Step aside, men. The women are here to show everyone how comics and graphic novels are done! For a long time, the comic book and graphic novel worlds have felt like a boy’s club. There’s an air of masculinity around it that has made it difficult for female authors and illustrators to be recognized within the industry. Nevertheless, women are continuously making their mark on the imaginative and fantastical world of comics and graphic novels, and we’re more than happy to shine a light on their achievements.
There are so many women in comics and graphic novels that deserve to have the spotlight on them, so narrowing it down was pretty tough. If we could, this list would include way more than nine women. In no particular order, here are nine female authors and illustrators in graphic novel and comic worlds who we love.
Marjane Satrapi is the bestselling author of the critically acclaimed graphic memoir Persepolis (2004). Persepolis details Satrapi’s life as a child growing into a rebellious teenager in Tehran, Iran, amidst the political tension and unrest of the Islamic Revolution in the 1970s and 80s.
Despite the heavy subject matter, Persepolis is a wonderful coming-of-age story that shows readers the devastating impacts of war and political divide through the eyes of Satrapi’s younger self. Simple black-and-white comic strips give even more life into the rich storytelling Satrapi’s writing already demonstrates to her readers. In 2007 Satrapi directed the animated adaptation of Persepolis, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
Other Notable Works: Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return (2005), Embroideries (2006), Chicken With Plums (2009)
Tee Franklin is, in her own words, “a Queer, disabled black woman who writes comics.” Franklin is a true trailblazer. She’s the first black woman hired to write comics for Image Comics and started her own publishing company, Inclusive Press, to publish the comics of marginalized creators as well as her own. She’s also an activist, domestic abuse survivor, and public speaker (in other words, she’s a certified bada**).
As the author of DC Comics’ Harley Quinn: The Animated Series: The Eat. Bang! Kill. Tour #1-6 (2021-22), Franklin explores Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy’s friendship-turned-relationship after Ivy’s almost marriage to Kite Man. It’s a Thelma-and-Louise-style comic series that is undoubtedly entertaining and heartfelt.
Other Notable Works: Image Comics’ Bingo Love (2018), Jook Joint (2018), DC Comics’ Tis the Season to be Freezin’ #1 (2021)
If you watched the 2015 Tony Awards, you’re already accustomed to Alison Bechdel’s work. That year the Broadway production of Bechdel’s graphic memoir, Fun Home, earned five awards, including the Tony for Best Musical. If you’re a bookworm who’s always looking for proper female representation in books, you’ve also heard of Alison Bechdel, whose comic series, Dykes to Watch Out For, is the origin of the “Bechdel Test.”
Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home (2007) chronicles her childhood while growing up in rural Pennsylvania, her complex relationship with her father, and struggling with her own sexual and gender identity. Bechdel’s ability to write and illustrate stories that deal with topics like complex relationships within a dysfunctional family, sexuality and gender make her an important pillar in the LGBTQ+ community, as well as the graphic novel community.
Other Notable Works: Are You My Mother? (2013), The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For (2020), The Secret to Superhuman Strength (2021)
G. Willow Wilson
Move over, Carol Danvers. There’s a new Ms. Marvel in town, thanks to comic book author G. Willow Wilson. Ms. Marvel Vol. 1 (2014) reintroduces the character of Ms. Marvel to a new generation and helps usher in a much-welcomed demographic shift in the comic book world. Wilson’s story of Pakistani-American teen Kamala Khan who’s suddenly imbued with extraordinary powers is a major pop-culture moment that can’t be overlooked.
G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel has earned a Hugo Award, American Book Award, and most importantly, the respect and adoration of comic book fans around the world. Not a Marvel fan? No worries, because Wilson’s amazing writing can be found in other popular series from DC Comics to The Sandman comics.
Other Notable Works: Wonder Woman #58 (2018), Invisible Kingdom (2019), The Dreaming: Waking Hours (2020-)
Jen Wang is the author and illustrator of the award-winning graphic novel The Prince and the Dressmaker (2018). Set during the dawn of the modern age, Dressmaker follows a French Prince Sebastian, who lives a double life. By day he’s a prince, but at night, Sebastian dons dresses and lives as fashion icon Lady Crystallia. He lives out this life with the help of his best friend, Frances, a dressmaker. But Frances dreams of greatness, and how long can she put her dreams on hold to keep the secret of her best friend?
Wang’s story of a prince and a seamstress is a beautiful fairy tale about friendship, identity, and young love. Her beautiful artwork works together SEAMlessly (see what I did there?) with her writing. Dressmaker is undoubtedly deserving of its many accolades, including NPR’s Best Book of 2018 and Washington Post’s Best Graphic Novel of 2018.
Other Notable Works: Koko Be Good (2010), In Real Life (2014), Stargazing (2019)
If you’re on any social media platform, you’ve most likely scrolled across Sarah Andersen’s work at some point. Her “scribbles” are hilarious, incredibly relatable, and endearing. Andersen’s artistic style is unmistakable. Her striped-shirt-wearing, wild-haired, big-eyed protagonist deals with all kinds of everyday problems. From social anxiety to relationships, and adulthood to the unpredictability of pet cats, Andersen tackles it all with humor.
On a personal note, I’ve always been a huge fan of Sarah Andersen’s comics. Whenever I’m feeling sad I’ll scroll through her work on Instagram, and immediately cheer up. They never fail to make me laugh, and have me asking myself, “Is this comic about me?” all too often. Sarah, if you’re reading this, you’re amazing and please don’t stop creating, or else I’ll be very, very sad… no pressure.
Other Notable Works: Big Mushy Happy Lump: A “Sarah’s Scribbles” Collection (2017), Fangs (2020), Cryptid Club (coming September 2022)
Jillian Tamaki’s work touches people of all ages. Her collection of short comics appeals to adults in Boundless (2017), tackling topics like relationships, social media, and the possibility of transcendence. Her art is fantastical while remaining incredibly grounded in realism. Boundless has been featured on Best of The Year lists from NPR, Booklist, The Washington Post, and Publishers Weekly.
Jillian has also teamed up with her cousin, Mariko Tamaki, to create YA graphic novels that have gone on to win Caldecott Honors and a Governor General’s Award. Tamaki’s even written and/or illustrated three children’s picture books, and her graphic work has been featured in The New York Times and The New Yorker.
Other Notable Works: SKIM (2005), This One Summer (2014), SuperMutant Magic Academy (2015)
Vera Brosgol’s YA graphic novel Anya’s Ghost (2011) is hilarious and heartwarming. It follows Anya, who falls down an old well, resulting in a new friend… who’s a 200-year-old ghost. Together, the two hilariously take on all teenage life has to offer, like embarrassing parents, friendships, relationships, and school. Anya’s Ghost has won an Eisner Award and been praised by author Neil Gaiman.
Brosgol has also written and illustrated a number of award-winning children’s picture books. Outside of the book industry, Brosgol has done storyboarding for a number of films like Coraline, The Boxtrolls, Paranorman, and Kubo and the Two Strings, as well as a number of shows from Cartoon Network.
Other Notable Works: Leave Me Alone! (2016), Be Prepared (2018), The Little Guys (2019)
Last, but certainly not least, is Raina Telgemeier, who is best known for her graphic novel Smile (2010). Smile is an Eisner Award-winning graphic memoir about Telgemeier’s childhood and dealing with the struggles of braces, middle school, and friendships. As the writer and illustrator, Telgemeier puts together a perfect coming-of-age story for all to enjoy.
Telgemeier also adapted and illustrated four graphic novel versions of Ann M. Martin’s The Baby-Sitters Club. Her work has earned her a total of five Eisner awards, a Stonewall Honor, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor, and five #1 New York Times bestsellers. What else can’t she do?
Other Notable Works: Drama (2014), Sisters (2014), Ghosts (2016)