Something For The Weekend: Femme Magnifique Is An Informative, Celebratory Salute To Womanhood

by Oliver MacNamee

People were pretty bummed all around the world when they discovered the outcome of the US elections in the Fall of 2016. Shelly Bond (with below co-curators, Kristy Miller and Brian Miller), already contemplating her next project at the time, was one amongst millions, but unlike many of us, she did something about it through the medium she has made her home, her castle, for over 25 years now. And, the result was Femme Magnifique, a book to be reprinted by Black Crown/IDW this September.

But, even before the election results were fully counted, this was an idea that was already percolating. I imagine the results merely spurred Bond into more immediate action and a successful Kickstarter that resulted in an anthology celebrating ‘magnificent women who take names, crack ceilings and change the game‘ from all across the globe and all across time, too. And, give or take the odd male contributor, this is more or less a book about women created by women. The results are a collection of pictorial love letters that offer personal insights from well known (and some less well known) names from the world of comics, about the women who inspired them to be inspirational, stand up and be counted, or stand up and take control. In reading it, I couldn’t help but be infected by the sheer love expressed in the fifty, 3 page strips, each contributing team/individual produced for this hardback collection. Who were the women who inspired me? Who were those important in my life and to my life? I mean, how often does one stop to think about this?

The result is a book that can’t help but put a smile on your face. A smile that comes from many different tones, tales and truths throughout this book. And that’s an important point to make, I feel. This is not some self-serving selection, but heart-felt, autobiographical stories in which one can learn as much about the contributing creator as one does about the subject matter. Leah Moore’s honest, open love of Beth Ditto (illustrated by Alison Sampson) – who exploded onto the music scene over a decade ago now (wow, really THAT long?) as part of the punky, take-no-prisoners band Gossip – immediately connected with her as a symbol of femininity and womanhood not often given airtime. A woman she could relate to, and whose performance on that fateful night “healed a part of me I didn’t know was broken.” This is but one of many shared moments. There are so many to chose from, too.

Other contributors also share with the reader their thoughts and beliefs, and trust in the individuals they chose. And, it’s an eclectic and informative list. From the mythological and hugely humorous Judith (written by Mags Visaggio and illustrated by Brett Parson) – a character from the Bible who first put the ‘girl’ into ‘girl power’ –  to the more contemporary inclusions such as Carrie Fisher (written by Alisa Kwitney and illustrated by Alain Mauricet) and her well documented disdain for the patriarchal Hollywood machine that tried to chew her up and spit her out, but couldn’t. There are the more politically active, such as Shirley Chisholm, as well as inspirations from throughout time, like the real inspiration behind the tongue twister, ‘She Sells Seashells’, Mary Anning, something I was unaware of.

With contributors such as Cecil Castellucci, Marguerite Bennett, Bill Sienkiewicz, Jen Bartel, Mike Carey, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Tini Howard, Elsa Charretier, Tess Fowler, Rafael Albuquerque, Tee Franklin, Gilbert Hernandez, Ming Doyle, Matt Wagner, Jim Rugg, Gail Simone, Mags Visaggio, Marguerite Sauvage, Gerard Way, Philip Bond, Hope Nicholson, Sanford Greene, Sonny Liew, Jen Hickman, Mark Buckingham, Peter Gross, Tyler Crook, Dan Parent, and Kieron Gillen, and too many others to mention here, I thoroughly recommend you look out for this when it’s published later this year. And, as for the readership? Of course, it should appeal to younger female readers too – even pre-teen, if their reading abilities are mature enough – but I do hope it has a wider scope than that. After all, it’s a smorgasbord of styles, stories and sensibilities with nothing content wise I would call too mature for said pre-teen readers interested in this book.

It may be focussed on 50 inspirational women, but the execution and the medium should appeal to anyone interested in good comics. Whether to read voraciously, or to dip into from time to time, it’s a book you’ll get a lot of enjoyment from. Not just now, but in the future too, as it does lend itself very well to a return read or two from time to time. A book you could sit down and share with your own daughter, or even with others too. Particularly those who have to ask, when International Women’s Day comes around each year the tired, ignorant, patriarchal question: ‘When is there an International Men’s Day?” and thereby failing to understand why books such as these have to be produced.

(Oh, and it’s November 19th, by the way.)

An informative, entertaining, celebratory salute to womanhood in all its varied shapes, ethnicities and sizes! And, out on September 4th from Black Crown! Get those pre-orders in now!