It’s Women’s History Month and that got me thinking about some of the amazingly talented women who have helped shape comic book history. There’s no doubt that there are a lot of amazing artists and writers today. But I tried to think back and focus on people who really changed the way comics were made, either as creators, editors, or other important roles. This is not intended to be a definitive list, but without these women, comics wouldn’t be the same.
Ruth was a pioneer and one of the first female illustrators in American comics. Initially she pencilled a story about WW2 plane “The Hellcat.” She would go on to work for many years at Timely Comics (which evolved into Marvel Comics), co-creating Patsy Walker. Patsy is still around today in both comics and as a supporting character on the Jessica Jones TV show on Netflix.
Ramona was one of the first female artists to work for DC Comics and went on to co-create Aqualad and Metamorpho among others. Working in the industry from 1950 through 1995, she also illustrated the first issue of Brave and the Bold to feature Batman teaming up with another character (Green Lantern).
Elizabeth Holloway Marston
As the wife of William Moulton Marston and a multiple-degreed person in her own right, she is credited as helping to create the character of Wonder Woman, insisting that William’s new character be a woman.
Marie was a prolific artist and colorist at EC Comics and Marvel. At EC she produced colored pages that are frequently called out as some of the best of its time. She would go on to co-create Spider-Woman and design her first costume.
Dorothy (above, right) was the first female editor at DC Comics, overseeing Superman throughout the 40s. She helped come up with the idea of kryptonite, having become bored of Superman’s invulnerability. She is credited with giving opportunities to talent including Howard Chaykin and Mary Skrenes among others.
Jenette became publisher of DC Comics in 1976 and president in 1981. She helped bring in popular British creators such as Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons and Brian Bolland. She created creator-friendly relationships that led to books like Ronin and Batman: Year One. She also helped found the Vertigo and Milestone imprints and worked on pop-culture initiatives such as the Muhammad Ali vs. Superman comic and the Swamp Thing movie.
Bobbie had a long run as an editor at Marvel comics, overseeing lengthy runs on titles like G.I. Joe, Ghost Rider, Dr. Strange and Incredible Hulk. She helped launch the careers of creators such as Salvador Larroca and Jamal Igle. She currently works for DC Comics as their head of talent relations.
Colleen is a popular writer and artist who has worked on dozens of titles at both Marvel and DC. She’s also self-published her own space opera comic, A Distant Soil, with the first issues appearing in a 1979 fanzine. She has been a prominent speaker for creator’s rights.
Françoise founded Raw Books in 1978, one of the pre-eminent publishers of underground comics. She has been noted as giving rise to increased production values, bringing American comics closer in line with the higher values of French comics at the time.
An editor and writer for both Marvel and DC, Louise is responsible for such iconic characters as the X-Men villain Apocalypse and co-orchestrating several crossovers with the X-Men titles. At DC she was one of the writers and creators of the popular Death of Superman storyline. Louise created lasting characters and showed how to do epic crossover stories the right way.
Karen is an editor for DC Comics that formed the Vertigo imprint. She nurtured Alan Moore’s acclaimed Swamp Thing run and guided him to create Sandman. Seminal comics she has overseen include Fables, Hellblazer, The Invisibles, 100 Bullets, V for Vendetta, Preacher, and Y, the Last Man. For the most part, all of these were longform but finite stories and brought an adult sensibility to comics that cannot be overstated.
A prominent lesbian cartoonist who initially earned acclaim for her strip Dykes to Watch Out For, Bechdel went on to huge success with her autobiographical comic Fun Home. In turn, that went on to be a Tony-winning Broadway show (currently running). She also invented the Bechdel Test, an indicator of gender bias in stories.
Gail is very, very prolific. She’s written a lot for both Marvel and DC as well as Red Sonja for Dynamite Entertainment. Her DC run of Birds of Prey went a long way to defining who Barbara Gordon/Oracle, Black Canary and Huntress are.
Kelly Sue DeConnick
Not only a prolific writer for Marvel and DC, Kelly Sue is a proud feminist and her voice is a powerful addition to these mainstream comics. She also has written several acclaimed creator-owned works, like Bitch Planet at Image.
G. Willow Wilson
Wilson is a convert to Islam and began writing comics in 2008. She’s new to the industry but created the popular Marvel character Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel), a Pakistani-American Muslim superhero. She’s helping to increase much needed diversity in comics today.