Margaret Atwood’s New Book Unites Cats & Feminists

A cat-owl-man hybrid superhero is not the first thing that comes to mind when we think “beacon of gender equality,” but we’ll take it. Comics publisher Dark Horse announced today that Margaret Atwood, the iconic Canadian poet, novelist, and environmental activist, is writing a superhero comic in the form of a graphic novel called Angel Catbird. The series of three graphic novels coincides with Nature Canada’s initiative to “Keep Cats Safe and Save Bird Lives.”

Not only is this good news for cats and birds, this is good news for the comic book industry. While we’ve been following the trials and tribulations of women in career fields from movies to tech — really, any industry that produces predominantly bro-centric cultural products — the women writers and artists fighting for a foothold in comics have received less attention. We wouldn’t dream of diminishing Atwood’s prolific career by labeling her a “feminist author,” but her works have dealt with women’s issues from a recognizably feminism-friendly perspective, from The Edible Woman to The Handmaid’s Tale.

Atwood’s superhero comic comes at a critical time for women in the comics industry. Bleeding Cool has been following the pithy numbers of women vs. men who get publishing credits, calling for awareness of the paltry opportunities available to women, in particular by the “Big Two” publishers, DC Comics and Marvel. Of the 75 new comic books released by DC in October 2015, only 15.8% of credited creators were female; and out of 61 new comics released at Marvel, a mere 13.6% of credited creators were women. The percentage of female creators at DC has actually doubled since the previous year, which is saying something.

What little we know so far about Atwood’s Angel Catbird is its protagonist has some identity issues to figure out, which sounds like an interesting read if not a dead-on allegory for our times. As if our inner nerd needed an excuse to order a copy.
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