Gun Street Girl

Gun Street Girl was Barb’s comic about a gay gal, Liz, and a street magician (much less fancy than a stage magician, but he does real magic), Eddie Caution.

It was online during the very start of the webcomic era, then it was published by a publisher called Bedazzled Ink that specialized in LGBT stories, but they didn’t really know how to market it, so we took it back, and now we and artist Ryan Howe are going to be bringing it back again soon as a two-volume collected work from Lucha Comics.

A pencil-and-ink sketch by artist Ryan Howe of fictional character Liz Pendragon.


“Our current rave [for digital graphic novels] has to be Gun Street Girl . . . Sassy, smart, and socially subversive…”

–Diane Anderson-Minshall, Curve Magazine

“This series puts the fun and humanity back into the genre of fantastical noir; you could see it as a more feminine and upbeat take on DC Comics’ Hellblazer . . .

…With comics stories, it’s all in the execution, and in this, GSG is outstanding. Lien has a sharp ear for dialogue, and the characters of Liz and Eddie have an instant chemistry.

Lien manages to craft a character who is neither tiresome nor artificial. Part of it may be the fact that, for a change, the character is actually being written by a woman. Liz is an appealing mix of feistiness and innocence—without being cynically ’empowered’ or bland. She’s merely of the mindset of a typical (well, ‘realistic,’ at least) college’age girl with a love for the counterculture and a sense of adventure.

The art, by Ryan Howe, is a great match with the story, featuring—yes—heavy shadows and nicely textured backgrounds; rather than rendering Liz’s world bleak and morbid, it adds just the right note of danger and excitement. He … does an excellent job of conveying character, whether it be the twinkle in Eddie’s eye or the way Liz’s attitude puffs up a relatively slender frame.

Will Eisner’s The Spirit is clearly the influence here, and like that classic strip, the pulp stylishness is never allowed to overwhelm the storytelling. But more to the point, the grit of these stories is the grit of everyday life—and it only serves to give the fanciful stories that extra bit of texture.”

–Adam Prosser,

“Packed with sly socio-political observations, designed to subvert all reader expectations, and by turns savvy, sexy, and delightfully strange, Gun Street Girl does more than inject a badly needed dose of fresh blood into the sadly anemic action-adventure genre — it also heralds the arrival of a writer of real promise, invention and wit who is possessed of an original vision and voice. . . If you haven’t been reading Gun Street Girl, you’re simply missing out on one of the single best things on the web. “

–Bill Baker, comics journalist and reviewer

“Creepy and cool. GSG fills a much-needed niche in the current world of comics. It features a strong young woman, bucking conventional wisdom and performing what is traditionally only a man’s job: hired gun. She does the job well, without showing her cleavage every third panel…”

–Jane Irwin, creator, Vogelein

“Dramatic, comedic and action-packed, GSG delivers turbocharged pacing laced with the wittiest dialogue in web comics… it recalls when DC Comics’ Vertigo books actually were cutting edge, with razor-sharp dialogue, punchy pacing, and airtight plotting… It deftly showcases a love for what the medium can do and how a comic can transcend its genre foundation and tell any kind of story… Fantastic.”

–Steve Bryant, creator of 2004 Eisner nominee Athena Voltaire

“Gun Street Girl resembles much that has come before on TV and cinema screens, in pulp novels, comics and video games yet it doesn’t indulge in pastiche. It rather creates a new whole; wholly familiar and wholly new.”


“Lien-Cooper’s dialogue is quick and punchy, while her plots feature a number of intriguing cliffhangers and hooks… It’s very difficult to nail down any sort of comparison for this title, but it makes me think of a lighter-toned Hellblazer, featuring elements that will appeal to fans of Fables. Whatever the case, Gun Street Girl is excellent, with storytelling exceeding that of many books you’ll find in the comic shop. I highly recommend it.”

–Fletcher Adams,

“GSG is my favorite online comic . . . I’m a sucker for this kind of action/psycho-horror genre anyway (Witness my love of Buffy, Hellblazer, Lost Boys and even Charmed), but if Gun Street Girl retains her title for anything, it’s for Barb’s ability to pace a story.

Like many online serials, Gun Street Girl hits the ‘net one page at a time. Making the end of every page suspenseful enough to drag new readers back is a hard thing to do. Managing to do that and make the finished story flow smoothly is harder still and I have to say that Barb manages it beautifully.”

–Regie K. Rigby, Owner/Manager, Destination Venus Comics, Harrogate, England

“[Gun Street Girl] is f—— brilliant! It’s a brilliant fusion of some of the best elements of Dr. Strange, Hellblazer, and Strangers in Paradise, which works really well . . . It’s well-written with believable dialogue, a touch of humour and a side order of great plot ideas. The characters are appealing, charismatic, 3-dimensional, believable and interesting, which only makes you want to read more of their exploits.

The artwork by Ryan Howe is very professional, yet isn’t off the production line… The artwork here is every bit as professional as the mainstream stuff yet has that important X factor that gives it bona fide soul. The artwork shows that you can be consistent and professional and have good quality artwork, but you can also be stylistic and interesting at the same time. In short, Howe’s artwork shows them how it should be done. This comic is the sort of thing that makes this all worthwhile. It’s the all-too rare diamond in a massive pile of cut glass.”

Any reader would do well to read this!”

–Glenn Carter,

“I have always been told by so-called experts that online comics just aren’t as good as the ones you can hold in your hands. Well, I’m happy to say that Gun Street Girl blasts that ridiculous myth to bits!

Lien-Cooper’s excellent, well-paced storytelling is complimented by the art of Ryan Howe. Howe illustrates an incredible comic that could go toe to toe with anything that you might find on the shelves today. However, Howe’s work stands out from the masses. Howe’s work doesn’t have that assembly-lined, looks-like-everyone-else look to it. Howe has a distinctive style that gives this comic book an even more gritty feel.

It’s hard to classify Gun Street Girl. It’s a smart, sexy, action-adventure comic with extremely believable and likable characters. At times Gun Street Girl feels like the movie Get Carter. Then, especially with the story “Dreams of Children,” Gun Street Girl turns into an eerie horror flick. In fact, Gun Street Girl has so far read like a really good movie. I think it’s safe to say that you won’t find anything else like Gun Street Girl – on the spinner racks or online. And that’s what I look for in a comic book!


Fictional character Liz Pendragon sits on a crate upon which is written a story title: "A Cautionary Tale"

Highlights from an interview Barb did with the now-defunct women-and-comics organization Friends of Lulu…

Friends of Lulu Interview Questions:

1. Were you a comic book fan growing up? If so, what comics did you read?

I was a tomboy, so of course I read comics. The era I grew up in was just before the whole Direct Market/collector mentality of “hey, put that in mylar, it might be worth something someday,” so people were dumping comics in garage sales all of the time. I sometimes think it was better before we got a collector’s mentality, because little kids like I was then could actually read comics and not have to worry about anything but having a good time.

Anyway, I loved the old Bronze Age Batman comics and horror comics, although I read just about every genre out there. Actually, that’s not quite true. When I was eight or so, my mom got a big box of comics from a rummage sale– half horror, half romance comics. I swear, I never touched the romance comics. Here I was, a little kid, but I thought to myself, “Why do they think a girl like me would want to read about such stupid, passive characters that nothing ever happens to?” Okay, I might not have been that articulate, but I was that puzzled.

When I hear people say that females don’t read comics, especially not adventure comics, I cringe, because I practically learned to read from action-adventure comics.

Around the age of ten, I abandoned comics. I got ahold of an old Warren magazine copy of The Spirit, done up in these gorgeous gray-scales, about the size of Rolling Stone magazine. It was the greatest, most adult comic I had ever read. It was tough, smart, funny, scary, unique, and altogether wonderful. Eisner rocks. Knowing that I probably couldn’t find another issue of the damned thing, I decided that, having seen perfection, everything else looked terrible and childish by comparison.

I tried coming back to comics a few years later. I was told that there were comics out there for “mature” readers. Unfortunately, the comic I was given was The Killing Joke. Sexualized violence towards one of my favorite comic book characters simply for shock value did not go down smoothly with me. So I decided “Comics haven’t grown up yet,” and I walked away, as many female readers do when comics blatantly offend them. The ironic thing: I like a lot of Alan Moore’s other work…

Then I got into comics again because of DC Mature titles like Doom Patrol and Sandman.

After awhile, I wanted to write comics. I was so naïve back then, so young and innocent…!

2. What was your first job in the comic book industry?

First, I helped co-found Sequential Tart, where I literally wrote thousands of pages of reviews, did countless interviews, and many essays concerning issues concerning women in comics. Then I worked as the managing editor of Comic Book Artist for awhile. It won one of its Eisners for that year.

But, while working in comic book journalism was fun, my heart was still into writing my own comics! So I wrote Gun Street Girl for Graphic Smash, a popular webcomics site.

Gun Street Girl was me writing exactly what I wanted to write, the way I wanted to write it, the way I wanted comics to be, and the way I knew readers would want a comic to be. Gun Street Girl is the story of a young woman, Liz, who loves magic, though she can’t do any herself, so she comes to England, where magic’s easier to find than America, and eventually meets up with down-on-his-luck magician Eddie Caution, and becomes his bodyguard and enforcer, muscle and fighting-wise.

I subverted and/or refused to follow all the things I didn’t like about comics—the two of them will never, ever fall in love with each other—not only are his feelings for Liz paternal and familial, but she’s gay, and lives with her girlfriend, Prana. She doesn’t do magic, she’s not any kind of “chosen one,” and most of the stories are very small in scope—no mammoth battles between good and evil for all the people in the world. And yet, it really is action-adventure, and not slice-of-life, it’s me incorporating everything about characterization and comics storytelling I picked up from Eisner and especially from The Spirit, and Ryan Howe’s art, his facility with body language and expressions, allowed me to do so.

3. Do you have any advice for women looking to break into professional comic book writing?

–Be the best at what you do.

–Study your craft like it’s a religion.

–Write/draw whenever and wherever possible.

–Learn to meet deadlines. Don’t flake out on people, unless it’s absolutely necessary.

–Develop extroversion, nerves of steel, self-confidence, and an unshakeable belief in your worth and your work.

–Learn not to internalize the messages we’re given about female comic book readers and comic book professionals.

–If you’re in school, take as many English/writing classes as possible, even if you’re an artist. Understanding how fiction works helps all industry professionals.

–Don’t copy what other people are doing. Get your own authorial voice, if you’re an author, your own art style if you’re an artist.

–Learn to live with rejection, even when it isn’t fair.

–As difficult as it is to do, don’t waste all your energy on trying to “get in.” If a company doesn’t treat you well, find another. If no company treats you well, consider self-publishing.

–Get a support system so you can vent. You’ll need it.

4. What does a comic book writer do exactly? Can you give us some insight as to the process involved?

A comic book writer does what any other author does. She writes good, tight plots, takes care with her pacing, her sense of tone, her dialog, her characterization, the psychological journeys of the characters, etc. But she does it in twenty-two pages, which, when you think about it, isn’t that much. The average comic has about 110 panels. That means that she has to cut everything to the bone. Novel writers don’t have to– and when they try and write comics, their sense of pacing is often appalling. Comic book writing is a distinct craft from playwriting, movie writing, and book writing. That’s why I’m always puzzled when publishers import talent from other types of writing.

Comic book writing is a lot like playing guitar. It’s simple to learn. It doesn’t take all that long, either. Since it’s simple and easy to learn, some people mistakenly believe that anyone can write comics, which is one reason why we have so many bad comics out there. Like guitar playing, the craft of comics takes years to learn to do well. And, like guitar playing, a professional soon realizes that there’s always something new to learn. Comic book writing is fascinating, I love doing it, and I respect it greatly.

As for the process, I come up with an idea, think it or talk it to death, outline it, making sure I know where the story is going, then I write it. I spend a lot of time on characterization and motivation. But I work on plots as well. I work to make sure that they make sense, that they’re as fast paced and as exciting as I can make them. I try to make my comics mean, lean fighting machines. I never have writer’s block when it comes to ideas. I actually have too many. I rarely have problems outlining. Where I do have the odd problem is sitting in front of the computer with a blank page. But once I start, I’m no longer intimidated. In fact, it’s wonderful. It’s just getting that first page on screen that’s a challenge sometimes. Maybe twenty percent of the time.

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