In honor of Women’s History Month, explore this curated list of graphic novels and comics by top female authors and artists. Each story features fierce girls and women that defy social expectations and embrace their true nature.
Audience: Middle Grade
Snapdragon is the 2020 magical realist graphic novel by writer and artist Kat Leyh. Leyh is best known for her work as a co-writer and cover artist for the Eisner and GLAAD Award-winning comic series Lumberjanes.
This graphic novel follows the titular character, Snapdragon, aka Snap, a brash and outspoken young girl who loves wild critters, her dog Good Boy, and her hard-working single Mom. When Good Boy goes missing, Snap bravely goes to confront the town’s supposed witch who rumor has it, eats roadkill and people’s pets. Snap finds a happy and healthy Good Boy (minus a leg), under the care of the “witch”, named Jacks, who just seems to be a weird old person that sells roadkill skeletons online, but things are more than what they appear. Upon finding an abandoned litter of baby opossums, Snap requests Jacks’ help in caring for the critters in exchange for helping Jacks with her work. As Snap spends more time working with Jacks, she realizes that Jacks could actually possess real magic and a strange connection to her family’s past.
This graphic novel features complex, multigenerational female characters that exhibit different types of strength, compassion, and purpose. It also provides a positive representation of gender nonconforming and LGBTQ+ characters and the beauty of intergenerational friendship.
Audience: Middle Grade
Beetle & the Hollowbones is the first full-length graphic novel written and illustrated by Aliza Layne, a cartoonist, illustrator, and storyteller known for her long-form fantasy webcomic Demon Street.
The story follows twelve-year-old Beetle, a young goblin-witch attempting to save her best friend, Blob Ghost, or B.G., from having their afterlife cut short. For some mysterious reason, B.G. is tethered to the town’s haunted mall, which is set to be torn down by an ambitious witch who also happens to be the aunt and mentor of Beetle’s old best friend, Kat. Kat is an apprentice witch, has just returned to town, and exemplifies all the things Beetle wishes she could be: cool, beautiful, an ace at magic, and so much more.
This graphic novel features strong, flawed women who fight for the people they love, overcoming stereotypes, and forging the future of which they dream.
M.F.K., which debuted as a webcomic and is now available in print from Insight Comics, is the 2015 Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity winner from artist, writer, and comic creator Nilah Magruder. Magruder not only won the esteemed McDuffie award, but also became the first Black woman to write for Marvel Comics in 2016.
M.F.K. is set in a vast desert that Abbie, the reluctant heroine of the story, is traveling across to scatter her mother’s ashes. Injured and still reeling from personal tragedy, all Abbie wants is to keep to herself, keep her hidden abilities hidden, and complete her journey, preferably with zero social interaction. However, life seems to have other plans for her- her journey is fraught with sandstorms, wild creatures, villainous rogues with super-human powers, and village people who all seem to want something from her – help, someone to complain to, friendship.
While Abbie may be somewhat of a social recluse, the relationships she builds with those who offer her help, and her personal development in learning to accept it are both refreshing and encouraging. Not out to be anyone’s hero, Abbie makes it clear that her personal journey is her primary focus, but she won’t stand idly by and let those with power use it to hurt others and further corrupt a broken world. M.F.K. is a true testament to the strength and tenacity young women possess.
[Note: Abbie is deaf and requires a hearing aid to communicate with other characters presented in the comic.]
Audience: Teen/Adult [Intended for Mature Audiences]
Monstress is the ongoing comic series written by best-selling author Marjorie Liu and Japanese artist Sana Takeda. Winner of numerous Eisner, Hugo, and other awards, this epic fantasy is well-known for its immense world-building, strong and multi-faceted female characters, and wildly lush and gorgeous art.
Set in an alternate, early 20th century matriarchal Asia, Monstress follows the journey of teenager Maika Halfwolf, a survivor of a cataclysmic war between humans and Arcanics – half-human/half animal-god. Maika looks human, but she is an Arcanic, and was persecuted and kept in a slave concentration camp during the war until her bloody escape during a prominent battle that left her scarred and missing her left arm from the elbow down. As if she hasn’t already accumulated enough baggage to last a lifetime, the remnant of Maika’s left arm also serves as host to an Old God, a mysterious, demonic entity of immense power that causes Maika to commit terrible acts of violence to satiate its voracious appetite. As Maika journeys through the bleak and war-ravaged landscape in search of answers about her mother’s death and the monster her body houses, she is sought out by those with authority who wish to control her and use her power.
Monstress explores many themes and subjects – womanhood, the treatment of women’s bodies, why society fears powerful women, women as monsters, the effects of war on women, fear and trauma, and so much more. “Monstress is about an outsider, a young woman who belongs nowhere; it is about young women who fight, who tame, who are consumed – and who become monsters in their own right,” said Liu. “I wanted to tell a story that encompasses all these things, and more. A story about women, young and old, picking up the pieces after surviving the horrors of war – and finding a home for themselves in a world that has otherwise exploited them.”
Looking for more graphic novels and comics that feature strong female protagonists? Check out the titles below.
Claire enjoys reading, especially graphic novels and young adult fiction, and finding and exploring new methods of creative expression. She frequently contemplates the existence of unicorns and other magical creatures, and spends much of her time with her two very real dogs and husband.
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