You Have to See This New Comic Series

by Elizabeth Ballou

I want you to try something for me. Count the number of comics you know with female characters who are a) the protagonists, b) well-written and have some depth of personality, c) represent a variety of body types, and d) include black characters. If you're holding up more than a few fingers, then please, let me know where you're finding these comics. If you're not, you might want to familiarize yourself with Rat Queens: a "sass and sorcery" tale featuring four women who do take the lead roles, are well-written, and run the gamut in terms of race and body shape.

The comic, which is written by Kurtis J. Wiebe and illustrated by Roc Upchurch, tells the story of Hannah, Betty, Dee, and Violet, four street-smart, rambunctious adventurers who pick up mercenary work in a D&D-like setting. Image Comics, the publisher, describes it as:

"[a] modern spin on an old school genre...a violent monster-killing epic that is like Buffy meets Tank Girl in a Lord of the Rings world on crack!"

A comic that turns the often-sexist tropes of high fantasy upside down by creating feminist, believable, modern characters...and has fans falling out of their chairs with laughter? That, my friends, is my kind of story. And what's even better is that it may be coming to TV soon. Weta Workshop's Pukeko Pictures and Heavy Metal are developing a pilot which they will pitch to networks. Jeff Krielitz, the executive producer, said that the show "is not only perfect for TV space, but much needed."

And I agree, especially because of the recent claim that women are too hard to animate. Ubisoft neglected to include female assassins in Assassin's Creed: Unity because the work would have apparently been too much. Gee whiz, I thought women were people with pretty human-seeming bodies, but I guess I was wrong!

What all this uproar means is that female protagonists in fantasy, sci-fi, and historical-fi works (whether they're comics, movies, video games, or something else entirely) are more important than ever. A stunning number of movies don't even pass the Bechdel test, which examines whether there are a) two female characters b) who have a conversation c) about something other than a man. Comics like Rat Queens, which was nominated for an Eisner award for best new series, remind fantasy-lovers of the critical importance of an all-inclusive cast of characters.

They also serve as a welcome indication that female warrior figures do not have to wear pasties and thongs. Half the time, it seems like these hardened warriors or wise mages wandered onto the battlefield without putting any clothes on. That's demeaning and misleading, and Rat Queens stays far away from that mistake.

So what are you waiting for? Click over to Image Comics for digital downloads of the series' six issues.

Images: Image Comics