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She Has No Head! – Awesome Women In Comics Holiday Gift List 2009

So the holidays are upon us and you’ve decided that in these tough economic times you want to support the industry by giving everyone on your list comics*.  And not only that, but you want to take it one step further and only give female positive comics…well, in that super specific case you’ve found the right list…

1.  For your dad who always thought you’d grow out of this ‘silly comics thing’: The new highly acclaimed Asterios Polyp Coverand masterful Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli might help Dad see comics as more than just ‘books for kids’.

What it’s about: With elegantly pared down writing and the images doing most of the heavy (beautiful) lifting Asterios Polyp follows the life and mid-life crisis of sorts of brilliant architectural professor and intellectual Asterios Polyp as he decides to completely uproot his life in order to try something utterly different. His resulting travels are peppered with enthralling characters and epiphanies about life.  It’s a book for anyone that has ever contemplated their life and wondered if they missed something else that was perhaps waiting for them.

Why it’s female positive: Asterios’ primary character may be a man going through a crisis but Asterios’ female characters – especially Hana and Ursula – are well done and fascinating in their own right – not to mention visually stunning.

Asterios Polyp.  David Mazzucchelli (writer/artist). Pantheon $29.99 (hardcover).


2.  For your mom who always thought your love of comics was “cute”: You’ll show mom cute, and you’ll show her with zombies!  Just kidding – instead try Andi Watson’s Breakfast After Noon.Breakfast After Noon

What it’s about: Watson’s novel is a gentle but honest little tale in which two struggling young adults try to come to terms with losing their jobs months before their wedding.

Why it’s female positive: While the narrative is told primarily from Rob’s perspective, he’s also the screw up of the story, while Louise shows tremendous strength in trying to move forward with her life in a positive way despite their set backs – a thing I guarantee every woman can at least occasionally relate to.  The book is realistic and yet hopeful.

This edition collects issues #1-6 of the original comic Breakfast After Noon.  Includes a few pages of early character designs, sketches, rough page layouts, and a handy glossary for some of the British-isms.

Breakfast After Noon.  Andi Watson (writer/artist).  Oni Press $19.95 (softcover).


3. For your bratty little brother that likes nothing but zombies, and still thinks girls are lame: There’s no better way to change his mind than to send Michonne from The Walking Dead to straighten him out.  If you’re Walking Dead Omnibus1feeling extra extra generous, go for the omnibuses, which are extraordinarily beautiful, oversized, and full of extras, though pricey.

What it’s about: The Walking Dead is the story of a band of survivors after a zombie apocalypse takes over the earth, however the story is more brilliantly conceived human drama than OMG ZOMBIES! But you still get the zombie horror fun and consistent stunning artwork in that emotionally charged package.

Why it’s female positive: You could say it in one word: Michonne.  But the reality is that The Walking Dead is rife with great female characters.  From vulnerable Carol and sharpshooter Andrea to mother of steel Lori and newly in love Maggie, all different kinds of women are well represented in Kirkman’s apocalypse.

The Walking Dead Omnibus 1 (collects issues 1 – 24).  Robert Kirkman (writer). Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard (artists).  Image Comics $Prices Vary (hardcover special edition).

The Walking Dead Omnibus 2 (collects issues 25 – 48).  Robert Kirkman (writer). Charlie Adlard (artist).  Image Comics $100.00  (hardcover special edition).

Alternatively, for the more budget minded: The Walking Dead Book One (collects issues #1-12).  Robert Kirkman (writer).  Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard (artists).  Image $29.99 (hardcover)


4.  For your little sister that thinks comics have nothing to offer her: Ross Campbell’s Water Baby from theWater Baby Cover now defunct DC line, MinxMinx had a handful of good books (more on that later) but for my money Campbell’s Water Baby is by far the coolest.

What it’s about: A tale of a rough and tumble surfer girl named Brody that loses her leg early on in a shark attack, and then embarks on a bizarre road trip with best friend Louisa and lay about ex-boyfriend Jake, Campbell’s youthful tale is full of energy and angst.

Why it’s female positive: Campbell’s leading ladies are smart and tough and human and flawed and come in a refreshing variety of shapes and sizes for comics that I think teen girls probably appreciate (I know I do).

This book also includes short excerpts from Burnout, The New York Four, and Janes In Love, all from Minx, as well as a few pages in the back I guess to draw your own comic.  Which, is kinda fun.

Water Baby.  Ross Campbell (writer/artist).  Minx/DC $9.99 (softcover).


But if you’re going to get your brother an omnibus though, you’re going to need another book for your sister in which case I suggest Daniel Clowes always exceptional Ghost World.  This tale of smart alternative teens just never gets old,Ghost World Cover and though Clowes take is equally as youthful as Campbell’s they hit completely different notes.

What it’s about: Ghost World follows Enid and Becky, best friends trying to hold onto their friendship as they graduate high school and contemplate their futures. Despite their best efforts they slowly grow up and away from each other creating a bittersweet story that remains timeless and infinitely relatable.

Why it’s female positive: Enid and Becky are both incredibly savvy teens that I think women can both relate and aspire to.

This edition collects the entire Ghost World story, originally published in excerpts in issues of Eightball.

Ghost World.  Daniel Clowes (writer/artist).  Fantagraphics Books $9.95 (softcover).



5.  For that annoying uncle of yours that is sure he has the perfect new joke to tell you this year – a joke that will crack you up – but it’s always the same joke – and it wasn’t funny the first time: Let him Fables Legends In Exilerelive his youth in a whole new way with Fables: Legends In Exiles.

What it’s about: Fables is a masterful series that explores all our favorite old fairy tale characters in revolutionary new ways.  The first arc follows Snow White as deputy mayor of Fabletown joining forces with Sherriff Bigby Wolf as they attempt to unravel the possible murder of Snow’s sister Rose Red.

Why it’s female positive: This modern update on old classics will delight most anyone with its inventive take on now clichéd characters.  And since they’re fairy tales, there are plenty of great female characters that get explored well beyond ‘happily ever after’.

This edition collects issues #1 – 5 of the original series.

Fables: Legends In Exile.  Bill Willingham (writer). Lan Medina (artist). Vertigo $9.95 (softcover).



6.  For your aunt that is all too serious and only has an interest in “relevant” things, preferably those that are non-fiction or historically accurate: She might enjoy Marjane Satrapi’s important and entertaining autobiographical story of her life as a child during the Islamic revolution, Persepolis.Persepolis Story of Childhood

What it’s about: Persepolis follows Satrapi’s experiences and that of her family’s during the Islamic revolution, and her own personal rebellion like any girl growing up.  In many ways a brutal and heartbreaking story, Persepolis never loses sight of its sense of humor and the honesty that comes with the rebellion of youth, perhaps all the more important for the surrounding circumstances.  The art is bold and graphic, and highly stylized, which works to its advantage, helping to keep the story from falling into cliché melodrama.

Why it’s female positive: Told entirely from Satrapi’s perspective, the book is female focused and inclusionary in a way few comics are these days.  Double bonus points since it’s both written and drawn by a woman.

Persepolis: The Story Of A Childhood.  Marjane Satrapi (writer/artist). Pantheon $18.95 (hardcover).



7.  For your sister-in-law that loves only short story collections: Give her the chance to explore short fiction of a whole other variety in graphic short stories like Derek Kirk Kim’s Same Difference And Other Stories.Same Difference Cover

What it’s about: The title tale in Kim’s book follows Simon and Nancy, two young adults on a not so adult journey of practical jokes and inadvertent self-discovery.  It’s the best kind of short story (although clocking in at about 80 pages it’s actually not that short), fiction or otherwise, in which the characters are supremely human and flawed but evolve ever so wonderfully as you read.  Kim’s cartooning is expressive and incredibly easy on the eyes and his ear for dialogue is spot on.  The other stories included are less important, but still highly enjoyable.

Why it’s female positive: While Nancy is not technically the title character of the piece she’s still a great character that I like to think is a little bit like everyone’s best friend – part savior and part trouble maker.  Same Difference also has a fairly unusual and interesting semi-romantic lead in the character of Irene.

Same Difference And Other Stories.  Derek Kirk Kim (writer/artist).  Top Shelf $12.95 (softcover).


8.  For your brother-in-law that loves the hell out of detective story and nothing else: Show him how wonderfully detective stories and superheroes can mix in Brian Michael Bendis’ Powers: Who Killed Retro GirlPowers CoverPowers was one of those revolutionary books that kind of redefined comics and most impressively to me, it not only stands up to re-reads all these years later, but Bendis and Oeming are still working in this world and creating new stories.  It also marks the beginning of Oeming working in the ‘Powers’ style – a highly stylized look to his characters and world that fits perfectly with Bendis’ detective noir shtick.

What it’s about: Detective Christian Walker and new partner Deena Pilgrim are out to solve the dramatic murder of Retro Girl, one of the city’s preeminent superheroes.  Walker has a mysterious past and Pilgrim is a bit of a spitfire, and together they make a great team as they try to uncover what force could possibly kill a superhero.  The ending is surprisingly satisfying, and like any good detective yarn leaves you with at least as many new questions as answers.

Why it’s female positive: Two words. Deena Pilgrim.  She’s a great character and a hell of a detective. 

In addition to collecting issues #1 – 6 of Powers this edition is full of extras including characters designs, a sketchbook gallery, a cover gallery, notes, original news strips, and the full original script to issue number one.

Powers: Who Killed Retro Girl.  Brian Michael Bendis (writer).  Michael Avon Oeming (artist).  Image $21.95 (softcover).


9.  For your ex-girlfriend that hurt you real bad, but you still kinda have a thing for: Adrian Tomine’s story of love and loss and screwing up relationships in Shortcomings is a home run for me, even before you get to the Shortcomings Cover“every panel is absolutely perfect” aspect of Tomine’s art.

What it’s about: In Shortcomings Ben and Miko’s relationship begins to fall apart for all kinds of reasons, including Ben’s seeming fascination with white women, while Ben’s best friend Alice deals with her difficulty at school and her parents’ inability to accept her lifestyle.  Ben and Miko’s disintegrating relationship is infinitely fascinating because a well told relationship break up story feels like being a fly on the wall of something intimate and important, but Alice remains my favorite character of the book. She brings a very necessary comedic relief to an otherwise gloomy tale about the final dregs of a relationship long past its expiration date.

Why I consider it female positive: Alice is a character both honest and unapologetic, she’s happy and truthful in her life and her choices, except when it comes to her family, a way I think far too many people feel. To me this makes her human and oh so relatable.

This story was originally serialized in issues #9 -11 of Optic Nerve.

Shortcomings.  Adrian Tomine (writer/artist).  Drawn & Quarterly $19.95 (hardcover edition)

10.  For your current girlfriend who seems curious but a bit trepidatious about comics:  Hook her on Brian K. Vaughan’s epic Y The Last Man and you’re golden.  After she devours all 60 issues though, she may come Y Last Man Deluxe Edition Book Onelooking for more – be prepared with something else awesome (I’d recommend Greg Rucka’s brilliant Whiteout).

What it’s about: Vaughan’s Y is the wonderfully explored tale of an apocalyptic world in which all the male species on earth have been wiped out save one man (Yorick) and his pet Monkey (Ampersand).  Y follows Yorick and a handful of other characters, most notably special agent 355, as they try to discover the cause and find a way to save the world.

Why it’s female positive: Y is wonderful when it comes to well written, fleshed out female characters, particularly since the book is obviously chock full of women given the storyline, but Vaughan never takes the easy way out and manages to create some of the most lasting female characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.  355 is a lifelong personal favorite.  Pia Guerra’s wonderful art never hurts either.  It’s an amazing work, and a book that I believe really transcends “mere comics”…making it a great gateway drug for anyone you’re trying to hook on comics.  Bonus points since Y is illustrated by a woman.

This edition collects issues #1 – 10 of the series and includes sketches and character designs by Pia Guerra.

Y The Last Man Book One.  Brian K. Vaughan (writer) Pia Guerra (artist). Vertigo.  $29.99 (Deluxe Hardcover Edition).


11.  For your boyfriend that doesn’t get why you would bother with this ‘silly comics thing’ because he outgrew it YEARS ago: Show him a whole other side to comics with Brian Wood’s LocalLCOAL HC C1-C4 LAYOUT9.inddEssentially a black and white collection of short stories that all tie together nicely through main character Megan.

What it’s about: Local is a series of twelve short stories linked by one girl on a search for self.  As Megan travels the country she encounters all kinds of people and all kinds of things within herself that feel more powerful and interconnected than just a handful of short stories.  With a great Run Lola Run-ish opening issue, Local will draw you right in – it’s an interesting and unique work, that proves surprisingly effective.

Why it’s female positive: With a strong female lead and a handful of interesting female supporting characters it’s a solid entry into the cast of books with good female characters in comics.

This hardcover edition includes issues #1 – 12 of Local plus a sketch gallery, a covers and pin up gallery, and detailed issue by issue essays by both Wood and Kelly.

Local.  Brian Wood (writer).  Ryan Kelly (artist).  Oni Press $29.99 (hardcover).


12.  For your friend that insists on reading only superhero comics: It’s still a superhero book, but Top 10 really takes superheroes and their world to the next level.  In the hands of Alan Moore the characters in Top 10 are Top 10 Book 1 Coverwildly original and really push past your average superhero stuff.

What it’s about: Top 10 follows a handful of characters all working law enforcement in Precinct 10, made up entirely of citizens with powers of some kind or another.  As you can imagine, chaos ensues, and every panel is a smorgasbord of visual delights.

Why it’s female positive: Top 10 is filled with awesome female characters in all shapes and sizes from rookie Robyn Slinger to veterans like Irma and Girl One.

Book 1 collects issues #1 – 7 and includes a great sketch gallery and Book 2 collects the final issues #8 – 12.

Top 10 Book 1.  Alan Moore (writer).  Gene Ha and Zander Cannon (artists).  America’s Best Comics $14.95 (softcover).

Top 10 Book 2. Alan Moore (writer).  Gene Ha and Zander Cannon (artists).  America’s Best Comics $14.95 (softcover).


13.  For you friend that reads superheroes but seems ready to branch outBrian Michael Bendis’ Alias is a great gateway comic between superheroes and ‘all the rest’.  It’s still got all the great superhero stuff under the Alias Book 1surface, but it’s much more a detective story, and a wonderful character piece.

What it’s about: Alias follows Jessica Jones, ex-superhero Jewel and current private investigator, as she solves cases and crashes into superheroes (both figuratively and literally) throughout New York.  Jessica’s arc is real and engaging, and full of surprises, both delightful and horrifying.

Why it’s female positive: Jessica Jones is a great character.  She’s honest and layered and endlessly flawed, which makes her evolution as a character a sight to behold.

This edition collects Alias #1 – 15 and includes a Gaydos sketch gallery and some David Mack work done for “Rebecca’s Sketchbook”.

Alias: Ultimate Collection Book 1.  Brian Michael Bendis (writer).  Michael Gaydos (artist).  MAX/Marvel $34.99 (softcover).


14.  For your pretentious (but in all the right ways) friend that needs convincing that comics are a valid medium for people beyond twelve-year-old boys: Try Gabrielle Bell’s Lucky, a beautiful hardback LUCKY.cover_new:Layout 1edition collecting Bell’s Lucky series.

What it’s about: Lucky is in essence a simple journal comic that is alternately hilarious and insightful about Bell’s struggles as a lowly cartoonist.  The art is fairly basic – simple line drawings, but it’s surprisingly effective.  There are a lot of journal comics out there and sometimes they feel narcissistic and unimportant, but I think Lucky is one of the best and transcends the usual journal comic missteps.   It’s unflinchingly honest for an autobiographical work, and yet Bell still manages to keep things light, like in detailing her comical never ending search for a New York apartment that isn’t a nightmare in one way or another.

Why it’s female positive: Lucky is female positive in that way that a lot of the books are on this list, in that it just realistically portrays the world.  The women characters are as integral to the story as the men, the women characters are equally as featured as the men…and it all happens organically, because in general that’s how the world is.  It’s men and women…living together, working together, laughing, fighting, loving…all of it.  So it’s female positive just by reflecting the reality of our world.  Double bonus points since Lucky is written and drawn by a woman.

The hardback edition recommended here also includes a few extra stories, including the quite frankly awesome “The Hole”.

Lucky.  Gabrielle Bell (writer/artist).  Drawn & Quarterly $19.95 (hardback).


15.  For the politically motivated know-it-all in your life that thinks that they, well, know it all: Surprise them with the massive, complicated, and endlessly fascinating The Essential Dykes To Watch Out For by Alison Dykes To Watch Out For CoverBechdel.

What it’s about: The Essential Dykes To Watch Out For collects the…well, essential strips from Bechdel’s long running comic strip in this one fantastic volume so that you can read about these characters from the beginning as their real time lives unfold before you.  One of the best things about reading Bechdel’s strip in this way is watching the evolution of her talent as an artist, combined with the evolution of politics and the world.  It’s really a one of a kind look at the world told through fascinating images and with Bechdel’s ever changing but also somehow constant voice.

Why it’s female positive: Dykes To Watch Out For is a strip primarily about lesbians and shows these women in all the many incantations that real world women embody.  Bechdel’s characters are real and fleshed out and so beyond the clichés that we often see that it’s almost staggering to read in its frankness.  Double bonus points since Dykes To Watch Out For is both written and drawn by a woman.

This edition includes a wonderful fully illustrated introduction by Bechdel, which was almost worth the cover price alone.

The Essential Dykes To Watch Out For.  Alison Bechdel (writer/artist).  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt $25.00 (hardback).


And what would I like dear readers?  Well, thanks for asking…I’ve had my eye on the  Astonishing X-Men Omnibus by Joss Whedon and John CassadyAstonishing X-Men Omnibus

Overpriced?  Perhaps, but it was Whedon’s X-Men story that got me back into superhero comics after a long hiatus, so I feel I owe him…and also?  It’s pretty awesome.

If you’re already going to support comics in your holiday gift giving this year, why not take it one step further and give your local comic book shop your support as well and try shopping locally when possible.  Don’t know your local shops?  Check out The Comic Shop Locator.

Happy shopping everyone!

*ps – for any of my family that may be reading – don’t worry you’re not ALL getting comics and “No, my people descriptions are not based on you”.

60 Comments

I’ve only read a few of these, Walking Dead, Local, Top 10, Powers, the more known stuff basically (with the exception of Astonishing X-Men and Alias, which is well known, but I haven’t read it yet), so thanks a lot for the selected picks, I’ll definitely get around to buying some of these.

Maybe I could buy Asterios Polyps as a bonus present for my girlfriend (bonus because I want it, it wouldn’t be fair to just give her that).

I’m linking this on Facebook and sending it to all my friends =) While I disagreed with your review of the new Psylocke mini-series, this list as well as your other posts have been spot-on and very well done (not that the one about Psylocke wasn’t well written, I just didn’t agree with it). You’ve got some great choices on this list and very good taste!

Might I also add that “It’s a Bird” would be a great gift for the pretentious-but-in-a-good-way friend, and “Pedro and Me” would be great for the political friend. :)

I also would highly recommend “Local” for just about anyone out there, P.S.

Cool list, and as much as I’d love to give my dad a copy of Asterios Polyp, I know it’d just sit unread on the bookshelf.

Also! I got my girlfiend the fairly beautiful Y: The Last Man hardcover for Christmas last year, thinking that since she’s a big Stephen King fan, the cover quote would sell her on it… and she wasn’t that keen.

I think the only comics she’s really been very keen on have been Hellblazer (specifically Azzarello’s ‘Hard Time’ arc and Ennis / Ellis’ runs on the book), Perry Bible Fellowship and Fell. She’s still cross Ellis and Templesmith haven’t put together a new issue for almost two years now and holds me responsible, which is very unfair.

My girlfriend also passed on Y…she read the first couple of trades and bailed, mostly because she hated Yorick’s character. She’d later ask me to summarize the plot for her, but she didn’t want to read it.

She l-o-v-e-s Whiteout and Queen and Country though, so I’d second Kelly’s recommendation of those as next steps or even alternates for any comics curious, non-capes giftee, regardless of gender.

[...] right female positive comic book for everyone on your holiday shopping list with this week’s ‘She Has No Head!’ Column at CSBG. [...]

I did re-read the first few issues of Y, and there is something a little grating about Yorick and the way he constantly speaks in pop-culture references.

I think he really develops as the series goes on, but I can understand a level of disinterest when you think you’re stuck with this goof as a protaginist for Christ-knows-how-many-issues, without realising the goodness of 355 and Dr Mann that is to come.

@Tom WB: If you’re interested in getting your GF into comics again, I’d definitly recommend the Dark Tower series. There’s actually a number of King books being adapted right now and Darktower is top of my list since it’s actually new stories (except for the first series). I also love The Tailisman so I’m getting that despite only having read the #0 (which was short but good).

@Kelly, real nice list although I would recomend the Fables ommibus edition that collects the first 2 trades. The first being good but the second being great. Although not Female Positive but I love Jack of Fables and that’s a decent way to hook someon on the series.

This is a pretty darn good list.

No Scott Pilgrim?
Im not much of a serious reader but this seems to me like a pretty solid list.

Thankfully, my own gf is a fellow comics nerd, so I’m actually trying to get her something non-comic for Christmas, considering I get her comics for just about every other event.

…I’ve only read Astonishing X-Men on the whole list….

[...] a holiday gift list. The ain’t it cool list is so big it spans three posts, while the list from “She Has No Head!” is very well thought out (if not a bit [...]

I got Asterios Polyp (for myself) last week. I’m looking forward to reading it to see if it’s something I’d pass on to my dad or not. Good recommendations, at least from the stuff I’ve read!

I’m glad you all are enjoying the list and thanks for the comments – even though we’re not talking about superhero costumes :)

I find the Y The Last Man no-go a bit surprising. But then again, sometimes it’s hard for me to pick comics that women will like, because I’m such a comic geek already that it’s hard to see why things maybe won’t appeal. For me, though I agree Yorick takes a while to become a great character, the concept is so intriguing that I just can’t/couldn’t stop reading regardless.

I haven’t read It’s A Bird, though it’s on my list. Would you consider it “female positive”? Pedro and Me (for whatever reason) has not ever really managed to make it to my reading list (maybe unfair Winick backlash?) but from what I know of the book (which admittedly is little) it might not fit the “female positive” guideline either…? I only ask, because many great books that I love didn’t make the list, solely because of the criteria I was using.

Scott Pilgrim. That’s a total hole in my reading. I never got on the Scott Pilgrim train…and still haven’t managed to. One day I hope to catch up.

Asterios Polyp would probably also sit unread on my dad’s shelf…but part of me believes that if he’d actually try it he might find something really rewarding in it. Then again…no…maybe not.

Fables. Though I love the series, Jack is one of the least intriguing characters for me…he’s also pretty much the antithesis of “female positive” :)

Yup, Jack’s about as Female Negative as can be but that’s part of his charm for me (not a big deal since Fables is so Female Positve -> Snow, Rose Red, Frau, Cinderella to name a few). And even in Jack’s series the sisters are fairly strong for what you would expect from the series.

As for It’s a Bird, I’d say it’s Female Neutral since its mostly about Steven T. Seagle. It is an amazing look at both the disease his family deals with and a really awesome look at Superman in that context. I got it out of the library and it was well worth a read. Kelly, I’d recomend at least borrowing a copy if available but it is worth a purchase.

Well, regarding “It’s a Bird”, I loved it, read it more than once, and it left me with a special kind of… resonance (for lack of a better word) after reading it the first time. Years later I remembered that and gave it to my girlfriend, and she got bored and didn’t like it.

On the other hand, in the same batch I gave her the oneshot “The Eaters” by Peter Milligan and Dean Ormston and she loved it, even more than “Kill your Boyfriend” by Morrison, which amused her at times, but not too much.

So I suppose it’s a matter of taste, I cannot speak in a general way because the only empiric experience I have is with my girlfriend (I never could get my previous girlfriends to read a comic, maybe she’s the one)

Tom Fitzpatrick

December 7, 2009 at 1:09 pm

To you, Ms. Thompson: I’d give you my e-mail address in where we can embark on a torrid sexy e-affair and never even have to meet. How’s that for a X-mas gift? ;-)

I dig Michonne from Walking Dead, but wouldn’t want to get on her bad side!

Nice list. Lots of standards for female readers to get into (Y, Persepolis, Local and others) but I’m surprised no mentioning of LOVE& ROCKETS. Probably the best and most awesome women in comics ever printed. Brilliant storytelling, breathtaking artwork; 4 hardcovers, over 30 TPBs, 60 plus issues…. there’s something for everyone with L&R.

Also, more Los Bros. Hernandez exposure is good for all comic readers.

DubipR: I’m glad you brought up Love & Rockets because I added and removed Love & Rockets no less than three times from this list as I was working on it…and in the end I kept them off because I couldn’t quite decide who Love & Rockets was perfect for (except me). I personally think Los Bros Hernandez do some of the greatest female characters around, and their artistic talent is almost unmatched…but in my experience not everyone “gets it” and I wasn’t sure this list was the place to try to advocate for it…but keep an eye out for Love & Rockets and Los Bros Hernandez in general to definitely get some ink in this column in the future.

So glad you did this…I was just going to ask you for this.

-Ben

“Pedro and Me” is great. Easily the best thing I’ve read by Winick (though I haven’t read any “Barry Ween”), and anyone who finds him tedious should give it a shot. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised. I gave it as a gift to my high-school-aged niece a few years ago and she loved it. (She’s a pretty compassionate soul who went on to study nursing in college.) But since it’s focused primarily Pedro and Judd and their relationship, I don’t know if it meets this lists’ criteria, Kelly.

I haven’t read any of these, unfortunately.

I’m trying to think of good female-positive stories I’ve read, and there aren’t a lot. What do you think of Nana?

Mary: I am vastly under read and undereducated when it comes to Manga. Fortunately we’ve got the wonderful Danielle Leigh covering that pretty well here on CSBG. Regarding Nana, I haven’t read it, but I did read a few of Danielle’s posts on here about it and it sound pretty interesting.

I’ve read, let’s see, at least half of these — WALKING DEAD, POWERS, TOP 10, LOCAL & ALIAS, as well as an introductory volume of essential-type volume of DYKES TO WATCH OUT FOR back in the ’90s. All quite good, though in the context of this volume I’m not the target audience.

Haven’t read any Scott Pilgrim, either, but O’Malley’s LOST AT SEA is definitely worth considering.

Duh. “as well as an introductory essential-type volume of DYKES …”

“in the contest of this column”

*sigh*

“conteXt of this column”

That’s it — I’m quitting while I’m not even further behind.

(Though seeing Ross Campbell cited reminds me that I was first acquainted with his work via Jen Van Meter’s immensely likable HOPELESS SAVAGES, which I suppose is much more humorous than what you’re aiming for here … but the female characters are quite engaging, IMHO. Same applies to Chynna Clugston’s BLUE MONDAY books.)

Ted Naifeh’s COURTNEY CRUMRIN titles warrant inclusion in the discussion as well.

Kelly — You’ve made me want all these books (and the ones I already own you’ve made me want them again in handy omibus forms!)

Also, thanks for the kind words!

Dan: Hopeless Savages, like Love and Rockets almost made the list. I can’t remember what bumped it off…but it was real close. I’m a fan. I haven’t read Clugston’s Blue Monday yet but have heard great things. Same with Courtney Crumrin…maybe next year for those.

Danielle: Anytime – and thanks!

Hmm, well “It’s a Bird” had the great character of Seagle’s real-life girlfriend in it who helps him get through his writer’s block/personal fears and shortcomings. His mother and grandmother also feature prominently and Seagle’s world view and his reason for telling the story are directly impacted by them. I think it’s as “female-positive” you can get while being a story about one man’s journey. It’s certainly not “female-negative.”

As for “Pedro And Me,” there’s the very real romance between Winick and his wife, which plays out through the book. She’s one of the main characters and helps him through the whole Pedro ordeal–their love is shown to be very equal, very balanced, and very grounded. Again, it’s about as “female positive” you can get in a story with a male narrator.

Maybe I just don’t understand the criteria?

Ryan: No, it sounds like you do understand the criteria. I was just asking because I hadn’t read either of them and I was trying to clarify. Sounds like they might well be good fits for the list. It’s A Bird has been on my list for awhile now, but I admit I’ve moved it up the list after the comments today. So thanks!

thanks for the plug, Kelly!!! next time you have to mention Wet Moon, though (HINT HINT to everybody else reading this). ;)

Kelly: this may be a bit off topic, but I was wondering overall what do you think of the portrayal of women by the big two, or by mainstream comics.

Hi Kelly.
I’d like to take the time to say that your female point of view and you do so without being anti-male which seems to be an easy line to cross. You’re quite the addition to CSBG.

Anyway, my girlfriend has been very open to comics and i’ve tried my very best to supply her with only the good stuff. So far she’s in love with Fables and just tore through all my trades and is now talckling the singles. I gave her the first Strangers in Paradise pocket book for her birthday and she’s made it very clear to me she wants the second for christmas. However, I will one day run out of SiP pocket books and this is an excellent list that i will gladely steal some ideas from it.

Oh, i’ve she tried to read Top Ten and just couldn’t finish it, i was a little sad cus it’s such a good book but that’s ok. After all, i shouldn’t of had high expectation because she’s not “my friend who consistantly reads superhero comics”

I would love to find a comic for my dad some day but i want to make sure he will love it. Saddly, i don’t think any on this list would suit his weird tastes.
The only comics he’s ever read have been Watchmen and old Marvel reprints of Conan (back in his late twenties and early thirties)

Oh man, I love Gabrielle Belle. I think she’d be a little “out-there” for some people but her storytelling skills are brilliant and-

Oh, wait, I mean, um, “RARRGH! Damn you and your vagina! Why would you…exist as…a woman…”

No, no, wait…I definitely mean the first thing ;)

Great list!

Tyler: I think the big two are pretty hit and miss. They occasionally do wonderful things, and they a lot of the time do pretty borderline stuff, and they sometimes do really horrific stuff. I’m sure there will be a column about this in more detail down the line. I will say that lately though, for my money, DC is doing it better than Marvel.

Mario: Thanks for the comments and feedback. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the welcome and support I’ve gotten here on CSBG…which I think speaks well for CSBG and CBR and I’d like to think speaks well for comic fans in general. Doing this column has been really exciting – so it’s really rewarding to hear that someone thinks I’m a good addition :)

Also I should say that I love Strangers In Paradise…the only reason it’s not on the list is because I haven’t read the entire SiP run and there are some parts around the middle that got a little off track to me…and I felt like I should read it in its entirety before I could really commit to recommending it.

Oh – and a belated thank you to Ryan from way up thread for the facebook linking – I appreciate the support!

Great list, although (*heavy sigh*), since I haven’t read many of them, I realize that ultimately it will end up costing me. I just wanted to very much voice my approval of your recommendation for Satrapi’s Persepolis, and would add that you could have put just about anything by Satrapi on this list (i.e. Embroideries, Chicken with Plums – the latter was pretty much devoured in one gulp by my non-comics reading wife who picked it up out of curiosity after I left it lying next to the bed…)
Somehow, I think Joann Sfar is missing from this list, esp. The Professor’s Daugther and The Rabbi’s Cat. Also, I would recommend his Little Vampire books as ideal gifts for young comics fans who may only read superhero/action and/or manga, to broaden their horizons a bit (the female positive apsect? Well, Little Vampire’s mom is really cool).

Interesting list. I have to say, I just never saw what all the fuss was about “Walking Dead”. That and Whedon’s “Astonishing”. While beautiful to look it, it had a decent first arc and just went downhill from there.

Asterios Polyp…it’s by David Mazzucchelli, so I’ll def have to check it out.

This list alone is enough to show people how diverse comics have become.

Stunning, well-thought-out list!

My only comment would be that Fables seems to hook people better with Volume 2 (Animal Farm) first…

In my experience anyway…

Stephane Savoie

December 8, 2009 at 8:07 am

Ok, this might be a bigger discussion that was aimed at here, but I have a few comments on how some of these works are not so female positive. (Note that I enjoy all these, and think they’re wonderful comics)

1) Asterio Polyp/Breakfast After Noon: There’s a deceptive trap here, and it’s the “aren’t men just dumb when it comes to relationships?” idea. You see it in sitcoms a lot. The problem is that where the male characters come off as flawed, the female characters become a stereotype: master of the social arena. Although we invariable cheer when the women dump the loser, the fact is that gender roles are largely reinforced with the “bumbling man” story.

2) Ghost World is a complex work; part of that is that there’s a derisive tone towards the girls in the whole work. The girls are cynical and imaginative, but they’re really just as shallow as all teenagers are. If you can recognize that, then this is a fantastic work. If you hold up the girls as heroes, you’re missing part of the point.

This, of course, is just my perspective. I welcome disagreement.

I know you had only so much room… and see you have noted Los Hernandez Bro. (which I think are the greatest). But consider also La Perdida by Jessica Abel, Ann Nocenti and Neal Adam’s Longshot, Wendy and Richard Pini’s Elf Quest and SCAD’s/CCS’s Robyn Chapman’s Sourpuss.

-Ben

Edo: Joann Sfar is on my ‘to read’ list…and very high towards the top, but that is likely the reason for her absence.

wwk5d: For me, TWD and Astonishing marked real turning points in coming back to comics after a long hiatus. I read a random issue of TWD and was blown away, and within a week was once again in a comic store and buying a lot of stuff…but no superheroes. Then i came across Astonishing and had an almost duplicate experience in regard to superhero comics. They were transformative books for me at a time in my life when I didn’t think comics could be transformative for me any longer. I know some people are not fans (particularly of Astonishing which I can understand as Whedon has a very specific voice that either appeals or doesn’t) but for me these are two pretty shining examples of ‘doing comics right’. I think TWD, though still a great book, actually suffers more in my mind than Astonishing, if only because Astonishing has an ending. By making TWD ongoing, I feel Kirkman is sometimes floudering.

Blackjack: I agree that Animal Farm is a great arc…possibly better…maybe it’s the OCD in me that always wants to start at the beginning if possible?

Stephanie: Hmm. I agree with you that traditional US sitcoms have a very tired formula of the perfect/beautiful (though often annoying to our “hero”) wife and chubby/funny/loser husband…and it’s a formula I find detestable, but I don’t really see that issue in the books you listed primarily because unlike ongoing sitcoms, which tend to always stay the same, Asterios and Afternoon’s characters evolve and change. They’re also shown with far more depth and nuance than any sitcom in my opinion.

As for Ghost World, I agree with you. As much as I wanted to write more on each of these books, I was trying to keep it simple for the sake of the list. I think that was what I was trying to say something similar to what you’re saying here when I talked about Clowes capturing a different aspect of youth than Campbell and by saying that the girls were characters that women both relate to (i.e. flawed and human) and aspire to (brilliant and layered)…but perhaps it’s impossible to read that much into what I wrote. Regardless, I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of GW.

Ben: True. Only so much room. I really like La Perdida…I don’t know why it didn’t make the list except that I may still be mentally punishing Abel for writing one of the worst book (and least “female positive”) that I have ever read (Life Sucks). As for Longshot…is that the 6 issue collected TPB? I haven’t read it regardless I suppose. I always liked Longshot…but if I thought there was a chance Dazzler was showing up I probably passed it by. Never got into Elfquest and Chapman’s Sourpuss is high on my reading list, but still, currently, unread.

As was pointed out to me when I made the same mistake a few years ago, Joann Sfar is a man.

Great, great recommendations, Kelly. I’ve read about half of your list and agree with the recommendations. And I mentioned picks like Asterios Polyp, Lucky and Walking Dead to my guy yesterday…so let’s see if he picks up on the hint. ;-)

Of things you recommend and that I’ve read, I LOVE Alias (the book that got me fully back into comics), Y, and Persepolis. These are my go to first recommendations for my girl friends checking out comics for the first time.

I’m glad you left Strangers in Paradise off the list. I’m currently reading it (on Volume 6 of the pocket books) and although I’m over all enjoying it, it’s one of those things where you shouldn’t stop and think about it too much. It just goes so all over the place and it’s definitely got its creator self-indulgent moments.

Greg: Yikes! Thanks!

Mer: Yeah, though I love Terry Moore, SiP really changed for me. When I was first reading it early in the run, between what he was doing and how he was drawing it…I just felt he could do no wrong. But somewhere in there he just lost me and it became this whole other thing (which may have been what he always intended…but I certainly wasn’t in on it). I’d like to go back one day and read the entire run and see if it changes my perception. But as it stands it’s pretty hard for me to recommend it, despite the many shining moments.

TWD and Y are my standby recommends for men that want to get into comics…my girlfriends never seem to care…which is sad. If they did, I’d be right with you in suggesting Y, Persepolis, and Alias. Maybe also Black Hole. I also love recommending Jeffrey Brown…but you have to be careful with Brown I think as he’s just not for everyone.

Awesome women in comics? Alice Hotwire, detective exorcist. Nuff said.

http://www.radicalcomics.com/titles/comics/hotwire

Gianluca: Looks interesting, I’ll check it out. It probably wouldn’t have made this list though as the trade doesn’t come out until January and I was trying to stay away from recommending single issues. But thanks for the recommend.

Nicole Liambeis

December 8, 2009 at 6:02 pm

As a girlfriend who was converted, my votes are definitely for Love & Rockets (thankfully added/acknowledged to the list) and Jeffrey Brown. I devoured everything Los Bros. Hernandez as fast as I could get my hands on it.

I think I understand the Jeffrey Brown’s ‘not for everyone’ sentiment as he sometimes comes off as whiny/passive… but there’s something about his voice and aesthetic and Chicago that just pull me in. In terms of female-positive though? He’s not female-negative, but women definitely seem to be more a source of confusion and pain for him, esp. in the early work.

My two cents.

I’d say ‘not for everyone’ and, in terms of pure craft, not that good – Although I think his non-autobio stuff like Bighead is funny.

I would think La Perdida and her academic efforts with Matt Madden would take her off the naughty list. Drawing Words and Writing Pictures is an evolution in comics curriculum, and they have done a great job as series editors of America’s Best Comics.

It was Ann Nocenti and Art Adam’s not Neal that created Longshot, who debut in their 6 issue Limited Series that predates his involvement with the Uncanny X-Men and Dazzler. Nocenti’s use of dialogue is what made him my favorite superhero of all time. His early involvement in the X-Men didn’t hurt things. However, it was his smart naïve amnesia man in a strange land dissection of 80’s Americana that won my hart, plus he had all those cool moves and could read events just by touching objects. Add on those throwing knives and his luck, it almost makes you forget he has a mullet. Read it!

As for Elf Quest, if you started with Fire and Flight and was not hooked…well I don’t know what to say.

Nice list… I was expecting to bump into one of these as we’re approaching the holiday season, I was also thinking of building one up myself but haven’t done it yet. Anyway…

I have actually seen some of those titles in other lists like “best 2008 comics”, “best stories” or “best sellers” lists and actually picked up the 10 trades of Y the Last Man as well as Local… They’re on your list as well and I keep wondering why these titles are always in the “best of the bests” kind of lists… I’ve read them completely but still can’t really grasp what makes them SSOoooo appealing to most people.. Did I miss something? Can someone try to explain/convince me?

how i got into comics: saw persepolis the movie first, nytimes article about batwoman, read persepolis, started looking for to-read lists, decided on y last man, then fables, then dc’s batwoman came out (pun intended hah!), then chew (yay asian!). and the rest is history. one might consider me a comic book nerd now or at least well on my way.

yorick annoyed me in the beginning, but he was self deprecating. the concept of only one man left and the diverse cast of characters made me stick w it, and i found it to be a very rewarding read.

also, i don’t know what’s harder- trying to find comics w positive portrayals of minorities (lgbt, asians, blacks, women, etc.) or trying to steer clear of negative portrayals of said minorities. lists like these go a long way. thanks!

I did briefly think about getting my mother and stepfather comics this year in addition to safer gifts. They still can’t wrap their heads around the hobby either. In their case, I think the pretty sure bets would be Parker: The Hunted for my mother and the first trade of Northlanders for my stepfather. Wasn’t thinking female-positive, obviously.

Standard safe bets for my father are Sgt Rock and Jonah Hex and my engineer brother has really enjoyed The Goon.

And actually, I couldn’t get into Y. It was the female characters that irritated me more than Yorick. Read the first two trades and quit.

Yeah, there was a weird… I don’t know, almost voyeuristic vibe to Y. It seemed very much written for a male audience that would be identifying with Y as a window into this strange world… without other men!!! Y almost seemed to be a wall between me and the interesting bits of the story, so I moved on to something else.

I personally couldn’t stand Y. I read the first two collections and, believe me, it was a struggle to even finish the first. I couldn’t disagree more with your description of the female characters. I found them to be completely cardboard and all of their dialogue was completely base, like the author had never actually listened to a woman in his life. “Tampons, am I right ladies?” pretty much sums it up. I mean, it seemed like all the women ever talked about was ice cream and vibrators. Maybe it got better later but I have seen all I wanted and it left a bad taste in my mouth.

This is without a doubt one of the best of these types of lists I’ve read. Well done Kelly.

[...] the year, I’m inundated with lists. End of the year lists,  essential of the last 25 years list, graphic novel suggestions for non fans, and so forth. (OK, so that last list is from last year, but it’s a great list! I used it as my [...]

[...] bought this book based on the suggestion from Good Comics. The list was a compilation of strong women in graphic novels. It was tailored to those nonreaders [...]

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