March, Women’s History Month, has brought out a lot of great information about women comics creators and women comic book characters. While we are rounding out Women’s History Month, it is still important to feature female characters and creators all year around. For this month’s Comic Book Club, I’m featuring three comic books which would be excellent book club picks for kids, teens, and adults which feature well rounded characters and intriguing, complex stories.
DC Superhero Girls
Written by Shea Fontana
Art by Yancey Labat
Colors by Monica Kubina
Lettered by Janice Chiang
Published by DC Comics
In the world of high school aged DC Superheroes, it is important for those with great power to learn how to use and control their powers. At Super Hero High School, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, among others, learn how to be the best they can be under the tutelage of principal Amanda Waller and vice-principal Gorilla Grodd. In Finals Crisis, readers are introduced to our superhero cast and what makes them unique among this elite group of individuals. In Hits and Myths, Wonder Woman tries to balance her demi-god, do-it-all status while planning a sleepover on Themyscira and trying to find their missing demon teacher, no he’s not evil, just a demon, and the Batplane… Balancing school and life is difficult for any teenager, but when you also feel responsible for rescuing people, it can feel even more daunting. Even though these books are about pretty rote comic book characters, the stories are incredibly relatable and are a good jumping on point for kids who may venture into the teen area for more standard superhero texts. Plus, there are several novels in the DC Superhero Girls franchise, so this might be a good way to get novel readers to read graphic novels and vice versa.
Possible Discussion Questions:
Which character do you relate to the most? Wonder Woman is pretty self-conscious about her role as a demi-god. Harley Quinn is always up for a party. Supergirl is fairly shy and homesick. Do you feel like any of these characters when you are at school?
What issues do you deal with at school and at home? How do you think the students at Super Hero High School deal with the same issues as you?
In Hits and Myths, the artist uses two different art styles, one for the main storyline and another when the students are reading The Odyssey. Do you like this storytelling technique? Have you ever read a book that seemed to be exactly like what you were going through in your life?
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Art by Robert Hack
Lettering by Jack Morelli
Published by Archie Comics
Please note this book does contain nudity
One staple of the teenage sleepover is popping popcorn, turning off all the lights, and watching a scary movie. Touchstones from my childhood include The Candyman, The Exorcist, and Child’s Play; The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is another spooky story to add to the staples of a good teenaged horror story. Many you people have some notion of who Sabrina the Teenaged Witch is, she’s been in a live action and animated television series along with a novel series, but her character is much older than Melissa Joan Hart. Originally appearing in 1971, Sabrina is a character in Archie Comics, living in the nearby town of Greendale with her spinster aunts, Hilda and Zelma, her cousin Amboise, and her familiar Salem, a warlock who has been permanently transformed into a cat. The daughter of a Warlock and a mortal, Sabrina is learning the magical arts from her aunts until she must commit herself to the craft at 16 by performing a ritual and signing the devil’s book. She must also keep her identity secret from her mortal boyfriend Harvey, which becomes much more difficult when a woman from her father’s past, Madam Satan, meddles in Greendale’s affairs. This incarnation takes a much darker look at the Sabrina origin story mashing together numerous tropes from 60s and 70s horror films like Rosemary’s Baby and Halloween. Sabrina’s teenaged curiosity and hesitation causes her to make half decisions which lead to huge problems.
Possible Discussion Questions:
What horror movies did you think about while reading Sabrina?
How was Sabrina’s relationship different with her aunts, her cousin, and Harvey?
Being a teenaged witch gives Sabrina a lot of power. Do you think that’s something she thinks about when deciding to become a witch or not?
This is Robert Hack’s first time drawing interiors for a comic. What do you think of his art style? The panel layout? The colors?
Barbarella and the Wrath of the Minute-Eater
Written and Illustrated by Jean-Claude Forest
Adapted by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Published by Humanoids
I lived in France for a semester and read a lot of French comics. Their style and storytelling techniques vary greatly from the American superhero staples. I have been a fan of the film Barbarella since I first saw it in my teenage years and had always been interested in reading it and I think a lot of women are interested in reading it because it’s a sexual revolution classic. Barbarella is a 41st century astronaut who travels the galaxy looking for adventure. She does what she wants, when she wants, and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. This book contains the story which the 1968 Jane Fonda film is based on in which Barbarella finds herself stuck on the planet Lythion in a prison labyrinth with strange creatures and a cruel ruler. The Wrath of the Minute-Eaters follow’s the Circus Delirium, Barbarella’s traveling circus, as they enter into a battle for the planet Spectra at the manipulation of the new circus act, an aquaman named Narval.
Possible Discussion Questions:
Think about this book in the context of the 1960s and 70s. Do you find the situations Barbarella gets herself into to be liberating or demeaning? Do you have a favorite pun or witty remark?
Barbarella is an incredibly independent woman. She travels were she wants to, saves those she wants to, sleeps with whomever she wants to. How do you think Barbarella got to be this way?Barbarella is often compared to Red Sonja, Vampirella, and Jodelle, cornerstones of sexual revolution portrayed in comics. Can you think of any other comics, contemporary or historical, which represent the sexual revolution like Barbarella?
How do you think first wave (gain women’s right in the political realm through suffrage and property rights), second wave (workplace, sexuality, family and reproductive rights), third wave (further diminish the separation of men and women and deconstruct stereotypes and language used to describe women) would react to Barbarella?
What would you do to update Barbarella for a modern audience?