It’s 2021, If You’re Not Reading Comics by Women, It’s Time to Start

Ciara Catherine Williams
7 min readSep 18, 2021

James Brown was right, it is man’s world, but it would be nothing (nothing!) without a woman or a girl.

This is especially true for the world of comics. When people think of the writers at DC or Marvel Comics, it’s pretty easy to think of them as a “boys club”. And that’s fair, most of the popular characters are men, and the female characters, well… remember when we talked about Male Gaze not too long ago?

But what if I told you that one of the most famous modern writers for Guardians of the Galaxy was a woman? And so is one of the major creators of the newest iteration of Green Lantern? And now, due to the growing popularity of webcomics and indie publishers more and more women are writing and publishing their own original comic series.

This is extremely important for two huge reasons:

1. For so long, women and girls were excluded from comic book fandoms, made to feel like posers or outsiders; and

2. Stories are being written about, for, and by women, that are more relatable for many audiences, and therefore more enjoyable.

Cover art for Black Widow Issue # 7 (2020), created by Kelly Thompson, Elena Casagrande and Jordie Bellaire. Published by Marvel Comics (source: marvel.com)

In just this past decade, characters like Marvel’s Black Widow, initially introduced as a sexy side kick who only showed up as an accessory character in series centering around strong male heroes, have been taken on and totally evolved by female writers.

We are slowly leaving the pain of sexist tropes, unrealistic art and predictable storylines in the past. People are finally beginning to realize that comic books aren’t just for boys, and it’s fantastic to see more and more women breaking into the industry. And it’s not just the ladies who benefit. Both big league and indie comic book publishers are also thriving now that they’ve begun to tap into the (until recently) unrealized market that is women in fandom.

Therefore, in celebration of this amazing breakthrough, here are four extremely talented female comic creators that you should check out in August, and why:

1. Kelly Thompson

Kelly Thompson is doing some amazing things in both the Marvel Universe and in the indie comics world. Her work for Marvel’s Hawkeye was nominated for the 2018 Eisner Award (a huge achievement for comic writers) for Best Continuing Series. She doesn’t shy away from the Strong Male Lead characters like Deadpool, Wolverine and Gambit, despite how many “fans” would argue that male writers understand them better (yawn). But she also makes sure to write for Strong Female Leads such as Captain Marvel, Black Widow and Jessica Jones, showing them to be equally powerful, clever and badass.

Panel from “Heart in a Box” (2015), written by Kelly Thompson, published by Dark Horse Comics (source: darkhorse.com)

Beyond Marvel and the super hero genre, Kelly Thompson also writes for many other big names in comics, like Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Power Rangers, Jem and the Holograms, Adventure Time, Nancy Drew and Star Wars.

In the indie world, she’s created two of her own works. Heart in a Box (2015) is a graphic novel about heartbreak, recovery and adventure that shows that comics aren’t just about fighting and saving the world. Sometimes, they can be about saving yourself.

Mega Princess (2017) is a new take on princesses, and brings femininity to comics in a way that isn’t all about dresses and pretty things, but also about being a genius detective, a dedicated big sister and a great leader.

Thompson’s storytelling range and ability to balance masculinity and femininity, while breaking boundaries for both creates tons of excitement to see what her upcoming projects will be.

2. Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay is another woman breaking boundaries at Marvel Comics, as one of the lead creators of World of Wakanda, a love story taking place in the world of Black Panther, and a co-creator of Black Panther and the Crew. As one of the first black women to be lead-writer on a project for one of the big leagues, Gay brings authenticity and diversity to one of the most famous universes in the pop-culture world.

Unfortunately her run with Marvel was a short one, after both World of Wakanda and Black Panther and the Crew were cancelled in 2017 (with less than 10 issues published each). Cancelling 2 Black-centric stories at the same time created backlash for Marvel, but tons of support for Gay and her fellow black writers and artists.

Despite World of Wakanda’s cancellation, Gay continues to advocate for diversity and inclusivity in the world of comics and pop culture as a whole.

In 2020, Gay published her own graphic novel, The Sacrifice of Darkness. The story centers on Hiram, a black protagonist who in a desperate attempt to escape the darkness in his life caused by being exploited as a miner, flies into the sun, leaving behind a world of literal darkness and suffering for his family. The Sacrifice of Darkness includes many themes significant to Black history and culture and features a cast of Black and other multicultural characters with unique stories and personalities.

Panel from “The Sacrifice of Darkness” (2020) written by Roxane Gay. Published by BOOM! Comics. (source: freshcomics.us)

Here’s hoping for many more amazing and diverse stories to come from Roxane Gay’s brilliant mind.

3. Ngozi Ukazu

Ngozi Ukazu is a popular independent artist (and official New York Times Bestseller) who went viral for her popular webcomic Check, Please! In 2013. Now turned into a graphic novel (but you can still read it online), Check, Please! is the story of Eric “Bitty” Bittle: vlogger, baker, ex-figure-skater-turned-hockey-player, in love with Jack — his male hockey teammate and captain. It’s a story full of awkwardness, hilarity, hockey puns and cuteness overload.

Panel from “Check, Please! #2, Book 711: Sticks and Scones” written by Ngozi Ukazu (source: checkpleasecomic.com)

Ukazu’s story is set in the real world, no super powers or supernatural incidents, just crushes and twitter hashtags. It’s easy read-ability and lightheartedness made it a quick fan-favourite, Ukazu’s 2021 Kickstarter campaign for the 4th installment of the series being one of the most funded ever for a webcomic.

Her heartwarming and well-rounded representation of LGBTQ+ characters and ability to make the slice-of-life genre entertaining with just enough drama to keep readers wanting more has sparked a huge fandom. Ukazu’s writing has something for everyone: sports, romance, baking, nosy parents, healthy portrayals of masculinity, BEYONCÉ…

Although Check, Please! is currently Ngozi Ukazu’s only comic series to date, she has plans to continue the series, so keep an eye out for the next installment featuring college hockey’s most loved gay couple!

4. Cecil Castellucci

Finally, Cecil Castellucci depicts the strangeness of being a teenage girl in way that very few can. Her most famous series, published by DC Comics imprint Young Animal, is Shade, the Changing Girl, (a reboot of Shade, the Changing Man) a story which follows Loma, an alien who inhabits the body of a teenage Earth Girl. She has to navigate living Earth Girl Megan’s messy, out of control teenage life, while also evading the attempts of those on her home planet to take back something she stole. Even though Loma is an alien, her biggest problem is not some big, bad dude trying to take over the world, or some other inter-galactic threat; it’s trying to fit in.

Excerpt from “Shade, the Changing Girl” #2 (2018), written by Cecil Castellucci. Published by Animal Print (source: comicscontinuum.com)

Castellucci is able to capture the teenage girl experience as exactly what it is: feeling like an alien and having no idea how the world works. Her stories are funny, embarrassing, clever and literally out of this world.

Other works by Castellucci for DC include Shade, the Changing Woman (a continuation of Shade, the Changing Girl), Batgirl, and Female Furies. She has also independently published other works such as The Plain Janes, a story about four teenaged girls all named Jane who are outcasted at school and band together to make their boring town more interesting through a secret art movement. Her graphic novel Girl on Film is a memoir detailing her own teenage years, growing up as an aspiring artist in New York City.

Whether she’s writing about aliens, secret juvenile delinquents, or her own experiences, Cecil Castellucci’s comics are relatable in all the best and worst ways.

This piece was written for my content marketing class at George Brown College, as detailed in my Content Marketing Strategy.

The premise of the assignment was to write a piece of engaging and educational content related to a subject matter of my choice, and publish the piece online. As part of the assignment, I was also instructed to promote the article on an additional social platform and analyze the engagements and any other interesting statistics regarding the piece’s performance.

I chose to promote my piece on LinkedIn, as my main objective for this project was to use it to connect to other professionals in the writing and digital marketing industries.

Access the link to the original post here.

See the article posted on LinkedIn here.

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Ciara Catherine Williams

I am an aspiring digital and content marketer based in Toronto, ON, currently pursuing a postgraduate degree in Digital Media Marketing at George Brown College.