Women in Comics: Young Adult & New Adult Novels

If there has been one feature of every book that I have discussed in this series of posts, it is a focus on artwork. Even the one non-comic work included in these posts focused a significant amount of text on the artwork of Wonder Woman. But, this month, I am branching out from volumes focused on artwork to discuss an emerging trend – prose novels that are based on comic book characters.

cc image via Flickr user
cc image via Flickr user RyC

While this concept is hardly a new one, recently DC and Marvel have greatly expanded their offerings in this regard to include new adult (albeit not promoted by that name) and young adult novels. These novels can serve the dual purpose of introducing comic book characters and storylines to readers who aren’t comfortable with comics and graphic novels and encouraging comics fans to read works by leading young adult authors. Even more importantly, these novels are just a lot of fun! Right now, there are only a limited number available, but many more are appearing on the publishing horizon.

Lois Lane: Fallout coverLois Lane: Fallout by Gwenda Bond

Lois Lane is just another new kid in the big city of Metropolis. She doesn’t want to stand out and she doesn’t want to encounter any more weird events. But, somehow they seem to find her, and what kind of reporter would she be if she didn’t try to solve the latest mystery plaguing her school? Given that Lois Lane comes up regularly in CBS’ Supergirl, this book is sure to have wide appeal, particularly amongst the show’s fans. Next up in this series is Double Down, coming in May of this year, so be sure to be on the lookout for that one.

Black Widow: Forever RedBlack Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl

Black Widow has emerged as a fan favorite from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), but frustratingly she doesn’t have a movie or much merchandise to show for her staggering popularity. This book will appeal to fans who have been frustrated with the lack of options to learn more about their favorite Avenger. The story follows Black Widow and a young girl who she saves from her former teacher. The two women’s lives are ultimately more closely entwined than they first guessed, building to a shared effort to save the world once more. In the fall, we’ll see the sequel to this book, Red Vengeance, which will delve even more into the stories of Black Widow and her protege, Red Widow.

Rogue Touch coverRogue Touch by Christine Woodward

Before she was a member of the X-Men, before she was named Rogue, and even before she fully understood her powers, Anna Marie was just a young woman living in the South covered in leather and gloves to protect others from her dangerous touch. When she starts to notice a mysterious man around town, her life will never be the same. Next thing she knows, she is on the run with a perpetually freezing alien who is also on the run from his past and his planet. Though this novel was not officially marketed as a New Adult novel, it shares many of the characteristics of NA books, including a romance and a protagonist who is in her late teens. It is a great option for older teens who want to read more about the iconic Rogue. At the same time Marvel released Rogue Touch, they also released

The She-Hulk Diaries by Marta Acosta

While that book is less NA and more akin to Bridget Jones’ Diary, I think it would also have cross-over appeal for older teens. It is written as the journal of Jennifer Walters (She-Hulk’s alter ego) and focuses on her struggles trying to juggle being an attorney while also being a 650 lbs superhero with a particularly super-sized personality.

In addition to these books, both Marvel and DC are planning to rapidly expand their line of YA novels. Marvel has announced that there will be new Captain Marvel and Squirrel Girl young adult novels coming from Shannon and Dale Hale in fall of 2016, as well as a Tony Stark novel by Eoin Colfer. DC, on the other hand, announced an exciting slate of four new YA novels coming in 2017 while I was in the process of drafting this post, including three by women: a Wonder Woman novel by Leigh Bardugo, a Batman novel by Marie Lu, and a Catwoman novel by Sarah J. Maas (the final book is a Superman novel by Matt de la Peña).

Given all of these options, even YA readers who are skeptical of comic books are sure to find something that appeals to them and, with any luck, this might even cause them to reconsider their feelings about comics generally. But, even with a list this long, there are still other characters just begging for their own YA novels. Personally, I’d be excited to read books about Barbara Gordon (particularly as Oracle), Agent Carter, Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel), or Jessica Jones (perhaps as a New Adult title to allow the books to explore more adult themes as in her Netflix shows). How about you? Let me know which characters you think would be perfect for their own YA series in the comments.

Regardless of the characters they choose to represent, I hope Marvel, DC, and other comics publishers continue to explore ways to bring their stories to more formats and audiences.

— Carli Spina, currently reading Bake Sale by Sara Varon