A confluence of events:

1) The understandable to-do that's arisen over the whole Starfire and Catwoman depictions in the new DC books has put a lot of attention on superhero comics being written and drawn by men for men (or men-children, as the case may be), with little apparent regard for any feminist politics that may be put out of joint.

2) My lovely wife is mentoring a young lady who's just entering her senior year of college. This young lady, a Creative Writing major, is going to write a graphic novel for her senior project — she apparently is recently into comics, and really likes superheroes (primarily Marvel), so wants to go in that direction. Jen, being a good mentor, is picking my brain on creators, comics, and comic-related stuff (podcasts, blogs, local shops, etc.) to point her to.

My various recommendations led Jen to observe, "There really aren't a lot of superhero comics by women, for women, are there?" I'll admit I couldn't think of a lot, and that combined with item one above got me contemplating it. So while I think about the topic myself, I'm putting it out to you, my fellows: what are some comics by women, for women, that fall within the broader genre trappings of superhero-y comics?

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I meant to only include the mainstream DCU titles, but then I noticed that I'd included Zatanna's B&B cartoon collection cover in the no-nos.  With reluctance, as I love Zatanna's fishnets, personally, but I was trying to be objective.


Huntress and Zatanna in the cartoons would be problematic if women in B&B and the Diniverse were habitually depicted as women in the mainstream DCU are.  Instead H & Z are part of the much more healthy and varied spectrum of female representations than we get in the comics.  I'm not against sexy women, just when it starts to come across that the only reason women are shown is to be sexy.

"C'mon Dagwan.  We all know that women are depicted in comics all the time in ways that would be offensive to non-fan women.  I'm supposed to list them all?  You are way too close to this material!"


I agree with that.


I recently read a bunch of late-'60s Marvels, and I was struck by the way that artists like John Romita, Gene Colan and John Buscema could make women look sexy without making their boobs bigger than their heads, or resorting to closeups of their butts. Look at how they drew Karen Page, Pepper Potts, Gwen Stacy, MJ Watson, even the Black Widow. It's possible to draw attractive female characters while keeping the, uh, proportions realistic.

Do any of you ever talk to women that read comics? I do. Every day. 30% of my customer base is female. I talk with them about the various gender issues all the time. I talk to moms, and daughters, and sisters, and grandmas about comics.


And you know what? They all have differing opinions on the gender issues. Some of my subs for Red Hood and Catwoman are women.


Am I too close to this material? Maybe.


But at least I'm speaking from experience, instead of just quoting something someone else on the internet typed.


"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." -Groucho Marx

Check out the Secret Headquarters (my store) website! Comics and Games for Everyone!

I used to listen to WOXY.com; It was the future of rock-n-roll! RIP WOXY

One more I think hasn't been mentioned: Jane's World, by Paige Braddock, although that isn't so much superhero as slice-of-life comedy, in the lesbian milieu
I thought I mentioned JANE'S WORLD!  In the last couple years, this is the ONLY new book I've been buying... no kidding. Actually, I've been buying the collections, from the beginning, and about a year ago caught up with them.  FUNNY as hell.  I like to compare it to the tv show ELLEN, only with better writing and a lot funnier, and drawn in a style that reminds me a bit of DOONSEBURY (but again, ALSO much funnier).  It's comedy soap-opera that at times is INTENSELY complicated, but trying to keep track of all the twists and turns and relationships is part of the fun.

Do any of you ever talk to women that read comics? I do. Every day. 30% of my customer base is female. I talk with them about the various gender issues all the time. I talk to moms, and daughters, and sisters, and grandmas about comics.


And you know what? They all have differing opinions on the gender issues. Some of my subs for Red Hood and Catwoman are women.


Well, I am trying to talk about what comics look like to non-devotees, and you are telling us how they are read by the initiated.


Am I too close to this material? Maybe.


But at least I'm speaking from experience, instead of just quoting something someone else on the internet typed.


What's this?  Who cares where dummies like us, who can't think up our own opinions about things, get our notions?  Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to address the arguments, not insult us.


There are far too many instances of mysogeny and sexism in comics for it not to be a part of the culture, and it's something that makes our hobby look downright weird and creepy to the non-believers.  Sorry if you are upset by my stating this, but I don't see the point in pretending things aren't the way they are.


I hope Alan M. can get back to us sometime and let us know how Jen's student's researches went.

The real question should be: "If you started dating a woman who never read comics and wanted to share your hobby with her, would you give her Red Hood and the Outlaws or Catwoman* to educate her on the subject?"

The answer is "Of course not! No one would be that stupid!"

That would be like saying you love music then showing her endless Katy Perry videos!

And that's the prevalent point, IMHO.

* I am using those as current examples. Every period has their chessecake!

Yes, showing her the glories of Red Hood or Catwoman would be very like Travis Bickle taking Cybill Shepherd to that Porno cinema for a date in Taxi Driver.


I'm well aware that I can't list all the comics currently available and weigh up how embarassing or shameful each is in the great scheme of things and whether they are balanced out by other comics from the same line.  I decided to just look at the last recent comic you mentioned in your posting, so that I'm picking one completely at random, that a comics reader like yourself would talk about.  I kinda hit the jackpot.


I wasn't able to leaf through Hawk and Dove from my desk here, but I was able to dig up that art from the series.   What is going on with those women's spines?  Why have they identical strange bodies?  Not that you've ever watched women's gymnastics, but those kinds of clothes don't cling sheer to the soft curves like that.


Sorry to use Liefield against you like this.  He is Liefield, after all.  But that's just a random pick from the comics out there.  I don't think non-comics reading women would be very impressed by pages of that kind of thing.

I hesitate to even wade into this discussion, as it has gotten quite heated already.  I think both Figs and Dagwan have made some good points, and I wish they could find some common ground.  Figs, Dagwan can speak for himself, but if it were me in his shoes, I don't know how eager I would be to "address the arguement".  The last few pages of this thread have a definite "let's pile on Dagwan" feel to them.

Not to mention, you yourself said "There's nothing to argue here" in an earlier post.

Dagwan's perspective, as a reader and a retailer, is a good one to hear, even if you think he's "too close" to be objective.  As he said, he talks to female readers every day, and to me that has to count for something and shouldn't be dismissed so readily.

I think it is a tricky thing to try to speak for females who don't read comics when you're a male who does read comics.  Females who don't read comics are hardly one monolithic entity after all.  You're doing a lot of extrapolating, based on one female friend who doesn't read comics, one panel from one issue of Civil War, and "randomly" picking Hawk and Dove.  I'm not saying your position is wrong, but the way you're backing your stance?  Sorry, but some might call that cherry-picking.

A fine post, John.


For myself, I hate arguing with Dagwan.  He's someone I admire a lot.  And anyway, I came for a discussion, not an argument.


As to common ground, we would seem to have quite a bit.  However, what we might agree on - that sexism and misogyny is there and it aint pretty - is being ring-fenced off as damaging to the industry to talk about, and upsetting to Dagwan.


He says it is just a few instances blown out of proportion.  I say the eye-poppingly obvious examples are just indicative of pervasive attitudes ingrained in the comics culture.


Some might be right about the cherry-picking!  The alternative is a root and branch, warp and weft study of the whole industry, measuring the cup sizes and hip measurements of every female that appears in each comic, and comparing it to a cross-section of representative real-life women, whilst working out a metric for the 'irony' used in each representation and adjusting the results accordingly.  I know I'm not being scientific here.  :-) 


(My quick look at October's comics seems pretty damning to me, though.  I'd hate to bring my daughters up in a world where that was a microcosm of how women were depicted across the wider culture.  Maybe it is.  The poor wee things.)


Saying that there isn't considerable sexism and misogyny in modern comics looks like denial to me, which is causing heat at my end, but I have looked again at what you and Dagwan have said and I have to concede that's not quite what he is contending.


Here is the first of a series of articles by Kelly Thompson at CBR, on what certain women who don't read comics think about the comic they were given to read.  It's quite a long series, but it might give us something to talk about, going forward.  I've only read some of the first part myself, so far.


(This is the last article, with links to the previous entrants at the start.)

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