A Quick and Dirty Intro to Comics

20th Sep 2013

Ming Doyle artist for Mara
As an evangelist of comic books, I often find myself trying to tempt the uninitiated over to the dark side with this promise; it’s okay, you don’t even have to step foot in a comic shop now, you can buy all your comic books in proper bookshops!

I say this because I understand that comic shops are intimidating and traditionally gendered spaces. New readers, particularly women and girls can feel uncomfortable in comic shops.

But then I wondered, why am I discouraging so many women and girls from visiting comic shops? Those are spaces we should be taking over. And there is so much more to discover beyond Love and Rockets, Strangers in Paradise, Tank Girl, and Ghost World.

This is a super brief list of a few current comics created by women designed to get you to visit your local comic shop. New comics day is every Wednesday. And if you want to know what’s released each week then you can always check this handy online weekly guide.

The team also increases DC’s diversity quota by about a billion percent featuring working class people of colour rather than tokenised diversity.Warning: this list features superheroes.

MaraBrian Wood & Ming Doyle & Jordie Bellaire for Image

Mara tells the story set in a distant future where athletes are public property, groomed from a young age, and used by governments to placate the nation and to provide distraction.

I love Mara because she’s an amazing woman of colour protagonist. Ming Doyle’s art is just beautiful, I honestly wish she could illustrate all the comics I read at the moment.

Jordie Bellaire is also on fire with her colours, using a sparse palette that really sets this world apart as something different. I don’t want this series to end!

BatgirlGail Simone & Fernando Pasarin for DC

Gail Simone is a feminist comic hero, read everything with her name on it. I love Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl, her strength is like no other. She isn’t blessed with super powers, and unlike the millionaire Bruce Wayne, Babs doesn’t happen to have millions of dollars, a butler, and an endless supply of gadgets.

She works hard for everything. The art is gorgeous, detailed, and dark. Batgirl is also noteworthy for introducing DC’s first real trans character, Alysia Yeoh. See also: Red Sonja – Gail Simone for Dynamite.

The Movement – Gail Simone & Freddie Williams II for DC

Perhaps you like your superheroes a little less conventional and more politically minded. The Movement features a team of unlikely superheroes based on the Occupy movement.

These superhero activists are coming to grips with their powers which are used to fight police corruption and decay in their community. The team also increases DC’s diversity quota by about a billion percent featuring working class people of colour rather than tokenised diversity.

Captain MarvelKelly Sue DeConnick & Scott Hepburn for Marvel

Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel is a super ace pilot, super tough at fighting, and can also fly. With artwork by artists such as Emmia Rios and colouring by Jordie Bellaire, there are a number of women artists working on this title that create panels of extraordinary strength and warmth.

Possibly my favourite thing about this book is the friendship between Carol Danvers and Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman) which feels incredibly real and supportive, it’s great to see a mainstream comic passing the Bechedel test. See also Avengers Assemble – Kelly Sue Deconnick for Marvel.

KatanaAnn Nocenti & Alex Sanchez for DC

Katana is notable for being DC’s only solo book with a leading woman of colour. Katana was trained as a Samurai and carries with her a sword which also holds her dead husband’s soul.

Katana is an incredible character and I massively want to support this book to show DC that there is an audience for these stories and that the importance of a book lead by a woman of colour is huge. This book is super easy to dive into for newcomers. See also Birds of PreyChristy Marx for DC comics

SagaFiona Staples & Brian K Vaughan for Image

Saga is a fantastical space opera series which focuses on fugitives Alana and Marko from opposing planets after a period of intergalactic war. On their trail are bounty hunters as they attempt to escape and raise their child together.

It’s like Romeo and Juliet meets Star Wars. Fiona Staple’s artwork is beautiful and creates a fantastical universe, depicting the weird, the menacing, and the downright surreal characters Alana and Marko encounter. Vol 1 and 2. are already available making it super easy to catch up.

The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys – Becky Cloonan & Gerard Way & Shaun Smith for Darkhorse Comics

Mad Max, Tank Girl, Blade Runner, and a couple of My Chemical Romance videos, and you have Killjoys. Set in a dystopian future, a group of outlaws living on the outskirts of society follow in the footsteps of the original gang of Killjoys who years ago rebelled against the evil all-powerful Better Living Industries and paid with their lives.

Killjoys is a fast paced adventure, with an incredible aesthetic that evokes sci-fi dystopian cinematic imagery bursting with primary colours, cartoon heroes, and punk sensibilities. Read this NOW.

SuperbiaGrace Randolph & Russell Dauterman for Boom! Studios

Superheroes on their days off are always fascinating, and Superbia takes a look at the Meta Legion living everyday lives in suburbia. This comic is fun. Yes, that’s right: FUN!

Not everything needs to be gritty and dark, and not everything needs to have a twist, sometimes comics just need to be fun! Like Brookside, but with superheroes.

Alternatively check out any titles featuring these fantastic comic creators: Amanda Conner, Kathryn Immomen, Faith Erin Hicks, Hope Larson, Shelli Paroline, Colleen Doran, Laura Allred, Rachel Dodson, Marjorie Liu, Marguerite Bennet, Lora Innes, Jill Thompson.


  • Bruna Rotzsch says:

    I am really puzzled by everyone’s love of Saga. I bought it due to a recommendation thinking it would be a great read, but was really put off by all the sexism in it. It was filled with slurs like “sluts” and “whores”, with sentences such as the patronising “Women.” (as in all women are bitches and alike), it had a brothel planet, where there is a guy saying she bets the woman who broke the bounty hunters heart was a “strong woman” and that what he needs is a “slave” and a main character who is jealous and petty saying things like “was she hotter than me” or something similar. I really really don’t get it.

    • Holly Casio says:

      Hi Bruna

      Due to all its hype and awards last year I know plenty of people that don’t like Saga either.
      I really love the writing and Fiona Staple’s artwork was my favourite from most of my comics pull list last year, I think she’s incredibly talented.

      Personally I love Saga because I’m a sucker for weird sci fi space adventures. I love Alana, shes my favourite character because she’s tough and flawed and a survivor, Her complex relationship with Marko feel very real (and I always saw both Alana’s and Markos’ insecurities as equal rather than Alana alone being jealous and insecure simply because she’s a women), and I love her as a mother who would literally kill and fight for her daughter.
      The examples of sexist hateful language used in Saga that you mentioned are mostly all directed towards Alana. The characters that hate Alana are also racist towards her species (for those who haven’t read Saga it’s a story of war between two alien species who historically despise each other and who carry out barbaric atrocities in order to try and wipe the other species out), and there’s a lot of dialogue discussing her as though she’s a ‘thing. She is the enemy in their war and so I always read those examples of slurs as their way of reducing her and her species to that of an animal. It’s true those slurs are shocking to read, and they come quite early in the first volume of the series. I’m in no way excusing that language, but I’d always interpreted those slurs as as a purposeful method of depicting those in the Wreath army and those controlling the bounty hunters as evil, as Alana is clearly the protagagnist that we are all rooting for, and it highlights the violent barbaric power at play within the war. And while this is a furturistic setting, it definitely feels dystopian and if you are a woman or born into the wrong species, then you are screwed.

      I agree, I wouldn’t necessarily label Saga as a feminist comic series, but I do really love the varied depiction of women characters which is really not often seen within this genre. Instead of stereotypical ‘Strong Female Characters’ which are often used in comics to hide the fact that their women characters have no depth, there are a variety of strengths and complexities and physicalities. Personally I love this book, but I completely understand the reasons why you don’t enjoy it.

      Some other sci.fi/adventure/action comics I’m enjoying at the moment that are created by women include Pretty Deadly (Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios), Rocket Girl (Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder), and Tomb Raider (Gail Simone and Nicholas Daniel Selma)