Superhero Easy-readers for a Girl, Part One: The Longlist

Last Christmas, I had a six-year-old girl on my extended-family shopping list who I don’t know very well. But I did know that she loves superheroes.

Great!  I thought. Superhero easy-readers! That’s an easy choice – I know I’ve seen those around. And as one of the representative geeky relatives, I will be supporting her interest in geeky things! (I have never been a superhero geek myself, mind you, but I think the concept of the shared world with shared characters and different continuities and stuff is awesome. In a different continuity, some version of my character is probably a superhero geek.)

But then I had to make it hard for myself by deciding I wanted to give her books with girls in them.

It’s not that I didn’t like reading books about boys when I was a kid – a lot of my favorites were about boys. And I played I was a boy a lot, too. And when I started writing, for years all of my best characters were boys. And then I was like, WTF, I’m a young woman who likes being a young woman and who is romantically interested in women, so why is my imagination so dominated by guys? And then I looked at my childhood book collection and was like, Oh. Well, then. Which is a large and complex issue, of course, and it’s partly what books were available and partly what books I liked, and also stuff like how many characters are Strong Female Characters instead of what I’ve been calling Purple Women since I read this essay: https://medium.com/philosophy-logic/6dbf736b6387  (Which, by the way, articulated a lot of things I had been wanting to figure out how to say for a long time.)

Anyway, since we do not live in the world where it’s super-easy to find lots of well-written female characters, I decided my superhero-easy-reader quest didn’t have to get too complicated. I would be OK with Strong Female Characters, I told myself. Given that it’s superheroes and I’m not the kid’s actual parent, I could even pass some random excessive sexualizing in the illustrations. I told myself there are worse things than a kid internalizing the message that superheroes with superstrength or whatever can be super and sexy at the same time (though I wish it was more clearly an option instead of a requirement). I don’t know this kid well enough to try to counter every negative cultural message out there for her, and last time I checked, extended family are allowed to be Bad Influences, yes? I just wanted to buy her a damn book with some women in it.

Turns out, this Christmas shopping would have been a much easier mission if I’d been willing to just settle for a book about Batman or someone.  After a massive trawl through Amazon, Goodreads, A Mighty Girl, reviews, etc., I compiled a longlist as a starting point. (And of course by that time I had started overthinking everything, so I went on messing about with lists instead of just ordering something for quite a while.)

I have no firsthand knowledge of most of these books, and I’m sure I didn’t find everything that’s out there.  But since I still have the list (because packrat), I figured I’d share in case someone could use it as their starting point, too, and save some time.

The Longlist: It Involves Superheroes, There Are Girls In it Somewhere, and The Parents (Probably) Won’t Be Mad That I Gave It To Their Six-Year-Old

  • Wonder Woman: The Story of the Amazon Princess by Ralph Cosentino (picture book)
  • Meet the Marvel Super Heroes by Scott Peterson
  • Marvel Super Heroes Storybook Collection by Disney Book Group
  • 5-Minute Marvel Stories by Disney Book Group
  • 5-Minute Avengers Stories by Disney Book Group
  • Marvel’s The Avengers Storybook Collection by Marvel
  • These are the X-Men by Thomas Macri
  • World of Reading: Black Widow This is Black Widow by Clarissa S. Wong
  • Black Widow & the Marvel Girls by Paul Tobin
  • Marvel Heroes: Greatest Battles by Matthew K. Manning
  • Marvel Heroes: Amazing Powers by Catherine Saunders
  • The Avengers: The World’s Mightiest Super Hero Team by Julia March
  • Wonder Woman: Rumble in the Rainforest, by Sarah Stephens
  • Wonder Woman: Sword of the Dragon, by Laurie S. Sutton
  • Wonder Woman: Dr. Psycho’s Circus of Crime, by Paul Kupperberg
  • Wonder Woman: The Fruit of All Evil by Philip Crawford.
  • Wonder Woman: Monster Magic, by Louise Simonson
  • DC Super Friends: Wonder Woman to the Rescue! by Courtney Carbone
  • DC Super Friends: Catch Catwoman, by Billy Wrecks
  • DC Super Heroes Storybook Collection, treasury by various authors (includes some of the other stories on this list)
  • Wonder Woman: An Origin Story by John Sazaklis
  • Wonder Woman Classic: I Am Wonder Woman, by Erin K. Stein
  • Batman Classic: Feline Felonies: With Wonder Woman by John Sazaklis
  • Batman Classic: Winter Wasteland by Donald Lemke
  • Batman Classic: Batman vs. the Riddler by Donald Lemke
  • Batman Classic: Eternal Enemies by John Sazaklis (includes Batwoman)
  • Batman Classic: Starro and Stripes Forever: With Superman and Wonder Woman, by Gina Vivinetto
  • Batman Classic: Batman and the Toxic Terror, by Jodi Huelin
  • Batman: Meet the Superheroes, by Michael Teitelbaum
  • Superman Classic: I Am Superman, by Michael Teitelbaum (on this list for Lois Lane)
  • Superman Classic: Escape from the Phantom Zone, by John Sazaklis
  • Superman Classic: The Incredible Shrinking Super Hero!: With Wonder Woman, by Zachary Rau
  • Superman Classic: Darkseid’s Revenge, by Devan Aptekar
  • Justice League Classic: Meet the Justice League, by Lucy Rosen
  • Justice League Classic: Day of the Undead, by John Sazaklis (Hawkgirl)
  • Justice League Classic: I Am Aquaman, by Kirsten Mayer
  • Phantasm Strikes! (Batman Adventures) by Dan Slott, Terry Beatty, and Lee Loughridge (Batgirl)
  • Ultimate Sticker Collection: Batman by DK Publishing
  • Ultimate Sticker Collection: Lego DC Comics Super Heroes into Battle by Julia March
  • Space Justice! Lego DC Comics Super Heroes by Trey King (Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Batgirl)

Oh, and here’s a bonus list of stuff that didn’t seem like it was even close to age-appropriate. Maybe if this kid is still interested in superheroes a few years from now, I’ll be glad to know about these. (Actually, I’m glad to know about some of these anyway. Looks like there’s been some cool stuff coming out lately!)

The Bonus List of Books for Older People 

  • Batgirl/Robin Year One by Chuck Dixon, Scott Beatty, Marcos Martin
  • Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal, by G. Willow Wilson
  • Ms. Marvel Volume 2: Generation Why by G. Willow Wilson
  • Captain Marvel: Higher, Further, Faster, More by Kelly Sue Deconnick
  • Captain Marvel: Stay Fly, by Kelly Sue Deconnick
  • Captain Marvel: Alis Volat Propriis, by Kelly Sue Deconnick
  • A-Force Vol. 0: Warzones! by G. Willow Wilson, Marguerite Bennet
  • Thor Volume 1: The Goddess of Thunder, by Jason Aaron
  • Thor Volume 2: Who Holds the Hammer?, by Jason Aaron
  • Women of Marvel: Celebrating Seven Decades, anthology by Marvel Comics
  • Girl Comics (Women of Marvel), an anthology by Trina Robbins, Devin Grayson, Ann Nocenti, G. Willow Wilson, Valerie D’Orazio, Lucy Knisley, Colleen Coover, and Faith Erin Hicks
  • Women of Marvel (Mighty Marvel) by Marjorie Liu, Jeff Parker, Sean McKeever, Kelly Sue Deconnick, Paul Cornell, Mary Choi, and Adam Warren

To see what I actually picked, see Parts Two and Three.

Edit: More Bonus Books: the Out-of-Print Set

Oh, another Thing That Exists is a set of out-of-print Wonder Woman books by Nina Jaffe. The ones I looked at were waaaaay out of my budget, so they didn’t make it onto any of my lists, but this guy’s excellent review got bookmarked in my Cool Stuff folder: http://www.buildingalibrary.com/easy-readers/the-trouble-with-princess-books-the-strange-case-of-wonder-woman/228

I like that the art in these ones doesn’t seem stripperific and I approve of the increased amount of fabric in the costume and the practicality of some of the poses.  Though on the other hand this particular version of Wonder Woman seems very, very skinny to me? Girls with hourglass figures need superheroes, too, you know!  It isn’t the mere presence of hips and boobs that makes a character seem oversexualized, in my opinion; it’s whether they’re sticking them out at bizarre angles.  This character’s tiny waist and very long limbs aren’t more realistic – they’re just pandering to a different beauty ideal.

But whatever.  I had Problems with a lot of the art on the other books I’ve listed, too.  I’m probably just grumping because somehow Tom B. over at buildingalibrary.com often makes me grumpy (even on the subjects where I mostly agree with him).  Or because I haven’t had my evening cocoa yet.  That’s probably it, that always makes me grumpy.

 

 

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