Four-Color to Forearms: WWACers and Comic Book Tattoos

The Supergirl logo fills the outline of the NC logo

Tattoos are a way to permanently declare your allegiance, your identification, your love. It should be no surprise, then, that a lot of WWAC contributors have fabulous comics tattoos. If you’re considering a comics tattoo yourself (I am!), let this photo gallery serve as inspiration. 

Jazmine Joyner: I have one comics inspired tattoo or actually Manga inspired. Does that count? [Editor: it absolutely does.] Imma talk about it anyway. So I have a NANA-inspired tattoo, which is my favorite manga on the entire planet. NANA was created by Ai Yazawa and was published in Cookie magazine. It was the most popular shoujo manga in the world at the height of its popularity. Nana O. and Nana K.’s friendship got me through so many tough times in my adolescence. So for my birthday this year I went to see Melvin at The Hideaway Tattoo in San Diego, and she created this awesome Nana chibi tattoo with both characters and the strawberry glasses that represents their friendship throughout the series. I love it so much. Read NANA!

Jaz's NANA tattoo shows two women drinking beverages in a decorative border

Rosie Knight: So happy to be under Jaz’s lovely NANA tattoo! I’ve got a few comics tats that I love dearly. My first proper sized big tattoos were my Love and Rockets pieces on my feet by the amazing Scott Move in London who runs and operates out of the incredible Parliament tattoos. They’re taken from art by Jaime Hernandez, and one foot features Hopey and the other Maggie. Love and Rockets was such a formative book for me and having this art of these two queer icons means so much. Plus Scott is fucking sick, so they just look really cool.

Rosie's feet with heads of the two characters are in water at a beach

I recently got a Swamp Thing tattoo from my friend Chad at Love Letters Tattoo in LA. He’s an old mate from when I was a reckless teen in London, so it was amazing to see him, catch up, and get some of his unreal art on my body. He’s primarily a hand poke tattoo artist, and he specializes in totally original lettering. Swampy has long been one of my favorite characters forever, and my love for him has recently been reignited by finding most of the old Alan Moore Steve Bissette run in back issue bins and by the amazing but short-lived series on DC Universe. So this one is basically just a love letter to my fave slimy chonky boy.

Rosie's upper leg has the letters SWAMP THING in unique lettering

My last specifically comic book related one—though I have a lot of other pop culture related ones—is probably my most comic booky of all. It’s half a troll tattoo, half a comics history tattoo, half a graphic design joke and 100% silly. It’s simply just comic sans written in comic sans. It was an idea I had ages ago, because I thought it was funny, but also comes from the fact that the guy who created comic sans based it on Dave Gibbons’ lettering from Watchmen. He thought he would make a comic lettering font, but instead, it became the most hated and most used font on earth that you definitely could never use to letter comics, lol.

Rosie has the words comic sans in that font on her arm

Alenka: I am so excited to see everyone’s tattoos! Rosie, I especially love your Maggie and Hopey feet; every time I see a picture of them it gives me great joy. Also, Jaz, the colors on your NANA tattoo are amazing! And their EYES; oh my gosh! I follow a lot of tattoo artists on Instagram, and feel like I mostly see really beautiful, fine-lined black work floral pieces, which is great, but my heart lies with bright, colorful, sometimes cartoony stuff. With that in my mind, I can share my most recent comic book themed tattoo: Dome Spider from Laura Knetzger’s Bug Boys!Alenka's arm has a smiling dome spider in bright colors

I wrote a whole piece last year about why Dome Spider is my ideal librarian, so I won’t go into much detail here, you can just go read it! I’m very excited for Bug Boys to come back out from Random House Graphic so that I can have it in my library and recommend it to kids.

On the flip side of that arm is probably my favorite tattoo that I’ve ever gotten (although they’re all special to me in different ways):

A red octopus on Alenka's arm

When I was first coming out and figuring out the whole you-can-be-attracted-to-all-genders-and-it’s-OK thing, Erika Moen’s webcomic DAR was essential to me. There’s a particular strip from that comic, where Erika is describing the strangeness of falling in love with a man as someone who’s long identified as a lesbian, and she draws herself wrapped around a lamp, yelling, “I love this lamp!” I distinctly remember feeling a ping of recognition as I read it, and was able to realize that, yes, I’ve felt this, too. I wanted to get a tattoo to celebrate the first time I saw myself in media, but opted for an adaptation of an octopus illustration Moen had sold as a sticker. I was reading a few books about octopuses at the time and was very struck by how alien they are to us, but able to interact and even play with humans. That feeling of alien-ness resonated a lot with feeling queer and strange and left out, and it paired well with what I felt when first reading Moen’s comics.

And since I’m sharing my whole forearm with you…

Alenka is lying down with her arm under her head. Her arm has a tattoo of a rotton apple with the NC logo on it

I also have a rotten apple with a non-compliant symbol from Bitch Planet in it! The NC I considered for a long time as other people were getting them, but then THAT issue of BP hit, the one where someone dies and it really really hits you that this is a comic about how high the stakes are for women (especially trans women) and people of color and queers. That’s when I was like, fuck, OK, I want this too, I want to have this symbol of solidarity that people are rallying around. The rotten apple is because I love the Screaming Females and listen to their music when I’m upset; they have a song called “Rotten Apple.” Also, I chose my elbow for placement because if I hit people with elbows in a martial arts class, I hit ‘em with the NC. Ahahhaahaha.

And, if all this time you’ve been going, “Yes, but what are those little colorful symbols I’ve been seeing in the other pictures?!” They’re the four elements from Avatar the Last Airbender, a cartoon I love so much, I watched it to calm down when I was in a very low place mental health-wise. When they let Korra and Asami be queer together on screen, I was like, YUP. TATTOO TIME. All of you should read the comics where they are a couple, Rosie and I reviewed the first volume of Turf Wars when it came out.

Nola: Sadly, I only have one comics-based tattoo—I really need to fix that! My one is the Head Key from Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s Locke and Key.Nola's arm has an elaborate key tattoo, where the end is shaped like a head

My relationship with Hill has soured somewhat since (the curse of permanent ink, lol), but it’s easy to keep loving this particular device and what it means to me. In the story, middle child Kinsey, upon discovering the key’s power to open people’s heads, uses it on herself and removes her both her fears and her tears, both of which are given personifications as they’re extracted from her head. She stores them in a jar at her bedside, and proceeds to try and live her teenaged life without either to weigh her down. This goes…poorly.

Reading this arc is something that changed my life. Kinsey saw in the key her chance to do something, and so she did; it was the easy way, and so it didn’t work, but the lesson was still there. You do not have to simply live with what is inside of you. You may not always be able to get rid of it, but you can mitigate it, you can control it. These were things that I knew, but the ideal of the Head Key gave me a device by which to focus my attention; I began to seek therapy for my trauma, and treatment for my other issues. It was the first concrete idea I had for a tattoo—a constant visual reminder that it’s my responsibility to keep my head in check, and that no one is going to look out for me the way that I can.

Corinne: I have several comic or comic adjacent tattoos. My first tattoo was my Supergirl piece on my leg. Shocking, I know. It was a very large tattoo for a first tattoo, and I was a whiny baby while I sat for it. My artist Aaron Remington, was great, and did not in fact ban me from his shop for being a whiny baby.

Supergirl flies on Corinne's leg

My next tattoo was simple, but I got it at the same time as the next big piece started. I simply added George Perez’s signature to the Supergirl tattoo.

The name "George Perez" appears underneath Cori's tattoo of Supergirl

Aaron did that one too, and is also the amazing artist behind my Titans sleeve. The goal for the Titans piece is much larger, but with George Perez’s retirement it may not be feasible. If that’s the case, I’m very happy with my Nightwing/Starfire ship sleeve. When I say I wear my love of a ship on my sleeve, I mean it literally. If I can expand the piece it will be Dick Grayson as Robin and Speedy on my other arm, with Donna, Garth, and Wally on that side of my upper back; Gar, Vic and Raven will be similarly positioned on the side with Dick and Kory. On my lower back will be profiles of Brother Blood and Deathstroke, with Titans Tower between them. Both Nightwing and Starfire are from sketches that George did for me at a con, and preferably I’d like to do that for the rest too.Cori's arm has the heads and shoulders of two Teen Titans

My last (for now) comics-related tattoo is the one that means the most to me. When Bitch Planet came out, I knew that I wanted a Non-Compliant tattoo, but I didn’t know how I wanted it. That changed when I saw a picture of someone’s Captain Marvel-based NC, and I knew exactly what I needed. I took the logo from the Supergirl tv show, because it is uniquely Kara’s, and put it inside the NC. This tattoo gives me strength and power, and also allows me to “Um actually” people (mostly men) who think the symbol is Clark’s not Kara’s. “Um, no, his is yellow inside. This is Supergirl.”

The Supergirl logo fills the outline of the NC logo

And there you have it!

In addition to comics tattoos, we here at WWAC adorn ourselves with comics in a variety of other ways, so that you can always tell where our loyalties and affinities lie. We certainly inspire each other.

In conclusion, I’m not saying these photos definitively prove that WWAC contributors are the most devoted comics readers and journalists of all time, but I am also not not saying that.

Emily Lauer

Emily Lauer

Emily Lauer lives in Manhattan with her husband, daughter and dog. She teaches writing and literature at Suffolk County Community College where she studies comics, kids' books, adaptations and visual culture. She is a former Pubwatch Editor for WWAC, and frankly, there is a lot more gray in her hair than there was when this profile picture was taken.