Girl Scouts, Lumberjanes, and the Power of Friendship – by Renee Thompson
Warning: Some spoilers
Existing in the time between Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day leave many people facing the cold reality of winter. That being that it’s winter, it’s cold, and it is no longer the holiday season. But, the Girl Scouts of America are happy to perk up this part of the year by setting up cookie stands across the country in grocery stores, pharmacies and in some states, even marijuana dispensaries. What better to complement those Thin Mints than Boom! Box’s own scout themed Lumberjanes comics. The comics are set in a modern, but magical summer camp in what appears to be the Pacific Northwest.
Winner of the Will Eisner Award in 2015 for Best Series, this critically-acclaimed ongoing comic series begin in 2014 with writers Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis, illustrations by Brooke Allen, colors by Maarta Allen and letters by Aubrey Aiese. Currently there are fifty issues, with three special issues, that are compiled into ten volumes, with the eleventh scheduled to come out in April of 2019. Lumberjanes is a fantastic series for all ages but centers mostly around themes catered to young adolescents. Many of the small details in Lumberjanes are borrowed from the Girl Scouts, so former scouts can relive camp memories and those that could never afford the trip can see what magic awaits those that journey into the woods.
The main protagonists Jo, April, Ripley, Mal and Molly are Lumberjane scouts in the Roanoke cabin at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Girls Hardcore Lady Types. Volume 1: Beware the Holy Kitten begins in the middle of a dark forest outside of camp in the dead of night. There, the girls investigate after spotting a shape-shifting character, known as Bearwoman, while they are trying to earn their Up All Night Badge. Soon, the girls are surrounded by three-eyed foxes and must fight their way back to camp.
April, a preppy redhead, is quick to use her diary as a weapon. Meanwhile Ripley, a wild but sweet blue-haired girl, attempts to ride a fox and punch it. Molly, a silent tall
outdoorsy type, opts instead to pet the foxes. Mal, an edgy musician, joins Jo, the leader of the group and a semi-aloof math enthusiast, in fending off the strange fox creatures. After the battle, Jo discovers a magical golden eye in the wreckage.
Noticing the girls are missing, nerdy camp counselor Jen rounds up the scouts and marches them straight to the camp director’s office to receive punishment for breaking curfew. Rosie the camp’s director, a mysterious D.I.Y. or die figure, is first seen carving an intricate wood sculpture of a supernatural owl hybrid creature. When questioning the girls, Jen quickly dismisses their story about the three-eyed foxes believing it to be a prank. Rosie on the other hand, believes the girls once they mention seeing a woman turn into a bear. After hearing the girls’ story, she decides to send them to bed without punishment.
The next morning while on a river rafting trip, the girls are separated from Jen by a river monster and journey back to camp on their own. While lost, they discover an ancient cave and must use their Lumberjane skills to solve puzzles, battle living statues and find their way out.
The beautifully bright use of earth tones and visual sound effects are some of the details that bring the story to life. Borrowing heavily from Girl Scout culture, the badges are given fun names like the It’s a Myth-tery Badge, which is given to scouts after demonstrating knowledge in mythology, or the Pungeon Badge, which is given to scouts that demonstrate a clever use of puns. Keeping in theme with the camp setting, each chapter begins with an excerpt from the Lumberjanes field manual, which displays a Lumberjane badge that is often used for foreshadowing. At the end of every chapter, a scrapbook page is compiled that shows the key events from the previous scenes.
It is this attention to detail in addition to the loveable and realistic quirky characters that make Lumberjanes a joy to read. Much like Girl Scouts, the characters are encouraged to grow in areas that interest them and push themselves to become the best that they can be. Throughout the series, there is terrific character growth, especially in Molly and Mal
who become a couple later in the series. The series also uses female role models in place of curse words, which is a brilliant way to expose young readers to figures like Girl Scout Founder Juliette Gordon Low or rock ‘n’ roll legend Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
Lumberjanes uses a variety of supernatural challenges to explore coming-of-age questions, like what it means to be girl and what true friendship is, which fit its simple but beautiful artwork. Lumberjanes, like Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp is perfect for the hard-core lady type in your life. A free preview of the comic can be found at http://www.boom-studios.com.