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Comic Books for Girls

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Comic books used to be viewed as strictly for small children, but many of today's comics are aimed at teenagers or older readers. Once series like "Little Dot," "Betty & Veronica," "Millie The Model," "Wonder Woman" and numerous romance comics were cornerstones of the American comics industry, until publishers, fueled by the success of superheroes, abandoned them.

Generations of girls helped turn Marvel Comics' "X-Men," whose nervy, independent heroines were often more powerful than their male counterparts, and DC Comics' fantasy series "The Sandman," into runaway hits, but aside from occasional forays like the short-lived "Barbie" comics, girls were mostly ignored. Now girls' comics are back with a vengeance, courtesy of manga -- "Japanese comics" -- and the new American cartoonists rising in its wake.

Where American comics narrowed their focus over the years, Japanese comics expanded to meet most tastes. Manga exploded onto the American market a few years ago and grabbed the attention of American teens, spearheading the push of comics into bookstores and libraries. Girls' comics, known in Japan as "shojo," are a big part of that push. Comics for girls are now readily available in three forms:

  • Comic books: the traditional magazine format
  • Graphic novels: a catch-all term for comics published in book form, preferred by bookstores and libraries
  • Online comics: comics published on the Internet

Librarians and bookstore clerks can help sort out which comic books are suitable for pre-teens. The good news is that today's comics are likely to be as literate and entertaining as any other book for that age group. A few top choices for younger children include:

  • "The Babysitters Club." Scholastic Books transforms Ann Martin's hugely popular book series into a faithfully-adapted graphic novel series by Raina Telgemeier.
  • "Go Girl!" The gentle adventures of a teenage girl who learns her mother was once a superheroine then discovers she has the same powers, from Trina Robbins and Anne Timmons, in comics and graphic novels from Dark Horse Comics.
  • "Sugar Sugar Rune." A fantasy manga series by Moyoco Anno, published by Del Rey Manga. Two young witches come to Earth to vie for the throne of the witches' world by capturing hearts, in an edgy but surprisingly sweet story of friendship and responsibility.
  • "Leave It to Chance." Along the lines of Harry Potter, a young girl and her dragon use magic to solve (and inadvertently create) problems and battle evil, in this series by James Robinson and Paul Smith, collected in graphic novels by Image Comics.
  • "Akiko." Mark Crilley's graphic novel series about a smart grade-school girl who has wild science fiction adventures while trying to maintain her grade point average, from Delacorte Books for Young Readers.
  • "Sailor Moon." Maybe the most popular girls' manga series of all time, by Naoko Takeuchi and published by TokyoPop. A 14-year-old girl meets a talking cat and learns it's her job to save the world, with large doses of romance, camaraderie and adventure.
  • "Adventures In Oz." Elegantly continues the adventures of Frank Baum's famous characters, in graphic novels produced by cartoonist Eric Shanower and IDW Books.

For the more adventurous:

  • "Emily the Strange." The ultimate cat-loving Goth girl hilariously mocks and combats the boredom of her own existence in this flippant graphic novel series from Cosmic Debris Studio and Dark Horse Books.
  • "The Tale of One Bad Rat." Bryan Talbot's moving and sensitive graphic novel of a teenage girl recovering from sexual abuse by tracing the English journeys of her namesake, children's author Beatrix Potter. From Dark Horse Books.

A veteran freelance writer, Steven Grant has written articles, criticism, screenplays, novels for teens, and hundreds of comics books. He currently writes a weekly online column, Permanent Damage, and lives just outside of Las Vegas.
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CeReality: 5 Families, 5 Stories, 1 Critical Meal

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