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Under the Cape, Under the Cowl: Women in the Comics Industry

With this month’s Girls in Capes theme being ‘women in capes,’ I thought it appropriate to recognize and salute a small handful of women in the comics industry. These ladies have left their mark in some way, shape, or form, and while there are certainly many more names that can be added to the list, I’ve narrowed it down to these five based on their current activity and their contributions to the industry in general. So without further ado, let’s start bowing down before these great women.

Kelly Sue DeConnick

My first introduction to Kelly Sue DeConnick’s work was through the ongoing Marvel Comics series Captain Marvel, which is ongoing today. Her bibliography as a writer is jam-packed with fantastic goodies from multiple publishers, including DC Comics’ Supergirl, Dark Horse Comics’ Ghost, and Image Comics’ Pretty Deadly, which is also ongoing.

As a prolific writer in the industry, her style is chameleon-like, taking shape with whatever genre she’s working with. For Captain Marvel, the voice is fun and energetic, while for something in the more folkloric-Western genre like Pretty Deadly, her writing is darker and more mystifying.

She’s also very connected with her fans and keeps in touch with them via her Tumblr page (kellysue.tumblr.com), where she spends time reblogging awesome Captain Marvel cosplays as well as fan art. In summary: she’s awesome.

Gail Simone

If you’ve ever stumbled across the term “women in refrigerators” or “being fridged” before, then you’ve encountered the legacy left behind by Gail Simone. Women in Refrigerators was a website that a group of comic book fans, including Simone, started as a response to an issue of Green Lantern in which the hero’s girlfriend was murdered and her corpse stored in a refrigerator for the Green Lantern to find later. The website and the term itself came to refer to females in comics who were killed, raped, tortured, or otherwise traumatized to further the plot development for a male character.

Simone didn’t just spend time with the website, though. Far from it. She jumped into the industry pool with Marvel Comics’ Deadpool in 2002 before moving over to DC Comics after a conflict with the series editor of Deadpool. At DC she worked on a large number of titles, including but not limited to Secret Six, Birds of Prey, The All-New Atom, and Wonder Woman.

Also, for those interested, the Women in Refrigerators website can currently be viewed here.

Fiona Staples

Am I predictable for raving about Fiona Staples? Probably. If you’ve been reading my comics articles lately, you’ll remember I’m a few steps away from getting down on one knee and proposing to the entirety of the Saga series published by Image Comics, which Staples illustrates with amazing craftsmanship. Before Saga, however, Staples worked on books like North40 (published by WildStorm, a now-defunct imprint of DC) and Jonah Hex (published by DC), as well as doing the cover art for Superman/Batman in 2010 and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents in 2011 (both DC).

As a fun little tidbit, she cites George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin, Brian Jacques’s Redwall series, and C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia series as books that have had an influential impact on her. Staples’ mastery of detail and facial expression has gained her fame as one of the best female artists in the comic book industry today – which, as reviewer Brian Salvatore of Multiversity Comics put it, “isn’t really true; she’s one of the best artists, gender be damned.” Damn straight.

Sara Pichelli

Another series I really dug my teeth into last year was Marvel Comics’ Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man, with the lovely Miles Morales as Spider-Man and artist Sara Pichelli at the helm of his story. Her artwork in that title was always eye-catching, vibrant, and visually appealing; there was never a dull page when she was involved. Originally Pichelli got her start in animation but – feeling like it wasn’t the right place for her – moved on to comics as a layout assistant for artist David Messina. With him, she helped work on the Star Trek comic books created by IDW Publishing. Marvel discovered her through an international talent search in 2008, where she was named one of the finalists.

Along with Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man, she’s also known for her work in Runaways and the limited series X-Men: Pixie Strikes Back. In 2011 Pichelli won the Eagle Award for Favorite Newcomer Artist, beating out fellow nominee Fiona Staples.

G. Willow Wilson

Born in New Jersey, G. Willow Wilson lived in Cairo in her twenties where she wrote and contributed articles to publications such as Atlantic Monthly and The New York Times Magazine. In 2007 she wrote her first graphic novel, Cairo, published by the Vertigo imprint of DC Comics. After that, she started work on her first ongoing comic series Air (also by Vertigo), which was nominated for an Eisner Award for Best New Series in 2009. Right now, though, she’s writing one of the most talked-about Marvel titles of the year: Ms. Marvel, starring Kamala Khan, the company’s first Muslim character to headline her own comic.

One of the best facets of the book is Wilson’s ability to weave Kamala’s faith into the storyline without making it her sole identity. Kamala is more than her Islamic faith, and Wilson is very conscious of that while writing Ms. Marvel. She’s respectful, mindful, and (if critical reaction is anything to go by) fantastically skilled when it comes to bringing Kamala and her story to life.

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Gabrielle Taub on Twitter
Gabrielle Taub
Fantasy Reviewer at Girls in Capes
Gabby, the Fantasy Reviewer at Girls in Capes, is a graduate of New York University. She enjoys reading (about Captain America), writing (about Captain America), and spending time getting lost among the bookshelves at Strand Bookstore – probably while thinking about Captain America.
Gabrielle Taub
Written by Gabrielle Taub

Gabby, the Fantasy Reviewer at Girls in Capes, is a graduate of New York University. She enjoys reading (about Captain America), writing (about Captain America), and spending time getting lost among the bookshelves at Strand Bookstore – probably while thinking about Captain America.