Holigay Gift Guide 2015: Comics for Girls (and Anyone Else) Who Want to Get Into Comics

2015 Autostraddle HoligaysLet’s say you’ve got a daughter or little sister or niece or any young girl in your life who wants to get into comics, but doesn’t necessarily know where to start. Or let’s say you’ve got anyone else in your life who wants to get into comics. Or, heck, let’s say you want to get into comics. It can be scary going into a comic shop and trying to pick something out on your own, especially if you’re looking for all-ages comics or comics featuring lots of female characters. While it’s true that all comics are actually girl comics, as anyone, regardless of gender, can read them, sometimes it helps to know about some comics and graphic novels written by women and starring female characters that are more aimed at female audiences. So I put together this gift guide to help you out!


Lumberjanes

I mean, the first place I’ve got to start is Lumberjanes. This all-ages book about a group of girls at a summer camp full of supernatural surprises not only features some first rate art and writing all about friendship, solving mysteries and making puns, but it also features plenty of queer characters (including a trans girl), plenty of girls and women of color, and great messages about being true to yourself and girl power.

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Lumberjanes Volume 1, collecting the first four issues came out in the spring, then was followed by Volume 2, which collects issues #5-8, this fall. Or, if you want to get one book that includes both volumes, all the mix tapes, an intro by Raina Telgemeier and more, you can order the brand new Lumberjanes To the Max Edition Vol. 1.


Nimona

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If you love Lumberjanes, you might want to check out this other book by one of the writers, Noelle Stevenson. Nimona was a finalist for the National Book Award this year, an extremely rare feat for a graphic novel, and it definitely deserved its spot there. This book is full of shape shifting girls, magic and science mixing together, heroes and villains with a shared past and a look into the dark side of its title character. I couldn’t recommend this book more highly.


Honor Girl

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One of my very favorite books this year, Maggie Thrash’s Honor Girl is a memoir about the author’s time as a teen at a summer camp when she does a drag performance of a Backstreet Boys song, becomes a sharpshooter at the rifle range and falls for a female counselor named Erin. This is a terrific look at adolescence and figuring out you’re queer in a place and time when being queer isn’t exactly celebrated.


This One Summer

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Another terrific book about summer, Jillian and Mariko Tamaki’s This One Summer is about two girls who have always spent their summers together, but as they grow up, they find that they might be drifting apart.


In Real Life

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In Real Life is a graphic novel by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang, and is a great gift if you’re buying for someone who loves gaming, but you don’t want to buy them a video game. I mean, just look at that cover quote from Felicia Day!


Help Us! Great Warrior

Help Us Great Warrior 001 Cover

This super funny and super action-packed all-ages fantasy series is by Madeleine Flores and Trillian Gunn and features a trans woman of color as a supporting character (that’s her with the pink hair). This is one of my favorite limited series in recent memory, and while the trade paperback doesn’t come out until spring, you can get individual issues and either package them together or give them as stocking stuffers.


Superhero Books

Superheroes are everywhere right now, and so if your daughter/niece/sister/friend/self is looking to get into some great all-ages superhero comics, I’ve got the perfect books for you.

Marvel
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First I’ve got to recommend Ms. Marvel. If you’re just getting into the book, you can buy Volume 1: No Normal, or if you’re already a fan and looking for the latest trade paperback, Volume 4: Last Days is for you. Also at Marvel is The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, which just might be the most fun you can have reading a monthly comic right now. For slightly older kids, if they’re looking for a book full of teenage angst, Runaways is the perfect present. Or if they want something that will help initiate them into the most mainstream of mainstream comics, you should check out Kelly Sue DeConnick’s run on Avengers Assemble, which features teen superhero Spider-Girl prominently.

DC

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At DC, if you’re shopping for a teen or young adult, Batgirl Vol. 1: The Batgirl of Burnside is the perfect book for you. It’s fresh, it’s cool and it’s full of great fashion and excitement. Or, if you’re looking for a book that’s basically Harry Potter but with Batman instead of magic, you need to check out Gotham Academy. For another Noelle Stevenson comic, you can check out her addition to Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman.


Indie Books

Or perhaps you’re not so into DC or Marvel and indie books are more your style.

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If you’d like a cute, fun, feminist and diverse twist on the classic princess tales, you could check out the Princeless comics, or their for-slightly-older-readers spinoff series Raven: The Pirate Princess, which features a queer woman of color lead. For a super fun throwback, why not go with the recently relaunched Jem and the Holograms comics? There are also tons of great Adventure Time comics, like the terrific Marceline and Bubblegum-centric Marceline Gone Adrift, or Kate Leth’s latest Adventure Time graphic novel, Masked Mayhem.


Cartoons

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Despite what geek-gatekeepers will tell you, a lot of comic book fans come to the characters through cartoons. That’s how I became a fan. When I was young, I would watch Batman: The Animated Series and wish that I could be like Batgirl or Catwoman. As a bonus, this cartoon is where the iconic queer characters Harley Quinn and Renee Montoya made their debuts! If you’d prefer to focus on a team rather than just one hero, you can check out either Justice League Unlimited or Teen Titans for a terrific show about a team of youngsters. As for animated movies, the Teen Titans show had a movie, Trouble in Tokyo, or you can watch the delightful Wonder Woman animated movie.


Legos!

Everybody loves Legos, so if you’re looking for a great gift to go with the comics that you’ll be giving, why not give some superhero-themed Legos?

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While it’s actually kind of hard to get Legos of female superheroes, it’s not impossible. Of course, I’ve gotta start out with this Wonder Woman minifigure. I mean, she’s a legend. If you’re more into the bisexual antiheroes, you can either go for this Catwoman motorcycle set, or this Harley Quinn minifigure.

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Over at Marvel, while most of the toys are all about the guys, even to the point of leaving the female heroes out of scenes they were in, you can still go for this Guardians of the Galaxy Knowhere Mission set, which features Nebula; this other GotG Milano spaceship set that has Gamora; This Avengers Quinjet set, which features Black Widow in the pilot seat; or, if you’re more of a Storm gal, you can buy the X-Men vs. The Sentinel set and play as one of the coolest X-Men ever.


Other Toys!

There are also plenty of other great toys that are perfect for the budding comic book nerd.

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If you watched Guardians of the Galaxy and, like me, wished that the whole thing was about Gamora and Nebula fighting and bonding as space assassin sisters, than these cute Gamora and Nebula figurines are the perfect stocking stuffer.

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If you’re looking for a cool throwback toy, this Batman: The Animated Series Batgirl Action Figure is a great choice. For plush toys, the Holy Kitten plush is a dream gift for any Lumberjanes fan, or you can go with a Superman Streaky the Supercat or Krypto the Superdog plush, depending on if the gift recipient is a cat person or a dog person.


Raina Telgemeier

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I’m going to close this out with the Queen of All-Ages Comics (and kind of just the Queen of Comics), Raina Telgemeier. Not only is she doing comic book adaptations of Baby-sitter’s Club books, but she’s got three amazing graphic novels that have been fixtures at the top of the New York Times Bestseller’s list since they came out. Her book Drama is about a girl trying to find friends, herself and maybe a bit of romance in her teen years in the school drama club. She’s also released two graphic memoirs. The first, Smile, is about dealing with braces and growing up, and the follow up, Sisters, is about a roadtrip and, well, having a sister. All of her books are absolutely excellent and would be perfect gateway comics for readers of all ages.

Mey Valdivia Rude is a bisexual Latina trans woman living in Los Angeles. She's a writer, comic consultant and a trans activist. She's a bruja, a femme, a pop princess and she loves comic books, witches, dinosaurs and crying. She has a cat named Sawyer and a very successful twitter.

Mey has written 574 articles for us.

21 Comments

  1. A wonderful idea for the holidays and a great list. Kudos!
    Even if it’s not written by a woman, might I suggest that you add the marvelous “Rat Queens” to the mix, though?

    • Thanks! And yeah, Rat Queens is super great, but I wanted comics that are meant more for teenage girls than that. I think it probably has too much gore, sex, drugs and swearing for most parents to be okay with it, you know?

  2. OMG, I’m definitely getting some of these for my little brother (he’s 14) and I to enjoy together. I’m definitely getting the Lumberjanes to the Max, and Batman the Animated Series (my sister and I watched this everyday when we got home from school. BTW, my brother LOVES Buffy (his favorite character is Willow) and Steven Universe (his favorite character is Garnet). I’m definitely going to get him a Garnet t-shirt from Etsy.

  3. Good list, though I’m kinda… wondering why some licensed properties are under indie titles? Adventure Time and Jem are as far away from independent as anything Marvel or DC puts out.

    • The adventure time comics are published by Kaboom! which is a part of Boom! Studios and Jem and the Holograms are published by IDW. In comics we usually talk about the Big Two, DC and Marvel, because those two publishers sell the majority of comics, and while IDW is probably a Big Five company, there’s usually a divide that people recognize between DC and Marvel and other publisher’s books.

  4. Better recommendations for DC Comics and cartoons:

    On the comics side, I definitely agree that Gotham Academy is worth reading. Sensations Comics, on the other hand, is a pile of trash depending on who’s writing (the comic is basically designed around letting every writer who wants to write Wonder Woman have a go at writing her). The only arc of the comic actually worth picking up is Gail Simone’s.

    Batgirl of Burnside is okay to pick up if you have no prior knowledge of Barbara Gordon. Mostly because if you do have prior knowledge of Babs, you’ll be crying about how out of character she is. It’s an okay comic for what it is, and the side characters are worth dying for. The writing team is very good at writing original characters; they just can’t seem to wrap their head around character continuity and how to write existing characters, which is unfortunate when the protagonist of their book has been around for 50 years or so.

    So, comics for girls or young adults written by DC that are genuinely worth reading (some are currently ongoing, others are not): Birds of Prey Vol 1 (1998-2009), for one. It’s an all-female superhero team, led by core members Barbara Gordon (Oracle), Dinah Lance (Black Canary), and Helena Bertinelli (Huntress). Cassandra Cain’s Batgirl comic (Batgirl, Vol. 1) is extremely good too.

    The New Teen Titans and Teen Titans comics are really good for young adults as well, as are the Young Justice comics (both the actual comic and the tie-in comic based on the cartoon).

    As far as recommending currently on-going comics goes, Gotham Academy again gets a mention. Unfortunately, besides recommending the current Catwoman comic, there’s really not many offerings in the form of *well-written* comics specifically aimed at the YA crowd. I think the current Wonder Woman comic (the actual one, not Sensations Comics) is pretty good, but readers would have to slog through the first couple of volumes to get there, so…*sigh*

    On the cartoon side, all of your recommendations are good. I would like to add Young Justice and Green Lantern: The Animated Series to your list, though. Both are wonderful shows. YJ was sort of an adaptation of the DC Universe as a whole, focusing on the younger generation, and GLTAS is a really good starting point for anyone interested in Green Lantern.

    • I included Sensation Comics specifically for one writer, who’s entry into Sensation Comics I really enjoyed and I think is a great entry point into Wonder Woman for younger readers.

      And I 100% disagree about your assessment of the current Batgirl run. Batgirl was my first ever favorite superhero, back when I was in elementary school. I’ve been a Batgirl fan for about two decades. I feel like especially if you’re a fan of Batgirl from Batman: The Animated Series and the comics based on that, then this Batgirl is perfect for you. And there isn’t a single comic being published right now that makes me feel as much like a kid reading comics again as much as Batgirl does.

  5. Would any of these books be appropriate for a 6-7 year old? Or any others you’d recommend for a reader that young?

    I am trying to find ways to entice my reluctant reader to read more and thought comics might do the trick, but its hard to know what’s good for her age. The only things on the “young readers” shelf at the comic shop are Archie, Disney, and My Little Pony. (I will probably get her an MLP since she likes the show, but would like to branch out as well.) She likes superheroes in general but isn’t very into any specific ones right now. She liked Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends when it was on Netflix, and went as Firestar for Halloween that year. She has seen some Avengers cartoons but doesn’t watch any particular series. We also tried watching the new Supergirl show together but after the 2nd episode she deemed it too scary.

    I am only vaguely familiar with some of the Marvel & DC comics/characters, so any and all recommendations appreciated!

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