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Carina's Comics Corner: Celebrate Women's History Month!

A couple weeks ago, we explored Wimmen’s Comix, learning about some of the first powerhouses of women in comic books. Those comics were pillars in forming some of the more political, critical takes that we see in the comics genre, albeit in a usually silly way. But what about the more serious approaches? What about the voices of women who are not white, not in power, not supported by large groups of fellow activists? This Women’s History Month, we’re visiting comics that aren’t afraid to explore the grittier aspects of what it means to be a woman in the world. Check out these titles for a crash course in Women’s History.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon)

Perhaps one of the most well-known standalone graphic novels of our time, Persepolis is a testament to the strength that is acquired during girlhood. Marjane Satrapi’s memoir chronicles her time growing up in Tehran at the peak of the Islamic Revolution and the war with Iraq. Marji, as she is affectionately referred to throughout, is raised in a radically Marxist household where protest is power, and when a family trauma strikes, her perspective on the world becomes drastically self-aware. Her journey to understanding her family, heritage, and personal belief system develops in real time, but not without some of the other everyday annoyances that come with growing up. A solid memoir that has solidified its place in the graphic novel canon, Persepolis is a must-read for any fan of the genre.

Read a free copy of Persepolis here.

Hunna by Lena Merhej (Samandal)

This out-of-print title is a holy grail of sorts for feminist comics enthusiasts. Coming in at a slim 32 pages, Hunna is a small but mighty volume of eight flash comics by women artists in Lebanon. Lena Merhej is known for her wry, straightforward approach to comics and put together this collection through her own publishing company, Samandal, to push the text to the mainstream. Hunna addresses what it means to be a woman in the Arab world, complete with punchy political critique. Books like Hunna, despite getting little traction beyond its originated nation, are imperative for growing the comics genre, expanding literary horizons beyond what we are familiar with. If you’re able to somehow get your hands on a copy of this one, I encourage you to read it slowly and with an open mind.

Hunna is currently out of print and not available for purchase in English.

Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists: A Graphic History of Women's Fight for Their Rights by Mikki Kendall, illus. A. D’Amico (Penguin Random House)

In Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists, Mikki Kendall and A. D’Amico create a stellar graphic bibliography of famous women throughout history. This graphic novel shows the path to women’s rights on an international scale, spanning from the the BC era all the way up to present day, Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists covers a LOT of territory. This is less of a deep-dive and more so a primer to the women’s rights movement, so it’s a great jumping off point for newbies. The intersectional approach of this book is also exciting, demonstrating how race, sexuality, and the economy are all tethered to gender, and advocating for other marginalized groups has always come with the territory when it comes to women’s rights. If you’re looking for a nice intro to the movement, this is the one for you.

Purchase Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists here.

Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro (Image Comics)

While this one technically doesn’t bear any historical context, the series Bitch Planet is nothing if not political. This dystopian series draws from the exploitation film, primarily the “women in prison” genre, and was born out DeConnick and De Landro’s mutual desire to create a Marvel-esque series with a feminist bend. Taking place in what is referred to as the Auxiliary Compliance Outpost, an outer space prison for insubordinate women, Bitch Planet highlights a wide cast of characters who have all been sent to the Outpost for a variety of reasons. This series highlights the prison industrial complex’s impact on women with a speculative bend, challenging the narrative of oppression that we see so often. Coupled with DeConnick’s “Bitch Fest,” a feminist letter to the audience at the end of each volume, Bitch Planet is quality sci-fi with real-world implications.

Purchase all the volumes of Bitch Planet here.

Looking for reviews on upcoming releases? Maybe commentary on a specific title? Just want to find something new to read? Stay tuned for biweekly themed posts, standalone reviews of new titles before they’re published, and more!

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