Part of me hesitates to recommend this since it’s out of print (you can, however, still find copies), but Trina Robbins‘ From Girls to Grrrlz: A History of Women’s Comics from Teens to Zines (1999, Chronicle Books) is an essential read. Even with all the changes that the past decade has brought, it’s still an important overview of 60 years of comics aimed at women.
Robbins’ prose is smart and sparkling — this book is a quick read but also incredibly informative (dazzle your friends with fun facts about how legendary creators like Joe Simon and Jack Kirby wrote and drew many romance comics!). Robbins, of course, also covers women’s contributions to the underground comics scene of the 1960s and ’70s (something that I don’t think gets enough attention) and discusses titles like Love and Rockets and Strangers in Paradise as comics created by men but still featuring prominent female characters and perspectives.
The design of the book is fun — lots of comic images splashed across the pages and phrases highlighted — but it can be a little too much at times. Still, this isn’t mean to be a dull, academic read but rather conversational and playful.
Obviously, I think younger women and girls who are just getting interested in comics will find a lot to like here. But even if you like comics and know quite a bit about them already, you have nothing to lose by seeking out this book and reading it.
(Robbins herself may still have a few copies left for purchase, and there are some available through Amazon resellers. But also check your local library — mine has it on the shelves.)