Comic Book Queens
Words Emily Gosling
Comics have been historically viewed as a mostly male sphere: catered with sloppy cardboard-boxed pizza, the hum of 90s cartoons on a fuzzy TV screen, punctuated by a series of Beavis and Butthead “fnrr fnrr” chuckles.
But as an exhibition at London’s House of Illustration last year proved, there’s a rich and hugely exciting 100+ years long story of women making stories in panels and pictures. This story is shaped by work from artists including Posy Simmonds, Simone Lia, Tove Jansson (she of Moomins fame) and Nina Bunjevas.
Today, more female artists than ever are claiming the comics space as their own, from the raunchy Brooklyn-based Horizontal Press’ stunning Tijuana Bible of last year to touching graphic novels about grandparents and memory.
We’ve drawn together five of our favourite female comics artists below.
Rachel Levit’s crisp monochrome line drawings delineate the nature of relationships, gender and what it means to be a woman. She’s just published a new book, Shifted, showcasing her knack for turning complex emotional wrangles into moving and surreal figurative panels.
Not always comics based but always driven by narrative, Sara Andreasson’s work delights in subverting gender norms and moves with a distinctly badass attitude. The Swedish illustrator works in bright colours, using blocks of tone to ameliorate the impact of the stories she so succinctly tells in a single image.
Sarah Lippett’s work has a naive charm to it, capturing moods of wistfulness and remembrances. I’ve long admired the London-based RCA graduate’s work, especially her poignant graphic novels that piece together the life of her grandfather Stan, who she never met but who lives on through her grandmother’s memories, little knick-knacks and now, a gorgeous hard-bound book.
The lives of 21st Century women have never been captured illustratively as adroitly as in the work of London-based, Ireland-born illustrator Laura Callaghan. Post-party detritus, pre-work procrastination, poignant moments of sisterhood and solitude; her work manages to feel intensely personal yet universal all at once.
Soppy is a comic book in ladybird colours and simple lifework create by Philippa J Rice. It follows the cuteness and banality of a rosy-cheeked pair of lovers, and year, it’s soppy, but in a rather gorgeous way. The strips have been gathered into a book, and the cherry on the cake is the wonderful hand-drawn typography on the cover.