So You’re A Female Character In A Graphic Novel. Now What?

If you’ve reached this article, it’s because you are a non-superhero female character in a graphic novel and you’re searching for what you’re supposed to do now. Before you popped up in this graphic novel as the reluctant sidekick to the tough-yet-emotionally-broken male protagonist, you most likely had your own life.

Kindly forget it.

Helping this dude on his quest is your only priority now. After all, I’m assuming, he recently – and improbably — saved your life.

So leave your job as a prostitute/ stripper/ secret agent/ assassin/ bank teller and get your head on straight.

Here are 6 essential facts for you to know about yourself before you move forward any panels.

6. You’re about to die.

Sorry! I thought it was only fair to tell you sooner rather than later that you’re not going to make it past the first issue of this comic book. You’re the girlfriend, mother, wife, foster sister, or pregnant ex of the protagonist and you’re going to be the driving plot device behind his going after the bad guys. Now that you’re gone, he has nothing left to live for. Whoever did this to you needs to pay!

5. You know how to handle a gun.

If you survive the first issue, it’s because you know how to fire a gun. I don’t care if you’re a barista or a scientist. Your dad was ex-Mossad and before he was tragically killed in a mysterious falafel incident, he taught your middle-school butt how to handle, at least, a Desert Eagle handgun and an UZI. By the time you got your driver’s license you were blowing pinecones out of the air in your family’s backyard. His message? “Shoot to kill. Now here’s your lunch money.”

4. You have a history of sexual and/or physical abuse.

Your creepy teacher raped you. Your mom’s new boyfriend got drunk and hit you. A customer at the strip club got too handsy with you. It’s left you scarred, unavailable and angry. Or perhaps it caused you to use sex as a weapon, you cold, misguided bitch. Either way, it’s why you don’t trust men, especially not the protagonist you work with now. This is called “emotional back story.”

3. You might be – or might know – a lesbian.

If you are smart or helpful to the male protagonist in any way, you are probably a lesbian. Congratulations! The “helpful lesbians” are a favorite among comic book authors. You are also feminine, thin and conventionally beautiful. But since all women are different, one of you will look like a supermodel (maybe even a minority?!) and one of you will look like Tina Fey. Thanks, lesbians!

2. Whether just waking up or mid-gun fight, you always look hot.

Sleep with make-up on. Secretly brush your hair. Somehow always look freshly showered even though you’re on the run from enemy agents and haven’t changed clothes in days. Did you just wake up with your hands tied on the stone floor of an underground torture chamber belonging to a corrupt US Senator? You better look like you’re shooting the cover of Maxim that morning.

1. Any man you initially dislike, you’ll end up sleeping with.

Everyone knows the only reason a woman would ever be assertive about disliking a man is if she were secretly harboring uncontrollable lusty desires toward him. Maybe you guys are exes and he treated you horribly because he couldn’t deal with his own shit? Forgive him ASAP. In fact, the more dick-ish he is to you, the more you want to bang him. For example, tell him off for being a misogynist, but then smirk playfully. He might hate women, but you guys like, understand each other.

Well, good luck firing off a semi-automatic while artfully smoking a cigarette in your midriff-baring t-shirt, female character in a graphic novel! I hope this guide was helpful to you. It is also a lesbian. TC mark

image – JD Hancock

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    #breasts

  • SippyCup

    Just like real life.

  • http://twitter.com/galette_rois Julian Galette

    Replace Graphic Novel with Horror/Action movie and this list stays the same. If this was really going to be about comics you should’ve at least made one reference to Women In Refrigerators.  Tsk.

    I do like the “Helpful Lesbian” bit though. Turns up in quite a few comics now that I think about it, Y: The Last Man being the most prominent. There are tons of helpful lesbians in that book. 

    • Anonymous

      The first draft had a reference to the ‘Women in Refrigerator’ trope, but I thought it was too niche a reference for a site that isn’t read by strictly comic book fans. I wasn’t sure everyone would get it and I wanted them too even if they’d never read a graphic novel before.

      But thank you! (I was thinking of Y: The Last Man, Global Frequency and Transmetropolitan mainly while writing this. I love all three, but these stereotypes are so glaring.)

      • Natalie

        It totally wasn’t niche! There are TONS of feminists on this site who would most likely be able to recognize it. I don’t even own any comics and I’ve heard of that trope before.

      • Anonymous

        Good to know! Thank you!

      • http://twitter.com/galette_rois Julian Galette

        You like Warren Ellis? Marry me. 

        All kidding aside, yeah, WiR might’ve been a bit too niche even though it’s definitely a trope that spans more than just the comic book genre

      • Anonymous

        I love Ellis! I used to write for an online comic strip in college and he called it “weird and great” on his blog. Ever since then, I’ve got a soft spot.

        I thought it was just comics because it was coined by Gail Simone, but you’re probably right.

    • Adam

      “There are tons of helpful lesbians in that book.” That wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that all men are dead, would it?

      • http://twitter.com/galette_rois Julian Galette

        True but lesbians seem to be the only women in that book who don’t want to kill Yorick. 

      • http://twitter.com/galette_rois Julian Galette

        True but lesbians seem to be the only women in that book who don’t want to kill Yorick. 

  • Adam

    Similar tropes are used for all male characters too though…

  • Adam

    Similar tropes are used for all male characters too though…

    • Anonymous

      Hence the “tough-yet-emotionally-broken” male character. I agree there are quite a few of those.

  • Katherine Speller

    God forbid you DO have superpowers; then you’re just doomed to end up insane and/or  dead with your body shoved in a fridge.

  • Katherine Speller

    God forbid you DO have superpowers; then you’re just doomed to end up insane and/or  dead with your body shoved in a fridge.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Emily-Tugwell/1193606623 Emily Tugwell

    I love you Gaby Dunn.

  • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

    Sad but true. :(

  • Guest

    Alex DeWitt RIP

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1415031788 Sharif Youssef

    Why are you calling it a “graphic novel.” Just say “comic book” and stop fronting.

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    […] next one is a problem I have with the women in graphic novels all the time: Why is fighting back with a man about feminism or a misogynistic comment he’s made portrayed […]

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