More focus grouping: Ladies Comics Project, Part 2

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Black Widow 6 Cover More focus grouping: Ladies Comics Project, Part 2Kelly Thompson has part 2 of her Ladies Comics Project up and we repeat THIS SHOULD BE MANDATORY READING for comics publishers and creators. The idea of giving comics-friendly but not necessarily conversant readers various comics is a bracing alternative to the endless nitpicking of devotees who sleep on mattresses stuffed with shredded copies of DEATHMATE. For instance, 37-year-old event planner DeAnne was disappointed that the cool pop art cover looked nothing like the insides:

The next paragraph may be controversial…I apologize in advance.  While reading the book, I had flashbacks to my younger days picking up the Bob’s Big Boy comics on our family outings (scoff if you must).  I remember hoping I would go to the restaurant and find a new installment of the comic rather than one I may have seen already.  There is nostalgia in that, to be sure, but the memory highlighted for me the feeling that the comic book industry (like the magazine industry) may be having significant trouble using their old model, which requires people to wait to receive something, and something that is in an older form like illustrations on print.  I don’t know that this is any sort of issue for the comic book industry – perhaps this model fits perfectly with what comic fans crave – but for me as a newbie, I started to wonder what other models might work:  The same story/illustration format but in a version that can be viewed online?  Or on digital devices?  For what it’s worth, I can see myself checking out the stories online (where I can get them at the touch of my fingers and whenever I want) rather than waiting for each book to come out one by one and wondering where to store them once I have them.  If I have blasphemed, forgive me.

16-year-old student Erin mirrored what many said — the idea of interesting, relatable female character was a big draw. However, she wasn’t hooked:

My favorite thing about the book was the art and the female leads. It was nice to see female superhero’s taking over for once. It has definitely opened my eyes to the style of comics, and helped me realize that I might enjoy reading more comics, however I believe I probably won’t go out to the store and pick one up to read as I’m just not a big reader.


And then there’s this 7-year-old. For the record, SET TO SEA, a tale of character development through brutality and violence, isn’t necessarily what I’d give a kid to read but hey, everyone has to grow up sometime.

Comments

  1. Well, everyone is welcome to come to my newly launched site

    http://www.pandorazwieback.com

    and download the free promotional comic for THE SAGA OF PANDORA ZWIEBACK. It’s my Young Adult novel series launching next April from Starwarp Concepts, about a 16-year-old Goth who can see monsters, teaming up with a 400-year-old, shape-shifting monster hunter named Annie. The first two novels involve a war among rival vampire clans.

    The premise was very popular with teen girls and young women at NYCC (even the three who told me their last name *was* Zwieback!), and they loved the comic. So, download and enjoy.

    (BTW, sorry for the rough state of the website. It’ll get all the bells and whistles added in the coming weeks.)

  2. Catering to anyone becomes unnecessary if you are honest in your story telling. People like it or they don’t. Try as we may, ask as we might, there is no formula. I’d say the best way to write for women is by looking to the ones you know, whether you are one or not. Not for advice but for the truth in who they are. But, that’s just how I look at art and writing. You just have to be honest. I sell a lot of paintings to women and men alike that way.

  3. GTHayes says:

    “I find it fascinating that so far all the same issues – are what seem to be keeping these ladies from becoming “comics readers” – price point, availability/access, continuity issues, drag time between issues, disappointment between cover art and interior art. So far they’ve all pretty much mentioned the same concerns and frustrations.”

    I agree and share these frustrations. I got over the nostalgia of going to the comic store every week a long, long time ago, and pretty much only read and purchase comics in graphic novel/tpb format.

    So, I am wondering what response these new readers would have to comics in the format of a compiled story arc? And what would happen to graphic novel sales if stores such as Borders pulled graphic novels out of the little sweaty compartmentalized section and had them available with the genres to match the storylines? Would more folks be open to reading Asterios Polyp or Logiccomix if they were put with literature or biography?

  4. What would happen if comics were “mainstreamed”? The Graphic Novel section would become a ghetto for titles not shelved elsewhere (along with some history or how-to books), and the other graphic novels would be hidden within the other sections, becoming hard to find. (B&N has a gay and lesbian fiction section in GLBT Studies. It’s mostly paperbacks from a few specific publishers. E. Lynn Harris, on the other hand, is in Fiction.)

    It’s like a small town. If the Best And Brightest leave town for college, how does that affect the quality of the town’s population?

    How many people have read Pekar’s “Macedonia”? Barnes & Noble shelves it in Current Affairs. Had B&N not merchandised it on a new release table, I would never have noticed it.

    Sure, stores could merchandise these titles to give them more publicity, but why specifically GNs when there are so many other books worthy of that same valuable display space?

    It is better is to have reviews in respected newspapers and magazines. That will encourage stores to display these titles. (My B&N features the day’s NY Times Book Review at the information desk, and the weekly review magazine has a permanent display next to the info desk.)

    It’s also better to have us “moles” in the bookstores, asking people what they like to read, and then suggesting a quality GN they may enjoy. Enjoy murder mysteries with some secret conspiracy? Try “Watchmen”. Like the Wizard of Oz? Try the IDW editions, with new stories and beautiful illustrations.

  5. Why not have graphic novels stay in one place, but divide that section by genre? After all, if I’m looking for comics, I’m looking for comics, and if I’m looking for books, books. But it would be nice to see where all the, say, fantasy comics are at a glance.

    It could also help break down the misconceptions that keep so many women away from the graphic novel section in the first place. When I’ve asked non-reader women why they don’t read comics, a major concern is not being aware of comics in genres that interest them.

    There are plenty of women who would probably get a kick out of romance/comedy/non-fiction/whathaveyou comics, but since they see comics as only superheroes and children’s comedy, they avoid the section altogether. Seeing a “Romance” sign in the graphic novel section might intrigue romance fans who would never have considered comics before.

    It might also bring an end to cringe-worthy articles referring to graphic novels as a single genre, which is always welcome.

  6. Synsidar says:

    Why not have graphic novels stay in one place, but divide that section by genre?

    One problem might be a paucity of graphic novels (in print) within the genres. I ran into trouble trying to search the Library of Congress’s collection, so I did a keyword search on the New York Public Library’s circulating collection, using graphic novel combined with romance, then mystery. Look at the results.

    There might be better proxies for counts of genre graphic novels than the NYPL, but —

    SRS

  7. GTHayes says:

    Torsten –
    I see your point, but would argue that

    “The Graphic Novel section would become a ghetto for titles not shelved elsewhere”

    is already the case. The graphic Novel section is a destination for those seeking it out, and not necessarily inviting to those new readers who might really enjoy non-superhero comix. So it already is kind of a ghetto.

  8. Ah… but no moreso than Romance or Mystery or Science Fiction.

    Currently, at Barnes & Noble, just about every fictional graphic novel not aimed at kids is shelved there. There’s Watchmen and Love and Rockets and Asterios Polyp and… all the other stuff you may not like, but which somebody might enjoy.

    It’s as visible as any other section of the store. Merchandising helps, either on an endcap, or on a new release table, or with movie tie-ins. But you could say that of any section in the store. What do you feature to help sales?

    Or go even bigger… your local comics shop. The entire store is one big graphic novel section. What do they promote? How do they merchandise product? How do you “seduce the innocents” walking by? Free Comics? A window display of the latest GN movie?

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