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The issue of female creators in comics has always been one to create some discussion but I can’t remember a time when the topic seemed to permeate the comics blogs and news sites as it did this past summer. It was within this maelstrom that creator Renae De Liz came up with the idea of creating an anthology made up of female creators. That in itself was not new - there have been other all-female anthologies. Marvel, for example, recently issued the series, Girl Comics featuring women created content. But Womanthology was not the result of an organization or a commercial comic publisher, it was the result of a grass roots effort. That effort which went from a single Tweet by organizer De Liz to a touchstone around women in comics due to it blowing away its fundraising goal on Kickstarter and raising $86,000 more than its original goal.
I’ve had the review copy of Womanthology sitting on my computer for a while and I’ve been almost afraid to go through the whole thing to write a review. With the success on Kickstarter, with the continued debate on female creators, there seemed to be so much riding on it. What if it didn’t deliver?
But after go reading this anthology over the last week, I can tell you that is not a worry - this does deliver. Are there a few nits? Some misses? Sure. But in spite of those Womanthology is a delightful look at the world of women and sequential art right now.
The theme for Womanthology is “heroic” and the within these 150+ pieces, that theme is parsed in remarkably different ways from a look at real-life historical heroes such as the tale of Dr. Edith Bone, “The Nail” by Maura McHugh and Star St. Germain, to many, many pieces that focus on the empowerment of younger women and girls including the very first one in the book a sweet story by Kelly Thompson and Stephanie Hans. If anyone ever again questions if superheroes are a male-only fantasy, this book will serve as a very good resounding, “No”.
But the acts of heroism don’t just consist of saving cities or cats. There’s a wonderful story, “Swimming” by Ashley Avard and Dani Jones, that shows a little girl standing up for herself in the simple act of wearing a two piece bathing suit.
I enjoyed the variety of tones the pieces used. There are stories that use heavy satire and stories with pathos and a few that I sense may be very personal. I laughed out loud at some submissions like the one from Gail Simone, who with artist Jean Kang shows what happen when little girls comment on today’s comics and one from Christianne Benedict’s that looks at what happens when Queen Elizabeth I becomes a superhero.
It is too hard for me to call out all the contributions I enjoyed. While there are a few pieces that didn’t quite work, there are many more that do. More importantly there’s some emerging talent on display here and I hope to see them getting pro work soon.
Womanthology offers more than just comics. There are also tips from pros such as Ming Doyle (who also contributed a story of a retro superhero called “The Spinster” which needs to be an ongoing), Barbara Kesel, and Nei Ruffino. Creators such as Nicola Scott and Posy Simmonds are interviewed about their craft and how they got into the business.
While I think anyone can enjoy the stories here, as I went through the book I realized that one audience who could be benefit from the book enormously are middle school aged girls. Not only do many of these pieces hit on themes that relate to them, the book is a visual guide on to how to express yourself through comics and getting started creatively. My 13 year old daughter loved Womanthology and I am buying a copy to contribute to her school library. But, again, that’s not to say that’s the only audience. There is plenty here for everyone to enjoy.
Womanthology won’t solve the challenge of getting more female comic creators into the business, it does, however, serve as showcase of the range of talent that is out there and how women really do bring a differentiated view to the world.
It’s a book to put down and pick up over time, to read and reread and appreciate. I highly recommend that if you care about sequential art and comics that you add it to your library.
You can pre-order Womanthology at Amazon or through your LCS. The book is officially released on March 20.