As some of you may be aware, there was some serious girl nerd hullabaloo that went down the other week. I’m not here to dredge things up or argue, but one thing became clear to me during everything that went down, and that is that there are some people out there that still don’t realize that us ladies are reading comics too, and have been for some time.
Even now, when I go to my local comic shops, I’m often the only woman in there. When I do encounter another, it has often been a mom/girlfriend/sister shopping for their son/boyfriend/brother. I’ve written a few articles for this site that deal with how women are portrayed and treated in many mainstream comics, and while it may serve as a deterrent to some, there are still some wonderful books out there that feature strong female characters. That’s not to say that women only want to read about women either.
From my experience, what attracts a comic reader of any gender is a good story with relatable characters. (I know those are my top criteria for picking up a book.) This led me to wonder, what are my fellow comic loving ladies reading these days and how did they get hooked on comics? To find the answers, I took a trip to the land of Twitter and posted a quick shout out that I was looking for some women to talk to for this article. I got such an amazing response that I actually had to stop taking new inquiries. Every lady that I did get in contact with was asked four questions. They were:
- Why do you like comics?
- What are you reading?
- What is your favorite character?
- How did you first get into comics?
I’d like to share with you some of the amazing responses. I got long ones, short ones, ones for ink and paper comics, online comics, you name it.
What I’m reading? Mostly European comics, like Yoko Tsuno, Blake and Mortimer, Alix, Buddy Longway, Luc Orient, Valerian et Laureline, Adele Blanc-Sec, plus a few new ones, Arctica, and Golden City to name a few. And I didn’t list comedies and classics (like Lucky Luke and Asterix, etc.)
I mostly like stories that mix sci-fi/fantasy and reality, plus some history like Alix (Roman times) and Buddy Longway (pioneer life). I love literature so a good story and fleshed out, compelling characters are a must.
My fave is Yoko Tsuno. She is a fantastic role model for girls, very smart, very strong, pretty but not a bimbo, travel through time and space which means endless story possibilities.
What got me started on Comics? I grew up in France in 70s and 80s. It’s considered as much an art form as any other graphic art and as respected in mainstream publishing as any other form of fiction. Every Saturday, my parents used to take us to the library in the morning to borrow books (novels) and to the largest bookstore in Paris (FNAC, equivalent of Barnes & Nobles) in the afternoon so my brother and I could pick a comic book. The walls of our bedroom were covered with shelves full of comic books (entire collections!) from floor to ceiling. I literally breathed any book or comic I could get my hands on from the age of 6 (at 10, my fave non-comic was Wuthering Heights, in French translation of course).
I like comics because they are fun, and a bit less involved than the novels I ready most of the time.
Currently Im reading the new Hellraiser comics as written by Clive Barker. (YAY!!)
Favorite character is a tie between Tank Girl and Harley Quinn cause both are kick ass ladies! I also have any unhealthy crush on Wolverine and Gambit.
I first got into comics to “prove” to my teacher in 3rd grade that I was a bit more normal that reading Stephen King made me appear.
I always visualized when I read books, so I started reading comics because it seemed similar, except someone had already illustrated it for me. When I was growing up, there wasn’t a lot of female book heroines, but comic books had them, so I started with the X-Men. Today, I enjoy them for unique shorelines, and great and sometimes utterly stunning artwork. For example, my favorite series is Flight. And, of course, still some kick ass female leads.
[What are you reading?] Comic Book Tattoo that I borrowed from my local library. If I enjoy it, I’ll buy it.
Always loved Domino from X-Force because her power was luck and even if she didn’t have it — she just kicked ass.
Originally I watched the X-Men cartoon in the 1990’s then found out it was a comic book, so I started looking for them in the grocery store or the Navy Exchange.
@jackiekashian (Website: http://www.jackiekashian.com/)
I like comics because they can be about anything. It feels like no one is paying attention, so they can be as political, weird and/or creepy as you want. Hence the need for the CBLDF.
[What are you reading?] About 40 titles. mostly Marvel, Peter David, Brubaker, Matt Fraction a bunch of other authors. I like those guys when they write anything. A bunch of Image titles: Invincible, Infinite Vacation, Chew, Luna Brothers. A bunch of Dark Horse: BPRD and Hellboy or whatever.
[How did you first get into comics?] My husband read them. Married into it. On board now though.
I was a reluctant comics reader. Growing up, I associated magazine comics with Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, and with superheroes, who had convoluted and ever-changing backstories and went through ret-cons all the time. I was a child of the 80s and 90s, I remember listening to boys complain about trying to follow the X-Men, and wishing they’d been around in the 60s when the comic started. I didn’t want to read anything that carried around that kind of baggage. (This from someone who read The Silmarillion in high school.)
When I was in college, a Theatre major, we were required to read Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics for a script analysis class. The way a director has to read a script is different from the way a Literature major might read a book: there’s a visual element involved. Thinking in those terms- of what a moment is, how time is described and communicated- is a huge part of what Understanding Comics is about and how it works in comics. I realised I needed to read some comics, serious comics, not just Calvin and Hobbes.
That’s how I found Sandman. I’d already discovered Neil Gaiman, and I knew he had written comics, but I was unaware that the “legitimate writing” was fairly recent (Anansi Boys was published the year I discovered him). So I started reading, and I loved Sandman– loved the stories, loved the characters, loved the sheer complexity of it as a thing.
A friend had been advising me, encouraging me. He was a comics reader, and he knew enough about how I responded to things to give me good advice, “Read Watchmen.” I devoured it: YES, this was what I wanted, it was super heroes, but deconstructed, and while I felt that maybe knowing the tropes the story played on might have made Alan Moore’s piece more powerful, this was again a complex, layered, symbolic piece of work, especially in the artwork, but I wanted more- more experimenting with what a comic is.
So, that’s how I got into comics, and realised that there was so much more out there than just X-Men and Batman. Ironically, thanks to Neil Gaiman, I read my first Batman comic a couple weeks ago: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader. His concept of Batman in that story, the way he portrays Batman as an inevitable and necessary part of Gotham, makes Batman make sense to me: he’s more than a weird-o in a cape wish-fulfilling his way through 12 year old boy fantasies.
And that’s what I love about comics, the freedom they have to tell a story in a different way than a book, than a movie, it’s much closer to theatre (which, obviously, is my love- I’m a playwright and a director).
I follow Girl Genius online, but I usually let myself get about a month behind and then read it all in a clutch. I’m frustrated by the pace of comics. Having mostly read older, widely available comics, and being a painfully fast and dedicated reader, it’s frustrating to read just a few short pages and then have to wait for more. Other webcomics I love: Questionable Content, XKCD, Hark! a Vagrant by Kate Beaton. I feel a real need to include Allies’ Hyperbole and a Half– it’s a weird little hybrid, but it wouldn’t be nearly as funny without the illustrations. From time to time, I sit down and catch up with Katie Cook’s Gronk, Stephen McCranie’s Mal and Chad (because it reminds me of Calvin and Hobbes), The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, Cyanide and Happiness.
Favourite character? Wow. Honestly, I think it has to be Hob Gadling, from Sandman. I love how he contrasts with the Endless: immortal, yet human in a way that the Endless are not, cannot be. I love Death and Dream, but they’re too dangerous and too unlimited to really be comfortable with. They’re brilliantly written, but they’re easy to write, they’re like gods: Hob… Hob is limited, and complicated without appearing to seem so, and I like the way he grew out of his story.
@cthulhuchick (Wesbite: http://cthulhuchick.com/)
To start, I like stories. I read a lot of books, but I like the serialized aspect of comics. Sometimes it drives me insane as a reader, because nothing’s ever complete, but at the same time I find myself being excited about what could happen next. I also love the art in most comics and graphic novels. I love that I can look at the same panel or page over and over again and notice new details. A comic can always be reread to find something new.
I just finished the Fall of Cthulhu series by BoomStudios. I also have a friend who’s gotten me interested in Secret Six, though I haven’t read enough of those. I recently failed at finding the time to go through another friend’s collection of Green Lantern comics, which makes me sad. I also stopped reading Irredeemable/Incorruptible when the friend who was lending me his got a new job and we didn’t see each other any more.
I’ve also been reading 2 webcomics which may count — Lovecraft is Missing and The Watcher of Yaathagggu. I read a lot of other webcomics, but these two are billed as page-by-page releases of graphic novels. They appeal to my Lovecraftian interests.
[What is your favorite character?] That’s hard to say. Does Sandman count? If so, then it’s Dream’s librarian. I wanted to know more about him and what he does. As a librarian-in-training, I find him exciting. Like many others, I’m also quite fond of Dream and Death. In regular comics, I find the entire lantern corps fascinating. I need to get those comics back from my friend and read more.
[How did you first get into comics?] Through my little sister. In our teens, we both worked at a library that was suddenly expanding its comic and graphic novel sections. It had comic subscriptions to The Amazing Spiderman, some X-Men ones (I think both Uncanny and New at that point), and a few others. I was taking home graphic novels like Watchmen and she was bringing home comics. With them lying around the house and with her spending hours on the computer researching storylines, it was hard not to read them too, and to talk with her about the incredibly convoluted back stories. Our favorites were the X-Men.
@mightymur (Website: http://murverse.com/)
I like comics because I like all kinds of storytelling, and comics are a way to get a story across with art and words instead of just one or the other. A well-designed and well-written comic can be a powerful means of communication. Just today someone referenced Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, the Ramadan issue, and I had to go and re-read it, as its blending of gorgeous art to depict Gaiman’s storytelling is sublime.
Currently I read Knights of the Dinner Table, Soldier Zero, Usagi Yojimbo, Knight and Squire, and a couple others. I’m a huge fan of Astro City and Powers, most any non-mainstream superhero comic. I get DragonBreath and The Manga Math Mysteries for my daughter. I can be guaranteed to pick up anything by Neil Gaiman or Paul Cornell.
Favorite character is tough, as there are so many. Morpheus, Death, and Rose from Sandman (Gaiman) are favorites, as is Lucifer from Lucifer (Mike Carey). I guess in current tales, Squire from Knight and Squire (Cornell) is my favorite as she’s a teen hero with the perfect balance of being unsure of herself and utterly confident in her abilities. She and Knight are quite human characters, something which sometimes lacks in hero comics.
My family owned a hardware store when I was a kid and we had a comic book rack, and I read them incessantly. I slowed down as I got older because Dad removed the rack (I was the only one who cared) and there was nowhere to get any more mature comics. When I got to college, I found my local comic book store and have been going there for about fifteen years.
Brenda of @geektress (Website: http://www.geektress.com/)
I read everything. I read anything someone will put in my hands, even if it’s a non-fiction manual on carburetor repair. Comics are something that combine my love of reading with my love of art.
[What are you reading?] American Vampire, Batgirl, iZombie, Gotham City Sirens, Secret Six, Birds of Prey are on my pull. I have some miniseries on there, too, like the Fables Cinderella series and Batman Odyssey. I used to read Fables in trade but I’m just getting caught up on the last ten issues to start picking it up in floppies. I read the Supernatural books in trade, as well as the Unwritten and Chew and probably a bunch more I’m forgetting. I just finished the miniseries Sweets and can’t wait for Alpha Flight in June. I’m also waiting to get Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover’s Gingerbread Girl, I didn’t want to read it on the ‘net first. I’m reading the Double Feature comics put out digitally by Four Star. I’m halfway through lots of graphic novels and trades, like I’m still working on Neil Young’s Greendale with that gorgeous Cliff Chiang art.
[What is your favorite character?] Batgirl / Oracle / Whatever she’s calling herself now, Barbara Gordon.
[How did you first get into comics?] I was 7 or 8. My dad would always drive to the nearest newsstand on Sunday to get the Sunday edition of the newspaper, which they didn’t deliver even if you had a subscription — it had all the coupons and inserts so it cost more and you had to buy it separate. I’d get a
couple comic books whenever I got to tag along (and sometimes, ice cream, there was a Dairy Queen right next store.)
I read Archies and Katy Keene, and later I read Batman and Wonder Woman. It was definitely the early 90s when I started reading almost all Bat-books, due to the Bruce Timm / Paul Dini series being really popular. I remember I had an interest in Batman before that, of course, because my dad made a special effort to take me to the Tim Burton movie first thing when it came out. But it wasn’t really an obsession until the cartoon. And of course, as a child of the late 70’s / early 80’s, I had the Wonder Woman underroos like everyone else.
Late in my twenties I got in to non-Bat-books with Fables and Queen and Country trades. Though, I also like the Queen and Country and Fables non-comic novels. (Well, for Fables there’s just the one book, but it was still really excellent.) I wished I had been on board with Hellboy from the beginning, I read the first few trades and I will pick up a B.P.R.D story if it features Abe Sapien.
Laura of @geektress (Website: http://www.geektress.com/)
I like comics because I like good stories and I like art, so obviously the combination of the two is appealing. I started reading comics as a little kid and they were usually comics of characters from cartoons I watched. This was true even when I started reading Spider-Man and X-Men, so part of it was certainly just that I wanted more of the characters I already liked and didn’t much care about the format. Now I’m more interested in comics in their own right. The ability to tell a story through still images is pretty remarkable. I love movies and television and books, but reading a comic is a completely different experience.
[What are you reading?] Too many comics to list, but mostly (though not exclusively) DC and Marvel superhero comics. Some of my favorites are Batgirl, Secret Six, Detective Comics, American Vampire, X-Men Legacy, Captain America and Thunderbolts.
My all time favorite character is Spider-Man, but my favorite character from the comics I currently read is Stephanie Brown Batgirl.
My older brother read comics, so they were always around. One day he handed me one and told me to read it. I read a few more after that and soon I was hooked.
And last, but certainly not least, my pal Jill “The Nerdy Bird” Pantozzi!
@TheNerdyBird (Website: http://thenerdybird.com)
I’m pretty much reading DC Comics’ entire line along with New York Five, Fables, Unwritten and iZombie from Vertigo. Besides that, Locke & Key from IDW, Mouse Guard from Archaia, Stuff of Legend from Th3rd World and Spider-Girl and Amazing Spider-Man from Marvel.
DC characters have always been my favorites and cartoons from when I was younger led me to be much more knowledgable about their universe going in. But Batman is my all-time favorite character. I like a character who is sure of themselves and Batman is almost 100% of the time. Not to mention he prepares for pretty much every eventuality, even taking out superpowered characters who are much stronger than him.
An ex-boyfriend of mine actually got me into comics themselves. I’d always been a fan of the characters and he finally sat me down with a giant pile and said, “READ.” I haven’t looked back since and visit the comic shop weekly.
I want to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who sent me replies or even just sent me a tweet telling me how much you love comics. Hopefully the more that the publishers see we are out there, the more we’ll see the sort of stories we want to keep seeing.
We are women, and we love comics.