This isn’t a post about how to get your girlfriend to care about your hobby. This isn’t even, really, a post about how to get women to read comics. You get women to read comics the same way you get anyone to read anything — you ask them what they like, ponder what you know about the material at hand, and offer a couple of suggestions as to what you think they might enjoy.
Here are the comics the women I know are actually reading, or have read.
Queen & Country. Available in nice, easy to find, easy to read Absolute collections. By Greg Rucka, Q&C tells the story of being a British spy. It features well-rounded and well-thought-out characters doing tough things. One of those characters — though not the lead in all the stories — is a woman, Tara Chace.
Secret Six. By Gail Simone, this twisted DCU title tells of the adventures of a group of C-List villains. Features strong characters, great dialog, a deeply twisted sense of humor, and canonical GLBT characters in both hero and villain roles. Also hot amazing art by Nicola Scott (usually) who draws extremely attractive men. Mostly available in trades.
Classic X-Factor. Easier, by far, to read than trying to figure out how the hell to read ongoing X-Men titles. Available in Essential editions. Hilariously soap-opera-esque, yet featuring long-standing X-characters all in one easy-to-acquire title.
Birds of Prey. Also by Gail Simone, this mainstream DCU title has kickass women kicking ass. Also getting the tar beat out of them by villains who are nearly their match. High superhero stakes, lots of character-driven plots, lots of fun dialog. Excellent cheesecake art over the course of the title makes the women look hot and sexy and most of the men equally so. Only somewhat available in trades, as DC is weird about this.
Alias. By Brian Michael Bendis, introduces us to the foul-mouthed P.I. Jessica Jones and her former superhero career. Centered in the Marvel Universe. Alias is a classic gumshoe P.I. story with the nearly-deadbeat detective who is just getting by. Amazing character development, plus some great cameos. A good introduction to the the whole Avengers side of Marvel. Available in trades.
Whiteout. By Greg Rucka, again. The story of Agent Carrie Stetko and a murder in Antarctica. With great art by Steve Leiber, who always draws people that really look like people. Another mystery/crime comic that feels intimate. Stetko is a great, flawed, strong character. Available in trade.
Runaways. Part of the Marvel U, but not initially immersed in it, Brian K. Vaughn’s story is a classic — what if your parents really are supervillains? This title has more people of color, a better gender balance, and more GLBT than almost any other Marvel title. Available in trades and manga-sized editions.
Astonishing X-Men. The Joss Whedon run. Great, great writing, snappy dialog, excellent characterization, tightly wound plots. Joss kinda sorta almost based Buffy on Kitty Pryde, so it works well to have him write her. Amazing art by John Cassaday. Available in trades and absolute editions.
New Avengers. Bendis, again. An easy introduction to who the Avengers are. Decent racial and gender mix. EXCELLENT snappy dialog, if you like an Aaron Sorkin walk-and-talk. Available in trades.
The Order. By Matt Fraction with art by Barry Kitson. Most of the women I know have read this because I have made them read it, but none have regretted that. Some of the best writing of original characters in the Marvel U in a long damn time. Extremely character-driven storytelling, with decent character diversity and a wry self-awareness. Available in trades, I think.
X-Men First Class. A look at the early days of the X-Men, adding depth and character moments to those long-ago adventures. Written by Jeff Parker, the series was light and easy and fun, while not avoiding some decent foreshadowing of future events. Available in trades and manga-sized editions.
Gotham Central. A cop/crime series set in the DCU’s Gotham City. Excellent, excellent character writing, good art depicting real people. This series is perfect for whoever likes Law & Order or its ilk.
Invincible Iron Man. Available in trades, this series by Matt Fraction has some of the best ensemble writing out there — and almost all the main characters are women. Besides Tony. The series featured the debut of Pepper Potts as the hero Rescue, which is immensely popular with the women I know.
A few names, you’ll note, recur. Rucka. Simone. Fraction. Bendis. That’s because these writers consistently treat male and female characters as equally important, equally valuable to the story. These writers all write character-driven plots with witty dialog that sounds real to the ear — though, goodness knows, I pine to sound that witty. If the circle of my acquaintances is any indication — and they are my acquaintances, so it’s a small and self-selecting group — this is the kind of story women want.
Of course, we all each have our own titles. I don’t read any Captain American titles, for instance, and I know a lot of women who do. And I love Strangers in Paradise, but that’s not a universal preference among ALL women by any means.
So, women who read comics, what comics are you reading? Guys, what comics are your female friends reading? Women, why do you like the comics you are reading? Is it loyalty to a title you read when you were younger? You like crime fiction? The protagonists are attractive? You enjoy the wish-fulfillment fantasies of power and competence?
Email: sigrid @ fantasticfangirls.org