Comic books are not traditionally a woman friendly playground. Despite the growing numbers of female writers, artist and executives, the world of comic books remains a domain largely dominated by men. As a result it often reflects their opinions, cultural norms and attitudes. Recent attempts to debate the sexualized (and often impractical) depiction of women has met with some resistance from fan boys who are content with the status quo. Despite that pushback, times are changing, even if that change doesn’t happen as quickly as we would like. Comics have exploded beyond the physical books themselves and are now a fertile ground for ground breaking TV and some of the biggest blockbusters of all time. When examined from that perspective, fair gender representation is a high stakes affair. We decided to clue you in on a few titles that are not only breaking new ground for women, but are just plain ground breaking. Take a look below!
Bitch Planet (Image) – created by award winning writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Valentine De Landro, Bitch Planet puts a feminist spin on the 70s female prison genre that would make Linda Blair shudder. In this future world, women who are determined to be “non-compliant” are sent to Auxiliary Compliance Outpost otherwise known as Bitch Planet. This is the newest title on our list, so it will be interesting to see how the story develops but just in the initial issue we are drawn into what makes this world tick and what are the motivations behind imprisoning these women. It would be lazy to attach any connection to recent phenomenon Orange is the New Black. They are both set in prisons, but the savagery and seemingly hopelessness on Bitch Planet does not lend itself to easy comparisons. Check out this title and it’s accompanying website to see where they draw their inspiration.
Rat Queens (Image) – Traditional fantasy stories are often bereft of strong female characters. The typical heroine is a prize to be won, bartered or saved by the hero as he completes his quest. Rat Queens is not that story. It is a multi-cultural, multi species fantasy romp complete with foul mouthed, kick ass mercenaries known as the Rat Queens. Everything we know of dwarves, elves and humans is turned inside out and reimagined. The stories are a perfect blend of debauchery, adventure and quite a bit of humor. We can guarantee J.R.R Tolkien never envisioned a fantasy world like this one.
Sex Criminals (Image) – When done right sex can be mind blowing, but in Sex Criminals orgasms can literally freeze time. This is where we find our series protagonist, Susan as each climax leaves her literally out of the normal flow of time. Things pick up when she meets a man who has the same ability as her and they embark on a life of crime powered by their time jacking orgasms. If all of that seems like a time trip just wait till their crimes are interrupted by a not so elite force who is dedicated on eliminating these unique sex crimes.
Ms. Marvel (Marvel) – Kamala Khan is a 16 year old Pakistani-American, high school student, and the latest incarnation of Ms. Marvel. Kamala’s story can be interpreted in the classic “fish out of water” high school student that assumes great responsibility a la Peter Parker. More critically, Kamala takes on challenges of both gender and culture as she tries to not only understand her new abilities but must juxtapose her normal teenage existence against a conservative Muslim upbringing. Her story is a first generation immigrant story, a young woman coming of age story and a kick ass superhero story. This title fires on all cylinders with some of the most beautiful art work in the medium today.
Lazarus (Image) – Set in a dystopian future, the world is no longer controlled by governments but instead they are divided into sectors controlled by powerful families. Those living in these controlled sectors eek out a feudal existence in exchange of protection, and meager resources. These families scheme and fight amongst themselves as they balance their own interest while suppressing their respective populations. Family disagreements are mitigated by genetically engineered warriors titled Lazarus. The Lazarus are the warrior representatives for their family interest. The story centers on Forever, daughter and Lazarus for the powerful Carlyle family. Forever must deal with her humanity in an ever increasingly inhumane world, while wrestling with loyalty to her family and questions about her past and future.
We could have listed a few more titles but these are a great place to start. Honorable mentions go to Elektra (Marvel), She-Hulk (Marvel), Saga (Image) and the recent graphic novel Seconds. So take a peak at the future of comic storytelling, we guarantee you’ll never look at these books quite the same way!