In which I make some comic book recommendations.
But first, a retrospective.
I grew up reading comics. When I was a kid, my dad would take me to our local comic shop in the Bronx and to monthly comic book conventions in Manhattan to stock up on titles like Excalibur, Uncanny X-Men, and Archie Comics.
Archie Comics has revised their brand (the Twitter account is A+), but I haven’t read any of the new comics yet. (I will, though.) I was a fan of Archie Comics back in the day, but I could never understand the level of vitriol between Betty and Veronica. (#TeamBetty all the way, but seriously, all that over a goof like Archie?) I liked Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Josie and the Pussycats, but didn’t have as many issues of those. I loved reading (and sketching from) fashion comics, like Barbie, Katy Keene, Millie the Model, and Patsy Walker (yes, that Patsy Walker), but many of these stories also revolved around “frenemy” relationships.
In middle school and into my late teens, I read a lot of manga, although many of the shojo titles also centered on a frenemy (like in Peach Girl) or the drama of young love/crushes (Kare Kano, Mars, Love Hina). The ones I read that depicted positive female friendships were usually the magical girl groups, like Sailor Moon and Magic Knight Rayearth.
When I worked at a bookstore in my early 20s, I made an effort to get back into reading comics, since I got a good discount on graphic novels. I picked up a bunch of the X-Men titles again – like Astonishing, New, X-Treme – along with some Vertigo titles such as Y the Last Man, Fables, and stuff by Alan Moore.
Still, while I’ve been reading comics pretty much since I could read (with the encouragement of both parents – thanks Mom and Dad!), I go through phases with them. This year, I’ve read a lot of middle grade graphic novels with one of my students, and I’ve also gotten into reading newer titles that center on female characters, like the five I’ve listed below.
These titles feel like they’re cut from the same beautiful cloth, one that weaves together positive female friendships, diverse representation, and intersectionality. They’re funny and sweet, with action and mystery, pairing excellent writing and beautiful illustration and coloring. They feel timely, fresh, and necessary for today’s comics readers.
Lumberjanes (Boom Box)
Created by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, & Noelle Stevenson
Illustrated by Brooke Allen
Colors by Maarta Laiho
Lumberjanes tells the story of five friends at Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types. There are crazy magical creatures and puzzles to be solved, as everyone uses their unique strengths to help the group. This series is all about supportive friendship, and I am here for it. I picked up volume 2 at NYCC and can’t wait to read it.
Jem and the Holograms (IDW)
Written by Kelly Thompson
Art by Sophie Campbell
Colors by M. Victoria Rosado
Jem and the Holograms is based on the cartoon I loved so much as a child, but for real, it’s ten times better. I love the new interpretations of the characters, and how they all have such distinct personalities and backstories. I’m thrilled with how Kimber and Stormer are portrayed, and the artwork is gorgeous.
Zodiac Starforce (Dark Horse)
Written by Kevin Panetta
Illustrated by Paulina Ganucheau
Zodiac Starforce does away with the origin story so many superhero groups start with, and drops you right in after they’ve already fought the Big Bad and disbanded. But there’s a new evil in town, and it’s time to get the band back together, regardless of what that means for their own personal dramas.
Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! (Marvel)
Written by Kate Leth
Art by Brittney Williams
Patsy Walker, former child star (and comic book star!) is now a superhero, but fighting bad guys doesn’t pay the bills. Turns out being a superhero is hell on your resume. After getting fired by her friend Jen (aka She-Hulk!), Patsy decides to open a temp agency for powered individuals looking for honest work suited to their abilities. In the meantime, her many identities are converging, and she has a little legal issue to work out with her old frenemy Hedy…
Goldie Vance (Boom Box)
Created by Hope Larson and Brittney Williams
Colors by Sarah Stern
Goldie Vance is The Suite Life of Zack and Cody meets Veronica Mars. Set in a more tolerant vision of the 1960s in a Florida hotel run by Goldie’s dad, it’s like Nancy Drew if Nancy were biracial, queer, and had divorced parents who maintained a decent relationship. Goldie is sassy, smart, and an excellent drag racer. She’s got a crush on the cool girl who works at the video store, and her best friend wants to be an astronaut. Oh, and there’s a missing necklace that is more than it seems.
I highly recommend all five of these titles! You can get them as single issues, graphic novels, and digital copies, or check if your library has them.
Have you read any of these, or do you have recommendations for anything similar?