Sometimes a book comes out that I’m so ridiculously excited about I get paranoid that I’m going to be disappointed in some way. And then it arrives and turns out to be even better than I hoped for. It becomes the book I take everywhere with me to thrust in people’s faces and say, “READ”. That book is this book.
The Adventures of Superhero Girl is a strip you may have heard of already. It’s a webcomic by the fantastically proficient cartoonist Faith Erin Hicks, who has a whole host of graphic novels to her name (Friends with Boys, Brain Camp, Zombies Calling and the upcoming Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong). I say webcomic, but although it is all available to read online for free, it was actually created for a local newspaper. And it is fabulous.
We follow the adventures of our protagonist, Superhero Girl (obv), as she struggles to find her place in the world as a fully fledged superhero. Constantly thwarted by Canada’s low crime rate and the imbalance of her personal and public lives, Superhero Girl faces monsters, ninjas, and her nemesis, Skeptical Guy. It sounds a bit like a superhero parody and in some respects it perhaps is, but really Hicks is taking the genre of superheroes and using it to tell the story of a girl and her friends and family, with fun and bonus ninja fights. Superhero Girl’s recurring frustration with people who can’t accept that she doesn’t have a tragic past to fuel her superheroics is definitely a poke at the grim and gritty world of capes and parent murderers, but her insecurity around her mega-successful superhero brother, Kevin, is something that many non-powered readers can certainly relate to.
And who hasn’t been halfway on the road to fighting a monster when realising they left their cape at home? I know right?! The fact that superheroics are just part of our hero’s daily life is really refreshing to read, and her interactions with the public – from students to grannies – seems much more likely than the doom and gloom of many superhero comics. Or perhaps that’s just Canada for ya.
I genuinely don’t want to give too much away about the content of the stories because nothing beats reading them for yourself without my longwinded (yet remarkably wise) comments on meta, panel deconstruction, trope busting and kittens.
However, this of course is the collected edition and while one might assume that means it is merely a book that collects the strips available online, that ain’t the half of it. Dark Horse have produced a gorgeous luxury hardback edition, in landscape format, and the previously black and white strips have been fully coloured by the fantastic Cris Peter. Cris is a colourist that many Marvel fans will be familiar with, and her work is wonderfully suited to Hick’s style. There’s actually a lot of lovely halftone work which gives the strips a retro newspaper feel and is a great contrast with the modern artwork. Very poptastic!
As if that wasn’t enough, there are pages of original sketches at the back and a glowing introduction from Kurt Busiek at the front, praising Hicks for delivering not only good comics, but comics that can be read by all his family. D’aww.
So let’s look at the facts: brilliant and funny comic with great characters; starring a woman superhero (whoot!); ninjas!; accessible without any prior comics knowledge; equally enjoyable with said knowledge; kitties!; lovely physical book with extra features and great colouring; suitable for all ages!
Also there is a bear with a monocle and a cat-octopus monster. GO READ.
The Adventures of Superhero Girl
Writer: Faith Erin Hicks
Artist: Faith Erin Hicks
Colourist: Cris Peter
Cover Artist: Faith Erin Hicks
Letters: Faith Erin Hicks
Editor: Rachel Edidin
Publisher: Dark Horse