The comic book industry is male-dominated, as I’m sure you know, but women in comics do very much exist! What is most frustrating about the gender gap in the comic book industry is that even though there are women involved in the production of thousands of comics, we rarely hear about them in the media, much less the women who have done pioneering work for the world of comics.
This is simply unacceptable! We as comic consumers and enthusiasts, no matter our gender identities, need to know about the leading ladies in comics. So, I present to you, in alphabetical order 10 extremely talented (and severely under appreciated) female comic writers, artists and editors.
1. Sana Amanat
Amanat is a director, editor and total boss at Marvel Comics. She’s a co-creator of Ms. Marvel, Marvel’s first Muslim superhero to headline her own comic book, and has been an editor for Ultimate Spider-Man, Hawkeye and Captain Marvel. Oh yeah, and she also co-hosts the Women of Marvel podcast. Like, what can’t she do?
“We have a responsibility to tell stories that are empowering and send messages, and that’s exactly what superhero stories do,” Amanat told EW. “The fact that we’re changing them a little bit by having a Muslim character take on a very important legacy… those are really strong messages of what the American dream actually means.”
Amanat knows what’s up.
2. Jo Chen
Chen (often known by her pen name TogaQ) began her career as a professional comic artist and illustrator at age 14, which for me is difficult to fathom as a 20-year-old college student still struggling to adult. Chen is best known for her incredibly detailed cover art, especially for comics such as Runaways and Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight (and season nine).
“You really have to have the desire to be a storyteller to be a comic book artist,” Chen said in an interview with Fandom Shop. “The desire to draw cartoons or superheroes isn’t enough. In fact, the skill to draw is almost secondary. You must first want to tell stories. Once I started down that path, there was no looking back. I was hooked.”
3. Ramona Fradon
Talk about a female pioneer in comics! Fradon has been a comic artist since the Golden Age of comics and, according to Comic Vine, was responsible for “revamping the modern-day Aquaman.” In addition to being a trendsetting illustrator for Aquaman, she is also credited as co-creating the character Metamorpho, illustrating for Plastic Man and being the artist of Brenda Starr for 15 years. Fradon worked primarily for DC until her retirement in 1995.
“I liked Metamorpho and Plastic Man,” Fradon told Sequential Tart when asked which titles she liked to draw most. “They were goofy. I like drawing silly exaggerated figures anyway and those two features leant themselves to that.”
4. Devin Grayson
Grayson hadn’t picked up a comic book until she became obsessed with Batman in her mid-twenties. After sending writing samples to Batman editors and cold-calling DC to speak with Denny O’Neil, she landed a job at DC writing for Batman-related comics. She’s known best for writing Nightwing, Batman: Gothom Knights, and The Titans.
“The first time I wrote for Batman and realized I was getting paid to decide what he was going to say next was an amazing moment, as was being asked to develop my own Batman monthly series,” Grayson said, in an email conversation, about her most memorable moments as a comic writer. “Holding my first published novel in my hands was an astonishing feeling, and watching artists bring characters that had previously existed only in my head to life in the pages of comic books was indescribable.”
5. Sandra Hope
Another talented comic artist, Hope has worked for Image, Wildstorm, Marvel and DC Comics over the years. She’s done art for Crimson, Justice League America and Gen 13, among others, and is known for her superb inking skills.
“The whole thing was just an experiment,” Hope told the Pulse on how she began in the comic industry. “My break into the business was a fluke. I was extremely surprised when I got a call from Homage Studios [after the convention].”
6. Marjorie Liu
Another leading lady in the comic book industry, Liu is a comic writer for Marvel and Image Comics. Her most noteworthy titles include Astonishing X-Men, X-23 and my personal favorite, Han Solo. Her most recent project for Image Comics, Monstress, deals with feminism and race issues and is illustrated and co-created by another talented wom, Sana Takeda (Ms. Marvel, Drain).
Liu told The Hollywood Reporter that the most important theme in Monstress is women – and more specifically, sisterhood.
“Even as an adult, it’s only been in the last four or five years that I’ve come to understand the tremendous power and importance of women as a collective, in every facet of my life, especially women of color,” Liu said. “I make an active effort to expand my circle of female friends and influences. It’s changed my life. And, when I think about my grandmother and her friends, female friendship saves lives, too.”
Yas, Marjorie, yassssss!
7. Adriana Melo
Melo eventually landed a job as a penciler for various Marvel comics after presenting her portfolio to two Marvel artists at a comic event and impressing them enough to sponsor her (which is kind of the dream for any aspiring comic artist). Once she’d gotten her foot in the door, she penciled for such works as Star Wars: Empire, Birds of Prey and Witchblade.
“At first, the girls in comic where mainly objects, they didn’t think a lot about of the character,” Melo said in an interview with El Multiverso 52. “Like, when I started, eighty percent of what mattered on a female character was her body… But now, the editors are the first ones that say ‘no butt-shots.’ And I think it’s fantastic. I actually can see things moving, things changing, and I’m pretty sure it’s because the editors had woken up. They realized that the number of girls who are reading [comics] are increasing, day after day, and that their opinion matters.”
8. Sonia Oback
A comic book colorist known for her art in the Witchblade series, Oback joined her fiance Mike Choi as an exclusive Marvel employee in the last few years. She’s also colored for Catwoman and X-Force, and her cover art for Mind The Gap is truly beautiful.
Also, you should follow her on Twitter for a good laugh.
It's a challenge to color when your cat insists on using your keyboard hand as a pillow pic.twitter.com/JQcKW87gj5
— Sonia Oback (@soniaoback) March 27, 2015
9. Ellie Pyle
Pyle was an editor at Marvel comics, editing for Daredevil, The Amazing Spider-Man and many more, before moving on to DC to become an editor for Vertigo. She was also featured in a couple episodes of the Women of Marvel podcast, which is co-hosted by Sana Amanat.
“It is important…to understand that in order to tell the best stories writers have to love their characters enough to know how to hurt them most for the sake of character growth,” Pyle said in an interview with Drunk Monkeys. “It isn’t the writer’s job to protect their characters. It’s their job to tear them and their lives apart in interesting ways and then put them back together in a process that is equally interesting.”
10. Marie Severin
Like Ramona Fradon, Severin was one of the few women in the comic industry during the Golden and Silver ages. She is a comic artist best known for her work with Doctor Strange, The Incredible Hulk, and Sub-Mariner. Severin has won multiple awards for her work, including the Shazam Award in 1974 and an Inkpot Award in 1988. In 2001, she was inducted into the Will Eisner Comics Hall of Fame. What a herstory!
“Because I was interested in doing a good job, the coloring [for EG comics] was applauded,” Severin said in an interview with Comic Zone Radio, discussing what made her a pioneer artist in the comic industry. “I would be a little more thoughtful in the scenery and the costuming of people, a little more realistic…I sort of made it a reputation, and it hung on.”
This list is relatively short, so I encourage you to continue learning about the women in the comic industry. There are so many female comic writers, artists and editors who go under-appreciated and relatively unknown for their work all the time, but with the inclusion of amazing women such as these listed above, I have hope this will change in the coming years.