From the first moment I opened ‘Womanthology: Heroic’, with its “this book belongs to ______:” title page reminding me of the treasured books of my youth, I felt I was holding something special. As I read through its pages, I was not proven wrong; indeed, it exceeded my expectations.
‘Womanthology: Heroic’ is an anthology of original comics created by over 150 women. The project was funded by a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign (they reached their $25,000 funding goal in less than 24 hours and then went on to raise more than 4 times their goal in their allotted month) with the rest of proceeds going to charity. They paired established professionals in the field with those aspiring or less experienced to create the comics. The comics vary in length from one page to four or five, but all are short. There are also single page drawings and a short (but impressive) chapter of work done by kids and teens. Throughout the book, there are short bios of the people involved, along with short insider “pro-tips” for people looking to break into the comic book industry. The anthology also includes a more in-depth How To Create Comics chapter along with chapters covering Creator Interviews and the Women of Comic History.
The true value of ‘Womanthology: Heroic’ is in its diversity. There is a dazzling array of styles represented in this anthology, in terms of artistic style, theme, and setting. The stories take place in the past, in the present, in the future, and in realms only dreamed of in the imagination. They are funny, dramatic, cute, poignant, and once in a while impart important messages. There are characters of all shapes, ages, races, and sizes. Also, probably not surprisingly, there’s a decided lack of the gravity and physics-defying physiques and costumes found in most mainstream comic books. (Not that’s there’s anything wrong with that if that’s your thing… it’s just nice to see a publication that has more than only that style.)
It’s very hard to narrow down my personal favorites. I loved ‘The Spinster’ by Ming Doyle (Art & Words), Jordie Bellaire (Colors), and Rachel Deering (Letters), a classic-looking tale of a hero’s secret identity and how they clash with society’s preconceptions. ‘The All Too Real World’ by Amanda McMurray (Writer) and Valia Kapada (Artist) stood out and is a tale that I’m sure is all too familiar to many women who didn’t fit in growing up. I enjoyed ‘I’m Not Omni Girl’ by Lauren Burke (Writer) and Megan Brennan (Artist), a story of a teenage girl who looks just like her new town’s resident super hero and is none too happy about it. ‘Snow White, Blood Red’ by Peggy Von Burkleo (Story) and Alexis Hernandez (Art & Letters) gives an enjoyable twist on the traditional fairytale.
Several comics introduced interesting heroines and left me wanting more – I’d love to see their stories continued again in some form. I enjoyed ‘Defect’ by Talisha Harrison (Writer), Kelly TurnBull (Artist & Letterer), and Dawn Best (Coloring) with a heroine who chafes at stereotypes and declares “my skateboard is my Mjolnir.” (Love that line!) ‘The Dream Weaver’ by Jill Pantozzi (Writer), Nur Hanie Moho (Artist & Letterer), and Neoma Lindley (Colorist) told the story of a person locked in sleep who becomes a hero by influencing peoples’ dreams in ways that changes their waking lives for the good. Renae De Liz (Writer & Artist) and Nei Ruffino (Colorist) bring us ‘Lady Power Punch’, an unpopular teenage girl on her first day as a superhero. I’d love to see how her character develops. As someone who loves mythology, I was intrigued by ‘Archetypes’ by Jenna Busch (Writer), Elisa Feliz (Artist), Dawn Best (Colorist), and Rachel Deering (Letterer), the story of someone who uses her unique form of precognition to fight crime… and the ending to that one certainly hinted at more stories to be told!
My only criticisms of the book would be in terms of the layout of some of the pages. I wish all of the comics had titles… not all did and sometimes things seemed a bit jumbled and chaotic. Also, there was a black and white comic based on a RPG running throughout the bottom of many of the pages of the book. The stark difference between it and the vibrant colors of many of the comics was distracting. I would have much preferred the RPG comic to have been presented differently, perhaps in its own section so as not to take away from the other comics.
There was so much I love about ’Womanthology: Heroic’. As the mainstream comic book industry still seems slow to accept that women, young women, and girls are a viable market, I’m thrilled not only to see a product like this, but to see its success. I give it my highest recommendation. There’s something for everyone in this book. It’s a keeper too… I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see some of these up-and-comers leading the industry some day.