“Womanthology: Heroic” is every little superhero’s dream come true

Last May, Renae De Liz used Twitter to ask female comics creators if they’d be interested in teaming up for a women-centric hero anthology. Within a few months comics legends Neil Gaiman, Gail Simone, Jim Lee and dozens of others were backing the project in what would become the largest Kickstarter campaign in history. What started out as a simple premise — women writing about women for women — became a revolutionary call to arms. And from it was born Womanthology: Heroic.

Womanthology: Heroic hit shelves three weeks ago, and that’s how long it has taken me to read the 321-page tome. Not because it was a slog, but because it was something to be savored. 168 women contributed work to Womanthology: Heroic, and the result is enough sequential art to fill 10 full comic books. But this is more than just your average superhero trade paperback.

One of the things that sets W:H apart is its philosophy. Each of the stories was knit together by a group of professionals and amateurs, with established comics creators mentoring artists and writers trying to break into the industry. The experience provided the less vested women with an opportunity to learn and showcase their talents. In terms of presentation, some of the collaborations are polished and brilliant; some of them less so. But all of them are inspiring. I particularly enjoyed the “Kids and Teens” section, which highlighted the work of younger creative hopefuls.

Another fresh inclusion in W:H are interviews and profiles with the pros talking about how they’ve survived and thrived in the notoriously male-centric world of mainstream comics. Many of them also wrote tutorials on everything from penciling to inking to lettering. And they provided the book with some stellar pin-up images, if you can bring yourself to pull them out of the binding.

But maybe the best thing about Womanthology: Heroic is the obvious enthusiasm of the book’s creators. Even during its Kickstarter campaign, the project had a kind of “once in a lifetime” feel, and that excitement and awe is imbued into every panel and onto every page, from the standard superhero fare to the more fantastical narratives to true-to-life coming-of-age stories.

My favorite part of the whole entire book is the inclusion of Stacie Ponder‘s RPG. You probably know Stacie from her AfterEllen.com Toosday Toons column. She’s just as hilarious as you remember. (You can read RPG at Stacie’s official website.) Stacie also recently announced that she’s going to be a part of the three-part Womanthology follow-up. The first mini-series, Space, will feature Ponder’s contribution.

If you love comics or stories about heroes or women writing for women, you should really check out Womathology: Heroic. Sure, it’s a whopping 50 bucks — but all the proceeds go to charity, and every purchase sends a clear message to the dudes at Marvel and DC about how many women enjoy comics and what kind of stories we really want to read.

Have you read Womanthology: Heroic? Will you be purchasing a copy?

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