 31: Caroline Picard, 5pm-7pm

Challengers Comics + Conversation was opened on March 31, 2008 by Patrick Brower and W. Dal Bush. Since then, they’ve been honored not just to be the recipients of awards like Best Comics Shop (Chicago Reader, 2010) and the Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award (2013), but to be the local comics shop of some of the most enthusiastic comics fans.

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Would Captain America Approve of Punching Nazis? (YES.)

As would surprise absolutely no one who’s followed my People’s History of the Marvel Universe series, I’m a strong believer in the idea that our pop culture is both influenced by our political culture and can have a strong influence on that political culture. Thus, it’s a major problem when the author of both of Marvel’s current Captain America comics gets all pearls-clutchy about whether it’s ok to punch Nazis.

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(credit to Shop5)

While people who’ve followed this spat on comic book twitter are familiar with this particular debate, allow me to clarify for everyone else: Captain America, as a pop culture icon, was designed to punch Nazis. And not merely in a cheeky, subversive symbolic, let’s-make-fun-of-Hitler way; the first Captain America comics were very clear in their argument that Nazis were a real threat to the United States both abroad and at home (with Jack Kirby and Joe Simon calling out real organizations like the German-American Bund, the Silver Shirts, and the America First Committee), and that we should go and fight them now (a year before Pearl Harbor). Nazis didn’t like this argument and they didn’t like Captain America as a pop culture icon – hence why they sent death threats to Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, threats that Jack Kirby met by being ready to punch Nazis at a moment’s notice.

Current Cap writer Nick Spencer’s stance doesn’t show a great understanding of the characters he’s working with or the spirit in which they were created, but that wouldn’t be so much of a problem…except that Spencer’s online conflicts with critics and fans are starting to bleed over into his comics, denying people a useful symbol for resistance in an era in which we really need them.

NaziCap and the “Alt-Righting” of HYDRA

Now, I’ve already talked about why NaziCap is a terrible idea – not only is it deeply insulting to the creators of Captain America and the various writers and artists who worked for decades to establish Steve Rogers as a consistent character, not only does the whole story only work by leaning on played-out non-mind control mind control gimmicks that relied on outright lying to your customers, but so far the only up-side is that Nick Spencer gets to write stories for months on end where Steve Rogers becomes a straight up supervillain:

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Now, it would be bad enough if Spencer’s problematic story resulted only in bad writing. But the problems go far beyond that, because Spencer’s Steve Rogers has an undeniable and inescapable political line. Take for example, Cap’s extended speech in Civil War II: The Oath:

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Let’s be clear: this is not just a comment on Marvel’s Civil War II; this is a blatant copying of post-2016 election hot takes blaming liberal coastal elites for the election of Donald Trump due to their lack of empathy for Trump voters in the heartland, bootstrapped into an anti-superhero and pro-HYDRA rant. Now, leave aside for the moment that this whole scene is jarring and awkward in the extreme in that Captain America is completely contradicting himself from Marvel’s first Civil War event – and remember, Nick Spencer’s non-mind control mind control retcon means that Cap still did and thought everything he did and thought in that series. (After all, Civil War II is absolutely cluttered with examples of characters from Tony Stark to Carol Danvers forgetting what they thought and did during Civil War I and before.)

The bigger problem is that Spencer is trying to have it both ways. On the one hand, he’s constantly riffing off of the rhetoric and imagery of present-day white nationalist and neo-Nazi movements to elicit controversy and give his story some “subversive” heft. On the other hand, Spencer constantly runs away from the implications of his own ideas by trying to de-Nazify HYDRA (which not-coincidentally prevents Steve Rogers from crossing a line that might harm his value as a brand):

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Once again, let clarify the comic book history: HYDRA was created as a Nazi organization, as part of an argument by Jack Kirby that the true believers in the Third Reich were still out there, ready to strike back against their enemies in the name of Nazism. HYDRA’s leader, the Red Skull, isn’t just a COBRA villain who hates freedom, equality, puppies, and sunshine in a generic Saturday morning cartoon way. From the beginning, the Red Skull has been not just a Nazi but a personal acolyte of Adolf Hitler:

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Indeed, the Red Skull is such a massive racist that he was once successfully distracted from his master plans by the fact that Peggy Carter was in an interracial relationship with another SHIELD agent:

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Likewise, the Red Skull’s chief subordinates in HYDRA were quite emphatic about the fact that they were actual and current believers in Nazi political ideology.

Now, Spencer isn’t the first person at Marvel to try to de-Nazify HYDRA – Brian Michael Bendis and Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Warriors story about HYDRA being an ancient organization that dates back to the Third Dynasty in Ancient Egypt set the pattern for fandom arguments that HYDRA wasn’t “really” fascist. But in the current political environment, it is especially tin-eared for Nick Spencer to “alt-right” HYDRA: we live at a time when we have actual Neo-Nazis in the White House working references to America First into Inaugural Addresses and dog-whistling to their fanbase by removing references to Jews and anti-Semitism from Holocaust Memorial addresses, all the while trying to use weasel-words to rebrand themselves as members of the “alt-right” so that they can normalize themselves in the media and the broader political culture. Indeed, Richard Spencer (who led crowds in throwing Nazi salutes at the alt-right’s election celebrations in D.C) was giving an TV interview about how the “alt-right” weren’t neo-Nazis when he got punched.

Sam Wilson as Sockpuppet and SJWs Are the Real Threat:

At the same time that Spencer has mired himself in a political quagmire in Captain America: Steve Rogers, we’re starting to see some of the same problems crop up in Captain America: Sam Wilson, which I used to enjoy because the book seemed to be grounded in a sincere love of Captain America comics from the 70s through 90s, what with Cap-Wolf and the Serpent Society showing up almost immediately. But given the tight-rope walk that always comes when a white writer is writing a highly political comic by speaking through a character who’s a black man, it’s a very bad sign when Nick Spencer’s twitter fights over the right and wrong ways to protest start coming out of Sam Wilson’s mouth:

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Leave aside that portraying Sam Wilson as the “both-sides-do-it” moderate clashes with the book’s raison d’être of Sam Wilson as the more militant political version of Captain America. Far worse is the actual content of the issue, which presents as its villains a group of campus left terrorists who use bombs to enforce “safe spaces:”

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Now, all of this would in normal times be painfully awkward, what with the white guy in his late 30s trying to do Tumblr-speak. But to push the idea that campus leftists are the real danger at a time when anti-fascist protesters have been shot by fans of neo-Nazi Milo Yiannopoulos, who deliberately targets critics for harassment and deportation, and when campus recruiters for the “alt-right” turn out to have past form for burning down black churches, comes across as pushing “alternative facts.”

Conclusion:

So why should we care, why does all of this comic book stuff matter when compared to the real-world political side of things?

As I said at the time, the “subversive” reimagining of Steve Rogers as a fascist was never ok, but there is far less leeway for it in a world in which Donald Trump is president. We have actual Neo-Nazis at the very top of the Federal government, directing government policy to enforce religious bans on Muslim immigrants, refugees, and permanent residents, to build border walls and prepare new offensives against young formerly undocumented immigrants given legal status and low-income immigrants. The “contrarian” fantasy of NaziCap has been lapped by reality and thus no longer serves any satirical purpose.

But on a more serious note: far from being emboldened by being punched in the face, Neo-Nazis are already emboldened by the fact that they have one of their own in the White House. Hence the burning of mosques in Texas and the Quebec mass-shooting , hence the constant drum-beat of bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers, hence the rise of hate crimes and random incidents of aggression from racist assholes who think that Trump has legalized bigotry.

A small part of this is an attempt by Neo-Nazis to claim cultural spaces and symbols, whether we’re talking about fights over Twitter access, the appropriation of memes like Pepe the Frog, the appropriation of language from sexual subcultures, attempts to recruit right-wing anime fans, Gamergaters, and furries, and most worrying of all, the attempt to reframe anti-corporate works like They Live to fit anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. And it’s not like Marvel has been immune to this: “Hail HYDRA” and HYDRA iconography has been a favorite of Neo-Nazis online as a way to get around bans on outright Nazi imagery, and defenses of the HYDRA secret agent Grant Ward on ABC’s “Agents of SHIELD” have sometimes blended into defenses of fascism more generally.

In the face of all of these, people really need anti-Nazi symbols to inspire and rally them. Captain America ought to be one of these symbols, but he can’t be as long as Steve Rogers is a HYDRA agent and Sam Wilson is more worried about the campus left – i.e, as long as Nick Spencer is the lead writer of all of Marvel’s Captain America comics. So here’s my pitch to Marvel Comics: hire Brubaker, hire Rucka, hire G. Willow Wilson, all writers who’ve shown a grasp on both storytelling and politics, or hire someone new with fire in the belly, and give us a Cap who will fight for us.

Talking Comics Herstory with Isabella F. McFarlin, Daughter of Barbara Hall

black_cat_-1During Women’s History Month we ran numerous articles highlighting many female creators who have made an impact on the comics industry that we dubbed Comics Herstory.

One of those creators was Barbara Hall, who became a prominent cartoonist during World War II and eventually went on to co-found a “hippie communue.” Hall drew the comic series Black Cat, the strip Girl Commandos, and created the Blonde Bomber.

Well, the internet is a cool tool because that article caught the attention of Isabella F. McFarlin, Hall’s daughter. Isabella was kind enough to answer my questions about her mother, what she remembers about her career in comics, and what exactly is the commune.

Graphic Policy: Your mother was Barbara Hall who either worked on or created some classic character. Growing up, how aware were you of her work?

Isabella F. McFarlin: When young, perhaps not that aware. She did read us Krazy Kat (she was from the same area in Arizona) and entertained  us with her swift, comic-like drawings of all kinds of things. Later on, I learned that she had been a cartoonist for Harvey, and said she had drawn The Black Cat. (This was brief, but she invented Honey Blake, I believe, and worked quite a while on Girl Commandoes).  The story was that she had drawn several pages of work– I think she penciled but did not ink– and showed them to my father. He said an artist as great as she ought to become a painter and not waste her ability on tawdry comics. Immediately she tore up the pages (worth about $300, a fortune in 1940s New York) and tossed them. Irving was horrified! He said “I didn’t mean right NOW!”  They were barely getting enough money to eat.  To the later irritation of my friends in comics, especially Trina Robbins, she gave up her cartooning to become a fine arts painter. As Jackson Pollock was the star of the day and my mother drew in Rennaisance-like figurative beauty, her art never got the attention her comics did.

GP: What are your thoughts of her place in comic history, especially being one of the early female pioneers in the industry?

IFM: I’m proud that she was involved in it and wish she’d had a chance, or given herself a chance, to do more of it. Of course, I am from the group of people who made comics a real art form (I think the way Art S., Robert Crumb and others think. I see comics as a true art, when well done. I know of no one who did a better job in her time than she!

GP: Looking at your Twitter account, it’s clear you’re politically active. Was that something instill in you by your mother? With the characters she created like the Blonde Bomber, I’d think she was a feminist based on who they are.

IFM: My mother believed women had a lot of energy and power, but she was a traditionalist in that she thought that my father, a writer and playwright whose work was admired by Shaw, Orson Welles and others, was even a greater artist than she. (I just published a chapter of my memoir on this subject at Blogcritics.org under the name Ladybelle Fiske, “The Battle of the Fountainhead.” It’s the story of a day in our lives when that topic came up, re Ayn Rand.)

My father, though, thought that “all the great artists of the future will be women.”  Yes, we were  very passionate about radical politics, but we had to hide out for a long time so my brother and I woulde not be sent to school. My parents believed, with William Blake, that schools were “dark Satanic mills that grind men’s souls to dust” and that kids should not be forced to go to any school they didn’t want to attend. So we were rather quiet till I was older. The 60s came along, with “a generation that was enlightened,” and many of them wanted to come to Vermont to learn art from my mother and philosophy, writing and psychology from my father.

GP: Were there comic creators you remember meeting growing up?

IFM: No– my mother had left that scene behind her when she became a painter in tempera and pastel, but she was pleased when the underground comics artists discovered her all over again.

GP: She went on to found the Quarry Hill Creative Center. Can you tell us what an “alternative living community” is?

IFM: No one has ever been able to nail down exactly what QH is. In the late 40s and 50s it was meant to be “a paradise for Souls,” as my parents called the relatively few unconventional people they met then.

GP: Sounds really interesting! Thanks so much for answering my question.

Comics Herstory: Dale Messick

brendamessickDale Messick was born Dalia Messick in South Bend, Indiana. She grew up with a love of art and after moving to New York City to pursue a career, was hired to draw greeting cards.

After some time, Messick decided to pursue a career in drawing comics. She assembled a portfolio of short comic strips and created a number of characters such as Mimi the Mermaid, Peg and Pudy, Streamline Babies, Struglettes, and Weegee, but none were picked up for publication. Messick then determined that she would be better served if people thought she was a male writer, and started going by her nickname, Dale.

After a strip about female pirates was rejected, Messick created her most famous strip, Brenda Starr, Reporter in 1940. As a character, Brenda Starr became representative of what many women couldn’t have: an exciting job that allowed Starr to support herself and travel to all corners of the world. Her name came from a 1930s debutante and her appearance from Rita Hayworth. She was fully a modern woman, dressing in the latest fashions and engaging in torrid romances. Messick gave particular focus to keeping Starr’s appearance and wardrobe updated to suit popular fashion.

Brenda Starr was picked up by the Chicago Tribune Syndicate and, at the height of its publication, appeared in around 250 newspapers nationally. It was published as a daily strip. Messick retired from drawing in 1980, when artist Ramona Fradon took over. Messick continued to write and illustrate other strips. None reached the critical success of Brenda Starr, which was revolutionary in its depiction of women as career driven and adventure loving people. Despite its popularity, film and television adaptations of the comic have been unsuccessful.

In 1995, Brenda Starr was one of 20 comics honored on a series of stamps called Comic Strip Classics. Messick was awarded the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Cartoonists Society in 1997. In 2001, Dale Messick and Marie Severin the first two women to be inducted into the Eisner Hall of Fame, and are two of only five women to be awarded this honor.

Messick continued to draw cartoons into her nineties before her death at the age of 98 in 2005.

Comics Herstory: Ramona Fradon

5607-2050-6129-1-aquamanRamona Fradon’s comics career began in 1950 after she graduated from Parsons School of Design. She is one of the most notable artists of the Silver Age, and has created and helped shape a number of characters in DC’s lineup.

Fradon was hired by DC following her graduation, and began working on Shining Knight. Shortly after, she became a regular artist on Aquaman. She gave life to Topo, Aquaman’s intelligent octopus sidekick, and was a co-creator of Aqualad. Aquaman was a signature character for Fradon, whose graceful art fit the character well. She worked on Aquaman for a full decade, from 1951 to 1961. During this time, Fradon and Marvel artist Marie Severin were the only women drawing superhero comics for a mainstream publisher.

superfriends37After taking a break in the 1960s to raise her daughter, Fradon returned to co-create the DC character Metamorpho, whose powers stemmed from his ability to control elements. She drew the first several issues of Metamorpho before taking another leave. Fradon returned full-time in the 1970s, again drawing for DC. Once back at DC, Fradon worked on several issues of Plastic Man and House of Secrets. She also penciled most of the run of Super Friends, a successful tie-in comic to the animated television show.

Throughout the 1980s, Fradon moved from comic books to strips, and penciled Brenda Starr after the strip’s creator, Dale (Dalia) Messick, retired in 1980. Fradon drew Brenda Starr until her own retirement in 1995, citing women’s interest as the reason for the strip’s longevity and popularity. Since her retirement, Fradon has still worked in illustration and has contributed to a number of anthologies. According to Catskill Comics, she is still accepting commissions at age 89. She is also set to be a guest at San Diego Comic Con this year.

Ramona Fradon’s contributions to comics are undeniable. Her art is iconic, and defined the classic Aquaman. She humanized these larger-than-life beings, giving them expressive faces and bodies that portrayed recognizable emotions and expressions. Her talent was and is still widely recognized, and she was the third woman to be inducted into the Eisner Hall of Fame with her inclusion in 2006.

Listen to Graphic Policy Radio Talk Women in Comics on Demand

On demand: iTunes ¦ Sound Cloud ¦ Stitcher

March is Women’s History Month and we’re wrapping it up by discussing women in comics! Graphic Policy Radio‘s regular hosts Elana and Brett are joined by site contributor Madison Butler to talk about female comic creators, female characters, and comics you should be checking out!

Madison Butler is a writer for Graphic Policy and Geek Girl Gang. She spends much of her free time reading comics and the rest of it writing about them. She also enjoys crafts and pretends to enjoy running and can be found on Twitter at @madisonrbutler.

Comics Herstory: Trina Robbins

250px-wimmenscomix1Trina Robbins is a comic creator and historian who was instrumental in bringing women into the underground comix scene. Throughout the 1950s, Robbins did illustration work for various science fiction magazines. In 1969, she designed Vampirella’s costume.

Robbins became increasingly involved in the underground comix scene. After working for the feminist newspaper It Ain’t Me, Babe, Robbins went on to establish the all-women comic one-shot, It Ain’t Me, Babe Comix. This is the first instance of a comic being published involving only women. The separation between men and women’s comics during this time was due to the sexism present in the comics being produced by male writers, and Robbins made a point to call out the sexist stories that were being published at the time.

Another outlet for women to create underground comix was the anthology Wimmen’s Comix, which aimed to promote female creators. Robbins was heavily involved in Wimmen’s Comix, and contributed to the first issue. Her comic “Sandy Comes Out” was the first comic to ever feature an out lesbian. She was involved with the anthology for twenty years.

Throughout the 1980s, Robbins worked for mainstream publications such as Playboy, National Lampoon, and Marvel. During this time she also began to document the history of women comic creators. She has published a number of books on the topic, including Women and the Comics, A Century of Women Cartoonists, From Girls to Grrrlz: A History of Women’s Comics from Teens to Zines, The Brinkley Girls: The Best of Nell Brinkley’s Cartoons from 1913–1940, and Pretty in Ink: North American Women Cartoonists 1896–2013. Her nonfiction work has been nominated for several awards, including both Eisner and Harvey Awards.

In 2013, Robbins was inducted into the Eisner Hall of Fame. Robbins was only the fourth woman to be inducted, and her inclusion is rightful. Her work, while largely out of the mainstream, was instrumental in shaping the direction of feminist comics and making comics accessible and enjoyable for women. Her nonfiction work is important in preserving the oft-overlooked legacy of women in comics.

Comics Herstory: Marjorie Liu

northstar-and-kyle-jinadus-wedding-2Marjorie Liu is a lawyer-turned-writer who has written a number of fiction novels as well as comics.

Liu began her career in comics writing tie-in novels for Marvel. After the publication of X-Men: Dark Mirror in 2005, Liu wrote several other series for Marvel. She is most known for her work on X-Men titles, including NYX: No Way Home, Dark Wolverine, X-23, and Astonishing X-Men. She also wrote Black Widow: The Name of the Rose. Liu brings depth to each character she writes, and has established their personalities as well as their stories.

Astonishing X-Men received national attention, as part of the story included Northstar marrying Kyle Jinadu. This was the first gay marriage in mainstream comics, though Midnighter and Apollo had married in Wildstorm’s The Authority several years earlier. Astonishing X-Men was subsequently nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Comic Book.

Currently, Liu is writing Monstress, a hit series from Image. The story is about Maika, an monstress-v1tp_cvrArcanic girl determined to escape capture and seek revenge for her mother’s murder. The main characters, all women, offer nuanced depictions of women–each is a flawed character in an equally flawed world. Set in an alternative version of 1920s Asia, Monstress explores themes of racism, war, and slavery and exemplifies a vast amount of worldbuilding not usually present in comics. Even though only four issues have been published, Monstress is already bending the comic genre by blending manga and Western comics into something that’s like nothing else in the market.

In addition to writing for comics, Liu has written more than 19 novels, most notably the Hunter Kiss and Dirk & Steele series, which respectively fall into the urban fantasy and paranormal romance genres. She has also written a number of short works that were published in various anthologies. In film, Liu wrote the story for the 2014 animated Marvel movie Avengers Confidential: Black Widow and Punisher, which forced Black Widow and Punisher to work together to prevent a global takeover by terrorist group Leviathan.

Liu is another skilled writer who is versatile across multiple genres, and her work is an example of how comics can be used to teach or make a larger point. She currently teaches comic writing at MIT.

Comics Herstory: G. Willow Wilson

51lgrm5dxol-_sy344_bo1204203200_By now, almost everyone with an interest in comics has at least heard of Ms. Marvel, the iconic and groundbreaking book about Muslim superhero Kamala Khan.

G. Willow Wilson spent time living in Egypt in her twenties, and this influenced much of her work. In 2007, Vertigo published her first graphic novel, titled Cairo, about six characters whose stories intertwine as they search for a stolen hookah. While in Egypt, she worked as a journalist, writing for Cairo Magazine, The Atlantic, The National Post, and The New York Times Magazine. Her series Air, also published by Vertigo, launched in 2008. While Air debuted to generally positive reviews, it was canceled after 24 issues.

Aside from comics, Wilson has also written a memoir called The Butterfly Mosque, which was released in 2010. Her first novel, Alif the Unseen, won best novel in the 2013 World Fantasy Awards. She has been nominated for several awards in comics, including both Harvey and Eisner Awards, and has also won a number of awards for different genres.

ms-marvel-5-goodPart of what makes Wilson such a prolific writer is the way in which she treats Kamala as a character. Much of this has been said before, but Ms. Marvel invited an audience into comics that has had little chance to see themselves represented. The heart of the story is a teenage girl, a category of women that is often met with derision in the world of comics. Instead of giving readers a laugh at her expense, however, Wilson created a character whose enthusiasm and interests are dorky and typical of a teenage girl, but who is never the butt of jokes by her family and friends. Kamala’s faith is incorporated into the book, and as the first Muslim superhero to have her own title, it’s clear that Ms. Marvel isn’t just diversity for diversity’s sake–her story is her own, and it is an important story with tons of heart.

Almost everyone can relate to Kamala in some way, whether it’s in fangirling over Wolverine or in wanting to become a better person or because she represents a demographic that is rarely included in Western comics. Wilson’s work is widely celebrated, and rightly so, because it is a credit to the comics community.

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