Unmasked: Should You Be Reading ‘Strong Female Protagonist’?
With Should I Be Reading… ?, ComicsAlliance hopes to offer you a guide to some of the best original ongoing comics being published today.
The Strong Female Character trope is in some ways as damaging as the Damsel in Distress; an archetype that rejects the feminine, and thus presents new limits to what a woman can be. Alison Green, the actual protagonist of Strong Female Protagonist, is indeed physically strong --- the strongest on Earth --- but she transcends the trope. She’s just a girl, standing in front of a world, asking it to let her live a normal life.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
As a super strong and invulnerable superhero, Alison Green used to fight crime. She was Mega Girl, part of the superhero team The Guardians, but she’s hung up her cape and her domino mask. Now she goes to school and tries to be a normal early-20s kid.
Spoiler: it’s really hard. People treat you differently when they know you used to be a superhero. But she’s got her former Guardians around, who are mostly helpful and supportive; a cute guy who used to be her supervillain nemesis; her friends at school; and her government-appointed doctor/therapist/researcher.
WHO’S IT BY?
Writer Brennan Lee Mulligan is a writer, actor, and improvisor in Los Angeles. He went to the School of Visual Arts for film, and continues to work in film and theatre, performing and teaching at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, acting and directing for Story Pirates, and writing and acting for film and tv.
Molly Ostertag is an accomplished comic artist. She graduated from the School of Visual Arts in 2014, after co-creating Strong Female Protagonist with Mulligan in 2012. In addition to the webcomic, she has written and illustrated other comics for anthologies such as Love is Love, Terrestrial, and Rookery. She works at Disney Television Animation, and has two graphic novels coming out in 2017: Shattered Warrior from First Second, and The Witch Boy from Scholastic.
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL?
The idea of a superhero turning away from fighting crime to live a “normal” life isn’t new, but Strong Female Protagonist has humor and compassion that isn’t always present in such stories. Alison may have given up on her superheroing, but she’s still in touch with her former teammates who haven’t, and neither of those choices are presented as the correct thing to do. People will view the world, and their role in it, differently --- and that’s okay. You’ve got to do what’s right for you, but there are consequences to those decisions.
When Alison’s not punching baddies, she feels like a college kid. There’s a real authenticity to her character, kind of like Hannah Blumenreich's Spider-Man. She’s trying to do her best and figure out her place in the world, she just has a bit more baggage to bring with her than the average person.
Alison does get dragged into fights, though. Just because she’s given up on fighting crime doesn’t mean that crime has forgotten about her. The fight scenes are kinetic and fun; Alison does beautiful flips and jumps while making the odd quip or two. Ostertag’s line work improves so much over the course of the series, and it was good to start with back when the comic began.
WHO SHOULD READ IT?
Anyone who loves to read superhero comics about ethics and consequences with humor. Anyone who loves Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Any and all teenagers.
WHERE CAN I READ IT?
You can read Strong Female Protagonist on its website. It updates twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays. A print version of the comic, collecting the first four issues, was published in 2014 after a successful Kickstarter campaign. Mulligan and Ostertag joined forces with Top Shelf to publish the print version, so you can pick it up at your local comic shop or online.