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Welcome back to my annual female positive comics holiday gift list – yes, I’ve done it twice now, so it’s officially an “annual thing”. And if you love lists, you’re going to be all about She Has No Head! this December as it’s a month of lists – starting with today’s holiday gift list, then a two part list of my favorite female creators of 2010, and rounding out the month with a best (and a few worsts) of 2010 list. Let’s get started!
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 sweet 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.
This year, in addition to picking excellent female positive titles, I also limited myself to books released in 2010 only…enjoy!
01. For the collector in your life. This oversized hardcover edition of Wednesday Comics is a gorgeous book that is only superseded in coolness by the original newsprint issues. Bonus points if you can track those down and deliver both in one gorgeous package that would make any collector salivate.
What it is: Wednesday Comics was a stunning experiment that I hope Mark Chiarello will try to duplicate sometime in the future – an experiment in which he took some of absolute best artists and writers working in comics and told them to do whatever they wanted. The result is some of the most creative, interesting, and flat out beautiful work I’ve seen in a VERY many years. Wednesday Comics collects stories from Neil Gaiman, Kurt Busiek, Amanda Conner, David Azzarello, Jimmy Palmiotti, Dave Gibbons, Karl Kerschl, Mike Allred, Ben Caldwell and many others and focuses on a large variety of characters from Wonder Woman and Batman to Sgt. Rock and Metamorpho.
Why it’s female positive: Stories featuring heavy-hitters Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Catwoman (among others), plus 12 huge beautiful Supergirl pages by artist Amanda Conner.
Wednesday Comics. Mark Chiarello (editor). Various Writers, Various artists. DC Comics. $49.99. Full Color. Hardcover (large format size). 200 Pages. Release date: June 1, 2010.
02. For that lady you know that thinks superhero comics are no place for women. Whether that be because she’s seen it done wrong so many times (who can blame her?), or just because she’s never seen it done THIS right – Batwoman: Elegy could go a long way toward convincing her that things they are a changin’.
What it is: A gorgeous hardcover edition of Greg Rucka’s brilliant tale of Kate Kane, the new Batwoman. The story is long awaited, and fills a massive gap in superhero fiction in the creation of a major headlining LGBT superhero character, but it also happens to be drawn by J.H. Williams III, one of the most talented artists working in mainstream comics today, and his work here is sublime and well-considered. The combination of Rucka and Williams III has created an insightful, important, and layered character in Kate Kane – the most exciting superhero I’ve seen debut in the last ten years.
Why it’s female positive: In addition to the creation of the most significant new female superhero in a decade, you’ve got an awesome Rachael Maddow introduction.
Batwoman: Elegy. Greg Rucka (writer). J.H. Williams III (artist). DC Comics. $24.99. Full color. Hardcover. 192 pages. Release date: July 6, 2010
03. For your uncle that loves his Sunday Funnies but just doesn’t get the whole “comic book thing”: Transition him into books with the excellent collected print edition of the webcomic The Abominable Charles Christopher. Heartbreaking, hilarious, and beautiful all at once, he’ll be a convert before he’s finished, and likely asking you for more of the same.
What it is: A collection of the first two years of The Abominable Charles Christopher strips – a webcomic that follows the adventures of Charles Christopher, an abominable snowman (‘natch) and other woodland animal characters (shout out Townsen!). The narrative is mostly Charles Christopher, but with frequent one offs focusing on other animal characters throughout the woods. This strip has made me alternately laugh and cry more than most books…and certainly more than any other webcomic I’ve ever read. The hardcover edition includes additional illustrations and a 40″ gatefold of all the characters.
Why it’s female positive: Sometimes a thing can be female positive just by being gender neutral. In the case of a book like The Abominable Charles Christopher female characters might not be the star or the focus (though they do exist) but they are treated with the same dignity and respect as the male characters, which is mostly all anyone wants in a good story…certainly it’s what satisfies me. There are a few of these kind of books on the list, so rather than explaining it repeatedly I’m just going to write “wonderfully gender neutral” on future entries.
The Abominable Charles Christopher. Karl Kerschl (writer/artist). Self-published. $40.00 – $60.00 (depending on edition). Color. Hardcover. 144 pages. Release date: June 2010.
04. For that pre-teen/teen girl in your life, be she niece, cousin, sister, daughter, or friend. She’ll appreciate Campbell’s gift for teenage voices and angst in Shadoweyes Volume 1. Add to that an awesome superhero and great explorations about loneliness and alienation that will appeal to anyone finding their way (and who isn’t at some point or another) and this is a home run.
What it is: A story about a teenage girl (Scout Montana) that becomes a creature called Shadoweyes and begins a vigilante superhero career of sorts. Campbell’s tale is stunningly rendered and much like a Simpson’s episode is both easily relatable and entertaining for younger readers, but also poses some really tough questions about identity, self, and alienation that older readers will appreciate – and that will likely keep those younger readers re-reading and rediscovering it for years. If you’re not convinced, read Greg’s great review here, or check out some of the exclusive preview pages and my review here. And while you’re at it, why not splurge with a YA female positivity trifecta and add Hope Larson’s excellent Mercury, and Raina Telegmeier’s Smile to the package? Mercury tells two coming of age tales in tandem with female protagonists from different times – weaving together both past and present seamlessly, while Smile is the autobiographical re-telling of Telgemeier’s own experience with an accident that led to major reconstructive dental work during her own coming of age. Both are utterly delightful and sure to please any young female reader of comics.
Why it’s female positive: All three books feature great layered female protagonists and significant female supporting casts and two of the three are created, written, and illustrated by women.
Mercury. Hope Larson (writer/artist). Atheneum. $19.99. Black & White. Hardcover. 240 pages. Release date: April 6, 2010.
Smile. Raina Telgemeier (writer/artist). Graphix. $10.99. Full Color. Paperback. 224 pages. Release date: February 1, 2010.
05. For the superhero fan that’s given up because “superheroes aren’t fun anymore”: I can’t think of anything more goddamn fun in superheroes than Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. by Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen.
What it is: This ultimate collection, released last February collects the entire Ellis and Immonen run of Nextwave – issues #1 – 12 – and includes some fun Ellis commentary as well as notes on the original pitch. The team, a ragtag (and madcap?) completely random collection of superheroes, including Monica Rambeau, Boom Boom, Elsa Bloodstone, Aaron Stack, and The Captain take on Dirk Anger and his Agents of H.A.T.E, being run by the terrorist group The Beyond Corporation. Of course taking them on means kicking the ass of everything from Fing Fang Foom and Broccoli Men to widdle cuddly bears of death…so it’s basically wall to wall fun. It’s palpable how much fun Ellis and Immonen are having here, and Immonen especially is at his crazy extreme best as he exaggerates everything to wonderful effect. The Nextwave catch phrase “Healing America by beating people up” pretty much sums up the whole book awesomely.
Why it’s female positive: Monica Rambeau is the badass leader…need I say more? Okay then, Elsa Bloodstone, and Boom Boom. DONE!
Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. Warren Ellis (writer). Stuart Immonen (artist). Marvel. $34.99. Full Color. Paperback. 304 pages. Release date: February 24, 2010.
06. For that weird aunt that always gives you random things like inspirational cat books. Give her a taste of her own medicine but made of awesome with Jeffrey Brown’s fantastic (and totally adorable) hardcover book Cats Are Weird: And More Observations.
What it is: Brown’s book is essentially a collection of cat related strips and illustrations. It’s great fun and something any comics novice can get some enjoyment (and at least a few “awwws!”) out of. While it might seem indulgent and strange to non-cat lovers, or non-cat havers, those in the know (and in love with their pets) will get miles of fun out of Brown’s expressive style and hilariously accurate “cat situations” – it’s clearly a book written and drawn by a cat lover and longtime cat observer.
Why it’s female positive: Wonderfully gender neutral.
Cats Are Weird: And More Observations. Jeffrey Brown (writer/artist). Chronicle Books. $12.95. Color and Black & White. Hardcover. 108 Pages. Release date: July 28, 2010.
07. The history buff with the great sense of humor. There’s no end of pleasure to be had from Kate Beaton’s book Never Learn Anything From History, a collection of 68 strips from Beaton’s Hark A Vagrant! webcomic from 2007 to 2009.
What it is: A collection of hilarious strips that tackle everything from Marie Antoinette and Jane Austen to Henry VIII and James Joyce with the same delicious perspective and deft but loose cartooning style. Kate Beaton’s background in history makes her humorous and sometimes biting historical cartoons all the more insightful and hilarious – and researched! However, be advised that Beaton’s book is not for the history buff WITHOUT a good sense of humor or you will likely be peppered with endlessly annoying “It didn’t happen THAT way” all goddamn day. Choose wisely.
Why it’s female positive: Well, beyond being created, written, and drawn by a woman, it frequently features female characters/historical figures.
Never Learn Anything From History. Kate Beaton (writer/artist). Self-published. $18.00. Black & White. 68 Pages. Release date: 2010
08. For any die hard Jamie Hernandez fan. The GORGEOUS coffee table book The Art of Jaime Hernandez: The Secrets of Life and Death is filled with Hernadez’s stunning work, and will leave any fan breathless.
What it is: An excellent history of Jaime Herndez’s art and career, filled with sketches, drawings, comic pages, and commentary by Todd Hignite. The book features art from early fanzine art up to the present day, and includes everything from fully realized full color pages and covers, to tracings and sketches, as well as a handy “cast of characters” page.
Why it’s female positive: For my money, Jaime Hernandez has created some of the most wonderfully layered and real women in comics, so seeing them all collected here in celebration of their creator, is certainly qualification enough for female positivity. Bonus points for a lovely introduction by Alison Bechdel.
The Art of Jaime Hernandez: The Secrets of Life and Death. Todd Hignite (author). Alison Bechdel (introduction). Jaime Hernandez (art). Abrams ComicArts. $40.00. Black & White. Hardcover (large format size). 224 Pages. Release date: April 1, 2010.
09. For the animal lover. I’m not sure it gets better for animal stories than Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson’s Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites, and the hardcover released this year (and a bit hard to track down – so get on it) is a stunning edition full of gorgeous extras. This is hands down one of the most beautiful books I’ve purchased this year – second maybe only to Batwoman: Elegy and Wednesday Comics. Gorgeous!
What it is: A collection of the Beasts of Burden mini-series #1 – 4, plus four short stories featuring the Beasts of Burden characters “Stray”, “The Unfamiliar”, “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie”, and “A Dog And His Boy”, an afterword by Dorkin, and a sketchbook with notes by Thompson. The Beasts of Burden characters are talking dogs and cats that solve mystical crimes. Do I really need to say anything else?
Why it’s female positive: Full of great female characters (cats and dogs, but still!). Also, massive bonus points for being beautifully illustrated by Jill Thompson.
Beasts of Burden. Evan Dorkin (writer). Jill Thompson (artist). Dark Horse. $19.99. Full Color. Hardcover. 184 pages. Release date: July 6, 2010.
10. For that indie arts friend of yours that ONLY likes things a bit off the beaten path. A trifecta of indie fun in the form of Lucy Knisley’s Make Yourself Happy; Katie Cook’s Fuck You, Box; and Jeffrey Brown’s Undeleted Scenes.
What they’re about: Lucy Knisley’s Make Yourself Happy is a delightful collection of her most recent journal comics. In the Fuck You, Box, mini-comic Katie Cook hilariously details her cat’s inner dialogue. And the always a bit deliciously in the indie trenches Jeffrey Brown gives us Undeleted Scenes, a collection of both previously published and unpublished gems from his last ten plus years of publishing.
Why they’re female positive: A combination of gender neutral and created/written/illustrated by women apply here. In the case of Undeleted Scenes, I suppose someone somewhere could make the argument that Brown’s work is neither gender neutral nor female positive…but I’m just never going to be able to see it. Sometimes love it like that. Regardless, it’s not going to hurt you ladies (or gents), I promise.
Make Yourself Happy. Lucy Knisley (writer/artist). Self-published. $20.00 (including shipping). Black & White. Softcover. 212 pages. Release date: Summer 2010.
Fuck You, Box. Katie Cook (writer/artist). Self Published. $7.00 (including shipping). Black & White. 24 pages. Release date: Summer 2010.
Undeleted Scenes. Jeffrey Brown. (writer/artist). Top Shelf Productions. $15.00. Black & White. Softcover. 352 pages. Release date: June 29, 2010.
What it is: An excellent (and in my opinion wonderfully and wildly feminist) adaptation of Neil Young’s Greendale by writer Joshua Dysart and artist Cliff Chiang. Dysart creatively takes Greendale’s ideas and expands them into a fairly traditional narrative, starring an idealistic and powerful young woman named Sun as she figures out who she is while some nefarious powers are at work around her. Cliff Chiang is at his illustrative best here and is aided by exceptional colors from Dave Stewart. In addition to being a beautiful hardback edition, it’s a a green edition, so you can save the world just a little bit while you (I mean, your mom) is entertained.
Why it’s female positive: Lead protagonist Sun is about as female positive as you get, and the book is filled with hints and suggestions of powerful female ancestors that influence and guide Sun.
Neil Young’s Greendale. Neil Young (story). Joshua Dysart (writer). Cliff Chiang (artist). Dave Stewart (colors). Vertigo. $19.95. Full Color. Hardcover. 160 pages. Release date: June 15, 2010.
12. For that friend that’s been thinking about reading “those Scott Pilgrim books” forever. Make their day and get not only the 2010 final volume to Scott Pilgrim’s epic adventure – Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour Volume 6 – but get the whole set. Though I generally recommend shopping at your LCS, on Amazon you can currently get all six issues for under $40. And If you want super extra credit bonus points, add the Scott Pilgrim Blu-ray/DVD to the package ($24.99). You’ll go on the nice list for sure with such a completist attitude.
What it is: The story of Canadian slacker and sometime musician Scott Pilgrim as he falls in love with American Ramona Flowers and proceeds to fight her seven evil exes in order to date her. Though on the surface just another story about a guy trying to get a girl, the series has an eclectic and fantastic supporting cast (shout out Wallace!) and that, combined with O’Malley’s excellent sense of humor really brings the book to a higher, and often hilarious, level.
Why it’s female positive: There’s been some debate about how female positive the Scott Pilgrim series really is, and some of that debate has merit, but for me, at the end of the day, O’Malley created some truly wonderful female characters in his series – Ramona Flowers, Kim Pine, Natalie V. “Envy” Adams, Stacey Pilgrim, Julie Powers, Roxanne “Roxie” Richter, and of course, my favorite, Knives Chau.
Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour Volume 6. Bryan Lee O’Malley (writer/artist). Oni Press. $11.99. Black & White. Softcover. 248 pages. Release date: July 20, 2010.
And what would I like dear readers? Well, thanks for asking…though it did not come out in 2010, I’ve had my eye on The Complete Love and Rockets Library Volume 1 from Fantagraphics for a while now, as well as Northlanders Volume 4 – The Plague Window, and though I’m not usually one for statues or toys…this new Charlie Brown Classic Peanuts limited edition statue is calling out to me pretty hard.
As always, 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 Holidays everyone! Tune in next week for our next list – in a month of lists – part one of my “20 Favorite Female Creators Of 2010″.
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