Strong Female Protagonist: A Webcomic to Prepare You for Marvel’s Jessica Jones

jessica-jones-posterI don’t know about you, but I, for one, have been eagerly awaiting the upcoming Jessica Jones series, which premieres on Netflix today, November 20th. I’m a sucker for a dark superhero, and when it’s a female protagonist, I am there!

The more I’ve learned about Jessica Jones’ character — a former superhero who is trying to make a “normal” life for herself while still grappling with her past — the more I was reminded of a certain webcomic that I’ve been reading for the past several months.

In 2012, writer Brennan Lee Mulligan and artist Molly Ostertag began publishing their comic Strong Female Protagonist. Even though, given the opportunity, I probably would have changed the title, I will give it credit for piquing my interest. But, even more credit goes to the story and the intriguing character development that kept me reading until I caught up a couple days later.

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SFP follows the story of Alison Green, formerly Mega Girl: a college-aged girl who has left behind her life of crime-fighting and is forced to live in a world where everyone knows her name and knows more about her than she would care for. The comic’s site describes the story as “the adventures of a young middle-class American with super-strength, invincibility and a crippling sense of social injustice.”

I was initially drawn into the story because nothing was overlooked. I would have been content, honestly, with a simple coming-of-age story, but the comic goes beyond that and takes on troubles and concerns for Alison that I hadn’t thought she might. Mulligan gives Alison real-world problems, not just comic-book-world problems. She’s not so worried about villains who now know her identity as much as she is about going to school with people who all got front row seats to her teenage mental breakdown.

Another thing I really appreciate about the writing is that plot points overlap. We’re looking at and walking through Alison’s life together. There isn’t just one “big bad” at a time; things happen simultaneously. What astonishes me is that, in my reading, I almost didn’t realize how much went on at once. Don’t get me wrong, though. There were plenty of moments when I thought, “This too??!” However, it never felt like too much; it only made me sympathetic and root for her even harder.

chapter-5-coverThe art does so much for the storytelling. There have been several times when the day’s published page has no dialogue at all, but the story is still moving. Through only pictures, Ostertag manages to create suspense and mystery that will keep you on the edge of your seat to see if the silence is broken on the next page. One of my favorite visual moments in the comic is when Alison meets Professor Lisa Bradley, who takes her on a tour of Excelsior Innovations (see what they did there?). As they walk through, the murals painted on the walls start to come to life as Lisa explains her ideals and motivations to Alison, and they become a part of the art (within the art) themselves. To say the least, these were absolutely stunning and had me going back just to experience it again.

In the past several updates, SFP has kept me thinking with their on-going discussion about ethics. There is a character who is fed up with criminals who are not tried to the full extent of their crimes*, therefore deciding to take justice into their own hands. Everything seems so clear cut to this person who openly says that they would be willing to mistakenly kill an innocent person over mistakenly letting someone guilty walk free. *Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault

The confrontation really puts into perspective how far some will go for their own brand of social justice. There is a definite line drawn in the sand, and it’s up to Alison to find exactly where that is and what she can do about it.

Strong Female Protagonist is compelling, thought-provoking, and just really, really well done. The nice thing about it is that there is plenty of story to catch up on if you’re starting now, and it’s still ongoing if you catch up quickly. It is a webcomic that has exceeded my expectations from the beginning and continues to do so. Here’s to many more!

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