I know I’m not the only bookish person who’s wondered about comics, or thought about trying them out. As a kid, I liked comic adaptations of classic novels, and I often read them side-by-side with the original texts. But I never really attempted to immerse myself in comics before 2014 because, frankly, I was intensely intimidated by the fans and history.
Superman’s been around since 1948. Batman’s been bashing around Gotham since the late 1930s. The thought of having to familiarize myself with over 50+ years of comic history was more than enough to put me off reading superhero comics for most of my life.
But over the last two years of writing for a comics-centric online magazine–led by women at that–I found myself curious about what I was missing. I went mostly by recommendations from friends at first, as I learned about the comics industry and the work of lady comics creators. What I found was a rich spectrum of stories and characters that have made my reading life even more interesting. Here’s a few of my favourites, with a bit of a guide for those who are totally new to reading comics and might be feeling awkward or confused. Consider this me holding your hand while you jump into some fantastic stories.
Looking for Part 1? I talked about Ms. Marvel, Monstress, and Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat! on Tuesday.
Batman might exist in this universe, but it’s the kids who’ve got the focus in Gotham Academy. The mystery of Olive Silverlock’s lost summer intrigues her fellow students, though freshman Mia “Maps” Mizoguchi isn’t fazed by Olive’s distant attitude. The two girls find themselves in the middle of adventures and trouble alike, with Maps’ brother (and Olive’s ex-boyfriend) Kyle as just one of their unexpected companions.
I wouldn’t have had the confidence to pick this DC title up without fellow writer Ardo Omer’s encouragement, and a roundtable with book bloggers hosted on Women Write About Comics. My love for this series developed quite quickly after reading the first arc, and I’ve kept reading it, marking my first real foray into an ongoing superhero mythos. While I haven’t felt the need to delve into other Batman-related titles, I do appreciate the little glimpses I get into the rest of the universe.
Brenden Fletcher and Becky Cloonan’s scripts are delightful and realistic, and the art by Karl Kerschl is wonderfully animated and dynamic. You might have to spend some time playing catch-up with the 16 issues available so far, but Gotham Academy is a fun and captivating comic to sink into. I’ll be surprised if Olive and Maps don’t charm you from the first issue.
FAT LADY SUPERHERO. Have I got your attention yet? Faith Herbert, or Zephyr, likely won’t be familiar to new comic readers, as she’s been part of the comic Harbinger for quite some time. But Faith is a four-part miniseries that introduces the character on her own, away from the Harbinger Resistance, making it a perfect gateway for newbies.
I couldn’t have ignored the buzz around this title last year even if I had wanted to, and really, who would want to? I went into the first issue knowing absolutely nothing about Faith’s history, and I still fell in love with her from the first page. Faith is an incredible character, and a powerful woman. Her utter comfort with her body and identity is something I admire very much, and I didn’t know how much I wanted to see a fat superheroine before I read Faith.
With two issues down, you still have some time before the conclusion of Faith’s story at the end of April. Trust me when I say that she’s a character you won’t forget.
The Legend of Wonder Woman
If you’ve ever wanted to read a Wonder Woman comic, but felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of issues, this title is your saving grace. It’s the story of Diana, not Wonder Woman, a nine-issue take on the girl before the superhero. There is a rich history behind Diana, and Renae de Liz extends a hand to new readers, helping them step into Diana’s life.
I haven’t made a secret of how much I love this comic, and really a lot of that praise is due to how engaging de Liz makes this story. You don’t have to know anything about Wonder Woman to appreciate Diana’s frustration with her role as Princess of the Amazons; you don’t even need to know anything about comics. Her joys and frustrations and ambitions are so relatable, especially for teen girls, and seeing her grow in each issue is satisfying.
While print readers like myself are still on issue #2, all nine issues are available digitally, for those of you who’d rather not wait month by month.
On Wednesday, I’ll talk about where you can find these comics for yourself and subscribe to read them!