Friday, 14 December 2012
12 Strips, Comics & Graphic Novels Featuring Compelling Female Protagonists: The Best Of 2012 Part 3
According to Comiclist, there were more than 100 individual comics released in North America this week. Of these, only 11 had titles which clearly indicated that the comic had either a single female lead or a woman co-star. Remove from that number the books which promised "bad girls" and "saucy steampunk sweethearts" and there's a shamefully small number of comics left which openly advertise the presence of female protagonists as their central concern. Out of 19 comics from DC, for example, only two were marketed with a female lead, while Marvel's 18 different titles starred not a single woman who got to carry the name of the book on her shoulders. (*1) Though the act of counting up the ratio of female-headlined comics to those which aren't is an obviously crude and unsatisfactory way to measure the persistence of a male-centred bias, it does, in its own qualified way, tell a disturbing and yet all-too-familiar truth.
*1:- The figures are approximate. Being a bear of little brain, the difference between new comics being released and old ones with variant covers is somewhat obscure. Mea culpa.
Yes, the presence of a book with a woman's name as its title is no guarantee at all that its contents will be anything other than tawdry. Yes, there are plenty of ensemble properties which - to a greater or lesser degree - laudably succeed in representing women as individuals rather than types. Yes, from Buffy The Vampire Slayer to Captain Marvel, from Rachel Rising to Batwoman, there's a undeniable core of today's comics which are far more femalecentric than has historically been typical. As such, there's ground for hoping that some vital transformation in the presentation of women is glacially occurring, but that shouldn't obscure how relatively little change is actually going on. No matter how things are seemingly evolving in a positive direction, the pace of evolution is obviously not an inspiringly swift one where the action/adventure comicbook is concerned.
Thankfully, the situation is far more inspiring where the graphic novel is concerned. And if the reader cares to wade through the wearisome mass of patronising, hypersexualised pap which still clogs the arteries of both the broader market and the monthly comic too, then 2012 has seen an inspiring range of works published which neither push female characters to the margins or present uber-bloke-minded stereotypes of them.
The list which follows isn't in order of any preference, and it doesn't discriminate between the more literary endeavour and the tights-on, fight-crime pamphlet. There's certainly no attempt been made to suggest that these titles constitute anything other than a reflection of my own personal taste and experience over the past twelve months. As such, these examples certainly doesn't constitute a manifesto, but they are a selection of a dozen strips, comics and graphic novels from this year which feature fascinating female protagonists right at the centre of events.
Dotter Of Her Father's Eyes, by Mary M Talbot & Bryan Talbot, Jonathan Cape
Bandette, by Paul Tobin & Colleen Cover, Monkeybrain Comics
Love And Rockets New Stories no 5, by Gilbert & Jamie Hernandez, Fantagraphics
Zara's Crown, by John & Patrice Aggs, serialised in The Phoenix
Rachel Rising, by Terry Moore, Abstract Studios
But I Really Wanted To Be An Anthropologist, by Margaux Motin, SelfMadeHero
Jennifer Blood, by Al Ewing, Kewber Baal, et al, Dynamite
Saucer Country, by Paul Cornell, Ryan Kelly, Jimmy Broxton, et al, Vertigo Comics
Courtney Crumnin, by Ted Naifeh, Oni Press
Batgirl, by Gail Simone, Ardian Syaf, et al, DC Comics
August Moon, by Diana Thung, Top Shelf
Buffy The Vampire Slayer, by Andrew Chambliss, Scott Allie, Cliff Richards, Georges Jeanty et al, Dark Horse
The Nao Of Brown, by Glyn Dillon, SelfMadeHero
And finally, a shot of Paul Harrison-Davies' Paintgirl, a character which, he promises, will eventually become the star of her own comicbook. The picture was never intended to work as anything as manipulative as a teaser image, but at the moment, I'm looking forward to a Paintgirl adventure as much as I am any other feature. In the strange way that beguiling images work, Paintgirl's been a small but a significant part of my comics life this year. If I needed to smile, this picture was often where I headed;