Women and Nonbinary Creators Breaking Comics Barriers

By Melody McCune

It’s no secret — even in 2023, comic books are still a “boy’s club.” Much like video games, you’ll find significantly more men creating comics than any other gender identity. That said, the industry is slowly but surely diversifying, with women, nonbinary, and trans creators making their mark and amplifying the voices of the marginalized.

We’re starting to see a much-needed change in the landscape, and we can only hope said change never plateaus. As the range of perspective widens in comics, the stories can only get better. The following list of women, nonbinary, and trans creators shows a group of individuals who are courageously paving the way for more voices in the comic book world.

 Gail Simone

Gail Simone is, hands down, a comic book legend. Simone has over two decades of experience under her belt and is a staple of geekdom. She got her start at Marvel Comics while working on Deadpool in 2003. After a short-lived stint at Marvel, Gail switched to DC, penning Birds of Prey from #56. In 2007, Gail started writing for Wonder Woman from issue #14 and on, solidifying herself as the longest-running female writer for the titular character. 

Additionally, Gail wrote a new Batgirl issue with Barbara Gordon in 2011. She introduced Alysia Yeoh, the first trans character written in mainstream comics through a contemporary lens. 

Hot on the heels of Birds of Prey, Gail penned a Lara Croft series, Tomb Raider, for Dark Horse Comics. She’s also written for Red Sonja and The Simpsons comics. In short, Gail Simone kicks ass, and she’s left an indelible mark on the comic book industry. Plus, her Twitter account is top-tier.

Vita Ayala

Vita Ayala is another writer who has developed an impressive lineup of work for Marvel and DC Comics, as well as Dynamite Entertainment, Image Comics, IDW Publishing, and their own original works such as Quarter Killer, Submerged, and The Wilds. Throughout all their projects, Vita’s Afro-Puerto Rican, trans nonbinary identity is reflected in ways that uplift anyone with a story to tell.

For DC, Vita has worked on numerous series about Nubia and the Amazons, plus books for Batman, Supergirl, Static Shock, and more. On the Marvel side, they’ve written for Black Panther, Wolverine, Children of the Atom, and, most extensively, the New Mutants. Ayala’s work with Krakoa’s New Mutants featured Magik as she journeyed through Limbo to confront past trauma. This story really has it all — heart, humor, and the kind of writing so powerful you’ll find yourself wondering how you managed to identify with a mutant’s Little Goblin persona.

N.K. Jemisin

N.K. Jemisin made a splash in the literary world, and now she’s dipping her toes into the comic book pool. Most known for the Hugo Award-winning The Broken Earth Trilogy, a science fiction trilogy, N.K. recently penned Far Sector #1-12 with Jamal Campbell via DC Comics in 2019. Far Sector is a 12-issue sci-fi murder mystery featuring Green Lantern Sojourner “Jo” Mullein. Sojourner protects the City Enduring, a metropolis with 500 years of peace under its belt.

How did it accomplish such a feat? By removing the ability to feel from its citizens. So, when violence strikes, Sojourner’s thrust into an unraveling mystery. This innovative Green Lantern series received a 2021 Eisner Award nomination for Best Limited Series. 

N.K. is an immensely gifted writer, spinning intricate sci-fi worlds and immersive stories. While her foray into comic books is just starting, I have no doubt her future is as bright as Green Lantern’s light.

Sophie Labelle

Sophie Labelle, a French-Canadian author, is most known for creating Assigned Male comics and its offshoot Serious Trans Vibes. These comics have been in the public sphere since 2014, with 11 issues total. In addition to drawing comics, she’s also a children’s book author and novelist.

Notable works include My Dad Thinks I’m a Boy?! about seven-year-old Stephie, whose father mistakes her for a boy. Stephie is the star of the Assigned Male comics, and this book marks the beginning of her transition. 

Ciel in All Directions features nonbinary teen Ciel, the best friend of Stephie, whose life blossoms while in high school. 

Sophie’s also a public speaker, lecturing to audiences ranging from kindergarten to university. There aren’t many trans creators in the mainstream comic book industry, and Sophie shines a light on trans stories and empowers trans youth to live life as their most authentic selves.

Melanie Gillman

You might know Melanie Gillman’s 2017 creation, As the Crow Flies, which tells the tale of Charlie. Charlie’s a queer, Black 13-year-old girl stranded at an all-white Christian youth backpacking camp. What started as a webcomic morphed into a graphic novel, with the American Library Association granting As the Crow Flies a Stonewall Book Award in 2018.

They’re also the author of Stage Dreams, published in 2019, a lesbian Western graphic novel centered on Flor and Grace, a Latinx outlaw and a trans runaway who team up to thwart a Confederate plot in New Mexico Territory. 

Melanie is a cartoonist with an MFA in comics from the Center for Cartoon Studies and currently resides in Columbus, Ohio. Their artwork is undeniably gorgeous, and their stories are wonderfully diverse and touching. We need more representation in comics, and Melanie provides that in spades. 

Joyce Chin

Joyce Chin works as a cover artist, inker, colorist, and comic book penciler in the industry. Her prolific career spans almost three decades, dating back to 1995. Joyce boasts quite the resume, including heavy-hitters like Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Dynamite, and IDW Publishing.

You might recognize her work if you love Red SonjaWynonna Earp, Tomb RaiderXena: Warrior Princess, and Vampirella. She also collaborates frequently with fellow comic book titan Gail Simone. Some of her Marvel creations include 2014’s X-Men vs. Hulk, as an artist, and Hulk Team-Up #1 in 2009, which she penciled. 

You’d be hard-pressed to find a comics career as diversified as Joyce’s, especially considering who she’s worked for in the industry. It’s downright impressive.

Alyssa Wong

Over the years, it’s been proven that breathing new life into a beloved franchise like Star Wars is no easy feat. Yet Alyssa Wong has managed to do so with their critically acclaimed Doctor Aphra series (2020-present). This series explores a character who was once an ally of Darth Vader™ but manages to forge her own path in the galaxy, straddling that fine line between light and dark.

In 2021, Alyssa also worked on The Legend of Shang-Chi #1 and in 2022, they completed a five-issue limited series run for Iron Fist. Also for Marvel, Alyssa began a Deadpool series in 2022 that explores the Merc with a Mouth’s nonsensical escapades with the gusto readers can expect from Alyssa Wong writing. Not only has Alyssa worked with fan favorites at Marvel, Star Wars, and DC (Batwoman, Wonder Woman, and the Dawn of DC series Spirit World), but they are also an award-winning short fiction writer with an emphasis in sci-fi speculative fiction. Their work has been awarded the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Locus Award.

Kelly Sue DeConnick

Like many others on this list, Kelly Sue DeConnick is a comic book veteran, with her storied career including runs with Marvel, Dark Horse, and DC Comics. On the Marvel side of things, she wrote for Captain MarvelSpider-Man, and Captain America

However, her most notable work is Bitch Planet via Image Comics, which she created in 2014 with Valentine De Landro. The story centers on a dystopian Earth wherein noncompliant women get shipped off-world to a planet-prison. 

Kelly’s work stretches from niche to mainstream, showcasing her versatility as a writer and creator. Recently, her work with DC’s Black Label resulted in Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons, a breathtaking look into the impactful history of Diana’s island nation. In addition to developing the lore of well-known characters such as Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, and Aquaman, she is also the creator of #VisibleWomen, a signal-boosting social media initiative. She’s a genuine trailblazer in the comic book world.

Eve L. Ewing

Though she’s a prominent writer for Marvel, Eve. L Ewing is also an associate professor at University of Chicago’s Department of Race, Diaspora, and Indigeneity and a cultural organizer who works to strengthen communities through artistic collaboration. Sounds pretty impressive because, frankly, she is.

Eve brought Ironheart’s first solo series into the Marvel universe and she also wrote on the iconic Marvel Team-Up with Spider-Man and Kamala Khan in 2019. This year, she will be continuing the Black Panther series following John Ridley’s space-traveling, civil-war inducing run with Wakanda. However, Eve has revealed that her T’Challa will show aspects of his character not seen before — exciting news for a beloved cultural figure. T’Challa’s new era couldn’t be in better hands.

Currently, Eve is writing the Monica Rambeau solo series, Photon, in which Monica once again grapples with The Beyonder. Somehow, Monica is tearing the universe apart and only she herself can solve the mystery.

G. Willow Wilson

Speaking of Kamala Khan, we have to talk about G. Willow Wilson, the new Ms. Marvel’s co-creator! Back in 2014, Kamala Khan first appeared on the scene thanks to G. Willow Wilson and Marvel’s Sana Amanat. Since then, the character has undergone an almost immediate superstar rise in popularity. She even has her own Disney+ show and will star in the upcoming MCU film The Marvels.

Aside from Ms. Khan, G. Willow Wilson has also written for Wonder Woman. Her debut work of fiction, Alif the Unseen, won the 2013 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. Currently, she is also writing the Poison Ivy solo series for DC Comics, which was expanded from a limited series in 2022.

Who are your favorite women, nonbinary, and trans comic book creators? Tell us over in our Atomic Misfits Facebook Group, and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow!