As much as I love dense, brain-busting feminist texts, feminist comics can capture the complexities of the movement like no other medium. Now more than ever, women are creating smart, sex positive, political works that push the boundaries of what the comic arts are capable of. In the hands of these artists, issues like sexual assault, intersectionality, sexual expression and body positivity can be explored with depth and nuance in colorful, creative ways.
Like many kids, I devoured my fair share of comics growing up, but they were mostly of the dude-centric variety. When I finally discovered feminist comics in my teens, it was thrilling to see characters and storylines that more closely reflected the world I inhabited. These days, I'm particularly a fan girl of feminist comics that wield humor and irony like weapons — two things indispensable to dealing with life as a lady-identified person in the 21st century.
Feminist comics usually come in two main varieties: some are feminist because they explicitly discuss the subject didactically, while others are feminist because they implicitly address feminist issues through fictional plot lines and visual cues. To me, both are entertaining and edifying in their own ways. Here are five badass feminist comics to wow you:
1. The Big Feminist But
How many times have you heard the phrase, "I'm a feminist, but..."? Writer and graphic novelist Shannon O’Leary and her co-editor Joan Reilly were quite familiar with the tension between the abstract philosophy and our IRL lives, so they compiled this anthology to address it in clever, poignant ways.
2. The Agent Series
Katie Skelly's NSFW Agent series is a splashy melange of adventure, seduction, science fiction and erotic ennui. Whether navigating intergalactic threesomes or addressing the emotional toll of long-term relationships, the titular Agent character embodies all the pleasures and pitfalls of the flesh.
3. Witch Women
Witch Women is a comic that covers the wickedest feminist topic of them all: witches. In this joint by Heretical Sexts Publishing (best name ever, amirite?), editrix Tenebrous Kate brings together all kinds of folks to write and draw about history, fashion, role-playing, and magick as they relate to femininity and the occult.
4. Threadbare: Clothes, Sex and Trafficking
A gut-wrenching yet vital zine about exploitation, consumption and production, Threadbare: Clothes, Sex and Trafficking delves into the ways the international garment and sex industries are entwined. With in-depth analysis and research by Anne Elizabeth Moore and drawings by The Ladydrawers Collective, this is a serious slab of truth that should be required reading for every fashion-loving feminist.
5. Bitch Planet
The cover of this comic series beckoned me with the question "Are you woman enough to survive?" and after devouring the first Bitch Planet comic, I believe I am. The brainchild of Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro, Bitch Planet is the place where mad, bad, and dangerous to know women are sent off to face punishment for not falling in line with patriarchy. What happens next? You'll have to pick up a copy to find out...