This has been a rough week, especially for women in comics, but if this week has shown us anything, it’s that the face of comics is changing. There will always be fans who are unhappy about any kind of change, especially a change they perceive as limiting their place or enjoyment of comics. And those fans can make it seem really hostile in here for the rest of us, and weeks like this can feel disheartening, but at the end of the day, all of the controversies of the week have been a push toward positive change, representation, and respect.
There are a lot of great books out this week that show women positively, and as many that feature women being strong superheroes in whatever costumes they want to wear; Silk, Princess Leia, and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl are great places to get started on that, and none of them are past a third issue so catching up is a breeze. But this week I wanted to spotlight something that needs as much attention as it can get: friendship.
Friendship between girls, and especially girls who don’t feel like they quite fit in, is crucial. In the below books, instead of these girls feeling the need to compete with one another, they are supportive. The value of each girl is not tied to how she looks, nor is it tied to if her friends look better. There are pitfalls, of course– what is this, Girltopia? (sidenote: I thought I made that word up, but apparently it’s a Girl Scouts thing)
Published by Boom! Box
Written by Noelle Stevenson & Shannon Watters
Illustrated by Carolyn Nowack
Colors by Maarta Laiho
Letters by Aubrey Aiese
Lumberjanes has been doing great things since day one, and has been written about numerous times here at Comics Bulletin (several of those times even by me), and this issue is no exception. Boom! Studios has recently committed to pushing #comicsforward, and Lumberjanes is the poster child. The creative team works together seamlessly– there are a number of women in a number of roles on this book, switching out and trading off as needed but in full collaboration with one another. The way the team is supportive of one another and close knit comes out in the relationships between the main characters, a diverse group of girls who are each incredibly unique and distinct from one another, but who, at the end of the day, are there for each other no matter their differences (and sometimes because of them).
Issue #12 continues to be as strong as ever as it focuses on how the girls relate to one another. Mal and Molly are still with the Bear Woman (B-dubbs), and they work together seamlessly in elaborate strategies involving distracting pterodactyls and capturing baby raptors. They also get a chance to really talk about who they are, about identity and self confidence. Meanwhile, Jo, Ripley, and April are still trying to get a badge, but find that external rewards are less valuable than the friendship they already have. The artist in this issue, Carolyn Nowack, adds her take on the characters, but clearly understands them as well as the character designer, Brooke Allen. The inks are thinner, but the girls are the distinct characters that we know in love in the hands of every artist who has collaborated on this title.
Giant Days #1
Published by Boom! Box
Written by John Allison
Illustrated by Lissa Treiman
Colors by Whitney Cogar
Letters by Jim Campbell
Giant Days and Lumberjanes have a lot in common, most obviously their publishing company (#comicsforward!) and their cast of young women pushed together by their current living situation who become fast friends. They’re absolutely distinct, though, each a unique book with its own strengths.
Giant Days follows three young college-aged women in Britain (so yes, expect British dialect to abound), and being assigned rooms next to each other leads to a deep and almost-instant friendship (mainly, according to the narrator Susan Ptolemy, because of the companionship that comes with surviving the dramatic adventures that always seem to occur around Esther). They do nearly everything together, from eating in the cafeteria to boxing in the gym, but each maintains time, space, and relationships on her own as well. They tease each other constantly, but never with the intent to cause pain– when Esther misreads Susan’s reaction to seeing an ex, for instance, Daisy tries to intervene so no feelings get hurt. They support each other even when they don’t understand, or when they don’t feel the same way, and their support is in all things: they boost each other up academically, they accept each others’ sexuality, and they are honest with one another to a fault. The art is expressive and cartoony, and it has fun with the characters and with the setting without making it too serious. The girls all have different body types, unique faces, distinct styles. This book is strong and self-aware, and at its core is pure heart and friendship.