Comics Vixen: A Crash Course in Comic Books
I’ll never forget the first comic book I bought. It was Tank Girl — more specifically the first and second Tank Girl trade paperbacks*. I was 22.
The artwork was rough and a bit sketchy and in black and white. I’d seen the movie and loved it, as a fan of 90s aesthetics and the sassy strong girl trope. But I’d been hearing for years how much different the comic books were from the movie, how much better, in some ways. Reading my new purchases in the park on a 90-degree day, I finally found out what everyone had been talking about.
The comic industry is in a unique place right now: for the first time in, well, ever, comics don’t feel like a (white) boys’ club. With a greater diversity of stories driven by a greater diversity of writers and artists in the industry, this a great time to get into comics. I recently attended Emerald City Comic Con (ECCC) in my home city of Seattle. It was my first Con, so the fact that a lot of the energy seemed dominated by women didn’t surprise me — I’m used to being surrounded by strong women in my daily life. Many of the panels** offered focused on diversity or feminism in comics, and the panelists involved reflected this diversity. In the audience and among the artists, writers, and vendors, the traditional view of comic books in which women are props and men are saviors seemed almost completely abandoned. In the comic industry today, women are creators, informed consumers, and heroes in their own right.
Although it was my first Con, anyone who’d attended ECCC as recently as a few years ago could attest to the fact that it was not always such a welcoming and diverse place. Large posters emphasizing the message that “Cosplay is not Consent” (i.e., someone wearing a costume does not necessarily want to be touched or photographed without permission) were a relatively recent addition, along with the notion that the space needed to be safe and inclusive at all. But changes like these are crucial to the continued success of comic books. And this movement towards diversity and inclusiveness in the industry—which I’ll discuss more in the future—makes this an especially important time to document what’s happening in comics right now.
Despite these changes, the comic scene can still feel intimidating. It was years after my purchase of Tank Girl that I really got into reading comics. I had hoped that single purchase would somehow enlighten me. But because of the growing diversity of quality comics today, it can be almost impossible for a newcomer to know where to start. And it takes time for some readers to shake the outdated concept that comics are only for a certain audience. I wanted someone to walk me through the steps, tell me which titles to pick up and which ones weren’t worth my time, maybe let me borrow a few books from their collection. When I bought those first two trade paperbacks, though, I didn’t have anyone to guide me.
For anyone who feels like I did then, the Comics Vixen review series will serve as that informative, comic-obsessed friend. With the recent surge in alternatives to traditional superhero types and tropes, there really is something out there for everyone. I can help you figure out what’s for you and where to begin. The resurging hype over comic books isn’t going to die down anytime soon. So I’m going to review or discuss something comic-related—a single issue, a whole series, an industry trend, or maybe even a movie—in each post, with an eye to feminism and diversity in the industry.
The point of this column, as is the point of reading comics in general, is to have fun, to inform and entertain. Make sure to log on to Sensible Reason every other week to read the latest. And if you know of any titles you think I should read, feel free to send them my way.
*A trade paperback is a collection of comics in book format, which usually makes reading easier by containing an entire story arc in a single volume.
**At a comic con, a panel involves a group of writers, artists, or other industry professionals who share their expertise with a roomful of attendees.