Wayward Sisters: An Anthology of Monstrous Women

Contributors: Various
Editor: Allison O’Toole
Assistant Editor: M. Blankier
Foreword: Faith Erin Hicks
Publisher: TO Comix Press

Review by Anelise Farris

I love monster stories. I love stories with strong diverse characters. So naturally, I found myself eager to read Wayward Sisters: An Anthology of Monstrous Women: a collection of twenty-five monster-filled comics from a variety of women and gender-nonconforming creators.

The anthology begins with a foreword from comics-creator Faith Erin Hicks (currently writing Avatar: The Last Airbender comics). In her foreword, Faith describes how her coming-of-age experience was shaped by the stories available to her. As a young girl, it was mostly stories of beautiful princesses that she had trouble identifying with, but in high school she had her first connection with a monster girl: the mutant Marrow.

Marrow showed her that it’s okay to be a strange, not-conventionally-pretty individual, one who can embrace the fact that we’re all at least a little bit monstrous. Here, Hicks effectively highlights how important this collection is. For many individuals, who find themselves drawn to the wonderful weird, a work like Wayward Sisters: An Anthology of Monstrous Women is long overdue.

The first comic of the collection, “Love and Fury,” by Aimee Lim and Sam Beck, involves a group of sisters—Teng Si Fu, Lie Du, and Mei Ji—who are demons that take on the task of punishing wrongdoers, giving us a refreshingly different take on the vigilante story. Demons also feature in the comic “Doilies and Demons,” which involves an unconventional tea party, and the folklore-rooted Brazilian story “The Alligator at the End of the World,” twists the deal-with-a-demon narrative.

Wayward Sisters: An Anthology of Monstrous Women does not simply involve demons, however. There are comics about werewolves, witches, and mermaids, as well as a heavy dose of body horror and gothic Lovecraftian tales. What really makes each of these stories stand out is that they are all character-driven (by monsters!). And they aren’t all dark and evil and sad either.

“Miss Monster,” written by our very own editor-in-chief Stephanie Cooke, with art by Cara McGee, is a lovely comedic story about a beauty pageant. And, “Lost and Found” by Saffron Aurora offers a humorous take on the pressure to get a hot new bod. And, comics like “Bad Hair Day,” by Cassandra Khaw and C. Ann Gordon, give mental health an important place in conversations about accepting non-normative identities.

Although I only have space here to mention a few of the comics in Wayward Sisters: An Anthology of Monstrous Women, each one is remarkably well-crafted and worth reading and re-reading like a well-worn book of fairy tales. And, though I’ve mainly focused on content, I have to of course mention the art. Just as diverse as the content is, the art ranges from realistic to surreal to cartoony, from bold or muted colors to black and white, and all with varying degrees of shading and linework, each carefully matched to the story it is trying to tell.

Verdict: Buy it.

Anthologies can be hit or miss because more often than not there are a few standout stories and everything else just fades to the background. With Wayward Sisters: An Anthology of Monstrous Women, that is simply not the case. I was thoroughly invested in each and every comic, and I love the variety of writing, content, and artistic styles. As Faith Erin Hicks said in her foreword, I wish this book was around when I was a monstrous kid, but I’m so grateful it’s here now!

Anelise Farris
farranel@isu.edu
I'm a doctor that specializes in folklore and mythology, speculative fiction, and disability studies. Basically, I'm a professional geek. When not researching or teaching, I read; I write; I yoga; I travel; I play with my fur babies; and, I watch way too many (if that's a thing) horror movies.

Leave a Reply