What do we love? Comics! Why do we love them? For various reasons! But among those reasons, of course, lies this one: a lot of comics let us form emotional bonds with made-up people. Characters! We all have favourite characters, right? Here are some of ours.
Where you first “met” them: I decided to read my way through Hellblazer when I was doing research about characters with terminal or chronic illnesses after being diagnosed with my own. John isn’t diagnosed until issue forty-something, but I started from the beginning to really get to know him.
Why you like them: By the time I finished Hellblazer, a comic series older than me, I really loved John. He is so flawed. He’s awful really, in so many respects. But he has this huge burden, this exorcism gift/curse/ability, and he really loves people and is really great at pretending he doesn’t. He’s asked again and again to sacrifice everything for the greater good and he does. And he cries and he mourns and he’s afraid. And he’s afraid of dying.
Where you first “met” them: In SuperMutant Magic Academy in all of its print glory. It was originally a webcomic, but with some sequences/one-pagers created just for the book to give it more of an arc while maintaining the randomness of a webcomic. Just read it.
Why you like them: Frances was the highlight for me, which says a lot because the book has so many fantastic characters. She’s the intellectual, don’t give a fuck, performance artist who just makes me smile every time she’s on the page. I think of our lovely Assistant Editor (Claire) when I read Frances on the page, which reenforces the belief that Claire is immortal in the way Frances is immortalized in this book for hopefully years to come.
Where you first “met” them: Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine DeLandro, Cris Peter, Clayton Cowles, Rian Hughes, and team.
Why you like them: Penny is the embodiment of emotions that I’ve felt throughout my life, and let me say, I’m “middle-aged” now, so that’s a lot of time dealing with feelings. She’s an outcast for several reasons, including her weight and lives in a society that only finds cookie-cutter beauty ideals to be acceptable. If you don’t adhere to the beauty standards men have instituted, then you are deemed Non-Compliant. I’m pretty non-compliant myself and wish I could be more so. I wish I could have the hair style I want, the clothes I want, and just be myself all the time. Penny does it and she never ever backs down. She’s sweet and loving to people who like her for who she really is. It’s okay to feel the stressors and cry about them when not kicking ass too.
Gertrude Yorkes, a.k.a. Arsenic (with Old Lace), a.k.a. Heroine
Where you first “met” them: Runaways #1 written by Brian K. Vaughn with art by Adrian Alphona.
Why you like them: Gert slumps into her first Runaways panel with an exasperated sigh and cutting quip. She’s curvy and short with disheveled purple hair, big glasses, and a rumpled army jacket. Finally one of my people! Even in my mid-twenties, during my first read through of Runaways, I was jarred by seeing Gert on the comics page. I had grown used to extracting what I could from typical comics female characters and forms. I’d been doing my best to look past ideal feminine visuals to only see golden hearts and leonine bravery. I’ve since found other women comic characters that lie more in the vein of my personal aesthetic. However, at that time, Gert was a very needed sardonic purple drop in the desert. As the series progresses, Gert’s bravery, loyalty, and wit become immense assets to the often motley superhero team. She never wavers in matters of honesty and truth. And in a pinch, she’s got a psychically linked dinosaur that helps save the day!
Antimony “Annie” Carver
Where you first “met” them: This is a difficult question to answer, because I started reading Gunnerkrigg Court in college, before I was really into Twitter or Tumblr. I discovered new webcomics by clicking on the links of suggested comics that webcomic artists list on their sites, and would jump from comic to comic, pausing to binge-read one before voraciously hunting down more. It was most likely six years ago, when I was a second year and a friend who lived on the same dorm floor as me started introducing me to webcomics.
Why you like them: I am so intrigued and torn by this question. If you ask me who my favorite character is next week, it might be different. Comic characters can change so much, but Antimony is someone who I’ve been watching grow for a long time now. I initially valued her because she was very young, but very intelligent, and I’m a sucker for stories that recognize young people’s intelligence. (Kids are smart!) I was also drawn in by the spooky, horror-ish tone of the comic and the death mythology that Annie’s abilities are tied to. However, over time, I’ve appreciated seeing her grief, passion, fury and (often literal) fire bubble over and explode through the calm exterior that she very carefully crafted. I really identify with that, because I often feel like my anger and sadness are emotions I have to keep to myself. Otherwise, I’ll be viewed as a weak or unreasonable woman. If you’re looking for incredibly complex, nuanced, and badass female characters, look no farther than Antimony Carver and the women of Gunnerkrigg Court. (I also love Kat, but the current storyline has Annie as #1 in my affections.)
Where you first “met” them: Young Justice by Todd DeZago (writer) Todd Nauck and Lary Stucker (artist). I had read a bit of Tim Drake after he became Robin in Detective Comics and the like, but that was more about him being Robin a secondary character to Batman. I liked him as Robin, but I didn’t really get to “meet” him, or get a real strong impression of his character until Young Justice. That was his team, not in the sense that he was the leader—though he was—but in the sense that was his group of friends, his cast of characters, even if the book was ensemble. It separated Tim from the rest of the Robins before him whereas they existed more as extensions of Batman until something big happened to them. Dick became Nightwing, and Jason died, but Tim was his own separate character without having that “big” event.
Why you like them: It’s difficult to pin down the exact reasons on why I love Tim Drake, because a lot of it—or at least one of the largest aspects of his character—don’t technically exist in the canon material. Tim was “my” Robin, the Robin I read about the most and essentially grew up with. I really identified with his seemingly normal nature compared to the other Robins and his ability to not handle tragedy. When he fell into depression after the loss of Kon and his father, I was also experiencing depression. Furthermore, I always interpreted Tim as demisexual, which I really connected with growing up and discovering my own sexuality. I never had much sexual interest, but I could form romantic interest in a handful of people which could grow into a maybe more sexual nature. Tim—pre-New 52 mind you—appeared to have a similar disposition and that always resonated with me.
Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch)
Where you first “met” them: I first met Wanda reading everything of hers out of order. I first encountered her first in House of M (2005) then immediately fell in love with her. There needed to be a mend in my ways for meeting her so out of order, so I scooped up everything about her that I could get my hands on. House of M is a very strange place to meet her, because she’s in a very very bad place, but I think it made her a lot more human and immediately vulnerable for me to meet her in the House of M events.
Why you like them: The thing I really love Wanda Maximoff for is her ability to show me that you can be completely vulnerable yet strong and that mental health is not a weakness. I’ve spent a lot of time dealing with my own issues with mental health and reading the adventures, struggles, and triumphs of this beautiful women is very inspiring to me. Wanda is a very powerful, as well as being very loyal and unbelievable self-aware (even when she isn’t). She’s learning more about herself everyday. The journey of figuring yourself and becoming your own person is really why I love Wanda. She struggles but she struggles for a cause.
Red Sonja (of course)
Where you first “met” them: On the big screen actually in the 1985 movie, when my mother indoctrinated me at a very tender age.
Why you like them: Horse and broadsword—this is all I have ever wanted in life. Maybe I was just “born this way,” or maybe my mother carefully cultivated me via exposure at a very young age to numerous fictional warrior women. It doesn’t really matter, but Red Sonja as a symbol was hugely influential to me. She fought for justice, yet she was always kind of outsider. Gail Simone’s recent run on the comic has given her more personality than ever (and one I heartily love), but I think it comes down to what Red Sonja represents more than anything—defining right and doing it and remaining fiercely independent.