Batwoman: Elegy

Tips for Getting Girls (into Comics): The 10 Best Gateway Comics

Do you have a special lady in your life who just doesn’t understand your love of comics? Are you a woman who feels daunted by the thought of delving into the sometimes-hostile world of comic book nerds? Did you or someone you know watch The Avengers simply for the hot dudes, but then become intrigued by the backstory behind Thor’s fantastic abs?

Regardless of the circumstance, comic books are awesome, and more ladies should love them. Here’s my list of the best gateway comics that will make girls fans for life.

1. Runaways [Marvel]

A great entry into the Marvel universe, Runaways comes to us from some of the greatest minds in comics, including Brian K. Vaughan, Adrian Alphona, and Joss Whedon. In this highly-underrated series, a group of teens discover that their parents are members of a collective of supervillains called The Pride, and band together to take their folks down.

Runaways has an incredible cast of relatable female characters (including a lesbian alien!) and they are all exceptionally bad-ass without ever striking an uncomfortably sexual pose. One of them even has a pet velociraptor. You can also find cameos from lots of familiar Marvel faces, like Captain America, which makes the journey into other Marvel comics a little easier.

2. Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey [DC]

Gail Simone took over Birds of Prey in 2003 (you can start with Birds of Prey, Vol. 1: Of Like Minds), and her vision of the series has become a paragon for well-written, multi-dimensional female characters in mainstream comics. The Birds in question are Barbara Gordon (formerly Batgirl, now Oracle), Dinah Lance (Black Canary), and Helena Bertinelli (The Huntress), along with a larger squad of kick-ass chicks. Together they fight crime and represent empowered female gender roles while doing it. Also, they look really good.

3. Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Seasons 8 and 9 [Dark Horse]

If you’re a female who existed any time within the last twenty years, chances are you have seen (and therefore loved) Joss Whedon’s Buffy: The Vampire Slayer series. If you haven’t seen Buffy, what are you doing reading this article? Seriously, go and watch Buffy from the beginning, right now. Obviously.

The Buffy comics pick up right where the TV series left off, and are penned by some incredible writers, including Whedon, Jane Espenson, Drew Goddard (writer/director of The Cabin in the Woods), and Brian K. Vaughan. There’s even a motion comic of the first nineteen issues of Season Eight available online, if you really need to get someone hooked.

4. Fables [Vertigo]

Bill Willingham’s Fables takes all of our favourite fairy tale characters and makes them into real people with real problems. These freshly-flawed characters take up residence in New York City after being ejected from their world, and each of them have certain special powers. It’s fascinating to see familiar characters like Red Riding Hood completely subverted, kicking serious ass and getting quite dark at times. I’ve never had a female friend hate on Fables.

5. Scott Pilgrim [Oni Press]

Everyone’s heard of Scott Pilgrim the flick, but not everyone has read the Bryan Lee O’Malley series which inspired it – and that, my friends, is a travesty. Scott Pilgrim follows the titular character on his journey as a twenty-three year old guitar-playing slacker in Toronto. When Scott meets Ramona Flowers, enigma extraordinaire, he discovers he has to defeat her seven evil exes in order to win her love (and find self-acceptance).

The Scott Pilgrim series is great for so many reasons, but I like it especially for its dialogue style – this is a great comic for first-timers because everyone in the comic talks just like we do. Of course, if you’re from Toronto, you can also spot some recognizable locations, which is always fun while you’re reading. And hey, who doesn’t want to be Ramona Flowers, just a little bit?

6. Locke & Key [IDW]

A comic for the lady who loves a good scary movie, Locke & Key sees the three Locke children move into their family home, the Keyhouse, with their mother after the death of their father. They soon discover that the house is haunted in its own special way and darkness, magical keys, and hell demons ensue. Joe Hill kills the writing, and Gabriel Rodriguez’s art is both terrifying and amazing.

Back in 2010, they actually filmed a pilot of Locke & Key, developed by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, and starring Miranda Otto, Sarah Bolger, Nick Stahl, Jesse McCartney, and Ksenia Solo. Despite being shopped around extensively, the pilot never got a series pick-up – but now it looks like Universal will be making it into a film trilogy. So get on the comics before Locke & Key becomes an even bigger deal than it already is, you hipsters!

7. Batwoman: Elegy [DC] 

A Detective Comics miniseries, Batwoman: Elegy follows army brat Kate Kane, who is forced to leave the military after she refuses to hide the fact that she is gay. Instead, Kane takes up the mantle of Batwoman, giving Bruce Wayne a run for his money (that’s funny because they’re rich) with her suave socialite lifestyle and mysterious bat-suited crime fighting. A wonderful and inspirational queer female character, great writing by Greg Rucka, and beautiful art by J.H. Williams III – what more could a girl ask for?

8. Y: The Last Man [Vertigo]

Listen, I’m just going to get right to the point: Y: The Last Man is a series about a world where there is only one single dude left alive. If that isn’t enough to make a girl want to check it out, then I don’t know what is.

Oh no, wait, actually I have some ideas: Brain K. Vaughan’s masterful mind is behind this series, and Pia Guerra’s art is gorgeous. It’s a dialogue- and plot-heavy series, which makes the transition from novels to graphic novels a bit easier, and the storyline is second-to-none. Dan Trachtenberg, the guy behind this amazing Portal short film, is lined up to direct the film adaptation of the series, so be sure to get on this one soon too!

9. Hark! A Vagrant [Drawn & Quarterly]

If your lady is a lover of classic literature or history, Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant is a must-read. I’m unashamedly obsessed with all of Beaton’s work, which takes on iconic heroes and heroines of worlds both real and fake, and just straight-up makes fun of them in the best, most scathing way possible. Only in Hark! A Vagrant can you go dude watchin’ with the Brontës, read Jules Verne’s fan letters to Edgar Allan Poe, and watch Wonder Woman chain-smoke her way out of rescuing a cat from a tree. If you want to test drive Beaton’s comics, you can check them all out on her website.

10. Sailor Moon [Kodansha Comics]

If you want to convince someone to try manga, why not start with something they’re likely already familiar with? Sailor Moon was my first manga, ages ago, after becoming obsessed with the anime when I was a kid. Okay, I’m still obsessed with it. Kodansha Comics is currently in the midst of a re-release of Naoko Takeuchi’s whole manga from the very beginning, with a great new translation, so there’s never been a better time to dive into the series.

My favourite “magical girl” story, Sailor Moon follows Usagi and the other Sailor Senshi on their journey to save the moon kingdom in the future, and then there’s also a child? From the future? And then talking cats. And also lesbians, and, at one point, guys who can transform into women? Whatever, Sailor Moon is amazing, and it totally makes sense when you’re reading it. Mostly.

Sidenote: A lot of people suggest that Blankets is a great choice for new comic readers, but I have to disagree; while I think Blankets is a brilliant and heart-wrenching novel that I think everyone should read at some point, it’s also huge – something which, in my experience, can be a little too daunting for a first-timer. I’d wait until they’re a little more comfortable with the idea of delving into an amazing graphic novel before ambushing them with Blankets. And tissues, always tissues with Blankets.

So that’s my list! Keep in mind that these are great comics for anyone, guy or gal, and they all feature incredible strong female characters that you’ll be hard-pressed to find outside of the comics genre. So jump on them for yourself, or someone you think is rad.

Now go and buy your lady a couple of comics. She deserves it.

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  • Fix

    Thanks for the interesting suggestions. While I am not a fan of folks who reply with “YOU FORGOT…” I had to write to say – I was surprised you did not include Strangers In Paradise. Have tested on numerous woman and it hooks nearly all of them. Far superior to Scott Pilgrim or even Y as far as starter comics for girls are concerned.

  • R

    I’m a girl who reads comics, and have done for many years. This is a great list, Fables is wonderful and everyone should read it. I’d add in Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel too to that list, it’s a great read and doesn’t get enough praise. Young Avengers is also great fun, if Runaways is on there, so should Young Avengers be. Great list though, I don’t disagree with any of those choices.

  • Jeremy

    +1 for the comment about Strangers in Paradise. Definitely one of the top-3 ‘gateway’ comics for women!

  • Kizzie

    Hey, are there any more comics you wouls say to read because I really wana start read some after reading some of the american vampire series! Also were can i get The runaways, batwomen and birds of prey

  • daVest

    Thank you for posting this list. I’ve been reading manga, but I’ve been wanting to get into American comics, but the few times I’ve been to a comic store to look 1) I was overwhelmed and 2) all the stories seemed very heavily geared towards men. I even asked a guy working at the store for suggestions and he recommended a really dark and scary story that really wasn’t what I was looking for, especially since I had just told him I liked stories with comedic elements to alleviate the tension. But these all sound interesting, so thank you so much for sharing this list!

  • Kat


    Thank you for this very well-crafted list! I really appreciate that you’ve taken the time to type a list for newcomers to comics. As a fairly new comic book reader myself, I’m still searching for writers and artists to follow, which at times, can be daunting. I say this because I really savor the joy of touching and flipping the pages of paper in comic book shops, but often times, I feel isolated and even unwelcome by the overwhelming male dominate staff and shoppers. I know there are alternatives, like online shopping but it sucks that I even have to consider this. What sucks even more is that this isn’t a personal trouble but an issue with many women all over.

    With that said, I don’t want to let this get to me and I especially don’t want this to get to my eleven year old sister. I’ve introduced her to some pretty rad comics like Noelle Stevenson’s Lumberjanes and Natasha Allegri’s Bee and Puppycat, so that she can have some fictional female empowerment figures. This is where my question comes in: what type of beginner comics would you recommend for a young female audience? (This is the first article I’ve read from you but I can tell it won’t be my last)

  • Carol

    Don’t feel isolated and imtimidated by males. Most of them like having women around!