Leia Birch, the central character in Joshilyn Jackson's The Almost Sisters, is the writer of a comic books series published by DC Comics. While the characters and the comic are both fictional, in real-life, as is in the book, female writers are in the minority. The comic book world is chock full of men - they are both characters in the pages and the writers and illustrators creating those pages - but women have made significant contributions to the genre. From the early 20th century, when comics were just entering the newspaper scene and Nell Brinkley became famous for her well-loved illustrations to Becky Cloonan, who was the first woman to draw Batman for DC Comics in 2012, women have written and drawn comics for newspapers, mainstream publishers, underground and independent publishers, and many have self-published their work too.

Here are a few contemporary highlights:

LadycastleDelilah S. Dawson, a sci-fi and fantasy novelist, has written romance and erotica, and also a few Star Wars spin-offs (she writes fantasy as Lila Bowen and erotica as Ava Lovelace.) Ladycastle (Boom! Studios) is her first foray into the comic book world, and it has been very well received. Ladycastle uses humor to tackle tough issues. The story begins with Aeve, a Rapunzel-like princess, stuck in a tower, imprisoned by her father in order, according to him, to keep her safe until he can find a "just-right" husband for her. But then her father leaves taking all the men in the kingdom with him - and in short order they get eaten by a dragon, leaving a curse that attracts monsters to the kingdom. So the women take over running things and, of course, defending themselves against the ample supply of monsters. Ashley A. Woods is the artist of Ladycastle and Margaux Saltel is the colorist.

Teen TitansFelicia Henderson was a TV producer and sitcom writer before she became a comic book writer. She apprenticed on the shows Family Matters and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Among other projects, she developed the series Soul Food, which became the longest running drama to star a black cast. She was the writer and co-producer of the sci-fi series Fringe before finally leaving TV. She now writes for the DC comic series Teen Titans.

Patsy Walker aka HellcatWhile Dawson and Henderson are strictly writers, Kate Leth is both writer and artist. She studied photography at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design before dropping out and working at a comic book store. There, she developed a love of the medium and taught herself how to create comics and began her own web comic. She was chosen to re-launch the Vampirella series (Dynamite), and later she joined forces with artist Brittney Williams to create the Marvel comics' the Secret Wars, Too anthology and the Patsy Walker aka HellCat series.

Ranma 1/2Rumiko Takahashi is another writer and artist; she is one of the most popular manga artists in Japan. She attended the famous Gekiga Sonjuko manga school while she was in college, run by the famous manga creator, Kazuo Koike. He stressed the importance of interesting and unusual characters, and as Rumiko developed her work, she always followed that wisdom. Many of her characters are strong women, very different from the stereotype of the gender, who she places in real-life predicaments that stem from her own experiences. While she has been successful with many manga projects, her most popular is her third series, Ranma ½, a martial arts story that features a gender-bending protagonist named Ranma. Ranma was born a boy but, due to an accident during a martial arts journey, was cursed with turning into a girl when splashed with cold water and only turning back into a boy when splashed with warm. Ranma ½ ran for 9 years in a newspaper and was Rumiko's first comic to become popular in the US.

This article first ran as the "Beyond the Book" feature for The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson. Every time BookBrowse reviews a book we go "beyond the book" to explore a related topic, such as this article. Most of these articles are only available to our members, but at any given time, a sampling can be found on our homepage and, from time to time, we reprint one in this blog.

Characters from Ladycastle, courtesy of comics alliance.com
Teen Titans cover
Patsy Walker aka Hellcat, courtesy of marvel.com

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