In celebration of Woman’s History month, What’cha Reading presents a brief history and biography of the pioneering women who made great breakthroughs in the field of comic book illustration and creation, and first made steps into world dominated by men, carving a path for those who followed after.
Conner worked at a color separation company and a comic book store in her early years. She would travel to her dad’s Advertising Company’s office in Manhattan to make calls to Marvel and DC to submit her portfolio. After a few submissions she was told she had potential, and needed to work more on her art skills. She became friendly with people in the comic field from her time in the comic shop from her time at the comic shop and learned tips and techniques from artists she met there. She then answered an ad from to Bill Sienkiewicz and was hired as his assistant (and sometime model for the Elektra: Assassin miniseries). She continued submitting portfolios while working for him., and after repeated attempts at submissions, she was given her first job as an artist on a comic book, a back up in Solo Avengers #12 featuring Yellow Jacket, by Marvel Editor Greg Wright.
She bounced around between her Marvel work (an issue of Excalibur, Barbie, 9 issues of Gargoyles and Suburban Jersey Ninja She-Devils) and some indie work, but she began being noticed by the public for her Vampirella work, especially. Vampirella Lives! 1-3, written by Warren Ellis. It was after penciling a Painkiller Jane vs. The Darkness crossover, that she came into her own, able to draw non-licensed characters and fully use the range of emotional and facial expressions she has become famous for. She created Gatecrasher with Mark Waid for the short-lived Black Bull Comics imprint of Wizard Entertainment, as well as The Pro, an adult oriented comic written by Garth Ennis.
Joining forces with her future husband Jimmy Palmiotti and his collaborator Justin Gray to form PaperFilms entertainment; they worked together on the Terra mini-series for DC which led to the widely popular Powergirl ongoing series (after Conner handled the character fantastically in the JLA Classified arc).
After Powergirl, Conner wrote and pencilled a team-up story for Wonder Woman #600 starring Wonder Woman, Power Girl and Batgirl. When DC decided to start their Before Watchmen series, writer Darwyn Cooke personally selected Conner to draw the Silk Spectre mini-series, believing she was the only one who could help him achieve his vision for the mini-series. Cooke is on record as stating to DC higher-ups, that it was Amanda on the art, or the series wouldn’t be done.
Amanda is currently co-writing the Harley Quinn ongoing series with her husband Jimmy Palmiotti.
Gail Simone made her debut in the comic book world starting the website Women in Refrigerators, a site dedicated to exposing the plot devices in comics where a woman is either killed, raped or torture just to move a story along for a male character. The site got its name from a scene in Green Lantern, where Kyle Rayner’s girlfriend was killed by Major Force and stuffed in the hero’s refrigerator. She also worked for ComicBookResources.com, with a weekly column titled You’ll all be sorry, giving voice to her feelings on current comics.
Her work as a comic writer began with a slew of Simpson books and specials for Bongo Comics as well as the Simpsons syndicated Sunday comic trip. She then entered the world of Marvel, penning the Deadpool series, and after it was canceled and relaunched as Agent X, she continued to write the title until an editorial dispute led her to leave Marvel for D.C.
There she began making her mark in the comic world, by taking over Birds of Prey, and then stepping in to write Action Comics after Chuck Austen left, teaming with John Byrne as penciler. Simone then did the seemingly impossible, by making Cat-Man (and a bunch of other DC C-List villains ) cool and interesting in the Villains United miniseries, part of the Infinite Crisis crossover. This led to a follow up miniseries, Secret Six, which was then given an ongoing series that ran until DC’s New 52 relaunch.
In 2007, Simone started the longest run by a female writer on Wonder Woman, leading up to issue #600 where Michael Strazcynski took over. She also handled two miniseries of Welcome to Tranquility for Wildstorm comics, a story about a retirement community for over the hill Super-Heroes.
After the New52 relaunch she was writing Firestorm with Ethan VanSciver and the new Batgirl series with Barbara Gordon back in the suit. She soon left Firestorm to focus on Batgirl, and caused a bit of fan uproar when it was announced she was being let go from the title. The overwhelming response by fans quickly changed DC’s mind, and she was re-hired and continues to write Batgirl to this day.
After graduating from the American Academy of Art in Chicago with a degree in Illustration and Watercolor, Jill began her career at Comico penciling issues of Elementals and Fathom (not the Michael Turner one) before landing her first job at D.C. Comics.
Thompson became a regular at the company’s Vertigo line, working with Neil Gaiman on Sandman, Black Orchid and Books of Magic as well as working with Grant Morrison on Invisibles, a stint on Swamp Thing and taking minor characters from the Sandman storyline, she co-created the Dead Boy Detectives comic. Jill won numerous awards for her work on Sandman.
She brought her signature style to Dark Horse as well, drawing their animal based series Beasts of Burden, as well as contributions to The Dark Horse Books of: Hauntings, Witchcraft, The Dead and Monsters.
She is creator/writer/artist on her series of child books titled Scary Godmother, a story of a a fairy witch who befriends a frightened young girl and helps get back at her cousin and his friends for scaring her. The Scary Godmother character bears more than just a passing resemblance to Jill Thompson.
Outside of the Comic realm, Thompson designed pro wrestler Daniel “American Dragon” Bryan’s ringside outfits. Jill is happily married to comic writer Brian Azzarello.
Laura DePuy was getting her degree at the Universtiy of Central Florida, while working at Kinkos, doing the night shift. It was there she met Ian Hanin, a future colorist at Wildstorm. Hannin turned DePuy onto modern comics, especially Jim Lee drawn comics.
When She graduated, she took her comic book themed portfolio to Hannin, now working as a colorist at Wildstorm. Laura was hired as a staff colorist, and worked on such titles as the Blacklash/Spiderman Crossover, Divine Right and Stormwatch. After DC purchased Wildstorm, Depuy became the sole colorist on Ellis& Cassady’s Planetary and Ellis & Hitch’s Authority, with both artists preferring her to color their work more than any other. She expanded into DC, coloring Morrison and Quitely’s JLA Earth-2 graphic novel, and joined again with Hitch on his JLA run with Mark Waid, and the over-sized Graphic Novel JLA: Heaven’s Ladder.
She was hired by Cross-Gen comics as Art Director and Colorist, a job she loved since it allowed her to return to her home state of Florida. She worked on most of their titles, including Ruse, Edge, Meridian & Sojourn before the company went under.
For Marvel she worked on Universe X and Stracyznski & Coipel’s Thor before rejoining with Cassady on Astonishing X-Men. After coloring the best selling Secret Invasion, she signed an exclusive contact with Marvel and became colorist on the second volume of New Avengers.
Pia Guerra got her start penciling for independent companies like White Wolf, Thinkblots, & Catfish Comics throughout the 90’s before her breakout penciling gig on the award winning title Y the Last Man, written by Brian K. Vaughn for Vertigo comics. She drew the majority of the 60 issue run, and received critical acclaim from both fans and creators alike.
After the final issue of the series, and a well deserved break, Pia returned to comics to draw a Doctor Who arc for IDW titled The Forgotten, and a Torchwood comic for the show’s fan magazine. She currently resides in Canada with her husband and sometime collaborator, Ian Boothby, a comedian and Simpsons comic book writer.
Nicola Scot had a brief career as an actress before deciding to become a Comic Book Artist. Her first work was for Phospherescent Comics, based in her native Australia. She painted covers for their title The Watch. In 2002 she attended the San Diego Comic Convention to make contacts in America. Her first American work was two issue of Star Wars: Empire for Dark Horse Comics. She did fill-ins and one shots for IDW and Image before becoming a mainstay for DC comics. She worked on 10 issue- plus runs of both Birds of Prey and Secret Six with Gail Simone, a Blackest Night: Wonder Woman miniseries with Greg Rucka and 12 issues of Teen Titans with JT Krul.
Post New 52 she did fill in issues of Superman with George Perez, which led to her job as regular artist on the James Robinson written Earth 2, redesigning the Justice Society for the modern era, even staying on the title after Robinson left and was replaced by fellow Aussie Tom Taylor. Her dynamic layouts and amazing designs have made her one of the most popular artists in the field.
Sara began her career in animation, as a storyboard artist and character designer. Pichelli wasn’t crazy about this work feeling “like a small cog, in a big machine”. After meeting comic book artist David Messina, she began her career as a comic artist. First doing layouts for Messina on IDW’s Star Trek: Countdown and Star Trek: Nero tie-ins to the JJ Abrams reboot.
In 2008 she entered the Chesterquest Talent Search,where she placed as a finalist and caught the eye of Marvel Editor CB Cebulski. This led to her first Marvel work, the series NYX: No Way Home, and a brief run on Runaways with Kathryn Immonen. She teamed up with Immonen again on the X-Men: Pixie Strikes Back miniseries, focusing on the fan favorite character. She joined the creative team on Ultimate Comics Spiderman with issue #15 until the series ended. When it was restarted, with Miles Morales replacing Peter Parker, Sara was chosen to be the regular artist on that book. Sara was hand picked to replace Steve McNiven on the very popular, Guardians of the Galaxy, where she got to flaunt her increasingly amazing art skills.
Fiona Staples made her debut in a 24 Hour Comic, with Amphibious Nightmare, in 2005. An all around artist, Staples inks and colors her own work digitally, preferring it to the old fashioned pencil and then ink process, which she finds tedious and repetitive. Staples gained notice for her covers on DV8, as well as her interiors on North 40 and the the Secret History of the Authority: Hawksmoor.
After seeing her artwork, Brian K Vaughn was blown away, and knew she would be the perfect artist for his new project, Saga. Staples’ input was so important to the creative process of the title, she was given co-ownership of the book, and was integral to the creation of the massive multi-galactic storylines the title provided. She is championed by fans and creators as well, the latter very impressed with her art technique, combining elements of Manga in her coloring and line work. Vaughn credits her fully for the organic designs of the spaceships and architecture in Saga, a boon in her favor since she is quoted as saying she doesn’t like to draw mechanics and machinery.
With an ever increasing amount of women joining the field of comics (although still vastly out numbered by men) it was almost impossible for me to include ever female who works in the field in these articles. If i missed anyone, I apologize, but it was simply due to time constraints.
The field of comics has always been dominated by males, but the fact of the matter is, there are more female fans, more female artists and female writers than ever before, and the world of comic books is only a richer and better place thanks to their presence, and these pioneers have paved the way for future creators, proving the comics world is not going to be one big boys club in the future.