Graphic Novels, Tough Chicks is an original feature that celebrates the amazing female characters that abound in graphic novels. While many people still associate this particular form with a male readership, certain graphic novels empower women and combat feminine stereotypes through illustration and text. Tough chicks resist injustice, fight for their beliefs, and they don’t take flak from nobody. These women are capable of fighting their own battles, both literally and figuratively.

Lumberjanes Vol. 1Lumberjanes Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy

Authors & Illustrator: Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Brooke A. Allen

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade/YA

Publisher: BOOM! Studios on January 1, 2014

Source: Library


At Miss Qiunzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s camp for hard-core lady-types, things are not what they seem. View Spoiler »Three-eyed foxes. Secret caves. Anagrams. Luckily, Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are five rad, butt-kicking best pals determined to have an awesome summer together… And they’re not gonna let a magical quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way! The mystery keeps getting bigger, and it all begins here.

Collects Lumberjanes #1-4.[/spoiler=]

If you’re a supporter of women in comics or women in genre (or just, like, awesomeness in general) you need to read LUMERJANES VOL. 1 by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Brooke A. Allen. This Eisner-winning graphic novel is written and illustrated by three kickass ladies who know the value of representing young women in all their forms – without sacrificing fun and adventure.

Jo, Molly, Mal, April, and Ripley are all staying at a Camp for Hardcore Lady-Types who are spending the summer in the same cabin. They’re accompanied by their beleaguered camp counselor Jen who vacillates between sheer panic at their reckless antics and grudging amusement at their…well, reckless antics. But it’s not as if this group of Lumberjanes can really be blamed for the scrapes they get into. How the heck could they have predicted three-eyed mutant foxes and a mysterious figure called the Kitten Holy?

Image: Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, & Brooke A. Allen
Image: Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, & Brooke A. Allen

The relationships between the characters sold this one for me – well, that and the stellar dialogue. A lot of the more complex elements of LUMBERJANES VOL. 1 – feminism, queer representation, and body positivity – are very subtly done and are completely without profanity, making this a perfect choice for all ages. Personally I would’ve killed to read something like this when I was in elementary or middle school, but I still enjoyed the hell out of it as an adult reader. That’s pretty impressive when you consider that the girls are so young, with ages that I’d pin down between about 12-15.

The quintessential summer camp experience is immortalized in LUMBERJANES VOL. 1, including traditional activities like campfires and canoeing. While the girls are trying to solve the mysteries surrounding the camp, they’re also just having a good time doing camp things. This volume collects four issues, with each focusing on the girls earning a specific Lumberjanes badge. Some of the badges include the brilliantly named “everything under the sum” (math and physics) and “naval gauging” (water sports). There’s also a badge called “pungeon master” awarded for best puns. Sign me up!

Lumberjanes Excerpt 1
Image: Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, & Brooke A. Allen

LUMBERJANES VOL. 1 isn’t just fun and friendship, though: it’s about good old-fashioned girl power. I mean feminism. Whatever, when I was the Lumberjanes’ age I just called it girl power. The LJs work together to solve their problems, using their unique skills and proclivities to stay one step ahead. Three cheers for autonomy! But this graphic novel also makes a more explicit connection to feminism by incorporating some of history’s most remarkable women (many of them women of colour). How are they incorporated? With exclamations like “Holy Mae Jemison!” instead of a more, ahem, choice phrase. I also love the inclusion of girls who have a more androgynous or masculine look, along with characters like Molly who has a very traditionally feminine style. 

Yes, there’s silliness and wackadoo supernatural stuff going on but LUMBERJANES VOL. 1 wouldn’t be what it is without girl power, female friendship, and celebrating young women in all their forms. If that’s not the perfect recipe for this Graphic Novels, Tough Chicks feature then I don’t know what is!

What book was your most surprising – and awesome – feminist find? Did you ever have your own summer camp adventures? Sound off in the comments!