Tracie Santos and Elissa Leach met at a Cafe Bourbon Street show after recognizing each other as comic book lovers. Santos noticed Leach wearing a patch by comic artist Kate Leth, and, "At this point, you weren't hearing Kate Leth's name a lot, so I was like, 'Hang on a minute. We should be friends.'"

Tracie Santos and Elissa Leach met at a Cafe Bourbon Street show after recognizing each other as comic book lovers. Santos noticed Leach wearing a patch by comic artist Kate Leth, and, "At this point, you weren't hearing Kate Leth's name a lot, so I was like, 'Hang on a minute. We should be friends.'"

Soon after, the two started a book club of sorts, one for women and non-binary comic book lovers. That book club, called The Circle, celebrates its first anniversary this weekend with a potluck, reading and guest speakers at 7 p.m. Saturday at Kafe Kerouac.

In honor of that anniversary, and to coincide with comic book artist Eleanor Davis' ongoing exhibition at the Columbus Museum of Art, we asked Santos and Leach for a list of their own, for their own. Here are 12 essential graphic novels or web comics, by women, of the last year (or so).

1. "Sacred Heart," Liz Suburbia

This redrawn web-comic is about a world where all adults have disappeared and teens are faced with the task of creating their own culture. It's largely non-verbal, but no less powerful. "Because it's focused on teenagers, it's sweetly melancholic," Santos said.

2. "Operation Margarine," by Katie Skelly

Skelly won the "Emerging Artist Prize" at this year's inaugural CXC comics festival. Santos loves the book so much she's prone to sing the title when saying it out loud. "She fuses so many influences - the biker-gang girl movies from the '50s and '60s, with a lot of French-influenced art. It's raw storytelling, very open and emotionally honest. It's weird, funny, sad and confusing, and it's fine with that."

3. "Miseryland," by Keiler Roberts

These simple, but well-drawn comics approach life just as the crow flies - straight and to the point. "A lot of comics, when they're autobiographical, try hard to be cool. There's nothing cool about this book," Leach says. "All of her comics are basically about her family life and her own mental illness. You wonder how it can be so funny and good and poignant. I'm not a laugh-out-loud person, but I've gotten looks from strangers while reading this book from laughing so hard."

4. "Sea Urchin," by Laura Knetzger

"Sea Urchin," is a beautiful, vibrant, under-the-radar sleeper that concisely tells stories about making comics and being creative while depressed.

5. "Super Mutant Magic Academy," by Jillian Tamaki

"It is just the cutest," Leach says. "There are a lot of vignettes from a magical academy with different kinds of people and magical beings. Stories about coming out, and just generally being different."

6. "The Oven," by Sophie Goldstein

In this dystopian future, the world has burned to death and a couple runs away to live as farmers on a commune where everyone's obsessed with having kids. Except, maybe, our protagonists, who wrestle with whether it's a good idea to bring a child into, basically, hell.

7. "Not Funny Ha Ha," by Leah Hayes

Santos says this is one of the best written books about abortion because it doesn't interject its own opinion. "Hayes doesn't go into how (the women) got pregnant or why, because it doesn't matter. It just excises that whole part of the discussion to get at what's going to happen to the body and how it's going to feel in a way that's not graphic, stark, aggressive or overly medical."

8. "Displacement," by Lucy Knisley

In "Displacement," Knisley's latest in a series of graphic travelogues, a woman takes her grandparents on a cruise and struggles to come to terms with their decline and her own maturing sense of responsibility as a newfound caretaker.

9. "Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?" by Roz Chast

Chast's book also deals with the decline of loved ones, but this story addresses dementia and is told from the perspective of the elderly, who are adjusting to their own new role of the one being cared for.

10. "Diary of a Teenage Girl," by Phoebe Gloeckner

So, technically this coming-of-age book came out more than a decade ago, but it's recently been reprinted, and its movie adaptation came out last year, renewing interest in this classic. It'll make you deeply uncomfortable and yet firmly invested, like the best art does, while also, Leach notes, challenging your preconceptions about graphic novels by telling its story mostly with prose that's accompanied with pictures and a few panels.

11."Soldier's Heart," by Carol Tyler

"Soldier's Heart" is a story of a young woman trying to understand her father and his experience as a soldier. "The art is beautiful and soft, which you don't see with this type of material, and it's strangely jarring," Santos says. "And it deals with stuff you don't typically see in a personal way."

12. "Nimona," by Noelle Stevenson

"Nimona," Leach warns, might seem like a goofy book for teenagers at first, because the art's cute and the story's funny. But this collection is also incredibly smart and sophisticated. "You can read 'Nimona' as a young adult and totally get a ton of stuff out it, but if you go back and read it as an adult, you're going to experience different things," Tracie says.