As I look around the Comics Blogosphere, I see a lot of fussing and fighting, my friends. Now, when I started this blog, I promised myself I'd light a candle in lieu of cursing the darkness . . . and I haven't been super-successful at that as of late. This is mostly because I've had writer's block and general foulness nipping at my brain for a while now. Sorry about that. But no more excuses! Time to let the sunshine in!
When I wrote about Empowered, I also snuck in a critique of modern superheroines and how shabbily they've been treated. Well and good, but I failed to tell folks which comics I would recommend to anyone who wanted a double-fisted shot of female empowerment. So, without further ado, here goes . . .
7 Comics I Would Recommend For My Imaginary Daughter!
(Yes, I imagine my fictional daughter would end up just like Layla Miller - funny, self-reliant, intellectual, vaguely sociopathic and stuck in a future she never made.
I don't imagine myself to be Lauren Graham, mind you - I just couldn't find a Veronica Mars graphic I could bear myself to mutilate with photoshop. But hey, I'm getting off topic . . .)
by Azuma Kiyohiko
Yes, Yotsuba has green hair but a more realistic, touching and flat-out hilarious depiction of childhood you'll never find. Trust me, this is not the story of a plant controlling Sailor Scout who saves the Multiverse (Much as I enjoyed it growing up, Sailor Moon is not something I'd necessarily recommend to kids. Mostly because it might scare them and also, her boyfriend's in high school and she's in middle school. Plus, he calls her "Meatball Head" affectionately. That's a slappable offense where I come from). Anyways - Yotsuba rocks!
Yotsuba&! tells the story of a young girl from the country and the single father who raises her as they move from the country to the city. Yotsuba's a bit quirky and excitable and makes the lives everyone she comes across more interesting. - especially of the family mostly comprised of young women who live next door. Every story is about her discovering new about the world and getting excited over it - hence the &!. It's a great read for people of all ages and I'd heartily recommend it for kids. Yotsuba will even teach your kids that vengeance never works out and thus counteract all those negative Batman comics. That said, you might end up having to explain how global warming and cardboard robots really work afterwards, so be prepared. Here is a helpful diagram -
The Baby-Sitter's Club by Raina Telgemeier
Did you know there are Graphic Novel versions of The Baby-Sitter's Club? Well, now you know that!
. . .
Okay, so I've never read a single one of them. I admit it - 'tween lit is not an oeuvre I know well. But I have read Bone by Jeff Smith - and I'm not alone in thinking it's awesome for tweens.
Bone is beautiful. It's epic, it's got a Grandma in it that could kick your ass and it tempers violent fantasy with idyllic comedy. I like to think any smart tween worth their salt will fall in love with both the character design and the storyline. Bone will also teach your daughter that talking bugs and dragons are friendly, which is a valuable lesson that destroys stereotypes. And make sure to include the prequel of sorts, Rose, which has stunning art by Charless "Stardust" Vess.
When she isn't busy slamming the door in your face, dating someone you don't approve of and screaming "I HATE YOU!" before turning up her iPod at the dinner table, you might try to engage her in conversation about these fine Graphic Novels and Comics. I find Kung Fu action and evil boyfriends are good icebreakers.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 8 by Joss Whedon & Friends
is a great comic to discuss with your daughter, assuming she's seen Seasons 1-7 already. Watching TV with your kid is just as fun as reading the same comics with your child. Of course, things might get more than a little awkward around Season 6 but the main theme here - the only theme Whedon tries to consistently get across in every season of Buffy - is empowerment.
That, and that having any sex other than lesbian sex will get you punished by mystical forces.
And even then, you're not really safe.
Okay, so maybe this isn't the ideal gateway comic book for young female readers, unless you want your daughter to die a virgin. Moving on!
Wonder Woman by Gail Simone, on the other hand? Ain't nothing wrong with that! Start off with this volume or with Rucka's work or hell, even the classic Perez run. You really can't go wrong with Wonder Woman.
Simone's Birds of Prey work is also pretty kick-ass, for people of all ages. You may have to have a talk about unrealistic body issues afterwards but I'm sure that's pretty self-explanatory for Ed Benes artwork.
Now that Birds of Prey is becoming solely about the adventures of two wacky teenage girls with powers, this is an even more apropos title to give your teenage daughter. Just make sure to explain Dinah's absence from the team by telling her that women sometimes make terrible choices when they get older and that she should never, EVER settle for less than the best (the best being a guy who won't cheat on her, for starters).
. . .
I'm sorry - that negativity I swore to combat is creeping in again, isn't it?
Well, nobody can help but grin when reading this next title. It's full of nothing but interesting, well-defined female teens who usually lead the team and kick a lot of ass doing it. Plus, it's in nifty digest manga form! What series do I speak of? Well, naturally, I'm talking about . . .
Runaways by Brian K. Vaughan, et al.
Does your teen already hate you? Show her how good she has it with these adventures of teens whose parents are supervillains. Yeah, no TV after ten doesn't sound so bad NOW, does it, young lady? The writing's whip-smart, the art is gorgeous (with realistically depicted teen girl bodies and no unforgiving spandex), and most importantly, it imparts several timeless lessons -
1. People die for no reason sometimes and it sucks.
2. It's okay to be yourself, whomever that turns out to be.
3. Accessories can totally make the outfit.
4. Learning whom to trust and how to support yourself are some of the best and hardest lessons you can ever learn.
5. Dinosaurs are awesome.
I've talked about the joy of this series before (in a limited fashion) and I hope that if you haven't checked it out by now, you'll get on the Awesome Train. It's a fine, well-crafted series for anybody and I look forward to seeing where Whedon and Moore take this.
I know I haven't exactly made any bold, innovative choices here but I do think they're pretty solid ones. Let me know what y'all think, and most of all, please share with the rest of the class . . .
Which comics would you recommend to a young lady who hasn't read any GNs before?