Today I’m excited to introduce a new original feature called “Graphic Novels, Tough Chicks.” It’s exactly what it sounds like: celebrating the amazing female characters that abound in graphic novels. While many people still associate this particular form with a male readership, certain graphic novels empower women and combat feminine stereotypes through illustration and text. Characters that I consider “tough chicks” aren’t necessarily great warriors: they resist injustice, fight for their beliefs, and they don’t take flak from nobody. These women are capable of fighting their own battles, both literally and figuratively. Who doesn’t want to read about a bad-ass chick taking some names, am I right?
Without further ado, I present you with my first example:
Author & Illustrator: Tony Cliff
Publisher: First Second
Publication Date: October 1, 2011
Lovable ne’er-do-well Delilah Dirk has travelled to Japan, Indonesia, France, and even the New World.Using the skills she’s picked up on the way, Delilah’s adventures continue as she plots to rob a rich and corrupt Sultan in Constantinople. With the aid of her flying boat and her newfound friend, Selim, she evades the Sultan’s guards, leaves angry pirates in the dust, and fights her way through the countryside. For Delilah, one adventure leads to the next in this thrilling and funny installment in her exciting life.
A little bit Tintin, a little bit Indiana Jones, Delilah Dirk is a great pick for any reader looking for a smart and foolhardy heroine…and globetrotting adventures.
This first installment in Tony Cliff’s wonderfully clever Delilah Dirk series introduces us to the titular heroine, a woman who proudly captains her own (flying!) ship and delivers quite the wallop to her enemies. It’s very refreshing to read a graphic novel that portrays a woman as strong, independent, and even aggressive. Cliff is clearly working to subvert gender stereotypes, as Delilah represents the rough-and-tumble attitude that’s typically assigned to male characters; Delilah’s friend Selim similarly defies gender roles as a member of an all-male army that lacks a killer instinct. Selim’s passion isn’t for war, it’s for brewing unique and delicious teas.
When Delilah is captured by the sultan that employs Selim, he is assigned as Delilah’s guard and is tasked with ferreting out her secrets. Delilah is not intimidated in the least.
Delilah and Selim bond over their love of tea, and the thief/adventurer/pirate confidently regales Selim with tales of her various escapades, revealing her extreme badassery. Behold:
Pretty impressive, no? These panels also showcase the true beauty of Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, Tony Cliff’s wonderful cheeky sense of humour. Delilah obviously stretches the limits of the truth when discussing her skillz but that definitely doesn’t detract from her status as a “tough chick.”
Delilah escapes capture and brings Selim along on her mission, much to his chagrin. I found it refreshing to see a woman dragging a man along on an adventure for once. The friendship between Delilah and Selim is also a breath of fresh air: there is no romantic tension between them whatsoever. Delilah isn’t interested in romance right now – she just wants to teach the staid Selim the joy of adventure.
And that’s pretty awesome.