The week in women: do we write about gender issues too much?

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I had about 20 posts in various stages on gender issues this week…let’s put them all into one big roil, complete with shocking personal confessions:

§ Villain Month is for boys: When the New 52 rolled out two years ago (!?!) it was pointed out that there was a lone female creator: inker Sandra Hope. And there were many voices raised in protest.

Sue at DC Women Kicking Ass has analyzed Villain Month, the two years out event and…guess what. Things had improved in some areas and backslid in others.:

Total female creators credits for Forever Evil announced to date:

4

Total female credits for writers:

4

Ann Nocenti (Justice League Dark #23.1: The Creeper and Batman: The Dark Knight #23.1: Joker’s Daughter)

Gail Simone (Batman: The Dark Knight #23.1:The Ventriloquist)

Marguerite Bennett (Justice League #23.2: Lobo)

Total female credits for art:

0

That’s right 0. With 52 different covers and 52 books to be drawn, the total number of female artists with credits (that have been announced) is 0.

That gendercrunching guy has his own take on the numbers—I don’t usually quote these because I find comparing a female assistant editor to a female artist misleading but the metric is constant.

Is this concerning? Well, in the abstract, of course it is. With women drawing more comics, more bestselling comics and getting more acclaim everywhere in the mainstream world, it’s troubling that they’ve made so little headway at DC. In a larger sense, I find it far less remarkable. When the New 52 launched it was supposed to be “new” and female artists at DC were a new concept and thus part of the freshening up mode, so leaving them out seemed like a giant step backwards.

Two years later we kind of see where this is going, and getting new voices is not as much of a priority for DC as character management.

Still, meet the new boss, etc.

(Aside: I’ve heard people going “where is Amanda Conner??!!??” which is understandable because she’s an amazing artist but she is always working and FUN FACT there are scores of women artists around the world working on comics right this minute besides Amanda Conner. Women in Comics does not begin and end with Conner, Thompson, and Doran.)

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§ Where are the great female comics journalists? On a somewhat similar note, while I’m super thrilled to see Comics Alliance back, this Reservoir Dogs-style staff pic did make me sad.

Can you guess why?

I’ve always been baffled why a site that has contributed so much to the notions of diversity and gender equality in comics hasn’t been able to develop more female writers. Although I’ve never discussed it with current editor in chief Joe Hughes, when I’ve asked other website editors why they don’t have more women on staff, I’m usually told, it’s because none have come forward, and I’m sure there’s something to that. You see a site where 95% of the posts are written by men and you might suspect it isn’t a welcoming place, even if it isn’t true.

At The Beat I’ve assembled about equal numbers of male and female contributors. (I should note that ComicsMix also has a lot of female writers.) I didn’t set out to do it that way, I just noticed writers I liked or who came to me. Over at PW Comics World, Publishers Weekly’s comics newsletter, we had way more female reporters than male. In recent years, with the internet allowing women to be more vocal about their interests, and the (mostly male) gatekeepers who decided women didn’t belong at the big table neutralized, I’ve had no problem finding competent, insightful women to write about comics and other nerd topics. (To be fair, at The Beat I don’t have to answer to corporate goals for traffic, so I have far fewer concerns about content than a blog like Comics Alliance.)

That said, I do notice that women, even online, tend to segregate themselves into places where they feel more welcome or safer like Tumblr. Maybe it is time for women themselves to reach out more? And also not just write about gender issues. It’s important to jump on the outrage of the day, but if all you write about is gender, that’s how you will be branded, and only women “have gender” in the eyes of men. It’s a Catch 22 and a losing scenario.

Since I’m horn tooting, here’s one more example of mixing things up I was involved in. Caleb J. Mozzocco recently wrote about DC’s 25 most essential graphic novels list:

Is it worth pointing out that none of the books are written by a woman, and, in fact, there’s only one female artist who has work on that list—Y: The Last Man’s Pia Guerra—although Lynn Varley’s Dark Knight colors and Karen Berger’s editing of some of the best books on that list are a good reminder that this list isn’t quite as male as it may appear simply by looking at the writers, pencil artists and inkers (Any suggestions for something written or drawn by a woman that DC has done that belongs on this list? The down side of not hiring many women to write or draw for you means that few classic or essential comics have been generated by them in the past. The few women in DC’s employ at the moment—Christie Marx, Gail Simone, Nicola Scott—are just working on continuity-heavy, unexceptional work).

So yeah, on DC’s list of 25 essential graphic novels—a list that represents an incredible body of lasting work—there is only one female writer or artist. And you know why there is ONE? Because I hired her. When I was an editor at Vertigo, I saw Pia’s samples, loved them, showed them to writers who loved them, BKV won the lottery to use her on a pitch and the rest is history. (And yeah, I’m sure BKV has a little more to do with Y THE LAST MAN being considered a classic than anything I ever did.) I don’t believe in quotas or affirmative action, but I do believe to live in a more diverse and interesting world you have to actually do something about diversity.

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§ Behind every woman…: There was also this this week. It’s so stupid that I hesitate to bring it up, but basically some idiot thinks Kelly Sue DeConnick only gets writing work because she’s married to Matt Fraction. I can testify that when I met them (separately, before they even started dating) Kelly Sue was better known in comics than Fraction was, and sometime you marry someone who has common interests that you are both pursuing and it’s a lot of fun.

But the reason I brought this up because it made me flash back to about 25 years ago when a still-very prominent and much loved comics publisher told me “All the women in comics get work because they’re dating a guy in comics.” And then this guy laughed because it was all a joke and I shouldn’t be offended. Maybe this was stupid of me, but that moment was part of the reason that I resisted having a serious relationship in the comics industry for years. I knew the minute I was part of a “couple,” everything I did would no longer be my success but because of the “couple’s” success.

Now that I’m in a wonderful relationship with a wonderful man who is also in comics (and I’m also a little wiser) I see that being with someone who really understands what you love is one of the best situations you can be in. But idiots will take it as nepotism no matter what. Keep fighting, Kelly Sue, keep fighting.

§ The wisdom of Whedon: Speaking of men who do get it, Joss Whedon was promoting his little Much Ado About Nothing film and had many insightful and informed things to say.

Why do you think there’s a lack of female superheroes in film?

Toymakers will tell you they won’t sell enough, and movie people will point to the two terrible superheroine movies that were made and say, You see? It can’t be done. It’s stupid, and I’m hoping The Hunger Games will lead to a paradigm shift. It’s frustrating to me that I don’t see anybody developing one of these movies. It actually pisses me off. My daughter watched The Avengers and was like, “My favorite characters were the Black Widow and Maria Hill,” and I thought, Yeah, of course they were. I read a beautiful thing Junot Diaz wrote: “If you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.”

 

§ Women in Hollywood gain a scrap of influence: AND WHILE WE’RE FINISHING THIS UP: here is what I consider a must read, The Hollywood Reporter’s Revenge of the Over 40 Actresses. The bottom line for this story is “The audience is aging and so are the stars” as the Baby Boom generation continues it chicken-in-the-snake ripple through demographics. But there are some surprising stats in the piece:

Even so, the industry still reacts with surprise whenever a female star demonstrates box-office clout. On March 15, The Call, an otherwise routine thriller, opened as that weekend’s top new wide release thanks to the presence of Halle Berry, 46. The TriStar film bowed to $17.1 million, trouncing the heavily promoted Steve Carell-Jim Carrey comedy The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (in which Carell, 50, was paired romantically with Olivia Wilde, 29). Female moviegoers made up 56 percent of Call’s audience, and 48 percent of the overall audience cited Berry as the reason for turning out.

Making sure older female moviegoers — in Hollywood’s marketing lingo, “older” means those over 25 — have someone to root for in a movie even can factor into the casting of tentpoles looking to attract all four quadrants. And so, Gwyneth Paltrow, 40, became a key marketing hook for this year’s top-performing film to date, Iron Man 3. (It’s worth noting that when Marvel and director Jon Favreauwere assembling the first Iron Man, they sought McAdams, then 29, for the role of Pepper Potts, which Paltrow eventually made her own.) “Ever since I’ve turned 40, I feel younger than ever and more energetic,” announced Paltrow at the Iron Man 3 premiere in Hollywood. “I’m ready. I’m ready for action now.”

There’s also advice that mirrors what I was saying a few graphs ago — you gotta make your own opportunities.

“I advise any actor to take control of your career,” says Feig. “Start doing stand-up. Start writing roles for yourself. When you’re sitting around waiting for the town to have an epiphany, you’re going to sit forever. Look for the parts, chase the parts, but at the same time, seize control.”

Kristen Wiig did just that when she co-wrote and starred in Feig’s Bridesmaids. She finds herself among the town’s most in-demand despite being on the precipice of 40 (she turns 40 this summer). “She’s definitely someone who can get a movie made on her name alone,” notes Gabler.

Of course, all this positive thinking gets rebuffed when you really dig down into the numbers:

But not all the news is encouraging. A recent USC study tracked characters appearing in the 500 top-grossing films from 2007 to 2012 and found that the percentage of females between the ages of 40 and 64 has not changed meaningfully over time. The majority of all female characters onscreen in the 100 most popular films in 2012 were between ages 21 and 39. And, among characters in the 40- to 64-year-old range, males outnumbered female characters by nearly 4-to-1.

 

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§ The politics of cosplay: Now here’s where I get into trouble. I’ve avoiding talking much about cosplay here because a) it’s not my major field of study and b) I think my opinions differ from those of many on the cosplay scene. Anyway there was a long and very smart article by Emily Finke called Slut Shaming and Concern Trolling in Geek Culture about a woman who went to a con wearing a mini skirted Star Fleet uniform and was castigated for it:

Dragon*Con isn’t perfect, and in most ways, is a much less safe convention for a woman. However, at Dragon*Con, I am accepted as a costumer. At a con like Balticon, I’m celebrated as eye candy. I felt like I was placed in the role of Convention Booth Babe, receiving both the objectified interest from the men and the scorn of the women.

While I don’t think anyone should be abused, touched or treated like an object no matter how they are dressed as a con—even the guys in tights with no underwear—I’m far more fired up about other gender related issues than I am about the right to wear costumes that were designed by men specifically to objectify women. Those Star Trek costumes were stupid and meant to make women look sexy not to make a statement about empowerment—even if wearing a mini skirt was considered a form of empowerment by women in the 60s. Finke says a lot of women told her her skirt was too short and ascribes the motives to jealousy (probably true) and bringing her down a peg (also true.) We do live live in a society where wearing a skirt that’s too short—or wearing tights with no underwear and your franks ‘n’ beans showing—means you aren’t taken seriously and that’s hurtful.

Unfortunately, the default assumption of convention space is “male space” The really annoying thing about this whole discussion? Convention space has never been a space that was solely the domain of men. From the very beginning of the fandom that I chose to represent at Balticon — Star Trek — conventions had women. Women creating costumes, dressing as Klingons. Women discussing gender and racial politics in the series. Women participating in collaborative remixing of the canon. There have always been women objecting to “warrior women” on the covers of books and magazines and protesting the misogynistic habits of male writers who enjoy pinching and groping. There have always been women using science fiction to rewrite gender assumptions. They were there. They are there. They’ve always been there. The history of geekdom is not a history of men, it’s a history of invisible women.

The “invisible woman” syndrome is really what I’ve been writing about in each and every item in this list: not getting hired, not being noticed, not getting credit.

Being attractive and wearing costumes that enhance that is a good way to get attention—you’re certainly not invisible. While I support the right of every women to show off her confidence and lore by wearing whatever costume she wants—and not to be quizzed and questioned, let alone harassed and abused. But it only goes part of the way, and it’s only part of the struggle.

Okay out of time and room. Next time: why a female Doctor Who would destroy society as we know it.

Comments

  1. To address the headline (as I’d already seen most of the article referenced in it) sometimes I initially think “yes” when I see a beginnings of a complaint. Like Kelly Sue’s reaction to one anon person, but as you read you usually find out it’s more like a ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ sort of thing and I’m often surprised at some of the horror stories I’ve heard. (I guess if they weren’t big issues that people wanted to read about, the articles about them wouldn’t get much attention either and they certainly seem to.)

    The cosplay article (broken link in that btw) did hit home for me a little after having seen how people treated my better half at some of the cons we’ve been to, and she didn’t even cosplay. It’s as if guys think the atmosphere gives them a chance to be skeezy or something, guys would just take pictures of her without asking as she walked by, a creator (who shall remain nameless) had a smart comment to make about a regular dress she was wearing, etc. Since I walk around with camera equipment, I had one guy ask me to take a pic of him and a girl dressed at catwoman (not an overly revealing version either), and I say girl, b/c she was young-teenagish looking and then he made some comments to her about how she looked that made me raise an eyebrow (and then tell her I am not with that dude).

    I guess I’m rambling now, but in the end, if it’s still happening that often I would guess we should still be bringing attention to it.

  2. Thomas Wayne says:

    To answer the title question : NO, you don’t write about gender issues to much. It’s like anything else, it has its place and for comics and women this site does as good or better job than any or most to be at the forefront of the rights, wrongs dos and don’ts of women in comics and I for one applaud you for that.
    The real question here is not why are there so few woman in comics – the real question is why are there so many men and more specifically, men with a track record of mediocrity.
    Comics needs fresh blood – BIG TIME. The “Boys” club as it is SUCKS. Now, I’m not saying get rid of men just to replace them with women. That wouldn’t work either.
    Remove gender from the equation – REMOVE HACK WRITERS AND ARTISTS and REPLACE THEM WITH FRESH VOICES AND NEW TALENT. If the fresh voices and new talent are all women, more power to them. If they are all men and only one woman, more power to them.
    I don’t give a funky rats ass what the gender of my storyteller is – what I care about is great storytelling and characterization – not whether the storyteller has ovaries or testicles.
    I would hope everyone felt this way about storytelling.

  3. Thomas Wayne says:

    And I for one didn’t know K.S. DeConnick was married to Matt Fraction. Interesting….

  4. Unequivocally: No.

  5. Torsten Adair says:

    When I was a member of the Jaycees (thanks to my brother, who really exploited the opportunities that organization offered), I noticed that one of the awards they gave out was for “Power couple” or some sort, where both people had contributed significantly to the organization.

    Since the age limits are 19-39 in the Jaycees, because they have quarterly state conventions, do a lot of community service, people are going to network, sometimes horizontally.

    Interestingly enough, the Supreme Court had to integrate the Jaycees in 1984, allowing women to join.

    So, in comics, it’s a bit like the same thing. People meet people, network, develop friendships, fall in love. I can think of at least five “power couples” in comics where both are equally talented and famous.

  6. Saipaman says:

    Wouldn’t the time be better spent writing about the quality of the books?

  7. The balance is always tricky. If women write too regularly about gender issues, then there risks being seen two kinds of writers about comics: regular, and women, who write about gender issues. But if they don’t write about gender issues, then gender issues don’t get written about. (And hey, then they aren’t “issues”, problem solved, right?)

  8. johnrobiethecat says:

    As a sensitive reader of action comic books, I would like to offer my perspective on this delicate subject. Gwyneth Paltrow career is where it is, not because she’s 40 or thats she’s not attractive. She’s just unsexy and uninteresting- a child of privilege and access who’s been flaunting it for like 18 yrs. She married a rock star, is a happy mom, lives a posh life in NY & London, eats organic, still gets some kind of millions a picture, gotten Oscars, talks about how bored she is at gala balls these days and even messes up the filler role in stunted movies like Iron Man 3 and Avengers, Maybe you should look at that side of her career. That the audience finds her un-alluring because of her age and not her personality is a big assumption. She may be nice in person but on the screen she’s like dry ice.

    Don’t you think quoting a guy from 25 years ago is cherry picking (an aftershave type from the 80’s?Teenagers ogling Power Girl costumes too? ) then forming a feminist mission from those experiences. Those guys may still around but they are pretty easy to spot (like in Congress & big business) Its a different time now. Women in comics seem to be making a good dent, this obsession with equal numbers male /female isn’t realistic outside of manga & hipster books. I rather see better work than a neat equation.

  9. Kate Willaert says:

    “Although I’ve never discussed it with current editor in chief Joe Hughes, when I’ve asked other website editors why they don’t have more women on staff, I’m usually told, it’s because none have come forward…”

    A year and a half ago, I once tried asking via their comment form what their submission guidelines were or whether they were ever hiring staff writers, but never heard back. I didn’t want to bog them down with links to articles I’d written without first asking if they were ever even looking, but maybe I should have? My portfolio from the gaming blog I run was decent enough at the time to get me an interview with Game Informer magazine (though not good enough to get me hired).

    On the other hand, I also enquired about writing for The Beat after the “Help Wanted” post and never got a response back, so maybe it’s just a case of me having bad luck with spam filters (or possibly being hilariously inept at applying for things).

  10. Chris Hero says:

    Wow, dude. I feel like I live in a weird outlier world. Most of the comics I read now are made by women. Jane Mai is my absolute favorite, but she’s far from the only one I read. My comic making colleagues are mostly women and they’re phenomenal.

    I truly think the problem is more the Wednesday superhero crowd is old, white, male, and set in their ways. Good luck getting those guys to expand their horizons.

  11. >> Gwyneth Paltrow career is where it is, not because she’s 40 or thats she’s not attractive. She’s just unsexy and uninteresting->>

    She’s starring in some of the most successful movies in history because she’s unattractive and uninteresting?

    >> That the audience finds her un-alluring because of her age and not her personality is a big assumption. She may be nice in person but on the screen she’s like dry ice.>>

    It’s sort of peculiar that you choose to correct Heidi on her assumption of why the audience finds Paltrow unalluring, when nothing in the article above suggests she’s unalluring at all. In fact, the article linked to is making the point that over-40 women are gaining, not losing, stature in Hollywood, and Paltrow is cited as an example of success, as an important part of the Iron Man/Avengers phenomenon, not as someone whose career in failing.

    Mainly, you seem to want to explain why you don’t care for Paltrow, and frame it as if you’re speaking for the audience — although for someone so unallured by her, you pay more attention to her than I do, aware of her opinions about gala balls and such.

    Speaking for my part of the audience, I have no idea what she talks about off-camera, but I like her in movies just fine.

    kdb

  12. rousseau says:

    Yes, you write and think about it too much. These issues obviously exist and are worth covering, but I think people are too obsessed with it. You won’t ever have “equality” in this or any other field unless you had a totalitarian dictatorship forcing females who simply don’t want to read comics to start reading comics. The major (and minor) companies can produce all of the diverse products that you (and I) would be interested in seeing, but by and large they simply won’t sell enough to a wide enough audience—not because of some sort of sexist conspiracy or ignorance within the industry but because women and minorities at large simply do not want to read comics. And most heterosexual white men don’t want to read them either. This is a niche industry and art form. We’ve tried to change it, but we can’t. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop trying, but we shouldn’t put too much blame on the companies for, I dunno, putting out another Wolverine and Batman book, because those comics actually sell. Within our community we certainly should be respectful of all people and create diverse products/characters/stories. But the number of aspiring female creators, for example, is simply dwarfed b the number of aspiring male creators. It just is. For every ten worthy female creators there are, what, a hundred aspiring male creators. So, what are you going to do? FORCE more girls from a young age to draw? Does anyone honestly think that DC would turn away female talent if the market wanted to read their books? Is there any evidence of that? It seems pretty clear to me that Marvel and DC will employ anyone of any sex and color, no matter who they are and no matter where they live on earth. But somehow there’s a problem here? Is it a problem or just an uneasiness based on demographics? Again, I think a more diverse assortment of creators and characters would be great, but after a while we’re just banging our heads against walls and making thought-crime accusations for no reason and to no good end.

    Lastly, I’m not a Christian and I’m not a conservative. But roughly half of the U.S. identifies as Christian conservative. There are about as many Christian conservatives in the country as there are females. But how many positive portrayals of Christian conservatives do we have in comics these days? Far fewer than we have positive portrayals of women, that’s for sure. Just something to think about when considering how we apparently want our comics and our comics community to mirror social reality.

  13. >> because women and minorities at large simply do not want to read comics.>>

    Inaccurate cliche: Women and minorities at large (what, are they on the loose?) may not want to read _these_ comics, but that’s not the same thing as not having an interest in the form at all. Women still, as far as I know, buy more comics than men, unless you limit the sample to the pamphlet-centered superhero-based industry. Include newspaper strip collections and other cartoon books, and women skyrocket as readers.

    >> This is a niche industry and art form. We’ve tried to change it, but we can’t. >>

    I think you have that entirely backward.

    Comics is a mass-appeal medium. We unintentionally took steps to change that and succeeded wildly at turning it into a niche industry.

    But it didn’t start there, and isn’t limited to that.

    >> But the number of aspiring female creators, for example, is simply dwarfed b the number of aspiring male creators.>>

    Is it?

    >> It just is. For every ten worthy female creators there are, what, a hundred aspiring male creators.>>

    You have stats on that? Because I think you’re just imagining that.

    >> So, what are you going to do? FORCE more girls from a young age to draw? >>

    Girls don’t have to be forced to draw. Girls, like boys, like to draw. It’s often reported that more girls than boys have been enrolling in classes in drawing comics, which suggests that your completely-invented claims above just aren’t true — and that the wave of female talent you’re confident doesn’t exist is out there and growing.

    The solution isn’t about forcing girls to engage in drawing comics against their will, since girls don’t seem to have any resistance to drawing comics as kids. Making comics that will include them as audience members, that will interest them, that will engage them — that’s what’ll make more of them want to create comics, and we’ve been seeing that happening in the last ten years or so, to the point where it’s now baffling that people could believe women just don’t like comics and don’t want to make comics. Look beyond the superhero ghettos, and you’ll see comics that are made by women, and comics that are selling to women. The numbers are growing — slowly, but they’re growing — which is why people scratch their heads over the fact that Marvel and DC seem to have so little interest in attracting women as readers or creators.

    The big success of SANDMAN (and more generally, Vertigo) was that Neil, Karen and others started making comics that appealed to women, too — and presto, they found great success at it. It’s sad that what some people have already done is being dismissed as impossible now. It may be hard to think back to how popular comics were (including with girls) 60 years ago, but surely 20 years back isn’t prehistoric yet.

    It clearly can be done. So when people start making weird claims about how girls don’t want to read comics (thus explaining how ARCHIE has survived for 70 years or so), the message seems to be that those people just don’t want to let anyone in to the part of comics they feel is “theirs,” and don’t want it to change. So they claim that comics are somehow attractive and interesting only to men — even though you have to take a very narrow and very recent view of comics history not to get plenty of evidence to the contrary.

    Used to be, back when most every kid read comics, girls read comics at slightly larger percentages than boys. And lots of comics thrived while being aimed at girls, from teen-humor comics to romance comics to newspaper strips about female protagonists and more. And there were lots and lots of comics that weren’t skewed toward one gender or the other, and they did well, too. DC and Marvel both used to publish a lot of them.

    So the idea that comics have never been anything but a niche medium, try as we might, is backwards: Comics used to be a hugely-successful mass medium, and it’s still successful in other countries. We carved it down to niche-size; we didn’t struggle and fail to expand it.

    >> Does anyone honestly think that DC would turn away female talent if the market wanted to read their books?>>

    Yes, in some cases. It’s not as if, say, CATWOMAN wasn’t selling well when they got rid of Jo Duffy, and that’s hardly the only example.

    >> Is there any evidence of that?>>

    Yes, there’s been evidence offered, over the years, of people at DC and Marvel being very unwelcoming to women creators and to the idea of making the books appealing to women readers. Not all of them, thankfully, but there have been enough instances to suggest that yes, it’s been known to happen.

    >> It seems pretty clear to me that Marvel and DC will employ anyone of any sex and color, no matter who they are and no matter where they live on earth.>>

    Then you probably never encountered the sexism and racism that some have encountered there, from unwelcome assault to career damage to “jigaboo” dolls on editors’ desks and more.

    If you haven’t seen any evidence, you might want to listen to the people who have, rather than simply denying that it’s possible based on an apparent complete lack of insider knowledge or experience.

    >> Lastly, I’m not a Christian and I’m not a conservative. But roughly half of the U.S. identifies as Christian conservative.>>

    Only 40% of the US identifies as conservative in the first place. Christian conservatives are a subset of that.

    Making up stats that are obviously untrue is not a winning strategy. At least 73% of the time.

    kdb

  14. Pantsless Pete says:

    Actually, Kurt Busiek there did raise something that makes me wonder about the approach we’re taking here:

    Are the comics people advocating more comics for girls actually offering the comics girls want?

    I mean, I can understand it from the position of wanting to offer role models or what have you but when you look at, say, a market that has a strong girls presence or, more importantly corporate comics closest cousin in the form of Book Packaging companies, both of whom are vastly more profitable than superhero comics I wonder why we’re even bothering with that market when there is clearly a specific, lucrative sort of narrative that young female readers want that’s being ignored by comics as a whole, even by the women advocating making comics for women.

  15. Saipaman says:

    @Chris Hero,

    Be glad those old white guys are still hitting the comics shops or there wouldn’t be an industry left to argue over.

  16. The difference between audience comfort in the mainstream – ie non-direct market comics – and the comic shop crowd is remarkable. In a book shop, the comics and graphic novels that don’t have to pass the Wednesday barriers are made by diverse creators and have a hugely diverse audience – mind you, on the latter so do the Vertigo titles after all these years.

    The indies too have a diverse crowd at both ends – a festival like Thought Bubble really illustrates the 50/50 make-up of both creators and audience. However that also leads to panels of successful indie women creators talking about “women in comics” and stating that there is no need for it any more as all is equal* – terribly frustrating for those who enjoy their superhero comics and make up more than 50% of the cinema tickets for superhero films! Those same people are frustrated by the lack of women creators, the frequency of barriers to the industry, and the poor portrayal of many female characters. Even a book like Young Avengers, with its massive tumblr following, struggles to pull in the same audience that a non-direct market book could do.

    In the early days, ie pre-1940, there were many women working in comics and making a good living from doing so. Adventure strips or comedy, much the same as is on offer today. I do not think there is a need for comics that are aimed at girls or aimed at boys, as the only preference people have tends to come down to marketing. I see this a lot as a kids bookseller, with young boys frustrated that they can’t be seen reading the books they want to, while girls happily pick up the “boys books” as well only to get horrible messages about women from the likes of Twilight later on. It’s the marketing and the character portrayals that exclude people, not the stories themselves.

    It is indeed a mass-media that has been rendered niche, but I fully expect the market to pick itself up and flourish again. DC and co may simply miss the boat.

    [*equally untrue sadly as I have come across many instances of sexism at the indie level, and have heard from women creators who claim that sexism is rampant but must not be discussed as they get outed from the networking and promotional opportunities. Sexism of course is never unique to the world of comics :( ]

  17. Annie Savoy says:

    Amd here I thought you (smartly) avoid writing about cosplayers after justly getting pilloried for making fun of people you think are too unattractive to wear costumes!

  18. Molnek says:

    I’ll never understand why DC in the beginnings of new 52 kept going on about diversity and Wonder Woman wearing pants when one look at the writers and artists they were using for half the books reflected the oposite for that.
    I don’t think anyone critiquing comics and the industry can bring up gender issues too much when DC kind of dug their own grave in bringing it up. We as a fandom are not known for letting things go, at the very least maybe they’ll stop over sensationalising announcements.

  19. We don’t look widely enough at comics. DC and Marvel don’t hire untested creators. So if Marvel mainly hire people via recommendation/the Warren Ellis forum and DC mainly hire from companies like Image, why aren’t we seeing more female writers there? How do Image get away without critique whilst DC get all the flack? Aside from Pretty Deadly, they barely have any female creatives currently on one of their titles.

    Because, as Heidi says, we’re all still far too myopic. We still think DC and Marvel are the only companies, and that nothing done by the other companies deserves the same level of attention and thought. Once Saga concludes, there’s no doubt DC and Marvel will fight tooth and nail for any chance to have Fiona Staples work on one of their titles. The big companies have issues, certainly, but I think it’s unfair to single them out when none of the other publishers are trying out female-led titles either.

    It seems fair to say that comics fans and certainly comics sites are stuck looking at the short term issues. We’d rather complain about the characters being poorly represented than the creators. In the long-term, it’s far more important to see more female creators pitching and selling their own successful comics or work-for-hire stories than it is to see an inch added to Supergirl’s skirt.

  20. Xaraan: Gender issues are not an episodic “happening,” they are an overarching cultural condition. They WILL be talked about, full stop.

    Rousseu: how dare you and also: you ain’t seen nothing yet. You should be overwhelmed with articles about the experiences and tribulations of other people than yourself until you either change your wrong views or get the heck out of comics. No one wants your kind.

    Pants less Pete: there’s more than one kind of girl. So yes/no. There are girls who want superheroes, girls who want other genres/modes, girls who want other things entirely. This is almost a non-question.

    Saipaman: I see you trollin’/ you hatin’

  21. @ Steve – when it comes to making money DC and Marvel are the big two, though. Between the two of them the have the bulk of the market. So that’s why the conversation is focused on them so much. And I’m not sure why the discussion of the look of costumes and the gender of the person drawing can’t both be discussions? I think its fair to say that they certainly are connected. I really don’t see many discussions about the lack of or treatment of female characters without the issue of the number of female creators at least touched upon.

    And as far as “why doesn’t Image get flack” like DC – it’s a bit like comparing apples and oranges. Image is a creator owned publisher. DC is not.

  22. DC promote off the back of characters like Batman rather than writers or artists. Whoever writes Superman, the important thing is that it’s Superman on the cover. Image, on the other hand, promote their books on the strength of the creative teams.

    So if Image don’t have many books written or drawn by women, doesn’t that suggest the company doesn’t think there are many female creators who are a viable draw? And on a more valuable note – are they right to think so?

    And why is that?

    Image are a far more valuable sounding-board for the industry than anyone else. They’re a prestige publisher. So why aren’t there more female creators who are deemed prestigious enough to work with them?

  23. Synsidar says:

    It’s the marketing and the character portrayals that exclude people, not the stories themselves.

    Or, in Marvel’s and DC’s cases, the lack of marketing. The combination of serialized and soap opera-type storytelling, sexist rendering of women and male-oriented plots works to limit the number of female readers. The absence of actual marketing to try to get females to buy the comics just increases the gap. While women might enjoy fantasies as much or more than men do, and might actually read more fantasy fiction, there’s no incentive for women to try to create superhero comics when the publishers are satisfied with a largely male readership. Why not work in other markets that are more receptive?

    But the gender gap is far wider than the superhero comics market. The percentage of women writers working on broadcast TV programming reportedly sank from 29% in 2009-10 to 15% in 2010-11. VIDA is still doing annual surveys on the gender gap among writers in high-profile publications. Superhero comics are special only in the sense that, perhaps, more males involved with them reject the notion that there’s any bias against women as readers or as creators.

    SRS

  24. “But the number of aspiring female creators, for example, is simply dwarfed b the number of aspiring male creators”

    Not judging by any measure that I can see. Not judging by enrollment in comics classes. Not judging by participation in comics-making events. (As editor of the 24 Hour Comics Day anthologies, I can tell you that females were a large portion of those submitting… which is why the 2005 volume alone had the first commercially published comics by both Fiona Staples and Faith Erin Hicks, and missed by a couple weeks being the first for Svetlana Chmakova.) Not judging by the inhabitants of small press areas at cons.

  25. This is what a class at the Center for Cartoon Studies looks like. If you’re having trouble seeing females in there, it’s time to clean your glasses.

  26. “So if Image don’t have many books written or drawn by women, doesn’t that suggest the company doesn’t think there are many female creators who are a viable draw? And on a more valuable note – are they right to think so?”

    Steve, as Sue points out – Image is a creator owned publishing company. They do not pay their creators an up front fee, it all comes on the back end. Therefore only those creators who can afford to publish through Image can do so. Where do these publishers make their money? DC and Marvel of course.

  27. johnrobiethecat says:

    Jeez, I came back too late to talk about the Gwyneth Paltrow. I like where this is going better….. But since I’m shallow and I live in Monaco ( hence passing interest in glamour). I’ll try to get this out of the way and cover ground….

    @kdb

    –from wikipedia-iron man 3–
    Gwyneth Paltrow as Virginia “Pepper” Potts:
    Stark’s girlfriend, longtime associate, and CEO of Stark Industries.[1][12] Paltrow says of her character’s relationship to Tony, “[She still] adores Tony, but she absolutely gets fed up with him. He gets caught in a feedback loop.”[13] Kevin Feige comments on Pepper’s role in the film: “The love triangle in this movie is really between Tony, Pepper and the suits. Tony, Pepper and his obsession with those suits, and the obsession with technology.” Feige also states that the film uses the character to play with the damsel in distress trope, and posits the question, “Is Pepper in danger or is Pepper the savior?”[14]
    —–

    So in the Marvel world. that’s like Stark promoting her from secretary to the CEO of Apple while he’s busy crimefighting because she’s good at schedules and is a girlfriend that doesn’t mind putting up with a ladies man. Pretty unnatural , like her character and performance. If you need comparision, Kim Basinger in Batman and Margot Kidder in Superman had similar roles (though they wren’t promoted to running Wayne iNdustries or the Daily Planet in the next movie)but they were sexy,soulful and rather mermorable in their roles .Not the anitseptic, promoted girlfriend that gets to do action scenes in Movie 3 just like Tony. She probably made more in 20 minutes of screen time than Jack Kirby/Don Heck did for inventing the character or Steve Ditko did for improving the design of the suit. And she got to be in the credits and probably buy a third house thanks to the 100 million or so of marketing they do for each movie.

    Are they really movies? They seem to be like video games fantasies with live actors attached. And I’m a fan of the superhero genre, just not Hollywood’s take on it the last 10 years or so, The way these movies have stunted the film medium in the fast track for easy international money is a bit of a bummer. They don’t do anything much for comics except make the medium look oily and silly.

  28. Well, if you want to see a confirmation of Kurt’s statement “Mainly, you seem to want to explain why you don’t care for Paltrow, and frame it as if you’re speaking for the audience”, there it is.

  29. johnrobiethecat says:

    Well, I’ll never be as erudite as Kurt but I just work with what I’ve got. I”m definitely not speaking for the audience but then again, I don’t watch much TV or Gwyenth Paltrow movies.

  30. Laura – creators go from Image to DC/Marvel, not the other way round. If great writers like Jim Zub and Justin Jordan can set up comics at Image, why can’t equally talented female writers?

  31. Saipaman says:

    @Ayo

    So wanting comics that good regardless of gender makes me a troll?

    That’s funny.

  32. The Beat says:

    >>>”“But the number of aspiring female creators, for example, is simply dwarfed b the number of aspiring male creators”

    Actually, everyone wh teaches a comics class that I’ve spoken to recently says that their classes are more female. The classes I’ve seen myself back that up.

    Change is a coming.

    Sue: “when it comes to making money DC and Marvel are the big two, though. Between the two of them the have the bulk of the market.”

    well…kinda. If you look at the Bookscan numbers (http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=43773) you’ll see that the Big Two don’t dominate the bookstore market —DC does pretty well on its majestic backlist but Marvel is a non starter. None Marvel and DC publishers are making up a much larger part of the comics market in ALL channels. I think it’s myopic at this point to look at Marvel and DC as the be all and end all of the comics business.

    >>>”Once Saga concludes, there’s no doubt DC and Marvel will fight tooth and nail for any chance to have Fiona Staples work on one of their titles. ”

    Ironic, as Staples started out at Wildstorm.

  33. To defend us smaller publishers and our place in the world: while Staples certainly did some work of note at Wildstorm, even if you blow off smaller works, she got her start on doing a series at Markosia, drawing Done To Death.

  34. Johnny Memeonic says:

    That power walk scene from the Comics Alliance panel isn’t an homage to Reservoir Dogs, it’s an homage to the New Frontier, itself an homage to the famous scene from The Right Stuff:

    http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/dcmoment67a.jpg

    See how the one dude is being held up like Martian Manhunter is on the left?

  35. @the Beat My assumption based on Steve’s comment is discussing monthly comic books given his reference to Image and Supergirl. If so when it comes to monthly comic books DC and Marvel are the top sellers. If you want to expand the discussion beyond monthlies to OGNs and Manga than it definitely becomes more diverse.

  36. I’m not defending anything from DC. But if there’s 10 comic book websites and all of them are focusing all their attention on DC, then who’s keeping an eye on any of the other publishers?

  37. “Laura – creators go from Image to DC/Marvel, not the other way round. If great writers like Jim Zub and Justin Jordan can set up comics at Image, why can’t equally talented female writers?”

    The same Jim Zubkavich that worked at Dark Horse and Udon? Like I said, dig back for most creators and they have to have generated the money to publish something at Image /somewhere/. As opposed to say, Hannah Berry, Mary Talbot or Simone Lia who pitch an idea to their book publisher and are given the funding to work on it. For an artist in particular you need the money to pay your bills so you can work on this stuff.

    Same is true whether you’re just starting out and poor, or a popular artist like Darick Robertson. You need the upfront cash – often provided by the writer if they can afford it – to even think about working on a project for Image.

    Considering more women artists and writers are working in the comics and graphic novels of the book industry, working on the normal book publishing model where you are given an advance to live on while completing the work as well as money on the back end via royalties. With more women approaching comics currently from the book publishing model than the direct market model, I can quite understand why many would balk at the idea. Of course Kickstarter is now providing a third way and that should prove interesting.

    The crux however is that Image are for creators to publish through – their focus is not on promoting characters they own with the same desperation that DC and Marvel do. The latter arguably exist only to do this as they are part of a money making empire that focuses strongly on IP rights for film, games and so forth. So it’s comparing apples and oranges as was said upthread.

  38. I also think that many sites – like this one and others – do focus on the other publishers. But the job of DC and Marvel is to flood the market with information about THEM and that does impact upon all comics sites. The focus in the press directed towards the publishing industry as a whole is very different – Jonathan Cape, Selfmadehero et al get the press there.

    But the internet, and the popular press, want stories about whether or not Batman is gay. That’s why despite them having far less of a hold on the OVERALL market, they get all the attention. That and the fact that the characters have a far bigger reach outside of comics.

  39. Just done a super quick count which won’t be entirely correct – can’t tell gender by names alone! – but Image lists 14 books in June/July that have a woman as writer, artist or cover artist. 15 if you include Storm Dogs from last month. Cover artists account for 4.

  40. saiyen says:

    Do U even marketing?

  41. Saiman: oh, you want to talk about comics that are *GOOD* do you? Did I read that right?

    That’s a topic you don’t even want to TOUCH on.

    You’ll be struggling to find some men in comics to talk about if you want to make this into a meritocracy.

  42. Fact is: more than half of the best comics makers are women.

    But: you want to float ideas like “oh let’s not talk about WOMEN, let’s just talk about ~the best~ comics.”

    A not-subtle way to imply “not women.” BUT GUESS WHAT KIDDO: talking about “the best” STILL means talking about women. And those women live in society. And that society effects them as it effects you and me and EVERYONE.

    So: you have no actual objections. Bye.

  43. >> So in the Marvel world. that’s like Stark promoting her from secretary to the CEO of Apple while he’s busy crimefighting because she’s good at schedules and is a girlfriend that doesn’t mind putting up with a ladies man.>>

    Wait, wait, hold it.

    Aside from this having nothing to do with Heidi being wrong about an assumption she didn’t make, or the article being about how Paltrow was used as a positive example, not a negative one, you’re now complaining that Paltrow must be bad because of the script? Because the actors, they make up the story?

    You don’t like Paltrow, that’s pretty clear. But you still aren’t actually responding to what’s being said, just venting your dislike.

    Which is cool, I suppose, as long as you aren’t pretending to speak for “the audience,” or ascribing stuff to people who didn’t say anything resembling it.

    kdb

  44. Johnathan Black says:

    I don’t mind if you continue to cover gender issues. However, what I would like to see are more interviews with female creators, editors and publishers who are involved in interesting work. I really enjoyed the links from your recent post on Colleen Doran and the lady at the helm of First Second books. Interviews with them and others would be very much appreciated.

    JB

  45. johnrobiethecat says:

    Yes, she does talk too much about it but it fine with me. It adds to the quirkiness of the Beat vs vanilla era of web news. I think women add a lot to comics, glad they are there. This is an issue I’m sure. A big one, not so sure, But her points can be flimsy and I’ve noticed any women who doesn’t get as riled up as her is just not facing up to the truth. At least thats the gist I’ve been getting from the rants.

    >>Aside from this having nothing to do with Heidi being wrong about an assumption she didn’t make, or the article being about how Paltrow was used as a positive example, not a negative one, you’re now complaining that Paltrow must be bad because of the script? Because the actors, they make up the story?>>

    I just reread it and those Gwyenth parts were deleted out after our convo so what to do? I didn’t see Iron Man 3 except what I could piece together from the goofy trailers. I’m sure its as bad as Superman is going to be. These are fanboy-ish movies to exploit this era of car commercial effects and the actors are along for the money ride. I saw Iron Man 1 which seemed like a more honest movie with efforts to make it plausible. It was Ok,fine, started this whole thing… IM 2 was plain bad and the Avengers, well the audience likes it so I can’t speak for them as you say or of their fondness for Gwenyth but will they like it 10yrs from now? after they make Awful 2 & Awful 3. I doubt it, Its been hokey stuff the last few years….the billion dollar figure seems like the atomic number for justified artlessness of recent hero movies. Myself, I hope the next Woody Allen movie makes a billion dollars to offset the greed mentality of this age of crappy films. Sometime I feel like the guy who’s pointing out acid-wash jeans is going to be out of style one day while they sell out at the Gap.

    just curious, since I can’t reread things, Why is Gwenyth this positive example- because she runs a big tech corporation after dating the boss. Marissa Mayer had to work a bit harder to get in that position. Girls would probably prefer to have realistic examples not token, phony ones. My simple take from the article was that she was successful after 40, even though she’s doesn’t out-fetching the the current vixens, And we should admire that, but look at the resources and friends on her side. And its Iron Man 3.

    >>You don’t like Paltrow, that’s pretty clear. But you still aren’t actually responding to what’s being said, just venting your dislike.>>

    I don’t get this rage and claims that she has for male decision makers in comics have for female creators, or maybe its DC . It must be in the circles she travels in,,,As a consumer, I buy what I like and that includes what the ladies do. I just don’t get the harping…It is sexism or favoritism or inclusiveness or the classic mutual loathing of artsy types vs basement dwellers (as one podcast put it, that includes both sexes) which I think plays out in the Eisner awards a bit. The Chris Ware side of the equation (usually on the panels) cant stand the Jim Lee superhero stars so they put they flames out on any awards cred come season time…. Maybe the Jim Lee look of DC is just kept up because the comic stores are temples to that kind of style and bookstores love the artsy style (In case Jim or Chris are reading which sometimes happen here, .just using them as easy examples to picture a group divide in comics,- artsy vs superhero dudes). Thats how it looks from the outside.

    This is just an assumption, no facts or figures, but it looks like there might be truth to that from what I know about art schools and the divides and politics that play out there. And women do outnumber men considerably for like the last 15yrs in that environment from what I’ve seen and friends who teach. What some may see as sexism may be just something else.

  46. “The Chris Ware side of the equation (usually on the panels) cant stand the Jim Lee superhero stars so they put they flames out on any awards cred come season time”

    I suggest that anyone who believes that the “Chris Ware side” is sitting on nomination panels and locking out the superhero field from the Eisner Awards take a look at who has actually won the awards.

  47. Serhend Sirkecioglu says:

    To the headline question I say, Yes. It’s one thing to address an issue like lack of courtesy and inclusiveness of women at conventions or lack of women in mainstream comics(outside of that is an increasingly different story), but there’s a point where you start to have diminishing returns on talking about gender issues. when you begin to repeat yourself in almost axiomatic points ad nauseum, people get cynical and it can be dismissed as ideological sabre-rattling. We live in a age with a 1000 advocates, consultants, and pundits but very few leaders. These issues require more proactive measures beyond the internet with actual leadership…something to follow and stand for in person. I’ve unfollowed tumblrs when I see one too many Hawkeye Initiatives or memetic pro-fem comics, because they ring hollow to me now, it’s all talk and simply addressing the problem more has dulled its teeth.

    In terms of women breaking in, things have changed. I remember Jessica Abel telling us in our sophomore storytelling class told that a few years ago the class ratio was majority boys talking about superheroes and now is majority girls talking about manga(and SFPs). There is a rising tide of female cartoonists but art is a meritocracy, so for every few hundred girl cartoonists only a few are going to make it. there numbers are there but the success rate for being a published cartoonist has not changed and is against them(just like boys) despite this love for graphic novels and what-not. Since there’s fewer opportunities to break out in a meaningful manner, fewer women will get noticed beyond the interwebz.

  48. Pantsless Pete says:

    @Ayo But my point is that it’s not entirely at all controversial to suggest that there is significantly more of one type of girl than the other type of girl and if you are looking to grow a female comics readership you’d be perhaps better served by looking at something in the mode of Pretty Little Liars or the rest of Alloy Entertainments output rather than looking in the direction of superheroes.

    The audience that’s interested in the latter is going to show up anyway but the manga boom suggested that there’s far more to be gained than poking at the non-superheo focused audience in growing female comics readership.

  49. It’s not the amount you write about gender issues, it’s the quality of what you write about gender issues.

  50. Synsidar says:

    Since there’s fewer opportunities to break out in a meaningful manner, fewer women will get noticed beyond the interwebz.

    Marvel and DC matter so much because, to female cartoonists looking for work, they’re sources of employment. Whatever their motivations are, Marvel and DC should want to attract more female readers, if only because the potential readership is so large, compared to the number of males who read. Dismissing that potential audience as unreachable, or not worth the effort, suggests various unpleasant things about the superhero comics material and the people who read them. If nobody at Marvel or DC can really fathom how to do superhero comics in ways that interest women, because he thinks the material is inherently for guys who want male-oriented (if not overtly sexist) power fantasies, that’s all the more reason to solicit submissions from women.

    SRS

  51. bad wolf says:

    Does the Beat write about gender issues too much? No, it’s a reasonable amount of coverage to give a real problem in today’s comics. FWIW i always thought this site was less…. dogmatic than Comics Alliance, for one.

    Does that one guy obsess over Gwyneth Paltrow too much? The evidence speaks for itself.

  52. Serhend Sirkecioglu says:

    @ SRS
    But Marvel and DC are not the only source of employment, Fantagraphics, Top Shelf, Oni, Archaia, SLG, D&Q, First Second, NBM, Abrams, Scholastic, and other publishers are the real faces of comics and have hired many women. The big two have been going in a different direction for such a long time, that the only way to really change anything is from within. outside pressure has had little effect on their policy and it’s up to the next generation of young editors to change the tide of things. I’ve been saying this for a while to the big two for a while: Make comics for kids and tweens, there is a lot of overlap in the YA market…but it seems that Marvel Cinematic Universe and Chris Nolan money is too sweet and is billions of dollars worth of “we’re right, you’re wrong”.

  53. john layman says:

    Great article, Heidi.

  54. The Beat says:

    I should note that half of this article seems to have been offline over the weekend because of a coding error. It’s all back now.

  55. Well, if the commentary on this article shows anything it’s that the comics community needs to keep talking about women’s interests and issues. But is it happening “too much”? I don’t think so. As long as the issue exists we absolutely need to keep the conversation going.
    One day I hope we can get to a place where we stop talking about this because the problems women encounter as creators and fans of comics are solved. I hope I live to see that day.

  56. johnrobiethecat says:

    It’s here. Enjoy it.

  57. Rich Harvey says:

    Ayo: “Saipaman: I see you trollin’/ you hatin’”

    Actually, I think Chris Hero was doing the hatin’ … And, alas, Saipaman hit the nail on the head.

  58. Rich Harvey says:

    rousseau :
    “…women and minorities at large simply do not want to read comics. And most heterosexual white men don’t want to read them either. ”

    Alas … you are correct … For most human beings, there are no gender or minority issues with comics, because they think comics are stupid. A slightly smaller percentage believe that reading ANYTHING is “stupid”, but that’s another problem altogether.

  59. jason says:

    No you do not write about gender issues too much. And the comments by some of these myopic, incoherent dudes prove that. Thank you Kurt Busieck for fighting the good fight and proving that not all men are small minded misogynists.
    And the point of that article in the Hollywood Reporter was that actresses over 40 are in hit movies currently and demanding higher salaries. It was mostly about Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock but also mentioned Paltrow. It was not about the plot of the Iron Man films or the script.

  60. Ken Parille says:

    Some self-promotion related to the topic of female critics:
    The Daniel Clowes Reader — my forthcoming collection of Clowes comics, essays about his work, and other materials — includes writing by five female critics; zine excerpts, interviews excerpts, and cartoons by women (one of his characters reads a book of Ann Roy cartoons); and three members of the editorial staff, including the assistant editor, are women.

  61. Andrew Farago says:

    In answer to Heidi’s initial question, I’m glad she and other Beat contributors bring up gender issues. When these topics are no longer relevant to discussions about the comics industry, we’ll say, “Enough, already,” but we’re not there yet.

    If anyone’s bothered by it, A) there’s plenty of other comics content on The Beat, and B) that’s probably a good sign that discussion of these issues is important.

  62. george says:

    The Beat wrote: “But the reason I brought this up because it made me flash back to about 25 years ago when a still-very prominent and much loved comics publisher told me “All the women in comics get work because they’re dating a guy in comics.”

    That probably goes back to the ’70s, when many of the female names in the credits (especially at Marvel) were the wives or girlfriends of staffers, usually writers. They were most often employed as letterers or colorists, though a few had writing credits.

    I’d hope things have changed since then.

  63. The only power people have over you is your reaction to them.

  64. george says:

    I suspect mainstream comic books will always be male-dominated — in terms of creators and readers — as long as the superhero genre is on top. It’s different with independent comics, from what I’ve gathered.

    Grant Morrison wrote in “Supergods” that he’s met many bright women who read the better superhero comics as part of their regular pop culture diet. But he admitted that the people who are OBSESSED with superheroes, and who amass huge collections of superhero comic books, tend to be male.

    I don’t know what can change that. The superhero comics currently published by Marvel and DC certainly aren’t going to change it.

    I wish the Big Two were putting out comics in a wide variety of genres, as they did before the ’80s: romance, western, war, mystery, science fiction, horror, you name it. But those other genres died some 30 years ago, as casual readers drifted away and superhero fans took control.

  65. Rich Harveu says:

    “Grant Morrison wrote in “Supergods” that he’s met many bright women who read the better superhero comics as part of their regular pop culture diet.”

    This baffles me. A sweeping generalization, with an added generalization implied that guys are stupid if they don’t like Grant Morrison’s books, or the things he enjoys?

  66. george says:

    I think he’s saying that women tend to have good taste — and he did not specify Grant Morrison books as “the better superhero comics.”

    It sure wasn’t women who were buying crud like Lady Death and the Image books in the ’90s. It was dudes.

  67. george says:
  68. George said:

    “Grant Morrison wrote in “Supergods” that he’s met many bright women who read the better superhero comics as part of their regular pop culture diet. But he admitted that the people who are OBSESSED with superheroes, and who amass huge collections of superhero comic books, tend to be male.”

    My takeaway from this admitted generalization is not necessarily that women have better taste than men (not that such a thing can be definitively proven or disproven anyway), but that the former are less concerned with getting “the Big Picture.” Guys will tolerate a lot of crappy MARVEL TEAM-UPS just to keep track of how many times Spidey fought the Sandman in all his appearances. In comparison with this perhaps-obsessive habit, women might fairly be viewed as “more discriminating.”

    However, keep in mind that “better” is also not objectively valid. Female fans are more likely to follow a solid soap-opera adventure like NEW TEEN TITANS than they are MARVEL TEAM-UP or the aforementioned LADY DEATH. But from the POV of an unforgiving critic like Tong the Merciless, they’re all crap.

  69. george says:

    Maybe it was just Morrison’s way of saying superheroes are basically a “guy thing.”

  70. I wouldn’t go that far. Why bring up the idea of women reading the “better” superhero features at all, then?

  71. george says:

    Kurt Buseik said: “Used to be, back when most every kid read comics, girls read comics at slightly larger percentages than boys. And lots of comics thrived while being aimed at girls, from teen-humor comics to romance comics to newspaper strips about female protagonists and more. And there were lots and lots of comics that weren’t skewed toward one gender or the other, and they did well, too. DC and Marvel both used to publish a lot of them.”

    I know, and I wish DC and Marvel would go back to publishing that, instead of chasing after 300,000 or so male superhero addicts in the 18-34 age group. But one fan-magazine columnist told me we should “accept” a virtually all-male readership, as if this is the natural order of things.

    Kurt B. said: “Then you probably never encountered the sexism and racism that some have encountered there, from unwelcome assault to career damage to “jigaboo” dolls on editors’ desks and more.”

    I don’t doubt that. Anyone who has spent enough time on comics-related blogs and forums knows this field has its share of boors and cranks (among fans and pros). Maybe not more than other fields — I’m not aware of any openly homophobic comics creators, although the guy who drew the aardvark filled the openly anti-female slot. We’re certainly not pure.

  72. jason says:

    The below is absurdly untrue when the people in power are sometimes your editors and bosses.

    Jimmy Palmiotti says:
    The only power people have over you is your reaction to them.

  73. Kurt Buseik said: “Used to be, back when most every kid read comics, girls read comics at slightly larger percentages than boys. And lots of comics thrived while being aimed at girls, from teen-humor comics to romance comics to newspaper strips about female protagonists and more. And there were lots and lots of comics that weren’t skewed toward one gender or the other, and they did well, too. DC and Marvel both used to publish a lot of them.”

    I wouldn’t cite “newspaper strips” in any equation, given that they had a very different means of dissemination from comic books. But though I rather doubt that a lot of girl-readers were crazy about “guy” adventure-stories– be they superheroes or westerns or soldiers of fortune– one thing the old anthology comics had going for them was that most of them included humor features– and I imagine that girls and boys could enjoy those about equally.

  74. >> I wouldn’t cite “newspaper strips” in any equation, given that they had a very different means of dissemination from comic books.>>

    I would, because we’re not talking primarily about the distribution method. The claim is that girls just don’t want to read or create comics — which suggests it’s the form, not the distribution, that is alien to their X-chromosome-linked sensibilities.

    And since the distribution method for newspaper strips included newspapers and later reprints in comic-book form and in book form, and today’s comics that girls supposedly would have to be forced at gunpoint to draw get distributed in both comic-book and book form, plus e-comics and other forms, I don’t think distribution is a strongly distinguishing limit on the appeal of the artform.

    >> But though I rather doubt that a lot of girl-readers were crazy about “guy” adventure-stories– be they superheroes or westerns or soldiers of fortune– one thing the old anthology comics had going for them was that most of them included humor features– and I imagine that girls and boys could enjoy those about equally.>>

    Back in the days when comic books were anthologies, humor features weren’t just present among the adventure content — there were entire comics full of humor stories. And full of animal stories and romance and crime and magic and so on; there were adventure-focused comics that also had humor features, but they weren’t by any stretch all that was available.

    There were girls that liked superheroes, just as there are now, and girls who liked adventure heroes and westerns and such (indeed, in the prose market, the issue seems less to be about dividing appeal by genre, but by depth of character — women readers tend to like characters who think and feel and react deeply, regardless of genre, and tend not to flock to books where the action content overwhelms emotional content. So thrillers, westerns, soldiers of fortune — whether they’ll appeal to a female audience depends a lot on how they’re written). But the comic-book publishers weren’t trying to sell one thing. They were trying to reach boys, girls, anyone, rather than limiting their appeal and then trying to argue that the audience they’re not reaching doesn’t like the artform.

  75. KDB sez:

    “I would, because we’re not talking primarily about the distribution method. The claim is that girls just don’t want to read or create comics — which suggests it’s the form, not the distribution, that is alien to their X-chromosome-linked sensibilities.”

    I’ve never seen anyone claim that the form of comics overall is alien to the Y-chromosome-challenged. All I’ve ever seen, ad nauseam, is the complaint that girls shouldn’t be expected to like superheroes and that the comic-BOOK industry cuts itself off from female buyers by focusing on superheroes.

    Perhaps you have a source of such comments in mind?

    Since comic strips have not focused on male-oriented genres– indeed, the genres associated with adventure have almost vanished from newspaper strips– the standard complaint about “too many superheroes” wouldn’t apply to comic strips. Given that most newspaper strips are humorous in nature, there’s no reason to think that they don’t appeal equally to men and women. There still may be gender breakdowns; male readers probably like LIBERTY MEADOWS in greater quantity than female ones. But there’s still plenty of strips which are targeted to female readers.

    My point in bringing up the presence of humor in anthologies is that it may account for the breadth of appeal across the genders during the Golden Age. Since comic books in those days were so cheap, it was easy for them to load an anthology-book with a tough soldier of fortune, a girl-humor strip, a teen humor strip, a detective, and a western. The strategy was the same as in vaudeville: give everyone in the audience a little bit of something and they’ll pay the price for the whole performance. I’d be interested to see if anyone could “bring back vaudeville” for a modern audience– although it would have to compensate for the current pricey-ness of the medium.

  76. george says:

    Gene Phillips said: “But from the POV of an unforgiving critic like Tong the Merciless, they’re all crap.”

    Tong the Merciless? Is that a pseudonym for Gary Groth? ;)

    I don’t think all superhero comics are crap. Not with all those Marvel Essentials lining my shelves. But I do think that if you’re over 50 and still buying new superhero comics — as opposed to buying reprints or back issues for reasons of nostalgia or historical research — you might need to develop other interests.

    In my opinion (and I’m sure others will disagree), the move toward superheroes as “adult” reading material was stopped dead by the rise of Image, and its subsequent imitation by the Big Two. There have been exceptions, mostly special projects such as “Marvels” and “Kingdom Come” (both in the ’90s). But I don’t see much in the regular monthly superhero comics for middle-aged adults.

  77. george says:

    Gene Phillips said: “… rather doubt that a lot of girl-readers were crazy about “guy” adventure-stories– be they superheroes or westerns or soldiers of fortune–”

    I remember seeing an aunt’s college yearbook (or annual, or whatever it’s called) for 1945. The students were asked their favorite comic strip.

    Boys’ favorite: “Dick Tracy.”

    Girls’ favorite: “Terry and the Pirates.”

    So there was a time when girls liked adventure strips. The sophistication (and strong female characters) that Caniff brought to “Terry” probably helped.

  78. >> All I’ve ever seen, ad nauseam, is the complaint that girls shouldn’t be expected to like superheroes and that the comic-BOOK industry cuts itself off from female buyers by focusing on superheroes.>>

    If so, you may have missed the comment that started this particular thread branch, which insisted that girls don’t want to read comics (not superhero comics, but comics), and that we are both a niche industry and artform. Not genre, artform. And that it was apparently always thus, since it goes on to say we have tried and failed to change it.

    I’ve seen plenty of people argue that girls just don’t like comics.

    >> My point in bringing up the presence of humor in anthologies is that it may account for the breadth of appeal across the genders during the Golden Age. Since comic books in those days were so cheap, it was easy for them to load an anthology-book with a tough soldier of fortune, a girl-humor strip, a teen humor strip, a detective, and a western.>>

    I don’t think that’s an accurate description of the Golden Age anthologies. There may have been a few (particularly early on) that took that approach, but generally the anthology books were somewhat more focused than that.

    For instance, picking MORE FUN #50 from 1939, at random, it’s almost all adventure strips, plus a couple of detective strips full fillers on a reporter and a nonfiction strip about famous men of history. MARVEL MYSTERY 36, from ’42, is almost entirely superhero stuff, with a little crime and a fantasy-adventure strip. PEP 19, from 1941, is a bit more varied — three superheroes, fantasy, war, crime, horror and a sports strip. Seven years later, once Archie had become a hit, it was all-humor except for the very last Shield story.

    >> The strategy was the same as in vaudeville: give everyone in the audience a little bit of something and they’ll pay the price for the whole performance.>>

    I haven’t done a study of it, but I don’t think that was their approach. I think they tried various features, sometimes casting the genre net wide, and sometimes not, but looked at what was working and what wasn’t, and narrowed the contents down so most anthologies books had a core genre with maybe a few allied features or one-page filler gags, occasionally experimenting with something new.

    But if you wanted adventure, the books with adventure stuff on the covers would be largely adventure (ADVENTURE COMICS 32, for instance, is all adventure, except for a few 2-page gag fillers). If you wanted humor, the humor covers would lead you to humor anthologies. And so on.

    They might start out tossing a bunch of stuff onto the wall to see what’d stick, but when they found out what their audience liked, they did more of it. So I don’t think girls were buying, say, ACTION COMICS and ignoring the Superman strip in favor of the humor stuff (there’s only filler material for that, but there’s plenty of action-adventure). I think those girls who bought ACTION bought it for the action; if they wanted teen humor they’d buy a book built around that.

    [Also, it's a side point, but comic books weren't all that cheap back then. They cost a dime, which was what TIME Magazine cost, and LIFE and THE SATURDAY EVENING POST and COLLIERS. I've often argued that the doom cycle set in for comics when we stopped being financially-competitive with other magazines, when they raised prices and we didn't. That's when comics started being cheaper than other magazines, and as such retailers made less profit from them and had less reason to display them competitively.]

    >> I’d be interested to see if anyone could “bring back vaudeville” for a modern audience– although it would have to compensate for the current pricey-ness of the medium.>>

    My observation, over the years, is that anthologies that promise high-quality variety don’t last all that long, and anthologies that have a strong theme or focus can do better but are still an increasingly hard sell. But it’s easier to sell to, say, mystery fans or to science fiction fans or humor fans than it is to sell to good-writing fans.

    And as narrowcasting becomes more and more the order of the day, I think we’re more likely to see the component parts of what could be a “vaudeville”-like anthology sold to niche audiences one by one than in a big gulp together.

    Except for cable bundles, maybe, which support narrowcasting by making the guy who wants the Golf Channel and the guy who wants the Food Network both support each other’s channels…

  79. >> So there was a time when girls liked adventure strips. The sophistication (and strong female characters) that Caniff brought to “Terry” probably helped.>>

    And women still like adventure. The Indiana Jones movies didn’t appeal only to boys, and THE HUNGER GAMES is dystopian SF adventure. Dismissing a large potential audience by saying they’re just automatically not interested generally means the speaker doesn’t want to bother, not that the audience really doesn’t care.

    kdb

  80. George said:

    “Tong the Merciless? Is that a pseudonym for Gary Groth? ;)

    I don’t think all superhero comics are crap. Not with all those Marvel Essentials lining my shelves. But I do think that if you’re over 50 and still buying new superhero comics — as opposed to buying reprints or back issues for reasons of nostalgia or historical research — you might need to develop other interests.

    In my opinion (and I’m sure others will disagree), the move toward superheroes as “adult” reading material was stopped dead by the rise of Image, and its subsequent imitation by the Big Two. There have been exceptions, mostly special projects such as “Marvels” and “Kingdom Come” (both in the ’90s). But I don’t see much in the regular monthly superhero comics for middle-aged adults.”

    Re: “Tong the Merciless” is Ng Suat Tong (sp?), whose name came up on this newsblog a couple times.

    I don’t think all superhero comics are crap either, though I admit I don’t buy many current ones, so I’m not the best judge. But I still pick up the odd good read in that genre.

    Since the stats I’ve seen suggest that many if not most of the supporters of the DM shops are middle-aged, it should be axiomatic that a lot of middle-aged buyers get something from the superhero books, be it from the Big Two or up-and-comers like Dynamite. Maybe it’s a combination of nostalgia for an icon and a desire to see that icon vandalized, since a helluva lot of successful books include that Ole Debbil “Superhero Decadence.” (Google for it if interested.)

    Interesting theory about Image, but it’s possible that had the participants never formed their collective, some other “hot company” would have brought about the same ill-fated speculator boom.

  81. KDB: “If so, you may have missed the comment that started this particular thread branch, which insisted that girls don’t want to read comics (not superhero comics, but comics), and that we are both a niche industry and artform. Not genre, artform. And that it was apparently always thus, since it goes on to say we have tried and failed to change it.”

    i reread Rousseau’s comment and I’m not getting from it any generalizations about the overall medium of comics, including the pamphlets, newspaper strips, strip collections et al. I thought he was speaking only of the pamphlet industry as a “niche industry.” If he reads this perhaps he’ll choose to weigh in.

    I can find examples in which there was more of the “vaudeville” approach I cite, but it’s a given that no one can prove which was dominant unless one was willing to analyze a representative number of anthology comics over a fixed period of years. It’s possible that the early Golden Age is more unified than the late GA; MILITARY COMICS is certainly more adventure-focused than its postwar descendant MODERN COMICS.

    The crux of the matter remains: even if we take for granted the accuracy of the survey(s) showing greater female readership, do we know that those girl-readers were reading the adventure-stuff as devotedly as the boy-readers? It’s possible, especially since comics were very kid-friendly and easy to pass around or trade off, something kids would have no reason to do with copies of TIME. OTOH, social conditioning of the genders starts at an early age, and I’d say that in the 1940s there was a wider gap between the sexes as to what constituted Good Stuff for Girls to Read. The cynic in me asks, “If girls had such latitudinarian tastes in the 1940s, how come whenever I ask women in the 1960s about juvenile experiences in comics-reading, they only remember ARCHIE, CASPER and romance comics?”

    You pays your money….

  82. >> i reread Rousseau’s comment and I’m not getting from it any generalizations about the overall medium of comics, including the pamphlets, newspaper strips, strip collections et al.>>

    When he says that comics is a niche industry _and_ artform and always has been, I take that to be a claim about the medium. If he’d only meant the industry, he didn’t need to specifically extend the claim to the artform.

    And he does say that no matter how diverse the industry gets, it won’t work because women just aren’t interested — that’s clearly an argument intended to go beyond the superhero genre.

    >> The crux of the matter remains: even if we take for granted the accuracy of the survey(s) showing greater female readership, do we know that those girl-readers were reading the adventure-stuff as devotedly as the boy-readers?>>

    If we don’t, then we probably shouldn’t assume one way or the other. But the argument that girls don’t like comics isn’t limited to adventure comics — as noted, the claim I was originally responding to was that girls don’t like comics, which are a niche industry and artform and always have been. That doesn’t require girls to read adventure material at exactly the same percentage as boys in order to be scuttled.

    >> The cynic in me asks, “If girls had such latitudinarian tastes in the 1940s, how come whenever I ask women in the 1960s about juvenile experiences in comics-reading, they only remember ARCHIE, CASPER and romance comics?”>>

    On the one hand, I think you’re again trying to alter the argument to being about whether women like adventure comics in precisely the same proportion as men, rather than whether women just don’t like comics and never did, which was the claim being addressed; I keep steering it back to that because I’m not that interested in being asked to defend arguments that I didn’t actually make. So I don’t know how wide a survey you took, back in the 1960s, but these clearly weren’t women who didn’t like comics at all.

    On the other, I can’t speak to your anecdotes, but the women I knew who were kids in the 1940s, when they reminisced about comics, tended to talk about Captain Marvel, Captain Midnight and Terry and the Pirates. Sometimes about Wonder Woman, Katy Keene and Donald Duck, too, but there seemed to be a lot of fond memories of adventure comics.

    So whether they liked adventure comics just as much as the boys did, I won’t guess, but the idea that they didn’t like comics and that comics have never been more than a niche artform, I think is a silly claim.

    If you want me to argue against some other claims, well, I’ve seen that kind of claim too, and argued against it at times. But my response to rousseau was a response to what he said, not a response to arguments you’ve seen elsewhere.

    On that front, the idea that women have no place in the comics industry as creators because superhero comics as they’re currently produced don’t interest women on as large a scale as they interest men has such an obvious logical hole in it that I don’t think it needs much more than a medium breeze to topple it anyway. But is anyone here really making such a stupid argument? If not, I don’t really think it needs to be addressed here, rather than where they made it. Odds are, they got responses enough there.

    kdb

  83. I still he’s just talking about comic-book pamphlets because he references all the times the industry has created diverse material that didn’t sell. Naturally, there are comics outside the pamphlet-industry that have sold well with mainstream readers, so that suggests to me that he’s thinking about the failures of Marvel, DC and perhaps even many of the purveyors of “artcomics” in pamphlet-form, many of which have fallen by the wayside.

    Re: girls liking comics and girls liking adventure-comics–

    One of the refutations of Rousseau– whoever first cited it– was a study asserting that in the Golden Age female readers of comics were statistically greater than the male readership. I recall the announcement of this study some time back, don’t remember any fine points right now but am willing to take its accuracy as given. However, if we’re going to say that’s accurate, it’s legitimate to ask, “what kind of comics were out then, and how do they differ from comics now?” Obviously, where the Golden Age comics offered an assortment of genres, now the Big Two offer one dominant genre and a handful of related genres that have become “satellites” to the main one.

    Early in the CTs you say:

    “Comics is a mass-appeal medium. We unintentionally took steps to change that and succeeded wildly at turning it into a niche industry.”

    Well, was not the concentration on superheroes one of the main steps taken by the “pamphlet-industry” that caused the flight of the female reader? (I don’t argue Rousseau’s other point about “minorities” because I don’t think it’s accurate, nor is there sufficient information to make it debate-worthy.)

    Again, I don’t have the slightest interest in arguing Rousseau’s point as to comics being an anti-Y kryptonite, if indeed that was his point. I’m only interested in the question as to whether the pamphlet industry experienced “Y-flight,” and if so why.

  84. >> Well, was not the concentration on superheroes one of the main steps taken by the “pamphlet-industry” that caused the flight of the female reader?>>

    I dont’ know whether I’d say it was the concentration on superheroes, or on a particular type of storytelling — superhero books (and movies, and TV shows) have been quite attractive to women when done in a way that appeals to them.

    But as I’ve been saying all along, the idea that comics is a niche artform and always has been is absurd. The reason I keep returning to this is because it’s been what I’ve been saying all along — you seem to want to argue against stuff I didn’t say, so I keep reiterating what I did say.

    If you’re not interested in arguing rousseau’s point (beyond recasting it into something that you assume he meant because it makes more sense to you), and I’m not interested in arguing with the people who aren’t here whose arguments you’d rather postulate, then we may simply be done.

  85. KDB,
    Since you’re so allfired certain that you’ve made the correct interpretation of the absent Mr. Rousseau’s post, I’m obliged to waste a few blogbytes to disagree:

    “You won’t ever have “equality” in this or any other field unless you had a totalitarian dictatorship forcing females who simply don’t want to read comics to start reading comics. The major (and minor) companies can produce all of the diverse products that you (and I) would be interested in seeing, but by and large they simply won’t sell enough to a wide enough audience—not because of some sort of sexist conspiracy or ignorance within the industry but because women and minorities at large simply do not want to read comics. And most heterosexual white men don’t want to read them either. This is a niche industry and art form. We’ve tried to change it, but we can’t. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop trying, but we shouldn’t put too much blame on the companies for, I dunno, putting out another Wolverine and Batman book, because those comics actually sell. Within our community we certainly should be respectful of all people and create diverse products/characters/stories. But the number of aspiring female creators, for example, is simply dwarfed b the number of aspiring male creators. ”

    That R. believes comics as he defines them to be a “niche industry,” that is beyond dispute. But though he does not say that he’s defining comics as “the pamphlet industry,” the only companies he references are pamphlet producers. He doesn’t say diddly about newspaper comics, online comics, TPB reprints of strips or pamphlets. I think it obvious that you’ve projected your argument onto his, which is why my original comment to you questioned your mention of newspaper comics. That’s something you did say, and I disagreed with it. Beyond that, we may very well be “done.”

  86. Synsidar says:

    There’s support for saying that comics are popular reading among kids:

    Research has suggested that boys may report being less interested in reading than girls because their literary interests are not well-represented in school libraries and classrooms.[5], [6] Boys are much more likely to enjoy reading science and non-fiction books, informational texts and “how-to” manuals.[7], [8], [9], [10]They are also more likely to enjoy fantasy, adventure stories and stories that are scary or “gross” along with books about hobbies and things they do or want to do.[11]

    Boys also tend to prefer visual media, such as the internet, newspapers and magazines, that focus on sports, electronics and video games.[12], [13] Yet, while boys show clear preferences for specific reading material these genres and media are generally under-represented or even unavailable in school libraries, a reflection of the views of teachers and librarians who judge such material inappropriate.[14], [15], [16]

    One type of reading material that clearly reflects this disparity is comics. [17], [18], [19], [20] According to the Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation comic books are the second most popular reading choice for boys (after newspapers and magazines).[21] During the elementary school years the proportion of boys who report reading comics rises from 69% to 75%, while the proportion among girls falls from 60% to 50%.[22]

    and surveys of kids and their reading choices showed:

    Michael Gurian (2001) argues that what boys like to read springs naturally from their experiences and how their brains are wired. He asserts that boys’ brains engage in less cross-hemispheric activity than girls’; therefore, they need an extra jolt of sound, color, motion or some physical stimulation to get their brains up to speed. This internal wiring explains boys’ preferences for sports, action, and adventure books, and also nonfiction titles that satisfy their innate desire to make sense of the universe and to test its boundaries. Boys’ fascination with comics and graphic novels can be explained using this rationale. The details of the drawings are as important to the story as text, and reward close examination of pictures rather than words.

    What boys wanted to read:

    More than a fifth, 26.4 percent, indicated a preference for nonfiction: books about animals, sports, cars, and the military were specifically mentioned, as were newspapers and subject-specific magazines. Comics and graphic novels was the next highest category, with 20.6 percent. Either books in general or a specific novel were mentioned by 8.8 percent. Likewise, 8.8 percent each indicated their preference for a specific action or adventure series, such as Magic Treehouse, or a fantasy series, such as Harry Potter or Narnia. Horror and humor categories garnered 5.9 percent each, and the remaining two students indicated that they enjoy I Spy and the Bible.

    There is a fair-sized body of research on kids and their reading choices and habits.

    SRS

  87. george says:

    Kurt B. said: “And women still like adventure. The Indiana Jones movies didn’t appeal only to boys, and THE HUNGER GAMES is dystopian SF adventure.”

    And “Hunger Games” appealed to both males and females, unlike some other YA hits (such as “Twilight”) that draw an almost entirely female readership.

    I recall Roy Thomas talking about Marvel’s failed attempts to launch female superheroes in the early ’70s (the Cat, Shanna, Night Nurse). He said that as hard as it was to get whites to buy comics with nonwhite heroes, it was even harder to get males — of any race — to buy a book with a female protagonist. Maybe that is finally changing.

    As for this topics’s title: “Do we write about gender issues too much?” I don’t think so. There are comics sites out there — I won’t name names — where almost all the posters are middle-aged married men who want to get away from their wives and hang out with other middle-aged guys. They have no problem with comics as a boys club. All that’s missing on these sites is a NO GIRLZ ALLOWED sign.

  88. george says:

    “If girls had such latitudinarian tastes in the 1940s, how come whenever I ask women in the 1960s about juvenile experiences in comics-reading, they only remember ARCHIE, CASPER and romance comics?”

    Well, my mother remembers reading Wonder Woman in the 1940s, along with all the adventure strips in the local papers — Dick Tracy, Flash Gordon, Terry, etc. Of course, she also read the humor strips, as everyone else did.

    I’m old enough to remember that in the 1960s, girls read Superman and all the Superman Family books (Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, etc.). For whatever reasons — maybe the emphasis on friendships, family bonds and strong emotions — Mort Weisinger was editing books that appealed to both genders. Chris Claremont pulled off the same feat with X-Men in the ’80s, as did Wolfman and Perez on New Teen Titans.

    I think it’s safe to say that superhero comics have always had more male than female readers, but there have always been females who liked adventure comics. Just like there have always been guys who followed soap operas.

  89. Woops, thought this thread had finished with my last comment.

    George:

    I’ve never questioned the indisiputable fact that some women like adventure stories. My only reason in mentioning my personal experiences asking women about their comics-reading experiences– and I recognize my experiences don’t constitute hard data– is that I’ve heard similar stories from a few other male fans. So it seems to me a possibility that the female adventure-fans are a minority with respect to the total female reading-audience within a specified span of time. Those female fans might even be more numerous than the male fans at that specified time, which appears to be the verdict of the studies cited on this thread. But those female fans could still be a minority within a vaster majority that has militated against “guys’ entertainment.” Would male readers of adventure-comics be as large a minority when measured against a totality of male readers in a given span? That’s the 64-cent question I’m asking.

    As I said earlier, I wouldn’t bring comic strips or films into the argument. The way they’re disseminated makes a great difference to the way in which they’re received, and both don’t have anything like the same level of cultural disapproval that has been heaped upon comic books in most eras.

    Possibly the most interesting paradigm-shift I’ve seen was the growth of the paranormal romance genre in the 90s, which on the whole crossbreeds a lot of adventurous material with the romance-idiom. If comic books could pull off something like that, they might have some shot at greater female readership. Some new paradigm has to be found IMO, not just “writing better stories” or whatever.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] asked recently do we write about gender issues too much? No, we don’t. Not while this crap is still going on and those expressing it aren’t [...]

  2. [...] – Heidi MacDonald at The Beat addresses a few of the most recent gender issues that have come up in the comics industry with an article titled “The Week in Women: Do We Write About Gender Issues Too Much?” [...]

  3. [...] on from Heidi’s post about gender issues in the comics industry, the best response seemed clear: I should probably write a post about some gender issues. Which [...]

  4. [...] a few months ago when I wrote: “Next time: why a female Doctor Who would destroy society as we know [...]

  5. [...] comics sites) took on the issue of “where are all the women in comics?” In her article, TWiW: Do We Write About Gender Issues Too Much? the venerable Heidi MacDonald made the exceptional point that “Women in Comics does not begin [...]

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