Wouldn’t you like to read about Suffragettes’ struggle for the right to vote from a graphic novel? Or you can have a look at Bitch Planet and read about the lives of women on a fictional planet reflecting the real diversity of women on earth through the diversity of body, race, orientation, age they represent – which is rarely featured in mainstream graphic novels.
We are continuing to write about the graphic novels that come to our mind. The more we write about, the more will be missing from the list. Why don’t you share your recommendations with us?
You can find the first list over here.
Y: The Last Man (Brian K. Vaughan – Pia Guerra)
All mammals carrying a Y chromosome suddenly die. The parliaments, armies, factories, in short, all industries considered male occupations come to a halt. Only a man named Yorick, and his monkey Ampersand is left alive. 355, an agent whose mission is to protect the two, and Allison, a bioengineer who is tasked with unearthing the science behind their survival, come into play and we are invited to follow their adventures. How did this catastrophe(?) happen, is it possible to reverse things? What are women doing in a world without men?
The creators of the series make small gestures towards the patriarchy that benefited the men before they became extinct throughout the book, but their attitude stinks a little like “it’s necessary that women are empowered but hyper-feminism is rather aversive”. You see certain feminist discourses being caricaturized, and although women close to male characters are quite powerful, they are still within the “acceptable” political boundaries. The most serious terrorist(!) organization in the story is that of lesbian feminist amazons. Certain parts feel like we are witnessing the fantasies of the male illustrators, “I am a nerd, unsuccessful man but it’s the end of the world, and I am the only option left for all the “beautiful” women on earth”. This aspect conflicts with Brian Vaughan’s previously published, really tasteful series, “Saga”, whose main story did not fit the criteria we have set for this list despite its queer plot and characters. We can say that women and lgbti+ in “Saga” are much more powerful – and we definitely recommend reading it.
Despite its fallbacks, the crazy things and details that made us smile, contrary to the negative portrayal of the illustrators, make Y: The Last Man worth giving it a try. We should also note that Hulu is about to broadcast a series based on the graphic novel.
Heathen (Natasha Alterici – Ashley A. Woods – Rachel Deering)
Is there anyone left who is not acquainted with Vikings in the recent period through the increasing number of series and films about them? Vikings are warriors and pillagers who make sacrifices for ferocious gods, and among whom are women warriors…
Heathen was published in 2017, and the story starts with a lesbian Viking warrior on a quest to catch Valkyrie, what else do you need! According to the rules of the village, our main character Aydis is either going to be killed or must marry a man as a punishment for having kissed a woman.
On the other hand, Valkyrie Brynhild is “cursed” for rising against the power of Odin, the mightiest of all, and is prisoned on a mountain until someone who is willing to marry him comes along. Marriage is defined as a sentence for both characters. Aydis escapes her village with her beloved horse.
In this graphic novel, it’s as if we can feel the difference brought about by the fact that the author, illustrator, and colorist of this 12-issue-long story full of critiques against heteronormativity and patriarchy (which at times can have a didactic feel to them) are women. Do not miss this opportunity to explore the world of Vikings from this point of view!
Story of My Tits (Jennifer Hayden)
In this autobiographical story, Jennifer Hayden shares her complex relationship with her tits. Reading “the story of her tits” feels like a conversation we are having with a friend, and covers her childhood years, anxious puberty, the changes she has observed along the years and her health problems. Anyone can find a part that resonates with them in Jennifer Hayden’s story.
The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia (Mary M. Talbot – Bryan Talbot)
Following the publication of Dotter of her Father’s Eyes and Sally Heathcote: Suffragette Talbots’ story of Louise Michel, the Red Virgin of Montmartre, stole our hearts again, and we could not but include it on our list. Louise Michel is an anarchist feminist who devoted her soul to the revolution in the short-lived dream of the Paris Commune, who never hesitated to share whatever she had with those in need. In this graphic novel, we follow Michel’s struggle in and critique of the commune, in addition to how she’s been judged by others and her dreams.
She never loses her motivation to transform the world she lives in because she believes that utopias do not belong to an unknown space or time. She touches upon every single issue that directly affects women and does not refrain from making radical statements. We think the speech she delivered in the early 1870s attests her passion and determination which have not abated until today: Communards, marriage is the biggest mistake in human history. Marriage means servitude! Marriage in a free city is no longer acceptable. Marriage should be considered a crime.
Sally Heathcote: Suffragette (Mary M. Talbot – Bryan Talbot)
Wouldn’t you like to read about Suffragettes’ struggle for the right to vote from a graphic novel?
The story revolves around Sally Heathcote, a leader in the Suffragette movement who was a laborer at Emmeline Pankhurst’s home, and her struggles through life, mobilization, militant actions, and life in prison. The language of the book simply flows like a good history book. At the end of the book, there is a section consisting of a chronology of important events and details about the information shared previously in the book. It’s truly inspiring to read about these women’s success, hopes, despair and will to continue the fight!
Fruit of Knowledge (Liv Strömquist)
This graphic novel comes as a slap in the face for those who had or continue to have an issue with the vulva. In a similar manner, the narrative is also a rejection of the binary gender system. It’s about the story of vulva, those who had issues with it, orgasm, and menstruation. Strömquist pokes fun at people who were determined to come up with ridiculous hypotheses to deprive us from our dear clitoris – whose real size was unknown until 1998. Strömquist also does not shy away from occasionally blowing up due to her anger against the binary gender system as she is narrating the story. It’s incredible how much some physicians were obsessed with vulva. The meddlesome cornflakes-famous John Harvey Kellogg went as far as to claim that “masturbation can cause mental and physical illnesses like uterus cancer, epilepsy, insanity”. You will have to take deep breaths to calm down as you are reading this novel. Despite its content, Strömquist used a rather playful language to tell the story about how we managed to claim our bodies despite patriarchy’s pitiful efforts to demonstrate vulvas as an untouchable part of our bodies, menstruation as dirty, and orgasm as sickness.
Bitch Planet (Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro)
The author and the illustrator of this graphic novel are feminists who take us on a 10-issue journey to a planet where “disobedient” women are sent. Women are sent to the institution called “Auxiliary Compliance Outpost”, or more commonly known as Bitch Planet, for the following reasons: “bad mothering, disrespectfulness, dishonoring their father, living with Down syndrome”. The characters in Bitch Planet are explicit that “there is intersectionality in this story”.
The diversity of body, race, orientation, age represented by women on this fictional planet reflects the reality of women on earth, which is rarely featured in mainstream graphic novels. Unfortunately, Bitch Planet, which touches upon a number of issues directly related to feminism, comes to a halt -in the middle of the story, without a proper ending- after 10 issues, and a 5-issue anthology are published. We sincerely hope that more issues are to come because we are still very curious about the characters, their ideas, and stories.
Ms. Marvel (Wilson – Alphona – Wyatt – Miyazawa – Bondoc)
This series is not necessarily fitting to our list of feminist graphic novels. The reason we wanted to feature it is that Marvel (at least in some novels) is trying to feature characters inspired by queer and feminist movements. For example, the Black Spider Man, Black Cat who came out as queer, gay marriage in X-men… White cis-hetero make superheroes can now take a step back. Ms. Marvel is a 16-year-old woman of Pakistan heritage living with her Muslim family. Kamala Khan is not only dealing with puberty/love affairs as she is trying to save the world but also struggling against the pressure from her family. Although the series is created to counter Islamophobia, our critique of it must underline the link made between the “pressure” her family exerts on her and how much they “love” her.
Death – The Time of Your Life / The High Cost of Living (Neil Gaiman – Chris Bachalo – Mark Buckingham – Mark Pennington)
In this three-issue graphic novel, we follow short stories of Death, the ultimately cool older sister of Sandman.
Death is one of the seven Endless siblings who are older and more powerful than gods. As it’s evident from her name, she oversees the necropolis Litharge. We are acquainted with Death much more in Sandman, than in these stories. In that sense, you can consider this book as a short trip you take together with Death.
In The Time of Your Life, we follow rock star Foxglove and her lover Hazel (who have previously appeared in Sandman series). Foxglove is a lesbian who wants to come out to her fans, but her manager keeps on postponing it. As the story evolves, we learn that her lover Hazel has a pact with Death. The story revolves around their relationship, and how they resolve their pact with Death.
The High Cost of Living is not really a story about a woman, except for Death and other side characters. We are only mentioning it here for that they complete one another with the other short story. (Foxglove and Hazel also appear here). In this story, Death goes on a journey with a youngster named Sexton to find Mad Hattie’s heart, while The Eremite is also on a quest to capture Death’s Ankh necklace.
Translator: Deniz İnal
Proof-reader: Müge Karahan