When I first heard about Marvel’s Girl Comics, I freely admit from the title alone I rolled my eyes. A few times. However, in investigating a little further, I was excited by the idea of seeing comics created entirely by women hit the comics stores. Is it a media ploy? Yes, likely. Does that mean it couldn’t be interesting? No. Could it also be appalling? You betcha.
Girl Comics #1
by Colleen Coover, Valerie D’Orazio, Robin Furth, Devin Grayson, Lucy Knisley, Trina Robbins, G. Willow Wilson
Age Rating: T+
Marvel, March 2 2010
Kate: For me, the bigger problem with Girl Comics is that it had no overarching theme; it was eclectic to the point of being incoherent. The cover art led me to think the series was going to feature stories about Marvel’s A-list female superheroes, as told by the industry’s best female writers and artists. Yet the contributions were all over the map: some were cute and a little too pat for my taste, while others registered more as scenes than stories, lacking a narrative arc. About the only contribution that really worked for me as a story was "Clockwork Nightmare," which had distinctive, appealing artwork and a good punchline.
The good, for me, was simply being introduced to the artists. I’d admired Emma Rios previously, and I really like her style in "Head Space." I’d love to see her tackle a long run on a series. I also discovered a number of talents new to me who’s art I thoroughly enjoyed: Ming Doyle’s Nightcrawler period jaunt and Agnes Garbowska’s "Clockwork Nightmare" really appealed to me in the art department.
Back in the Beat interview, Schaeffer goes on to say, "That said, I definitely think women and girls will pick this up but not because we’ve hit upon the combination that will make all women like comics. I’m hoping it’ll be encouraging to see so many women who are making their livings in comics, that the idea will be reinforced that comics can be (and already are) as much for them as they are for men."
That’s a pretty grand claim. All women will like comics from this? What’s the combination she’s talking about? Yes, women can and do write any kind of story. They don’t all need to be about in depth character development or fashion to appeal to women. The Punisher vignette shows that a female team creating a tale doesn’t automatically make it touchy feely or melodramatic. But who really needs to be told this? Marvel fanboys? Are they reading this? Or are the women who might pick this up instead getting a message of "Wow, I feel just as lost as when I’ve tried to read that random X-Men title!"?
As for Schaefer’s comment about inspiring by example, I think most female comic readers can name women making a living in the comic industry — those women just might not be working in the superhero comic industry. It’s a laudable goal to highlight women working in such a high-profile sector, but for folks like me who are already reading a lot of great books by women, Scahefer’s comments rankle a bit. What about Hope Larson, or Marjane Satrapi, or Alison Bechdel? Or Rumiko Takahashi, Hiromu Arakawa, and CLAMP, female artists who have enjoyed crossover success working in the predominantly male world of shonen manga?
Robin: I agree, Kate, that it’s laudable to try to highlight the women who do work in what is still a male-dominated industry (i.e. mainstream superhero comics.) I fear, however, that for me this miniseries is having the opposite effect that they intended. While it’s certainly making me aware of how many women are working in the industry (and as I said, many artists that I’m looking forward to seeing more from in comics), it’s made it all the more obvious how few women there really are who are big names in this world. The fact that it’s a three-issue mini-series just makes me disappointed that women haven’t come further by now.
I was curious to take a look at the line up of women and see how many of them have worked on major mainstream series. A few of these women are notable for works outside comics creation, namely Trina Robbins and Valerie D’Orazio (the President of Friends of Lulu), as well as comics work. Here I’m looking strictly at comics, not commentary or academic contributions.
Here’s the break down for issue #1, looking at the writers and pencilers. I mean no disrepect to everyone else, from inkers to colorists to letterers, but writers and pencilers are usually the most recognized names in the industry. I’ve listed major works that I’ve found or, in the case of no major series work yet, linked to their online portfolios and collections.
Colleen Coover (Banana Sunday)
G. Willow Wilson (The Outsiders, Cairo, Air)
Trina Robbins (It Ain’t Me, Babe Comix, Wimmen’s Comix, GoGirl!, and she was a penciler on Wonder Woman)
Valerie D’Orazio (Cloak and Dagger miniseries)
Lucy Knisley (French Milk)
Robin Furth (Dark Tower, with Peter David)
Agnes Garbowska (http://mymisiu.blogspot.com/)
Devin Grayson (Batman/Ra’s Al Ghul Year One, Batman War Games, and a plethora of other Batman titles, Nightwing, Black Widow)
Ming Doyle (contributed to Comic Book Tattoo)
Stephanie Buscema (http://www.stephaniebuscema.com/)
Nikki Cook (http://nikki-cook.blogspot.com/, founding member of Act-I-Vate)
Sana Takeda (X-Men Fairy Tales, Drain)
Emma Rios (Hexed, Strange)
This list, no matter how mainstream, does represent a heartening variety of work, including work on mainstream titles. No one can deny that Devin Grayson has written for a pile of major series, especially at DC Comics. Sadly, though, this list really highlights that while this mini-series is strong in introducing new artists and writers with potential, it’s not really the pat on the back that Marvel (or the comics industry) might wish it is. It instead makes me realize just how much women haven’t been there all along in the key, visible roles of major writers and pencilers.
We are well aware that we’re only seeing one third of this work, and we’re curious about how this mini-series will shake down. We’ll be back to cover issue #2 in April.