While many of the comics I read are comics from publishers other than DC and Marvel, and a ton of them aren’t about superheroes, those types of comics were the very first ones I read. Ever since I started reading comics in the 90s, I’ve read a ton of them, especially comics from DC and Marvel, as at first I only had access to what was at my local library. So now, I’d like to take a look back at my absolute favorite superhero comics from DC and Marvel that star women. In all actuality, I’m pretty sure that this is just plainly my top ten superhero comic list, but there might be some comics starring men that I like. For the purposes of this list, I’m counting runs by an author or writing team on a book.
One common thread you’ll notice throughout a lot of these comics is that they’re a lot of fun. While I love some dark comics, when it comes to superheroes, I usually look for ones that are lighter and filled with hope and adventure. I want comics starring women who love what they’re doing and not be punished for being women. While I love comics that comment on the real world, and many of these do, I also want my superhero comics to be an escape where I can get away from the horrible reality of life for women in the real world.
Now, I know there are a TON of things I haven’t read; for someone who writes professionally about comics there are lots of things I don’t know about. So, what are your favorites that I missed? What are your top ten lists?
10. Avengers Assemble by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Kelly Sue DeConnick is going to show up again on this list, but I also want to give this series, the first series of hers that I read, a shoutout. There’s this part in her run where Black Widow, Spider-Woman and Spider-Girl (Anya Corazon) team up and it is just straight up delightful. They’re the only issues I’ve ever read featuring Spider-Girl and she’s easily one of my 10 favorite super heroes just based on these few issues. DeConnick really knows how to make superheroes fun, and here she does it with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Warren Ellis joined her on writing some of these issues, and honestly, I wish the Avengers movies were more like these comics.
- Avengers Assemble: Science Bros
- Avengers: The Enemy Within
- Infinity Companion
- Avengers Assemble: The Forgeries of Jealousy
9. Runaways by Brian K. Vaughan, Adrian Alphona, Takeshi Miyazawa and more
I’ve written extensively on my feelings about Runaways before, so I won’t talk your ear off about it here. Runaways is often brought up in discussions about the history of queer comics and comics that are about teens that actually seem like they’re about real teens. This series features a team full of women, people of color and queer characters, and actually largely does a good job in portraying them. After Vaughan left the series, it took a bit of a downward turn (I don’t think anyone really captured the same magic until Noelle Stevenson and Sanford Greene), but it can be fun to read the complete story.
- Runaways: The Complete Collection Volume 1
- Runaways: The Complete Collection Volume 2
- Runaways: The Complete Collection Volume 3
- Runaways: The Complete Collection Volume 4
- Runaways: Battleworld
8. She-Hulk by Charles Soule, Javier Pulido and Ron Wemberly
Soule took this character I had previously liked to the level where I absolutely love her now. This series was smart, funny, exciting, weird and above all, distinctive. There’s no way you could read She-Hulk and then the rest of your pull list that week and have this series get lost in the shuffle. It stood out in a perfectly wonderful way. Soule, who’s also a lawyer in real life, injected just enough of that lawyer knowledge to make Jen Walters’ (She-Hulk’s) law profession interesting and hilarious. Plus, Pulido’s art on the series perfectly matched the weird tone that Soule was writing for the book, making it stand out and stand above other comics even more. The corner of the Marvel Universe that Soule created here was wonderful and I just wish we had gotten more issues of it.
7. Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Jacob Wyatt, Takeshi Miyazawa and more
Seriously, I was so excited for this book before it came out. I mean: a brown, teen Pakistani-American Muslim girl whose hero is Captain Marvel? What’s not to love? Then, when it actually came out, I loved it even more than I expected to. Thanks to having a Muslim woman as a writer and a man of color as the original artist, this series really accurately portrayed Kamala Kahn as a brown, Muslim teenage girl. She’s so great and fun, girly and hopeful and enthusiastic. This series isn’t only wonderful, but it’s also super important, for all the reasons I just explained. Ms. Marvel is probably the most exciting new superhero to come out from Marvel or DC since Batwoman.
- Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal
- Ms. Marvel Volume 2: Generation Why
- Ms. Marvel Volume 3: Crushed
- Ms. Marvel Volume 4: Last Days
- Ms. Marvel Volume 5: Super Famous
6. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North and Erica Henderson
This comic has set the comics world on fire with its fresh new take on superheroes. It never takes itself too seriously, but also it never tries to be pretentiously ironic or self-aware. It’s just fun and perfect for readers of all-ages. I wish there were a dozen more comics like it. It’s welcoming an entirely new demographics into the comics fandom, or rather, more accurately, it’s giving a demographic that was already there a bigger seat at the table. It’s saying to all the young girls and young-girl-at-hearts “Here, this book is perfect for you and I’m not going to let the comics fandom ruin it for you.” Doreen Green (Squirrel Girl) goes off to college and has a fun school life while also fighting off foes like Dr. Doom, Kraven, Girl-Squirrel and even Galactus. I love this series to death, and I’m sure I’m going to love it even more as the years go on. Everyone needs to buy this book.
- The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 1: Squirrel Power
- The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 2: Squirrel You Know It’s True
5. Young Avengers by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
Earlier I talked about how great Young Avengers and Ms. Marvel were at capturing the voice of teenagers, well, this series is great at capturing the voice of teenage millenials. This run had the team made up of gay couple Hulkling and Wiccan; the bisexual Black teen Prodigy; the queer Loki (who’s in kid form at first and then in teen form); queer Noh-varr; the lesbian Latina America Chavez and Kate Bishop who is ostensibly a white straight girl, but is often read as East Asian and bisexual by fans (like me). Not only is this team super queer, but it’s super amazing. These teens are on a very teen-centric adventure, one that’s all about their families and figuring out their identities and where they fit in the world. The art is absolutely stunning and the writing is too, with hilarious jokes, cultural references that seem like they were actually made by teens on tumblr, solid emotional moments and absolutely great character developments. I mean, honestly, America Chavez alone makes this book worth reading.
- Young Avengers Vol. 1: Style > Substance
- Young Avengers Vol. 2: Alternative Culture
- Young Avengers Vol. 3: Mic-Drop at the End of Time and Space
4. Hawkeye by Matt Fraction, David Aja, Annie Wu, Javier Pulido and more
While I think it might seem like this title was named after Clint Barton (who is actually terrific in these comics, as opposed to the boring version of him the movies) it’s also very, very much named after Kate Bishop Hawkeye, the co-star of this series. Whether she’s paired up with Clint or going off on her own, as she does in the LA Woman arc, Kate Bishop is a force to be reckoned with in this series. The art is absolutely perfect, no matter who’s doing it, and it always fits the story perfectly. It just has so much heart, and that in turn makes the emotions and relationships feel so real, and the jokes feel so hilarious, and the stakes seem so high, and all of it comes together in a truly wonderful way. Honestly, Kate Bishop in this book is perfect. She’s a wonderful combination of no-nonsense when it comes to other people and lots of nonsense when it comes to herself. She can make and take jokes, but she never wants to let people down or let people do anything other than their best. While I love Kate in Young Avengers, I started worshiping her because of this series. This was a legendary run that’s sure to go down in comic history books.
- Hawkeye Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon
- Hawkeye Vol. 2: Little Hits
- Hawkeye Vol. 3: LA Woman
- Hawkeye Vol. 4: Rio Bravo
3. Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III
This is easily the most beautiful superhero comic I’ve ever seen, and plainly one of the greatest of all time. The layout of the panels and the bold colors and lines and shadows of the art are — I want to say heavenly, but they seem like they came straight out of hell, so maybe I’ll just say otherworldly and supernatural. It’s pure genius, and the story is just perfect. This run on Detective Comics helped cement Batwoman as the highest-profile lesbian superhero in comics, so a lot was hanging in the balance, but Rucka knocked the writing way out of the park. And Williams III didn’t just knock the art out of the park, he knocked it out of the galaxy. I also want to make sure to mention the absolutely wonderful run that Williams III and W.H. Blackman did with the character when the New 52 started; that’s a run you shouldn’t miss as well. Honestly, with what these three creators have done in crafting this new character, DC should give them free rein to do absolutely whatever they want for the rest of their careers. Plus, Rachel Maddow wrote the introduction for the trade paperback.
- Batwoman: Elegy
- Batwoman Vol. 1: Hydrology
- Batwoman Vol. 2: To Drown the World
- Batwoman Vol. 3: World’s Finest
- Batwoman Vol. 4: This Blood is Thick
2. Batgirl by Bryan Q. Miller
All the time I feel so conflicted about how I ended up with one of DC’s half dozen generic blonde-haired, blue-eyed white teenage girls (Stephanie Brown, Star Girl, Supergirl, Wonder Girl and Arrowette all look pretty much identical when they’re out of their costumes) as one of my top five DC superheroes. But then I think back on Bryan Q. Miller’s run on Batgirl, which starred Stephanie Brown as the title character, and I remember exactly why. This series has everything I love about comics. It builds a strong, fleshed-out world and commits to it; it gives its title character and all the side characters really solid and consistent characterization; it tells a compelling story with a great emotional arc; and it’s fun and absolutely cheesy in just the right way. The third volume might actually be my single favorite trade paperback of any superhero comic ever. This book is perfectly feminine; it really seems like it’s about a college age girl who’s out fighting crime and trying to make people proud. Plus, there are terrific guest appearances by Supergirl, Oracle and Proxy, Knight and Squire, Klarion the Witch Boy and Damian Wayne. This series is made out of fun and joy and spirit and, most of all, hope. To me, it’s exactly what superhero comics should be.
1. Captain Marvel by Kelly Sue DeConnick, David Lopez, Dexter Soy, Emma Rios and more
I really debated a lot about the order of these top two. They both made me fall in love with characters I didn’t really care about before, they both make me cry every single time I read them, I think about both of them at least a few times a week, no matter how long it’s been since I’ve read them — but ultimately, Captain Marvel won out. This series isn’t only a great superhero story, but it’s one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever read. DeConnick has a way with words that just magical, and with Captain Marvel she found someone who was a perfect vessel for her messages of girl power, optimism, hard work and reaching for the stars. There’s a part in Higher, Further, Faster, More where DeConnick writes out Captain Marvel’s thoughts and to me, it perfectly captures what the series is about.
Have you ever seen a little girl run so fast she falls down? There’s an instant, a fraction of a second before the world catches hold of her again… A moment when she’s outrun every doubt and fear she’s ever had about herself and she flies. In that one moment, every little girl flies. I need to find that again. Like taking a car out into the desert to see how fast it can go, I need to find the edge of me… And maybe, if I fly far enough, I’ll be able to turn around and look at the world… And see where I belong.
That makes my heart leap every single time I read it. It’s amazing. And the comic is filled with moments like that. It’s endlessly quotable, endlessly inspirational (and aspirational) and endlessly tearjerking. I love everything about this series. It’s my favorite super hero comic of all time. This is what comics are meant to be.
- Captain Marvel: In Pursuit of Flight
- Captain Marvel: Down
- Avengers: The Enemy Within
- Infinity Companion
- Captain Marvel: Higher, Further, Faster, More
- Captain Marvel: Stay Fly
- Captain Marvel: Alis Volat Propriis
- Captain Marvel & the Carol Corps
There’s also a new comic out written by Brendan Hykes, with Sean Rhineheart on letters and MJ Barros on art called Campaigners that I was the editor and trans consultant on. It would be awesome if you could check it out and buy it, it has a pretty cool trans girl character and a pretty great story and art. Check out what the twitterverse is saying!
— Jenn (@Jennirrific) March 29, 2016
New Releases (April 6)
Chainmail Bikini: The Anthology of Women Gamers (Alternative Comics)
Archie #7 (Archie)
Bee and Puppycat #10 (Boom!)
Giant Days #13 (Boom!)
Giant Days Vol. 2 TPB (Boom!)
Goldie Vance #1 (Boom!)
Angel and Faith Season 10 #25 (Dark Horse)
Batgirl #50 (DC)
Vampirella #2 (Dynamite)
X-Files Season 11 #8 (IDW)
The Wicked + The Divine #18 (Image)
Black Widow #2 (Marvel)
Ms. Marvel Vol. 2 HC (Marvel)
Scarlet Witch #5 (Marvel)
Spider-Women Alpha #1 (Marvel)
Mighty Zodiac #1 (Oni)
Welcome to Drawn to Comics! From diary comics to superheroes, from webcomics to graphic novels – this is where we’ll be taking a look at comics by, featuring and for queer ladies. So whether you love to look at detailed personal accounts of other people’s lives, explore new and creative worlds, or you just love to see hot ladies in spandex, we’ve got something for you.
If you have a comic that you’d like to see me review, you can email me at mey [at] autostraddle [dot] com.