Holiday Gift Bag: Strong Female Protagonist

Alright, folks, it’s time for us to dive back into our Holiday Gift Bag for some great gift recommendations for the comics fan in your life. Today, it’s time to review Strong Female Protagonist by Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag.


Strong Female Protagonist” got its start as a webcomic before recently being published in book form, partly thanks to a very successful Kickstarter campaign and partly due to a publishing deal with Top Shelf Comics. Our lead character here is Alison Green, a college student and former superhero with breathtaking superstrength, invulnerability, and, as the webcomic puts it, “a crippling sense of social injustice.”

As Mega Girl, Alison was a member of the Guardians, fighting supervillains and giant robots, but when her mind-reading arch-nemesis, Menace, presents her with evidence that other superhumans — who had powers that would let them drastically improve the world — had been murdered by governments and corporations because they’d upset too many rich and powerful people, Alison ends up quitting the superhero gig to try to learn something in school that’d let her really help people around the world.

That doesn’t leave her out of the superhero business entirely. She’s going to class, helping out with one of the local fire departments, trying to live a normal human life — but she still runs into the members of the Guardians, especially the shrinking super-scientist Pintsize, she socializes with Menace, and she tangles with a couple of supervillains, particularly the monstrously powerful Cleaver. She meets a fellow superhero named Feral, whose powers involve animal-like fighting skills and a beyond-Wolverine healing factor, and who has an unusual plan for saving the world by herself. And she also has her college friends, her professors, and her family back home, who help keep her grounded, and who sometimes help contribute to her superhuman sense of guilt that she can’t keep everyone safe…

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is a really fun series, and it’s really cool to have it all collected in a nice thick book.

I love Ostertag’s art, which is pretty wonderfully humanizing while still embracing some of the cool and sometimes bloody weirdness of the superhero world. And Mulligan’s writing is great, too, with lots of fun dialogue and plotlines that combine with Ostertag’s art to make some really grand storytelling.

The characters are probably the most fun part of the entire book. Alison is fantastically fun to read about, earnestly trying to be both a normal person and a hero — all while frequently showing off strength and sometimes furious rants that make her absolutely terrifying to everyone around her. Also great are awkwardly geeky Pintsize and the sometimes villainous, sometimes romantic Menace, whose mind-reading abilities are convincing, weird, and often fairly funny. Feral is an absolutely amazing character, rough-hewn and animalistic, but still probably the most purely heroic character in the entire book. Even Cleaver, who seems to be only a one-note brute, gets his moments of sympathy within his storylines.

Why should you get the book instead of reading it all for free online? Well, it’s got fantastic art and storytelling, and these days, we all need more fantastic art and storytelling. It’s a great way to support a couple awesome comic creators. And it’s easier to read in book form than it is online. And it’s a heck of a lot easier to give as a gift. You do want to give this as a gift, don’t you?

If you’re looking for a great gift for a superhero fan, this is going to make a great present. This may also make a great gift for teen readers — there’s some rude language and blood, but no nudity — and Alison is definitely the type of hero almost anyone can look up to. Go pick it up.

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