Cartoonist and comic artist Noelle Stevenson created and produces the beloved new-ish Netflix series She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, which just dropped its third (and better-not-be-the-last) season, and anyone who’s read her comics work will recognize in it the tone and themes that have made the reboot of the classic ’80s series so popular and so, so awesome.
A She-Ra original graphic novel called Legend of the Fire Princess is forthcoming, the first in a planned series based on stories from Noelle Stevenson—and while that’s certainly good news, the less good news is that it’s not out until February, and we seriously can’t wait that long. Cue Mermista.
In the meantime, here are seven graphic novels that offer up some of that Princesses of Power magic.
Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson
There’s a reason everyone got so excited when it was announced that Noelle Stevenson would be the mastermind behind a rebooted She-Ra, and it has to do with her award-winning work in the comics—including this, her breakthrough. The title character in this comedy/fantasy/science fiction story is a shapeshifter who schemes her way into an apprenticeship with the supervillain Ballister Blackheart. She’s so determined to be an evil sidekick, Ballister keeps her around even when he realizes that she’s not quite who she said she was. They wind up facing down Sir Goldenloin, chief knight of The Institute and a paragon of virtue (at least in his own mind). Like She-Ra, Nimona has very funny and very quirky elements that couple nicely with deeper, darker emotional undercurrents and a mythology that grows more complex and interesting as the story goes on. The book began life as a webcomic with a fervent Tumblr following, and is on its way to movie screens next year. In a way, the new She-Ra‘s origin begins here.
Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy, by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke A Allen, and Grace Ellis
“Friendship to the max!” is the motto of the young campers of Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types. They don’t have much time for arts and crafts, what with the impending apocalypse and all. Jo, April, Molly, Mal, and Ripley spend their time at camp participating in activities and earning badges while solving mysteries related to supernatural creatures in the woods. An all-ages gem, the campers are adventurous and brave—but, best of all, the diverse crew never tears each other down. Even though there’s action and drama, they support each other against the dangers in the woods—not at all unlike She-Ra’s Princess Alliance.
Moonstruck, by Grace Ellis, Shae Beagle, and Kate Leth
From the co-creator of Lumberjanes, the style of Moonstruck is a little (ok, a lot) less action and a bit more rom-com, but it shares a similar focus (with that book and with She-Ra) in that it stars a young woman growing up and discovering herself with the help of a diverse group of supportive friends. In this case, the main character, Julie, happens to be a very reluctant werewolf; her best pal is a self-absorbed centaur barista and their rivals include fairy frat bros. In the quirky-cute, all-ages world of the book, magical creatures are commonplace, and the world-building is as imaginative as in any fantasy realm, even though the setting is something very close to our own modern world. The cast includes a wide array of body shapes and sizes, skin colors, and gender and sexual identities, and ultimately, it’s a story about self-acceptance: loving yourself whether your hang-up is gender, body type, or occasional lycanthropy.
Paperback $16.19 | $17.99
Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! Vol. 1: Hooked On A Feline, by Kate Leth and Brittney Williams
Though set in the modern day, Hellcat represents the superhero book that most closely resembles the spirit of She-Ra. Patsy has a long history in Marvel comics, but her new status quo here is running a superhero temp agency and doing her best to pay the rent while trying to move past her days as the star of a romance comic. There’s some soap opera angst and action, including an alliance of ex-boyfriends, but the book never, ever loses its sense of humor. What’s more, Patsy’s diverse cast of pals never desert her, and even some of her enemies become friends when they see how much fun it is to hang out at the mall with Patsy and the gang. Like the rest of the books here, none of the villains are evil, and they all get a shot at doing the right thing.
Jem and the Holograms, by Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell
Another trip back to the ’80s that puts a new spin on a toy-centric cartoon (this one from Hasbro), Thompson and Campbell revived Jem in 2015, bringing Big Queer Energy to the story of poor, bereaved Jerrica Benton and her inherited music empire while keeping all of the bright, neon style of the show. Jerrica overcomes her stage fright with the help of her sister Kimber and holographic supercomputer Synergy, as well as her friends—with whom they form the Holograms. The new take amps up the feminism and adds in some fantastic LGBTQ+ representation, but never forgets that big hair and (truly) outrageous fashion are key parts of Jem’s world.
Hardcover $26.99 | $29.99
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Minicomic Collection
What up, ’80s kids? It’s not like merchandising hasn’t driven pop culture for decades, but never so impressively as in the era from which sprung the Transformers, G.I. Joe, My Little Pony, and about a thousand other variations on similar formulas (Go-Bots, anyone?). These now-venerable franchises (OK, maybe not Go-Bots) began life as products, with associated cartoons, comics, and movies serving as extended toy commercials. With the help of some talented creators, each somehow rose above its mercenary origins to become something lasting. (Yay capitalism?) Back in the day, He-Man and She-Ra toys came with little comic books that often had very little to do with the characters as portrayed on their respective TV shows, but offered up mythologies that were at least as interesting as those of their on-screen counterparts (as the He-Man comics begin, he’s a jungle-dwelling barbarian who’s gifted with lost, ancient Eternian technology in order to defend Castle Grayskull). Dark Horse recently published a bound collection of these comics, including the dozen or so that came with the Princess of Power figures. There’s a little too much emphasis on She-Ra’s romantic interest in Bow, but there’s plenty of Catra, and anyway, they’re still a very fun flashback that not only ’80s kids will understand.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Omnibus, by James A. Robinson, Dan Abnett, Keith Giffen, Phillip Tan, and Pop Mhan
As with the minicomics collection, you’ll be getting a bit more He-Man than She-Ra in this enormous (seriously—it’s massive) collection of DC’s recent Masters of the Universe books, but she’s a key character in the saga nevertheless. It’s a slightly darker and older-skewing take on the character, initially emphasizing Adora/Despara’s role as the Horde’s leading Force Captain, a job that she moves past pretty quickly in other incarnations. Still, by the climactic “Eternity War” storyline that sees Hordak conquering Eternia, she’s not only slinging her sword on the side of good, she playing a lynchpin role in the war.
What are you reading while you wait for She-ra season four to hit Netflix?