By Melanie Woods, November 26 2015 —
According to The Big Bang Theory, comic book shops are the kind of place where socially-awkward men gather to pick up the latest Batman or a replica Captain America shield.
This is how we’ve thought of comics culture for decades. Rarely have comics — particularly by-the-issue series — been seen as a welcoming medium for women to read and enjoy, let alone star in.
However, recent years mark a notable shift in the right direction.
Female-centric comics are on the upswing. Classic superheroes like Thor are now women, and Captain Marvel is changing the way we think about both gender and race in superhero comics.
And while the female superhero wave is a positive force, independent comics are likely the most notable champions of the feminist comic charge. This is exemplified by three titles that began their runs over the last year from Image Comics. All three should hold a place in the conversation surrounding the best titles of 2015.
Bitch Planet: (December 2014 – present, five issues currently available)
Arguably the most heavy-handed feminist narrative you could conceive, Bitch Planet takes place in a dystopian reality where non-compliant women are sent to an off-planet prison — the titular Bitch Planet. And you know what? It’s fantastic.
Each issue includes beautiful images of women kicking ass, witty dialogue and a compelling story. The academic essays in the back of every issue pair brilliantly with witty parody ads on the back cover to form a brash, explosive punch to the throat. The essays in particular make Bitch Planet special — it’s rare to open a comic book and see a long-form piece titled “In a Feminist Mirror, Darkly: Reflections On Cultural Misconceptions of Feminism.”
ODY-C: (November 2014 – present, eight issues currently available)
Homer’s Odyssey is a masculine narrative, detailing a brave hero’s journey home from war to his wife as he battles against the gods.
ODY-C turns Homer’s story on its head, gender-bending characters and thrusting the story into a sci-fi future while retaining the lyrical iambic hexameter third-person narration of the original story. Now, the brave heroine Odyssia journeys across space in a womb-like ship, aided by a female crew and subject to the whims of the ambiguously gendered Zeus and Poseidon.
With gorgeous art from Christian Ward, the series is visually stunning, experimenting with the medium in ways you never would have thought possible. Gender-bent Greek heroes in space may draw you in, but you’ll keep reading for the wacky uterus-shaped spaceship.
Paper Girls: (October 2015 – present, two issues currently available)
While less bluntly political than Bitch Planet and less visually striking than ODY-C, Paper Girls is already one of the most exciting new titles this year, despite only having two issues out so far.
Described by many as the bastard child of War of the Worlds and Stand By Me, the series follows a small group of newspaper delivery girls as they discover a supernatural mystery of epic proportions.
The series is notable for its refreshing depiction of what it’s like to be a teenager — these girls are really just kids, and talk and act like they are, with no needless sexualization. And to the adult reader, the dialogue is snappy, the colourful visuals are beautiful and the central mystery is compelling enough to already have me salivating for the next issue.
Pick up Paper Girls if you’re looking for an easily digestible and fast-paced female ensemble. The driving force of the plot is the teenage newspaper delivery girl trying to make it in a world of newspaper delivery boys — and crazed supernatural monsters.