I always get a little crazy nostalgic and reminiscent as the year draws to a close...whether it be for my childhood and the happiness, warmth, and comfort of my memories of those end of the year holidays, or just as I reflect back on the past year and my own triumphs and (litany) of mistakes.
This year, the first in which I've done a full year of writing about comics for CSBG...and really the first year I have ever been so devoted to comics and to writing about them, had me thinking hard about what I'd loved and hated over the year, particularly in regard to the sometimes thorny issue of "women in comics". I began thinking about what I hadn't gotten to talk about and what I'd not been able to shut up about...and all the things in between. In the end, this nostalgia and reminiscence is responsible for bringing you a month of lists for December on She Has No Head!, and today is part one of a two part piece where I look briefly at my favorite female comics creators of 2010, what they did to warrant mention on this list, and what's in store for them in 2011. It was great fun pulling this together, although as always with lists it's more work than I think it will be and I'm never quite convinced the list is right - and I'm NEVER convinced it's in the right order - but regardless, I hope you enjoy!
20. NICOLA SCOTT
Significant comics work of 2010: Blackest Night Wonder Woman Mini-Series, Wonder Woman, and Teen Titans
Why I’m loving her work right now: Scott has a wonderful style that both fits the “acceptable mainstream” we see in most big two comics, but is simultaneously much more understanding and sensitive to the appearance of the characters she renders - and most especially the women, and I appreciate the hell out of it. Her Wonder Woman is a great example in that she looks tough and beautiful, strong and compassionate, powerful and graceful and as special bonus she never looks like she’s going to fall out of her bustier the way she does when so many other artists take her on. Additionally, Scott is the ONLY thing that made Wonder Woman in the hideous Star Sapphire costume this past year remotely tolerable. I mean, I still hated it, but in Scott’s hands I didn’t want to run off and pour bleach in my eyes…well, I did, but I didn’t actually do it. That whole series looked great, as did the few Wonder Woman issues she did this year, and the work we’ve seen so far on Teen Titans. She’s a mega talent and I hope Teen Titans treats her well because I can think of a lot of other books I’d love to see her on
Upcoming work: For the foreseeable future Scott is working on Teen Titans and has already been blowing the doors off the series visually. I wish she was on a book I was reading…I miss seeing her on my books, but her work looks great and she's on a regular title, and that’s all we can really ask for. Here's a solid gallery of some of her work though, beautiful stuff.
19. JEN VAN METER
Significant comics work of 2010: The Amazing Spider-Man Presents: Black Cat Mini-Series, Hopeless Savages Greatest Hits, JSA All-Stars, and Resurrection.
Why I’m loving her work right now: Van Meter has shown what she can do with indie work, and while I’d be happy to have her doing that forever, it’s also nice to have a woman with her talent making moves in the big two, as I’m a firm believer that more female writers, artists, editors etc., are the best way to get real permanent change in the industry. So I was delighted to see her penning some big two comics this year. While I didn’t read JSA All-Stars, I was really happy with her Black Cat Mini-Series for Marvel. Van Meter’s Black Cat mini was smart and complicated without being difficult to understand. It was also full of fun and energy without feeling insignificant or relying on cheesecake and boob jokes…sadly pretty typical of “fun” books starring "sexy ladies". Not that I don’t enjoy a good boob joke…but I prefer it when a writer (and artist) can find something else to talk about (and draw) instead…I think I’ve heard all the boob jokes I need to in this lifetime at least. This year also brought Hopeless Savages Greatest Hits in October of 2010, in preparation for an all new Hopeless Savages in 2011. Hopeless Savages Greatest Hits collects the “greatest hits” of Hopeless Savages, so you know it’s good. Plus it has art by complete badasses Ross Campbell, Chynna Clugston, Terry Dodson, Christine Norrie, Bryan Lee O’Malley and Andi Watson.
Upcoming work: And now I’m about to contradict myself…because more exciting than any number of Marvel or DC books Van Meter could do is the prospect of more Hopeless Savages. Van Meter will be publishing a new Hopeless Savages in 2011 with Oni, and the preview art, by Meredith McClaren looks AMAZING.
18. KATIE COOK
Significant comics work of 2010: Gronk Webcomic, Fuck You, Box mini-comic, Fraggle Rock, Star Wars: The Clone Wars (online) and a Mouse Guard Legends of the Guard issue (thanks to commenter Sal for the additions).
Why I’m loving her work right now: I put Cook’s Gronk on my 10 Webcomics I Love list this past summer, and one of the reasons she made that list, other than being a hell of an illustrator, is thanks to the general sweetness of Gronk. It’s a delightful and adorable palate cleanser for most of what I find on the internet, and I find if I need to smile, Gronk delivers that consistently. I also chuckled so deviously at her 24 page mini-comic Fuck You, Box (currently sold out – but it’s been sold out twice before so it may come back again – don’t give up hope!) that I had to declare it the best five bucks I spent all year. If an honor like that doesn’t get you on my favorite 20 female comics creators of 2010 list then I don’t know what will!
Upcoming work: Cook will be continuing her work on Gronk and likely doing more original art, cards, and hopefully more mini-comics, but due to the fact that she’s pregnant and her daughter is due this month…I’m sure she’ll be quite busy with lots of other things that don’t involve entertaining us. In the meantime busy yourself with catching up on Gronk and exploring her blog and online store. Hopefully she’ll be back to entertaining us (the truly important work I’m sure we can all agree) shortly!
17. SARAH GLIDDEN
Significant comics work of 2010: How To Understand Israel In 60 Days Or Less
Why I’m loving her work right now: I’ve only known about Glidden since November when I read her Vertigo book How To Understand Israel in 60 Days Or Less, but it left a distinctive impression, and was without a doubt one of the best books I’d read in this year. Interesting, beautifully illustrated and unafraid of asking the complicated and tough questions, Glidden’s book impacted me both intellectually and emotionally and left me feeling changed. While I still don’t understand Israel or have any miraculous answers to the problems that plague it, I was changed by her book, and I can say that about precious few comics I read these days. You can read a more detailed review and see more sample pages here.
Upcoming work: Glidden’s next project is Stumbling Toward Damascus, which is an exploration of journalism, partially funded by Kickstarter.com, in which Glidden traveled to Northern Iraq, Syria, and Eastern Turkey in November of 2010 with the CLP (Common Language Project). You can read about some of the project on her travel blog.
16. LUCY KNISLEY
Significant comics work of 2010: Make Yourself Happy, Girl Comics #1, Online Journal Comics, Original Wonder Woman Artwork
Why I’m loving her work right now: I’ve been enjoying Knisley’s collected journal comics and webcomics work for a while now, but the combination of her latest collection Make Yourself Happy, her ongoing online journal comics, including a truly exceptional one (Salvaged Parts), and a gorgeous Wonder Woman print she made available (which I own, it’s awesome), combined with easily my favorite story in Girl Comics #1 and she really outdid herself this year. As much as I love her journal comics and think that her Salvaged Parts comic was the best and most emotionally resonant journal work she’s done, after seeing her try her hand something a bit more fiction-y in the form of her Doc Ock story in Girl Comics #1, I’d love to see her stretch herself and do more fiction. Any chance of that Ms. Knisley?
Upcoming work: Knisley and friend/studio mate fibers artist Nora Renick-Rinehart pulled together the funding for a Harry Potter related project on the apparently highly effective Kickstarter website. They will journey to the “Wizarding World Of Harry Potter” and report back about their experiences in the form of a 25 page mini-comic detailing “their experience, and how Harry Potter as a cultural phenomenon has shaped fan society, British/American consumerism, literature and our own lives".
15. RAINA TELGMEIER
Significant comics work of 2010: Smile
Why I’m loving her work right now: Wildly successful and named an Honor Book in the Boston Globe Horn Book Awards Raina Telegmeier's Smile probably doesn’t even need another fan in me, but she got me anyway. Smile is unpretentious, sweet, honest, and just delightful. I also love the fact that when everyone else is doing vampires, badass chick books, magical girl books and the like (which I also love but it’s nice to have variety!) she’s doing an autobiographical retelling of her own awkward coming of age. The result is slightly painful, but mostly endearing and moving, and her illustration work is the work of a much more experienced cartoonist – she looks like she’s been doing this for many decades, rather than just the one.
Upcoming work: Telegmeier is working on another YA book about a group of teens on their high school stage crew. It’s currently untitled but you can check her website, and follow her on twitter if you want to be the first to know what it will be called and when it will be released. In the meantime you can check out her great webcomics and illustration work.
14. COLLEEN COOVER
Significant comics work of 2010: Girl Comics, Thor & The Warriors Four, I Am An Avenger, Tails Of The Pet Avengers
Why I’m loving her work right now: Every time I came across something that looked awesome this year, it seems I’d look it up and it would be drawn (and frequently written) by Colleen Coover…including her intro that ran through all three issues of Girl Comics, the Kathryn Immonen penned short she illustrated for Girl Comics #2, and her wonderfully adorable and hilarious short story "The Twelve Labors of The Babysitter" in the back of the Thor & The Warriors Four mini-series. Coover excels for me at absolute cuteness, but the fact is she’s a massively talented illustrator with a wide range – she is equally at home drawing naughtiness like Small Favors as drawing adorable Power Pack kids insisting that there be ponies in Hercules 12 Labors.
Upcoming work: In addition to I’m sure more Marvel work throughout the year, Coover is doing an upcoming graphic novel Gingerbread Girl with husband Paul Tobin for Top Shelf in May of 2011. There isn’t much information out there yet beyond this nice little interview from sister site Robot 6, and the blurb on Top Shelf but I for one, am waiting with baited breath.
13. FIONA STAPLES
Significant comics work of 2010: North 40 Trade, Northlanders #29, DV8: Gods & Monsters mini-series covers, various covers throughout DC, Fringe #4 short “Knock Knock”, The Mystery Society.
Why I’m loving her work right now: I am a HUGE fan of this lady. While the North 40 work that I first discovered Staples on, and which won her an Eisner nomination technically debuted in 2009, the trade came out this past November, so I’m counting it as significant for this year. North 40 is an interesting little book overall, but one that shocked me most with Staples talent. Like any new artist that you stumble upon completely by accident and can’t imagine your luck at finding, I was doubly delighted to see her getting significant cover work immediately after North 40 for the DV8 Gods & Monsters Mini-Series and a lot of major DC books like Superman/Batman. Additionally, Staples has a cover for Magus #1 coming out this week, that is, as far as I’m concerned, her best and most beautiful work yet.
Upcoming work: "Fiona Staples is a woman of mystery. She cannot be pinned down. She is the shadow of a myth." - Scott Peterson, WildStorm editor. Perhaps this quote I found is why I can't find anything "upcoming" listed for her. Updated! I got an email from Staples and she says that though many of her mainstream work is still tight-lipped although she says many more covers from DC and other publishers are in her future, a Jonah Hex story in the spring. Additionally she mentions she's in the early stages of a creator owned series with Simon Spurrier.
12. LINDA MEDLEY
Significant comics work of 2010: Castle Waiting/Castle Waiting Volume 2 (collected)
Why I’m loving her work right now: I hesitated putting Linda Medley on this list due to the controversy, quiet though it is, surrounding the fact that her name, apparently by her request, barely graces the latest Castle Waiting volume collected by Fantagraphics. If I had to guess I’d say that she’s displeased that Fantagraphics collected an unfinished bit of work…but that’s just a guess based on the fact that the book seems to end very unnaturally...in fact, practically mid-thought. That said, if I continued at my guessing...I'd say that the collection is already quite large and Fantagraphics may have had concerns about printing capabilities and/or cost issues. But that's all just guesswork and at the end of the day, Medley belongs on the list regardless, and I hope she’s happy to be here, controversy be damned. Though it does feel unfinished, Castle Waiting Volume 2 is easily one of the best fiction books I’ve read this year and that’s thanks to years of hard work by Medley carefully crafting these stories and characters and flat out making me fall in love with them. Her illustration work remains truly exceptional.
Upcoming work: I honestly have no idea. Medley’s site has been down/under construction for some time now, and it sounds like she’s currently taking a break from Castle Waiting which is a shame, but completely understandable. I hope she doesn’t stay away for long, she’s one of the great independent comics creator of our time, and I’ll follow her anywhere given the opportunity. In the meantime here's a nice collected list of some of her work thus far.
11. HOPE LARSON
Significant comics work of 2010: Mercury
Why I’m loving her work right now: Hope Larson is actually a fairly new discovery for me as this is the first year I’d heard of her and sought out her work. As a result, I read pretty much everything she’s ever done (Salamander Dream, Chiggers, and Gray Horses). I was impressed with a lot of it, even though I’m not really her target YA audience, but her latest book, Mercury, which came out in April of 2010, was her most impressive effort yet. A story of two young women, a hundred years apart and told in alternating chapters, the two stories merge together seamlessly and have nice emotional resonance. On the art side of things, Hope Larson, always adept has gotten better and better, her lines more confident, her storytelling stronger, and her master of everything from facial expression to backgrounds improving with every book. It makes me so anxious to see what she’ll do next.
Upcoming work: Larson is at work on a graphic novel adaptation of Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time which will be published by Farrar Straus & Giroux. She’s also mentioned via twitter on occasion a “magical girl book” and even the occasional Hollywood meeting now that she and husband Bryan O’Malley are in Los Angeles…so one can only hope that we’ll be getting a multi pronged Larson saturation of great work in the coming years.
So that's it for the first ten, a really great group of ladies doing some wonderful and important work in comics, both mainstream and independent. Make sure to come back next week to see the next ten ladies on my list.
*FYI – She Has No Head! is actively accepting review copies of “female friendly comics and graphic novels” for future columns on CSBG. Please get in touch via email (using the CSBG “contact us” button above) to discuss.*