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Boys own comics

Image courtesy of Women in Comics Collective Against Sexism
Image courtesy of Women in Comics Collective Against Sexism

Ten leading comic book artists, including Daniel Clowes, Joann Sfar and Riad Sattouf have recently withdrawn their names from the Grand Prix lifetime achievement award from The Angoulême Comics Festival. Why? Well it appears that Angoulême initially assumed that comic books are a boys only pursuit, with no women appearing on their 30 strong short list and a male only judging panel.
Thankfully The Women in Comics Collective Against Sexism and some of the nominees were on hand to challenge Angoulême and the festival is now reconsidering their shortlist.
This incident raises the issue of how comics can be perceived from a gendered perspective. Is there something about comics that are essentially male, or has the growth in graphic novels changed assumptions about who makes and enjoys this form of visual fiction?
Looking at the history of comic books it is clear there have been fewer female characters. For every Minnie the Minx, Catwoman or Batgirl there’s always more male counterparts taking centre stage. Perhaps this imbalance is beginning to shift with Marvel and DC comics’ 2015 launch of their Super Hero Girls – a range of all female super hero and villains – some of them new characters, some reworking of older ideas such as She-Hulk. Interestingly, market research from 2014 suggests that women make up 46.67% of the readership of comics, so it makes commercial sense to represent the audience of comics more equally.
Another issue is the profile of women cartoonists and artists. Seeing that Angoulême festival struggled to find any names to put on their list. Here are a few suggestions of my own, there were plenty of other names I could have added, so please feel free to add your own via the comments at the bottom of this post.
Lynda Barry
American cartoonist and illustrator who has published a number of books exploring her creative writing and comic book classes.
Marjane Satrapi
Iranian born graphic novelist and film director most famous for her Persepolis comics
Posy Simmons
British newspaper cartoonist and creator of Tamara Drewe (2005-06) and Gemma Bovery (2000)
Faith Erin Hicks
Canadian cartoonist, The Adventures of Superhero Girl (2013)
Anya Ulinich
Russian / American graphic novelist
Jillian Tamaki
Canadian comic artist, Skim (2008) and This One Summer (2014)
Cece Bell
Her Newbery honour-winning graphic novel El Deafo (2014) explored her own experiences of growing up with hearing problems
Ellen Forney
American comic artist, Marbles (2012)
Nicole Georges
American cartoonist, Calling Dr. Laura (2013)
Julia Wertz
American cartoonist
Simone Lia
British cartoonist and author, Fluffy (2007)
Gabrielle Bell
American comic artist, The Voyeurs (2015)
Yumi Sakugawa
An Ignatz Awards nominated comic book artist based in America
Alison Bechdel
American cartoonist, Dykes to Watch Out For and Fun Home (2006)
Noelle Stevenson
American comic artist
Babs Tarr
American illustrator who works on DC Comics’ Batgirl
And of course OCA’s very own Beth Dawson, runner up in the Observer/Cape/ Comica graphic short story prize in 2014 and 2015.
One thing I noticed while compiling the list, is the greater number of North American artists. Perhaps there the view of comics and graphic novels is different from here?
Thankfully progress is being made. In 2014 the Comics Industry Person of the Year was given to Raina Telgemeier. And it is only fair to mention that the Angoulême festival has awarded the Grand Prix to one woman in its 43 year history, Florence Cestac.
The next step is to enjoy the creative work of women cartoonists from around the globe and to stop viewing comics as a boys only pursuit. 

Posted by author: Christian Lloyd
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14 thoughts on “Boys own comics

  • So inspiring! Thanks Christian for introducing us to some fabulous cartoonists and for challenging our stereotype that comics are for boys.

  • The Grand Prix will be given as a lifetime achievement award. The winner of 2015 (Katsuhiro Otomo) published his first comic in the early 70s.
    Many of the suggested women started their career 20 or 30 years later. For me it would feel strange to give a lifetime award to someone which has just started.

    • The things is that over the last years, they gave the prize to a lot of men barely in their 40s who began their career in the late 90s or even later.
      Their work might not be always translated in English, but there are a lot of women in French comics and Graphic novel too.
      Thanks for the post Christian.

  • LOVE COMICS!!!! Hugely inspirational works of art in their own right! Been studying Terryl Whitlach quite intently over past few weeks,not strictly comics but close enough I think! Also Melinda Gebbys work with Alan Moore was utterly groundbreaking!

  • A useful read and good list of well established female comic artists.
    I am chuffed to get a mention too! Although I should correct and say that yes I was a runner-up in the Cape contest 2014, but was a little lower down the rankings in 2015, in the top 11 as a “finalist.”

  • that’s a brilliant write up Christian.There is a woman’s comic collective in the UK called Bimba that is flourishing.I wonder if the North American comic thing is because of the maths of the situation and the number of illustrators generally in North America and the bigger scope there is there for publishing generally?

  • Blue is the warmest colour by Julie Maroh is just beautiful, probably the only graphic novel that made me cry.
    Other strong female characters that are not part of the main Marvel & DC powerhouses to look at are:
    Lilith, written and illustrated by Luca Enoch, Published by Bonelli
    The Sword, by the Luna Brothers, Image Comics
    Witchblade, although written and illustrated for a very specific target audience
    TANK GIRL!!!
    Although it started as a TV series, Buffy The Vampire Slayer continued its continuity into series eight as an excellent comic

  • Thanks for the comments and recommendations everyone. It’s confirmed my view that a diversity of authors and illustrators are good for everyone and comics are universally enjoyed. Cheers, Christian

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