A few months ago, The Beat (one of my favorite comics sites) took on the issue of “where are all the women in comics?” In her article, TWiW: Do We Write About Gender Issues Too Much? the venerable Heidi MacDonald made the exceptional point that “Women in Comics does not begin and end with Conner, Thompson and Doran.” While Steve Morris challenged us to “Stop wondering where all the female creators are, and go and find them.”
The short and short of it is: There are tons of amazing women working in comics who don’t have high profiles or work for one of “the big two.” Indie comics and graphic novels have long been one of the comics arenas where women can make headway in getting their work not only reviewed, but published. And, that is where most of the great work by women is coming from these days. You just gotta get outside the mainstream “spandex and capes” genre and WHAMMO! -you’ll find a thriving industry of woman driven comics.
With that in mind, I’d like to introduce the Chix List – which will be an ongoing, regular feature on this site which will present to you amazing female creators. An easy go-to place to start looking if you’re interested in exploring the world of “women in comics.” With no further ado…
CHIX LIST #1
Why she’s important: Cloonan is probably the best known on this list, with three Eisner nominations and the distinction of being the first woman to draw the main Batman title for DC Comics.
She is an artist to be contended with, natch, her work is sought after by the top-tier of comics writers like Brian Wood, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Felicia Day, Jen Van Meter and Mike Norton. She basically rocks.
Why she’s important: In writing Unterzakhn, Leela Coorman takes on several important issues at once — reproductive rights, sexuality and the historic struggle of women in a pre-war New York ghetto. Told through the eyes of twin sisters, this graphically raw story brings issues which are rarely addressed in the graphic medium to the page. Corman’s stark style of illustration heightens impact of the story being told.
Though this book is her first “stand alone” project, you can find short works by Leela Corman throughout independent comics. I foresee a long and important career in comics developing… and, oh yeah, Leela is a professional tribal dancer, too. So cool!
Why she’s important: Ellen Forney is a fearless badass comic creator. In Marbles she lets it all hang out and discusses her struggle with bipolar disorder with a raw truthfulness that pulls you into the story and makes you feel oddly inappropriately voyeuristic at the same time.
The risk with autobiographical storytelling in the graphic format is that in dealing with tough personal issues, the author risks being heavy handed and depressing.
Forney’s memoir is outrageously funny – it looks at a very serious issue (mental health) with such self-deprecating comedy that it’s impossible not to laugh out loud while reading it. (In fact, I did laugh out loud several times and had people ask me what the book was about — when I replied “bipolar disorder” they looked at me like I was a little out of my head, myself. This is one of my favorite reads from this past summer.)
Why she’s important: The story of Laurie Sandell’s childhood/outrageous father borders on the fantastically unbelievable. Because of this, her seminal work -The Impostor’s Daughter – reads like fiction… but it’s true.
There are very few non-fiction works (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is one that comes to mind) that read like fiction. There is something delicious about reading a story that’s just *crazy-pants*, but true… And, there is something really brave about a creator who is willing to put their personal life on display for everyone to judge. Sandell has been incredibly successful of her own right and admitting to some of the uglier things about herself in public must have been both cathartic and terrifying for her.
Why she’s important: A wunderkind who wrote a series of comics about self-discovery while in high school, Ariel Schrag provides a voice to the struggle of LGBT youth in America. She is also a positive roll model who you really can pin the epitaph “it gets better” to – for from those awkward beginnings, she’s gone onto a career as an important screenwriter and author. A better champion of indie comics I would be hard pressed to find.
Got a lady you think should be on a Chix List? Send your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org along with your name and Twitter handle (if you have one) and a brief reason you think the lady in question rocks and I’ll be sure to include it in an upcoming list.