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SHE HAS NO HEAD! – Fourth Annual Awesome Women In Comics Holiday Gift List, 2012

Welcome back to my annual female positive comics holiday gift list!

So the holidays are upon us again and you’ve decided that in these tough economic times you want to support the comic 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.

You think Saga is going to make the list? Here's a hint, it totally is.

Like last year, in addition to picking excellent female positive titles, I also limited myself to books released in 2011 only.  If you’re looking for more books that just those released in 2012, I urge you to check out my first list, which was not limited by a time period, and my second list, which covered books released in 2010, and last year’s list which included only books from 2011.

Now, I’ve put links to everything here for your convenience, including Amazon, Comixology, and Mid-Town Comics, but as always, shop at your local shops when you can!

Let’s get started, yes?

01.  FOR THE DISCERNING INDIE COMICS FAN IN YOUR LIFE. You cannot go wrong with the sublime Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples from Image.

What it is: While I put this in the indie category for practical purposes, I feel like this is a great book to give to anyone (except perhaps the very conservative or those who hate fun). I bought four of these this holiday season (and only one of them is for me) it’s also the only book I put on both holiday gift lists I have to do this year. Another great thing about Saga? It’s a crazy bargain at $9.99.  Clocking in at an impressive 160 pages and collecting the first arc of the series (or the first six issues) – and if you’re good at math (I’m not) you’ll recognize that that’s nearly 30 pages over what you’d expect to get in a six issue collection these days, thanks to the double-sized nature of Saga’s first issue. One part Star Wars, one part Romeo & Juliet, but with extra insane creativity and a great modern sense of humor Saga is one of the best if not THE best comic book of 2012 and this is a great and affordable way to catch up and get on board. I do hope there’s a deluxe badass hardcover version in our future – I will be jumping on it if so, both for myself and as gifts.

Why it’s female positive: In addition to Saga being filled with cool female characters, and the fantastic Fiona Staples being the artist for the book, it’s really the best of “female positive” in that female characters are just the same as the male characters. Everyone’s just characters, as it should be. Go awesome comics!

Saga. Brian K. Vaughan (writer). Fiona Staples (artist). Image Comics. $9.99. Full color. Paperback. 160 pages. Release date: October 10, 2012

02.  FOR THE CLASSIC MONSTER FAN. Dennis Hopeless and Juan Doe’s delightful Legion of Monsters mini-series from Marvel Comics.

What it is: A super fun and creative mini-series with gorgeous kinetic art that follows Elsa Bloodstone Monster Hunter! And her unlikely team up with Morbius The Living Vampire, Werewolf By Night, The Living Mummy, and Manphibian as they try to save the world. This trade collects the full four-issue mini-series in all its awesome monster hunting/monster  glory.

Why it’s female positive: Three words: Badass Elsa Bloodstone.

Legion of Monsters. Dennis Hopeless (writer). Juan Doe (artist). Marvel Comics. $15.99. Full color. Paperback. 96 pages. Release date: April 11, 2012

03.  FOR THE PRE-TEEN IN YOUR LIFE. A double bill of Jeremy Whitley and M. Goodwin’s Princeless Volume 1 from Action Lab as well as Ben Hatke’s Legends of Zita The Spacegirl from First Second.

What it is: Whitley’s Eisner nominated and Glyph award wining series Princeless follows the adventures of a sassy princess tired of waiting to be rescued and opts instead to take destiny into her own hands.

Legends of Zita The Spacegirl is the second volume of Ben Hatke’s adorable Zita the Spacegirl series. You don’t have to have read the first volume to get full enjoyment of the second (I didn’t) but if the quality and charm of this volume is any indication it’s also worth picking up.  When famous Zita the Spacegirl gets tired of the limelight she takes a break, which turns into a much longer adventure than she expected.

In writing this post I also came across book – Giants Beware! – which looks fantastic too. I can’t recommend it since I haven’t read it, I’m going to settle to pointing those of you with young kids to it, let me know how it is!

Why it’s female positive: With female leads in both books, and TWO female leads in Princeless these comics are wonderfully female positive in every way possible.

Princeless Volume 1. Jeremy Whitley (writer).  M. Goodwin (artist). Action Lab Comics. $14.95. Full Color. Paperback. 116 pages. Release date: May 2, 2012.

Legends of Zita The Spacegirl. Ben Hatke (writer/artist). First Second. $12.99. Full Color. Paperback. 224 pages. Release date: September 4, 2012

04.  FOR THE CARTOON FANATIC IN YOUR LIFE. Pair up the awesome Adventure Time Season 1 DVD collection with the Adventure Time Volume 1 from Boom Studios.

What it is: Pendelton Ward’s hilarious Adventure Time cartoon is almost impossible to describe. Insanely creative, modern, and fun, it’s full of surprises at every turn. The DVD of the first season is awesome and the collected Trade of the first issues by Ryan North, Braden Lamb, Mike Holmes, and Shelli Paroline from Boom! Studios. Brightly colored, simply illustrated, and wall-to-wall fun, it’s great for kids, but with plenty of innovation and creativity for adults. This is the cartoon you PRAY your kids will like, so you can enjoy it with them, rather than suffering through some things I won’t name.

Why it’s female positive: Adventure Time is practically gender neutral it’s so awesome. Sure some characters are male, some are female, but it’s so secondary to every other thing going on, you’d barely notice one way or another, as it should be!

Adventure Time Volume 1. Pendelton Ward (creator). Ryan North (writer).  Braden Lamb, Mike Holmes, Shelli Paroline (artists). Boom! Studios. $14.99. Full Color. Paperback. 128 pages. Release date: November 6, 2012. (Adventure time is available cheaper on Amazon than directly from Boom! Studios, but make sure to check the delivery dates as it looks unlikely to arrive before Christmas if you order at Amazon).

Adventure Time: Complete First Season. Pendelton Ward, Larry Leichliter, Jeremy Shada, John Di Maggio. Cartoon Network. $26.99. Fully Animated. Full Color. 2 Discs, 286 Minutes. Release date: July 10, 2012.

05.  FOR THE GROUCHY TEEN IN YOUR LIFE.  Another double-bill! There’s nothing better than Ross Campbell’s delicious teen/college aged drama series Wet Moon, but Faith Erin Hicks Friends With Boys is equally complex and with a totally different vibe and energy.

What it is: Campbell’s angsty drama Wet Moon follows a series of characters, most female, and their trials and tribulations as college students (and more) in the fictional southern town of Wet Moon. Gothic and moody, with beautiful black and white art and exceptional teen voices, Campbell’s series has become a cult classic for good reason. The long awaited Volume 6 released this past fall, but if you’re feeling especially generous, grab the entire collection. On Amazon you can pick up all 6 volumes, all in stock now, for less than $70.

Friends With Boys is perhaps my favorite of Hicks projects to date (with the exception of her Grouchy Wolverine – which will likely NEVER be eclipsed), full of emotion, angst, and gorgeous black and white artwork, Friends With Boys has an unusual ending that will throw some readers but which I found particularly refreshing and honest.

Why it’s female positive: Not only is Wet Moon chock full of female characters, but there’s a much larger variety of ethnicities and body types than you will find in most any comic.  Hicks’ Friends With Boys lead is a girl, and supporting character Lucy is perhaps the best character in the whole book (or ever!?!?!).

Wet Moon Volume 6.  Ross Campbell (writer/artist). Oni Press. $17.99. Black and White. Paperback. 168 pages. Release date: September 5, 2012.

Friends With Boys. Faith Erin Hicks (writer/artist). First Second. $15.99. Black and White. Paperback. 224 pages. Release date: February 28, 2012.

06.  FOR THE INDIE FAN THAT WANTS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOUR PUNY SUPERHEROES. Image’s collection of Brandon Graham’s much beloved King City. Tied up with Tokyo Pop for a good long while, fans have been waiting a long time for a publisher to pull together this collection, and this year Image finally managed it in one gorgeous volume.

What it is:  King City is just cool. And it will look damn cool on your shelf. How do you describe King City…it’s zany and fun, and interactive, and weird and full of magic and spies and everything you would pour into a book when you’re five and then twelve, and then fifteen, and then twenty-five…but it just works instead of being a mess.

Why it’s female positive: I don’t know. Cause it’s just that cool?

King City. Brandon Graham (writer/artist). Image Comics. $19.99. Black and White. Paperback.  424 pages. Release date: March 20, 2012.

07.  FOR THE SUPERHERO COMICS FAN THAT LEFT COMICS BECAUSE SUPERHEROES WERE TOO DARK AND JOYLESS.  Hunt down Matt Fraction and David Aja’s wonderfully joyful Hawkeye series in single issues (#’s 1 – 4 are out now and #5 is due before Christmas) or if you can’t find it and you have a digital reader on your hands, pick up the series digitally on Comixology. This might also be a good pick for any fan of Marvel’s The Avengers film. While the Hawkeye in the film and the one here are quite different, the comic and film have that same boundless sense of fun and relentless energy.

What it is: You can read in more detail here everything that I love about this series, but suffice to say it is a hilarious joy to read from cover to cover. It’s perfectly executed (for what it’s trying to do) its creators are in absolute sync in their mission, and it’s beautiful and funny in ways that I just wish more comics knew how to be.

Why it’s female positive: Three words (again): Kate Motherfucking Bishop.

Also, like the best comics, it just doesn’t really pay attention to gender at all. Everyone is represented fantastically, with little attention to gender one way or another. We’re all just people, yo.

Hawkeye (issues #1 – 5).  Matt Fraction (writer). David Aja (artist #1 – 3), Javier Pulido (artist #4). Marvel Comics. $2.99/issue. Full Color. Paperback. 20 pages/issue. Release date: September 2012 – December 2012. (You can find everything except the first issue for a reasonable price online at Midtown Comics if you can’t find it elsewhere, and of course on Comixology).

08.  FOR THE PERSON WHO IS JUST ON THE EDGE OF GETTING INTO SUPERHERO COMICS.  Push them over that edge with Dennis Hopeless and Jamie McKelvie’s completely charming re-invention of the original X-Men in X-Men: Season One from Marvel.

What it is: A hardcover standalone graphic novel that re-imagines the original X-Men in modern times. Though those classic comics will always be great for being innovative for their time (and for sometimes being hilarious in retrospect), it’s truly fun to see this updated spin on the characters. Hopeless has a great take on these characters and McKelvie’s clean, crisp, easy to follow artwork is an accessible dream for new and old readers alike.

Why it’s female positive: Hopeless and McKelvie do a particularly great job with Jean Grey here, which is especially important since she’s the only female character.  She’s also a character that is easy to turn into the worst of Mary Sues but Hopeless makes her much more relatable and complex.

X-Men: Season One. Dennis Hopeless (writer). Jamie McKelvie (artist). Marvel Comics. $24.99. Full Color. Hardcover. 136 pages. Release date: March 28, 2012

09.  FOR FANS OF THE DETECTIVE/NOIR GENRE, WHO AREN’T AFRAID OF A LITTLE SUPERNATURAL. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have made a name for themselves doing smart and beautiful noir fiction in comics, but their latest venture – Fatale from Image is tinged with the supernatural in awesome ways.

What it is: Collecting the first five issues of the series as Fatale: Death Chases, this noir meets horror meets supernatural tale is expertly paced, beautifully drawn, and full of surprises. Just when you think you know what’s around the corner. You’re wrong.

Why it’s female positive: While noir fiction is notorious for great femme fatales who frequently aren’t much more than surface, the femme fatale at the center of Fatale (Josephine) is fantastically complex.

Fatale Volume 1: Death Chases. Ed Brubaker (writer). Sean Phillips (artist). Image Comics. $14.99. Full Color. Hardcover. 144 pages. Release date: July 10, 2012

10. FOR THE HELLBOY IN ALL OF US. If you, like me, were too stupid to always stay on top of Hellboy, Dark Horse currently has a mega bundle, collecting everything Hellboy so that you can be caught up to jump onto their new series HELLBOY IN HELL.

What it is: While it’s hard for me to completely recommend this since I’m admitting to not having read all of it, I will say that every issue of Hellboy I’ve read in the last ten years has been somewhere ranging from good to fantastic. So I feel pretty confident that this mega bundle will produce weeks of awesome digital reading. And in case I’ve not been clear…this is what I want on this list! ;)

Why it’s female positive: Um, I don’t know. But in all my experience with Hellboy I’ve never been offended by their portrayal of women, in fact, they’ve got some of the best ladies around.  I feel confident the same would be true here.

Hellboy Mega Bundle (web only). Mike Mignola (creator). Mike Mignola & Others (writers). Mike Mignola & Others (artists). Dark Horse Comics. $100.00. Full Color. Digital. I have no idea how many pages…looks like 72 issues? Release date: Now!

11. FOR MY OWN SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION. So I’d be terrible at self-promotion if I didn’t selfishly include my own book on this list, so here it is, and I guess I’d say it’s for anyone interested in superhero prose and complicated ladies. I don’t recommend it for anyone under the age of 15, though that’s salt to taste, as anything is. It’s called The Girl Who Would Be King, and most of you have heard WAY too much about it. But it’s getting great reviews on Amazon so far and sales have been…brisk! Currently only the digital editions are out: Kindle on Amazon, Nook on Barnes & Noble, and iPad on iTunes/iBookstore.

But by the end of this week, the paperback should be available on Amazon and B&N as well as Lulu. And a small number of limited edition hardcovers with 16 pages of full-color Stephanie Hans illustrations as well as cool leftover kickstarter swag will be available through the website: TheGirlWhoWouldBeKing.  It’s a great gift for the holidays! You can of course email me [1979semifinalist[at]gmail[dot]com] if you’re interested in the book and I’ll try my best to get you a copy. Thanks guys!

 

 

 

13 Comments

Thank you, Kelly! Great list.

I really love that Saga image up top. Not sure if it’s from Alana’s past or not (given how she doesn’t seem to have much leisure time now), but it’s good to see her just chillin’, listening to music through her earbuds and blowing a bubble while reading what appears to be a manga. A lot of character expressed through a very simple action.

Fun list! Good comics all around.

I’d argue that King City is a bit of a mess though. Graham seems to be more concerned with crazy ideas than with delivering a single narrative there. Still, it doesn’t really detract from the fun. That comic just wants to be loved so much (it’s got a board-game inside! help the heroes reach their destination!)

Is that Nextwave’s Elsa in Legion of Monsters? I don’t know how did I manage to forget to get this.

Also, I don’t see any Brian Wood in the list? Who are you and what have you done to the real Kelly Thompson!?

@Neil – Thanks! That new Saga image – I believe it’s from Alana’s past as she’s in her armor and I think that’s the book they reference early on in the series – has got to be one of my favorite Fiona Staples things EVER.

@Cich: Thanks! That is indeed Nextwave Elsa Bloodstone in Legion of Monsters – it’s a really fun book, definitely check it out.

You know, Brian Wood has been so busy with new projects this past year, there weren’t a lot of collected editions/trades/etc. I could recommend this year that were easy to jump on to. Hopefully next year I won’t be able to shut up about Conan collections, Massive collections, not to mention MARA. So excited!

When I saw the title of this list, the very first book that occurred to me was DC/Vertigo’s new hardcover collection of Gaiman & Bachalo’s two Death mini-series, The High Cost of Living and The Time of Your Life. All in one nice new hardcover with a purty Dave McKean cover for $29.99, released a few months back. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that The High Cost of Living should be on the short list of the greateg female-led mini-series/storylines of all-time. And while The Time of Your Life was a little disappointing and unspectacular, it’s definitely worth reading. The hardcover also collects the Death talks about AIDS special, and I think various other brief appearances. It’s a must-own comic, and a wonderful addition to the collection of any Sandman/Gaiman/Vertigo fan. I feel like your list should be amended to include it, as I can’t imagine it was consciously omitted.

thank you for the inclusion, Kelly!!!! :D

Hellboy is why I read comics. It will not disappoint.

@Third Man: I haven’t read it.

To quote the hilarious Lucy Knisley “I’m not a robot, yo.”

There are many things in life I have not yet gotten to. Sandman (and all things Sandman related) is one of those things.

@Ross: Of course. Thank you for all the awesome reading this year!

Well, let’s disagree on #7 for now, shall we? But I’ll read your article off the link at some point, see what you have to say.

Anyway…

I did read Giants Beware! I’m trying to remember exactly about it, as it’s been awhile and I reads a lot. It was pretty good as I remember, I’d say female friendly, nice cartoony art. Probably good for kids too.

Friends with Boys was good, although I’m blanking on the ending. I’m getting so old!

And hells yeah will I be emailing you soon about TGWWBK, as that’s been on my list to buy for a gift (and myself too, so I may be snagging 2 copies). Go Kelly!

Thanks for the recommendations. You’ve piqued my interest with Legion of Monsters, as I really liked badass Elsa Bloodstone in NextWave (and I’m assuming it’s that kind of badass, not the Milleresque grim and taciturn badass).
As for the Zita the Spacegirl, I will probably be picking both volumes up at some point – if for no other reason than my cute yet trouble-making dog is named Zita…
And I’m definitely interested in The Girl Who Would be King, but I’m hoping the Book Depository will pick it up, so I don’t get absolutely killed on shipping charges.

Dare I ask why you haven’t read Sandman? I mean, I’m no stranger to reading gaps, and everyone except for Mr. Cronin has them, but not having read Sandman is more than a mere gap. Considering you write about comics, that’s a bit like someone who writes about film never having seen any Hitchcock. More of a red flag chasm than a gap, to the extent that “I haven’t gotten to it yet” doesn’t seem to be an adequate explanation. It’s hard to find something that is more canonical/important/available/acclaimed sans Watchmen. And add to that that one of your major MOs is female positive comics, and the reputation Sandman enjoys as being one of the most/best female positive comics ever created, it is an especially peculiar thing to not have sought out yet.

I’m not trying to judge or troll, I just find it fascinating. But like I said, I certainly understand that no one (again, other than Cronin) has read everything, and I often feel overwhelmed by my own reading gaps. I just think that Sandman is one of those few works for which not reading it must be more of a conscious choice than a situation of just not having gotten to it yet.

Anyway, two other great female-positive comics from 2012 that aren’t mentioned here are Keatinge & Campbell’s Glory, which is consistently wonderful, and Jason Aaron’s Wolverine & the X-Men which has a host of fantastically written female characters, including Kitty Pryde, Rachel Summers, Husk, Warbird, Idie, and others.

@Third Man:

It’s just a reading gap. I like Gaiman and there’s nothing deliberate about it, but it’s a big gap which makes it harder to fill with just a “oh, I should read that”

I’ve talked a lot about Campbell & Keatinge’s Glory, which I like very much, mostly thanks to Campbell’s art, but it just didn’t make the cut. Only 10 spots, that’s not enough room to include everything. I like Wolverine & The X-Men also but I don’t feel it’s nearly consistent enough to make this list.

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