Folks, 2015 is already shaping up to be an interesting year in comics (and that’s even when I just put my fingers in
my ears and go “LALALALALAA” whenever anyone mentions Secret Wars and Convergence which might very well be great but basically make my head spin right now). What with all the new creator owned stuff coming out (In a bit of Wytches-like badassery Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen’s Descender is not even out yet and already optioned by Sony. Wooo!) and women doing especially awesome things in comics both big and small, let’s talk about 10 female comics creators that are seriously leveling up in 2015.
Without a doubt, you should already be (and hopefully are?) following all these ladies as none of them are unknowns. And for the record, I am planning a post for later this month that will focus on 10 “lesser known up and comers” and that will also include a massive list of women in comics that I hope you will all help me flesh out to be as complete as possible.
But for now, for THIS list, since there are SO MANY worthy women to consider, I tried to stick with ladies are currently transitioning to a bigger/larger stage…who are REALLY leveling up. Because of that, someone like say, Faith Erin Hicks wasn’t included simply because to my knowledge as of this writing she doesn’t have any major works scheduled for this year. Similarly, creators like G. Willow Wilson, Emily Carroll, and Eleanor Davis all had incredible years in 2014, the kind of stuff that I would definitely consider “leveling up” but that was LAST year…and this is the FUTURE. 😉
Anyway, you get the idea. Onto the list (in no particular order).
Let’s get the most controversial lady on my list right out of the way up front. Controversial because, yeah, she’s already been killing it. She’s been killing it for a good long time now. For a years DeConnick has been putting out really great comics – both corporate/licensed stuff at Marvel (the most high profile in the form of Captain Marvel and probably Avengers Assemble, but lots of other cool things along the way) and also really interesting creator-owned work at Image in the form of Pretty Deadly. The lady has not only long ago “arrived” but has also made herself one of the most popular and respected women working in comics. She is not just one of Marvel’s best writers but she’s been an impressive and outspoken speaker on women in comics, and an inspiration to many. However, to me, Bitch Planet is a game changer. It’s the ultimate “level up.”
As I said before, I think Bitch Planet #1 a perfect first issue, an incredibly clever start that makes a strong statement for what’s still to come and that perfectly knows what it is and where it’s going. But it’s more than just a perfect comic. It’s also a powerful political statement. People are getting the NC logo (standing for Non Compliant) tattooed on them, serious feminist writers are having essays publishing the back of the book, 18” foam fingers giving the bird with NC stamped on them are being ordered by the boatload. This isn’t just a comic, this a movement. And it’s exactly the movement we need right now. This is, rightly so, catapulting DeConnick onto a much larger stage and it couldn’t happen to a more interesting and talented writer.
Bitch Planet and Captain Marvel are in comic book stores now. Pretty Deadly is forthcoming later this year. DeConnick and Warren Ellis will be re-teaming up for a co-write on a few issues of Captain Marvel this year, and if you read their awesome issues of Avengers Assemble you know those are going to be especially great, they’re a wonderful writing team.
Like DeConnick, Cloonan is already incredibly successful, between her Eisner nominated self-pubbed works (The Mire, Wolves, and Demeter) to her long history in indie comics, to being the first woman to ever draw the main title Batman book back in 2013, Cloonan seems like she has done it all. But as co-writer on DC’s Gotham Academy Cloonan really is entering a different phase as a creator — one that has enough star power to both secure and help launch a major new series, and as a writer that doesn’t also HAVE to draw something in order to get work. Regardless of what happens with Gotham Academy (and I couldn’t be more hopeful that it has a long, healthy, prosperous life), Cloonan is set in 2015 to embark on her first creator-owned series with a major publisher (Image). Southern Cross, a book written solely by Cloonan, and with art by Andy Belanger and colors by Lee Lourigdge, is something new for Cloonan. This is Cloonan doing something a little different than she has ever done before and doing it on a pretty big stage. For the record, I’ve read it and it’s a great start. A really interesting and emotionally engaging story set on a massive and fantastic sci-fi stage.
But why is writing so important for a creator like Cloonan which most of us would be happy to see drawing all of the things? Quite simply, as an artist Cloonan can only produce so much work in a month, draw one book and a few covers maybe. And as someone that has so many interests both indie and mainstream, finding ways to both write and draw brings her so many more opportunities and exposes so many more people to her work. By co-writing Gotham Academy and writing Southern Cross, Cloonan can also pursue her own indie/self pubbed work and “passion projects” and still have time to do covers and various other work for hire stuff that maximizes her exposure. It’s basically win/win/win from where I’m sitting (for creator and reader!). It’s also just really exciting to see all these opportunities coming her way, they are incredibly well deserved, and I feel lucky to be able to watch her career blossom and evolve in such interesting ways. Bring it on, Cloonan…I’ll buy it all!!!
Southern Cross #1 releases March 1st. Gotham Academy is in stores now. You can find The Mire, Wolves, and Demeter in Cloonan’s webstore, and her incredible covers just about everywhere.
In the doing it her own way, and doing it with an absolutely INSANE amount of success, we have Spike Trotman. Creator of the long running webcomic Templar, Arizona, the comic Poorcraft, and creator/curator of the wildly popular Smut Peddler anthology, she’s also run some of the most successful comics Kickstarters of all time. Seriously, Smut Peddler 2 raised over 185k in 2014, and nearly 80k of that in the first FIVE days. Absolutely incredible. Someone could argue that 2014 was already Trotman’s year and that would maybe be fair, except she’s already posted about Iron Circus’s forthcoming 2015 schedule and to say that it is both ambitious and impressive is an understatement – including a planned Kickstarter for a new volume of Smut Peddler – Smut Peddler Double Header, publishing The TJ and Amal Omnibus, an updated full-color version of Ross Campbell’s Shadoweyes, and a new sci-fi/fantasy comics anthology called New World. As much as I want to make comics it has been seriously tough to break on through and I’ve a long way to go to get to where I both want to be and need to be in order to sustain a life/career, so to see Trotman just KILLING IT is absolutely inspiring. It must be an insane amount of work, but she somehow makes it look easy, which is of course the greatest trick of all.
I’m not sure exactly when Trotman went from being just a comics creator to a creator and PUBLISHER of comics (sometime between 2007 and now I guess), but it absolutely floors me how much I respect and admire what she’s up to – and how she’s REALLY adding to the world of comics in a powerful way – not only by what she creates and chooses to publish – many things that mainstream comics are failing to deliver; but by the fact that she is literally employing creators and creating jobs in comics. (see this truly impressive tweet about 2014). So, here’s to many many more successful years at it and a massively successful 2015, there’s no doubt in my mind she’s going to have one.
Templar, Arizona is available online now, TJ and Amal Omnibus is scheduled for Winter 2015, The New World anthology for Spring 2015, Smut Peddler: Double Header a Kickstarter for Summer 2015, and Shadoweyes for Fall 2015.
Erica Henderson has already been doing interesting very cool work on books like MonkeyBrain Comics’ Subatomic Party Girls, Red 5 Comics’ Atomic Robo’s Real Science Adventures, and various things both indie and established at the likes of IDW and Boom! including Boom’s Marceline and The Scream Queens. However, there is no doubt that drawing a brand new series for Marvel, written by the fantastic (and hilarious) Ryan North, is leveling up. North and Henderson’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 debuted the first week of 2015, and it was, in a word, awesome. You can read a detailed review of it here. It’s the kind of book that gives you faith in comics again. Brutally fun and funny, but wildly smart and hilariously executed. It’s two creators in perfect sync and while the book is not likely to ever be Marvel’s best selling title ever, it fills a much needed niche—that of a REALLY GOOD all-ages book. Besides, whose to say it won’t be Marvel’s best seller…I’m sure nobody thought Ms. Marvel would be a best seller and look where we are now. Domination! Regardless, it’s the kind of excellent accomplished work that should bring Henderson well deserved recognition and much much more work, as much work as she can stand.
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #2 is in stores THIS WEEK – February 4th.
Babs Tarr’s debut on Batgirl #35 a few months ago has gotten her some intense and well-deserved praise. The book straight up looks incredible and not unlike Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye, she’s doing some innovative visual stuff that’s raising Batgirl well above just “good looking.” While technically Tarr’s “level up” was in 2014, it will be her continuing this Batgirl run, and showing that she’s the kind of creator that can deliver a monthly book consistently at this excellent level that will help cement her as not only a creator to watch, but a creator to hire at all costs. Though issue #37 was a frustrating hiccup from a story perspective, the visuals remained second to none, continuing to feel young and fresh, but also emotionally engaging and inventive in storytelling choices. Already, thanks to her work on Batgirl and her hand in redesigning the costume with Cameron Stewart she has a massive fan following. One can only hope that we’ll be seeing more Babs Tarr everywhere…and judging from this recent release of a Justice League cover, we will be getting our wish!
Batgirl is in stores now!
Stevenson has been making a name for herself with her webcomic Nimona for ages now, I think it debuted in 2011? But this is a big year for her if only because Nimona is getting collected and published by Harper Collins this May. It’s a big deal for a big New York publisher to decide to publish a work that has already been made available on the web for free. Though we’re seeing more of that these days (Faith Erin Hicks Friends With Boys, Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole And A Half, and Jillian Tamaki’s SuperMutant Magic Academy to name just a few) it’s still a big deal and suggests a ton of faith in a creator.
So Stevenson would be having a hell of a level up year even if Nimona was the only thing she had going on, but of course it’s not! Noelle Stevenson is also the co-writer on the huge Boom! hit Lumberjanes which got upgraded from mini-series to an ongoing late last year, she’s contributing hilarious shorts to the Sleepy Hollow comic, and though it’s not comics, she’s recently been named a writer for Season 2 of Craig McCracken’s Disney cartoon Wander Over Yonder. Last but by no means least we got the insanely exciting news that Stevenson will be doing a Sensation Comics Wonder Woman story this year – a teen Wonder Woman story I believe (and if the sketches can be trusted). Basically that story is everything I have ever wanted from comics. So I’m pretty pumped. It takes a REALLY good year to make someone at Stevenson’s station level up, but she is poised to HAVE that year.
Nimona releases on May 19th, Lumberjanes and Sleepy Hollow are in stores now. Stevenson’s Sensation Comics Starring Wonder Woman will release later this year.
I’m obviously biased, as Meredith is not only my friend and colleague, but the literal artist/co-creator on my own forthcoming OGN, but there is simply no denying that this is going to be a big year for her. For starters, this month Image has collected her fantastic webcomic Hinges into a trade volume available to the masses. Previously available in hardback thanks to a very successful Kickstarter campaign, Hinges has not been available in this paperback format and obviously didn’t have the incredibly valuable Image distribution and PR push behind it until now. I hope many many more people will find McClaren and her work as a result of this great development for 2015.
Also in 2015 is the long awaited and much anticipated return of Hopeless Savages (Volume 4!) from writer/creator Jen Van Meter with McClaren on art duties. And then finally, sometime this year, probably in the fall, the release of our OGN from Dark Horse (Heart In A Box). Again, I’m clearly biased as all get out, but I believe our book is going to impress the hell out of people and not for anything to do with me…McClaren just really took her visuals to an incredible level with this book that asked a lot from her from go. She delivered at every opportunity with emotional, innovative, and stunningly beautiful work. I’m sure you’ll be hearing a lot from me about Heart In A Box in the future, but in the meantime make sure to pick up Hinges (out this month) and keep an eye peeled for Hopeless Savages, I think it might release this summer if we’re all very lucky!
Hinges releases in comic book stores on February 25th and bookstores in March 10th.
Like pretty much all the women on this list, Jones has been doing comics (pretty great ones at that) for quite a long time. From indie books like Twelve Reasons To Love Her and You Have Killed Me with regular co-writer/co-creator Jamie S. Rich to work with larger books like Oni’s Helheim and Brides of Helheim with Cullen Bunn, Vertigo’s Madame Xanadu, DC’s Adventures of Superman, and even a Dr. Horrible comic with television writer Zach Whedon. However, her new book Lady Killer, again with longtime collaborator and co-creator Jamie S. Rich, feels like a big book step. Having read the first issue I can tell you that it’s easily Jones best work (and maybe Rich’s as well?) and the book feels like it could hit pretty big. It’s got a nice easy to pitch high-concept idea—kind of a Mad Men meets Kill Bill…or perhaps Dexter vibe—and paired with a strong completely beautiful execution, this feels like a hit in the making.
Already Dark Horse has announced a reprinting of issue #1 after it sold out. I don’t know what those initial orders were, but going back to do a reprint is never bad news. It would be great is this book could be a stepping stone to Jones getting even more attention and acclaim, she’s been “working in the trenches” – cobbling together an interesting career or creator owned indie work and work for hire projects for a long time now and she deserves more recognition than she’s received. I hope Lady Killer helps bring her that recognition, it certainly feels like a good time for everyone to decide she’s an “overnight success.” 😉
Lady Killer #1 is in stores now, as is Brides of Helheim.
Again, this is another creator where I have some clear bias. I only discovered Lee about a year ago thanks to a tip from artist Declan Shalvey when he was working on Storykiller with me, but I was blown away immediately by her talent and knew I was lucky to get her on board Storykiller. I knew it wouldn’t be long before Marvel or DC snapped her up…and sure enough, before I could even trick her into doing some comics with me, she’d been grabbed up by Marvel for their new Silk series, which debuts next month. You can read the totally gorgeous preview pages here.
Marvel is definitely doubling down on their lady Spider-books (by March we will have Spider-Woman, Spider-Gwen, AND Silk all coming out at the same time). I have some doubts that the market can bear out three female led Spider-titles, but I’m glad to see them even giving it a try. Before Lee was on the book, Silk might have been my last pick up of the three since I love Spider-Gwen and Jessica Drew already and the idea of Silk is a little forced and annoying, but a female lead of color AND Stacey Lee drawing it means it goes from being a potential last place pick up to the first choice. I hope Lee’s Silk lasts as long as Lee wants to do it, but Marvel would be fools to let her go even if the book doesn’t go the distance (we all know too well that many don’t). The exposure of this book is a huge level up for Lee, but it’s well deserved and I’ve no doubt she’ll be as well known as other big 2 heavy hitter artists in no time.
Silk #1 will be in stores February 18th
I don’t have any insider knowledge about whether novelist and new Catwoman writer Genevieve Valentine has any other big comics in the queue for 2015, but writing Catwoman alone, especially as a newcomer to comics, is more than enough to qualify her as “leveling up.” Since the book also happens to be GREAT it’s especially exciting. Seriously, even the Catwoman annual that came out last month (annuals are, in my experience, more often than not, expensive wastes of time) felt relevant in how it developed the characters and relationships of the ongoing title. The first exchange between Batman and nuCatwoman was hilarious and perfect and spoke to so many layers—it said something about Batman, about Selina, and about the woman masquerading as Catwoman (and doing a pretty decent job of it)! It’s an accomplished writer – and more specifically in this case, comic book writer – that can do all that in a single page. It’s complicated and interesting work, and work I can’t wait to see more of in 2015. I haven’t read any of Valentine’s prose yet, but she’s also got a high profile novel coming out in March called Persona, so if you like her Catwoman, check that out too.
You can buy Catwoman in stores now and Persona releases in March 2015
So, that’s it for my list of ladies I’m especially excited to watch level up this year. But there are many more, who are you excited to watch level up in 2015?
Kelly Thompson is a freelance writer living in Manhattan. She is the author of the superhero novel THE GIRL WHO WOULD BE KING recently optioned to become a film, and her new novel STORYKILLER is out now. She is also writing the forthcoming JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS comic from IDW. You can find Kelly all over the place, but twitter may be the easiest: @79semifinalist