“Wow. That’s amazing.”
It is the disadvantage to having my back turned to the door to my office, but I was thankful that it was only my supervisor, Peta, looking over my shoulder as I opened to the first story of the much-anticipated Womanthology collection. An HR consultant with three young daughters, Peta tells her girls stories about her colleague Sarah, “the lady who has a tattoo and reads comic books”. She tells me that it is a daily ritual when she arrives home from work that her daughters will ask “How is Tattoo Lady today? Did Tattoo Lady save the students again today?” Peta likes to laugh and tell them about her day, but also about how her friend, Sarah the Tattoo Lady, helped students and saved the day.
Everyone, anyone, can be a hero.
That is what I knew for certain when I first heard about the Womanthology project. I was happy to pledge funds to the anthology at the time, even before it had propelled its way through social media and into mainstream media. It showed promise as an opportunity for future writers and artists in the industry to have an avenue to create and be published. However, when I started reading the first collection of narratives in the collection, I was reassured that the “heroic” ideal had been enforced with gentle integrity – even more, it had become a powerful undercurrent to the movement trying to promote women in comics.
No one can approach this anthology with the same eye as they do towards the mainstream and indie markets, where readers expect not just professionalism, but a level of “expertise” from the writers and artists that contribute to the industry. We expect quality results for the purchase, as the creative teams continue the adventures of our favourite superheroes or explore the state of the human condition. I had different expectations of Womanthology. As I indicated to its creative director, Renae De Liz, I wanted to critically engage with the stories, and to be able to appreciate the art as a helpful signpost to the invited readings of the narratives.
Quite frankly, I am not sure what Renae was worried about. The first story, Superless Hero by writer Kelly Thompson and artist Stephanie Hans, not only met this expectation, but transformed my perceptions of the anthology. It took the “heroic” and translated it into a context as accessible to the reader as the Golden Rule. When you have an actual physical reaction to a narrative, whether it be the text or the art that has moved you (or, in this case, both), it has certainly been successful in communicating its intending meaning to the reader.
A lot of the stories in this anthology try to engage with the human condition. How do we define heroism – as a virtue, as the culmination of our actions, or through the gratitude of others? Through the contribution by Kayla Banks, Brenda Kirk and Jordie Bellaire, the stereotypical “good deeds” are challenged by the character’s naivety and society’s social conditioning towards mistrust. Of course, Gail Simone could not have a go at the definition of “heroic” without taking a stab at the mature content in contemporary comics, and Jean Kang did well to not only do justice to Gail’s metatextual commentary of the current media favourites, but to illustrate in her own style. By far, one of my favourites was Raven Moore and Camilla D’Errico’s story that personified the heroic attribute of Destiny in a pastiche steampunk-fantasy adventure, with Alicia Fernández to colour the tale in cool hues.
There are many different reasons to invest in this anthology – whether it be for the good deed of charity, the support of future talent, to provide something “different” in your collection, or to enjoy the textual exploration of heroism transformed into a variety of different contexts. No matter what the reason is, you will not be disappointed. Womanthology will provide you with new talent to track, and allow you to appreciate the courage that this large team of collaborators possessed in turning this original idea into a reality.
Womanthology will be released on March 13 2012 through IDW Publishing, and is available for preorder through online retailers. Better yet, ask your local comic store if they will be stocking the 338-page hardcover anthology!