It’s safe to say that most of our readers firmly believe in the importance of representation in comics, and the significance of seeing yourself and your experiences reflected in the media you love. It’s no surprise, then, that comics featuring empowered female characters are often the ones that inspire girls the most. In fact, a study published by the Women’s Media Center on October 8 found that a whopping 90% of girls aged 5 to 19 said in a survey that they view female superheroes and science fiction characters as role models. And 58% of girls even said seeing female heroes makes them feel like they can accomplish anything. However, about two-thirds of the girls surveyed aged 10 to 19 said they felt there aren’t enough female role models in the media they consume. With that in mind, we want to take this opportunity to highlight a few current comics that put empowered girls front and center.
Brian K. Vaughan (writing), Cliff Chiang (art), Matthew Wilson (art)
Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, and Matthew Wilson’s Paper Girls is, in my opinion, one of the very best comics in any genre to come from Image in years. If stars four 12-year-old girls from the 1980s who find themselves wrapped up in a war that involves constant time travel, giant, terrifying creatures, and spans millennia. As engrossing as the time travel is, though, what’s most compelling about the comic is the girls themselves, and the profound growth they experience as a result of their adventures. They learn to overcome self-doubt, accept their flaws, understand their sexuality, follow their passions, and more. There is some adult language and some violence, so although the girls are young, this might be a better read for teens.
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur
Brandon Montclare (writing), Amy Reeder (writing), Gustavo Duarte (art), and Natacha Bustos (art)
This is a purely delightful, all ages comic. Lunella Lafayette, an elementary student in New York and an Inhuman, is the new smartest person in the Marvel universe, beating out the likes of Tony Stark, Reed Richards, and Bruce Banner. She’s also incredibly brave, using her smarts to save the day time and again as the superhero Moon Girl. But she still has a few things to learn when it comes to friendships and connecting with others, and that’s where Devil Dinosaur comes in. Lunella’s Inhuman ability involves switching bodies with Devil… which is not always convenient! But sharing this connection with a bumbling dinosaur teaches her that, when she allows her heart and her head to work together, she’s basically unstoppable.
Donny Cates (writer), Garry Brown (artist), Mark Englert (colorist), Taylor Esposito (letterer)
This one is definitely better suited for teens than younger girls. The lead character, Sadie, is a sixteen-year-old whose infant son might be the antichrist (we don’t really know for sure yet). What’s great about Sadie is she bucks all the stereotypes about teen pregnancy. She’s not ashamed of having had sex. She’s not seen as a victim or an embarrassment. he’s ferociously protective of her son in the face of deadly threats from terrifying demons. And her dad is a study in non-toxic masculinity. He’s physically imposing and ex-military, but he never shames Sadie for having gotten pregnant at a young age. In fact, he’s her constant champion and supports her decisions at every turn.
Noelle Stevenson (writer), Grace Ellis (writer), Shannon Watters (writer), Brooke Allen (artist)
This comic follows the adventures of a group of tween girls at a scout camp. While they’re exploring external mysteries, they’re also learning about themselves and coming to realize that they don’t have to fit into the pack. In fact, one of the most significant messages of Lumberjanes is that it’s far better not to try to fit in, and to instead embrace your uniqueness. The girls discover their strengths and explore the roots of their fears. And in terms of representation, Jo, the de facto leader of the group, is transgender, and se’s shown as being largely secure with her gender identity. What’s more, the comic doesn’t fall into the trap of defining her only by her gender. It’s an important part of who she is, but it’s not all she is. On the contrary, she’s a fully fleshed out character who’s great at math, enjoys puzzles, and demonstrates strong leadership skills.
Marc Andreyko (writer), Kevin Maguire (artist)
A perennial favorite. No list of strong young women in comics would be complete without a mention of Supergirl. The current run of everyone’s favorite Kryptonian (stand aside, Clark) sees Kara working to figure out who she is by learning from the various aspects of her history and her present. In recent months, we’ve seen her grapple with issues relating to her Kryptonian family, exploring her relationship with her human parents, and pretending to be a normal high-schooler—all while fighting off numerous global threats. Kara seems invincible, but she has insecurities just like the rest of us, and we’ve had the chance lately to watch her face some of those and grow as a result.
G. Willow Wilson (writer) and Nico Leon (artist)
Seriously, what’s not to love about Kamala Khan? She’s smart, compassionate, and incredibly capable. At the same time, she’s relatable. We see her working to find her place in the world as she grows into a young adult–all while struggling with challenging friendships and romantic relationships like a normal high school student. What I love most about Kamala is that she has so much heart. She cares deeply about the people in her life and about the citizens of Jersey City, whom she works every day to protect. The comic is also fantastic because it’s not afraid to take on contemporary social and political issues like xenophobia, misogyny, and hate speech on the Internet. Not to mention the fact that Kamala is a prominent Muslim superhero who is shown to be proud of her faith
Chelsea Cain (writer), Kate Niemczyk (artist), Lia Miternique (cover artist). Image.
This might be my new favorite comic. It’s just amazing. A mutation in toxoplasmosis results in menstruating women turning into killer wildcats. Kind of like werewolves, but even more awesome. As you would imagine, widespread panic takes root, and girls who are at the age where they’re expected to get their period for the first time are watched like hawks. Including our protagonist, Maude, who is being set up to shoulder the fate of the world. In addition to giving us a main character who’s plucky and smart while also navigating the challenges of puberty, Man-Eaters debunks all manner of sexist stereotypes.
The Unstoppable Wasp
Jeremy Whitley (writer) and G Gurihiru (artist)
After what has turned out to be a temporary hiatus, Unstoppable Wasp returned to shelves in October with a brand new #1 issue. Nadia Pym, daughter of Hank Pym, uses her scientific brilliance to fight the sneaky folks at A.I.M. And what’s even better, she puts together a group of girls—aptly called G.I.R.L. for Genius In action Research Lab—who use their intelligence and talents to fight bad guys with science. This is a fun comic for young readers that older readers can enjoy, as well. And it actively promotes girls and women pursuing careers in STEAM fields.
The importance of representation in comics is basically indisputable, as the Women’s Media Center study demonstrates. And lucky for us, there’s no shortage of great comics featuring compelling girls. As you get ready to do your holiday shopping, consider picking up a comic or two for the girls in your life.