Comic books may seem like a boys' club, but there are plenty of great graphic novel options out there for readers who want their illustrated books with less misogyny and steroids. But you might miss these fantastic titles if you don't know where to look. If you're looking for graphic novels written by women, any of the 25 diverse comics listed below is a good place to start.
With comics publishers of all sizes making concerted efforts to offer more titles written by women, LGBTQ individuals, and people of color, now is the time for women to dive into reading comics. If you haven't read anything of the sort since that mid-1990s issue of Archie you begged your mom to buy, you'll be pleasantly surprised to find that the illustrations and plot-lines — even in mainstream titles — are more developed and inventive than you remember.
The #BustleReads Challenge for 2016 charges participants with reading a graphic novel written by a woman. Because there are many book nerds who have yet to find a series that suits them, this short list is your guide to the best and most-recent graphic novels you can find in stores. It's by no means comprehensive, but should prove a great jumping-off point for anyone who wants to check out this wonderful medium.
Without further ado, here's my guide to the 25 best graphic novels written by women.
1. Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
I'm a wimp when it comes to horror movies, but I love horror novels. The creepy vignettes that make up Emily Carroll's Through the Woods still come back at night to haunt me.
2. Lumberjanes by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, and Noelle Stevenson
Lumberjanes follows a group of five friends who attend Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady Types, where they face supernatural creatures and creepy puzzles.
3. Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick
The titular Bitch Planet is a penal colony designed for the difficult women who refuse to comply with the patriarchal rule of Earth's all-white, all-male "Fathers." When a new batch of prisoners arrives, they'll do whatever it takes to reclaim the power society has taken away.
4. Bee and PuppyCat by Natasha Allegri
If you like Adventure Time, you'll love Bee and PuppyCat. Based on the webseries of the same name from Fionna and Cake creator Natasha Allegri, Bee and PuppyCat follows its eponymous freelancers as they tackle adulthood and cosmically-weird odd jobs.
5. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Lumberjanes collaborator Noelle Stevenson saw her webcomic, Nimona, published as a graphic novel in 2015. The series' title character is a shapeshifter who plays sidekick to a supervillain: the mad scientist-slash-knight, Lord Ballister Blackheart.
6. Jem and the Holograms by Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell
I watched the hell out of some Jem and the Holograms as a kid, so you can imagine my excitement when I heard that Sophie Campbell signed on to illustrate the IDW comics revival. This time around, the relationship between Kimber and Stormer is canon. YAY!
7. Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel
If you haven't read Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, I strongly recommend it as well, but I think this memoir about the author's relationship with her mother gets far less play. Don't overlook it.
8. This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki
9. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel memoir about growing up in revolutionary Iran. It's an eye-opening look at everyday life in a country that's highly stigmatized and generalized in Western media.
10. French Milk by Lucy Knisley
Lucy Knisley is about to turn 22. Her mother is facing the big five-oh. To celebrate, the two women take a 6-week tour of Paris, the photos and experiences from which drive this travel book, French Milk.
11. Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
In Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?, Roz Chast details her parents' end-of-life personalities and experiences, examining them through a loving and witty lens.
12. The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks
If you ever wonder what you might be like as a superhero, look no further than Faith Erin Hicks' eponymous heroine, Superhero Girl. Everyone knows and loves her brother, but she can't even keep her secret identity in check.
13. Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton
History and literature jokes with a feminist bent? Seriously, what's not to love here? Check out Kate Beaton's Hark! A Vagrant and the follow-up title, Step Aside, Pops.
14. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
As someone who has dealt with depression and anxiety for more than a decade, I can say that Allie Brosh's graphic memoir, Hyperbole and a Half, is the most authentic look at the realities of those mental illnesses I've ever come across.
15. Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson
G. Willow Wilson's Ms. Marvel revival puts Pakistani-American teenager Kamala Khan in the title role. After the geek girl discovers her shapeshifting abilities and Inhuman heritage, she takes on her new identity and starts kicking supervillain butt.
16. Ranma 1/2 by Rumiko Takahashi
This was the first manga I ever read, and I still love it. This wacky series features characters cursed with shapeshifting abilities thanks to accidents involving Chinese hot springs. The titular Ranma is your average martial artist — who turns into a girl when he's hit with cold water.
17. Blue Is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh
After Clémentine dies, her partner, Emma, visits her childhood home to retrieve Clémentine's diary. As part of her healing process, Emma reads the diary and relives their relationship through her partner's eyes.
18. The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua
What if programmer Ada Lovelace and engineer Charles Babbage had teamed up to create the world's first computer? That's the question Sydney Padua answers in her graphic novel, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage.
19. Adventure Time: Marceline and the Scream Queens by Meredith Gran
This Adventure Time spin-off follows Princess Bubblegum and Marceline on a rock-and-roll tour of Ooo. When things go wrong, it's up to the Vampire Queen and her scientist girlfriend to make sure the show goes on.
20. Soppy by Philippa Rice
Philippa Rice's Soppy is a series of mini-comics showing the joys of everyday life as a couple. From doing your own thing in the same room to sleeping position progression, this graphic novel is full of adorable moments.
21. Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip by Tove Jansson
From 1947 to 1960, Finn Family Moomintroll author Tove Jansson was the woman behind the Moomin comic strip. This graphic novel compiles all of Tove's contributions before her brother, Lars Jansson, took the helm.
22. Captain Marvel by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Shortly before Kamala Khan took over as Ms. Marvel, Carol Danvers abandoned the title to become the new Captain Marvel in this series from Bitch Planet writer Kelly Sue DeConnick.
23. Cat vs. Human by Yasmine Surovec
Cat people know their pets are a little whack-o, and maybe even homicidal. If you're a cat person, you're sure to love Yasmine Surovec's vignettes about the cat owner life in Cat vs. Human.
24. The Story of My Tits by Jennifer Hayden
I don't know many women who don't have complicated relationships with their breasts, and Jennifer Hayden perfectly captures the phenomenon in her graphic memoir, The Story of My Tits.
25. Dragon Knights by Mineko Ohkami
This unsung series from Mineko Ohkami follows the titular Dragon Knights — Rath, Rune, and Thatz — as they defend the Dragon Tribe from Demons and keep the peace with the Elves and Fairies. It's a complex high-fantasy adventure you don't want to miss.
Image: liz west/flickr