Gotham’s Girls: Comic Noir’s New Leading Ladies

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Noir has long been a male bastion in comics, from Frank Miller reimagining Daredevil and Batman to Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka creating Gotham Central, an inspiration for the upcoming Gotham television series.

Female creators writing noir stories for comics have been few and far between. But that’s changing. Batgirl is being re-imagined by a creative team that includes Babs Tarr and acclaimed artist Becky Cloonan is part of a team working on the all-new Gotham Academy series, both debuting in October.

On the independent side, Erica Schultz is the co-creator of M3, an award-winning independent series with art by Vicente Alcázar. M3 is the story of a female assassin who entered the trade after being raised by the hit man who murdered her parents. Machiavella Maria Marcona’s (hence: M3) always believed her assassinations were for the right reasons and that she was murdering for the greater good. As her story unfolds, mixing flashbacks with the current day, it becomes clear everything she was certain of in her life could be wrong.

When she’s brought in for questioning by an FBI agent who is as driven to catch her as she is to complete her jobs, it’s the catalyst for a complete change. Alcazar’s artwork is a realistic style that more often goes for atmosphere than gore. His facial close-ups, so reflective of what the characters are thinking, especially bring us into M3’s emotions.

In many ways, M3 reminded me of Helena Bertinelli’s Huntress in Rucka’s Huntress: Cry for Blood. Huntress in this story is the daughter of an assassinated mobster who trained as an assassin but eventually becomes a hero, though she makes a choice at the end of Cry for Blood that puts her closer to her father’s world.

M3 would get on well in Gotham, especially given two new titles that, if previews are any indication, are stretching the kind of storytelling usually seen in mainstream superhero comics.

The redesign of Batgirl, beginning in October, and Barbara Gordon’s to a new, more upscale section of Gotham City had several influences, according to Babs Tarr, the artist on the series. One was Girls, an indication that Babs will experience some of fun of being twentysomething. The other is Sherlock, as Tarr and the creative team of writer Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher want to focus on Batgirl’s detective side, taking full advantage of her photographic memory.

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Gotham Academy has the potential to be even more ground-breaking. The premise is a series set among the students at Gotham City’s most prestigious prep school but the artwork is something new. Artist Karl Kerschl is working with French colorist Romain Gaschet to create a spooky style reminiscent of animation, where individual panels looks more like animation cells that traditional comic panels. While the comic will focus on a number of students, the first arc will feature new character Olive Sherlock.

Read M3. Check out Huntress: Cry for Blood. And mark down your calendars to pick up Batgirl and Gotham Academy in October. And I hope that we’ll see more women featured as leads in noir comics and behind the scenes.

Corrina Lawson is a writer, mom, geek and superhero, though not always all four on the same day. She is a senior editor of the GeekMom blog at Wired and the author of a superhero romance series and an alternate history series featuring Romans and Vikings in ancient North America. She has been a comic book geek all her life and often dreamed of growing up to be Lois Lane.

Read all posts by Corrina Lawson for Criminal Element.

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