Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World
There’s been quite the trend lately in collections of short write-ups of women in history you may not have heard of, so I didn’t have high expectations for Pénélope Bagieu’s Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World. I should have had more faith — I found myself surprised and enlightened by how many of these women I hadn’t heard of, and the amazing things they did. (First Second has previously translated Bagieu’s fiction graphic novel Exquisite Corpse and her fictionalized biography of Mama Cass Elliot, California Dreamin’.)
These 29 profiles run the gamut from astronaut to rock star, actress to queen, rebel fighter to scientist. There’s a lot of material here, and much of it will be new to many readers. You’ve heard, probably, of Margaret Hamilton (the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz), but you likely didn’t know of the determination that got her to that part. You may have heard of Josephine Baker, but you likely didn’t know she spied against the Nazis or was friends with Grace Kelly.
You probably haven’t heard of Nzinga, queen of what’s now Angola in the 1600s, or Lozen, an Apache warrior in the 1800s. Then there’s Annette Kellerman, an Australian swimmer who overcame polio and also redesigned women’s swimwear before becoming a movie star, as well as Tove Jansson, creator of the Moomins. Some of these women are still alive, as well, such as peace activist Leymah Gbowee or animal researcher Temple Grandin or long-distance runner Cheryl Bridges.
Each lady gets four to seven pages of her story, told through lots of panels and small but potent drawings (mostly of figures, with no backgrounds, which would be clutter), followed by a gorgeously colored impressionistic two-page spread. So this isn’t highly artistic comic work, but it’s very approachable, and the content is fascinating (and easy to take in with this format). The global approach is also welcome, covering a variety of cultures.
These women do what they want and achieve what’s important to them, whether that’s business success or destroying their enemies. You can read a number of the stories at The Lily.
Brazen is due out in comic shops on March 7 and bookstores on March 6. It’s a substantial, inspiring read. It can be preordered now from your local comic shop with Diamond code JAN18 1694. (The publisher provided an advance digital review copy.)