nymeth: (Default)
nymeth ([personal profile] nymeth) wrote in [community profile] ladybusiness2012-01-20 08:37 pm

Ladies in Comics: An Annotated Reading List

Cover art for Slow Storm, Castle Waiting and Wandering Son

I had the idea for this post when Renay told me that a project she has been busy with (on which more in the near future) really drove home the point that women are still hugely underrepresented in the comics industry. In addition to this, just the other day my awesome librarian friend [twitter.com profile] stormfilled was commenting on the huge gender imbalance among the special guests to the London Super Comic Convention (33 guests, one woman. I wish I was joking), and saying how uncomfortable she’d feel giving the fliers to her students, many of whom are girls and big comics and manga enthusiasts.

I’m a big fan of sequential art, but I’m also someone who cares about the gender balance of her reading, and reconciling the two can be a challenge. I love series like The Sandman, Fables and The Unwritten with all my heart, but there’s no way around the fact that they’re very male dominated. Renay brought to my attention the fact that things are even more uneven if you take into account all the contributors to a work of sequential art. For this reason, I decided to limit this list to works where both the writing and the art are by women. Sometimes I can’t be sure about the full credits (including pencillers, inkers, etc), but this is a start.

Also, I decided to include even the most obvious recommendations because “obvious” is relative: I don’t want to take for granted the knowledge I acquired over the past few years, nor alienate readers who don’t share this knowledge. The main selection criterion for this list is, well, my taste. They’re either books I’ve read and enjoyed or books I would like to read.

So, without further ado, here is the list. Titles will link to reviews, some mine, some in other blogs or sites.
  • Persepolis, Chicken With Plums and Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi – Satrapi is a major name in comics for a reason. I love her work for its combination of political consciousness, humour, and personal stories with real emotional resonance.

  • Fun Home and The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel – the first is a memoir about Bechdel’s troubling relationship with her father; the second a compilation of her ongoing strip, famous for originating the Bechdel test. The former is more well-known, but I might actually prefer the latter: Bechdel chronicles the lives of a community of glbtq characters over a long period of time, and I didn’t want to ever part company with them.

  • I can’t of course fail to mention Kate Beaton’s Hark a Vagrant!, which exists both as a webcomic and in print. Some of her historical references are too obscure for me, but feeling ignorant is more than worth it for all the times she makes me laugh out loud.

  • Castle Waiting vols 1 and 2 by Linda Medley is a brilliant fairy tale-inspired story about a community living together at the castle that gives the series its name. What I love about this series is the fact that its focus is so clearly the (feminine) stories left out of most fairy tales because they don’t fit traditional definitions of exciting or heroic. I should probably warn you before you start that due to creative differences between Medley and the rest of her team, the series is likely to remain incomplete; but trust me, you want to read it anyway. Spending time with these characters is completely worth the frustration of the lack of a proper ending.

  • Skim by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki: a thoughtful and moving glbtq coming of age story.

  • Nylon Road by Parsua Bashi – a “graphic memoir of coming of age in Iran”, currently on my TBR pile.

  • La Perdida by Jessica Abel – What could have been yet another “an American tourist visits the ‘third world’ to find herself” story became instead a commentary on the political implications of this kind of narrative. An excellent book.

  • Dolltopia by Abbey Denson - The premise (sentient dolls) might sound silly, but this is actually a smart and fun book about identity, body image and social expectations.

  • Scheherazade: Comics About Love, Treachery, Mothers and Monsters edited by Megan Kelso - The women are equal but different introduction kind of drove me nuts, but this anthology of comics is worth reading anyway. The stories themselves are mostly good, and what an excellent way to discover even more comics by women.

  • Emma by Kaoru Mori – I’m by no means a manga expert, but this is my favourite series to date. A lovely, subtle and sensitive Victorian romance. I want the whole world to read it.

  • Wandering Son by Takako Shimura - Another manga series, whose first volume I finished just the other day. This one deals with two transgender pre-teens, and like with Mori’s work, the subtlety and sensitivity are what makes it stand out.

  • Ivy by Sarah Oleksyk - A coming of age story with a difficult but ultimately loveable narrator. I read this one last year but sadly never got around to reviewing it.

  • Tamara Drew by Posy Simmonds - As above, and I regret not reviewing it even more because I found it such an insightful and biting examination of slut shaming and of life in a small community. I definitely want to read more of Posy Simmonds’ work.

  • Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brogsol – Every bit as good as the whole blogosphere says it is.

  • Dramacon by Svetlana Chmakova - Oh, this book! I love it so much. A three part story featuring an anime convention, a wonderful protagonist, and a lovely and extremely satisfying romance. Get the one-volume edition – you’ll read it in a couple of hours and then cry because there isn’t any more.

  • Anyhing by Hope Larson - I have yet to read a book of hers I didn’t enjoy. Her first, Salamander Dream, is available online.
  • Percy Gloom by Cathy Malkasian - I read this a long time ago, and all I can remember was that it was extremely strange, but not in a bad way. I should seek out more of Malkasian’s work.

  • Slow Storm by Danica Novgorodoff – a thoughtful and contemplative story with absolutely stunning artwork.

  • The Last Dragon by Jane Yolen and Rebecca Guay - I didn’t love this book (possibly because I have really high expectations of anything involving Jane Yolen), but I had to include it for Guay’s artwork alone. So pretty.
And then there are creators like Lynda Barry, Megan Kelso, Sara Vernon or Lucy Knisley, whose work I’ve been meaning to get to for ages. If you have any other suggestions, I’d absolutely love to hear them.

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