Every year I like to put together a guide of ‘alternative’ (ie. non-stereotypical) gift ideas for girls. They work for boys too.
This past year, toys have not really factored. New toys at least – as we have hit peak LEGO, Star Wars, dolls, and superhero toys.
But – superheroes are still ever popular with our daughter, and she has acquired a LOT of comics this year. What I’ve really noticed is how much effort the mainstream industry is making to create/repackage comics for girls.
I appreciate this is a potentially contentious observation to make – but I see female characters & creators getting greater visibility, and stories more focussed on character and emotions than power fantasies and hi-tech violence.
Does that mean these titles are targeted at girls? I would say absolutely yes – but that does not mean male fans are excluded. Speaking as one, I enjoyed these titles immensely.
Anyway, here’s our comic book gift guide for girls (and boys).
DC ZOOM comics
Launched this year, DC Zoom is a DC Comics imprint, with titles aimed at readers aged 8-12.
They feature many familiar DC characters, but often in retold origins and backstories. They also have some great titles featuring female protagonists.
1. Black Canary: Ignite
Written by none other than Princess Diaries author Meg Cabot, this is a nice fusion of teen drama and superhero adventure.
In this story, Dinah Lance is an ambitious 13-year-old who not only wants to fight crime – she must first win the battle of the bands, and deal with the consequences of the actions of a mysterious stranger.
2. DC Super Hero Girls
DC have revamped their recent girl-targeted line with a new look and all new stories.
I’m a fan of the update, as is our daughter, and this title & brand remain a great way to introduce girls to superhero comics, as well as hooking existing young fans.
3. Dear Justice League
This is a fun comic, which sees the iconic heroes of the Justice League answer questions from their biggest fans – kids!
Written by novelist Michael Northrop with delightful art by Gustavo Duarte, you’ll find out the answers to burning questions like What was Wonder Woman’s eleventh birthday like? Or Does Aquaman smell like fish?
This is another DC Comics imprint, this time aimed at the YA (Young Adult) market aged 13+ (but I was more than happy for our 7-year-old daughter to read these).
4. Teen Titans: Raven
Raven – in her Teen Titans Go! guise – is a strong favourite of our daughter’s. She also loved this sombre, teen angst ridden retelling of the characters origin.
Written by best-selling author Kami Garcia, with almost monochrome art by Gabriel Picolo, this is a story of surprising depth and nuance.
5. Mera: Tidebreaker
After her empowering turn in the Aquaman movie, Mera gets her own DC Ink title by award-winning author Danielle Paige and illustrator Stephen Byrne.
Here, an engaging tale of teen romance and palace intrigue unfolds, with simple colouring emphasising the aquatic setting and raven hair of the lead character.
Marvel have been trying to appeal to a similar market younger and more female market.
They have done this in the main by republishing recent (and not so recent) relevant comic series in the new smaller format favoured by DC Ink.
These offer great value for money, as they consist of 8-12 issue reprints compared to the usual 6 – but for the same price (or even less).
6. The Unstoppable Wasp
This was my happiest discovery of the year. From Writer Jeremy Whitley and artist Elsa Charretier, it centres on the hitherto unknown to me Nadia Pym, long lost daughter of original Ant Man Hank Pym.
What made this series such a delight was the unbridled optimism of the character (which is despite her backstory involving years of enforced captivity).
Collects issues #1-8 of The Unstoppable Wasp (2017)
7. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur
Another fun new discovery was the adventures of African-American pre-teen tech genius Lunella Lafayette – known as Moon Girl to her classmates – and one of Jack Kirby’s late-seventies Marvel creations Devil Dinosaur.
This first collection, Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur: The Beginning, is a great value TPB, as it features issues #1-12 of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur (2015).
The follow up collection Moon Girl And Devil Dinosaur: Full Moon (issues #13-24) is due to be published in January 2020.
8. Ms. Marvel
Teenage Pakastani-American Kamala Khan burst onto the scene in 2014, and mainstream comics have perhaps never been the same.
Marvel’s first ever Muslim character to headline their own comic, she was an instant hit with fans.
If you haven’t read these yet, Marvel have released 2 great value collections this year:
Ms Marvel: Kamala Khan which collects issues #1–11 plus material from All-New Marvel NOW! Point One
And Ms. Marvel: Metamorphosis, which has issues #12–19, plus S.H.I.E.L.D. (2014) #2 and Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #7-8.
9. Hawkeye (Kate Bishop)
Kate Bishop – confusingly also called Hawkeye – debuted in the Young Avengers way back in 2005.
She was also a key player in Matt Fraction and David Aja’s 2012 series Hawkeye (ostensibly about Clint Barton, but who knows…)
This collects her own series, written by Kelly Thompson supported with lovely art by Leonardo Romero. Set in LA, the Venice Beach based Kate decides to embark on a career as a private eye.
This collects issues #1-12 of Hawkeye (no, not the one mentioned above – another Hawkeye series!)
The title was sadly cancelled after issue #18. You can get the concluding collection of 6 issues in the graphic novel Hawkeye: Family Reunion.
Leaping out of comics into more mainstream awareness in the utterly magnificent animated movie Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (which you should definitely see if you haven’t already) was Spider-Gwen.
An alternate-Earth version (that old chestnut) of Peter Parker’s famously dead ex-girlfriend, here she is reimagined as an arachnid powered Spider-Woman, with a nifty outfit, troubled past, and playing drums for high-school rock-band the Mary Janes.
Another great value collection, this has her introduction from Edge of Spider-Verse #2, Spider-Gwen #1-5 (2015), and the subsequent Spider-Gwen (2015) #1-6.
Other Comic Book suggestions
11. Crystal Fighters
This is one our daughter just picked off the shelf at the comic shop.
From wife & husband team of Jen Bartel (Artist) and Tyler Bartel (Writer), Crystal Fighters is a slick and modern high-school drama encompassing fantasy, sci-fi, virtual reality, and teen angst.
It is slight book in terms of content, as the 144 pages belie the fact that there are often just a few panels per page. But this is an imaginative and engaging story – which had our daughter hooked.
12. Go, Girls, Go!
Ok, not really a comic – but I wanted to get this is somewhere.
This fun picture book has essentially one aim – to redress the false notion that vehicles, from tractors to space ships, are something only little boys are interested in.
So over the course 40 pages, author Frances Gilbert, with illustrator Allison Black, depict a succession of girls driving various vehicles.
With minimal words, this is ideally for an early reader, and is perfect for any young child – boy or girl.
13. DC: Women of Action
Even less of a “comic”, this is a fantastic celebration of female DC characters.
The author is Shea Fontana, who was also the writer of the earlier DC Super Hero Girls comics as well as various other DC titles.
This would make a lovely gift for anyone who already loves female superheroes – or even someone who you think might be interested.
There is also a Marvel book which does the same for their female characters called Powers of a Girl. We’ve not read this one, so cannot recommend it other than saying it looks pretty cool too (and is on our daughter’s gift list).
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