Amar Chitra Katha panel

Yet Another List (Comics with Women of Color)

This past weekend I caught up a bit on comic books. I went to Midtown Comics, my usual haunt, and got the most recent trades of DMZ and The Unwritten. The staff weren’t that helpful in my explorations, though — for example, when I asked about what Alison Bechdel’s been up to, I got basically a shrug.

The next day, I visited Forbidden Planet south of Union Square, and the staff seemed far more helpful and sympathetic. When I got up the nerve to ask, “What comics have people who look like me?” they were actually interested in figuring it out and loading up my arms.  “OMG you haven’t read Love And Rockets?!”

(Doesn’t it suck that so much of the Virgin India line is just crap?)

So, since it’s on my mind, some comics that feature women of color as interesting characters:

  • Amar Chitra Katha series — the comics I grew up with, telling Indian history, myths, legends, and fables. Draupadi! Savitri! Parvati! Sati! And so on.  (That panel is the image on this post, photo taken by Satish Krishnamurthy.)

    Amar Chitra Katha panel

  • Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra. I read the whole thing, I loved it, it’s what got me back into comics a decade ago. Most of the characters are women, and I’m thinking especially of 355 (African-American), Dr. Mann (American of Chinese and Japanese ancestry), and You (Japanese).
  • DMZ by Brian Wood, which I read avidly. Volunteer medic Zee Hernandez isn’t the main character but she’s in there and important.
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, her autobiography about a childhood in Iran. A modern classic, and can you believe I’m only reading this now?
  • Love and Rockets by the Hernandez brothers. Ditto. (I’m a Philistine!)
  • Ayaseries by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie, about a family in the Ivory Coast. I haven’t read it yet but it’s come recommended.
  • Lots of stuff by Lynda Barry. I like her stories (but find her art style a little overwhelming).
  • Patrick Farley’s The Spiders stars the African-American soldier Lt. Celicia Miller, and The Jain’s Death is about Anuradha, a South Asian woman.
  • I hear very good things about Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder but haven’t started it yet.

I don’t much care about superhero comics so I’m leaving out Storm from X-Men, etc. Should I read Frank Miller’s Martha Washington stuff? I should also sweep through my household’s shelves, especially our three binders of indie stuff we’ve bought at MoCCA, to find more recommendation-worthy books and one-offs, especially by women and people of color.

(Random shout-out: Mel Chua’s engineering education comics “What is Engineering?” and “What is Education?”)

15 thoughts on “Yet Another List (Comics with Women of Color)

  1. Sean Riley

    Grab Pop Gun War if you’ve not read it. Surrealist graphic novel; lead character is a young African-American boy, his sister also plays a large part in the story.

  2. Dorothea

    The answer to “should I read [x] by Frank Miller?” is almost always “no; it will be brimful of misogyny.”

    That said, I haven’t read that particular one either, because of the very principle I just suggested.

    Thanks for the rec on Amar Chitra Katha! I will definitely check that one out.

    1. PK

      Delurking!

      Martha Washington is, for Frank Miller, remarkably less misogynistic than most of his work. Again, with the caveat ‘for Frank Miller’. It’s worth a start, though it’s both problematic with regards to its examination of racism, and very much of its time with regards to politics. It was on a Women’s Studies reading list at Smith when I was there, so there’s possibly something worthwhile to get from it.

      Warren Ellis runs into some trouble with his stuff, but Jakita Wagner from Planetary is cool, and Caz and Miki from FreakAngels, and there are some cool POC in Global Frequency (including the continuity character Aleph, who I read as Latina as did the casting team in the TV pilot). If people reading are looking superhero comics, Ellis’ version of Swift in The Authority is cool, as is Monica Rambeau in nextWAVE.

      Mark Millar ruins Swift, though, like he ruins everything.

      Sophie, the protagonist in Alan Moore’s Promethea, is Latina, though it doesn’t come up until later.

      100 Bullets was hard to read, for me, but Dizzy Cordova…well, I’d have to let others judge.

      And the first Aya book was very good! I’ve not had a chance to read the second, though.

      1. Hugh

        Generally Frank Miller’s earlier stuff is less politically problematic – the Martha Washington series belongs to that era, I think (although it has a hell of a lot of other problems).

        Kudos for having his African-American protagonist become romantically involved with another PoC, too.

  3. Cat Allman

    Where to start? How about some history… ;-)

    It’s out of print, but worth the hunt:
    Twisted Sisters: A Collection of Bad Girl Art, edited by Diane Noomin. It’s a collection of great work by strong women artists of the ’70 and ’80 mostly from Wimmin’s Comics and Weirdo. (Warning, strong, explicit content.) Of the artists featured, Christine Critter is a fav of mine. There is a 2nd volume but I haven’t read it.

    Look for work by Trina Robbins. She is not only an artist herself, she is also a historian of women in comics. In particular, her book, “The Great Women Cartoonists” is an eye opener! Yes, women draw comics! http://imprint.printmag.com/fashion/trina-robbins/

    Hope this helps!

  4. Lizzie

    The ElfQuest comics have a whole tribe of dark elves who play a significant part in the stories, one of their female members being a main character. You can read all of it online on the Elfquest website: http://www.elfquest.com/index.php (see under ‘Comics’)

  5. Catherine

    If you like Persepolis, try Nylon Road by Parusa Bashi, too. It’s another graphic memoir of Iran.

    I love the humor in the Aya books–and I see that what looks like a translation of the fourth one is due out this spring! (You don’t have to wait if you read French, but unfortunately, I don’t.)

  6. N. K. Jemisin

    I don’t read a lot of American comics, but I absolutely love Bayou, by Jeremy Love. Imaginative storytelling, great art, powerful examination of racism through the eyes of a child.

  7. Farah

    Alison announced on her blog today that she’s just finished the proofs of her new project.

  8. Liz

    Alan Moore’s “Promethea” is interesting. Latina college student imbued with the spirit of Egyptian girl goes on a tour of Magic, with an occult/Tarot/Kabbalah flair. (She’s nominally a superheroine, but not really.)
    It’s problematic at times, and it can also be really preachy (except about the occult, not about traditional morality?), but if you are at all interested in the occult it’s pretty fun.

  9. laceblade

    I’m not sure if manga is what you’re looking for, but there are loads of manga by & about women of color. Some of my favorites are:

    Hiromu Arakawa (WOC) wrote Fullmetal Alchemist. While the protagonists are boys, there are lots of strong women characters who get to kick a lot of ass.

    Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi is an almost entirely female cast.

    NANA by Ai Yazawa

    Tramps Like Us by Yayoi Ogawa

    Sand Chronicles by Hinako Ashihara

  10. Angel H.

    “Emiko Superstar” by Mariko Tamaki

    “Good as Lily” by Derek Kirk Kim

    “Locas: The Maggie and Hopey Stories” by Jaime Hernandez

    And don’t forget the Tomato Rodriquez series (“They call Me Mad Dog” and “Flaming Iguanas”) by Erika Lopez!

  11. Alice

    “The Invisibles” by Grant Morrison has ‘Boy’, a black ciswoman, and ‘Lord Fanny’, a latina transwoman. Warren Ellis: “Nextwave” is a cape team lead by a black ciswoman. It’s Ellis at his silliest, craziest best! In “Fell” the love interest is a Vietnamese-american ciswoman. The cast of characters is small, so she plays a big part. “Planetary” has Jakita, a brown ciswoman from a forgotten culture. “Freakangels” has Caz and Miki, Jamacan-British and Japanese-British, ciswomen.

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