Someone asked me:
My BFF’s boyfriend is into superhero comics which she finds too violent and too anti-feminist. She herself would like to find some more intellectual and female-friendly comics to read, as a way to share his interest in a way that better suits her tastes. Can you recommend some comics that might work for her?
Wow, I could make recommendations all day. I’m assuming your friend is a grown-up and doesn’t object to stories that include occasional nudity or sexuality.
Although it has a male protagonist, I’d still recommend Howard Cruse’s “Stuck Rubber Baby” as an intelligent and beautifully drawn graphic novel with good, sympathetic female characters. (It’s a memoir of coming out as gay in the civil rights era South).
I’d HIGHLY recommend trying “Locas: The Maggie and Hopey Stories,” although it might make sense to try it for free from the library before buying a copy (it’s a huge book, and expensive). The first few chapters require a little patience, because the creator took a little while to find his voice, but after that it’s amazing – some of the best comics ever made.
“The Tale of One Bad Rat,” an excellent, quirky, and beautifully drawn graphic novel about recovering from abuse.
“The NAO of Brown.” An extremely odd and appealing graphic novel, about an eccentric girl with OCD falling in love.
If your BFF likes the gritty detective genre, “Stumptown” is fun and well-done. Even better, sort of in the same genre (and by the same writer), is Whiteout, about a U.S. Marshall in Antarctica (it’s amazing how dramatic artist Steve Lieber makes drawings of scenes set in blizzards).
“Tamara Drewe” by Posy Simmonds. I really loved this one – perfect mix of intellectual references and snarky fun. Also the most successful comics/prose combination format I’ve ever read. And Simmonds’ drawing is beautiful, with figures so fluid and expressive they reminded me of Eisner.
If your BFF likes fluffy fantasy (and I sure do), the two “Castle Waiting” books are wonderful, and do lovely things with both gender and architecture. This is a good recommendation for any age.
“La Perdida” by Jessica Abel is a wonderful and smart memoir about traveling in Mexico.
All of Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder graphic novels are good, but the two best are the two most recent – and, fortunately, they can be read without reading the previous novels. The most recent graphic novel, Voice, was designed to be a good starting place for new readers, and is my favorite of her books. Talisman, her book about being a reader and a creator, is almost as good. Both of these books are science fiction.
And speaking of science fiction, here’s the blurb I wrote for the back cover of Jenn Manley Lee’s Dicebox: “Molly and Griffen are blue-collar workers in space looking for work and avoiding past mistakes. Jenn Manley Lee’s unique brand of science fiction – part slice of life, part travelogue – is daring, refreshing, whip-smart, and gloriously entertaining.”
I could go on all day, and there are lots of great graphic novels I didn’t mention here, but that’s probably enough for a start!