One of the things I like the most when it comes to books and reading is when I find new voices and creators to be excited about. I discovered the awesomeness of award-winning writer and illustrator Noelle Stevenson this year and I am not ever going to look back.
It started with Nimona. Originally a self-published webcomic and recently republished as a graphic novel by Harper Collins, Nimona follows its title character’s adventures in villainy. Nimona is a shapeshifting villain sidekick who starts working for supervillain Lord Ballister Blackheart. The two start an uneasy friendship until their paths diverge when Nimona realizes that Lord Blackheart is not really as villainous as she hoped him to be. Nimona, as a story, somehow manages to be supercute as well as very dark, and the more the story progresses and the more we see Nimona’s past and present unfold, the more it becomes clear that this is a layered, complex tale that deals with friendship, the nature of heroism, and how traumatic events affect one’s life. It’s one of my top 10 books of 2015 so far.
After reading Nimona, I started reading Lumberjanes, the monthly comic book published by BOOM Studios and created/written by Stevenson alongside Shannon Waters and Grace Ellis. The story follows a group of girls at summer scout camp as they get entangled with supernatural shenanigans. With the motto “friendship to the max,” Lumberjanes is not only incredibly fun, welcoming and downright adorable but also amazing for how effortlessly inclusive and diverse it is. Lumberjanes features a supervaried group of girls, with different backgrounds, personalities and sexual identities: girly girls, butch girls, gay girls, het girls, girls who like cuddly pets, girls who like to punch stuff, scared girls and adventurer girls. It’s brilliant and I highly recommend it to kids and adults alike. Lumberjanes is an ongoing series (currently on Issue No. 16) with a first volume collecting issues #1-4 recently released.
Stevenson also wrote a fantastic one-off issue for Thor annual, in which the new Thor goes off adventuring and having a good old time with the old Thor’s friends in Asgard, and it is the most delightful superhero comic I’ve read recently; and finally, she has announced work on a new fantasy adventure series for HarperCollins called 4 Wizards. I can’t wait.
As we all know, there is no such thing as “boy books” and “girl books”: books are genderless. But there is such a thing as girl-friendly books. You know, the ones that don’t punch you in the face with surprise!Sexism! and/or surprise!Misogyny! and which present girls with care, love, and tenderness. Stevenson’s work will never punch you in the face. Let us hope she has a long and fertile career.