Strong Female Protagonist: Women in Comics

Tina Lernø, Librarian, Digital Content Team,
3 comic book covers featuring women

The comic book world has long been the domain of men. Both in readers and writers. That is slowly changing, and it’s good news! Women now make up 37% of comic book buyers according to statistics from both comic and general book stores. And, women are slowly gaining in writing and illustrating as well.

The bad news is female leads still underperform compared to the men. This is very much the case for top sellers DC and Marvel. Why is that? Well in a nutshell, female superhero titles come out with little to no promotion for them, so the sales drop, and drop below sales of male led titles, then its bye bye She Hulk, Hawkeye, America, Generation X, Gwenpool, Unstoppable Wasp and on and on.

The best defense however is offense, and with more women writers stepping up to the plate, the more stories we will have with strong female lead characters. This in turn increases the number of women buying and reading comics, (though the number of women reading traditional male superhero troupes has steadily gained as well). Even the statistics from San Diego Comic-Con show that about half of its attendees are women.

Libraries are definitely doing their part for gender equality in Graphic Novels too. This year’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens list, created by the Young Adult Library Services Association, has 3 women authors in their top ten, and 46 out of the full list of 115 titles were written by women! Having been on the committee myself, I felt it was really important to represent the full breadth of what’s available to teen readers.

Here at the Los Angeles Public Library, we also make sure we have all the best sellers, as well as those smaller publications and female fronted stories available to check out. We continue to keep titles that have gone out of print, so if you are a comic book and graphic novel enthusiast whose favorite title has been discontinued, you can still find it at the library. And, we have an amazing range of comic books and graphic novels on hoopla too. You can download comics right to your phone, tablet or other devices. You can search by publisher too, so if you are into DC superheroes, Boom! Studios adventures, or Image Comics thrillers, you can find them easily. And that’s great news!

2018 Great Graphic Novels for Teens - Top Ten List

Book cover for The Backstagers Vol. 1
The Backstagers Vol. 1
Tynion, James, IV.

Book cover for Black Hammer, Volume 1: Secret Origins
Black Hammer, Volume 1: Secret Origins
Lemire, Jeff, author, artist.

Book cover for Brave: Vol 1
Brave: Vol 1
Chmakova, Svetlana, 1979- author, illustrator.

Book cover for I Am Alfonso Jones
I Am Alfonso Jones
Medina, Tony.

Book cover for Jonesy Vol. 1
Jonesy Vol. 1
Humphries, Sam.

Book cover for Jonesy Vol. 2
Jonesy Vol. 2
Humphries, Sam.

Book cover for Jonesy Vol. 3
Jonesy Vol. 3
Humphries, Sam,

Book cover for Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation
Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation
Butler, Octavia, E., Duffy, Damian, Jennings, John

Dana, a black woman living in 1970s Los Angeles, travels back in time to a pre-Civil War era plantation, where she saves a young white boy’s life. She learns that the boy is destined to become one of her ancestors, and as she’s pulled back and forth between her own time and the Antebellum South, she becomes dangerously entangled in the lives of slaves and slaveholders.

Book cover for Lighter Than My Shadow
Lighter Than My Shadow
Green, Katie (Illustrator), author, illustrator.

Book cover for My Brother's Husband: Vol. 1
My Brother's Husband: Vol. 1
Tagame, Gengoroh

Book cover for Pashmina
Chanani, Nidhi.

Book cover for Spill Zone
Spill Zone
Westerfeld, Scott,