Womanhood in Comic Strips

To close out Women's History Month, this week's review digs into the artistry of female comic strip creators, analyzing their work and how it relates to feminism and womanhood

Typical Girls: The Rhetoric of Womanhood in Comic Strips

Kirtley, Susan E. Ohio State, 2021
259p index, 9780814257937 $36.95, 9780814281222

Typical Girls: The Rhetoric of Womanhood in Comic Strips book cover

Though its title does not do justice to its content, Typical Girls provides a delightful tour of seven female comic strip creators and their approaches to their art and their politics in their comic strips. The strips and their creators are Cathy, by Cathy Guisewite; For Better or Worse, by Lynn Johnston; Girls and Boys, by Lynda Barry; Sylvia, by Nicole Hollander; Dykes to Watch Out For, by Allison Bechdel; Where I’m Coming From, by Barbara Brandon-Croft; and Stone Soup, by Jan Eliot. Writing from a rhetorical analysis perspective, Kirtley (Portland State Univ.) devotes a chapter to each creator, briefly examining her life; her artistry; her approach to drawing, narrative, and production; and the arc of the development of her comic strip career. Each chapter includes representative strips and an analysis of the sample in relation to the arc of the strip and to the feminist movement. Kirtley carefully delineates the many feminisms and how the artists illustrate them throughout, maintaining a balance between the relationship of the artists and their protagonist/s to feminisms. Moreover, Kirtley aims for an intersectional group of artists, including lesbian and African American creators as well as Canadian and US artists.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals.
A. N. Valdivia, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Interdisciplinary Subjects: Women’s & Gender Studies
Subject: Humanities – Communication
Choice Issue: May 2022

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