Women’s History Month guest, Queenie Chan

Queenie Chan is my favourite Australian manga person. I love the way she pushes genre boundaries gently and with delight, for example, on her dark Australian schoolgirl manga and the work she did with Kylie Chan. Queenie has used elements of history in her manga from the beginning. Of course I asked her to be a guest this month. A whole new audience is going to take their first steps into wanting to find out about women in history, thanks to this project. Gillian

The “Women Who Were Kings” Series, by Queenie Chan

A young Egyptian priestess begs Amun-Ra for guidance after the death of her brother and husband, Pharaoh Thutmose II. A common-born girl who was made an Imperial concubine claws her way up to become the Empress of China, then wonders how much higher she can rise. The bastard daughter of a king struggles to stay alive and be the last one standing, so that the crown had no choice but to fall on her head.

History buffs know that real life abounds with tales of political intrigue, strange twists of fate, and intrepid heroines. Most of these can be found in massive non-fiction tomes that could intimidate even the most ardent of book lovers, but what do graphic novel readers turn to? Unfortunately, there isn’t much. When comic book writers and artists are given full permission to produce work in a medium where there are no limits to one’s imagination, most tend to aim for the whimsical and the fantastical. Others tend to plumb their more personal moments, the lives of those around them, or the creations of their favourite writers for inspiration. People who look to the past, and especially those who try to do so with an objective eye for factual details, are not common. When it comes to the distant past of those from cultures halfway around the world, there’s even less.

But why shouldn’t a comic book writer/artist create what they want, but don’t see on the shelves? That’s how many a niche genre was started, after all. Why shouldn’t I combine my personal interests – ancient history, political intrigue, powerful women, compelling real-life stories — and make something that I want to read? I’ll finally have an excuse to educate myself about famous women I’ve always wanted to know more about, and will even be able to share my knowledge with curious readers of all ages in a tightly-paced, sumptuously-illustrated, 40-page package.

And thus, the graphic novel series “Women Who Were Kings” (Ages 10+) was born.

Hatshepsut”, the greatest of all female pharaohs in Ancient Egypt, was the first queen in my journey to catalogue the lives of awesome queens everywhere. She, the most foremost of noble ladies, was simply the first we know of – heralding from 3500 years from before our time. Next was “Wu Zetian”, China’s first and last female Emperor, who despite having achieved that globally rare feat of going from commoner to Emperor, is little known outside of East Asia. Third in-line for the throne was “Elizabeth I”, a queen who needs no introduction, though perhaps her traumatising childhood and nail-biting fight to stay on the throne is less well-known than it should be.

When the first“Women Who Were Kings” book proved to be fairly popular, I realised that the public are interested in powerful and interesting women from antiquity – they just have to be presented in a way that engages them. Other people seem to agree with this sentiment – the books are available to be ordered from Scholastic (for schools) and James Bennett/ALS (for libraries).

These positive results gave me confidence about the series, and I now have a list of queens whose lives I plan to work through. You can follow me and the results of my journey on my website below:

Series page:  https://queeniechan.com/history/

Order the books off my website (free shipping):  https://queeniechan.com/shop/

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