Today I decided to write a post about two of the best graphic novels I have ever read, and they are both coincidentally about cool girls doing cool things in very different ways. I don’t read graphic novels very often and there isn’t really a reason for this other than the fact that I just prefer longer lasting novels. I do love colour and illustration though, and whenever I do pick up a comic I’m almost always inspired to get my pens out and starting making something. Despite my preference being longer novels, these have both been worthy investments since I have read them over and over again, and I always find myself going back to them when I remember they exist somewhere on my book shelf.
The messages that both share are super important and if I ever had a daughter, I’d want her to have had these to inspire her a lot earlier than I discovered them. A lot of commercial fiction, comics and general pop culture is being marketed more and more frequently as feminist, bold statements and (usually) pink banners promoting girl power and the messages that feminism pushes forward. Whilst this is really cool, and I don’t necessarily agree with it, I tend to prefer more subtle pieces of literature. I love that the women featured in these stories, one non-fictional and one fictional, don’t claim to be feminist in their branding, marketing or general story telling. I myself am a huge advocate for feminism, and so I’m by no means saying that this is a bad thing. I just want it to be recognised that there’s a lot more to being a feminist than female characters triumphing over men, and a lot of books bring attention to the issues that need to be corrected in order to achieve equality, without claiming to do so. These books don’t exist in order to sell as pieces of feminist literature and the characters don’t feel as if they were put there in order to be recognised for nothing more than a feminist icon. They are well characterised and exist to make the plot worth reading, and just so happen to promote a message that girls can literally do anything in a society thats often wholly against them. So here’s the graphics I love, and all about the girls inside them.
Out of the two, this one is my favourite. Red Rosa means a lot to me, and reminds me of my younger years (e.g before life got in the way), of being a young and politically active gal who wanted to do something about a government that continues to marginalise women and minority communities.
The story follows the life and times of Rosa Luxemburg, a Polish woman and revolutionary battling it out in the 1900s. It covers everything, from her sexual endeavours to her political theorising, all in graphic form, and I absolutely loved every second of reading it. It’s an honest and vivid portrayal of a very hectic and overwhelming life, and highlights the fact that women and their actions are often at the heart of political movements, despite their absence from superior political office. Not only does the book document her activism, fighting for democracy and more power to the lower classes of society, but it also tells the tale of some of her most intimate moments. The beauty in which Kate Evans (a bad ass woman cartoonist) creates these images and presents such personal stories is quite breath-taking.
Rosa is most famous for her participation in an activist group called the Spartacists, who rose up in post-WWI Germany during a time of political crisis. The revolt they led was essentially a general strike, calling for stability and a socialist government to take the place of a provisional government who had replaced the Kaiser after his abdication. Unfortunately the rebellion was subdued by a group of armed soldiers (the Freikorps) commissioned by Ebert, the leader at the time. Rosa was arrested for her involvement and tragically executed as a result.
Despite the sad themes, love this book! I’m not going to go on about it too much, but really, you should read it. I would love to read more from Kate Evans in the future, although I am particularly thankful for this one as I remember receiving it just after it came out, and just after I had studied Rosa Luxemburg. Putting a face to the stories I had heard and bringing those very stories to life is what this book does, and it does it perfectly.
My other favourite graphic novel comes in the form of Paper Girls, a stunningly bright and positive story about some bad babes in the 80s. Just typing this is giving me deja vu, as I am convinced I have written a blog post about this before. Alas, I am going to continue because I think I’ve just told so many people about it that I have lost track of where I’ve been spreading the news!
If you liked Stranger Things, or Life Sucks! on Netflix, you will probably enjoy this comic. I wouldn’t say it was YA at all, but it will definitely appeal to both old and young alike for the best reason. It’s like a modern sci-fi / action story, but set in the 80s when iPhones weren’t about to save the day, and people still did paper rounds as a means of earning pocket money.
The twist I like, however, is the fact that the story is about a group of teenage girls. When it comes to traditional sci-fi as a genre, its typical that women are often subservient or submissive, needing to be saved by a strong male lead with a nicely glued quiff or some extra Clark Kent glasses propped on his nose. These girls don’t need men to come to the rescue, and as a group they provide intelligence, humour, fierceness- all things women are capable of being despite what historical stereotypes would have us believe.
Thanks for reading this post on my favourite graphic novels. If anyone has any of their own favourites they think I might enjoy, let me know!