One of the many joys of my childhood was coming downstairs for breakfast on a lazy Sunday and seeing the newspaper parceled out for each family member. My dad got the front pages – the major headlines and serious stuff. My brother always started with the Sports section, which he split with my mom between bites of cereal or an Eggo waffle or a big fluffy cinnamon roll baked fresh from the Farmers Market.
And me? I got to start with the Comics.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved the Calendar section for Arts news and the “Lifestyle” section for the op-eds. Chris Erksine’s weekly column in the LA Times was a staple in my repetoire, and the candor with which he and other columnists (in what I deemed the more “cool” and “down-to-earth” sections of the paper as a young reader) wrote about their small yet mighty life experiences was for sure an influence on my speaking and writing style.
But I found that my tween-ish mind could learn way more from the Comics section than any other part of the newspaper. In just six or so pages of newsprint, I could dive into different worldviews, laugh at jokes that I might not have been deemed “marure enough” to understand IRL, and – my favorite – watch characters, in bite-sized vignettes, put words to what every single adult around me was thinking and not saying. As a highly sensitive person and an empath to the core, I could often feel what adults around me felt. I just wasn’t always able to put it into easily understandable terms. How could I, if no one else around me was even validating that these feelings existed?
What’s more, *I* felt those feelings, too. Stress. Loneliness. Awkwardness. Through comics, I could watch these characters morph and evolve week after week right along with me. They helped me wrap my head around a world that was sometimes a bit overwhelming, and even got me seeing – laughing – at the absurdity of so much of it.
When I think of “The News” migrating from the page to the screen, I always feel a pang of sadness. Yes, of course, because of the value of the printed word…but also because of the immense pleasure of the Sunday comics and the parceled-out paper sections at the breakfast table. The newspaper, and particularly the Comics section helped shape me as not just a writer and artist but as a full human being.
Which is why when I started to discover the vast amount of cartoonists and illustrators on Instagram, my heart felt like it had been reunited with a childhood bestie. But better – because the bulk of the cartoonists I was finding myself drawn to were WOMEN.
The one gripe I have about the Comics section of my youth is how male-dominated it was. Baby Blues, Zits, Mutts, and Momma were my go-tos. When Calvin and Hobbes ran its last strip, I cried. But rarely did any characters look like me sans a token mom or female sidekick – and very rarely was there a woman in the byline. If I wanted a female point of view I really only had Cathy to turn to (who was a badass. for the record).
Today, there are countless female cartoonists and illustrators on Instagram creating witty, poignant work that is HIGHLY relatable whether you’re a woman or not. Their bravery to use their art to tackle mental health issues, take a stand for causes they believe in, and help their followers understand the nuances of what makes each person unique toes the line between art and activism. Their boldness helps me, and others like me, be bold by boiling things down to images that make us FEEL.
I might not have a breakfast table decorated with parceled-out newspaper sections and words and ideas just waiting to be discovered, but I love that social media has allowed the Comics section back into my life – and, what’s more, a brand new Comics section that looks a lot more LIKE my life.
Here are five female Instagram cartoonists and illustrators I’m loving – and think you will, too:
Marzi from Introvert Doodles is the one that started it for me. Her cartoons are always a high point in my day, and get me shouting out “ME TOO!” more times than I can count. But silently, because #introvert. Unless I’m alone. Then out loud. I honestly don’t have adequate words to describe how much I love Introvert Doodles…so go check her out yourself to see what I mean.
Hannah Daisy of @makedaisychains is a mental health activist who uses her #boringselfcare series to remind us all – whether we’re struggling with an illness or are feeling down in the slumps – that no act of self care is too small. She’s helped me “just clean the dishes” or “just do the laundry” multiple times. Because sometimes, those “justs” can feel a lot more than that.
I’m obsessed with Mari’s adorable, quirky, uber-positive (but never saccharine) illustrations. Every time an illustration of hers pops up in my feed, I’m reminded of how many little things there are to smile about – and how many of those little things aren’t really so little at all.
The comic strips that Sarah Andersen of Sarah’s Scribbles (aka @sarahandersoncomics) draws remind me the mosts of the comics I LOVED as a kid – but even better. Sarah tackles anxiety, periods, dating, and the thoughts we’re all thinking but rarely say out loud. And…her comics make me snort-laugh. Which is very important.
Okay, so Kimothy Joy’s work isn’t so much cartoons or comics as it is illustrations and art. But I love her so much, I couldn’t leave her out of this mix. Her gorgeous paintings and drawings are the perfect merger of art and activism, sharing the wise words of women along with artwork that will make your heart sing. New writing goal? Write something worthy of a Kimothy Joy quote illustration.
What other female cartoonists, illustrators, and artists are you loving? Who else should our WANT community be following on Instagram? Tell me in the comments below!
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