Although the comics industry has a diverse line-up of creators, the same couldn’t be said about the stars of the comics they make — until recently, that is. In the past year, comics publishers have been putting out more books with female protagonists. Anyone can pick up any comic and try it out, but for my female friends, it is harder to find a book with a protagonist they could relate to. With that in mind, here is a list of comics with female leads.
DC’s go-to female lead has always been Wonder Woman. With 676 issues to her name, it’s clear that her popularity hasn’t waned since her debut in 1941. With DC’s “New 52″ publishing push, Diana of Themyscira got a reboot done right by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang. In this version, Wonder Woman sets out to protect Zola, a young woman pregnant with Zeus’ bastard child. Being a child of Zeus herself, Diana knows she must protect Zola and the child from her jealous half-siblings. This title has been one of DC’s strongest since its inception and continues its quality streak month after month.
Also in DC’s stable of characters are Batwoman and Batgirl. I’ll cover Batwoman more in-depth in an upcoming edition focusing on LGBT characters in comics. Batgirl, written by Gail Simone, has had its ups and downs both behind the scenes and on the page. If you want a female-led trip through Gotham, that’s your best bet.
Over the last two years or so, Marvel has done a complete 180. From barely being able to support books with female leads, Marvel now has some of the best books with female protagonists one can find.
Recently putting out the 10th issue, Kelly Sue DeConnick’s take on Carol Danvers is incredibly admirable. For years, Danvers was known as Ms. Marvel, playing second fiddle to many others after an alien device detonated near her. Now, this United States Air Force pilot has shed the ridiculous bathing-suit/sash combo and is donning a new, more respectable costume, along with her new title: Captain Marvel.
DeConnick’s writing, along with the work of rotating artists, has brought new life to the character. The popularity of the new “Captain Marvel” series has reached such heights that many on the Internet consider themselves a part of the self-named Carol Corps, while they and others create many pieces of clothing and costumes from the comics for cosplay.
Other notable Marvel books include “Fearless Defenders,” “Journey Into Mystery” and “X-Men.”
“Fearless Defenders” by Cullen Bunn features a rotating cast of female heroes. With the recent first issue, the Asgardian warrior Valkyrie teamed up with the street-wise private investigator with a cybernetic arm, Misty Knight. The two stumble upon ninjas and undead warriors in their first outing.
Remember that butt-kicking female warrior in the “Thor” movie named Sif? Well, starting recently in issue No. 646 of “Journey Into Mystery,” Kathryn Immonen is weaving tales of Sif’s adventures while deconstructing the character. Attitude, swords and blue troll blood can be found.
Finally, coming this May, writer Brian Wood and artist Olivier Coipel are relaunching Marvel’s “X-Men” with an all-female team. Wood’s mentioned wanting to challenge preconceived gender notions many have and why people may be okay with Wolverine sleeping around, but not Rogue or Storm. My girlfriend and I are equally excited for this one.
If you’re looking for something with fewer capes, I have a couple of suggestions for you.
From Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly comes “Local.” The young female protagonist, Megan McKeenan sets off from Portland, Ore., with nothing but a backpack. The book’s twelve chapters are self-contained, and each represents a year in the young wanderer’s life. Many of us, guy or girl, can relate to Megan at this age as we look for a place to call home.
This imprint of DC Comics has always been known for publishing fringe books, and “Y: The Last Man” by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra is no exception. When every male mammal in the world mysteriously drops dead, a young magician, Yorick Brown, and his monkey, Ampersand, set out in this new world trying to restore order and solve the mystery of how they still live. Although the protagonist is male, supporting characters, like Agent 355, represent strong females that all readers will come to love. I blame Vaughan for many a heart-wrench towards the end of the series.
To any of you who are aspiring writers, I challenge you to create strong female protagonists. Lord knows that pop culture is over-saturated with sexualized females who rely on lantern-jawed males to save them. Greg Rucka, writer of many strong female leads, put it best in an article for io9.com when recounting being asked the question, “How do you write such strong/well-realized/positively portrayed women?” Rucka’s simple answer: “I don’t. I write characters. Some of those characters are women.”
Throughout the medium’s history, comics have always found their way into the hearts of men and boys all over. Although many of the readers are male, more and more female readers are making their voices heard, and I couldn’t be more excited about it. However, as consumers, we need to vote with our money. Although there’s no word of cancellation, these titles can always use more support from readers who get their books from shops or the Comixology app. Go, buy, read and fall in love with these butt-kicking women.
Tyler Brown is a December 2012 graduate of K-State. Please send comments to [email protected]