Breaking Into the Boys Club: The New Crop of Female Comic Creators (Part 1)

Breaking Into the Boys Club: The New Crop of Female Comic Creators (Part 1)
Marvel Comics/Amanda Conner

One of the many cliches about the comic book community is that it's not female friendly. And that doesn't just include the fans. I'm talking about the creative community as well. 


The catch-22 of the matter, though, is that when a comic book company tries to open up the doors of its boys club to include a more feminine perspective--like Marvel's Girl Comics miniseries, which gets a collection as a hardcover this week--it ends up getting its nose slapped (albeit slightly deservedly) with a rolled up newspaper. 

Now gender is no guarantee of high quality work, but it is a fairly good gauge of finding comics that represent a different aesthetic or world view. So how do you find that talent without going broke (and trudging through a morass of subpar work)? Sure, if you're even a casual comic book fan, you've heard of big-name vets like Gail Simone, Alison Bechdel, Colleen Doran and Jill Thompson. And more educated fans probably know about established creators deserving more recognition, such as Becky Cloonan, Colleen Coover, Jessica Abel and Nicola Scott. But who are the up-and-comers? Where can someone find the next wave of top female creators?

You're looking at it. I've put together a two-part list (part two will run next week) of women artists and writers who I think are worth checking out and who I also hope can make big names for themselves in the field. 

Julia Wertz
Breaking Into the Boys Club: The New Crop of Female Comic Creators (Part 1)
Julia Wertz
What she's done Fart Party and the recently released Drinking at the Movies

Why she makes the list How can anyone who titles her book Fart Party not be on the list? The beauty of it is that the collected web strips are as rude, breezy and raucous as the name implies. What's impressive is that she continues to push her storytelling with Drinking at the Movies, her first full-length autobiographical comic. 

Kate Beaton
Breaking Into the Boys Club: The New Crop of Female Comic Creators (Part 1)
Art: Kate Beaton/Inset photo: Christine McAvoy
What she's done The webcomic Hark! A Vagrant, which was collected in Never Learn Anything From History

Why she makes the list Beaton, a former maritime museum worker and current native Canadian, blends history and humor with an art style that's reminiscent of Eddie Campbell with less ink and scratches. Her webcomic and collections have earned her honors, including a Doug Wright Award for emerging talent, a Harvey Award for best online comic and the Kim Yale Award for Best New Talent from the Friends of Lulu. My hope is she'll incorporate her engaging storytelling in a long-form format, but I'm happy to read her online work until then.

Amy Reeder Hadley
Breaking Into the Boys Club: The New Crop of Female Comic Creators (Part 1)
Art: DC Comics/Amy Reeder Hadley; Inset photo: Amy Reeder Hadley

What she's done Creator of Fool's Gold for Tokyopop, artist on Madame Xanadu for Vertigo and alternating art chores with J.H. Williams on a new Batwoman series from DC beginning in February.

Why she makes the list Although she started out doing an English-language manga book, Hadley's current style is much more polished and delicate than the usually frenetic approach associated with manga. Her work on the recently canceled Madame Xanadu earned her three Eisner Award nominations, but I have a feeling that Hadley's move up to the high-profile Batwoman assignment is going to turn her into an in-demand artist.

Julia Gfrörer
Breaking Into the Boys Club: The New Crop of Female Comic Creators (Part 1)
Julia Gfrörer

Breaking Into the Boys Club: The New Crop of Female Comic Creators (Part 1)
Jöelle Jones

What she's done Collaborated with writer Jamie S. Rich on the graphic novels 12 Reasons Why I Love Her and You Killed Me for Oni, plus on Fables, a Dr. Horrible one-shot, Popgun and other series. 

Why she makes the list I first saw Jones's art in 12 Reasons, and her work clicked with me so viscerally. Her lines are confident and energetic, and she's incredibly adept at facial expressions, an essential talent when you're illustrating a comic akin to (500) Days of Summer (disclosure: the graphic novel came out well before the movie). She's a legitimate superstar.

G. Willow Wilson
Breaking Into the Boys Club: The New Crop of Female Comic Creators (Part 1)
Art: Vertigo/M.K. Perker; Inset photo: G. Willow Wilson

What she's done Graphic novel Cairo and the series Air for Vertigo

Why she makes the list I debated putting her on the list because she might not be a household name, but she is pretty established. But given the uniqueness of her voice and the creative risks she takes in her writing, I thought it would be criminal not drawing more attention to Wilson. Air might have been canceled, but I'm glad a series like that exists and is out there for people to continue to discover.

Other comics to check out this week

  • Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror #16 This year's installment boasts a quirky mix of talent that should not be missed: Evan Dorkin, Peter Kuper, Kelley Jones and Lemmy from Motorhead. That's right, I said Lemmy.  
  • Cages softcover Artist Dave McKean is best known for his collaborations with writer Neil Gaiman. But Cages is his most significant an masterful work, and it's finally back in print as softcover. 
  • Fantastic Four #583 Jonathan Hickman kicks off "Three," a storyline that is being hyped as killing off a member of the group. It's a testament to Hickman's writing that this well-trod trope still has me interested and curious.
  • Fire and Water: Bill Everett, The Sub-Mariner, and the Birth of Marvel Comics Not a comic (although it's loaded with a ton of artwork), but a biography by Blake Bell of the influential Golden Age artist. A must for anyone interested in the history of the medium.
  • WildCATS Version 3.0: Year One Given this week's announcement that the WildStorm imprint is shutting down, this could the be your last chance to pick up Joe Casey's brilliant take on superheroes and corporate raiding.


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