I think I’ve always been a comic reader. I read Archie comics sporadically, and each Sunday it was of vital importance that I read every single strip in the funny pages — yes, even Doonesbury. I bought Garfield collections and started filling up a shoe box with issues of Sonic the Hedgehog and Knuckles the Echidna.
But one thing was obvious, as I started moving into more story-based things: there weren’t a lot of comics, or graphic novels, meant for girls. There were some things, like Betty and Veronica, but nothing that appealed to the other stories I loved, fantasy and adventure, or even stories that just focused so deeply on characters and their problems. No, those were in “boy” stories, in super hero comics that didn’t usually appeal to me.
Maybe that’s why I fell so hard into manga. The first volume of manga I ever bought was Cardcaptor Sakura, where a girl gains magical powers and fights monsters in outfits designed by her best friend. On the cover she’s decked out in pink and is surrounded by swirling ribbons. This was a story made for girls, and I was so hooked.
Fushigi Yuugi, Mars, Kodocha, Magic Knight Rayearth — manga was an embarrassment of riches when it came to girls comics, even with the limited choice available when I first started reading. And I read plenty of “boy” manga, too, Inu Yasha and Rurouni Kenshin, but even a lot of those stories seemed to have a sense of their large female audience, so saying it was a shonen (“boy”) comic really more of a category than a directive.
Flash forward to nowadays. Now there are loads of lady comic artists/writers who were reading funny pages and Archie around the same time as me, and they are making their own comics for girls. There’s Smile and Sisters by Reina Telgemeier, Cece Bell’s El Deafo, Faith Erin Hicks and Friends with Boys, and Lumberjanes, oh my goodness Lumberjanes. A bunch of girls solving ciphers and fighting monster and preventing petulant gods from taking over the world and falling in love! Even some of those super hero comics that had never appealed to me would have been amazing when I was twelve, with Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and the new Ms. Marvel. And of course, there’s more shojo manga around than I would have ever been able to read.
I’m jealous of these girls today, finding comics made for them, sitting in easy reach in the front of book stores, waiting to be checked out from their school libraries. There are so many wonderful, special things being down with comics that I didn’t even know I craved when I was a kid. So many different stories for them to devour and grow up with and remember fondly as a part of their childhoods.
Readers! Did you read comics as a kid? What did you love and collect? Are you as jealous of kids comics today as I am?