So you loved She-Ra but now it’s over... what next?
Patron Troy Reeder hit me up with this requested blog subject and I'm incredibly glad he did as the current She-Ra has been one of my favorite shows as of late. For those of you who may not have checked it out yet, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is the Netflix reboot series that launched in 2018. The series is developed by Noelle Stevenson (Lumberjanes, Nimona) and produced by DreamWorks Animation Television.
The series has some of the best storytelling I've seen in an all-ages show, coupled with a fun and consistent art style, engaging characters with strong story arcs, and some of the best LGBTQ+ and POC representation. It's an inclusive sci-fi series that leans heavily on the themes of friendship, acceptance, forgiveness, and trust. It's part of a wave of storytelling that I qualify as 'Genuine Fiction', which is a bit vague but if I got to the heart of it I just mean stories and characters that are truly emotive and engage the viewership to apply more empathy to the world around them.
So if you've enjoyed it as much as I did, you may now have a huge gaping hole in your heart. I know I put off watching the last season because I didn't really want it to end. But there are plenty of other comics and shows that hit the same type of 'Genuine Fiction' beats!
Seriously, follow the works of Noelle Stevenson.
This is the obvious first step, but I can't stress how much you should check out Stevenson's other works like Lumberjanes and Nimona. Lumberjanes is kind of the big one with the most body to it now that it's past 13 volumes with tons of side stories and novels to support it. If you want a series that carries the same themes of friendship and acceptance with the same level of humor, you will fall in love with this series.
Nimona will hit the fantasy spot a bit more, and bits like this should convince you pretty quickly.
And while we're at it, you should definitely check out her autobio GN The Fire Never Goes Out. It's a very honest and engaging exploration of her creative life.
One of my favorite books of this year (and it may end up being my single favorite book of the year as nothing has quite hit me the same way) was Kat Leyh's Snapdragon. Leyh worked on Lumberjanes, and tonally she brings a lot of the same elements and themes to her stories that Stevenson does.
It's about a young girl who befriends the local witch that lives in her town and learns that there's more to people than what you first see. As she progress through the story, she learns more about the witch and the world around her, and more about herself in the process. Also there's a 3-legged pittie, possums, and a dumb ghost deer. It's fantastic.
I'm going to cheat and refer you to one of my more recent reviews for a book named Witchlight. It hits a lot of the same themes as well, but I'm also mentioning it to open the door on general witch fiction.
A majority of books that I have read in this past year that all struck a chord for me as 'genuine fiction' interestingly had a focus on some sort of witchcraft, magical realism, or general fantasy setting. I absolutely loved a book that came out at the end of 2019 called Witchy and would highly recommend it to fans of She-Ra and Avatar the Last Airbender. And hey, Noelle Stevenson loved it.
The Deep & Dark Blue which came out at the start of this year featured some great trans representation and some engaging character arcs set against a backdrop of a political coup in a fantasy world.
I also would be remiss if I didn't bring up one of my favorite mangas, Witch Hat Atelier. Besides being utterly beautiful, it deftly tackles different topics of mental health amongst its growing cast of characters and utilizes the themes of friendship and overcoming adversity in such a way that strengthens all of its characters in tightly plotted arcs.
Switching gears back to tv & film, I already mentioned Avatar the Last Airbender, but I can't stress it enough that if you have not watched that show (as well as The Legend of Korra) then you need to make it a priority. Plus it's on Netflix now so seriously, get to it. I don't often say something is a perfect series because I know I can be overzealous when I really like something, but once I finished Avatar I did feel like I had watched the perfect series. Plus you have a ton of comics that are actually well worth catching up to as well, so it's a wealth of material you can get lost in.
I'll cheat again and link my review of Kipo, another series that has the makings of being perfect (but I'll hold off as I haven't started Season 2 yet). Its themes of friendship and of learning more about others and accepting them should really connect for She-Ra fans.
One standard of quality I'll point out is that both Kipo and She-Ra are put out by Dreamworks Animation, so I definitely have to plug their reboot of Voltron. I haven't finished it yet because just like She-Ra I don't really want it to end. It's a truly engaging sci-fi action story with a great cast of characters that's engagingly fleshed out throughout the series.
I also just need to plug Gravity Falls. The depth of character development in such an odd package and the complex plotting throughout the series just made it stand out to me and is still one of my favorite shows hands down. So much is tackled in just 2 seasons and while it feels like a complete work it just leaves you wishing for more episodes.
This should be a good start, but there's a wealth of other books and shows you should keep an eye out for and I'll link a few more below. Happy viewing/reading!