08-DEC-2011 The geek airwaves are abuzz with the news that MARVEL has canceled the last of their female-lead titles. They’ve said it’s based on the market conditions. Makes sense. If you don’t buy a product, what obligation does the creator have in continuing to make it.
Take a moment to consider what it is you’re after when picking up a comic book.
- * Are you looking for a character that you can relate to solely because of its gender?
- * Are you looking for a creative team that has the same genitalia as you?
- * Are you looking for a role model for the young readers in your household?
- * Or are you looking for a well-developed character that arcs through emotions in a series of life challenges, real or surreal?
The comparisons are easy to make with the Big Two. Why can DC find some semblance of success with titles like WONDER WOMAN, BIRDS OF PREY or BATWOMAN when Marvel’s new female GHOST RIDER and X-23? Now forget the Big Two and go through Previews Catalog’s other sections. There is a world outside of Marvel and DC.
Here’s another question for you: How does it impact you as the reader if the female character’s identity was formerly a male character? This comes into play with DC’s popular detective Renee Montoya who took on the role of The Question originally a male character named Vic Sage. And we saw it again in Dynamite Comics modern rendition of the Green Hornet’s sidekick Kato who had big shoes to fill considering Bruce Lee’s portrayal of Kato in the old TV show. This Kevin Smith version of Kato has had her own series with Dynamite Comics that contained deeply emotional drama driving the character who is the daughter of the original Kato. Wait there’s always more – Ash from ARMY OF DARKNESS now also has a female version from an alternate timeline or some such thing; I haven’t gotten word if female Ash will be solo but for now she’s teamed up with her male counterpart.
Marvel may be out of the picture if you are specifically shopping for a female-lead comic series. That doesn’t mean the notion of the female lead has gone the way of the unicorn. Here are a few titles that are most definitely worth exploring if you can bring yourself to stop shopping based on years on brand loyalty and steer your focus to identify what it is you’re looking for in a comic book story.
Many options are put out as miniseries titles which to me, does not remove an ounce of credibility from the characters. If an author has one story in mind that he/she wants to tell, there’s a strength to the miniseries format which elevates it above an on-going that can grow tired or convoluted.
For things you can easily find collected into trade paperbacks, my favorites are MADAME XANADU (DC) and I KILL GIANTS (Image) and for good measure the indie book STREET ANGEL by Jim Rugg. I’m sure there are plenty others that I haven’t personally read that other people might recommend based on what kind of stories you like: DOLLHOUSE, ORCHID, RACHEL RISING, ECHO. Coming in 2012 is Image Comic’s ALPHA GIRL about another badass zombie slayer; Oni Press solicited PLAY BALL about a young softball player who wants to play baseball. One of my tweeps also mentioned NONPLAYER.
Keep ATHENA VOLTAIRE on your radar for 2012 too:
ATHENA VOLTAIRE (by Steve Bryant) – Athena is typically put out as a miniseries and she had been the victim of a dispute over her copyright. Steve Bryant is working diligently to bring her back. His successful kickstarter campaign is making her return possible. Meanwhile there are past stories available for you seek out.
THE NON-BIG TWO COUNTDOWN TO FEMALE LEAD COMICS:
10. GRONK by Katie Cook (gronkcomic.com) – Ok, so this may be stretching it because Gronk is a monster, but she’s an adorable naive female monster that has been adopted by a woman named Dale. It’s always charming and the trade of the popular webcomic is available in comic shops like Comic Fusion.
9. HACK/SLASH (Image)- Cassie Hack is fierce. There’s not a lot to add about a girl who happens to be smoking hot that also opens up a can of whoopass on the supernatural baddies.
8. VAMPIRELLA (Dynamite) – Here’s another scantily clad character that is often overlooked because of her G-string. What most people don’t know is that Vampi’s iconic red romper was designed by a woman named Trina Robbins. DEJAH THORIS, PRINCESS OF MARS gets the same bad rap. Her wardrobe consists of mostly gold jewelry and nothing else leaving her fodder for fantasies rather than something feminist comic readers are willing to take a gamble on. It’s also by Dynamite.
7. GIRL GENIUS (Studio Foglio) – This is another web-to-trade series that features a fun female lead character. Agatha Heterodyne has a brilliant knack for engineering which also serves to show a young woman in an industry that had previously been a boys-only playground. She has incredible steampunk adventures.
6. WITCHBLADE (Image) – This is one that I’m recommending based on the recommendations of female friends and sales. WITCHBLADE has been a stability commodity from what I’ve seen pass through Comic Fusion. I only read a miniseries that was a crossover and was surprised I enjoyed it. I had been like many, saw a scantily clad woman and thought there was no substance to her. It’s definitely something that appeals to a specific audience of supernatural mysteries.
5. SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH (Archie) – I had been a Sabrina subscriber for a few years. I only dropped it because of budgetary needs. This book falls into the “cozy” category of stories that are fun, pleasant to read, and have moral payoff without the edginess of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.
Shameless plug, if you like Sabrina, check out my own short story HOLYOAK about a quirky witch in her 20s!
4. BETTY & VERONICA (Archie) – Here’s a series that dates back to 1942. If that doesn’t show female comic book characters do indeed have staying power, then I don’t know what does. Not every teen story needs to be over-the-top rich kids plotting heinous revenge schemes to a soundtrack of draining emo music ala CW.
3. PRINCELESS (Action Lab) – New to the radar is this amazing all ages comic about a dark skinned princess who has decided to buck her family’s traditions of being a helpless princess in a tower that waits for her prince to come. She finds a sword, hops on her dragon and sets out to free all of her sisters from their towers. Comic Book Resources named PRINCELESS one of its 8 Great New Female Positive Ongoings.
2. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (Dark Horse) – Joss Whedon’s universe has undoubtedly been a groundbreaking playground for female characters of all types with as many personalities and motivations as you can identify in all of comics. I dropped the series within Season Eight just because I had grown tired of it but that doesn’t mean I don’t hold Buffy in the highest regard for being a character that we’ve seen grow from a naive cheerleader into a military leader of the supernatural world.
1. RED SONJA (Dynamite) – Pretty safe to say, Red Sonja is the queen of all female-lead comic books. She’s been a stable title for decades. People who can look beyond the chain mail bikini see in her everything Wonder Woman should be. Because of the T&A, this title is too often overlooked. She’s has her own main series with secondary titles like QUEEN SONJA and various one-shots throughout the year.