Let me preface this by letting you know that I’m currently seriously obsessed with Agent Peggy Carter. Those reading this who know me personally have been subjected to my constant badgering to watch the new Agent Carter show and to read about her in comics and will not be at all surprised by this confession. The point is, as I was casually perusing the web for Peggy Carter pictures, I came across one of her and Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America, that read “My boyfriend’s pretty cool, but he’s not as cool as me.”
I’ll let you in on a secret, reader, if you’re not hip to this fact yet: the girlfriends are almost always cooler. That’s not just my love of female-driven stories and female characters talking, though I’ll concede that’s part of it.
Erica Durance, who played Lois Lane in the Smallville TV series, sums up my feelings about superheroes’ girlfriends pretty well. This is what she had to say about Lois Lane at Austin Comic Con in 2013, “…growing up, I loved Lois. I loved her independence, and I loved that she was strong, and she was part of Clark’s life, but she wasn’t a victim. Yes, he did save her, but she saved him as well…. it’s easy to save the world when you have superpowers. It’s very difficult to do the right thing when you don’t have those superpowers. So, for Lois, she had to try to keep up with somebody who had that. Yet, she still had the same drive, and the punches hurt a lot worse when she got hit.”
The ladies I’ll talk about and give you reading recommendations for below are brave and remarkable women. They’re all out to save the world, or clean up the streets of their town, or get the big story and make sure people hear the truth. They’re ordinary humans who go up against larger-than-life foes because they’re not the kind of women who have it in them to back down and because they have a fierce determination to stand up for what’s right.
Stories about people with powers are cool, but in my opinion, these women are much cooler.
Yeah, yeah. Captain America has super strength and a rad shield and a jawline so perfect it borders on ridiculous. I love him too. But let’s talk about Peggy Carter for a minute because I love her so much more. Peggy Carter has been a communications specialist, spy, and resistance fighter to name just few of her jobs. She has to deal with the sexism of the 1940s and 50s, but rather than let it deter her, she often uses people’s underestimation of her to her advantage. If you take into account the Marvel TV and cinematic universe, she was also instrumental in forming Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division (S.H.I.E.L.D.). Wow, she sounds pretty awesome, and those are some things you’d like to read about?
Operation S.I.N. by Kathryn Immonen is a five part mini-series. At the time I’m writing this, only the first issue, which was released on January 7, 2015, is out. I feel confident in recommending the series based on the strength of that first issue alone. Readers learn at the start of the issue that Peggy sleeps with her boots by her bed in case she has to get up in the middle of the night and kick some ass. Spoiler alert: that comes in handy, and the ass-kicking she hands out is glorious. There’s also a ton of delightful banter between Peggy and Howard Stark, and the art captures the 1950s setting gorgeously.
If you’re looking for background on the character, Captain America: Peggy Carter, Agent of SHIELD is a compilation that collects some of Peggy’s biggest stories in comics by a variety of authors. It’s an excellent choice if you’re interested in the multitude of awesome things she’s done over the years.
Award-winning journalist Lois Lane will do anything for a good story or to protect the people she loves. When the superheroes arrive to save the day, Lois is often already in the middle of things, getting shit done. She’s tough, smart, and a complete smart-ass. She isn’t so much fearless as she’s unwilling to let her fears hold her back. She cares deeply about what’s right and will stand up for it no matter who tries to shut her up. She’s the woman who keeps the man she calls “the world’s greatest hero” going. Superman couldn’t be Superman without Lois Lane.
If you have some time to invest and want a spectacular Lois Lane story to sink your teeth into, read Greg Rucka’s Adventures of Superman arc. It’s not a solo Lois story, as you may have guessed by the title of the series, but Lois features heavily and has a big heroic moment at the start of the arc that’s a major part of the story. Rucka captures everything that makes Lois remarkable and also has a great grasp on what makes her relationship with Superman so special. The storyline is collected in three trade paperbacks: Unconventional Warfare, That Healing Touch, and Ruin Revealed.
If you want a shorter story, try Valkyrie. Valkyrie is a stand-alone story from the Smallville: Season 11 series by Bryan Q. Miller. In it, Lois Lane follows a story to Africa. This issue starts out with a play on people thinking that knowing Superman is the most interesting thing about Lois. It then proceeds to prove that belief completely untrue. As an added bonus, readers get Lana Lang, formerly Clark Kent’s girlfriend, doing her own superhero thing and teaming up with Lois to save the day.
Okay, Renee Montoya’s not cooler than her superhero boyfriend; she’s cooler than her superhero girlfriend. She’s just a smidge cooler because, admittedly, Kate Kane (a.k.a. Batwoman) is pretty amazing. I will be recommending some comics starring her in a future post. That said, there’s a reason Kate fell hard after Officer Renee Montoya pulled her over for a speeding offense.
Renee Montoya is one of the police officers charged with keeping order in Gotham, a city overrun with criminals, many of whom have mysterious powers. She also has the distinction and burden of being a good cop who holds on to her ideals in the middle of a corrupt department.
Gotham Central by Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker is an ensemble book in which Renee has some great storylines; perhaps the most memorable is her having to deal with being outed as a lesbian at work. Renee’s struggles, both personal and professional, are as captivating as she is as a character. The entire book follows the theme of regular humans in a world of superheroes as it explores the lives of the men and women in the Gotham City Police Department. It’s a gritty book in both storyline and art that takes a close look at the toll life in Gotham can take on a person.
The Question: Pipeline, also written by Greg Rucka, is another great story. Who is the Question, you ask? Okay, you caught me. Renee does take on a secret identity after leaving the Gotham Police Department. In this book, as the Question, she teams up with the Huntress to take on a human trafficking operation. The two have great chemistry as crime-fighting partners, and due in large part to that, Pipeline feels lighter than Gotham Central despite its weighty subject matter.
Those, dear readers, are my recommendations for now. The links in the article are to ComiXology, a digital comics retailer, where available, and to the DC Comics website when a ComiXology link wasn’t available. Read my introduction to comics post for more info on where to buy or, in the case of the library, check out comics!
I’ll be back soon with more suggestions, and I welcome any topic requests in the comments. What are your feelings on the women I listed above? Have you or will you read any of these comics? Is there someone you love that I left out? Let me know!