So after all my carping, can I point to any positive examples of the portrayal of women in graphic novels? I hope I don’t sound too much like Mr. Rogers, but sure I can. In fact, I already did (Winged Victory and Cleopatra from the Astro City series). So let’s do another this week.
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (written and illustrated by Hayao Miyazaki) is a manga comic that offers a very imaginative blend of environmentalism, militarism, sociology, political intrigue, and religion. Some reviewers have claimed that it mixes Christianity with Japanese animism. I personally enjoyed this series even more than I did Watchmen. It took me a lot further into a story which is relevant, sometimes gritty and fatalistic, but still inclusive of ideals.
The title character is one of the best female leads I have ever seen in a graphic novel. She is honorable, heroic, physically capable, intelligent, compassionate, and spiritually sensitive. And … she is dressed. This is not an over-sexualized character. Women in general are treated well in this series.
Let me state emphatically that this is more than just a comic. In terms of plot, theme, character development, and setting, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is truly a graphic novel. At over twice the length of Watchmen, it provides an engaging read. The view from the high road is indeed a good one.