You may have heard—Marvel finally released its first female led superhero film. This on screen adaptation is long overdo, especially considering the thriving world of female superheroes on the page. Characters like Spider-Gwen and Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan are obvious star newcomers, both serving major roles in Marvel comics. But young adult fiction and comic books, in particular, have long been on the cutting edge in expanding the universe of female superheroes and giving flight to marginalized characters.
Caitlyn Colman-McGaw, the Manager of Young Adult Educational Programming at the New York Public Library, knows this better than anyone. “YA showcases an incredible breadth of stories and artistic styles,” Colman-McGaw said over the phone. The NYPL participates in NY Comic-Con and prides itself on being “a safe space for comic lovers.” Colman-McGaw has assembled an expert list of 11 recommendations, featuring books and comics (including webcomics that are collected in print) that spotlight all sorts of characters from classic superheroines to “empowered magical girls.”
Dreadnought by April Daniels
Danny Tozer wakes up one day to discover that she has inherited some pretty weird superpowers, which is pretty inconvenient. On the flip side, Danny’s transformation allows her to be open about being transgender. If only there wasn’t a murderer on the loose.
Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo
Tough city kid Alia seems to bring disaster with her wherever she goes. Diana comes from a long line of Amazons and wants to prove her worth. When the warbringer and the warrior accidentally get together, they have to work together to save both their worlds.
Ms. Marvel, Vol.1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson (writer) and Adrian Alphona (artist)
Kamala Khan, rep’ing Jersey City, is ready to take on all the bad guys. And get her homework done on time. Er, maybe.
Spider-Gwen, Vol 1: Greater Power by Jason Latour (writer) and Robbi Rodriguez (artist)
Miles Morales is currently the Spider-Man in the spotlight and we are fine with that. Luckily, Spider-Gwen also gets to shine in the Spider-Verse and readers looking to delve into her backstory have plenty of comics to choose from.
Check, Please!: #Hockey! by Ngozi Ukazu (writer and artist)
Okay, there aren’t any superheroes and it features a boys hockey team at a small college but you can’t help but fall in love with Bitty and his crew of lovable athletes. Plus, gush-worthy crushes and pie baking.
Kim & Kim by Magdalene Visaggio (writer) and Eva Cabrera (artist), Black Mask Studios
These two ladies are delightfully punk rock bounty hunters who go rogue and have to deal with all the trouble they’ve created. In addition to being hella queer the giddy neon artwork makes this a joy to read.
Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide by Isabel Quintero (writer) and Zeke Peña (artist)
While not a superhero per se, this graphic novel highlights the life of an incredibly talented Mexican photographer and is unlike anything that I’ve read. Iturbide’s deeply unsettling photos are interspersed with poetic musings about her life and some gorgeous black and white artwork.
Heavy Vinyl by Carly Usdin (writer) and Nina Vakueva (artist)
Steeped in late-nineties music nostalgia, this series features a tough gang of girls who use their jobs at a record store as a cover for a vigilante fight club. Plus, Chris has a crush on her super cute co-worker Maggie and you can’t help but root for them as they awkwardly flirt with each other. *heart eyes emoji*
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