Thursday, July 27, 2017

Completed: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

Dear Jenny,

Sometime within the past couple of years, Squirrel Girl was on my radar, but I hadn't really checked it out. When we were picking books to read this year, two of our categories were "superhero comic with a female lead" and "all-ages comic" and you suggested The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Based on our bitmojis for this book... we liked it: 

That's a lot of hearts right there.

The series is still ongoing -- we read the first 3 trade paperbacks, which collect, basically, the first 16 issues of SG + some other stories (more about that in a minute):
  • Vol 1: Squirrel Power 
  • Vol 2: Squirrel You Know It's True 
  • Vol 3: Squirrel, You Really Got Me Now
[Aside: Is there anything not to love about these books? Even these titles are hilarious. Other volume titles are: I Kissed a Squirrel and I Liked it and Like I'm the Only Squirrel in the World. Bwahaha!]

You loved Squirrel Girl after you used it as as choice in a comic book unit. Squirrel Girl is an example of a female superhero who isn’t trying to imitate men. It’s incredibly body-positive. For example, at one point, Doreen tucks in her tail and it fills her pants. She admires herself in the mirror and says, “My ass looks awesome.” She's excited to start college, meet new friends, and start studying computer science. Squirrel Girl values teamwork, communication, and community and often solves problems through discussion and cooperation rather than butt-kicking. I mean, don’t get me wrong, she’ll kick butts [and, of course, eats nuts] if she has to, but it’s refreshing to see that as a last resort rather than the first option. Squirrel Girl shows that women don't need to be like men, or to solve problems like a man, to be successful.

We talked a lot about the gender dynamics in comics: the “boys club” of writers and pencilers who close ranks and sideline female characters when things are happening, or draw them as nothing more than tits and ass. Although the Squirrel Girl creative team is a man and a woman, it just feels like a totally different kind of comic. Even though we only agreed to read the first three books, we both kept reading. You pointed out that the Mole Man arc in Book 4 could be used to teach consent and boundaries, and Doreen is a character who brought both of us hope and joy---which is something we need now more than ever!

There are many, many things to love about Squirrel Girl, not the least of which is the tiny commentary at the bottom of each page. As we were calling it, the "kid whistle" text. Heh. That's perfect, because I'm not sure that many older readers can even see that text, let alone read it. It's tiny and it's light golden brown --  it is clearly intended for those who can make it out. I don’t know if this is intentional or not, but one nice thing about it is that it slows you down as you’re reading -- I often burn right through comics, but with these, you have to slow down and take a careful look at what is written at the bottom of each page (and it’s worth it, cause it’s hilarious).

The only thing minor nit we had about these books and, really, comic books in general, is that it's difficult to figure out bizarro numbering protocol of the issues. For instance, Vols 1 and 2 are collections of "Volume 1, 1-8." Vol 3 is "Volume 2, 1-6." What? What makes up volumes? Oh, here’s someone breaking down the messed up numbering -- it was a weirdo Marvel choice to blow everything up and then re-build and SG got caught in the crossfire.  As you pointed out, this is another thing that makes the bar even higher for people to enter the world of reading comics -- as if it’s not hard enough to walk into a comic book store with zero comic knowledge [except for yours, I know -- that’s a very welcoming one!] it feels like you have to be an “insider” just to understand the numbering system! Now that I think of it… I do not think this sort of exclusionary behavior would be Doreen-approved.

I think the only thing about Squirrel Girl that we differed in opinions on was the Letters section: I love it and you do not. I was so surprised that you don't read them -- I find the interaction between fans and authors to be very charming (esp. from little girls). It turns out you do look at the cosplay photos, but just cannot stand the formatting of the letters on the page -- there are some justification and general design issues; the responses are bold and inconsistently formatted; and, as you recalled from our High School yearbook days: “ECHO says ‘No trapped copy!’” (there is, in fact, trapped copy). All of that doesn’t bother me -- it reminds me of Letters pages of yore, when reading comics as a kid. You made a good point there that, when we were kids, it was nice to read the letters from other people in the world and realize, “Look! Other people feel the same way as I do!” and now… we have the Internet for that. I still like old-school stuff (real mail, film cameras, etc.) so I guess that’s my thing. Thinking more about it, I just don’t think they want to spend/waste a lot of time formatting that page (if they did, they’d probably have to cut it entirely) so this is how they get those letters out there. And hey, if young kids are reading SG (and I hope they are!) then they can connect with other fans without Internet use.

In conclusion, we love Squirrel Girl and are so happy that this comic exists in the world.



  1. I just want you to know, having Squirrel Girl in my life has literally changed it. That's not hyperbole. She's the greatest.

    1. I am with you 100%. Every time I read it, I feel joy. These days, that's just not as easy to come by.