Why DC and Marvel will never truly target female readers

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Batgirl concept art by Lee Garbett

It would almost be self-aggrandizing to praise Noelene Clark’s recent women in comics piece in the LA Times, since I’m quoted so extensively in it, but I’m happy to say that the bulk of the cartoonists she spoke with were also proponents of the idea that I often promote here: women have already had massive, historic success in the comics industry, and at this point those outlets that aren’t adapting to the wave of female readers and creators are truly out of step with the times, and not the trendsetters.

MacDonald, Abel, Oleksyk and others are quick to point out that the frequently spotlighted superhero genre is just a tide pool in an ocean of work — a tide pool that has somehow managed to delay the sea change undergone by the rest of the industry.

“They consistently make editorial decisions that seem designed to alienate women,” Abel said. “So it’s self-reinforcing. If you’re constantly straight-arming women, women aren’t going to read them. If they don’t read them, they don’t grow up imagining them. If they don’t grow up imagining them, they’re not going to make them.”

As long as I’m here, I’d like to expand on my comments in the piece on just WHY the Big Two are so lagging behind the rest of the comics (and the publishing and even film worlds) in catering to female nerds and readers.

While I enjoy the heroic efforts on the part of DCWKA’s Sue, Kyrax2, Geek Mom and the squadron of superhero suffragettes out there, and support most of their points, I feel their efforts are pre-doomed. Sure it’s obvious that a character like Stephanie Brown—a character with a younger,more vocal following—deserves to be featured in her own book. Sure it’s obvious from the licensing alone that a Wonder Woman book aimed at young girls would find an audience.

And yet despite the money left on the table, embarrassing publicity, and public fist shaking, DC’s treatment of the Girl-Wonder.org faction over the years has ranged from tone-deafness to active pigtail pulling. And it’s systemic. In last fall’s reader survey, DC went out of its way to choose the lower of two figures for the female readership. This isn’t an accident. It’s a program.

Why? Well, all conspiracy theories, corporate DNA and the WB’s own woman problems aside, the simple fact is that on a meta level, DC Entertainment produces entertainment for boys. That’s its place within Warners, its demographic slot and I’m sure at some point Diane Nelson has overtly been tasked with keeping the boy audience engaged for films starring Batman, Superman, and Green Lantern.

We may think this kind of pigeonholing is stupid, but in a world run by branding, the message matters. By addressing female readers (and also younger readers), DC risks alienating its core audience of teenaged boys and men 25-35.

Marvel has much the same problem, although in some ways it’s more acute and in others, much more loosely policed. As mentioned in any story on the Marvel/Disney union, Disney has NO problem with girls. The Princess line is one of the most successful licensing programs of all times, and has a virtual monopoly on providing iconic characters for the female youth of the world. Where Disney has always lagged behind is with younger boys, and decade after decade, fix after fix was sought, from rebranding Disney XO, to buying the Power Rangers to…buying Marvel. And with that they have probably solved the problem for all times, as THE AVENGERS film franchise showed.

But it isn’t necessarily natural. Left to its own devices, as a corporation, Disney always steers girl. The Marvel Comics Universe has to be kept separate from Disney’s normal skewing towards Dazzler: The Musical, and Ororo, Princess of the Veldt.

Although the corporate mandate is much clearer for Marvel—and the danger of straying from it more perilous—from an internal standpoint they seem to have fewer worries about the comics actually appealing to women, as Jeff Parker’s recent plea to accept Red She Hulk shows. Marvel, the comics company, is simply less uptight about female fans driving away the boys, as the traditional high female readership for the X-Men, and female movie-goers embrace of THE AVENGERS shows.

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And female fans CAN drive away boys with their cooties. Rob Salkowitz has a piece about the recent Comic-Con and tensions between traditional con goers and the Camp Twilight crowd:

Camp Breaking Dawn is a concrete example that even in the traditionally masculine world of fandom, girl nerds can outperform boy nerds when it comes to demonstrating support for their pop culture obsessions. Through their numbers and their visible presence, they are forcing their tastes into the conversation, regardless of the disdain of purists.

Mainstream comics publishers could tap into this audience and make their offerings more female-friendly by cutting down on gratuitously offensive characterizations of women in their books, or perhaps by employing more female creators. But current evidence suggests that publishers see this as a zero-sum game: cut out the cheesecake and you’ll alienate the proven audience of male readers— and why risk that? Or perhaps the creative decision makers are simply the products of the same culture as their audience.

As asinine as this attitude is, it exists, it informs million-dollar decisions and that’s how it is. Why it is that some boys and young men are so insecure in their world view that any deviation from it leaves them repelled, I leave to the PhDs out there. But the truth is, as much as some individuals within each system would wish to deviate, the mandate to both Marvel and DC from their corporate owners is to be for boys. Period.

Thus, I would much rather spend my energy enjoying the work of the hundreds of successful female creators outside the Big Two than hope that corporate culture will change very much on this point. That doesn’t mean that I won’t point out the occasional crotchleg, or mock particularly short-sighted decisions, but…I’m not under any illusion that anything will change any time soon, either. The good part of all this is that alternative venues exists and that’s where the future of the comics industry lies.

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The work of early comics superstar Nell Brinkley

As long as we’re talking about all this, here’s one last thing to get off my chest. I’m so glad that former D&Q design manager Jessica Campbell was as outraged as I was by John Carlin’s comments on a panel a few years ago. I’m going to run a much longer than usual excerpt because it could function as a mini-essay in itself:

A few years ago when I attended a panel discussion between Dan Nadel and John Carlin (curator of the “Masters of American Comics” exhibition), moderated by Robert Storr, I was struck by how much of the conversation revolved around the role of women in comics. I was already familiar with the controversy surrounding the fact that Carlin’s exhibition, created with the explicit intent of solidifying the “comics canon,” had not included any female creators, though this controversy had at points felt blown out of proportion. Then, upon being asked directly about his chose to omit female cartoonists, Carlin claimed that to include any would have been “tokenism.” Certainly he acknowledged that there exist and have existed female cartoonists, though he said (perhaps I am paraphrasing slightly) “there has never existed a female Milton Caniff.” What he meant, really, was there has never been a female “master” of American comics (a telling choice of words to be sure).

His position is not dissimilar to what was for a long time the status quo in art history, and something I once read by art historian Nanette Salomon, that “the ‘exceptional’ woman artist may be one of the most insidious means of undermining the likelihood of women entering the creative arts,”* seems particularly relevant to both Carlin and the medium. In comics, as in art history, when women’s artistic production is described, it is very often qualified by their sex, thus highlighting its otherness and exceptionality. By consistently qualifying the work of female artists by their gender, one implies that somehow the fact of her gender is remarkable. The implication is that her femaleness is her handicap and that her work does not fit in to the history of art but is, rather, an anomalous exception to it.

The canon of comics, still new and somewhat amoebic when compared to the canon of art history, seems very much predicated on the idea of artistic lineage and the “mentor/prodigy” relationship perpetuated by traditional art history. Carlin’s statement about the impossibility of a “female Caniff” highlights another point of Salomon’s: that comparing all female artists to some kind of greater male counterpart does them a disservice. This idea, that women artists must always be tied to a male artist, reinforces a binary system where one is always prized over another. This, too, hints to why I was so disappointed by the discourse surrounding Carlin’s exhibition. Certainly, there was a level of outrage at his lack of inclusion (no female creators, one black creator and only two female historians in contrast with around thirty white male creators and historians), but the strategy that people used to deal with this was to provide a list potential female creators who could have been included. This form of rebuttal ultimately kind of reinforced binarism, since it was refuted by exhibitions supporters by comparing these female creators to their superior male “counterparts.”

Watching this panel at the time—and thinking about it since—this blatant example of how doors stay shut continues to annoy me and shines as an example of why eternal vigilance is the price of inclusion. One privileged while male’s “token” is another outsider’s “pioneer.” As history—and Noelene Clark’s article reinforces—we’ve already had many, many pioneers, so many that the challenge is no longer finding the trail, but rather traveling it in always better and swifter fashion.

Comments

  1. Wow! This is an amazing thought-provoking piece. First as a male 26 year old comic reader, I have to say my favorite books right now are Supergirl, Captain Marvel, and Saga. All books that prominently feature women. Some of which are created by women. Women don’t scare me away. I wish there were more books like these from every company.

    As a comics store manager, i can tell you, that I have a lot of female custoemrs who want women in their books, and a lot of men who want women in their books. They both want them not to sit there and look pretty but to be good characters. I think when it comes down to it, most comic readers don’t care if the book is about men or women, or what gender writes it, they just want it to be good.

    As an independent comics creator who has a female created book about a female hero. I say screw the big two, if they don’t want that market, I’ll take it. Women are out there and they are hungry to read comics, if DC and Marvel are too afraid to make comics for them, I will!

    Thank you for this article, i’ll be reposting it!

  2. Heidi, I’m guessing you wrote this based on the content of the article. Unfortunately the site credits “The Beat” and admin for posting. Scrolling to the bottom of the page shows all content copyrighted to Heidi MacDonald.

    I see when someone else writes a post here they’re credited with their name but your posts only every show “The Beat”.

    As a step to addressing the inequalities of comic journalists please give yourself proper credit on your entertaining and thought provoking posts.

  3. Keep fighting the good fight, Heidi – as ever, these essays of yours are invaluable! (And yes, it’s a shame this has to be said over and over, but it does.) I’d add one more tangent, that the majority of women currently working in comics will not be considered in as high esteem as the men until they get paid as much, and right now only the Big Two pay close to a living wage. We need to not only support companies featuring genres outside of superheroes and thus targeting women more, but we need to encourage those companies to pay their freelancers the same rates those freelancers would get at Marvel or DC. Otherwise female freelancers find themselves in just another form of “pink collar ghetto.”

  4. Allen says:

    Isn’t the issues between con goers and Twilight fans not a thing of gender, but instead the larger dispute between those who find Twilight appealing vs those who hate it? Many find issue with it bringing so many to the con because they find it to be a bad film and/or they wish movies were of less importance at their comic convention.

    I do quite love the rest of the article though, and a lot of it is right on the mark and sums up some of the reasons why the Big Two don’t make comics I want to read anymore.

  5. This is why I think it is important to have women not only as creators of comics but in the upper echelons in the publishing and creative departments* of comics companies. This is not to say that men could not make the decision to reach female readers, but very presence of women in positions of power is a statement in itself. It’s no accident that so many women my age started reading comics during Vertigo’s heyday, when Jenette Kahn was Publisher of DC and Karen Berger moved up through the ranks.

    *I specify publishing and creative departments because it seems to me that people in the executive ranks, no matter their gender, effectively become company tools. Diane Nelson, though President of DC Entertainment, has outright said that she has no influence on what is published; her job is to exploit DC’s properties throughout the Time Warner blahdy blah.

  6. Charles Knight says:

    I think this is bang on the money, when you look at DCE or Marvel as an entity, you have to pull back a bit and see where it is as a business unit within the over-all organisational structure. I’m guessing the question that C-level execs want answering is not “how do we attract more girls” but “how come you guys can’t attract more of your core audience?”

  7. Snikt Snakt says:

    Last I checked, even female nerds aren’t into the super-hero genre, which is what the majority of American comics are.

    They go for the Vertigo and Manga-type stuff.

    Just accept it and move on already!!!

  8. themanbat says:

    I think this article assumes a lot when it says that certain books targeted at females would certainly find an audience. In many ways the industry is struggling, and in my opinion no book is guaranteed success. Whether it’s cause or effect, currently there vast majority of fans and creators are male, and males tend to create and buy what they want. If women are really going to capture a substantial share of the market, they are going to have to create their own comics, and most likely buy most of them as well.

  9. Uh, yes themanbat. Women have been doing that for….like 40 years.

    Did you not see this post earlier today?

    http://www.comicsbeat.com/2012/07/25/marjane-satrapis-chicken-with-plums-trailer-is-out/

  10. “We may think this kind of pigeonholing is stupid, but in a world run by branding, the message matters. By addressing female readers (and also younger readers) DC risks alienating its core audience of teenaged boys and men 25-35.”

    Well, sure at Disney and other kids’ publishers, this is gospel truth. When you publish books about fairies and mermaids and princesses and those books are pink and purple and light blue, of course, boys won’t want those.

    But I’m not sure that’s true in genre fiction for adults. Having well-written female characters driving a few plotlines wouldn’t send 25-35-year-old men running away. And that’s really all anyone asks of these comics: not to make them about love letters and sparkly horses, but just to have the women written and drawn realistically. It’s the same in other genres: men aren’t turned off to “A Game of Thrones” as soon as a female character takes center stage for a minute. The female characters are already IN these comics; the request is to make them worth reading.

    Also, along those lines, I think the concern of DCWKA and others is not any kind of love for DC and Marvel, but a love for the superhero genre. Sending them to female comics creators working in other genres doesn’t really solve their problem. Since DC and Marvel are the undisputed heavyweight champions of the genre, female superhero fans are just doing what fans do when they call for these changes; they’re trying to spread the gospel of the thing they love and it’s hard if everyone responds to the material with, “Ick — you want me to read THAT?”

  11. Kater says:

    I really don’t see why it shouldn’t be possible for the two big comics publishers to attract female audiences without losing their male (and traditional core) audience while for the movies it clearly is – with basically the same characters and story material.

    That is not to say I don’t find your analysis spot on. But no matter how much corporate logic you read into it, that logic still remains utterly and completely stupid.

    I mean isn’t it the same core audience fanboys who also run frequently into the superhero blockbuster movies where they don’t seem to have problems with romance subplots and attractive Lokis? It’s extremely short-sided for Marvel and DC not to think you can actually create your audiences (instead of simply hoping some of the lapsed readers might return with a relaunch). I mean, boy, how well worked this with the movies! Is comics in the USA as a medium so far behind this? When I look at comics like SAGA, it clearly isn’t.

    And nobody can tell me the big two can be satisfied with the audience they reach at the moment, not while everybody is going crazy about the superhero movies without much impact on the according comics. A slight up this year thanks to some events/reboots colliding, that cannot be the answer to fading superhero comics audiences. They HAVE to widen their horizon soon, just out of pure self preservation.

    So while I perfectly understand your growing frustration with corporate policy, you just simply can never stop to articulate how outright stupid this policy is.

    If it provides some positive motivation, I can say that the German comics scene has worked itself up over the last 20 years from all-male to an almost equal share of creators, editors and audiences (still lacking a bit in journalism and comics prize juries though). The German scene is of course a lot smaller than the American one and doesn’t really have a big local tradition it grew out of. It is therefore much more prone to changes. The whole manga thing for example was a huge game changer here, especially for female readers and artists. Now the same is happening with original graphic novels (in the Eisner sense of the word).

    So while I understand why you want to give up on Marvel and DC entirely, I still believe change is possible and your voice of reason in this matter just too important to just let go. The battle is only lost when you give up fighting. Please keep up the good work!

  12. I disagree that DC and Marvel never truly target female readers. While they fall short on the superhero comics end (but they also fall short of targeting ANY new demographic of readers on that end), material produced by Vertigo has had a long history of being produced for truly mainstream audiences, which includes a larger percentage of female fans. My girlfriend is all about the Fables books and devoured everything I have by BKV.

  13. Jack Feerick says:

    @Allen:

    “Isn’t the issues between con goers and Twilight fans not a thing of gender, but instead the larger dispute between those who find Twilight appealing vs those who hate it?”

    Do you think it’s a coincidence that the vast majority of the former are women, while the vast majority of the latter are men? Because I don’t.

    The idea of (male) fans holding the line against the influx of cultural product that doesn’t meet their exacting standards of quality is absurd on the face of it. If male fans hated bad product so much, they wouldn’t buy so much of it. Previews would shrink to a 12-page pamphlet, and SDCC could be run in a single afternoon in the ballroom of a Holiday Inn.

    Sturgeon’s Law holds that 80% of everything is crud — and that includes a lot of things that are wildly successful. The truth is that male fans love garbage — as long as it is marketed towards them.

    So fanboys will willingly embrace properties of such dubious worth as THUNDERCATS, He-Man, and the TRANSFORMERS films of Michael Bay.

    But when confronted with the runaway success of something that is probably no worse, in the final analysis, than any of those, but which is marketed and targeted to a female audience — something which doesn’t pander to their own fanboy sensibilities, in other words — it’s time to man the barricades and take a stand for quality entertainment!

    Again: Do you think it’s a coincidence that, of all the places they could have drawn their line in the sand, they chose TWILIGHT?

  14. Note to all: I do not think the Big Two are anything like the “future of comics”…for reasons like this.

  15. When a female friend comes to me with an intrest in comics I send them to books like Love and Rockets, Strangers In Pardise, Demo, AIR and Fables. I’m really excited to see how the Womanthology monthly plays out. Great article!

  16. I’m reminded of a Mad Men episode a few seasons back when Pete of all people realized one of their clients had a majority of black customers. When he suggested marketing to them, citing how it would make their profits increase extensively, the clients looked at each other, insulted, and refused. The show’s audience is dumbfounded by this company can’t would reject a huge demographic out of prejudice or the idea that their product isn’t for those people … and yet here we are.

  17. Heidi, You rock! Keep fighting the good fight.

    I know that may be odd coming from *me* (I’m not part of the big two, but my recent books have not helped, either). I am working on new stuff, though so have faith!.

    In a way, I feel the same in regard to race: characters / creators / editorial / publishers, et.. Yes, there are *exceptions*, but just like with women those few islands of hope are few and far between — and in no way in a position to create new readers and benefit the future of the industry. Things are changing, for both women and race… but at glacier speed.

  18. Mark Neil says:

    “Why it is that some boys and young men are so insecure in their world view that any deviation from it leaves them repelled, I leave to the PhDs out there.”

    I’ll return this question: Why is it that some girls are so insecure in their world view that anything that focuses on boys and doesn’t show them the proper due attention leaves them repelled? You said it yourself, Disney focuses heavily on girls, and purchased marvel to appeal to boys. So why is it the aspect (of Disney) that now appeals to boys is expected to appeal to girls, while the reverse, the highly girl centric element of Disney, isn’t expected to appeal to boys (except through their acquisition of marvel, which is being feminized to again leave little for boys?)?

    Why is it something appealing to boys primarily, is deemed unacceptable? Or do you take as much issue with Barbie being promoted as predominantly girl focused? This is a serious question I have always wondered. Why must everything appeal to girls, even if not everything need appeal to boys?

    And X-Men, at the very least, has always had prominent female figures, with Storm being one of the most powerful mutants, who led the X-men, both with and without her powers. Jean Grey, Mystique and Emma Frost also prominent leaders in the X-Men universe. Of course, any mention of these characters inevitably draws the questions of “objectification” due to their skimpy, skin tight outfits… But this question ignores two primary factors: 1: Regardless of girls interest or not, the comics are still predominantly a male readership, so appealing to boys with skimpy outfits isn’t unreasonable. 2: The men wear skin tight outfits, showing off their muscles and ripped abs. IE, they are as physically objectified as the women in these comics.

  19. And nobody can tell me the big two can be satisfied with the audience they reach at the moment, not while everybody is going crazy about the superhero movies without much impact on the according comics. A slight up this year thanks to some events/reboots colliding, that cannot be the answer to fading superhero comics audiences. They HAVE to widen their horizon soon, just out of pure self preservation. .

    And yet, they seem to resist broadening their horizons at all costs. DC’s answer to flagging sales was to cancel their whole line and restart at #1 across the board. That act would guarantee an uptick of sales in the hundreds of thousands, but not much attention was given to keep those sales figures up. The books were a chaotic mess, there is major issues with continuity in the line, it seems most books are written by the editors and done so in a fashion that doesn’t lead to quality stories and the gems of the reboot are not given time to build an audience.

    Another example is Before Watchmen. Instead of gathering the All-Star team of creators to create new and lasting intellectual property for the company, IP that would have driven the company for years to come, they have them work on a nostalgia mining project that was unnecessary and would only pale in comparisson to the original. But retailers would buy it in droves so it all works out in the end, according to their point of view.

    There can be gold found for DC and Marvel in the female demographic. But it appears that these companies are not willing to put the time, effort and money into making these projects a success. Instead, they throw one nostalgia project after another up against the wall to see if they stick. If they do, wonder of wonders, lets publish 50 tie-in series. If not, the property goes to the back of the line and a new nostalgia property takes its place.

  20. So if I understand Heidi correctly, there is no “zero sum game” for publishers if they were to expouse more female-friendly books, because whatever hardcore male audience they might lose would be replaced by a hardcore female audience (re: Salkowitz’s assertion that “girl nerds can outperform boy nerds.”) If one assumes for sake of argument that this transformation could take place, then logically Heidi would be right–

    For the publishers, that is. They would be doing either just as well or better.

    But for the hardcore male audience that wanted to read half-naked Catwoman stories, that would be a “zero sum game” indeed.

    There might even be a tiny fraction of female readers who liked half-naked Catwoman, for whatever reasons, but I think males would be preponderant (heh) in that regard.

    I dunno, Heidi. I’ve seen a lot of readers– even some who represent themselves as liberals– who’ve said things like, “Let ‘em go back to straight porn.”

    I’m curious to know if that’s your position as well. Either way, it still seems like a “zero sum game” again, even if you cloak it under “market demand.”

    Anyone here live in a small town?

    I’ve heard it’s hard to buy Hustler and Playboy these days. Wonder why.

  21. Thomas Wayne says:

    The heart of this problem is at the heart of problems with major corporations and business entitie’s nation wide.

    And that problem is – business people who are running business’ who don’t know a god damn thing about the business they are running or the customer they are selling to.

    Look at the mainstream movie industry – we have small focus groups deciding the fate of an entire movie because the men in charge of studios know what? Business…not movies and not what movie fans like. Focus groups get questions like “what did you like the most and what did you like the least in the movie? Then they cut the movie based on what a few hundred people think…its crazy.
    Marvel and DC are run like Businesses, not comic book publishing companies. I know, someone will enevitably say “well, thats what they are, a business”. True, but you don’t have to run your business by the business’ mans play book.

    Look at Pixar…they are a business, but they clearly don’t do things like any other studio and their track record is golden. Now look at Warner Bros. Green Lantern…yeah…sucked ass…we all know it. Why? Because they made the movie based on a poorly conceived formula and not what made GL great all these years. Whats the formula?
    Good looking actor for the ladies…good looking leading lady for the lead actor (and Blake Lively better be glad she’s nice to look at because she couldn’t act like she was burning if you dipped her in ethanol and lit a match)…lots of special effects…dumb down the action so we don’t upset the littlest of movie goers and hope for the best when it comes to story.
    That’s the formula…now let’s sell cereal and toys.
    This is what bothers me the most…the comics divisions have to answer to businessman who know nothing about comics or why they have had a following all these years. It succeeds because the fans still want their books…not because the product is overly good or worth reading.

    If the business people would get out of the way and the comic people would reclaim their balls and common sense we’d all be reading great stories about Oracle right now and not a poorly rehashed Batgirl. Stephanie Brown could have been Batgirl, she was doing just fine. Barbara Gordon was ten times the character she was as Oracle as she is as Batgirl.

    But hey, the “business” decision was made. Take a serious poll one day, ask 5000 or so die hard comic or batman fans what they would rather have – Barbara as Oracle or Barbara as Batgirl
    Id lay ten bucks on Oracle winning somewhere along the line of the 3000 to 3500 vote mark, if not more.
    I’d also say if you did the same pole with Stephanie Brown it would be close to 50/50 split – in other words – you had a great batgirl in Stephanie Brown and an even greater over all character in Barbara Gordon as Oracle.
    Alas, the heads aren’t as smart as their bloated pay grades.

  22. Hikaru says:

    Well articulated Heidi…especially from a business standpoint. It’s rarely (if ever) heard of how to get males into romance novels, or to read Good Housekeeping for that matter.

    With the huge array of intelligent comics out their for women, I can’t imagine that most female comic fans would even care about Marvel or DC, any apologies in advance if I am wrong about this.

    However, even if boys are the target audience, I don’t think anyone can truly benefit from the addition of crotchleg.

  23. Let us tangent for a brief moment to recognize: Heidi put up some Nell Brinkley! I remember seeing some old “Golden Eyes” scans a few years ago and being deeply wowed by the vibrant figure work, the strong design sense, and the clever ways that Brinkley’s heroine rescued her soldier boyfriend from the midst of some hairy WWI entanglements. Good stuff all.

    Oh, and look at what Wikipedia just told me: Brinkley’s nickname? “The Queen of Comics.”

    Nice counterpoint to the “female Caniff” anecdote here.

  24. I will never understand businesses who go out of their way to alienate half of their potential market, especially when anyone can see that half the market eagerly and avidly consumes huge amounts of similar products from competitive businesses *and* once consumed large quantities of that business’ own product.

    It’s been my experience that girls and women are responsible for a large percentage of translated manga and independent comics sales. In the past few decades I’ve seen the female attendance at cons skyrocket. Heck, back in the ’30s and ’40s most kids (that’s boys and girls) read comics. And now the big two only want to market to males ages 25 to 35…

    Thing is, to appeal to a wider audience not a whole lot needs to change. Contrary to those who cry doom and gloom and cooties, nothing really needs to be taken away from mainstream superhero comics. It’s all about what needs to be added. Write good stories about interesting, believable characters, both male and female, and your books will appeal to a wider audience, both male and female.

    I think they do their current readers disservice by, more or less, saying that if they made better, more intelligent books their current readers would leave. I’d be willing to bet most superhero fans would see better stories and characters as an improvement.

    Ah well, all we readers can do is vote with our money, not only by buying non-big two books that feature good stories and characters but also buying Marvel and DC books that do the same. Maybe seeing the best of their own works appealing to a wider market they’ll slowly get the hint. Unfortunately, I think they’ve so completely and publicly (one more than the other) walled themselves off that many comic readers don’t even bother to pick up their books and give them a shot anymore. They have a pretty big pit to clime out of and they dug it themselves.

  25. Micah says:

    You know what’s funny to me about all this? If this article had been written by a guy, he would have been accused of subtly telling the tumblr “suffragettes” to STFU and move on already. He would have been accused of being a defeatist sexist and his opinion would have been completely dismissed simply because he was a dude who “just doesn’t get it”. In fact, the “suffragettes” are already showing their defensivness about this article on twitter. Johanna Carlson wrote something along these lines some years back and was viciously attacked by these “suffragettes” for her trouble. So buckle up Heidi.

    Personally I think this article is spot on. The point about Marvel not needing to cater to women because they’re owned by Disney who already does is one of the more brilliant observations I’ve seen in a while.

  26. will naslund says:

    This is a well-written, and surprisingly even-handed, piece — on which I have a lot of (somewhat conflicted) thoughts. Here a few initial thoughts in response:

    -Can we *please* stop pretending that the Twilight Fangirls vs. DC/Marvel Fanboys conflict is completely one-sided? The ‘Twilight Ruined Comic-Con’ meme evolved largely in response to the first influx of Twihards wearing shirts and bearing merch emblazoned with ‘I’m ONLY here for Twilight’ — the clear implication being that all else within the con was icky, icky nerd stuff. With an attitude like that, is it any wonder many of them weren’t welcomed with open arms?

    I was going to SDCC every year back then, and I saw entire armies worth of Harry Potter fangirls interact with their male nerd-counterparts pleasantly and without incident. The difference? They lacked the Twihards’ prejudices and monomania.

    -I think it would be difficult to target an individual book (even a book like Wonder Woman) at girls within the context of the sort of shared-universe storytelling that DC and Marvel traffic in. You can’t really have a shojo/girl-targeted Wonder Woman in just her own book when that character’s design and personality need to be consistent with her use in Justice League and elsewhere. So your choices would be to further muddy the characters’ brand identity or to re-orient the entire universe of titles in a way that would likely alienate much of the existing readership — neither of which would be good business.

    An alternative would be to experiment with an specifically girl-friendly imprint (like Minx, but with superheroes) — but are there enough superhero fangirls to support the handful of titles necessary to sustain such an imprint — and would they drop the current superhero titles they’re reading to do so (thus resulting in little to no net readership gains)?

    -A lot of the commenters upthread seem to believe in a platonic gender-neutral middle ground that superhero comics could evolve toward, one that could thoroughly welcoming to girls/women without alienating the preexisting male readership. I’m not sure I believe such a completely neutral state really exists — and not just in comics. IMHO, every TV show, movie, book, comic, etc. seems to skew either male or female to some degree. Some women may watch and enjoy Game of Thrones, and some men may do the same with, say, Gossip Girl — but they do so reconciled to the notion that those shows aren’t ‘for them’ first and foremost, and most of them don’t see that as a grave injustice perpetrated on their gender.

    -Lastly, the glee with which some industry watchers celebrate the decline of Marvel and DC’s readership grates a bit. Yeah, I get it: Dan DiDio won’t give you a Stephanie Brown comic and you’re pissed — but as number of boys/young men willing to read *anything* steadily shrinks, celebrating the decline of one of the last bastions of boy-friendly print media (and/or arguing for the embrace of strategies designed to alienate boys/young men from it) seems both terribly shortsighted and nastily entitled.

  27. Paul Houston says:

    Not exactly on subject, but this column reminded me that one of my favorite comics and very female empowering has gone missing for awhile now and I wish it would come back soon…Artesia by Mark Smylie.

  28. The Beat says:

    Will Naslund: some obviously heartfelt thoughts but you blow it with the Game of Thrones analogy: WOMEN LOVE THIS SHOW. AS DO MEN. Women love fantasy, barbarians, dragons…and always have. Sure there are naked women…there are also naked men. GRRM is one of those writers who transcends any set rules of marketing. Thank god.

    I see several people making wild assumptions on what women do or don’t like. Women do like superheroes! Check out the audience for Amazing Spider-man or The Avengers or even Dark Knight Rises if you have any questions about that. And guess what, some women like Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman and so on in the comics.

    How do I know this? They are all around me. Buying comics, commenting on comics, making blogs about comics, dressing like superheroes, drawing their favorite superheroes, creating their own superheroes…it is everywhere and undeniable. And yet people are standing around this comment thread with their thumb up their ass tsk tsking about how women Just. Don’t. Like. Superheroes.

    It’s total, willful denial of what you can see with your own two eyes. Much like the attitude of some of the people who run major corporations.

    So weird.

  29. I really don’t like the idea I’m seeing in the comments that there aren’t a lot of female DC and Marvel fans. That’s a pretty big assumption to make, especially considering how many women made up the Avengers audience alone. When you blatantly put out comics that alienate your female audience and then say it’s because not many women read comics, it could just possibly mean that they don’t read comics because of the comics you’re publishing.

  30. I can think of two modern comics artists with no male counterpart whose art is Hall of Fame worthy (let’s ditch the “Masters” term here): Fiona Staples and Becky Cloonan. They are probably my two favorite artists period right now. I mean, Cloonan got me to read Conan, for Pete’s sake! And Staples is outshining even BKV’s star-power in her work on Saga. I cannot get enough of these two!

  31. Kat Kan says:

    I have been a superhero comics reader and fan for at least 50 years; I started reading comics in Kindergarten and “graduated” to Batman, Superman, and The Spirit by age 7. I never stopped reading them in the ensuing decades; instead, I broadened my comics reading to encompass indie comics, manga, just about anything in comics format. I am definitely not the only one who’s been doing this; my best friend in high school (another girl) introduced me to the X-Men (I was a confirmed DC fangirl back then). And, as a librarian working with kids and teens, there were always some girls who could “come out” as superhero comics fans because “the library lady likes superheroes, so it’s okay!” We women have been here all along, it’s just that most of you have ignored us. Thank you, Heidi!

  32. Torsten Adair says:

    Will:
    “-I think it would be difficult to target an individual book (even a book like Wonder Woman) at girls within the context of the sort of shared-universe storytelling that DC and Marvel traffic in. You can’t really have a shojo/girl-targeted Wonder Woman in just her own book when that character’s design and personality need to be consistent with her use in Justice League and elsewhere. So your choices would be to further muddy the characters’ brand identity or to re-orient the entire universe of titles in a way that would likely alienate much of the existing readership — neither of which would be good business.”

    Too late. DC has already muddied the waters.

    Currently on sale and in print at a comics shop near you:
    * Superman Family Adventures (very cartoony, very positive and fun.)
    * Superman Chronicles (Golden Age reprints, back when he couldn’t fly.)
    * Showcase Superman (Silver and Bronze age stories)
    * Superman: Earth One (original graphic novels)
    * Superman & Action (New DC 52) (which includes the Earth-23 version from Vathlo Island)
    * Smallville, Season 11
    * Batman Beyond
    * Earth Two (cameo, but there’s an alternate Supergirl)
    * All-Star Superman, Old DC 52 married Superman, Kingdom Come Superman, Superman Red Son, Superman Secret Identity…
    * DC Comics Presents: Superman Adventures #1 (On sale since June, based on the animated series)

    That’s just in the current comics.

    There’s the “Superman Returns” and the “Man of Steel” movie versions.
    There’s “Smallville” on DVD.
    There’s the Young Justice cartoon (if you count Superboy)
    There are the Aardman Animated shorts on DC Nation.
    Superman has a cameo in the Super Best Friends shorts.
    There are the classic García-López designs found on t-shirts.

    Marvel and DC are trying, at least for kids. Are they trying hard enough? Can the 1980s style of superhero comic, the “all ages” Code-approved story still be viable? Or is it a niche, like DC’s videogame comics? Why are there so few “DC Nation” books when DC has a big programming block on TV? Why do they cancel a title when the series stops airing?

  33. will naslund says:

    @Torsten: You’re (perhaps willfully, perhaps not) overlooking the obvious — none of the titles you listed (with the kind sorta exception of the new Earth Two monthly) are in the New 52 continuity. The all-ages material is a category unto itself, and the reprint material is clearly identifiable as such (usually by branding/design, definitely in terms of style and presentation).

    I agree DC and Marvel are making efforts with the younger readership (a good thing, IMHO) — and I think it might even be worth experimenting with a similar outreach to women (like the ‘Minx, but with superheroes/sci-fi/epic fantasy’ imprint I mentioned in my initial post)…but I also understand why DC and Marvel are unwilling to take the risk required to target them. Just a few reasons:

    -There is a sizable number of women who like superhero comics — but I think a silent majority of them enjoy a great deal of DC/Marvel’s current offerings without being explicitly ‘targeted’ via either marketing or content. The more these ‘women and superheroes’ discussions repeat, the more and more I become convinced that the most outspokenly displeased among the fangirl commentators actually represent a tiny percentage of that readership — and that catering to that subgroup would only serve to alienate male readers (and likely a good chunk of the more mainstream comic fangirls as well).

    -Efforts to cater to that readership (frex: the Steph Brown/BQM Batgirl series) have underperformed in terms of sales (and just FTR, I actually liked that series).

    -At base, Superheroes are an action-adventure genre — and, as such, skews male by its very nature. We can all argue about to what degree/extent it skews, I suppose, but trying to argue that action/violence based-storytelling doesn’t skew male *at all* seems transparently silly.

    All in all, I’d actually be happy to see DC experiment with some *out-of-continuity* girl-friendly superhero stuff — and, if done, right I even suspect they might find some success with such efforts.

    But monkeying with the core Nu52 stuff, simply to conform to the biases of the most particular and entitled strains of fangirl, would be an idea with no real upside and a considerable downside, since it would be nigh-impossible to cater to their tastes without driving off a vast swath of the current male readership (and quite possibly a good chunk of the more moderate fangirls along with them).

  34. Torsten Adair says:

    Here’s a dirty secret that superhero fans deny:

    Superhero comics? They are soap operas for men. (Professional wrestling is, as well.)

    Can you make superhero comics which appeal to young girls? Sure. Look at the bestselling Sailor Moon. Brian Bendis is working hard to make Takio a hit (the librarians love it!).

    Can you make superhero comics which appeal to women? Why not? Julie Kenner’s “Aphrodite” romance novels would make great graphic novels. Every romance has a secret which can’t be shared, a reason why the lovers can never be together. It’s just, in this series, that secret is usually the super power. Add in some life-and-death situations, and voila!

    Both Superman and Spider-Man have romance hardwired into their monomyths. Is there a male superhero who hasn’t had a romantic fling?

    And the last successful new characters introduced to the Marvel Universe? Runaways. (And need I mention that Spider-Man and the X-Men were once teenage superheroes? Or that Marvel was a big hit on campus in the 1960s because they emphasized the reality of the superheroes’ everyday existence?)

    What about Pureheart the Powerful?
    (And his DC counterpart, Jimmy Olsen?)

  35. will naslund says:

    @The Beat: Thanks (I guess?) for crediting me for having ‘heartfelt’ sentiments…but, aside from that, your unwillingness to engage any of my points and your seizing on an analogy that, while it might not have been perfect, was *far* from as flawed as you assert it to be is kind of staggering.

    “you blow it with the Game of Thrones analogy: WOMEN LOVE THIS SHOW. AS DO MEN. Women love fantasy, barbarians, dragons…and always have. Sure there are naked women…there are also naked men. GRRM is one of those writers who transcends any set rules of marketing. Thank god.”

    Respectfully, this is kind of a ridiculous and unnecessary assertion, especially since the very analogy you’re attacking stipulates that *some* women do like the show. As they should — it’s a great show. But are you *really* trying to argue that the viewership for GoT skews male? Or that it wasn’t pitched/conceived as a show targeting a male demographic? Those don’t appear to be ‘reality-based’ arguments.

    And I find it hard to believe that you aren’t aware of the massive blowback GoT has received in many fangirl circles — it is nowhere near universally loved in the LJ/tumblr fangirl axis as your comments here seem to assert.

    “I see several people making wild assumptions on what women do or don’t like. Women do like superheroes! Check out the audience for Amazing Spider-man or The Avengers or even Dark Knight Rises if you have any questions about that.”

    Sigh. You can’t even make that sort of sweeping assertion about male audience members for such films, much less their female counterparts. Some women went to ASM because they think Andrew Garfeld is dreamy (and at least a few dudes in attendance made the same calculation w/r/t Emma Stone) ditto for Chritian Bale (and Anne Hathaway) in DKR, or any of the male Avengers actors (and ScarJo/Cobie Smulders).

    There have been more than enough comic book movies to disprove the argument that each movie audience member = a potential comics reader. Let’s dispense with that, please.

    “How do I know this? They are all around me. Buying comics, commenting on comics, making blogs about comics, dressing like superheroes, drawing their favorite superheroes, creating their own superheroes…it is everywhere and undeniable. And yet people are standing around this comment thread with their thumb up their ass tsk tsking about how women Just. Don’t. Like. Superheroes.”

    Kindly note that I’m not one of those people. My critique is more along these lines:

    1)The number of female superhero fans (and/or potential ‘new female readers’ out there), while notable and worthy of respect, is often overstated by the more extreme comics fangirl commentators.

    2)Many (a significant majority, I’d argue) of those female fans actually like the current DC/Marvel titles just fine in terms of content (they might like to be marketed to better/differently/more frequently, but that’s a somewhat separate debate).

    3)What the most vocal/extreme/entitled segments of the fangirl commentariat say they want differs so markedly from what the current readership wants that satisfying both groups simultaneously is going to be impossible in nearly all cases.

    4)Therefore, while it might be a good idea to reach out to the more vocal segment of the fangirl market with out-of-continuity superhero titles and or a girl-targeted imprint (but focused on genre stories in a way that Minx wasn’t) might be a idea worth contemplating, retrofitting the ‘main’ DC and Marvel universes to cater to their tastes would almost certainly cost DC more readers than they could possibly stand to gain.

  36. @will naslund: Maybe this hypothetical majority of female fans like the current output just fine, or maybe they’re making the best of what they can get right now, and they’re focusing their energy on something other than pushing for more of what they do want out of superhero comics.

    Either way, this hypothetical silent majority, being silent, remains hypothetical. That makes it a little tricky to use them as justification for ignoring the readers that we know *do* exist because they’re actually talking.

  37. Kate Fitzsimons says:

    Respectfully, Heidi… never is a long, long time. Comics and superhero comics, have been around for generations and have changed an enormous amount over that time. Who’s to say that attitudes won’t eventually change, and the powers that be at the Big Two won’t eventually figure out that not actively alienating women is a good business choice.

    You know, eventually. In a decade or two, or three.

    So for those of us who want to, and who genuinely enjoy a lot of superhero comics, keeping up the good fight with comments and posts and awkward questions and buying the books we actually like is maybe, possibly, worth it. Not that anyone should feel obliged to join in.

    It’s easy to extrapolate from being realistic about things that won’t change any time soon to assuming they won’t change ever, but thankfully (as witness far more major cultural changes) not changing ever is pretty rare.

  38. Dave Miller-lad says:

    Ah, makes one nostalgic for the chris claremont penned X-women comics doesn’t it, Heidi? You know, when X-men had a huge female following.

  39. JanArrah says:

    I think the idea that DC, at least, actively works to shut down female fans or readers is completely and utterly flawed. If DC did this, they wouldn’t have ANY female lead books and certainly NOT ones written by women with strong, realistic women that aren’t in demeaning/degrading costumes. The fact that Stephanie Brown, a character that literally chucked an Asian woman out of comics so we could have another smart mouthed blond white girl (ala Buffy), isn’t appearing in comics has nothing to do with women in comics. She has a lot of baggage and her comic DIDN’T SELL. Compared to the previous Batgirl (Cass Cain), Steph sold about 10,000 less units per month (that’s a big chunk for comics). Compared to Babs as Batgirl? Steph was selling about HALF Babs’s current levels. That’s HUGE in the comic world. That’s why Stephanie Brown is not being used. Because while she may have some “fans” (and a bunch of people who are mad b/c her fans are REALLY vocal and claim to be fans b/c they’re outraged that a bad sidekick of a good sidekick has been moved off to limbo for characters WITH fans).

    On top of having some of the longest running female characters in comics that are still around today and putting them in comics and major teams, DC recently announced the Relaunch of the single most GIRLY comic they’ve EVER HAD.. Heck, probably the Big 2 have ever had, Amethyst Princess of Gemworld. I mean, it has ALL the typical girl fantasies of a young girl who discovers she’s REALLY a Princess from another world with magical powers, a handsome prince, AND a pegasus! Seriously.. It’s an awesome series and it’s very girly!

    Meanwhile, Marvel has had.. now 2 comics with female leads. One of which isn’t even out yet..

    Fact of the matter is there are TONS of female orientated superhero comics. DC and Marvel may not “market” them that way, but comics in general are not well marketed even with the VAST array of comics out there.. Indy comics still don’t sell in the same arena as the Big 2, that typically vastly outsell them.

  40. Synsidar says:

    It’s a bit hard to tell how female fiction readers would react to superhero fiction novels, because there are hardly any for them to read. The never-ending superhero serials appeal only to certain types of readers; the differences between the readers of such serials, regardless of sex, and the readers of genre and literary fiction are probably greater than the differences between the male and female readers of genre and literary fiction. The appeal of a story’s artwork complicates matters, since some readers, at least, can enjoy the artwork separately from the content of the story.

    And the superhero archetypes—they’re so simplistic that the differences between any “classic” female and male superhero are fewer than the differences between any two female and male genre fiction characters. A genre fiction writer has to work to make his characters realistic, to some extent, or he’ll lose his readers; a superhero fiction writer can serve up archetypes because he has the artwork and readers conditioned to accept them. If a superhero’s power is used as a plot device, or his or her heroism is tested in a number of standardized ways, the hero’s sex doesn’t matter. The plot and outcome of the story will be exactly the same.

    The “With great power comes great responsibility” theme only works, to the extent that it does work, in a never-ending serial in which the hero never ages or changes. The conflicts with supervillains are manufactured crises. If he or she has even a semblance of a realistic life, she’ll have responsibilities that can’t be abandoned whenever the call to battle comes.

    If the time ever comes when superhero stories are published primarily as OGNs, then people might be able to get a better grasp of just how much appeal superhero fiction has for female readers.

    SRS

  41. horatio weisfeld says:

    If Marvel or DC or whoever, comes up with a good story where the central character is female (like, say V For Vendetta, or the first issues of 100 Bullets that I picked up, or whatever) then we will all read it, and if they don’t then we won’t. It matters not if the good story is written by man or woman.

    If they come up with good stories (like, say, V For Vendetta) then comic book readership might actually increase, which it seems to me is all that matters, because comic book readership presently appears at such a pathetically low level that seems that it would not really matter who they market to.

  42. Brian Wood says:

    @Janarrah

    “Meanwhile, Marvel has had.. now 2 comics with female leads. One of which isn’t even out yet..”

    Well, I’M writing two Marvel books with female leads, so there has to be more examples than that.

    b

  43. Shorter Horatio Weisfield previous post: If only Alan Moore would write more comics they’d sell better.

    Will Naslund: >>>
    “you blow it with the Game of Thrones analogy: WOMEN LOVE THIS SHOW. AS DO MEN. Women love fantasy, barbarians, dragons…and always have. Sure there are naked women…there are also naked men. GRRM is one of those writers who transcends any set rules of marketing. Thank god.”

    Respectfully, this is kind of a ridiculous and unnecessary assertion, especially since the very analogy you’re attacking stipulates that *some* women do like the show. As they should — it’s a great show. But are you *really* trying to argue that the viewership for GoT skews male? Or that it wasn’t pitched/conceived as a show targeting a male demographic? Those don’t appear to be ‘reality-based’ arguments.

    Um…no. GoT is a wide-appeal show. The books have a dual fan base. The show has the highest ratings in HBO history in fact. It’s just a terrible example of a show that “skews male.”

    Now Spartacus…that’s a better example of a male-demo show. The highest rated cable show among men right now is PAWN STARS (No wonder COMIC BOOK MEN was all men) — a show which reinforces the all-man world very nicely with its all male cast (although women work at the store and are occasionally introduced as crush objects for Chumley) and excitement over old motorcycles.

    What you comment does show is that there is still a large disconnect between what executives THINK women like and what women actually like.

    >>>1)The number of female superhero fans (and/or potential ‘new female readers’ out there), while notable and worthy of respect, is often overstated by the more extreme comics fangirl commentators.

    I get that. But that doesn’t explain why simple, no brainer things like an aspirational Wonder Woman comic for young girls aren’t done. That is the low hanging fruit part of the market.

    Then again everyone’s notion of gender-appropriate toys has been upended by the Brony phenomenon. Perhaps in a decade or so all of this gender pigeonholing will be less important.

  44. Allen Berrebbi says:

    It’s been my experience that women are far more discerning when it comes to the quality of comics as well as characterization. This is where most “big two” superhero books fail and why women are more drawn to manga. I don’t believe its about having women superheroes or them disliking superheroes in general, as much as it is the mindless superhero books.

    The retail environment is also not friendly towards women readers which is why I would guess that he most popular books among women are probably books that do as well or better in the bookstores.

    What’s amazing is how stupid the big two can be. Wonder Woman has not sold well in years, same with most super-heroine based comics. Why not, even as a loss leader, experiment with those books and allow some great female creators to have at it. A Wonder Woman book geared towards women and young girls could do well in various formats, like a kid picture book etc. Or novelizations. Isn’t it worth the gamble?

  45. Great article. A couple of points to add to the discussion:

    1. Sometimes I think its we adults that compartmentalize these things too much in a “boys” or “girls” camp. I cite the AVATAR: LAST AIRBENDER and Cartoon Network’s TEEN TITANS series as two prominent examples. Both shows developed fairly equal boy AND girl audiences because each contained relatable characters and well-produced stories for a certain age group. They are exceptions to a rule I suppose.

    2. Likewise, the X-MEN, LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES and NEW TEEN TITANS series amassed a lot of female fans… likely due to its ongoing dramas and strong characters (both male and female).

    I’m not sure we should be segregating, but mores developing something that is more inclusive. That’s why DCnU’s Starfire makes me sad, because she was a perfect entry character for fans of the cartoon and lapsed Teen Titans readers.

  46. Torsten Adair says:

    Vocal, passionate fans can make a difference. Just ask Tom De Falco.

    19 volumes of Spider-Girl trades out there. Could it be the “old school” style of Marvel Comics, with done-in-one stories which connect to form a bigger story? Heroes acting like heroes?

  47. Torsten Adair says:

    Oh, and about compartmentalization…

    How many Bronies showed up at the BronyCon in New Jersey?

    How many guys don’t read superhero comics, but do read manga?

    How many male fans are there of the Wizard of Oz, which features a female protagonist and villain?

  48. You know there’s a problem when profit-seeking companies don’t act rationally in pursuit of profits. Foregoing the “low-hanging fruit” is crazy-bad business; so is leaving the fastest-growing market segment to competitors when it’s clear that comics fans remain brand-loyal for a LONG time. I’d be very interested to see any market research that validates this idea that “too many girl fans drive away the boys.” IMO, it’s rooted in the old-fashioned ideas and outdated life experience of the current generation of business decision-makers at the companies, not reality.

    My whole point in the book/article you cited is that the market is changing/evolving: maybe too many female fans intimidate male fans of a certain generation, but the Millennial demographics and attitudes are different. Girls are leading tastemakers, even in traditionally-male nerdy activities. But the Big 2 audience is middle-aged, especially DC. Clinging to that demo is a recipe for “Infinite Crisis,” but at the same time, it might be all they’ve got.

    Anyway, great article!

  49. Ugh. The Masters of American Comics.
    That idea of Carlin’s (reiterated by Jessica Abel, which has always struck me as weird) that there were no female cartoonists of the caliber of the men included the show. Besides which, even if you buy the idea that there were no great female cartoonists in the early 20th century (which Nell Brinkley easily disproves, but regardless), the show also included CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS. So, isn’t that also saying there are no great women cartoonists in the present?

    I’ve always been staggered by the missed opportunities of the Masters show. What could’ve been a huge learning experience for those unfamiliar with comics art turned into a repetition of some of the culture’s worst stereotypes.

    Sorry, a little off topic. Long standing beef. http://scan.net.au/scan/journal/display.php?journal_id=130

    Anyways, my reaction to the article:

    Yep. Same holds true for issues surrounding race and sexuality in corporate superhero comic books. Despite occasional exceptions, often marketed because they are exceptions (OMG! Gay Green Lantern!), the Big 2 seem forever skewed on race/gender/sexuality issues.

  50. If Marvel and DC thought going after the female audience would be good for business, they would compromise what they are doing and do it. They are evil corporations after all. Maybe they are doing exactly what their evil corporate overlords want. Somebody has to make material that boys and men want to read. Everything can’t be for women.

  51. To those who think that women won’t buy superhero comics, I point to the Buffy comics, which at times have sold over the 100K range. Buffy might not have a costume, but it is really no different than a superhero series. Especially as a lot of the inspiration for Buffy came from X-men and Kitty Pryde. Sure Buffy is selling in the 30K range, but I have no idea how much of it is from lost readers and how much of it is people who have moved over to digital or trades.

  52. Synsidar says:

    Part of the problem with appealing to female readers is that most of the superhero stories are based on the characters. Take Red She-Hulk, aka Betty Ross, for instance. From what I saw of her in DEFENDERS and the way she’s drawn, she’s a sexist male’s idea of a woman’s power fantasy. But if she’s not that, and she can be written to appeal to women, how does someone go about doing that? The writer will be restricted by the need to appeal to male readers as well–the majority of the audience–and the storytelling formulas that are so prevalent. The writer can’t just do role reversals.

    If the idea is to get women involved with the character, identifying with her, etc., than she has to be written as a woman, and taking the space for that goes against the customary goals of writing superhero stories. If someone writes a mystery starring a female sleuth, balancing the process of solving the mystery with showing readers how she goes about her day-to-day life isn’t difficult. In a superhero story, that is difficult.

    SRS

  53. Torsten Adair says:

    Here’s another interesting example:

    http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2012/03/living-with-lego-friends/

    Lots of controversy:
    * a “girls” line of LEGO bricks, with pretty colors, etc. (but with a greater palette than Belleville)
    * a shortage of female characters in the regular mini-figure lines

    But the series has been popular, with LEGO offering new sets (21 so far) and two DK books (one of which is a Brickmaster edition!)

    But LEGO handled the online petition well, meeting with their critics, and getting some grudging acceptance from them.

  54. With so many indie publishers offering quality books for all ages and genders does it matter?

  55. Steve says:

    All of this reminds me of a conversation with an editor at Marvel UK some time ago. When criticized that his covers were sexist; that all of the female characters didn’t really need nipples showing through their outfits all the time, he responded: “That’s what our readers want”.
    Whatever they wanted, it wasn’t that as all the books were soon cancelled and, in fact, the entire company closed down.

  56. Ruggeder says:

    Many people read comics as a fun escape. There’s enough of this needless PC crap in every facet of life. Soon the superheroes will have to be 50/50 democrat and republican, the villains wil have to kill only perfectly even numbers of men and women, all of mixed race and sexual identities. This is getting old for a lot of people quick, and if this keeps getting forced, your going to have a lot of people leaving comics forever to find something else to escape in.

  57. “Sure it’s obvious from the licensing alone that a Wonder Woman book aimed at young girls would find an audience.”

    Tell that to Ben Caldwell. He and Nina Jaffe had a go back in 2004:

    http://www.chrisroberson.net/2009/04/wonder-woman-to-believe-in.html

    And is still trying:

    http://robot6.comicbookresources.com/2011/07/ben-caldwell-on-paradise-island/

    http://girls-gone-geek.com/2010/08/25/wanted-ben-caldwells-wonder-woman/

    There have also been several other attempts over recent years, the book by Ralph Cosentino being a notable example:

    http://www.wonderwomanmuseum.com/kidsbooks.html

  58. Great article! I have little to add to the article or even to the insightful and quite fascinating discussion that this has generated, save for one thing:

    the compartmentalization of “boy”/”girl” products are irritating and definitely an effect of generations of heteronormative structures that are thankfully being eroded in the mainstream discourse.

    My cousin, born only two years ago, is being given the opportunity to choose his toys in a way that I wasn’t. He has yet to choose anything particularly masculine or feminine (action figures versus dolls). Rather, he’s been inclined towards building things with Lego or Duplo. At this age, the Duplo blocks are rather gender-neutral, I would argue. He seems to take after his engineer father, but at least his parents are excited to offer him the choice.

    I was never given the choice. I was always given male-focused toys such as Ninja Turtles action figures (but never an April O’Neil figure) and copious amounts of comics. I wish I had. Maybe I would have made a different choice. Who knows?

    This can be mapped onto comics as well. I read anything that interests me and is well-written. I want well written characters, not men beating up men mindlessly.

    I can only point to Greg Rucka as a writer who resists compartmentalization of gender roles. He writes thrilling action adventures starring a host of well written characters, some of whom are incredibly believable women. Tara Chace is a woman you’ll never forget once you’ve met her.

  59. horatio weisfeld says:

    Shorter Horatio Weisfield previous post: If only Alan Moore would write more comics they’d sell better.

    >>

    @TheBeat:

    No- what I was saying was that, looking at the (very poor) position that comics are in, that the people who run comics should be focusing on finding writers with some sort of compelling vision – not on figuring out what the writers should write about.

    10+ years ago I recruited a young woman (Miss Lasko Gross) to write a high profile comic story (for artist Larry Stroman). MLG’s work had previously shown a nasty vision of the teen party scene, so I suspected she would bring something cool/edgy to the sci-fi stuff we were doing.

    I didn’t tell her what to write and her finished story was both sexually charged (revolting to some) and as visionary as anything I could have hoped for.

    Later, when Miss was (apparently) not recruited by Marvel or DC it didn’t bother me because she was a woman – it did bother me because she had vision and her talent had been overlooked when we need it most.

  60. Steelbolt says:

    I still advocate a coup d’tat in the corporate aspect of the comic book industry–do that, and THEN things will be different. If anyone wants to do this anytime soon, just call me Che Guevera.

  61. Ben Trigg says:

    “Dazzler: The Musical, and Ororo, Princess of the Veldt.”

    I want both of these. Now.

    Great article. Pieces like this are what make you my favorite comics journalist.

  62. penfold says:

    This may tick some people off but as far as targeted demographics are concerned, I find that female comic fans tend to be less consistent as month in/month out collectors. They’ll pick up trades from time to time, maybe some single issues here and there, but I find they want different things from comics than I do. They like the art, layouts, coloring, particular characters, etc, but they’re not necessarily obsessing over the story. What they get out of comics doesn’t necessarily require month in/month out dedication.

    Is that true of all female readers at all times always and without exception? Of course not. And my “evidence” is strictly anecdotal anyway. My only point though is that if a publisher like DC or Marvel wants a dependable readership (and I assume they do), I’ve noticed male fans tend to be more stable in that regard than do female readers.

  63. Heidi doesn’t choose to answer my question, so I’ll ask it of Synsidar.

    Synsidar writes:

    “Part of the problem with appealing to female readers is that most of the superhero stories are based on the characters. Take Red She-Hulk, aka Betty Ross, for instance. From what I saw of her in DEFENDERS and the way she’s drawn, she’s a sexist male’s idea of a woman’s power fantasy. But if she’s not that, and she can be written to appeal to women, how does someone go about doing that? The writer will be restricted by the need to appeal to male readers as well–the majority of the audience–and the storytelling formulas that are so prevalent. The writer can’t just do role reversals.”

    You seem to be cleaving to something like Heidi’s argument: that for publishers there would be no “zero sum game” if they edited their lines for more female-appeal, which includes (though it’s a little tangential to the main topic) eliminating gratutious “sexism” (however one chooses to define that).

    Will *you* admit that there *exists* a “zero sum game” for the readers who may prefer to read half-naked Catwoman rather than brie-eating, SEX IN THE CITY-quoting Catwoman?

  64. Gene: I didn’t answer your question because I didn’t understand it. What is a “no zero sum game”? That’s a double negative. I just don’t get what your argument is.

  65. Heidi, Rob Salcowitz said:

    “Mainstream comics publishers could tap into this audience and make their offerings more female-friendly by cutting down on gratuitously offensive characterizations of women in their books, or perhaps by employing more female creators. But current evidence suggests that publishers see this as a zero-sum game: cut out the cheesecake and you’ll alienate the proven audience of male readers— and why risk that? Or perhaps the creative decision makers are simply the products of the same culture as their audience.”

    Immediately after that quote, you called that attitude “asinine.” I haven’t yet read the whole Salkowitz piece so I don’t know if he considers the hypothetical attitude of Big Two publishers to be asinine.

    But since you say that you do, I have to assume that you think that the publishers need not worry about losing many of their hardcore readers because they will be replaced by other hardcore readers.

    I conceded that this scenario is in the realm of possibility. No conflict there.

    What I think you’re not mentioning is that many male readers don’t necessarily like what female readers like. FOR THEM, the above scenario very well could be a zero sum game.

    I’m just wondered if you would concede that.

  66. Synsidar says:

    Will *you* admit that there *exists* a “zero sum game” for the readers who may prefer to read half-naked Catwoman rather than brie-eating, SEX IN THE CITY-quoting Catwoman?

    I see the problem as being what readers get out of the story. Could you imagine a reader of a prose mystery damning the writer for putting her female sleuth in ugly outfits? “Gahh! Plaid pantsuits! Who in her right mind would wear a plaid pantsuit?!” She throws the book across the room and vows to never read anything by ____ again.

    That doesn’t happen when people read critically and intelligently. How the heroine looks is a fairly trivial part of the prose story. But in superhero comics, how the hero or heroine looks is a major concern, perhaps the starting point for the character concept. It’s more important than the power, various aspects of the heroine’s personality, or who she fights. Someone only has to look at the various arguments about Wonder Woman’s costume to realize that how she looks in it is at least as important as what she does in a story. They don’t want a full story with literary elements; they only want a story that reassures them that what they think the heroine represents is correct, and the costume is a major element in that.

    I don’t think that readers who want a half-naked Catwoman, or who drool at the sight of Red She-Hulk are worth trying to reach. There are too many free or low-cost alternatives. The annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, with all of its accompanying online material, should be able to satisfy them for months.

    It’s pretty well-known that women read more than men. Do they want more from the stories than men do? If they do, then the comics publishers have to provide them with stories in which the women are written as actual women, with actual lives, and not as pin-ups with as little accompanying story material as the writers and editors think they can get away with.

    SRS

  67. will naslund says:

    @The Beat: “But that doesn’t explain why simple, no brainer things like an aspirational Wonder Woman comic for young girls aren’t done. That is the low hanging fruit part of the market.”

    Agreed, and I’d be pleased to see a book like that as part of the ‘DC Nation/Johnny DC/Whatever They’re Calling It Now’ line.

    Or, as I’ve said a couple of times now, for DC to experiment with a mini-imprint of female-targeted superhero (and/or sci-fi and fantasy) book — though that would be a move that would have some real risk to it. The audience is not demonstrably there (in sufficient numbers anyway) for such work and what sales/readers they might get might simply end up being ones that were siphoned/cannibalized from exiting titles, thus creating a situation where DC is spending markedly more money to get the same total readers/purchases.

    But w/r/t to the core DC/New52 stuff I do think it is something of the ‘zero sum game’ Gene Phillips may be trying to talk to you about. Altering the tone/style/sensibility of those books to better suit the biases of the DCWKA Sues/Kyraxes/GeekMoms of the world would almost certainly alienate a considerable chunk of the existing readership — and I don’t think the new readers such a move might bring in would be anywhere near enough to cover the ensuing losses.

    However, maybe DC’s new Digital-Only offerings (BQM’s Smallville series, the Palmiotti/Gray AmiComi stuff, etc.) might turn out to be an avenue to reach out to disaffected fangirls (many of whom seem to prefer buying digitally anyway) without derailing DC’s core titles or alienating their longstanding fans of both genders.

    Anyway, while may disagree on the extent to which GoT skews male (I know a few women who love the show/books, but many more who are turned off by the violence and ongoing use of rape as a plot element) or differs in style/tone from the Spartacus TV show. I thank you for your well written essay and the (mostly) thoughtful discussion it has inspired. Such things are rarities here on the internerd, but welcome ones.

  68. Torsten Adair says:

    The mistake DC keeps making is trying to repeat the success of Vertigo.

    They start new imprints with new titles, not realizing that Vertigo was built on the solid foundation of Sandman, Swamp Thing, and John Constantine.

    Matrix/Helix, Minx, Paradox, Piranha, Impact…

    Create a backlist of kid-friendly or all-ages titles, then rebrand them. Maybe do them over on the Internet where no one notices if they succeed.

    Then, when they do succeed, collect them into trades or comics or an imprint.

  69. Steelbolt says:

    @TheBeat
    Earlier I made a comment about how “progress won’t be made until a coup d’tat in the corporate aspect of the Big Two happens”. Thoughts on my idea?

  70. Steelbolt, I don’t understand what you’re advocating or asking. Care to elaborate?

  71. I think there’s a tacit assumption that in order to be appealing to women, comics have to feature women superheroes. Not so! I’d just as soon read about an interesting guy. What turns me off about superhero comics is the the complicated continuity and, in some cases, the ridiculously hard-to-decipher art, not the lack of female leads.

    I don’t even mind the stupidly drawn women, as long as they don’t have blank, dead eyes. (That is a deal-killer for me.) Just give me an interesting lead, male or female, and a story I can follow without referring to Wikipedia every five minutes.

  72. Gene:

    >>>But since you say that you do, I have to assume that you think that the publishers need not worry about losing many of their hardcore readers because they will be replaced by other hardcore readers.

    Hardcore readers are a niche audience by their very definition. It is possible to concede that superhero COMICS as they now exist will always appeal to a niche audience. Is it possible for them to have more widespread appeal? I believe it is possible for the Marvel and DC lines AS A WHOLE to have a wider appeal.

    However the current business plan calls for selling THE ENTIRE LINE to the hardcore audience. That is not convenient for breakouts and cross-marketing.

  73. What-Ev says:

    “Sure it’s obvious from the licensing alone that a Wonder Woman book aimed at young girls would find an audience.”

    That’s bullshit, and you know it. I’m sure you’re talking about a sizeable audience and not just a few people, so we’ll skip that. Merchandise sales of products featuring comic book characters are not an indication of the potential popularity of even the most well-made comic book starring that character. You work in the industry. You KNOW it isn’t. But that doesn’t support your Fox-News-like narrative for your website, so it becomes about the inability of DC to turn merchandise sales of a particular character into comparable comic book sales of that character (especially when it’s a female character) being indicative of DC’s prejudice against the female reader. People are buying the icon; the symbol. Female superheroes exist to represent female empowerment, and chances are that this is what the people buying the merchandise are supporting. They could have ZERO interest in reading comics no matter how well they’re made. It’s obvious that you and your fellow Lady Nerds are exceptions to the various rules (there are always exceptions), but you keep fighting the good fight not as if you’re exceptions but merely the tolerant and long suffering tip of the iceberg that is the potential female readership of female superhero comics if only somebody cared to cater them to a female readership or just slightly away from the easily enraged male nerd readership. It’s just not the case. I’m sure all you really want is for them to at least try, but when they do try (Minx, etc), you’re the first ones out of the gate talking shit about how it’s tokenism or it’s inadequate tokenism or whatever else fuels your never-ending feminist crusade. The problem isn’t the male comics agenda; the problem is that you want to foster change in corporate controlled characters, and that’s just not going to happen without some serious catastrophe making it unavoidable. And I get the sense that you know this is true (well, from most of this article aside from the quoted part above and some others). Stop trying to change someone else’s stuff and make some icons of your own that act and talk the way you want them to.

    Jack Feerick

    07/25/2012 at 4:28 pm

    @Allen:

    “Isn’t the issues between con goers and Twilight fans not a thing of gender, but instead the larger dispute between those who find Twilight appealing vs those who hate it?”

    Do you think it’s a coincidence that the vast majority of the former are women, while the vast majority of the latter are men? Because I don’t.

    >I DO think it’s a coincidence. It would be the same if Comic-Con had been overrun by pot-heads that turned the place into a mini-Bonnaroo because of the insane devotion to the Harold and Kumar movies. There’s a lot at Comic-Con that isn’t about comics, but many things get a pass because there’s often some genre crossover. Twilight COULD have gotten a pass because of the vampires and werewolves, but the problem is that it’s a romance novel with vampires instead of a vampire novel with some romance thrown in. They weren’t there for the vampires and werewolves; they were there for the romance…which meant that the rest of the convention held nothing else to interest them (as far as they knew at the time), therefore they were taking tickets and hotel rooms away from people who actually wanted to enjoy ALL or even most of the convention so that they could swoon in the presence of the unattractive british guy and the newly buff Shark Boy. I have no doubt that there is some crossover, but it’s not just LOTR and Doctor Who fans buying up all those 4 day passes now. Those folks were already going. It’s the people that are going for ONE thing but buying 4 day passes because they don’t know on which day that one thing will be featured. Comic-con is an US vs. THEM world now, and everyone is going to lose in the end. The organizers love the things that sell the tickets, but the exhibitors love the ticketholders that buy their stuff. These two things are out of balance because if you can’t leave Hall H to buy something because you can’t get back in for the other panel you wanted to see in there, then you have to pick one…and you can always email that comic book guy and try to buy it from him/her there, but when are you ever going to get another chance to see Celebrity X in person talking about this movie you’re excited about…you just don’t know, so you go with the more rare of the two because the comic book guy/gal will jump at the chance to take your money for the other 360 days of the year. Talk about your zero-sum game. And eventually, the celebrity B.S. is going to die down. It started during the last SDCC I attended. I really fucking wanted a Glow-In-The-Dark Dark Knight T-shirt given to me for going to the WB panel, but they moved it to Chicago and I got to HEAR about what could have been at SDCC. It’s not cheap to go to SDCC, and at this point, you can’t give me enough cool freebies and celebrities I appreciate to make it worth the money or the stress. And it has NOTHING to do with the number of women in attendance because all that flashy non-comic stuff is how I convince my girlfriend to go with me in the first place. She hates Twilight too, by the way. Loves Fables…so, Fables Con, here we come, I guess.

    Oh, and as to the “counterparts” portion of this article, I just say make a better argument. If you offer up a prodigious female for consideration, and you’re met with “well, she’s not as good at that as *this guy*” and you back down rather than continue to argue on the basis of merit because you’re an expert on the subject too, then it’s not their fault you suck at winning an argument. If you instead rant about it on the internet and turn it into a gender war, then you clearly know more about talking about gender warfare stuff on the internet and not the merits of your subject or your opinions about that subject. All lists are opinions. I don’t care if it’s Roger Ebert’s top 10 films, it’s still his opinion…a well-informed opinion, but still an opinion. And let’s not forget that Mr. Ebert once had an equally well-informed counterpart as well, and they quite often vociferously disagreed. Make your own well-informed list, and if you’re still up for it, challenge the man to a debate…but if he doesn’t accept, don’t make it about his fear or hatred of women…make it about what it’s really about–laziness. He made a list and is sticking to it…he has every right to…and that’s just too bad for you. If he’s not a woman-hater (and he probably isn’t), he’s not going to be baited by your assertions to the contrary. But if you call him lazy for not debating it with you in public, then he has to prove he isn’t lazy or accept that he’s lazy and try to weasel his way out of it. Either way, you win…when you play fair. When you don’t play fair, you waste everyone’s time. Because you know what is also just laziness? A majority of the claims made by women regarding men who don’t agree with what women have to say on a subject being misogynists and immature.

    But hey, it’s the internet. I have yet to see a reasonable argument in a comment section or forum where both sides play fair for the duration. We all need to find a better use for our time, I think.

  74. Heidi,
    It would appear that we are fated, like two Flying Dutchman-esque ships, to pass one another without our respective callouts being heard by the other party. Maybe we can blame it on the fog.

    Though I realize Salkowitz is the one who made the remark about girl nerds outpurchasing boy nerds, I thought you had agreed with that hypothesis. Now it would seem you’re advocating a way to get back to making comics a mass medium again, rather than trading one hardcore (my word) audience for another.

    *If* the mass-medium thing is what you’re advocating, I won’t argue against it because no one knows what the future holds. I’m pretty defeatist about any returns to mass-market status, though, for whatever that’s worth.

  75. Torsten said:

    “Create a backlist of kid-friendly or all-ages titles, then rebrand them. Maybe do them over on the Internet where no one notices if they succeed.”

    I gather that the 8th-grade Supergirl was a step in this direction, though it must not have sold well enough to engender continued trades.

  76. Synsidar said:

    “It’s a bit hard to tell how female fiction readers would react to superhero fiction novels, because there are hardly any for them to read. The never-ending superhero serials appeal only to certain types of readers; the differences between the readers of such serials, regardless of sex, and the readers of genre and literary fiction are probably greater than the differences between the male and female readers of genre and literary fiction. The appeal of a story’s artwork complicates matters, since some readers, at least, can enjoy the artwork separately from the content of the story.

    And the superhero archetypes—they’re so simplistic that the differences between any “classic” female and male superhero are fewer than the differences between any two female and male genre fiction characters. A genre fiction writer has to work to make his characters realistic, to some extent, or he’ll lose his readers; a superhero fiction writer can serve up archetypes because he has the artwork and readers conditioned to accept them. If a superhero’s power is used as a plot device, or his or her heroism is tested in a number of standardized ways, the hero’s sex doesn’t matter. The plot and outcome of the story will be exactly the same.”

    I won’t get into the “zero sum game” stuff again as you generally answered that question, but the above brings up some related matters.

    I don’t think that the gulf of quality between the comics-superheroes is nearly as great as you represent here. I can think of many, many genre serials where characters barely change over the course of years. Long before Superman was a gleam in Jerry Siegel’s eye, characters like Sherlock Holmes and the Shadow endured for years without substantially changing.

    The same is certainly true for female-centric prose fiction– though I can only comment on one type of that fiction: the paranormal romances. Contrary to my surprisingly unchallenged remark about “brie-eating, Sex in the City-quoting” female characters, I’m aware, through the occasional reading of paranormal fiction, that this brand of female-centric prose can be as sexy and violent as the March CATWOMAN any old day.

    But contrary to your earlier point, a lot of these aren’t any more complex than the better superhero comics. Anita Blake, the best known of the pee-effs, started off with very strong characterization but devolved to something more along the lines of TAROT OF THE BLACK ROSE.

    So it’s my considered opinion that female-type readers like escapist junk just as much as male-type readers. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  77. Peter B. Gillis says:

    When you look at the larger horizon of the imaginative universe, women have been there all along: Leigh Brackett, Andre Norton, Anne MCaffrey, C.J. Cherryh, Judith Merrill. Right there on the conceptual and visionary edge. I’ve ling felt the cramped corner comics have fallen into: where was the Tolkienian high fantasy? The expansive challenges of sf? That’s what energized my childhood, and what drew me to Kirby and Ditko’s Dr. Strange–not the muscles. I saw no reason why comics couldn’t go where the books took me–powerful drugs for girls just as much as for boys.
    That’s why I was pleased as hell to have my return to comics after 20 years was an adaptation of The Last Unicorn. To do a comic that had the lyric wonder in it that the best fantasy provides–illustrated by an amazing woman, Renae de Liz–was just the thing I’d always wanted to seein comics.
    It’s what IDW wanted as well, to expand the market–and it did very well.
    There’s no reason more of this can’t be done, by men as well as women. And there was a time superheroes bordered on the infinite rather than on the WWWF–and when we go there, there’s no reason boys and girls can’t be sitting in the same starship.

  78. Just a question: after all is said and done, is there a female creator as important to the history of comics as Milton Caniff?

  79. Miguel,
    It depends on the terms by which you define importance.

    Rose O’Neill created the so-called “Kewpie cartoon” from which the famous doll was culled. I haven’t read the cartoon so I can’t judge her talent, but she did create an icon of some significance. Whether you think it’s as significant as Steve Canyon is a judgment call.

    Of all the early female comics creators, Tarpe Mills had the raw talent to be another Caniff. She didn’t quite succeed in creating as many memorable characters as did Caniff, though, and her reputation today pretty starts and ends with MISS FURY.

  80. Okay, if you people are going to talk about game theory in conjunction with comics, then you should all quickly Google what the difference between a “zero sum game” and a “non zero sum game” is. Also, it’s a “NON zero sum game” not a “NO zero sum game”.

    A zero sum game is when one party’s gains are equalized by the opponent’s losses. A non zero sum game does not necessarily mean an equalization.

    Yeesh.

  81. Matthew:

    I was not attempting to use “no zero sum game” as a term in place of “non zero sum game.”

    Salkowitz used the term first:

    “current evidence suggests that publishers see this as a zero-sum game”

    It’s not clear whether or not Salkowitz found this perception asinine or not, but Heidi stated that she found it so.

    By so doing she was stating that this was a misperception: that no “zero sum game” existed.

    This is not rocket science. If one entity (DC comics) believes that a given condition exists, and another one says that it does not exist, then that person has said “there is no [fill in the blank.]”

    You can rephrase it as a positive statement if you like: ‘Heidi claims the situation is a “non zero sum game.”‘ But the negative version of that statement is not incorrect.

    Nor is it, incidentally, a double negative.

  82. Peter B. Gillis said:

    “I’ve ling felt the cramped corner comics have fallen into: where was the Tolkienian high fantasy? The expansive challenges of sf? That’s what energized my childhood, and what drew me to Kirby and Ditko’s Dr. Strange–not the muscles.”

    The only comics-pros who regularly invoke such “expansive challenges” seem to be some of the Brits– especially Moore and Morrison– who grew up on Silver Age comics.

    Neither contemporary male or female practitioners seem to devote much attention to the sense of wonder these days.

  83. Gene Phillips: I find use of the term “zero sum game’ pretentious and I try not to use it, as it is so easily misconstrued.

    Also stop putting words in my mouth — although I did use the vague pronoun “this.” The attitude that I find asinine — which I mentioned further on — is the one by male readers who find there merest hint of material which does not cater to their every need and desire repellant. In other words, the idea that once a Batman is somehow related to another batman comic that is “all ages” or “not repellant to girls” it must, per force, have cooties and cannot be purchased. It is this assumption which guides many of the actions of major entertainment companies across the land.

  84. Heidi:

    I’m just not clear when you’re talking about the attitudes of the readers and the attitudes of the publishers. You said that the attitudes of the publishers might seem “stupid” here:

    “We may think this kind of pigeonholing is stupid, but in a world run by branding, the message matters. By addressing female readers (and also younger readers), DC risks alienating its core audience of teenaged boys and men 25-35.”

    That makes it sound like you agree that there is a risk. I gather that’s not the case after all.

    I think your concluding message– that female creators may use their time and energy better outside the Big Two– is basically sound.

  85. Interesting how the author of this article has no problem with Twilight and Hunger Games being unabashedly female-only.
    So, will we see articles calling them sexist and backwards because they don’t appeal to males?
    You ignore the fact these grrl-power franchises deliberately leave out 50% of the population, especially when that population single-handedly created box-office juggernauts like Dark Knight, Avatar and Avengers? Which dwarfs Twilight or Hunger Games?
    Maybe if the women had more contact with males when they were teenagers instead of sleepovers with their galapals where they talk about how perfect Edward is, they’d know that female relationship fantasies will never power the comics field. Wish-fulfilment may work for YA literature, but comics isn’t that.

    It’s time women got over their fear of male storytelling. Not everything has to be about two guys chasing some plain-jane girl you know. Make Twilight male-friendly. It won’t kill you.
    Guys don’t have cooties girls. They may not sparkle, but at least they’re manly. and who knows, some of the females who love Twilight so much may not still be virgins by the time they’re middled-aged. Though given their closed-mindedness I doubt it.

    Perhaps if women like yourselves didn’t bring the immature fangirl thing to the procedings you’d be better received. Ever think of trying that?
    And PLEASE go try to generate your own female-comics industry. All I ask is that you make sure to plow your life-savings into the endeavor, and borrow from all your friends too!

  86. >>>And PLEASE go try to generate your own female-comics industry. All I ask is that you make sure to plow your life-savings into the endeavor, and borrow from all your friends too!

    You mean like Manga and the bookstore graphic novel market? Done and done.

  87. What is this about the sexualisation of women in comics or manga?
    Ok, let’s get rid of it, IF you get rid of every gay manga that is targeting female teenagers and all those pretty boys with the obvious stereotype characteristics to please female fans infesting every manga and japanese video game.

    Or guess what, let’s keep both, accept it as fantasy and enjoy what they created catering to our interest, whatever your preference may be.

  88. Female comic reader here.
    My no. 1 peeve is there aren’t enough women comic creators in mainstream comics. There is no “female Caniff” – the american superhero industry is still very much a “boys only” playground.
    Having lots of female characters are secondary imo- quality over quantity. I don’t want a whole bunch of female superheroes being shoved into comics for the sake of “tokenism”- i want GOOD female characters with personality and growth, not just there for the sake of sex appeal. If they don’t contribute somehow to the story and are useful like the males, they dont need to be there. Both genders need to be equally represented, but they need to be represented well. I don’t mind reading comics with lots of male characters in it because these characters are usually fleshed out and compelling.
    Also who said women only want to read about women I like my male eye candy thankyouverymuch

  89. Yeh. Want more female superheroes. Don’t forget Power Girl. For those who don’t know, Power Girl is Supergirl’s counterpart from another paralell universe.

    As far as female cartoonists go, my favorite is Amanda Conner (or Connor). And Becky Cloonan who is doing Batman. I first saw her work the other night on the internet. Her art is dam good, but I still like Amanda’s work (on Power Girl) even better. I only wish I could’ve met both of these dam good female cartoonists.

    In closing, I’m taking a home coorespondence comic book cartoon(ist) course myself. I’d love nothing better than to land a comic bood cartoonist job myself. And not all comic book fans are young kids. I’m 66 years old myself and like anyone else, I love a good comic book myself. I hope more men and women my age would only come out and tell others that they love comics. There’s no shame at all in it.

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