Women in Comics

Marvel Comics recently revealed that one of their superheroes, Ms. Marvel, would be getting a new spin. The newest character to don the name of Ms. Marvel is Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old Muslim teenager from New Jersey. If this news has you curious about other female comic book protagonists, the UGL has compiled a list for your reading pleasure.

Ms. Marvel original comic cover

Ms. Marvel
Various authors and artists

The character of Ms. Marvel has been around quite a while – since the first issue of the Ms. Marvel comic in 1977, in fact. If you want to find out where it all began for her and what kinds of adventures old-timey superheroes had, pick this one up!




Batwoman: Elegy cover

Batwoman: Elegy
Greg Rucka, J.H. Williams III, Dave Stewart, Todd Klein

Batwoman also made her debut as a character quite a long time ago – 1959! – but she disappeared for a while when she was deemed ‘non-essential’ to Batman storylines. This series has her re-envisioned as a central character, battling  a demented version of Alice from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. It also explains her tragic back story.



Batgirl cover image

Gail Simone, Ardian Syaf, Vicente Cifuentes, inker ; Ulises Arreola, Dave Sharpe

You can never have enough bat-themed superheroes. Out of all of them, the UGL might be a little bit biased in favor of Batgirl, aka Barbara Gordon, since her day job is being a librarian. We think librarians are pretty super, Batgirl especially so.



Pride and Prejudice comic cover
Pride and Prejudice
Nancy Butler, Hugo Petrus, Alejandro Torres, and Dave Shapre; adapted from the novel by Jane Austen

There are comic books that aren’t about superheroes, and they have cool female protagonists, too! Jane Austen’s classic novel is now a graphic novel – we have Sense and Sensibility in comic form, too, if you’re up for a double whammy of Regency romance.


Gunnerkrigg Court comic cover
Gunnerkrigg Court
Tom Siddell

Schoolgirl BFFs taking on supernatural phenomenon in a spooky boarding school setting – what’s not to like? Gunnerkrigg Court originally started as a webcomic – this volumes collects the strips that follow Antimony, the main character, through her first year at the school.



Eye of the Majestic Creature cover
Eye of the Majestic Creature
Leslie Stein

For more slice-of-life type stories (but still with a dash of whimsy), you can try this collection of semi-autobiographical comics about a young woman dealing with her family, strangers, anthropomorphic friends, and life in general.



For more comics featuring girls and women as characters, try searching in the library catalog for “Young women – Comic books, strips, etc.” or ” Women – Comic books, strips, etc.” and selecting “Subject” from the drop-down menu. To browse a more general selection of comics, try the UGL’s graphic novel Pinterest board. If you have a favorite female comic book character that we haven’t mentioned, tell us about her in the comments, or on Twitter or Facebook! And if we don’t already have any comics that feature her, please recommend them to us!

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Study Break? Grab a comic!

We know you’re hard at work this time of year—as if you weren’t busy enough already, midterms are coming, and papers and projects are mounting up left and right. We see you studying hard in the UGL, and we’re here to support you in all your research needs. In the midst of all that academic frenzy, though, it’s important to do some fun things for yourself, and we can help you with that, too! You might already know about the movies and video games we have available for you to use—but did you know that we also have a huge collection of comics and graphic novels for you to check out? Well, it’s true!

Our librarians love you so much that we work tirelessly to bring you books that we think you’ll enjoy. Last year, this meant bringing in almost 200 new graphic novels to our collection. Not just your average, run-of-the-mill comics, either—we have works from many different countries, in many different languages, as part of our goal of diversity. Many of them are available in English as well as in their original language, be it French, Spanish, Norwegian, Japanese, Chinese, or another. Some of them are pretty rare or obscure and hard to find—but we rounded them up, just for you! Here are a few volumes we think you should have a look at:


book cover: black and white illustration of pointy-faced figurebook cover: comic illustration of figure looking isolated at a social gatheringbook cover: high-contrast illustration of figure in sailing costumebook cover: illustration of young person juxtaposed with skeletonbook cover: small illustration of seated figure in ancient warrior costumeLoco by Pedro Espinosa
This “silent” work (meaning it has no words or dialog) from Spanish artist Pedro Espinosa was originally published serially in the 1980s; now it’s all collected together in one volume. The main character, Loco, silently expresses his concerns about societal, political, and familial issues.




Conventum by Pascal Girard
The horror, the agony, the trials and tribulations of attending a class reunion, and the self-reflection it can cause—in French with simple, charming illustrations by Québécois artist Pascal Girard.




Corto Maltese: The Ballad of the Salt Sea by Hugo Pratt
Originally published in 1967-1969, this was the first story featuring the rogue sailor-adventurer character of Corto Maltese. Though the stories are fictional, the historic periods and places featured were exhaustively researched by creator Hugo Pratt, and Maltese meets fascinating characters from all over the world, real and imagined. Available in English as well as the original Italian.




7 Billion Needles by Nobuaki Tadano
This reimagining of the 1950s science fiction novel Needle tells of a teenage girl in Japan who suddenly finds her body possessed by a extra-terrestrial being, and embroiled in a manhunt for yet another extra-terrestrial being intent on destroying the human race. Exciting stuff!






Goliath by Tom Gauld
The Biblical story of David and Goliath gets retold, this time from the point of view of the giant Goliath. He may actually be more a lover than a fighter, but bureaucracy and politics conspire to push him into his fabled role of antagonist.





If you read all these and you’re still not sated—or if there’s a graphic novel or comic series you’d really love to see on our shelves—you can always suggest a purchase. We’re working on getting more new additions soon, this time focusing on the Middle East, South Asia, and Eastern Europe. If you have any suggestions for graphic novels in that realm, or even outside of it, drop a line to Chris Diaz (cdiaz25@illinois.edu). We look forward to hearing from you and giving you lots of good stuff to read!

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