In Q & A, a weekly feature of Fantastic Fangirls, we ask our staff to tackle a simple question — then open the floor to comments.
Who is a favorite Woman of Color in comics?
Most people around my age were introduced to the X-Men by the Fox cartoon. I found about the X-Men through the side-scroller arcade game based off the cartoon, which they had at the local bowling alley. I’d dump all my quarters into the machine and every time select Storm as my character. Mostly because she was a girl, but also tornado lightning powers.
But when I finally got around to reading X-Men comics, I fell in love with Ororo Munroe. She’s such a wonderfully complex character: daughter of a witch-priestess, raised on the streets of Cairo to be a thief, worshipped as a goddess, leader of the X-Men, Queen of Wakanda. And that’s all part of her character. She’s graceful and powerful and kind and bad-ass. She looks equally comfortable wearing a crown or rocking a Mohawk.
If that wasn’t enough to love, she’s a really good friend to all her fellow X-Men. Ororo’s the one they confide in and come to after a bad day. Storm’s got your back, whether is fighting Morlocks or dealing with mutant melodrama.
I just read the first five issues of Lumberjanes, Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Brooke Allen’s BOOM! Studios book about a group of scouts battling monsters at summer camp. The book is as delightful as promised, and I appreciate the focus on female friendship (and more-than-friendship), and female-driven action, humor, and problem-solving. But the book also made me realize I’d truly reached adulthood when I found myself primarily identifying, not with any of the spunky, adventurous scouts, but with their put-upon camp counselor, Jen.
What I love about Jen (other than the fact that she shares my name) is her concerted effort to follow the rules and do the best job she can in the face of the most rambunctious group of counselors ever assembled. Her persnicketiness, geekiness (she spends more time identifying plants than actually hiking!), and general disbelief and bewilderment regarding all things supernatural makes her fit snugly into the same archetype as many of my favorite characters, from Bert on Sesame Street to Simon on Firefly. But most of the time, that archetype is embodied by a white man, and Jen’s existence as a woman of color with those traits makes her even more interesting. When I pick up the next issue of Lumberjanes, I’ll be excited to read more about the adventures of these lovable campers — but I’ll be even more excited to find out what happens next for their long-suffering counselor.
My answer is probably not that surprising to anyone who’s known me for more than a day, but Renee Montoya. Always Renee Montoya. Like a lot of people, I first met her in Batman: The Animated Series. I thought she was pretty cool. Even at the time, I remember thinking it was nice to see a woman police officer. And she had good banter with Bullock.
And then Gotham Central happened. If you haven’t read it, I definitely recommend checking it out. It changed the game for Bat books, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve never been much for Bruce Wayne, but the world of Gotham became much more interesting in the hands of Brian Michael Bendis and Greg Rucka.
Suddenly Renee wasn’t just a cool cop in Gotham. She was a lesbian. Even these days, lesbians in comics (and elsewhere) are hard to come by, but back then? It was a huge deal. And she wasn’t obsessed with babies or marriage (maybe because of the times, but still) and she wasn’t crazy, which meant she wasn’t a cliche. She was flawed and complex. She battled alcoholism and her family disowning her (and they didn’t ignore her culture or background in any of that) and her anger. She was (to me) a perfect character.
And then they made her a superhero. I loved every minute she was in 52 and I loved Crime Bible and her back up feature in Detective Comics. The biggest blow of the new 52 was the erasure of Renee Montoya, one of the great women of color in comics and one of the few (the only?) lesbians of color. She’s always going to be my favorite, though. We’ll always have back issues.
To give a brief introduction to this opinion, I just wanted to let you all know that it’s been at least 6 years since I’ve picked up a comic for a title I’ve never read before. If I was in the comic store, I would buy old issues of Cass Cain Batgirl or whatever Black Widow issue that was out that month. I was doing my fangirling outside the realm of actual books, so it was okay.
Then Marvel had to go and employ one of my favorite authors to write a series about a 16 year old Pakistani-American, Muslim girl. Hell yes.
Kamala Khan captured my heart from the first issue and has not relinquished it since. She is SO COOL. She loves her parents and brother, but understands that sometimes she needs to run behind their backs in order to do right by the values they raised her with. Her best friends are a group of awesome, socially-conscious, snarky teenagers–one of whom has given Kamala her uniform (which embiggens with her!). And–SPOILER ALERT–
–she has A GIANT, TELEPORTING DOG! HOW AWESOME IS SHE?!
People, Wolverine likes her. Wolverine. In the words of Steve Rogers, it’s impressive when someone who is known to not like people likes her.
And, best of all, she’s a fangirl. She is 100% made of feels, obsessions, and absolute determination to live up to her idols. (I love to think about how, if Kamala was real, she would write for this blog!)
Marvel is taking (baby) steps in the right direction. And representing a large faction of their fanbase by depicting Kamala just as she is in her own title is one hell of a step.
(But, seriously, if you haven’t read the new Ms. Marvel, please consider doing so. It highlights serious issues that plague (and I mean, plague) Muslim Americans and, from my point of view, gives a great narrative of first generation Americans straddling their identities as Americans and as products of their parents’ cultures. It is excellent)
So what about you? Who is a favorite Woman of Color in comics?
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