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She Has No Head! - 10 Ladies Leveling Up In 2015

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).

KELLY SUE DECONNICK

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 PeddlerSmut 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!

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