This week my series on notable African-American characters features one of the most bad-ass women in comics, hands down, Michonne from The Walking Dead.
The Walking Dead, as many of you know, is set in the time after the zombie apocalypse. The story is focused on humanity and how it survives and changes. Michonne is the epitome of these changes. She is also quite simply one of the most three dimensional female characters of any color I have ever run into in comics. She can walk around with neutered zombie pets, clear a horde of zombies with her katana, torture the man who repeatedly raped her, but also show her vulnerability when we find out her boyfriend and his best friend are the pets, by talking to said boyfriend even though he is long deceased in order to keep herself sane, and by breaking down after the torture session. The vulnerable moments so often denied to tough female characters are allowed for Michonne and she is stronger and more formidable for them.
When the zombie plague hit, Michonne was a divorced lawyer and mother of two daughters. She had a neighbor who she knew had a katana, and having taken fencing when she was young she grabbed it from his house, thinking it would be quieter and therefore safer than a gun. She’s on her own with the pets when we meet her. Their lower jaws removed as are their arms so they can’t do any harm. Their scent helps keep the other zombies off her scent. She joins up with the main characters in the book and seduces one of them, Tyreese, a former NFL player. Which ends his previous relationship. She is aloof and standoffish and initially not well liked or trusted.
She goes with a group to investigate a helicopter crash and ends up a prisoner of the Governor at Woodbury. In one of the most harrowing moments I’ve ever read in comics we see her chained and raped repeatedly by him to break her down. He doesn’t understand. Michonne doesn’t break:
She loses her lover in the conflict with Woodbury. After the siege at the prison she catches up with Rick and Carl, the group’s leader and his son. They bond and Michonne becomes a mother figure to Carl. Once the group reforms she gets involved with another member, Morgan who unfortunately dies as well. When the group settles in at Alexandria she takes on the role of Constable for the town.
Michonne is also in the television version of The Walking Dead. She is still pretty bad-ass but nowhere near as three-dimensional, although they have told more of her back-story of late which may help. I have a lot of issues generally with the translation of the Black characters from the comic to the show but that’s for another day. In my research I ran into this post on the subject. It is well worth the read.
Michonne is a character who has everything taken from her and reacts accordingly. What makes her unique is how the writers don’t allow it to take who she is. She is very female, very strong, physically formidable but allowed to show the cracks that run deep in her. They allow her weakness in her strength which is nearly unheard of, especially with female characters, who seem to have to be tougher than the men to be accepted. Michonne will be the one to take your head if you turn into the walking dead, but she’s strong enough to let herself cry about it once it’s done.