By Stacey Levin
As a new blogger to the site, I’d like to share my story of how I got hooked on reading comics. Lots of women read them, some are starting to write and draw them, but the ladies still aren’t fully represented in the genre. Hopefully I can be a tiny voice for the chicks. Yo, where my ladies at? Get your hands up!
Ok, so it’s not like I’d never read a comic book before in my life. It had just been a while. Fine, a really long while since I last read the odd issue of “Archie,” “Richie Rich,” “Star Wars” and “Wonder Woman.” Those were a few titles I frequented when I was a kid. But since then, not so much other than the occasional “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” book when I was at work.
So when I met Jason, fellow blogger, my boyfriend and writing partner, and he suggested I get back into reading them, I thought, why not? I mean, how much could I have possibly missed? Um, hello? Was I living under a rock? Apparently so. A really big honking rock the size of Rhode Island. Yeah, my bad. Somehow I missed an entire generation of amazing literature. I had a lot of work to do.
First he gave me some of his favorite titles to start with – “The Ultimates,” “Y- the Last Man,” “Spiderman,” “The Green Lantern,” and “The Umbrella Academy.” He was worried it might be too much for me to start. Pfft, whatev. I got this. They looked cool so let me at ’em. Wait, how many freakin’ issues do I need to catch up on?? And with that one little question, thus began my journey into finding my inner comic geek.
So, how does a typical “chick” who admittedly reads US and People weekly get indoctrinated into the comic book world? By diving in head first, baby! I started reading… and reading… and reading. Before I realized it, I got so hooked on Y, I would lose sleep trying to finish issues before I went to bed. And as fast as I would complete an issue or a title, Jason would be right there to replace it with another one. It wasn’t long before I began recognizing the names of writers and artists. And as is typical for me, I started critiquing. I liked the “soapy” stories like “Y” (yeah, yeah, I know, typical chick), the humor of “Spiderman,” the kick ass girls like “Batwoman” (I know, shocking) and the violent crime mysteries like “Greek Street” (ha, gotcha there, didn’t I?) At that point, Jason told me I was ready. Ready for what? Did I pass some sort of test? Yes, fellow comic bookers, I was graduating and it was time to go to the next level – time for my very first trip to… wait for it… Meltdown Comics!
Jason informed me that Meltdown was the mother of all comic book stores in Los Angeles and now that I’m a comic reader, I would appreciate all it has to offer. Um, ok, I’ve been to book stores before, so why was he getting all ceremonial about it? It’s just a book store, right? That’s what I thought until he deemed it was time for me to make my own pull list. Come again, a what list? To me it sounded like he was speaking a foreign language. Wait, now I need to learn a new dialect? Like a scene from the Karate Kid, he said I would soon understand, Danielson. Ok, he didn’t really say “Danielson,” but it felt that way.
So, to Meltdown we went and when I walked through the door, I swear the skies parted and I heard angels sing. Not just from the racks and racks of books, but the t-shirts, the toys and the collectibles. Gasp, were those Smurfs tucked away in a display cabinet next to a 1960’s Batman bust and an X-wing fighter?? Where do I even begin? There was so much I wanted to look at and damn… so much I missed out on. I started on the first rack and went one by one trying to wrap my head around the history that’s been created for my favorite childhood characters like Captain America and Aquaman. I almost squealed with delight when my naïve little brain saw that the Super Friends still exist long after my favorite 70’s cartoon ended. There were movie and television properties, books by writers I actually know personally, horror stories and even Disney characters. It was like every character I’ve ever loved and tons I’ve never seen before started calling my name from the shelves. “Over here, Stacey, read my story. I’ve saved the world over 100 times.” And then another: “Hey, Stacey, watch me kick some bad guy butt in Issue #623.” And from the back of the store: “Stacey, a lot has happened to me since 1977, check it out!” I started running around the store without a plan, pulling books off shelves haphazardly. I’d run to the counter, stack them up and then head back out in the shelves like I was on a mission. Superheroes and zombies and cartoons, oh my! Superheroes and zombies and cartoons, oh my! Yes, there was even a comic series about the Wizard of Oz. It was just too much for a newbie like me to take in.
Well, I’m proud to say that fateful day opened a new world to me and I’m now a regular at Meltdown. I frequent Comixology weekly and have my own pull list. (Yes, you may applaud.) And since I know I’m not the only mainstream chick who’s ventured into the comic world, I’d like to help guide the next newbie with a little introduction to three of my favorite comic “chicks” currently kicking ass on the shelves right now.
- “Spider-Woman” #5 – Marvel – $2.99
Take a look at Spider-Woman written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Alex Maleev. Dark, beautiful and tragic, Jessica Drew is one damaged girl. Can we say identity crisis? But Bendis’ artfully told story of Jessica’s search for her place in the world is compelling and heart wrenching which is enhanced by Maleev’s striking renderings. Her internalized pain is literally visible on her face with each new panel. And what woman out there can’t relate to the lost and desperate place she finds herself in – fine, maybe most of us didn’t escape the clutches of alien captors, but Jessica’s discovery that she isn’t who she always thought she was isn’t an alien concept by any means. “Spider-Woman” is a must for any girl reading comic books. If you’re new like me, it’s relatively easy to pick up on her story and her painful quest will have you rooting for her by the end of the first issue you read.
- “Air” #17 – Vertigo – $2.99
“Air” by writer B. Willow Wilson and artist M.K. Perker is a cool and bizarre mystery centered around Blythe, a flight attendant with a fear of flying who inadvertently foils the plans of a vigilante group trying to take down a terrorist organization. And not only does Blythe screw up the heist of the plane she’s on, she falls for the lead terrorist and runs into Amelia Earhart? Um, what? Yes, it sounds weird and it is, but at its core, “Air” is a contemporary story rooted in society’s fear of flying the “friendly skies” and belief that the powers that be are working on secret technology that will save us all. However, what’s even more interesting than the story is Blythe herself. Motivated by love and aided by her special abilities, Blythe is fearless, tough as nails and one kick ass chick. What I respond to most in the Air series is how far Wilson goes to show Blythe’s resolve. This is one girl who will not be victim and goes after what she wants regardless of the consequences. Let there be a little bit of Blythe in us all.
- “Batwoman in Detective Comics” #861 – DC – $2.99
“Batwoman” was the first title I gravitated to early on. Well, firstly, I was able to get in on the new storyline when it began only a few issues ago. While there’s a lot of history to the character, I don’t feel like I’ve missed the boat. Writer Greg Rucka and artist J.H. Williams III are skillfully telling Kate Kane’s evolution from a childhood trauma to becoming a caped crusader with clever flashbacks to fill in the back story. The images of Kate as Batwoman and the drawings of the enemies she faces are striking. And perhaps my favorite element of all is the style of the art used for the flashbacks which harken back to the animation of 1950’s comics. Kate is relatable on many levels – she not only has family issues and strives to please her father, but at the same time, she finds she must disobey his wishes. But she’s also a woman who channels her pain into her work. In this case, her work is uncommon since she’s a superhero, but at the heart, her inner struggle is universal. And did I mention she’s a lesbian? Like her gay male counterparts, Northstar, Midnighter and the recently revealed Shatterstar, Kate represents the ever evolving face of the comic book audience.
So ladies and gents, there’s one girl’s story of her emersion into comics. If I can offer one word of advice to a fellow newbie it’s don’t be intimidated. It may feel overwhelming at first when you realize how much there is to read, but that’s exactly the good news – there’s so much to read! You’ll always have a character to explore or a storyline to join in progress. And ladies, the next time you meet a guy and he has a secret rectangular box of comics hidden deep in the closet, don’t be afraid. You may soon have a secret box of your own.