Welcome to part two of my 20 favorite female comics creators of 2010.
Writing She Has No Head! is at times very stressful (and always surprisingly time consuming) but it's brought me to a lot of great material over the last year or so, and most especially, it's brought a lot of fantastic female creators to my attention. There are a lot of pluses to writing this column, but I would say that, hands down, the biggest personal plus for me - has been the realization that we have such a thriving female comics community - and I feel like it's even stronger today than it was when I started really focusing on women in comics a little over a year ago. So below (and in "Part One" that went up last Monday, which you can read here) is my attempt to bring to you some of my absolute favorite female creators of 2010. I hope you enjoy and maybe discover someone new as I have.
10. AMANDA CONNER
Significant comics work of 2010: Wonder Woman Short Story from Wonder Woman #600, Supergirl in Wednesday Comics (collected), Power Girl, Covers for Black Cat, Girl Comics, and a variety of other major books.
Why I’m loving her work right now: Amanda Conner has been a powerhouse of a cartoonist for a long time now, and as far as I’m concerned, one of the best cartoonists around – male or female, mainstream or indie. She has a gift for expression and movement, panel layout and costume design, body language and storytelling that is matched by few, and though her Power Girl stuff didn’t ALWAYS agree with me over the past year, she gave me more good times reading than most single artists ever do in a year. But what really impressed me and moved her so far up this list was her short story "Fuzzy Logic" in Wonder Woman #600 in which she played Wonder Woman and Power Girl off each other (and Power Girl’s cat) to great effect. That short story (and don’t kid yourself, most of the time a short story is harder to do effectively than a long one) proved to me that Conner has serious chops not just as the stunning cartoonist and visual storyteller we’ve all known she was for yeas, but as a writer as well. I know she’s a bit cemented, and usually to good effect, with writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, but I’d really like to see her strike out on her own now that I’ve had a little taste of it. You can read a preview of three of the five pages of Conner's Wonder Woman #600 short on the DCU blog here.
Upcoming work: In addition to what I’m sure will be a lot of beautiful cover work for the majors, she’s hard at work on the art for a creator owned book called Captain Brooklyn by Jimmy Palmiotti and Frank Tieri, expected to release in 2011. I can’t wait!
09. EMILY CARROLL
Significant comics work of 2010: His Face All Red, The Death Of Jose Arcadio, Out The Door
Why I’m loving her work right now: Emily Carroll is a really new discovery for me, but she blew my mind with her evocative dark work that has a decidedly different bent than a lot of other ladies on this list. More in the spirit of Eleanor Davis, Carroll’s work is terribly unique looking and full of wonder contradictions – it looks both flat and yet jumps off the page; there’s a darkness to it, but also a sweetness; and while most of Carroll’s stories I have read are serious “drama” pieces rather than comedies, there’s a real sense of fun in her illustration work. The star of the pieces I read of Carroll's this year (though all were powerful) was her piece "His Face All Red", available in its entirety at the link. Her piece The Death of Jose Arcadio, inspired by the book One Hundred Years of Solitude, is deceptively simple with a lot of punch. Out The Door has a similar bent, playing with panels and layout and using the way people actually read on the web to magnificent effect.
Upcoming work: In addition to producing more excellent webcomics to amuse and confound me, Carroll confesses that she is working on a collection of new comics that she hopes to release soon. She will also continue her illustration work - including work for a great site Draw This Dress she started with friend/fellow artist Vera Brosgol - in which they challenge each other to draw different historical fashions – it’s quite fun (and beautiful) stuff. Carroll will also be contributing to a few anthologies including The Anthology Project Volume 2 and has recently opened an online store where she's started selling prints if you’re a fan.
08. KATHRYN IMMONEN
Significant comics work of 2010: Heralds mini-series, Moving Pictures, Girl Comics, Pixie mini-series
Why I’m loving her work right now: Moving Pictures alone would have been enough to warrant Immonen a spot on my list as it’s a fantastic little spy story, but Immonen also managed to do some great mainstream superhero work, and like Van Meter, I like seeing as many powerful female writers getting mainstream work as possible as I feel it’s the best way to gently shift the industry to being more female friendly in all aspects. It didn’t hurt that Immonen’s Heralds mini-series – starring She-Hulk, Emma Frost, Monica Rambeau, She-Hulk, Abigail Brand, and Valkyrie – was so much fun that I could hardly stand it. Fun is most times what I find missing in comics of late and there was nothing not fun about Heralds, and about Immonen’s writing in general, which is sharp and fast and will not wait for you if you do not get her jokes - seriously. Immonen’s work hasn’t always wowed me, though it has always interested me, but the more I read, the more I’m liking it and can’t wait to see what she’ll do next.
Upcoming work: In addition to continued work with Marvel on a variety of projects Immonen and husband Stuart Immonen are working on another joint project called Russian Olive to Red King which is described by Immonen in a books.torontoist.com interview as “two parallel narratives detailing the final days of a relationship. Red King is the man left at home struggling unsuccessfully with an overdue deadline and the unexplained disappearance of his partner, Russian Olive, who may or may not have survived a plane crash in the northern bush. It’s also got petroglyphs and Chekhov. Sounds like a scorcher, right?"
07. FAITH ERIN HICKS
Significant comics work of 2010: Girl Comics, Brain Camp, The Adventures of Superhero Girl, Wolverine Short
Why I’m loving her work right now: Let’s forget for a moment that Hicks created maybe the single greatest short work I read this year - and for free no less - but we’ll circle back around to that. Hicks was responsible for writing and art on one of the best shorts from Girl Comics #2 - starring Boom Boom and Elsa Bloodstone (yay Nextwave!), and my favorite character in any story, a sandwich. She also introduced us (fairly recently) to her excellent ongoing comic strip The Adventures of Superhero Girl which is sweet, fun, and stunningly illustrated (and again, free!). Hicks also did some beautiful illustration work on the First Second book Brain Camp, although truth be told I did not care for the story itself, Hicks part in it was still top of the line. And now we come back to that "single greatest short work" that I mentioned - it was this adorable Wolverine short Hicks did and posted on her website this year. It’s adorable. It’s a fucking crime that Marvel didn’t publish it in either Girl Comics or Marvel’s Strange Tales II…and I would have loved to have seen it fully colored and “finished”...but on its own…and as is, it would have been the standout story of either Girl Comics or Marvel's Strange Tales II - and especially in regard to the latter - which has been very strong overall - that’s high praise. Hicks is doing everything right now and I can’t wait to see what's next.
Upcoming work: Hicks has been hard at work on Friends With Boys, her latest graphic novel which will be published by First Second, and is due sometime in 2011. Hicks did the writing and art on Friends With Boys, as she did with Zombies Calling and The War At Ellsmere and you can read more about Friends With Boys, as well as about her experience getting published, here.
06. GAIL SIMONE
Significant comics work of 2010: Secret Six, Wonder Woman, Welcome To Tranquility, Birds of Prey
Why I’m loving her work right now: As I wrote in extreme detail earlier this year, it was Simone that finally got me to fall in love with Wonder Woman…and I confess to being a bit heartbroken when DC took her off the book…and really, even more so now considering what I ended up having to trade her for…i.e. a J. Michael Straczynski run that’s gone nowhere, a terrible costume re-design, and eventually the "new creator" being pulled anyway. But I still had (and have) Secret Six and that book has remained consistently one of the best books that I read every month – which is no small feat. Simone always keeps things moving and always keeps me laughing and there are no end of surprises to what she’ll do with her characters. It’s a huge credit to Simone that despite not personally being a big fan of Califore’s art, I've never even considered dropping the book...and that brings us to Birds of Prey...which is complicated. Nobody (well, almost nobody) was more excited about Simone bringing back Birds of Prey than I was…but so far the book has not worked for me, mostly because I cannot get on board with the art, but partially because I feel perhaps in her enthusiasm that Simone has been trying to do too much with the book too quickly (perhaps she is worried – and perhaps rightly so – that it might be taken away again). However, a new art team started this past week and with the end of an arc, perhaps Simone will take a breath and be able to get back to what she does best – amazing character work that blows me away every month. Plus the jokes. Nobody makes me chuckle more consistently than Simone.
Upcoming work: Continuing her work on the Secret Six series as well as Birds of Prey. Additionally, Gail is very active on the web - her twitter and her tumblr - Ape In A Cape - are both a constant source of information (and amusement).
05. JILL THOMPSON
Significant comics work of 2010: Beasts of Burden mini-series, Hellboy/Beasts of Burden one-shot, Girl Comics
Why I’m loving her work right now: Everything Jill Thompson touches turns to gold…but not in that shitty pain in the ass Midas Touch-y kind of way, more in the "I can't get enough way". She wowed me with her simply beautiful story in Girl Comics #2. And then just BLEW MY FREAKING MIND with her work on Beasts of Burden this year. First there were the issues from the mini-series, then the stunning hardcover that also nicely collected other great Beasts of Burden stories that I never got to pick up along the way, then Thompson and Dorkin had to top it all off with a hilarious Beasts of Burden Hellboy team up? STOP. MY MIND IS GOING TO EXPLODE WITH THE AWESOME. Seriously, if you’re not reading Dorkin and Thompson’s Beasts of Burden work you’re missing out on some of the best and most fun comics around.
Upcoming work: Thompson’s much anticipated Little Endless Storybook – Delirium’s Party comes out in early 2011. Also on tap for 2011 is a Night of The Living Dead storybook for IDW, potentially a few little stories for DC with James Robinson and Geoff Johns, some more Scary Godmother books, and hopefully more Beasts of Burden!
04. AMY REEDER
Significant comics work of 2010: Batwoman #0, Madame Xanadu, Supergirl Covers
Why I’m loving her work right now: I really can’t believe that Reeder was not on my radar this time last year – it just goes to show how quickly things can change when you’ve got real talent. Reeder’s Madame Xanadu work is layered and beautiful stuff and like many women on this list, Reeder draws beautiful women but in a realistic and interesting way that never feels objectifying. Seeing the difference between Reeder’s Xanadu work and her Batwoman work thus far really just further illustrates the talent Reeder has at her disposal – the ability to change up her style depending on the character. For example Reeder's Batwoman and her Madame Xanadu are so different in looks and personality and movement and clothing that they ALMOST look as if they’re drawn by different artists. It’s some exceptional work and I’m really excited to see her working with J.H. Williams III on Batwoman, one of my favorite characters created in the last decade.
Upcoming work: Though it’s with sadness that we all say goodbye to Madame Xanadu, it’s also out there with much anticipation that Reeder is working on the second arc of DC’s Batwoman, starting with issue #6, which we got a beautiful preview of in Batwoman #0 this past November. J.H. Williams III is a tough act to follow…but if anyone can do it, it’s Amy Reeder. Reeder will also continue doing Supergirl covers and I’m sure a variety of other things for DC.
03. BECKY CLOONAN
Significant comics work of 2010: Demo Volume 2, Northlanders, and Nation X
Why I’m loving her work right now: Before getting into Demo Volume 2 last spring I re-read Demo Volume 1…and I was so glad I did, because not only was it intensely enjoyable, as always, but it really helped spotlight how far Cloonan has come as an artist. Her Demo Volume 1 work is lovely and effective, but she has much greater control and precision in Volume 2 and as a result it’s all the more powerful and moving. Cloonan wowed me with every single one of her covers for Demo Volume 2 (and more than one ended up on my favorite covers list) but her body movement, character design, inking skills, panel choices, facial expressions…all of it mark her as so much more than a beautiful cover artist, they mark her as an exceptional visual storyteller, which is what comics is really all about at the end of the day. You can see a preview of some of Cloonan's Demo Volume 2 work here. Cloonan's arc on Northlanders (part 1 came out in December) is proving to be totally different work than I've ever seen her do before with these massive landscapes that feel both open and claustrophobic at the same time. It's impressive stuff that you should check out.
Upcoming work: Beyond Cloonan's work on part two of the Northlanders "Girl In The Ice" (Northlanders #36), I don't know what else Cloonan is up to - but if you're reading Ms. Cloonan, stop by the comments and let us know! Updated: Thanks to commenter Erin for adding that Cloonan will be working on True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, Gerard Way’s new comi co-written with Shaun Simon.
02. REBEKAH ISAACS
Significant comics work of 2010: DV8: Gods & Monsters mini-series, Magus
Why I’m loving her work right now: I’ve sung Rebekah Isaacs praises loudly on this column over the last year, and it wasn’t praise easily given, she earned it with every panel she drew this year and her massive part in my favorite mini-series of the entire year – DV8: Gods & Monsters. Isaacs has a cinematic way of drawing that beyond being shockingly powerful, particularly fit Brian Wood’s story of anti-heroes trapped on a foreign planet. But now she's dealing with magic seeping through into the real world with some breathtaking work on a new series called Magus. It's a totally different look from her work on DV8 but it's still wonderfully powerful and it feels chameleon-like that she can change her style so much to fit a new world and characters.
Upcoming work: Isaacs will be continuing her artwork (which includes pencils and inks) for the new Magus series from 12 Gauge Comics as well as working on a few mini-series and one-shots for Marvel in the upcoming year.
01. KATE BEATON
Significant comics work of 2010: Hark A Vagrant, Marvel’s Strange Tales II
Why I’m loving her work right now: Nobody has made me happier this year in comics than Kate Beaton, who can make me chuckle like no other. Following her on twitter and getting comic and sketch updates from her is like religion for me at this point…and in the middle of a bad day, seeing that she’s posted some delicious hilarity is the ultimate bright spot. One of the things that has appealed to me about Beaton’s work is that with a background rooted in history, rather than comics, many times her comics have nothing to do with superheroes…and I find that refreshing. HOWEVER, when she does tackle superheroes, she has a very specific point of view that’s a bit outside the realm of the “usual comics stuff” and as such that is somehow crazy refreshing as well. I really didn’t think she could do better than her Wonder Woman, X-Men, and Aquaman (especially her Aquaman) strips she did this year…but her work on Marvel’s Strange Tales II proves me wrong as her Spider-man/Kraven story was pure AWESOME and her Thor/Avengers story (with plot/writing by Nick Gurewitch) and her Rogue story were just as excellent and hilarious. Her Rogue story in particular takes the character in two simple pages in a fascinating direction that I wonder if any comics writer has actually ever thought of before. Like I said, refreshing! More Kate Beaton! I want to find her work guerrilla style plastered on buses and done up in graffiti throughout New York…but I also want to find her in the New Yorker…she belongs everywhere…world domination is mere steps away!
Upcoming work: Marvel’s Strange Tales II #3 releases this month, but beyond that Beaton is back to delighting us on a weekly basis with more Hark A Vagrant – and Beaton reports that she HOPES a new book will be coming out in 2011 - which means all is right with the world as far as I'm concerned. Although, given her success with Strange Tales II, I confess I’d love to see more of that as well…I'm greedy like that! Check out Beaton's online store too if you want to buy all sorts of awesome Beaton stuff...I'm personally hoping that someone I know has a baby so I can buy the fat pony onesie she's got for sale.
Honorable Mention: GABRIELLE BELL
Originally I had not planned to put Gabrielle Bell on the list, despite my massive love for her (read more about that here and here) because I didn’t feel like she’d produced enough work in 2010 (at least that I’d seen) to warrant it, however reading a brutally honest, chuckle inducing strip she posted just last week about the business of comics reminded me how many great strips she’s done for her blog this year – up to and including her fascinating retelling of her trip to SDCC this year - which absolutely makes her deserving of a place on this list. If you’re not familiar with Bell’s work please check out her awesome blog with tons of fantastic webcomics and if you like what you see, pick up Lucky, my favorite of her books. It didn’t come out in 2010, but it’s fabulous just the same.
So that's it for 2010. An amazing group of ladies...and yet I had to cut so many I would have liked to talk about...when you stop to examine it, it's really shocking how much talent is out there producing comics. A colleague asked me recently why I was so interested in women breaking through more widely in superhero comics and while my knee jerk reaction was "because that's where most of the industry sits, and where most of the fans and the money are" I think maybe the deeper answer is because independent comics, where a lot of these women ARE working and producing, is already doing everything pretty right. I happily support their indie efforts with my dollars and spotlight them and talk about them and promote them...but I don't need to beg them to do anything different or be more inclusive or break down boundaries because they're already doing that. I guess I'm just anxious for the mainstream comics world to catch up to them a little bit. Being a little bit more independent, inclusive, and friendly to wider audiences would make my mainstream comics so much more excellent on a daily basis that I can't help but advocate for it...and hope for it.
Thanks to all of you ladies for an amazing year of comics. I can't wait to see what you bring me in 2011!
*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.*