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These days, there are a lot of choices for rad comics that focus on the narratives of female superheroes. Comics that have been swept under the rug for too long.
As we celebrate our month of Not Your Sidechick, we wanted to shine a light on our own starter pack of dynamic stories featuring women that refuse to stay in anyone's shadow.
Birds of Prey (#56-108)
Birds of Prey is pretty much a whole team of not-your-sidechicks. Beginning with the early days of Black Canary and Oracle teaming up to tackle international crime rings, this series granted lead character focus to two of DC's most underutilized characters. The roster expanded to epic proportions in the Gail Simone run but still focused on that central dynamic between Oracle and Black Canary.
Shuri has only been around since the late '90s, but she's been one of the breakout stars of modern comics. This is in no small part due to stealing every scene she appeared in the Black Panther movie (played by Letitia Wright), but comics Shuri is no slouch herself.
In the recent Shuri solo series from writer Nnedi Okorafor and artist Leonardo Romero, T'Challa is out of the picture after getting lost in space. Shuri wants to look for him, but is bound to Wakanda where her mother urges her to become Black Panther once more. Juggling her duties and interacting with guest stars from the Marvel Universe, Shuri continues to grow while trying to navigate her responsibility to Wakanda.
If anyone is the definition of Not Your Sidechick, it has to be Kamala Khan. G. Willow Wilson's groundbreaking run that introduced us to the character in 2013 is an absolute must-read and has graced many a best-of list since its debut. The character was co-created by Sana Amanat, who said, "the big deal was for minority representation, the bigger deal was about finding your authentic self." Though Kamala loves superheroes and works with them, she makes her own decisions from the start and it makes for an incredibly refreshing read.
Love & Rockets: Maggie the Mechanic
Love and Rockets is one of those series where you could never have guessed how it would end up based on how it started. Though Jaime Hernandez' Locas narrative eventually became a lengthy commentary on a group of friends over decades as they age and change, the first arc was a sci-fi adventure in which protagonist Maggie was the assistant to the handsome celebrity adventurer Rand Race. Maggie goes from feeling that Rand is out of her league to teaming up with a middle-aged woman wrestler and coming into her own strength. Maggie's story is still ongoing in the Love and Rockets series, but Hernandez established in the very first arc that Maggie was very much her own person who sometimes made mistakes but who kept growing throughout her life.
In Matt Fraction's series on Hawkeye, it was firmly established that Kate Bishop was no second fiddle to Clint Barton. In fact, they both go by the name Hawkeye, and she can outshoot and usually outthink him. Clint is supportive and inclusive while Kate goes on to star in her own series, written by Kelly Thompson. Working as a private investigator in L.A., Kate takes on Madame Mask and establishes her own supporting cast.
After Barbara Gordon became Oracle, there was a notorious absence of any new Batgirls taking on the helm. That all changed when the assassin Cassandra Cain fled her abusive father figure to train and work with Batman. A study in the longterm effects of violence on a young girl, Batgirl never shies away from its subject matter, but it gives Cassie one of the most rewarding arcs in superhero comics of the time.
Glory: The Once And Future Destroyer
Initially a scantily-clad woman warrior that appeared semi-regularly in the Supreme series as the Wonder Woman to his Superman, Glory was always a bit of a derivative character until the run that completely turned it all around for her. Written by Joe Keatinge with art by Sophie Campbell, this arc reestablished Glory as a woman trained to die a warrior’s death from birth and examines the effects of this on her psyche. Attempting desperately to relate to others as her body weakens, Glory finally comes into her own as a highly unique character.
Riri Williams got her start busting into Tony Stark's labs to use his tech in her inventions. When Stark caught on, he was impressed by her and granted her access to his resources for study. She soon created her own suit of armor and became Ironheart. Her ongoing series, written by Eve Ewing with art by Luciano Vecchio, gave her a supporting cast and allowed her to get comfortable with her new role as a superhero while attending classes and trying to maintain relationships.
Teenage Maika Halfwolf discovers that she shares a mind link with a monster. There isn't many better one-line pitches than that, and as fun as the story sounds, it manages to outdo itself at every turn. Written by Marjorie Liu and drawn by Sana Takeda, this book is often described as "steampunk meets Kaiju," and there is no denying that if you enjoy both of those things you will adore Monstress.
Often seen as a counterpart to DC's Birds of Prey, A-Force is Marvel's all-female group. That is where the similarities end, though, as A-Force is oriented around much more cosmic threats. Comprised of Medusa, Nico Minoru, She-Hulk, Dazzler, Captain Marvel, and the new hero known as Singularity, the A-Force series helped bring some of Marvel's mightiest women together under a single banner, and it was glorious.
Journey Into Mystery #646-655
This brief 10-issue stint helped define Lady Sif — a character often in Thor's shadow — as an emotionally complicated woman to whom honor and bravery mean absolutely everything. The art by Valerie Schitti and Jordie Bellaire is incredible and adds such a physical, larger-than-life dynamic to the story that you'll find yourself going back over panels again and again. This was a top-notch series that deserved more hype, but regardless of that it firmly established that Lady Sif was nobody's sidechick.
Sarah Kuhn's Heroine Complex is a delight. It tales the story of Evie Tanaka, the assistant of a difficult-to-manage superhero diva named Aveda. She stays in the background and does her job, focusing on caring for her younger sister and trying to meet the increasingly outrageous demands placed upon her. When she's convinced to pose as her boss for a night, it is revealed that she also has superpowers... and she's going to need them, as attacks on her city rise and a demonic takeover begins.