GIRLS AND GRAPHIC NOVELS: 12 AWESOME TITLES THAT EVERY WOMAN SHOULD READ

Superhero movies are taking over our both the big screen and small and after seeing The Avengers, Jessica Jones, the new X-Men franchise and Deadpool to name a few, you kind of want to check out the comics and graphic novels they were based off of.

However, entering the world of comics for the first time can be a weird, convoluted and sexist and bizarre place. Even with the New 52 reboot, some stories still become a convoluted mess with endless tie ins, seeing your favourite heroines from the tv shows turned into badly written fap material (poor Starfire), and we have cases such as Frank Cho throwing a hissy fit because Greg Rucka (an amazing writer) told him to alter his cover design to make it less sexualised. However, the comic book industry has gotten a lot better, and there are a lot of really great comics and graphic novels out there which treat women with respect and are accessible to new readers.

12. OLYMPIANS- by George O’Connor

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If you’re interested in Greek Myth than this is a great start. It’s fun, clever and provides a very faithful and thoughtful look into the original mythology of the Olympians. This is the series that transforms both Hera and Aphrodite into interesting, nuanced characters instead of the two dimensional hateful bitches they’re normally portrayed as. My reviews of his take on Hera, Aphrodite, Apollo, and Hades, Demeter and Persephone can be found by following the links.

11. Batwoman Elegy

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Isn’t it ironic that a character created to be Batman’s beard became one of comic’s most prominent lesbians? Yeah, Kathy Kane was a silver age creation when distaff counterparts were all the rage, and Kathy Kane along with Bat-girl – no, not that Batgirl, we’ll get to her later- her whole schtick was that she was obsessively in love with Batman. It is believed in order to disprove rumors that he’s gay with Robin. And FYI, her edition makes things so much gloriously worse- just look how miserable Batman is at the prospect of kissing an actual female!

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I love you Silver Age, you never fail to make me laugh

She eventually got retconned out of existence for being ‘too silly’ (presumably along with alien killer cactuses, Rainbow Batman and Batbaby- yes, Batman got turned into a four year old and attacked people on a rocking horse. That happened). However, she was brought back and reimagined as a proud lesbian for the New 52. In this version, she was kicked out of the army under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and wandered around aimlessly, becoming a party girl to forget her problems. She eventually decided to sort her life out and serve her country by taking up the cowl. Colonel Kane her father supported her in her goal and got her years of specialised training with the best of the best, and turned her into a force to be reckoned with.

Greg Rucka is amazing at writing women, and J.H. William’s artwork is divine. Because the whole point of the New 52 was to reboot the comic cannon and make it accessible to new readers (whether it worked or fell flat on its stupid face is debatable), there’s no long backstory you need to know to understand it. Batwoman was my first ever comic book. The reason it’s not ranked higher is because- well, after the opening, the comic does go to really weird places, including having her fight this banshee creature and being assisted by a B-movie werewolf. It’s story telling often becomes shakey, but Batwoman herself is a great character.

10. Batgirl and Robin Year One

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Barbara Gordon is the iconic Batgirl and yet it’s quite difficult to find any comics centring around her pre- New 52 reboot. Here is a chance to read a modernization of the character’s routes before it all got messed up with The Killing Joke. In this, Barbara Gordon is a young woman living in a sexist time who wants to join the police force but is barred due to discrimination thanks to her gender and height. Defying everyone’s expectations of her, she takes up the cowl. Even Batman and Robin underestimate her at first, but she proves herself a valuable asset and her training begins.

Because the whole point of this is an origin story, there’s no need to have any prior knowledge of the Batman universe to understand that. Plus, it also stars a young Dick Grayson, and we all know that he’s always very popular with the ladies.

9. V for Vendetta

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No doubt you’ve seen the movie and know how strong Evey is. Well, the graphic novel is just as good as the film, if not better, and is thought provoking and worth checking out. Alan Moore has a very- spotty- record with female writing, what with humiliating and putting Babsy in a wheelchair and having his female characters constantly threatened with sexual assault (not to mention often pairing them with much older men), and both are true here, but here Evey goes through one of the most compelling character arcs in all of comic books, changing from a frightened victim to revolutionary who carries on what V began.

8. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur

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This is definitely one for younger audiences, but it’s fun and there’s definately something for older audiences. Lunella is very rare in that she’s a POC heading her own comic book, and she’s a black girl genius. Moreover, she’s a great character and her struggle with being gifted and the iscolation it brings is really engaging. For more of a discussion of it, I’ve reviewed the first issue here.

7. Lumberjanes

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I heard a lot about Lumberjanes- that it has the great art from the artist who wrote for Adventure Time. Because of the title and the fact it was essentially about a group of girl scouts, I was skeptical. Whenever we read about stories trying to change the way women are portrayed, they inevitably seem to be slice of slice focusing on smaller issues about firendship, coming of age, when sod it- I just want heroines beating the crap out of people and saving the world!

But in spite of that, I was pleasantly surprised. This is that this is a good old school fantasy adventure. It’s fast paced, with a mystery to solve and a whole array of magical creatures they have to defeat. It’s a bit sweet and for a younger audience, sure, but it’s still incredibly fun.

6. SAGA- Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

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This is definately one of the most engaging series I’ve ever read and actually had me screaming ‘NOO!!’ Every time a chapter ended and breathed a sigh of relief when I realized it hadn’t. This award winning series is a Romeo and Juliet in space about a couple from two sides of a conflict who have a baby and are on the run from both sides. It’s from the man who wrote Y: The Last Man, and has a plethora of well written females.  Not only that, but it’s bad shit insane and manages to switch between being dark and funny

Even though it’s about a horned man, a winged lady and involves humanoid robots with tv heads which breed like normal humans, it also has one of the most realistic romances I’ve seen in a long time. It doesn’t start with the meet cute, but after they’ve had a kid, and they bicker and compromise like real couples.

Again, there’s a lot of diversity in terms of race, with the female lead and Gwendolyn both being women of colour.

 

5.Batgirl- Silent Knight (Cass Cain run)

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The erasure of Cassy Cain’s run as Bat Girl is one of the casualties of the New 52 reboot, but her series is pretty cool. Not only is she a young Asian superheroine who’s non sexualised, but she’s a complete badass who’s proficient in martial arts and an unstoppable fighting machine.

She was raised to be a warrior, but never taught to be a woman. In place of language she got taught to read ‘body language’- people’s movements in combat, and as such can’t speak. Jurie’s out whether this is the coolest or the dumbest idea ever.

4. MONSTRESS- MARJORIE LIU

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3.Rat Queens

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This is one of the most enjoyable series I’ve come across. I’ve reviewed it here, but essentially it involves a group of cool female friends who’s friendship feels authentic . I love the snarky humour and it’s utterly bombastic, plus the fight sequences are AMAZING.

Not only that, put it has a pretty diverse range of characters, with a lesbian in the main cast, multiple people of colour and one of the rare trans women action leads whom is looking likely to become more prominent. Afterall, who wouldn’t want to read out a badass transgender Orc woman who can annihilate everything in her path.

2. The Batgirl Of Burnside

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I could have put Gail Simone’s run here- and that is definately worth reading- but it was diminished by production issues, its continuous insistence of bringing the Joker in for angst but never allowing Barbara to defeat him, and tie ins to the Death In The Family event which made this series incoherent.

The Batgirl Of Burnside, however, is a great series that is everything New 52 should have been: it really gives her an identity that’s far more than ‘Batman/ Robin’s distaff knock off’, a distinctive world, a great cast of characters and its great solid fun.

The art is gorgeous, and Barbara’s a non sexualised, highly realistic young woman who lives a normal daily life which involves worrying about her Grad project, going on dates, using social media and hanging out with friends. Also, this series has the first trans same sex wedding in comics, which is a nice bonus.

With ‘Batgirl and The Birds Of Prey’ becoming a series, maybe Batgirl will become a spin off more akin to Angel, Xena and The Bionic Woman, a force in her own right and more than just Batman’s distaff. For a more detailed review, please click here.

1.Ms Marvel

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Carol Danvers (the original Ms Marvel, who’s now become Captain Marvel) is another great choice, but I had to go with the Kamala Khan version. I was torn between putting her and Batgirl at number one, but as much as I love Babsy, she is still a distaff counterpart, and I think Kamala might be a slightly better character- I like her doofiness, how much of a geek she is and how she struggles with her relationships with her parents.

Everything about this is great. I love how Kamala started off as a geek idolising the Avengers. The way her Muslim heritage is brought into it is done in a very nuanced, fun and interesting way- showing that Muslims aren’t a monolith, and it deals with Kamala’s frustrations with the restrictions placed on her compared with her peers.

ALSO WORTH CHECKING OUT/ HONORABLE MENTIONS

Spider Gwen is an alternate version of Spiderman where Gwen was bitten instead of Peter Parker- which involves our heroine . Greg Rucka is always great at writing women, and his run on Wonder Woman Rebirth should be promising. Nightwing is a male lead series which has a female audience in mind, as he is a strong, smart more vulnerable young man who is striking out on his own after being in Batman’s shadow, and is the hottest guy in comics; Deadpool isn’t great on women, but his series is every bit as hilarious as the movie and no Marvel knowledge is required. Plus, he became a pirate once for the hell of it- and yes, it was every bit as awesome as it sounds. Persepolis and Bitch Planet are known to be great as well, and as they are their own self contained stories, no prior knowledge is needed (although in the case of Bitch Planet, I personally prefer my feminism more incidental to the story, and build into the world and character writing, rather than being the whole point of the story). Plus, Riri Williams, a genius black girl with become Ironheart in the new Iron man series.

WHY X-MEN ORIGINS DID RIGHT BY DEADPOOL

I’m not going to bother reviewing Deadpool aka Hollywood’s apology letter for X-men Origins. You know it’s awesome. You don’t need me to  tell you what everyone else on the internet is screaming.

Deadpool is box office gold and it has excited Hollywood executives sitting around the table desperately trying to figure out the answer to the question: ‘what is it that made everyone go insane over Deadpool?’ Deadpool is very, very good, but as we know being very, very good doesn’t necessarily make you popular. Well, I have a few theories about why everyone loves Deadpool so much and it begins with the film that made him the man he is today: X- men Origins.

X-Men Origins didn’t ruin him; it made him (No. I’m not joking)

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As much as I hate that whitewashed film Avatar the Last Airbender, I never would have seen the cartoon if I hadn’t heard about it during the Internet backlash

Seriously. If X-men Origins didn’t do such an appalling job with his character, I don’t think Deadpool would have been anticipated with anywhere near the same level of hype. In fact, I’m not even sure a film about Deadpool would have been made in the first place. Let me explain:

Before X- Men Origins, almost nobody outside hardcore comic book fans had heard of Deadpool. A lot of us knew of Storm, Wolverine, Rogue, Cyclops, Xavier, Magneto and the Juggernaut (bitch) from the 90s cartoon series, but Deadpool? This  fourth wall breaking joker wasn’t a household name like the others. But Origins changed all that.

If X-men Origins had just reduced him to a cameo like they did with Gambit, sure, there would have been some seething tweets about this being a ‘wasted opportunity’; but there wouldn’t have been a huge outrage and we probably wouldn’t have thought much about him. However, because of how dreadful his portrayal was on every level, the entire comic book  fandom was up in arms. There was article after article on every geek culture website raging about what had been done to Deadpool. That’s when it began. Suddenly, everybody started hearing about this Deadpool; how they ruined his character, how he was the most hilarious character in the Marvel universe and they sewed his lips shut. And the more we heard, the more we wanted to find out more about him. Suddenly, we were pissed off about the treatment of Deadpool too. Suddenly we wanted to see this superhero given his due. And Hollywood knew that. They knew that superhero films were extremely popular; they knew that if they got talented people behind it they had a ready made fan-base. And that’s what gave Wade his catalyst to fame.

He’s a game changer in the same way Batman was

Part of what made Batman Begins so successful was that he was Batman as we had never seen him before. Up until then, the common image of an onscreen Batman was the image of Adam West in his camp attire and later Del Boy and Rodney running through the streets in their costumes; and Batman forever which was just… punishing.

But Nolan approached his film differently. He took the character seriously. He turned Batman into a dark, jaded anti hero who was the last line of defense against a corruption threatening to drag a city into darkness. We had a real battle against good and evil; we had real stakes. And we were loved every moment of it. Soon, the more serious tone became the new normal for superhero films.

James Gunn, director of Guardians of the Galaxy,

“The film has a self-deprecating tone that’s riotous. It’s never been done before. It’s poking fun at Marvel. That label takes itself so seriously, can you imagine them making fun of themselves in a movie? They’d rather stab themselves.”- James Gunn

I’d agree to an extent. Sure, you got a lot of self depracating jokes in previous superhero films (Peter Parker trying to tell Gwen Stacey’s father about the lizard man in The Amazing Spider-Man and being asked ‘do I look like the mayor of Tokyo?’). But not like this; there’s nothing Deadpool won’t mock.

He gets our banter

“I think your crazy matches my crazy.”

How many of us have said something like that to our spouse or best mate? Exactly, all of us. And that’s the beauty of Deadpool.

His acerbic, irreverent sense of humor is our sense of humour. His twisted one liners are like the ones we tell each other on a Friday night when we’re pissed with our friends. That scene with the taxi driver and his romantic rival locked in the boot was so bad, so sick, but so so good because that’s exactly the kind of shit we say with or mates. We love him because he’s hilarious; we love him even more because he’s real as well.

It was just pure entertainment

That is the crux of the matter- while there are a lot of factors that made Deadpool, The Avengers, Batman Begins popular, the elephant in the room is that all of these films were good. Everything about this film was just so perfect and so fun. The jokes had me banging my fist against the chair. The fight scenes were slick and creative and a joy to watch. The characters were likable. Ryan Reynolds was amazing. Vanessa was great (it was wonderful to see a sex worker who wasn’t portrayed as a slut or a victim, but a real person). Collossus was so corny and over the top that he made the perfect foil to Deadpool. Francis was just so real, and so nasty that even Deadpool’s humor  couldn’t undermine the awfulness of his actions.

Everything about it made it a pure joy to watch and that’s what keeps people coming back. If Hollywood can learn any lesson from Deadpool, it should be that if it wants to make money than it should keep on putting its money into good quality people making good quality movies.