More on comics, women, branding and the future

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My essay on Marvel and DC as dedicated safe spaces for male-focused entertainment got quite a bit of talk going, which is the best possible reaction to any essay. Several very smart people wrote rebuttals, and these posts also generated very thoughtful comment sections.

The very articulate Laura Sneddon took on my essay and a bunch of recent nerd gender issues with Women in Comics: It Ain’t Over, which also announces that the battle is going to continue. Both Laura and Sue chide me for giving up on superhero comics. Here’s Sneddon’s take:

This double standard still exists today, where women in independent and autobiographical comics are seen as acceptable and normal (much like women authors in prose and poetry), while women creators in action and superhero comics are seen as the odd ones out. And indeed the statistics bear out that they are the minority, even as women readers of these comics continues to increase. Any argument that we should be happy with what we've got, and turn our back on the superhero strips misses the point of these action comics – they are not just for men, and it is not only men that want to create and consume them. That's what the publishers might think, but it sure as hell shouldn't be what they actually think.
[snip]
Women buy the majority of cinema tickets, and buy the majority of books. Women are a powerful sector of the media consumption pie, and when a large media craze hits, it’s generally women who are making up the majority of sales. Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games, 50 Shades of Grey – each of which single handedly kept the publishing market afloat every time it’s poised to sink. What publisher wouldn’t want to appeal to this mass market of hungry readers? And yet even the independent and literary comics struggle to find such exposure. Why? Because the general public’s idea of comics is that they are the superheroes, the scantily clad tits and ass covers, the boys domain, the shops that women often feel unwelcome in, and the comics that women supposedly do read are often hidden behind them. When any mainstream press article focusing on these latter titles must first establish, again and again, that women do read comics, that comics are for grown ups, and that spandex isn’t a necessity, it’s easy to see why they just skip past them instead to the latest literary wonder prose.


Sneddon’s post has a lot of great links including this brilliant post by Gail Simone which I’ll gank in its entirety:

YOU KNOW WHAT IS EXHAUSTING? …being at a convention, a busy convention, and having dozens, sometimes hundreds of women in my signing line, not there because they are being dragged there but because they love comics—taking pictures with them, admiring their amazing cosplay, listening to their ideas and hopes and favorite stories, listening to their passion about the characters and the medium in general, talking with endless female aspiring writers and so many ridiculously talented female colleagues…

…and then having to go to an interview or a panel and being asked why don’t women read comics.


Sue at DCWKA had a piece called DC Women Kicking Ass – It Takes A While But Even Glaciers Do Eventually Melt or Why Change Will Happen in Superhero Comics, and the title pretty much explains the angle. When my essay first came up, Sue tweeted that it had depressed her, and I’m glad to see that she came roaring back. I’m not going to refute her points, because I agree with most of them—change needs to happen, pigeonholing is not productive in the long run, and so on—but here’s an interesting factoid:

And earlier this week I read something that I believe points to that. When DC announced the digital spin-off of Smallville, I said that this was book that could have a big impact on realizing that female readers can bring incremental financial value (because if there is one thing the Beat and I do agree on is that money talks). The audience of television’s Smallville was made up up of about 1/3 women even slightly edging up closer to 50% at times. 

The site iCv2 put up an interview this week with Dan DiDio and Jim Lee and Lee mentioned something very interesting:

And one thing I’ll add, through comiXology we had some data from our sales on Smallville and about 40% of people buying or downloading that comic book were new consumers; they had opened up new accounts.  To me, that’s a staggering large number and I think it points to the way we’re going to see a lot of growth, especially in terms of new readers.

There’s not mention of who those “new readers” are but I don’t think it is too much to assume there are a lot of women in that 40%. Women drawn to a book that is a spin-off of a superhero show that had quite a large female viewership. I mean I’m sure there are males in that group. It could be males who don’t like the current Superman books (I’ve heard from those) or male Smallville fans who for some reason just didn’t think to pick up a Superman comic before or current Superman readers who can’t wait for the floppy to appear and need their digital fix of Superman.


There is indeed a message there, and hopefully it will be heeded. But in the comments on Sue’s piece, Mary229 has a post which recounts a story which I think gets to the core of what I’m talking about:

According to the book, Television in Transition: The Live and Afterlife of the American Action Hero written by a Shawn Shimbach the audience as calculated when Smallville was a part of the WB network was 51% female.

The book details in length how Warner Bros. was hoping to use Smallville to bring balance to the WB network by creating a market for both women and men at the same time.   At the time, the WB network always skewed female and the idea was that men between the ages of 18-34 didn’t want to watch TV but rather play video games.   Warner Bros was hoping to use Smallville to create a balance in the audience.   And it worked.   According to this publication, “By mid March 2003, the audience (for Smallville) was 51% female in it’s audience composition.”…  “Smallville was forming a coalition audience for a growing network even during a period of audience fragmentation.”

The CW network (which was the result of the WB and UPN merging together) specifically focused on the male demo because female viewers were a given for their network.   Therefore, they trumpeted male viewers as that was something that made Smallville and Supernatural unique.  


Incredible to think that an audience that’s a mere 51% female would be seen as a triumph of male-viewership. But yes that is what we are dealing with. What everyone needs to come to terms with is that Hollywood doesn’t see things in terms of “this is a good show” they think of it as “This is a good show for women 18-25″ or “tween boys” or “urban viewers” — Hollywood produces EVERYTHING with a target demo in mind. They are very happy when something reaches more than one or two quadrants — because that means the things is probably a huge hit.

The irony here is that the most successful superhero movies have been successful because women went willingly with men or even—brace yourself—on their own to see them. I’ve seen plenty of groups of teenaged girls or women at superhero movies. FACT. The ones that women didn’t like — Ghost Rider, Green Lantern — have been meh or worse at the box office.

I think most of Marvel’s Disney-era superhero hero movies have been fairly “woman friendly” — the female characters have all been integral to the plot and given motivation and back story. All the characters played by Natalie Portman, Liv Tyler and Hayley Atwell have been perfectly acceptable. Mystique in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is one of the best characters ever in a superhero movie, and the greatest female superhero. We all loved Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character in The Dark Knight. And so on and so forth. Sadly, this doesn’t mean we’ll see an awesome Daughters of the Dragon or Birds of Prey movie any time soon, but the movies, at least, have followed the “all you must do to keep women readers is not actively repel them” rule.

As all the above points out, there are women who like superheroes in a multitude of mediums, and when people don’t see that, it’s because they don’t WANT to.

But when I was a kid things like this image had a powerful effect on me:
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It would be great for today’s teenaged girls to have a similar image, but this is a more typical image:
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I think the fight that Sue and Laura advocate should go on and needs to go on, but it needs to address the proper foe with the proper tactics. The importance of superheroes as “the boy space” to Warners and Disney both is definitely a powerful factor in how they approach DC and Marvel. People are fretting everywhere about how boys aren’t reading, or learning or doing anything much but playing video games. Superheroes are seen as a way to keep them engaged.

NOW, we do know there there are ways to present this material in a boy-first way that doesn’t offend or alienate women. THIS is where the most pernicious effects of comics long-running sexism are most apparent. In my earlier essay I didn’t really address the existing sexism that affects a lot of the superhero comics industry — mostly because I’ve written about it many, many times before, but also because it is a slightly separate issue from the “demographic imperative”. One can argue — as Sue and Laura do — that the demographic imperative is an outgrowth of that sexism, but I think the remedies and pushback against it are somewhat different in nature. Sexism is institutionalized in the TV and film industries, as well, but we still get things like the Amethyst cartoon and the new Lauren Faust Supergirl segment of DC Nation. TV is a popular medium that is consumed by boys, girls, men and women, so appealing to different demographics there is not such a devastating turn-off for male viewers.

However, my guess is that comic periodicals are viewed as a very niche product that is NOT consumed by women — at least by the corporate shot-callers.

And of course, that’s partly true. In a wider sense, this is the argument for the future of the comics periodical. It is true that both Marvel and DC produce some diverse material — Marvel does Oz and Jane Austen, DC has Vertigo. But Vertigo is very much an endangered species these days, and Marvel’s literary adaptations are just a small deviation from the overall superhero publishing plan.

As we’ve discussed endlessly here—and by the admission of just about every Big Two executive—their sales model is currently driven by requiring readers to pick up more and more of the line via crossovers and events. The New 52 exploded loose from that sales model, but we already have news of more events and crossovers coming as sales find their level. Marvel is actually in a worse pickle right now — they’ve just about evented themselves into unconsciousness. It’s the era of editor-driven comics. The driving need to focus on a very narrow reader segment has led to an era of onerous corporate control at the Big Two—freelancers are generally unhappy, and Image has been the main beneficiary. I’m going to go into this in more depth in my next long post, but the way the Big Two operate now, it is impossible for creators to be creative or initiate anything. And by sticking with the house style, superhero publishers have cut themselves off from everything innovative and exciting in the comics industry—as Chris Butcher wrote in his own essay which referenced mine:

Basically, the gates are down. There are smart publishers, and they aren’t turning down projects by rote anymore. Projects with queer characters, for girls, for women, for kids, for people of colour. And where there aren’t publishers, there are now distribution systems for creators to put their work directly in the hands of readers. If your sole desire is to write/draw Spider-Man or Superman (or god help you Batgirl) then, yeah, the gates are tighter than ever. They probably aren’t going to loosen, either. But if your goal is to do comics, and tell stories that reach people, then that’s at least possible now. There is an industry now, where there wasn’t 10 years ago.


Outside, there’s a riot going on. But inside the superhero industry, where the mandate is to be an idea factories for film studios, it’s a one way highway to a man-cave. If present trends continue, eventually the Big Two will be about as creatively innovative as all those licensed Princess storybooks that Disney puts out.

And I’ll get into that more in a little bit…

Comments

  1. Pink Apocalypse says:

    One-way highway to a man cave. Isn’t that the truth.

    I feel like I have to reiterate something. I (and friends of mine as well) don’t mind spandex comics being ‘boy-centric’. Just stop with the blatant, sometimes nakedly-aggressive objectifying. I refuse to believe they’re the same thing. And I refuse to believe guys would stop reading comics if the crass objectifying stopped. I want to believe people are better then that.

    Side note: I’ve been reading my old issues of Doctor Strange (V2, 1975+) all week. Neat pic!

  2. The 51% point on Smallville is both fascinating and mind-numbing. This is such a big-picture, genetically-disposed argument that it is hard to even say something without qualifying it.

    I do think you were a little dismissive of the superheroes. Only because, as you admit all the time, you don’t read them like you used to. I think that hurts your argument a little. For though certainly the majority of superhero comics fall into this manly mission of young manliness, some don’t. Hickman’s FF is a fantasy about family, not adolescence. Slott’s Spider-man is wonderful serial soap opera. And Fraction then Gillen’s Journey Into Mystery — about a kid bad guy god and his not-my-girlfriend from Hel who likes milkshakes — is about as non-superheroic — in unbelievable ways — as a big 2 comic could be. So I think some at least are being given the opportunity to take creative chances. But overall, I think you are absolutely right. Even though so-called big changes were made on iconic characters — they become looks 20 years back back rather than forward. I think that comes with the territory — both in safeguarding the license and the very nature of superheroes, which were designed, from day one, to appeal to boys. And since every superhero is a facet of the first one, this is in the DNA.

    That being said, I’m trying to imagine the superheroic utopia here and I can’t even see it. What does it look like? No brokeback? An all-girl group? Or is it better staying more subversive, like the ’80s sticker of Valkyrie? Will Gamorra, the most dangerous woman in the universe, be the one who tips the scales? Or is this the wrong way of looking at it? Is it just a really good Batman or Superman (or any -man/-woman) interpretation that hasn’t been told yet? Can the genre really be that restrictive?

    The good thing is that people are trying, even though they hit that wall of the M 18-34 mandate. I don’t think it is a lost cause. And that’s exciting, in a way.

    great stuff

  3. Torsten Adair says:

    “Comics! They’re not just for guys anymore!”

    In science fiction, women gained acceptance in the 1960s via two outlets: the New Wave literary movement which ignored the almost stereotypical BEM style of storytelling in favor of more experimental techniques and themes; Star Trek.

    Star Trek brought an influx of female fans to SF gatherings. (Tortured, conflicted, intelligent Spock was the sex object, not Kirk.) Moorcock’s “New World” magazine offered a literary outlet for New Wave writing, which filtered over to the U.S., where it combined with the revolutionary post-War Zeitgeist. (2001: A Space Odyssey also helped, helping erase the B-movie sci-fi stereotype with a high-budget, cinematic masterpiece.)

    Yes, there was criticism from the Old Guard. Yes, it eventually ran out of steam in the 1970s. But by then, many female authors had developed literary reputations, and by the time I started attending SF cons in the 1980s, it was a given that there were female SF fans. No big deal (except to me, but I was a hormonally imbalanced teenager).

    Comics had the underground movement of the same time, with an influx of female creators. Distribution was spotty, so exposure was limited. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything in the mass media to inspire the general audience. (Well, Batman and the Green Hornet was a blip, a fad.)

    Reading old comics news magazines from the 1980s, nobody seemed to think anything unusual about women in comics. I think things shifted once Marvel ended their Star/kids line (Barbie, Sweet XVI), when the Direct Market began to contract after the B&W implosion, when publishers (and retailers) were less likely to experiment with titles outside of the safe and reliable superhero genre.

  4. Interesting point about the House Style. It occurs to me that my favorite New 52 books are the ones that look the LEAST like Everything Else on the Rack: Animal Man and Frankenstein, for starters.

    And then the diversity point — another of my favorites is Demon Knights, which matches the House Style pretty closely but which is pretty far out on the fringe of the superhero genre. And which probably has the most diverse lineup in a DC or Marvel book right now — it didn’t hit me until a few issues in, but this is a book that plunked a Muslim, a transgender, and a disabled woman down in a medieval fantasy setting, and made it work as an organic story instead of feeling like somebody was ticking off boxes.

    I don’t know what kind of numbers those books are doing, but they’re critical successes at least, and they’re doing well enough to avoid cancellation. DC wanting to diversify the genres it works in seems to have something to do with it too, though in practice the “non-superhero” books are all “superhero in a less-traditional setting” books.

    I also don’t know what that means in terms of attracting female readers. But at least somebody somewhere seems interested in expanding the audience.

  5. That Valkyrie sticker is from around 1975, per the copyright when the “Women’s Lib” era of feminism was at its peak.

    Nice social history of SF, Torsten, but I can tell you the 80s were not an entirely welcoming place for women in the burgeoning direct sales market. However in the dwindling newsstand girls were definitely reading comics.

  6. Synsidar says:

    I think that comes with the territory — both in safeguarding the license and the very nature of superheroes, which were designed, from day one, to appeal to boys. And since every superhero is a facet of the first one, this is in the DNA.

    You seem to be assuming that a superhero is, basically, a power fantasy. An alternate view is that superhero fiction is just a type of fantasy fiction or science fiction, depending on the justification for and use of the powers. As Torsten noted, female writers dominated in the Star Trek field, because they concentrated on developing the characters and their relationships (Spock and ____; Spock and Saavik, for example), while male SF writers concentrated on plots, and fit the crew into fairly standard SF scenarios.

    For a writer who wants to create, the standard superhero archetype is a starting point, not an endpoint or an unchanging object. The idea that there’s something magical about Superman, Batman, or Spider-Man and his simplicity falls apart when he’s compared to practically any fantasy character who’s used in a story that’s written to make a point. The purpose of writing the story is to develop the character, to dramatize his conflict, and to provide an ending that resonates with the reader for a time, not to present the archetype and proclaim, “Gosh, ain’t he wonderful! Can’t improve on that, can I?”

    Englehart was renowned for writing women well, whether it was the Scarlet Witch, Patsy Walker, Mantis, and Clea in the ’70s, or Firebird and the Scarlet Witch, again, in the ’80s. If writers aren’t allowed to handle women, or to develop characters now as Englehart was allowed to back then, I’d suggest that’s the fault of the editors, who believe that stories which develop the characters will be too challenging for readers, and perhaps for the writers.

    Women don’t help themselves when one says, “I want to see a movie starring _____,” because that presumes that the character makes the story, in line with thinking that merely presenting the heroic archetype in some sort of fictional framework is sufficient to entertain readers. Rather than demand that the writer work to entertain her, it’s better to describe a scenario, or several, which portrays a woman well and to ask why it can’t be the basis for a story.

    SRS

  7. Cheers for linking to my piece, it was a bit of a sprawling look at several interlinking issues. Glad I was articulate! :D

    In many ways I think it’s more useful to compare the comics market as it stands with gaming culture, as they share many of the same diversity issues and “boys domain” stereotypes. When looking to the future I tend to reference the publishing industry, as that’s where comics should be – trade collections and graphic novel sales continue to grow. Why? Because they are easily available, in book shops and on Amazon. (If you’re selling a “mainstream” product and it ain’t on Amazon, you’re sunk.)

    The similarities with gaming culture are quite disturbing, given that the latter does at least have the excuse of being fairly young. Comics have been around for decades, yet the superheroes are still scared of taking risks. Increasing diversity won’t scare off core readers but it is the first thing that will be blamed for low sales figures.

    As someone who works in a large book chain in the UK (one of my many secret identities!) and has successfully pushed for national expansion of graphic novels and trade collections, alongside all ages comics and comic books suitable for children, I’ve been shocked at how large an audience there is out there for comics that are easily provided. Someone who’s only read Tintin or seen Avengers isn’t comfortable going in a comic shop, but they are comfortable picking up Persepolis or Name of the Rose alongside their PD James and Fifty Shades.

  8. I think, along with combating sexism within the industry, we need to toss demographics-based marketing altogether. It reduces the audience to stereotypes and has the further adverse affect of alerting any potential customers outside the target demographic that the product in question is specifically NOT for them. Even worse, there’s no evidence that it actually works – it’s estimated that 80% of products released across all industries fail.

    We should be creating stories that people, regardless of age, race, or gender, care about. If we can tell good stories, readers will find them.

  9. Saber Tooth Tiger Mike says:

    Dr. Strange is not popular with most superhero readers because he is not male power fantasy. Dr. Strange seems to be more popular with female readers. Is that a coincidence?

  10. Saber Tooth Tiger Mike says:

    “we need to toss demographics-based marketing altogether. It reduces the audience to stereotypes and has the further adverse affect of alerting any potential customers outside the target demographic that the product in question is specifically NOT for them. Even worse, there’s no evidence that it actually works – it’s estimated that 80% of products released across all industries fail.


    “We should be creating stories that people, regardless of age, race, or gender, care about. If we can tell good stories, readers will find them.” If any of what you said was consistantly profitable, wouldn’t someone be doing it already? The reason why demographics based marketing arose to begin with is because everyone is not the same. Not everyone LIKES everything and only certain people have the time and inclination to hunt down expensive, poorly distributed periodicals like comic books.

  11. Torsten Adair says:

    Well, I wasn’t talking about “Spock Slash”… but “Star Trek” did offer thoughtful science fiction, similar to what was going on in the New Wave in magazines and books. Meanwhile, Lost In Space, Time Tunnel, Land of the Giants was doing the Saturday matinee serial stuff. (Isaac Asimov wrote a nice essay for TV Guide analyzing the various SF on television.)

    Meanwhile, over in the UK, Doctor Who was airing.

    Once PBS stations began importing BBC shows, that fed a wide counter-culture (PBS was the Internet before cable television). Who, Monty Python, Masterpiece Theater, Mystery, Hitchhikers Guide, Ernie Kovacs…

    Star Trek fandom fed into SF fandom, creating a speaking circuit of conventions. (Although some continued to visit college campuses, like James Doohan with his blooper reel.)

    Which in turn fed comics fandom…

    Penny dreadfuls begat pulps which begat SF and comics.

    Melodramas and vaudeville begat movie serials and radio dramas which begat television which begat cable and YouTube.

  12. Johnathan Black says:

    Any group that feels they are underserved by the market should seriously consider this an economic opportunity. Compared to television shows, movies and video games, comics are cheap to produce. And with the options that contemporary technology provides, matching a book with an audience is easier than ever.

    Agitating for change is fine, but creating change will likely be more satisfying.

    You don’t have to be a writer or artist. If you (or someone you know) have some business acumen and taste you could be publishing superhero comics that inspire the next generation of women within a year.

    If you are right, you will make money and other publishers will try to mimic you. In the process, they will hopefully create comics that better represent and serve females.

    But business is hard. It may not last. But you will have made a contribution and an impact.

  13. “The reason why demographics based marketing arose to begin with is because everyone is not the same. Not everyone LIKES everything…”

    I didn’t say we needed one size fits all storytelling. People have different tastes, some people like horror, some people like sci-fi. But we shouldn’t make assumptions about what our readers will like based on their gender. Making the assumption that women don’t like comics creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  14. I don’t know (@SRS) I see your argument, but I think superheroes are different. Def. part of science fiction, but since it is always centered around an individual, I think it is always some kind of power fantasy. But it’s more complicated than just being able to fly — it has limits — the stuff you can do vs. the stuff you can’t — both physically and emotionally. Same could go for Trek — Kirk flies around in his barcolounger and gets involved in alien affairs (fantasy)– but only until it is time to leave (limits).

    Dr. Strange: successful member of society, drop out/fail, grow a beard, study abroad, get magic powers, awesome house, faithful manservant = power fantasy or college fantasy?

  15. Pink Apocalypse says:

    I just love the bizarre, over-wrought dialogue, fantastical, pseudo-psychedelic art, and other-worldly stories.

    If I read or see something that seems like it’s deliberately trying to offend me, I’ll stop reading it. But I’m digging it so far.

    It’s weird to think my parents read this stuff.

  16. Synsidar says:

    Dr. Strange is not popular with most superhero readers because he is not male power fantasy. Dr. Strange seems to be more popular with female readers. Is that a coincidence?

    Dr. Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme, was a brooding, introspective, intellectual fellow who tackled abstract and metaphysical menaces. None of what he did as the Sorcerer Supreme fits well into what Marvel Editorial chooses to publish today. Now, they’d rather have him talk with other guys about his sexual conquests.

    BTW, today Alyssa Rosenberg wrote about the similarities between the TV series Dexter, Homeland, Sons of Anarchy, and the upcoming Beauty and the Beast remake:

    But even if Vincent isn’t going after Catherine, there’s something disturbing about casting men so damaged they kill in a tragic, heroic light. Beauty and the Beast isn’t the only show coming to, or returning to television this fall that explores those themes. [. . .]

    All of these shows invert the idea of a man who’d be willing to use force to defend the woman he loves or his family. Instead, the violent heroes mark the women they love as special by restraining their violent tendencies around them. [. . .]

    What happens, they almost never bother to ask, if these very violent men stop loving these women and turn their talents for violence and intimidation against their own families, violating the sacred circles that mark the women in their lives as special.

    It may be outwardly appealing to escape into a fantasy of a man who will change his nature for you. But that’s a risky, dangerous premise.

    Whether or not you agree with Rosenberg’s criticism of the themes, the shows are examples of entertainment which attract viewers because of the themes and situations, not because of specific characters. Within a given story or set, a writer can use that theme as often as he likes, or has to. That theme can be combined with others, and with various types of plots.

    SRS

  17. Those Doc Stranges are the best. If/when they make a movie on him, wouldn’t it be great if it was set in the seventies?

  18. george says:

    Is that a picture of Heidi with the Dr. Strange comic?

  19. @Johnathan Black I’m always frustrated by comments like yours which boils down to instead of complaining “make your own.” I don’t want to “make” comics and I don’t want to publish comics. And the idea that it is that easy to do so is simply not true not even in the age of Kickstarter.

    I keep seeing people talking about “serving” women and I don’t get it. Marketing isn’t about serving up something new; it’s about serving up something to a new audience. Batwoman, Batgirl, Birds of Prey, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Worlds’ Finest are all books that with very little effort could be exposed to new audiences via a few previews here, a few social media campaigns there, a few get trades as prizes there and, pssst, the boys wouldn’t have to know a thing. ;)

  20. Pink Apocalypse says:

    I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again:

    Shoot the next Fantastic Four movie with retro lensing, lighting, and studio logos, but with cutting edge effects, and have it take place entirely in the 60’s.

    Shoot Doctor Strange dirty grindhouse style (roughed-up prints and all), lace the story with Lovecraft-esque horror, and have it take place in the 70’s.

    Not everything has to be contemporary.

  21. Hardy Gilbert says:

    Jonathan Black,

    While I certainly WANT to agree with you, I don’t know….if it were really that easy and/or cost-effective, we’d all be rich…..

  22. Michael Koli says:

    I’m always amazed at how one subset of fandom will try to co-opt another, larger group of fandom in order to make their own, much smaller subset seem bigger than it is. This automatic and groundless assumption that fans of Shades of Grey or Twilight or kitschy Mac Cosmetics users or even fans of Superhero films are considered part of the same group of people who like superhero comics shows a gross and almost childish misunderstanding of the marketplace and the general mindset of fandom.

    Is there some rollover? Of course there is some. But fringe rollover does not a demographic make. This isn’t like going to the market and buying paper plates and then, because you‘re there you might as well pick up some Captain Crunch. This is something entirely different with a different mindset driving the purchases. Implying that the entire 40 percent of women at SDCC should be considered by DC/Marvel as a potential untapped market because they’re all at the same convention as Superhero comics is laughably absurd.

    If I go to a music convention because I want to see what the rap music booths are selling, doesn’t mean I want to listen to any country music. Nor does it mean that the ton of Shades of Grey, Twilight and Manga fans that were there were chomping at the bit to buy superhero comics. Or vice versa. Add them all up and yes, that’s a lot of women at the con. That is not the same as being part of the same audience for superhero comics. Not even close.

    As far as Smallville goes…how many original digital comics that feature one of their biggest iconic heroes are put out by DC/Marvel for a buck? I have no doubt that there are some Smallville fans buying the comic or that many of them are women. That would simply be an assumption on my part but I believe it. But I also believe that the price point for a Superman comic based on a show whose audience skewed mostly male has much more to do with it than anything else. Yet I don’t hear anyone mentioning that.

    I get that any marginalized demographic will do what it can to get the company to cater to their wants like they cater to the larger demographic that the product is being branded and marketed to. Even make stuff up and make huge leaps in logic. But I just think that is sugarcoating the whole thing and doing a severe disservice in finding out the truth regarding who and how many are buying what and why.

    But then, I don’t really think any of this is about finding out the truth. Ignoring simple truths about fandom and continuing to perpetuate something that borders on the mythical, such as that fantastical group of women who are fans of Twilight, Manga, Shades, Indies, Game of Thrones Superhero comics AND blue eye shadow with a picture of Wonder Woman on it, only succeeds in telling the marginalized what they want to hear and does nothing to get at the truth of the situation.

    I’m sure there is a small demographic of men who absolutely love Dazzler comics and go to the conventions cosplaying as Dazzler…

    http://angelophile.tumblr.com/post/1314115516/phenfatal-weeeeeeeeeeeerk-male-dazzler-from

    But guess what? DC/Marvel wont’ be courting them either.

    One thing that men and women have in common, they don’t buy all the same things simply because they’re the same gender. They also don‘t like all the food in the market simply because the market sells one or two thing that they like. Get real and stop promoting that BS.

  23. Shorter Michael Koli: “lalalalala, I can’t HEAR you.”

    >>>But I just think that is sugarcoating the whole thing and doing a severe disservice in finding out the truth regarding who and how many are buying what and why.

    Well, DC did a readers survey and found that 23 percent of their readers were female. But then they chose not to believe that statistic. Lalalalala

    Women read lots and lots of comics…around the world. Marvel and DC have chosen not to generally attempt to make products for that audience. That is a fact. But so is the fact that that audience exists. Pretty simple.

  24. Pink Apocalypse says:

    Wow. Now *that* is some naked, ‘potential loss of male privilege’ anger. Three Twilight references, three make-up references, and two manga references. Bravo. Slow clap.

    The only thing gross and childish here are your failed metaphors. Equating movies and comics to rap and country is beyond simple-minded, since it implies that all movies are the same flavor, type and genre, and all comics are the same flavor, type, and genre. It’s like saying, ‘so what if there’s a book related to a t.v. show someone likes. Don’t bother exposing it to them. There’s no way they could *ever possibly like any book*.

    Seriously, the sheer hostility to show at even just the *possibility* of trying to bring more women into the fold speaks volumes about you, and the dinosaur mentality of the Boys Only Club in comics today.

    Closing with a vaguely homophobic straw-man misdirection was nice also.

    Unbelievable.

  25. And with that, one of our longest running trolls is gone.

  26. Johnathan Black says:

    Sue (DCWKA),

    In my original post I stated: “Agitating for change is fine, but creating change will likely be more satisfying.”

    This was not presented as a platitude, in sarcasm or with attitude. Agitating for change IS fine. It’s useful for:
    – venting, releasing frustration and stress
    – making others [more] aware of the issue and its ramifications
    – building a community of like minded individuals
    – articulating persuasive arguments as to why things should change
    – generating ideas for how to change the status-quo

    I don’t see this as “complaining” at all. But at some point if you and others like you are going to get more of the kind of books you want someone has to publish them. It is possible that it may be DC and Marvel. But things may continue on as they are for a very long time. The idea that more women with a passion for this issue should be publishing comics seems not only appropriate but logical.

    I do NOT think that publishing comics is easy. In my original post I said “But business is hard. It may not last.”

  27. Syndsidar said:

    “It may be outwardly appealing to escape into a fantasy of a man who will change his nature for you. But that’s a risky, dangerous premise.”

    Sounds like the majority of the female-oriented “bodice-rippers” to me.

  28. “And with that, one of our longest running trolls is gone.”

    I feel I missed something. Was it the guy arguing for male privilege, or someone else?

  29. Saber Tooth Tiger Mike says:

    “Well, DC did a readers survey and found that 23 percent of their readers were female. But then they chose not to believe that statistic. Lalalalala” You’ve got to be a little more specific than that that. Are those 23 percent hardcore superhero buyers, or are they mostly reading the Vertigo comics?

    “Women read lots and lots of comics…around the world. Marvel and DC have chosen not to generally attempt to make products for that audience. That is a fact. But so is the fact that that audience exists. Pretty simple.”

    You are going to define “make products for that audience” in more explicit terms. What the heck does that mean? Does that mean more solo superhero comics with female protagonists? More non-superhero comics with female protagonists? The most significant influx of new and young female readers in recent history was during the whole manga fad and those new readers weren’t really interested in DC’s superheroes.

    I will assume that the females currently buying DC comics are very different from manga readers in terms of tastes. Are these women monolithic enough that a new comic can capture the entire 20% of DC’s female customers consistantly?

  30. Saber Tooth Tiger Mike says:

    “Well, DC did a readers survey and found that 23 percent of their readers were female. But then they chose not to believe that statistic. Lalalalala” You’ve got to be a little more specific than that that. Are those 23 percent hardcore superhero buyers, or are they mostly reading the Vertigo comics?

    “Women read lots and lots of comics…around the world. Marvel and DC have chosen not to generally attempt to make products for that audience. That is a fact. But so is the fact that that audience exists. Pretty simple.”

    You need to define “make products for that audience” in more explicit terms. What the heck does that mean? Does that mean more solo superhero comics with female protagonists? More non-superhero comics with female protagonists? The most significant influx of new and young female readers in recent history was during the whole manga fad and those new readers weren’t really interested in DC’s superheroes.

    I will assume that the females currently buying DC comics are very different from manga readers in terms of tastes. Are these women monolithic enough that a new comic can capture the entire 20% of DC’s female customers consistantly?

  31. Saber Tooth Tiger Mike says:

    “the very nature of superheroes, which were designed, from day one, to appeal to boys.”

    Not if they’re presented in a culture most women have taken on more masculine traits or dream of having more masculine traits.

  32. I am really going to start banning people from this site who don’t understand the rudiments of branding, socialization and anthropology.

    It was Simone du Beauvoir who wrote “Man is defined as a human being and a woman as a female – whenever she behaves as a human being she is said to imitate the male.”

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