“The graphic novel is a man’s world, by and large,” wrote Charles McGrath in a New York Times Magazine cover story in 2004. He was right — in a way. Most successful graphic artists and writers were men, and the comic’s industry was and remains exceedingly male-dominated. From R. Crumb, one of the most celebrated comics artists of all time, and his often violent depiction of women, rendered as grotesque, over-accentuated commodities, to the hypersexualized, bra-breaking breasts and quivering thighs of superhero comics, most female bodies in graphic form are enough to make Barbie look realistic.
So what happens when women draw their own bodies in a medium that has represented them so poorly? While graphic books published by men each year still outnumber those by women, the exclusionary landscape of American comics has been called into question. From blockbuster successes like Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, to rising indie artists and vibrant online communities, female cartoonists are producing some of the most exciting work in the genre. Here, 23 successful graphic artists share their illustrations and discuss how women are reshaping a form that has marginalized them nearly since its inception.