Image: Leave it to Portia, an homage to Leave it to Chance [copyright 2007 by Kean Soo]
There’s nothing quite like a nice, annotated bibiography.
After writing about and considering the market for josei I’ve been interested in the current state of comics for young women. It used to be a bit of a wasteland until manga came along and moved comics into the bookstores and into a tidy, multi issue book format. All of a sudden it became obvious that girls were perfectly willing to read comics. But what exactly are girls reading and was there anything else out there offering a challenge to manga’s grip on this niche market?
With the dissolution of DC’s Minx imprint earlier this year one was left to wonder at the future of comics for young women. Is the level of interest in shojo manga a sustainable phenomenon and where does that leave non-manga comics for girls – especially with the Minx attempt to woo this market having failed.
I wanted to get a sense of the tone of what’s being published for young women and to confirm if anyone is creating work that transcends a predictable adventure template in a way that is inclusive and engaging. Complex and unconventional narratives that would be appealing to young women sometimes miss being described as adventure at all because adventure usually suggests light entertainment, suspense and action. I want this to be a collection of comics that are fun for young women – not prescriptive or patronizing.
When I use the words “girls/young women” (interchangeably) I’m thinking for an age range between 12 and 17. (Apologies, I’m all over the place with my descriptors.) I read a lot of manga and review sites about manga so I have some idea of what’s out there and felt it was important to start trying to find non-Japanese titles for my bibliography.
I was also curious to test just how easy it would be to find titles based on a library subject heading search. It’s often remarked that libraries are a great existing source for “in-context subject-related recommendation”. I use reader recommendations on sites like Amazon a lot, as I think, many readers do. Could I get as far with the library catalogue based on subject headings? It was worth trying!
I started search with Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicles subject headings, choosing “juvenile fiction – witches” which produced results that included the comics Ultra Maniac (manga), Clubbing (USA, Minx imprint), and Oddly Normal (USA). It was a start.
I then searched “graphic novels – canada” (because I really wanted to try to find some Canadian titles) which produced 60 results. None of the other Canadian titles seemed to fit the template of girls adventure. While there were adventure stories and some of them included female characters nothing seemed tailored for young women or particularly likely to draw their attention.
I thought searching “graphic novels — china” would produce some examples of manhua but there were no matching search terms. At least the listing of potential options lead me to “graphic novels — korea”. There was a good selection of manhwa, at least, and that lead me to Moon Boy, one of the titles that made the short list.
Image: panel from After School Nightmare [copyright by 2007 Go! Comi]
It started to seem that websites that had reviews of comics and manga I could peruse was a better place to start. It’s not that the library didn’t have the books I wanted – just that I was having a difficult time finding works that I knew would be useful to me without a bit of a review to accompany them.
The websites I enjoyed and found the most useful were ones I was already familiar with. I spent a lot of time on these sites perusing and taking advantage of the contributor’s discernment and smarts for which I am very grateful.
Good Comics for Kids (now part of the School Library Journal website)
MangaBlog (Brigid Alverson’s posting of the Blogroll’s reviews each day is so useful! thank you thank you)
I also marched over to the local comic store a few times to get the opinion of the employees which was really invaluable. That’s how I was tipped off about Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things which is so good. I was given a lot of great suggestions. Thanks Happy Harbor!
So, here is the final list of adventure comics for young women I thought were making an interesting contribution to the genre: