Robot 6

Women and superheroes: We’re just not that into you?

Darwyn Cooke's superheroes with personalities

The latest round of conversation about women in comics was sparked by Adam P. Knave’s piece bemoaning the lack of women creators in the comics field (which he defines as monthly comics, obviously dominated by superheroes). Adam believes the root cause is that superhero comics have made themselves unattractive to women by portraying women solely as sex objects or targets of abuse. This led Heidi MacDonald to point out that there are plenty of women in the rest of comics, just not at DC and Marvel. And they are doing quite well, too.

Danielle Corsetto, for example. The Girls with Slingshots creator was interviewed by Carl Watkins of Guerilla Geek, and he asked her if she thought it was easier for women to break into webcomics than “traditional” comics. Her answer is revealing:

Yes, although I think it has more to do with the genre than the medium. Most comic books are aimed at boys, are serious, and have a focus on superpowers. Most popular webcomics are character-driven and have to do with the characters’ lifestyles, or observations about science or philosophy, and almost all of them could be clumped into the broad category of “humor.” While I know plenty of women who genuinely love to read about superheroes, I think that, generally, most women prefer to read (and write) about how characters interact with one another, and not how they’re gonna pulverize each other.

So perhaps it’s not just the terrible portrayals of women but also the type of story that’s being told? Saying “women like this, men like that” is a sure way to get yourself called an idiot on the Internet, and certainly there are plenty of women superhero fans, but I can see her point. There’s a coldness to superhero comics that I find off-putting, and they often bore me in the same way battle-action manga do. That sounds like a value judgment, but it isn’t: The people who read Twilight and Vampire Knight are mostly female, so it cuts both ways.

On the other hand, perhaps if more women were writing superhero comics, there would be more superhero comics that women would want to read.

In her latest column at comiXology, Shaenon Garrity has two suggestions for getting more women into the field: Start interviewing women for jobs (she invokes something called the Rooney Rule here) and hire editors — just one editor, really — who will encourage women. Her exhibit A is shoujo manga, and it’s an example that American comics publishers would do well to study:

You know why, over in Japan, there are so many women drawing manga? Because in the 1970s, an editor named Junya Yamamoto decided that his girls’ manga might sell better if they were drawn by young women rather than middle-aged men, so he hired a bunch of young female artists. Okay, that wasn’t the only reason women took over shojo manga. The other reason was that these women were all totally awesome at drawing manga. But if Yamamoto hadn’t been there to scoop up their work, they probably would have drawn less, or focused on the small-press world rather than the big publishers, or given up on comics. Instead, the manga industry got amazing artists like Moto Hagio, Keiko Takemiya, Riyoko Ikeda, and Yasuko Aoike.

Those artists revolutionized the field. Suppose the big publishers were to hire women who write and draw superhero comics that, while true to the genre, have more female appeal: More conversations, less punching, fewer dead-eyed females and brokeback poses. Throw in more accessible art and less complicated continuity (something like Darwyn Cooke’s New Frontier), and you could still make some nice solid comics that would appeal to readers like Danielle. Going back to Japan for a minute, a substantial portion of the readers of shonen manga are female, and I think that’s because shonen manga is usually more than just battles — they also flesh out their characters with relationships and personalities. The publishers know this, and they have tweaked the books a bit to make them more attractive to girls.

Why would American publishers do this? To avoid leaving money on the table. As Heidi ably pointed out, there are lots of women making comics, and they are doing pretty well (the top-selling graphic novels last year were The Dork Diaries and Twilight, both by women). Comics sales surged in the early 2000s because someone (manga publishers) finally started making comics for girls, and the girls loved them.

Recently a bunch of women creators, many of them already successful, have been drawing their own powerful female superheroes (check out Carly Monardo’s Tumblr for a good selection, and here’s Kate Beaton’s take, which has already been linked all over the Internet, including here). Like all important movements, they have their own Twitter hashtag. But these are standalone drawings and fanart, not complete stories, and they are really just critiquing one aspect of superhero comics. Developing a full suite of characters, a universe, and a story takes time, and without publishers making an investment, it’s not likely to happen. Marketing to customers who have been turned off by the product in a big way is also a challenge, as Adam points out. But the customers are out there, and the creators are working hard to satisfy them; the question isn’t whether women will make and read comics any more, it’s whether the Big Two will be left behind.

(Image source: Comicbookbrain.com)

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84 Comments

Sadly, as much as DC and Marvel give lip service to diversity of gender and race, their actions never add up to much. This is as true of their creators as it is of their creations.

It always revolves around tokenism.

Despite the negative connotations, tokenism has a purpose.
It is a step away from exclusion, albeit an imperfect one.
But tokenism is about as far as DC and Marvel are ever willing to go.

Because, eventually they turn around and get rid of it because “tokenism is bad.”
The problem is that they don’t get rid of it by moving beyond it…
They just ditch all the tokens.

Milestone wasn’t the answer to racial inequality in superhero comics. Getting black creators together with black characters is more akin to a ghetto than anything else. But that was still a step up from having nothing. It should have been a first step in an overall movement, but instead it was the entirety of the plan.

Gail Simone isn’t the answer to gender inequality in superhero comics. Only having one prominent female writer to look to as an example pretty clearly highlights the problem. But at least she is there, which is a lot better than having no one to point to at all. How long has she been the sole go-to example for females in the industry?

I agree with the idea that there needs to be an larger push for female (and other alternative) creators. You can do this without excluding white males, or in any way diminishing their roles. This is a field where quality is highly subjective and what makes for a good creator can vary greatly across genres and styles. There is no reason to have a situation where you are hiring someone BECAUSE they are this gender or that color. But when you are looking for the exact same qualities in all of your hires, then you will wind up with a deeply homogenized sample. If you want to sell more books to girls, then look at what sells to them, and get someone who can do that. Odds are it will produce a hiring pool that leans more towards females than if you just went to the same hyper-detailed pin-up artists you might usually go for.

People say they need more female readers and that company’s need to make them more accessible to women.Maybe the majority of women just aren’t interested in comics and in particular superhero comics.I can only draw upon my own particular experience but in my 20+ years of reading comics ive only seen a regular female customer once.That dosent mean that company’s should stop trying to lure in fangirl readers but they shouldn’t be shocked that the majority of there readers are men.

The only time I hear about women in comics is when someone decides to write an article about it. I don’t know of any hobby, be it comics, sports, etc. where people will suddenly do more to support people because they’re guilted into it. The thing is, males and young males (even a portion of the female population) want to buy this stuff and companies are bringing out product to support that. If their tastes become more “sophisticated”, then they transition to other books that are available. If a woman finds a market to sell their books, so be it, but the idea of focusing anger on companies for giving consumers what they want is silly.

I’ve been saying this for YEARS. So many people complain that “we need to get more [women, kids, or people in general] to read comics!” when they just mean “we need to get more people to read SUPERHERO comics!” Or action comics, in general.

And… how about no? How about trying something other than action comics? Or genre comics, for that matter? Some people really just have no interest in genre comics.

My 76 year old dad, for instance, has ordered everything Joe Sacco did after I loaned him Safe Area Gorazde.

My friend Kim, for instance, loves Ethel & Ernest, Epileptic, and Fun Home, and there’s maybe one bookshelf’s worth of truly great, literary, non-genre comics in existence.

I think there’s plenty of good female role models out there for girls/young women to follow. I feel they do have a niche that is theirs only. The chief complaint seems to be why the rest of the world doesn’t accept that. The same answer any niche has, not everyone will like it no matter how much you try shoving it down someone’s throat. Not everyone’s going to like Twilight, even thought it has vampires and werewolves. Not everyone’s going to like Batman just because he’s rich and looks good.

I personally feel that instead of getting upset that the other 95% of Earth isn’t converting to feminism, they should be grateful for what they’ve created, have, and the history so far. Advancements are made in all fields by both genders, that’s all that should really matter

Most of the people in my comics reading groups are women. Many of my absolute favorite cartoonists are women. And as a 20 something boy, I feel pretty unwelcome in most comic shops outside of Boston and New York. It’s not just female readership that the industry is losing out on the more it tries to define comics as just what Marvel and DC put on the shelves on Wednesday… it is damn near everybody.

And Lackshmana is so right on the money it hurts.

I disagree. I just think that we’re not yet seeing the group that is. I teach comics, and more than half the kids are girls. This is not new, and I’d guess that probably half the folks under thirty making comics – if we include all comics, from web and indie to superhero and gns – are easily female. I always assumed that this was because of Manga, and at first it was, but the majority of new Freshmen aren’t coming in from a Manga background. They’re coming in from GNs, animation, web, or superheroes. That’s right – superheroes. More than a few of the girl students have read more superhero books in the last two years than I’ve read in the last ten.

I think that Manga made it socially acceptable for girls to read and seek out comics en masse, and I think that the first wave of new creators was all Manga and Web. But the next crop – who you’ll probably see working in the next two or three years – are just as rooted in the supers, especially X-Men. This was really evident at HeroesCon, where you saw a LOT of girl creators with superhero sketchbooks and minis. And look at the youngest artists at Marvel. Irene Strychalski. Rebecca Isaacs. You’re seeing them start to permeate through now.

The difference is that the emphasis of story is rarely placed in the same area. There’s much less emphasis on how miserable it is to be a superhero. There’s a lot of passion for younger characters, things like Runaways. Growing up, slice of life stuff interspersed with battles and creative use of super powers. In short, what would appeal to the REAL mainstream, as is evident by movies like ‘First Class,’ as opposed to the ‘important’ continuity stuff that the vocal minority holds so dear, which makes the majority of big two comics a grueling, narrative-free, lifeless experience.

Girls don’t dislike superheroes – they just want to do them differently than the corporations are willing to do these days (which is to say “well”). But you’ll see a chunk more in the next couple of years anyway, mark my words.

@Chris Schweizer : yeah i agree with you on the heroes con observation.There was a lot of girls in attendance. Hopefully they decide to stick with it.

‘ I think that, generally, most women prefer to read (and write) about how characters interact with one another, and not how they’re gonna pulverize each other.’

That’s true but character driven stories and superhero aren’t mutually exclusive.

I’d use Fraction’s Thor as the biggest example of how character driven stories are absolutely necessary. Why is Thor with Sif? When did that happen? Why did Jane move to Broxton? When was that decided? Why is Jane holding hands with Selvong after kicking him in the nutes two issues ago? Yet we are ‘treated’ to long drawn out fights with the Silver Surfer. It gets to a point where the reader just can’t care. They aren’t characters, they are objects of the plot.

Compare that to The Mighty Avenger. It takes delight in outlining Jane’s life, her problems, her feelings, her thoughts just as much as Thor’s. We grow attached, we feel for these characters so their trials make sense. When Thor is battling Heimdall we both want him to suceed and fail for different reasons. It is emotionally complex and the feelings behind the story make the battle epic.

I think everybody wants some of that but I think women enjoy that aspect in particular.

I’m pretty sure it was women who ran the DCU line in the late 80s through the 90′s, and oversaw what eventually became Vertigo.

I dont necessarily think that the reason why most female creators dont do superhero comics is because they dont like them, its because they have more freedom and creative control in genres outside of superheroes since they have been monopolized by the big two and they are subject to change on the whims of the big two.

Another reason could be because they personally dont feel that they want to do those kinds of stories or think they are good at them. A example would be just because i like basket ball doesn’t mean i want to go play for the nba.

other than that, i agree with lackshmana and chris schweizer.

I do have to take offense to the third to last paragraph because you use shonen mangas as a example is brings down your point since most shonens are battle mangas which are mostly repetituos fights drawn out over fifty chapters that take most of its plot structure from dbz.

Something else i have noticed is it seems like when these articles about getting women into comics or superhero comics.It seems like all the responses and comments about the article come from men.Although it is hard to tell if the submitted comment is from women or not because sometimes posters use a nickname or characters name. Maybe we need to go back to the old internet standard A/S/L!! HAHA

Simon DelMonte

July 6, 2011 at 11:17 am

I can only say this…

I have A LOT of female friends who read super-hero comics. Some read Vertigo, or Dark Horse, or other companies. A tiny number read manga. But they all read super-hero books. Mainly DC, sometimes Marvel. Some are royally pissed about the end of Birds of Prey as we know it. Or the end of Steph Brown’s career. A few read each and every comic with a feminist eye, and never hesitate to say how they feel. Some are leaving DC in September. Some left it a while back.

And they all love the concept of the super-hero. They love it as much as I do, and at the end of the day they care as much that the writer of a given hero’s life and times is a good writer as I do.

Yes, there are many, many other things at play here. But I can say with ease that women dig super-heroes as much as men.

When done right.

That is all.

Back in college (mid-90′s), my friend Ann and I (female as well) both had a weekly comic book habit. I remember she was really into the 2099 titles and a lot of the X-Books (and some of the Bat books) IIRC, while I tended towards DC on my titles ( Hitman, Transmetropolitan, Young Justice, JLA, Hellboy, Sandman, Top 10, a lot of other titles I don’t recall anymore, etc.) We had some great shops where we could talk geek with the owner, debate over fantasy movie castings and who would win in a fight a or b, laugh and just things like that.

(for the record – When I got out of college, I collected for a while longer, until my local shop closed, and I drifted away. A couple of years ago, I tried getting back into comics, but nothing’s really stuck yet)

At the time, it still felt like we were in sort of a oddity (girls liking comics that is) but we didn’t feel unwelcome either. Sure there was the whole “bad-girl” trend that was huge at the time, but there was also other stuff that was kinda fun. I’m not sure what it is, but I don’t get that vibe any more. Having been gone a while, it’s harder to find a good starting point for series, everything is so dead serious characters are all so psychologically messed up (because apparently that makes it all so much more “realistic”, ‘cos everything is life is so dead serious and messed up) and practically everything is in the middle of an event.

In short, if you’re a new or lapsed reader, male OR female, and want to follow the big two, good frickin’ luck.

As for attracting new female readers, it’s been so over-analyzed and compartmentalized and qualified to get a “one-size-fits-all” answer, and that’s not going to happen. Ann and I were both rabid comic fans at the time, and yet we hardly ever picked up the same titles. Some women like Sex in the City, some like Iron Man, that’s how it is.

I won’t say I have the answer or answers either, but here are a few things I think are important if you want to get more women readers. Some people have already offered these sentiments, but they’re reiterated here because I think they ARE important.

It’s about accessibility – Can I pick up a title off the rack (and maybe last month’s issue as well if it’s a continuing arc) and be able to know basically what’s going on without having to know 10-20 years of comic history? Does it make me feel I can invest a little time in this, and not feel obliged to pick up 10-15 other titles just to follow the plot? Long term readers don’t just happen, the start out as casual, 1-2 title readers, and eventually branch out. Catering only to your long term readers kills your market.

Corollary: It’s not ALWAYS about continuity – I loved Elseworlds. I loved taking existing characters and putting them in new settings and seeing what would happen. This whole “only read stories that are in continuity” movement killed that, and hamstrung a lot of what creators could do. While continuity is fun, taken to an extreme, it stifles the entire market.

Corollary 2: It’s not about events – Used to be crossover events were rare, which made them special. Not anymore. Now it seems like one big ol’ parade of events so (to paraphrase the Incredibles), everything is special, so nothing is.

It’s about getting ‘em young – Young comic readers can become older comic readers eventually, and yet both of the Big 2 have pretty much only done token service to their youth and YA lines. “But they don’t sell!” they counter, to which I reply “have you actually advertised them? Have you given them any kind of marketing support that’s even a fraction of what you give to the latest “Guess who died this week” plotline?”

It’s about not making a big deal out of it – I would LOVE to see more female comic artist/writers, but I don’t want that to be the main selling point. HERos and Girl Comics are not all bad ideas, but I feel pandered to when the main selling point is not “Awesome Stories featuring X,Y, & Z” but “Hey look, Girls made this! isn’t it cute! We’re so progressive here!” Ugh.

It’s about not making me embarrassed for picking these up – If the cover at first glance makes me think of a men’s magazine or a horror movie splatterfest, I’m probably not going to want to be seen reading it and would think twice about picking it up in the first place. ESPECIALLY if I’m a new reader.

It’s about having fun with the characters – At some point, “realistic” came to mean “violent, psychologically screwed up, depressing, just like real life!” Er… what? I’m sorry, but if real life was REALLY like that, the suicide rate should be triple what it is now. While not ever comic needs to be fun, the big two could use a nice shot of levity now and then. I’m not even talking slapstick humor, but at least have characters enjoy themselves a bit. They can frickin’ fly or blow stuff up or lift a Buick or make constructs out of light/energy/sound/whatever – if that doesn’t have some kind of “fun” element to it, we live in a sad SAD world.

It’s about taking chances – Top 10 was a superhero version of Hill Street Blues and it was wonderful. Sandman was a comicbook that had some cape ‘n tights roots, but created its own mythology. Both are hard to pidgeonhole, yet both were amazing books which I doubt would get published today by the Big 2. Sometimes taking a chance on an unorthodox creator or story is worth the risk. Not everything is going to work, we all know that, but to stick with the same thing over and over again eventually gets old, no matter how many coats of paint and slick marketing you put on it.

And finally, the obvious…

It’s about having good writers and artists and a good environment for them to work in, no matter who they are, so they can make good stories.

There are plenty of male readers that are tired of superheroes too. I think this is a nice introduction conversation to a much larger topic. There are other publishers besides DC & Marvel and there are other creators besides Jim Lee and Brian Michael Bendis.

If you want to see something change, support the people whose work you DO like. Stop subscribing to ongoings that you complain about month after month. Take a vested interest in a project. There are new kickstarter and indie go-go projects all the time. See if one appeals to you and SUPPORT it! Got a podcast or a blog? Promote what you like!

I stopped covering Batman and started talking about Green Hornet because I enjoy it more. I felt the Batverse was heading in a direction that I didn’t care about (all pre-relaunch news). I discovered Green Hornet Year One and found the noir crime fighting stories I wanted in my Bat books.

As far as getting female characters and female creators: a strong female character doesn’t need to be written by a female creator. I’d love examples of strong female characters written by men like Matt Wagner, Steve Bryant and Peter David. In fact, I do whatever I can to promote Fallen Angel and Athena Voltaire (including supporting Steve’s kickstarter project).

You can’t just complain about this sort of thing. If you’re a girl and you want to create – then do it. There will be a publisher or small press outfit that may notice you’re capable of bringing something to the table that was missing.

I am not one to respond to columns in the comments section, but there is a first time for everything. I too agree that both DC and Marvel should do much more to attract female readers, but your column is part of the reason why people in the industry aren’t doing all they can to get women in stores. You complain that superheroes are exclusive to men and then say that you want in while insulting the medium and showing your ignorance of it. You accuse the Big Two of being nothing more than fight scenes are pecks, void of all character development. I don’t know too many men who read comics because they want rad battles in every page. Most fans don’t read books like Fear Itself or Flashpoint because they can’t wait for Captain Marvel to hit buildings and watch them explode. And with character development and superheroes’ lack of personal philosophies and personalities? I know Wally West’s favorite food, and Captain Cold’s views on drugs. I know Martian Manhunter’s favorite snack and Green Arrow’s views on our current political system. All of these characters are different characters. But I guess it’s easier to pretend to be high minded while at the same time voicing the views that have historically demeaned comics instead of actually reading a capes book or two.

I think there’s a fallacy in all this, and here it is: “they also flesh out their characters with relationships and personalities”–superhero comics are nothing if not soap operas for boys. Look at the debate over Superman and Spiderman being married, Rucka’s run on Batman, Waid’s on Flash, etc. Superheroes are hugely reliant on the romantic relationships in their books.

The issue at play in the gender gap in superhero readership is more one of voice/tonality and sensibility, and I suspect that bringing the feminine sensibility alluded to in this piece would dilute the requisite machismo that the boys need. I hate to say it, but I would guess the overlap in audience requirements by gender, at least in superhero comics, is fairly slim. DC should’ve had another ring to go along with its new subdivisions: Dark, Edge, Chick, JLA, GL, Batman. Seriously, if they can segment their readership based on subject, why not do it based on sensibilities? I wouldn’t really call it “Chick,” but hopefully my point is made. Actually, a female creative team on each big franchise might be really cool, too, and I don’t necessarily mean Batgirl, Supergirl, and Ladies of the GL Corps (although maybe that would ultimately make sense based on what resonates with which creators).

I’m not saying mixing and matching casts and creator genders shouldn’t happen (of course it should), but I think it’s silly to act like we’re not talking about different audiences with different desires. As such, this is really about expanding the market with new product (comics for and by women–or at least by, with the for, in theory, to follow–I don’t want to assume men wouldn’t want to read such comics, too) rather than further segmenting the current market (making 50% of all trad. superhero comics more gynocentric, thus potentially alienating the current readership who can’t handle any more “personalities” and “relationships”" “Action Comics: Now with way more conversations over cups of tea!”). Can women write kick ass comics? Of course! But what I’m reading in this piece is that’s not really what (the majority of) women want.

To be clear: Women can and do write great trad. superhero comics, so I’m not suggesting they can’t. I’m also not suggesting some women don’t enjoy the trappings of trad. superhero comics. I’m responding to the quotes in the piece above that note that women do well OUTSIDE of trad. superhero comics, so it would seem the best way to get more women involved with DC and Marvel as creators and readers–while holding on to current male readers–is to stretch the parameters of what those publishers print, rather than just bumping some dudes and slotting in some women. Hmm. That doesn’t sound right …

Flame away/set me straight.

Once upon a time the Big Two and the independents did have more character-driven stories and more female fans. In the 80s I and most of the young women I knew loved comics. Marvel had the X-Men, Claremount’s New Mutants, Simonson’s Thor, Miller’s Daredevil, Longshot, Power Pack and Englehart’s West Coast Avengers — all character-driven books. DC had the JLI, Wolfman/Perez’s New Teen Titans, Moore’s Swamp Thing, and Perez’s Wonder Woman. The Indies had titles like Doran’s A Distant Soil, Wood’s Wandering Star, Pini’s Elfquest, and Foglio’s Buck Godot. It was a Golden Age for great stories.

These days the Big Two are focusing on event-driven stories to the detriment of character-driven stories. Character are pummeled from one event to another like balls in a pinball machine, barely having time to react. Even the best of these comics, PAD’s X-Factor, devotes most of their time to dealing with the fallout of various events happening off-panel; but it’s still the best for at least trying to cover the fallout realistically. And Indies have become few and far between.

In short, I don’t see a huge influx of new female fans until the Big Two get away from Event Mania.

Superhero books really remind of Pro Wrestling. Big heroes, bigger villians. Good guys and bad guys, tough talk and crazy shannigans, machoism at its all time high, where conflicts are solved with fistfights and foreign objects, not civilized discussion. Oh, and there’s women wrestling, but the stories are usually awful and its mostly pandering to the boners of the fans with their mud wrestling and pillow fights and skimpy outfits.

It just seems like something that appeals to a certain market of guys, and girls who just so happen to like guy stuff.

That said, there are some things the Big Two can’t take from them to appeal to even more guys(and perhaps gals). One, pro wrestling companies like the WWE have a constant pop culture presence, with marketing and advertising and a crapload of other collectibles available the year round, promoted on TV, magazines, billboards, etc. If you want people to buy comics, you really got to get that awareness out there.

Second, they are truly diverse. Yeah I know I just took a shit on women’s wrestling a while ago, but hey there it is, they all seem to be having fun. Not to mention there’s plenty of wrestlers from every background, nation, or creed out there. They don’t have Batman and Spider-Man and Wolverines, characters made 10, 20, 50 years ago that are so popular they have to push the new blood to the side. WWE regularly pushes new stars to the top, give them a change to shine, then they in turn become the big popular star that sells all the T-Shirts and headlines the PPV. They create new Batman and Spider-Mans and Wolverines ON A YEARLY BASIS. Some of them may be stereotypes, but its a purposeful fun stereotype, played up fora gimmick the fans could cheer or boo at.

Third, they appeal to kids. The WWE is specifically a PG-rated show in the last couple years(much to the complaint of some older fans, but eh), and because its inherently silly premise and superheroic antics and colorful characters, its easy to appeal to a younger demographic.

Fourth, it isn’t that hard to get up to speed. Usually there’s a big “event”/PPV that month, the feud climaxes, then some new storylines pop up. Maybe they grow out of the past event, maybe its something else entirely, but the storytelling is usually told in a way that there isn’t a lot of continuity and background you have to know to get into them.

So for me, its not so much trying to change superhero books until they fit into this weird “lets appeal to everybody” form, its capitalizing on what they already are and trying to make some improvements taken from a similar male soap opera medium like pro wrestling. Make them more accessible, showcase them more often so the audience knows they even exist and where to get it, push new characters, and get the damn kids involved.

Jeremy, why are you willing to give up on character-driven superhero comics?

Much of the problem isn’t that superhero comics don’t do a good job of attracting female readers, its that they do such a GREAT job of REPELLING them.

Full disclosure, I am a guy. And I am as biased as all hell towards making the comics industry more accessible to everyone.

My girlfriend would probably love to comment on this topic, but she is too busy drawing her ass of as a comic book artist.

She makes a living drawing comic commissions without any fame or previously published work. She works 10-12 hours a day, 6 days a week. She puts out 24-25 pages a month in addition to her other work and a part-time job. That is how utterly dedicated she is to breaking in to the industry.

She got in to comics through Calvin and Hobbes, Sailor Moon and Dragonball. I got her into superhero comics through Birds of Prey and Paul Dini’s run on Detective Comics (she loved Batman TAS).

You might have seen her work in the CSBG comic art contest here at CBR.
She came in 3rd place in a very tight race.

Take a look at her work and you’ll know she is going to be very successful as a comic artist.

http://soap-committee.deviantart.com/

So, if I am passionate about a woman’s place in the comic book industry then it is only because I have seen how much a girl who truly loves comics can kick ass.

Girls will read Superman and Spiderman just as much as boys will, assuming they aren’t written in a way that is inherently insulting and condescending.

Any capitalist venture that relies on cannibalizing its own market is doomed. So, as fans of comic books we NEED more voices, and more diversity, in the industry if it is to continue to exist.

On the contrary, I am not. In fact, most of the books I read have heavy character-driven drama that push the narrative; Simone’s Secret Six, Remender’s Uncanny X-Force, Brubaker’s Captain America, Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man, Bendis’ Ultiamte Spider-Man; books with either a small managable cast of characters or(in Spidey’s case) a big supporting cast where the various sub-plots share room right alongside the main conflict of the story arc. Even Hickman’s FF, which some said focuses more on ideas then character, has some really good character moments, build-ups and pay-offs, and fun/cute scenes that are generated from character personality and relationships, and not epic scale set pieces or alternate dimensional species.

And even in WWE, I think most of the feuds are character-driven nature, with a couple added gimmicks on top of it for marketing purposes. The battles between Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho, or Rock and Austin, or Benoit and Angle, they were at each other throat’s for personal reasons, to prove their superiority, to protect a loved one, a friendship gone sour, or even a tragic accident. At the end of the day, its two guys who have to sell this story as real in and out of the ring, and the best ones aren’t even the gimmicks, its two guys talking in the ring and you can feel every word, and understand their perspective.

@Amber Love I agree with you totally.Now more then anytime is it easier to get your feelings about a book out.Everbody is on twitter,facebook and writing a blog. Plus web-comics are a easy way to get examples of what you like out there. And if its good enough and gets enough publicity somebody will pick it up and give you a chance to do it full time. Look at Ax-Cop!

Kind of confused here – this article treats Monardo and Beaton’s blatantly obvious parody as if it was a sincere attempt to create new female heroes. Those drawings are a humorous criticism of the way in which most (generally male) comics creators shallowly attempt to make oversexualized female characters seem “strong” by making them kick people’s asses.

From all the articles I’ve read and the comments here, this is what I conclude: when it comes to outside forces convincing comic companies to try unconventional methods in order to attract potential readers, the use of “diplomacy” seems to fail every time someone brings up the money/profit/audience/creator gender issue, and the companies don’t do a thing. If they didn’t have to think about those, maybe we’d get more readers from all spectrums instead of this continually shrinking audience of lifers and occasional readers–and the continuous turn-off by women and others. Correct me if I’m wrong or gravely mistaken, but I think a blow to their egos or pride is the way to get them [the comic companies] to radically change the medium for the better of others. If they won’t act like adults for these issues, then let’s treat them like children. Egg them on, dare them to change, tease them on end, it’s bound to work. If they feel frustrated by us treating them like the nerds they cater to, then they’re bound to show us they have the guts to (insert change here) in order to salvage or save their pride. Otherwise, hoaxes and trickery in the style of used car salesmen could work, as long as either is used to bring about good change.
An example of doing something like this (the closest I could come up with):
In an episode of The Simpsons from 2003 called “Mr. Spritz Goes to Washington”, where Krusty becomes Springfield’s new congressman, a janitor at the capitol offers to help Krusty and the Simpsons get a bill passed, because apparently the way they pass laws doesn’t work the way Lisa was taught. The bill is passed through a variety of underhanded methods designed to distract and coerce a few key members of congress: Homer tricks a southern senator into a drinking contest, causing him to fall asleep during the session; Bart blackmails a senator with a tape of him abusing the free mail policy (by sending a get well soon card to his aunt); a drunken Homer interrupts the session, allowing Lisa to attach the bill to a bill calling for orphans to be given American flags. In the end, it got passed, and Springfield’s residents no longer had to contend with low-flying airplanes over their homes.

Drew Melbourne

July 6, 2011 at 3:35 pm

One of my criticisms about the DC 52 initiative is that they’re apparently doubling down on the core audience, males 18-34. I’d have loved if they’d have spent more time thinking about new audiences: kids and women in particular. (On Twitter I made a crack about a book called “Princess Wonder Woman Loves Ponies” but I am 100% serious about this.)

Brian from Canada

July 6, 2011 at 3:59 pm

My first huge problem with this article is the reference to manga. Manga does NOT have the same cultural framework that American comics have: there never was a forced purge of genres and content in the name of protecting the children, resulting in generations of adults who never saw it as children’s entertainment.

AND most of the manga in Japan is anthologized. Multiple stories under one cover in a variety of genres. Here in North America, it’s based on star power: Superman, Batman, Captain America, etc. survived because they were strong enough concepts to fill a book on their own.

That presents an entirely different product in an entirely different market to talk about.

My second huge problem with it — and this may be close to what others or saying or not — is that the fault of “women” comics is not that they’re tokenized, it’s that they’re identified as a sub-category of comics.

“Token” books like Wonder Woman, Superman’s Gal Lois Lane and Supergirl (which were designed to appeal to female readers in the silver age, what with hair style and costume contests and the like) were never identified as being separate from the overall publishing drive of the company. Archie has Betty & Veronica as much as it has Jughead, but neither book is separate despite the idea of one being for girls and one for boys.

And then there was CrossGen, which was female friendly but still loved by male readers.

Today, however, it’s as if there’s a niche that needs to be filled with special titles exclusively for women. When we’re stuck in a situation where books are *specifically* *identified* as for girls, boys are encouraged not to read them unless they’re effeminate. Boys should be reading boys books because these are for girls — just like black cast comedies are written for black people because everything else is for white people and white people don’t get black people (a totally fallacy).

If you want to see more female heroes, the thing to do is reject the stereotypes to enforce the big guns to give you more interesting characters. Just look at Jessica Jones, who’s as perfect a female character for her genre as you can find these days.

All I have to say is, if there’s anyone tasked with artist-recruiting at the Big Two still wondering “But where am I gonna FIND women who draw superheroes?” I have one word:

DeviantART.

Yes, a lot of the artists there are too young/unpracticed to be major-title quality just yet, and many draw in styles that DC/Marvel seem to actively avoid (which is a rant for another day,) but the fact remains that there are a /ton/ of people with good art there, many of whom are women and a sizable chunk of which draw superhero fanart. (An artist named Gabzillaz in particular has become popular thanks in part to her Bat-family art. Her stuff’s a little cute for main titles, but would fit right in on a title for young teens!)

Best of all, artists on DA have their own built-in fanbases – popular artists can easily have thousands of “watchers”. Obviously not everyone who watches an artist will go out and buy comics by them, but these days even a dozen extra readers is good for the industry.

Women’s issues just don’t appeal to most men. And, yeh, in my opinion, there’s way too much talking and not enough action in modern comics, something many men complain about when it comes to women. That isn’t the answer. Comics are testosterone-driven, but women who come off as too tough are just unapealling. Wonder Woman has always kept her femininity, and that might work against her sometimes, but gay comics aren’t that hot on the radar either. I work with a lot of tough, well-educated modern women, and regardless of how good they look, who cares? They’re too masculine and try too hard to compete with men to be of any interest to most guys, I surely have no interest in them. Women are feminine, when they lose that, they lose what makes them unique to men. But a woman who is tough and keeps her feminine qualities is a rare gem in the modern world. Most of the women that I’ve met who have these qualities are married, the ones who don’t have that balance are usually single, and it’s easy to figure out why. No straight male wants a relationship with someone who has the same basic qualities as his buddies. Straight males have no interest romantically in a man. Why would he want a woman who acts like one? These types of things are fun to explore when dealing with teenagers, who are half-child and physically half-adult, but grown-ups have been there done that, so it’s redundant to constantly relive teenage years when that time has passed. I’d say look at superheroine characters who have that balance, like Wonder Woman, Wasp, Valkyrie, Black Canary, or Ms. Marvel, Invisible Woman, or even Witchblade. But, please don’t have a man write the stories, at least not a straight man. They don’t have a clue, it’s all imagination because it’s beyond their realm of experience. And they usually don’t get it right because they are unable to. It’s like grown men who write superhero stories about teenagers. Yeh, right, they’re really accurate.

@Rick
You just gave me an idea to coincide with one point I made in my earlier post. That whole schtick I threw in about striking a blow to their egos or pride? Increase the scope and you have (and I don’t imply that this is present in all guys, being one myself) a weakness that could be exploited: men who want to protect their masculinity. In terms of comic companies, why not make them (the comic companies) think that “real men respect fictional women”? Threaten to take away their “man card” if we don’t see an equal balance in the industry. Make them believe that their pride/alpha-male position is at stake. Call them “chicken”, “wimp”, “fraidy-cat”, etc. Insults used for good=positive change for female comic characters=more women readers for superhero titles.

I like superheroes. I’m a woman. I know plenty of women that like superheroes. I know plenty of men who have never picked up a comic book in their lives. At a work dinner last night a guy couldn’t stay afloat in a conversation about Marvel and DC and their comics/movies while three women compared what digital comics they had on their phones. Generalizations about women not being into superheroes are just… absurd.

just make superhero comics for girls, just fucking do it already, make super hero comics for girls/.

seriously, i do not want the content of the comics i read to be changed to appeal to girls… as they may no longer appeal to me. There is no reason to try to force men and women to read the same comics.

The article brings up manga, well guess what, in Japan the vast majority of manga s split up into girls manga (shojo), boys manga (shonen), mens manga (Seinen), and womens manga (Josei). Yes, while Boys and Mens manga may sometimes also get female reader (lots), taht doesnt change the fact that they are fcreated specificakly to sell magazones to dudes (just as girls and womens manga are created to sell magazines to gals).

The problem with DC and Marvel is not they they arent injecting enough “female appeal” to their super hero comics (which are made for men). The problem is that they simply do not make Superhero comics for girls.

Make superhero comics for girls, and have girls write them (its what japan does, and it works over there).

Both genders can have their cakes and eat it too…. IT JUST DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THE SAME CAKE, in Japan thy make different cakes, we should also make different cakes.

American comics are not dying because they don’t have enough women creators and women readers, they are dying because more and more people are watching one of their television’s three-hundred channels while recording another channel’s show on the DVR, or using their PS3 or X-Box to play a game or watch a movie from Netflix or Hulu Plus — in-between using their smart phones to surf Facebook or play Angry Birds.

Reading is on the wane in America, as is the general public’s tolerance for serialized stories; no amount of gender-based hiring is going to change those facts.

As for Japan: The country has 128 million people and a $5 billion manga industry; America has 350 million people and $200 million comics industry. I think the differences between the two go further than the number of women working in manga versus those in comics.

We’re already here:
half of Emerald City con goers are female
half of the owners of my favorite comic bookstore are female
and all of me is writing comics, including superhero tales (not published yet, but still).

Yet, DC, Marvel and Hollywood don’t believe this just yet, thus we’re still waiting on a Wonder Woman film, Wonder Woman is the Trinity in name but numbers of comic titles, and looking for non-femme fatale female super hero titles…yeah. Etc. But not to worry, all of us comic lasses will be changing that soon enough.

ps to hehey, I hate romantic comics, films etc. I don’t enjoy pink stories or blue–I want purple ones!

you know I’la, in case you havent noticed yet, most dudes dont particularly like the color purple either (you got to admit you kind of walked right into that one), blue is a more popular color among them (its my favorite).

besides, teh same principle still applies, it doesnt have to be between pink & blue stories, it could easily be between purple & blue stories.

there can be two cakes.

Hehey, I’ve never been interested in boy stories vs girl stories nor boy movies vs girl movies. Many of us aren’t.

thats not really what i meant. alot of this article has to do with changing todays super hero comics in an attempt to appeal more to girls.

Well the thing is, i kind of really like the way superhero comics are today, including teh cheesecake and all that. I dont want super hero comics to start getting all different in an attempt to cater to people who arent currently reading todays super hero comics.

Therefore i would much rather that they simply just create super hero comics for them. Theres no reason to start changing the super hero comics that exist today for other people when you can simply just produce comics for those other people while leaving what already exists alone.

Basically I like the cake i have now, instead of having teh cheff start changing up the cake while im eatng it id be better for the cheff to simply creata another cake.

Make super hero comics for girls.

I’d like to know if ending the Peter/MJ marriage and possibly ending the Clark/Lois marriage appeals more–or less–to women readers. I’m guessing it would appeal less. Or that they don’t care one way or the other. Do women like to read about amoral types like James Bond, or do they prefer heroes who are loyal to a marriage partner. All the women I know liked Thor better than either Iron Man because they couldn’t relate to Tony Stark’s morals. Just sayin’.

I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but there’s one comic I’m sure of that could definitely appeal to both sides that are the focus of this entire discussion-Marvel’s GI Joe comic from the 1980′s. Maybe even some of the ones today would work. When you look at it, the series IMO didn’t have as big a gender balance (four women compared to the rest), but most of the time there was at least a strong female lead that had a good balance of strength and feminity (Scarlett and Lady Jaye predominately). And there were some very good character driven stories (the Snake Eyes origin saga, some of the stories of their spinoff title “GI Joe: Special Missions”). Even the bad guys had something like that in the form of Baroness and Zarana. I’m surprised that here, even if you’re not a fan of military-based content, not everyone here has brought GI Joe to mind. Let me just ask: has anyone here, male or female, ever read an issue of GI Joe?

FWIW, the vampires and werewolves in Twilight *are* super heroes.

And Bella becomes one of them (the most powerful of them all).

None of them think of themselves that way, and their superhero-ing duties are are put upon them more than something they seek, but still.

Comic writers could learn a lot from Twilight.

@Acer
I’m glad you’re getting insights from people’s posts, that is really cool. I’m really glad to see more women getting into comics, and they should be serviced! Keep ‘em coming. When I was younger, telling a woman/girl “I read comics” was dating suicide. Now, I tell a woman/girl “I like comics and animation” or whatever, and it’s a totally different reaction. Good for men who like comics. I’ve been going to comic conventions since I was a kid, and the female presence is noticeable and welcome. I’ve tried to hit on some of those women, and learned that some of them are gay/lesbians. Okay, the cheese factor in comics can attract women also. I’ve also learned a lot of gay men like comics too. Okay, testosterone-muscle guys, makes sense. I really enjoy seeing the lovely ladies at cons nowadays, it’s great. I’ve been trying to get with the comic book girls, but no luck so far. It’s always good to have something in common in relationships. And a comic book girl would be heaven! How did I really learn women like comic books? I was on vacation in Missouri, and I decided to wear my fave Punisher shirt to a strip club. It’s the Pun emblem but it looks like it was shotgunned. Didn’t know the shirt glowed in the dark until I walked into the club. Lots of pointing hands and shouts of “Punisher!” Even the DJ put me on blast. Next thing I know, I’m hanging out with a pretty mulatta stripper, and she’s “That’s the Punisher! I love the Punisher!” Right shirt, right girl. I ended up spanking her, among other things, we had a great time. I left town the next few days, pretty tired. Thanks Punisher! Marvel and DC don’t know how popular their characters are among non-fans, esecially women, and they should tap into it quickly. Oh, by the way, I have read that comic books are a billion dollar industry in America. Comic book girls, we love you!

Look its really simple. There aren’t more women writing for super hero comics because they aren’t interested in the genre. The amount of female writers echoes the amount of female fans… Not a lot. An there’s nothing wrong with that. to say that DC or Marvel should try and appeal to women by specifically scouting female writers, is like saying that romance novel publishers should scout out male writers to increase the male readship.

Its just a silly argument, with no basis in reality.

Women are not fans of superhero comics for the same reason men are not fans of romance novels… because they aren’t.

An just for the record DC scouted out three potential comic book writers of the boobed veriaty to work post reboot DC monthlies & all of them shot it down. so don’t mistake absense for exclusion, DC & Marvel have made there attempts, let it go folks & lets have no more of these stupid articles.

For as long as I remember reading superhero comics (early nineties), women have always been tough, hardcore, well developed characters. That’s not the problem. The problem is a more obvious one but also one that is far more difficult to tackle:

90% OF SUPERHERO COMICS ARE AESTHETICALLY UNATTRACTIVE LOOKING PRODUCTS.

The artwork just looks ugly. If anything, in my field (movies) I’ve notice that women are very drawn to look and feel of the older comics from the fifties, sixties and seventies, the same decade that are ironically responsible for awful sexist portrayal of women–why? Because the illustrations and design are more dynamic, colourful, and fun. Though that’s not to say that that stuff from the past is particularly good-looking either.

You walk into a comic shop and take one look at the shelves and it’s just this massive tacky looking dog’s breakfast. The costumes look ridiculous, (and no, black jumpsuits and long coats is not the solution either) the colours are either too murky or too primary, the subject matter looks like it will have gore inside, the logos designs feel ancient, lately every other cover is rendered in that realistic painterly style that harkens back to the seventies sci fi stuff you’d see airbrushed on the side of some losers’ van, the boobs are too massive, the men are too beefy and are not drawn too look more like attractive fit male models, the characters are always just standing looking iconic and boring or jumping/flying straight at you, there’s never a hint at romance or moral dilemmas or emotional impact, there are WAY TOO MANY GUNS all over the place, everything feels either way too dark and ominous or far too childish and goofy…..etc….

I could go on and on. Every comic should not have to appeal to women at all though. But the point is that any book that has writing that is bound to do well with a female audience ages 14 – 25 should be designed and illustrated to fortify that market potential. Another book that has really hardcore writing with lots of swearing and bravado should be fully designed to visually appeal to men ages 16 to 30. And whatever book has a writing style that suits young boys or young girls or both should also be produced accordingly. This never seems to be the case though.

@Rick

Oh. Oh good lord. What is wrong with you? Really? REALLY? We STILL HAVE THIS? Balls, and here I forgot it was the friggen 1950′s.

Congratulations, Rick, you are a straight male–the most privileged kind of person on the whole planet. But guess what? THE WORLD (even, *shock* the world of comics) IS NOT ABOUT YOU. Straight and male is not some kind of magical default. Something…something didn’t appeal to you? Oh NO! How horrible!

What in the world did characters who have this magical “balance” have to do with anything? Oh, right, they’re pretty so even if they’re just going blah blah blah, you can look at the tits or something, right? Not that I’m not a fan of some of the ones you listed, but why the HELL should that be the only kind of woman protagonist featured in comics. Renee Montoya? Awesome. Big Barda? Even more awesome. Scandal Savage? Wicked awesome. Cuz, see, here’s the thing, and I know, honey, I know it distresses you to realize this, but just in the way that there is more than one kind of man, there are myriad ways to be a woman too. And not only is that okay (even if, I’m ever so sorry, dear, it may not be appealing to YOU), but it means that there should be many kinds of women seen in comics as well. You know what happens to a lot of the characters you listed? Most times they end up in a male dominated book, their role is automatically that of “the chick.” Male characters can be “the leader” “the loner” “the wacky one” “the sarcastic one” etc, but the gal on the team just winds up being some generic cypher of what women are supposed to be like. In the hands of good writers, of writers who are aware and push themselves outside of their comfort zone, they do fantastically. But for a lot of people, it’s just too much effort to figure out how those crazy female minds work (here’s a shocker–even for feminine gals, we’re still actually the same species as men).

“No straight male wants a relationship with someone who has the same basic qualities as his buddies. ”

You live such an adorably sheltered life that it’s kind of precious, really. Except for the bit where it made me a little sick reading it. “A woman who is tough and keeps her feminine qualities is a rare gem in the modern world.” Oh, this pesky modern world, what with women in only the last fifty years emerging from their designated places the menfolk set for them! What it sounds like, honestly, to me and to ANY WOMAN READING THAT is that you’re threatened. And why shouldn’t you be? Straight men have it pretty good right now–at the top of the heap. But with this whole diversity thing happening around the world, pretty soon you won’t be on top; you’ll just be on equal footing. Shame, that.

If I sound angry (and I realize that I just might. Oh dear, aggression…it’s not very feminine, is it?), then it’s only because the first two thirds of your comment weren’t actually about comics, but how women should be the way YOU want them to be, about how your coworkers (dear sweet pants, how is that even relevant to comics?) aren’t worth caring about because they’re too tough and well-educated. (Spoiler alert–they’d probably rather set themselves on fire than go out with a pig like you). I’m actually a little surprised that you didn’t mention that they should be in a kitchen instead, preferably dolled up in a gingham party dress, waiting for their man to come home. (Also, want to know why so many women in the workplace have to be too “tough” for you to be interested in? Because masculine is “good” and feminine is “bad” where business and personal judgements are concerned. Being too feminine is a mark against.)

So. Ever so sorry that we womenfolk are suddenly standing up and asking that maybe we can be represented by characters that aren’t consistently drawn with T&A in mind. Ever so sorry that you believe that you and everyone who thinks like you are the norm in a society where there IS no norm. Awfully sorry about the bit where in fifty or a hundred years or so, maybe people will actually be free to be people.

And also, sorry that you, y’know, think that way. It’s not just a little horrifying. I do hope you have a little pipe you can smoke as you type. Just to make the image all come together.

@Rick

“I’ve tried to hit on some of those women, and learned that some of them are gay/lesbians.”

Oh. Oh wow, do I feel dumb. I’m blaming the whole 2Am thing, but I really should’ve caught the stench of TROLL from the get-go. It took this.

Just in case, though. Just in case you’re for real (in which case, excuse me, I need to spend an hour sobbing hysterically, like we womenfolk do, you know). No. Intellegent. Female. Would. Ever. Date. You. Ever.

But banking on the whole troll thing…stop it. Really. This sort of attitude happens enough in the real world and it’s hurtful enough. No reason to pretend to be what so many people already have to deal with on a day-t-day basis.

@hehey

While I don’t deny that some “girl”-aimed comics wouldn’t be amiss (it would really have to come from the right place for the right reasons, though. Not editorial decisions. Marvel Divas. Ugh), it’s still not so much a case of needing them to hook girls in.

Different article said that maybe DC and Marvel should focus less on attracting women to comics (which usually results in ill-conceived, gimicky-ideas like the afore mentioned Diva’s thing) and more on not actively driving them away.

And yeah. They do that. In myriad little ways, they do that. Most of us gals reading comics are doing it in SPITE of the vibe The Powers That Be give off. In interviews? I stopped reading Marvel for as long as Joe Q was EiC after one too many interviews where he basically said “I’m not sexist, BUT…*insert ridiculously ignorant and sexist statement, then laugh about women.” (And regarding the marriage thing–I can’t speak for women everywhere, but me personally, the whole Spiderman/MJ debacle was part of it. Not so much because of the marriage, but because of all the interviews saying “married couples just aren’t interesting. It’s much better if Peter can just sleep with any girl he sees.”)

Sometimes it’s just in off-handed remarks TPTB make. Like, for example, saying that “Every Robin is going to be in a book!” meaning “All four MALE Robins will be in a book, the girl Robin doesn’t count.” Or in business decisions like keeping the history for all four male Robins during a reboot that is allegedly supposed to simplify continuity, but making it so there has only ever been one Batgirl.

In books, especially, though. So you make a girl-focused book. That’s nice. Let’s say it’s about, oh, Catwoman. Most gals from the 60′s onward know her and think she’s the bee’s knees (unless their first exposure was that unfortunate movie). Grand, you’ve got a great book. Problem is, there’s still official art of Catwoman where she is basically nothing but a sex toy. Frank Miller made her a prostitute (but then, he does that for almost every woman he’s ever written, so….) So on one hand, while it’s fantastic to have a really great book with a woman as a protagonist, and have her be a character who’s relateable, clever, competent, and endearing…and on the other hand, you turn around and see that most of marketing regards her as nothing but a sexy thing for men to ogle. Charming.

The reverse never happens. Women have to put up with seeing the characters they like and relate to being reduced to nothing more than eye candy on a regular basis, but how often do writers and artists go out of their way to strip Batman or Flash down to his civvies.

Oh, and if you think there wouldn’t be a market for that, you are mistaken and have not been on the internet for very long.

Which isn’t saying every character has to be sexualized. Just that female characters ARE, all the time, and it’s accepted as “the way it is” and male characters are merely “idealized.” Because “that’s what the audience is comfortable with.” Fine. We don’t need the sexy “Men of DC” calender (plenty of fanartists already on it anyway). Just for female characters to be treated with the same dignity across the board.

Making separate books for the ladies doesn’t address the fact that the reason you give for doing so is primarily so the men won’t have to give up what THEY like in THEIR books (the “main” books, naturally)–namely, women constantly being put in overly sexualized poses regardless of the circumstances, women being objects for the plot to happen to, and women basically NOT BEING IN THEM. There is no secret formula for making a book “for women.” You can maybe, make a book more focused on a certain demographic of women, sure. But most of the gals I know, if you asked for their favorite DC book this year, the answer would be “Secret Six.” I could be wrong, but that one doesn’t really deal with romance anymore that most superhero comics do. It’s certainly not fluffy. It’s not “pink.” It’s just GOOD.

http://dcwomenkickingass.tumblr.com/ has said before: That women are still reading superhero comics even after having to deal with pretty much being told flat out by those in charge “We don’t want you here” should say a lot about how much women like superheroes. We really do. If the Big Two will simply make an effort to maybe not drive us away by writing/drawing women in demeaning ways (see? We’re not even asking for touchy-feely stuff here), there would be even more. It wouldn’t be right away. Policy these past ten years seems to have undone a lot of the good that the DCAU and Marvel’s Spiderman and X-men cartoons did toward getting the girls of my generation into comics. It would probably take awhile for word of mouth to get around that mainstream comics were a welcoming place to all readers. But if it doesn’t start now, then when?

Because that target of 18-34 year old males? That’s the same vein DC’s been trying to tap since the late 80′s, and given how much else is competing for consumers attention these days, it’s not so far off to say that they really might want to start broadening their scope.

These are fair points, but I think we shouldn’t persist in confusing “Marvel and DC super-hero comics” with “the comics medium”. But I agree with the criticism – and I think it’s part of a larger inability on Marvel and DC’s part to grow.

Just two things I’d like to ask:

Isn’t the notion – advanced on occasion, though not in this article – of “boys like big fights, girls like conversations and real personalities” as sexist as a Jim Lee pseudo-woman?

And aren’t most male super-heroes just as sexualized as their female counterparts? Are their clothes any less revealing, their bodies any less fetishized? And are they treated any better?

@Laura never ever ever, under any circumstance quote Sue from DC women kicking ass, she’s a complete hack, who invents things to be angry about, because they don’t really exist in the real world. She’s the person who turned a pre-release Flashpoint map that had Africa marked as “controlled by apes,” into a racist statment. when she’s not trying to convince us all that were a stupid because we don’t care about the cassandra version of batgirl, or trying to enspouse her views on there secretly being a world wide organization headed by Geoff Johns to keep down sales of Wonder Woman, lest she get so popular that women will take over comics completely & they’ll change DC’s name to Wonder Woman Comics.

“If the Big Two will simply make an effort to maybe not drive us away by writing/drawing women in demeaning ways (see? We’re not even asking for touchy-feely stuff here), there would be even more.”

heads up Laura, i’ve got some breaking news for you… Comics were not made for women… They were made for comic book fans. not to put too much of a point on it, but if you don’t like that, then stop reading. Seriously, its like if i demanded that soppy romance novels ignore there many target audience, just to please me. You know who the main target audience for super hero comics are? Fans of super hero comics.

@matthewlane Matthew, really “a complete hack?” Isn’t that a bit, well, unimaginative? Given your insulting and dismissive comments about women that’s gotten you banned elsewhere I’d expect something with boobs in it or some other silly slam at women. Hack is pretty sad. But thanks for giving me credit for the robust discussion around the Flashpoint map. I’m sure Robot6 which dominated the issue with three different posts on it is sure to love you for giving me credit.

But getting back to the issue at hand. Matthew you are, quite simply, a dope. “Comics were not made for women … They were made for comic books fans” What does that even mean? That women can’t be comic book fans? That’s ridiculous. Women read huge amounts of comics – they are the backbone of the manga industry. And at one point in comics history they were a key audience almost equal to men. But if you talking about superhero comics, the idea of the industry making comics for women isn’t even the most important issue. The most important issue is that the publishers should market to women. Women are already fans and are reading their stuff despite the fact that the publishers makes its so goddamn hard. Can you imagine if they actually acknowledged those readers and embraced them?

In a market where readership is declining, where margins are razor thin and where digital is disrupting traditional distribution channels (and where women have already been proven to be bleeding edge in adopting digital for consuming digital content), it makes piss poor business sense to not focus on every reader especially at a time when targeted marketing using social media is so simple.

Traditional male dominated industries including NASCAR and the NFL have seen incremental revenue by reaching out to the female demographic. It’s a shame the big two comic companies seem so focused on trying to focus on the same male demographic over and over again.

Of course, there are small minded men who think that women are best suited for “soggy romance” but for the most part I run across many, many men who are more than happy to welcome female creators and fellow readers to the table. I get pictures every day for my Superheroes are for Girls, too site http://girlslovesuperheroes.tumblr.com/ from Dads who tell me they want their daughters to join them in their love of superhero comics. I get notes everyday from women (and men) who want to start reading DC comics. That’s potential $$$ sitting and waiting for the company smart enough to throw a little marketing muscle.

It’s sad because when I was reading comics as a kid, Louise Simonson, Ann Nocenti, and Jo Duffy were three writers who were given some pretty prominent books. Granted it was the Shooter-era Marvel so it had its own negatives with its positives, but the Big Two don’t seem to have the faith to have capable female writers do their big titles.

@Sue ““Comics were not made for women … They were made for comic books fans” What does that even mean? That women can’t be comic book fans? ”

wow, way to find the most obtuse & stupid way to interpret that (yes, i’m shocked that Sue fouond a way to interpret something that makes it look like all men just want to sexistly keep women out). No, what i’m saying is that the target audience for super hero comic, are fans of super hero comics… In the same way that the demographic for romance novels, are fans of romance novels.

An just FYI, you are in fact a hack. You make large sweeping statements about product lines that aren’t even out yet, you try to create controversy where there is none, especially along race an gender lines because you know it tracks well even when its completely baseless (especially when its completely baseless) & then you try to shame anyone into agreeing with you & when that fails you straight up ban people. You have a digital identity predicated on knee jerk over reactionism & cliched “social marxism,” so hackneyed even i’d be ashamed to use it. So yes, Hack.

Catwoman might not be the best example, since her sex appeal is…kinda a big part of her character. Batman tries to be scary, Nightwing tries to be snarky, Catwoman tries to be sexy. Obviously there’s more to her personality then that, but regardless of interpretation that is a large part of who she is.

And I still stand by the “well the first thing they need to do is get these comics for women/black people/latino people/*insert non-white male here*!” is…not seeing the forest for the trees. I can see you all have your personal biases, but looking at the big picture, there’s much, MUCH bigger problems needed to be done then diversifying the roaster. Marketing/Advertising, price points, accessibly, availability, digital distribution, community involvement, the content/format of the comics themselves(how you may pay for vs how much you get to read); I’d put those WAAAAY before I even mention “Well, we need to start changing the narrative around to appeal to women”.

Batman comics low sales aren’t because the lack of female sidekicks or whatever. The Dark Knight made over a BILLION DOLLARS WORLDWIDE, because Batman appeals to EVERYBODY. They need to look at that film and see what they can apply from that medium to their own, how its marketed constantly, how its available nation-wide(and the let the audience KNOW that it is), the price point for the film, the accessibility of the film, etc.

Good grief, people! Women love comics, but the level of misogyny on display here is precisely what keeps women out of their LCS.

Yes, the women I know (and am) do prefer realistic married heroes to playboys. And Hama’s GIJoe rocks.

Man, woman, dog, robot, Martian, etc. Who freakin cares if they can write/draw good stories?! Comics don’t need affirmative action.

And superhero comics are written for males like paperback romances are written for females. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Shonen Anime is very similar to Superhero comics and it doesn’t seem to have a problem with female readers here in the states, those of you saying superheroes don’t appeal to woman need to look around.

@ Shawn Kane: EXACTLY, thank you so much for listing those three amazing talents as I had intended to do so as well. Add Marie Severin to that list as well, in addition to Colleen Doran and Jill Thompson who’ve all had a hand in writing or rendering fantastic comics for the Big Two outside of their respective indie [or Vertigo] projects.

Before Gail, DC’s go-to non-male writer in the mid-late ’90s to early oughts was Devin K. Grayson who’s all but vanished from comicsdom in recent times. She helmed quite a few books in her day.

More recently, we had Nicola Scott delivering some of the best artwork anyone’s seen on ‘Teen Titans’ [paired with J.T. Krul]. The fact that she’s not mainlining a major title for ‘The New 52′ [as far as I know] is an utter travesty. How about Amanda Connor? I’d prefer to see either of these two producing art for ‘Justice League’, ‘Teen Titans’, ‘Action Comics’ or any title they wanted to work on…

I think more character driven stories are more appealing to females (and well, a lot of guys too).

Just looking at the amount of female comic fan blogs which all seem to involve fan stories and art where the characters are much more about relationships and superheroes hugging each other.

Oh yeah: GI-JOE by Larry Hama doth indeed rock! Hama fully developed all of the major female characters from the toyline and also introduced some multi-faceted original creations of his own [Oktober Guard's Daina and the crucial role Snake-Eyes' sister plays in the mythos despite being dead the entire time ala Laura Palmer from 'Twin Peaks'...]. The comics’ letters column would receive a good number of female readers writing in praising the book; many were enlisted, though not all were. Good stuff….

OK, I didn’t get to read every comment, so sorry for any overlap, here…

Worked about 10 years in several different comics shops almost a decade back. My experience was that the only women coming into the store were dragged there by the men in their lives. We did have a handful of diehard, regular, female readers, but most of them were reading alternative stuff that was pretending to be mainstream (read: vertigo before vertigo). I do remember one girl, specifically, who read superhero stuff, just like me (I was a hormonal teen, and I decided she was going to be my wife; didn’t work out…). Most girls just weren’t interested in the superhero fantasy that I loved.
During that time, you could count the number of “big” female creators on 1 hand (maybe 2, if you’re loose on your definition of big). Ann Nocenti, Barbara Kesel, Louise Simonson, Wendy Pini, Mary Severin… I definitely missed someone big, so 2 hands. But, most of these women had come through the editorial door. That doesn’t diminsh their contribution, just changes how they got their foot in the door.
However, if I asked a store full of fanboys, today, if they had heard of these women, I’d get something like, “Is Lousie related to Walt?” Well, hopefully, they know who Walt is… But, Ann, Barbara, and Louise all wrote fairly standard superhero comics. I doubt the female readership was high on Daredevil of the late ’80s/early ’90s (no disrespect, Ann!). Were they writing “as women”? Or were they writing the superhero comics that they knew the fanboys would buy? Business plays a big part of this. Of course, back then, the low-selling books could still hit 100,000 copies, so life was totally different than today!
That all being said, I met my future (and current) Wife in the comic store. She read Jim Balent’s Catwoman, and loved it. She will never give up those comics. When he left Catwoman, she followed him to his creator-owned Tarot. Contrary to most of the female commentators, she actually likes how he draws women. She read superheroes with me, but was also interested in reading the non-superhero stuff, too, as I transitioned to some non-mainstream (non-superhero) stuff.
The other side to this, though, is that she will gladly read webcomics, and not even know (or care) who the creators are (names, genders, backgrounds, etc.). If she likes the strip, she’ll keep reading. If not, she stops. Simple system. The flip-side is that I don’t think I’ve ever read a single webcomic. I may not ever read a single webcomic. If DC and Marvel are supposed to worry about getting different groups into the fold, should the webbies worry about getting me into their fold?
The Wifey did surprise me at the 1st WWPhilly show, though. She had cut out an article about Devin Grayson and brought it to get signed. Devin was just getting to be really popular, and I liked her writing, too. It was one of the first times she had shown interest in the creator of a book. So, who knows?

Laura is smarter than the person who wrote this article. By far.

When it comes down to it, the issue isn’t male versus female, it’s an issue of quality. If you want to say men have a higher tolerance for weak story than women, and are easily distracted by action, sure, that can be your excuse, but that’s all it is. I’m a male and I will pick anything with a good story over action art. In fact, when I read, I tend to skip over the action, or skim it quickly, and go back to reading the text.

If it’s written well, people will read it. That’s all there is to it. Gender isn’t the issue.

I was going to say something about all this but I think Mathew Lane and HeHey said it for me. And I agree with the initial article completely. And I also think the comments of Johanna at Comics Worth Reading where she says this…http://comicsworthreading.com/2006/01/07/more-thoughts-on-females-superheroes-and-blogging/ and this..http://comicsworthreading.com/2007/05/09/superhero-comics-arent-for-girls/, pretty much says whatever is left that needs saying.

Of course women don’t want to hear this sort of thing. Especially from another woman. But the fact is that sales of “girl friendly” comics (over all) and the sales of manga prove it out. All the left brain thinking and self rightous chest thumping in the world cant change diamonds sale charts.

As someone said above, make a seperate line for women packaged in manga style. I liked that Heroes for Hire cover with the tentacles. And the fact is, comics are made for people who liked that cover, not for the ones who didn’t. Yup. I went there.

Aside from the trolls, this has been a good discussion. Why do Marvel & DC have such a hard time seeing the problems with their books? Or – apparently – that they even have problems?

Jungle Cruise

July 7, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Well, when we see the dismal sales of those issues of the reboot that are targeted to women and minorities, you’ll have your answer. Just as you and others have had the answer for decades but refuse to acknowledge or accept it. The female dollar always leaves DC at the alter come show time. That is undeniable fact.

As a young woman who has recently started reading comics, I sort of loathe the idea that I can be put in a box somewhere based on assumptions about what I read and what I like. I’m a woman and I love reading about superheroes, and not just female superheroes, either.

The only thing that ultimately matters to me is good storytelling, which absolutely includes writing and art that are respectful of men, women, black, white, Latino, Asian, LGBT, etc. Do I enjoy reading stories that incorporate romance? Sure, but I will read a good superhero story regardless of whether or not it’s romantic. Do I prefer character-driven stories to action-oriented stories? Not necessarily. I’m fine with a mixture of character pieces and action. Still, I believe most action fests tend to fall apart without something more profound serving as a foundation.

What am I trying to say? I don’t want to read superhero comics that are written to please a male stereotype not only because I believe male tastes cannot and should not be reduced to more action and more sex, but also because I firmly believe good storytelling appeals to both men and women regardless of the subject matter. Superhero comics can be just as action-oriented and avoid the pitfalls associated with writing towards the equally ridiculous female stereotype even if they include more female characters.

Ultimately, as a female reader of superhero comics, all I am asking for is to be able to read stories about superheroes with more realistic and appealing female characters. I don’t need more romance or fluff. I just don’t want to read stories featuring women who are nothing more than love interests or sex objects. I want to read about male AND female superheroes being heroic, smart, strong, driven, creative, funny, and kind. I want to read about male AND female villains being dark, smart, strong, twisted, conflicted, and even a little (or a lot) insane. It would be great if comics weren’t all about caricature. It would be nice to believe men don’t have to avoid reading anything close to realistic depictions of women, especially strong women, in order to enjoy a comic or story.

Let me put it this way: more guys than girls are going to be psyched to see the latest summer blockbuster action film, but there are good and bad films in this category. Women may not flock to see all action or sci-fi films, but they will go see good films in this genre. For example, I can’t wait to see CAPTAIN AMERICA later this month because it looks like it is a good, well-rounded film. I have absolutely no interest, however, in seeing the latest TRANSFORMERS film. So, really, all I need are good stories and by “good” I don’t mean more female-centric or romantic stories.

Superhero books don’t have to become more “girly” to appeal to me or to women in general. However, if I do read a superhero book, I would rather not be confronted with stories and art that actively insult or disrespect my gender. I’m not saying this is a common occurrence, but I do believe an exclusively male-centered approach to writing/drawing does have a tendency to (accidentally?) head in this direction. Marginalizing or objectifying women in obvious or subtle ways and under-utilizing the talents of female creators sends an unwelcome message as well.

In short, write better stories with more well-developed characters–male or female, single or married, I don’t care. As a female comic reader, I simply want to read good stories about superheroes and the worlds in which they live without getting the impression creators don’t understand female characters and/or don’t care about meeting very basic criteria for respecting me as a female customer.

@Lioness and IG-69,
YES!!! THANK YOU!!!! I knew there were some people who liked GI Joe. Does anybody here want to try to expose ANY flaw in story/characterization/etc. in that comic? If not, then this proves it: Larry Hama’s GI Joe is the best comic for both men and women, even if it’s a war comic. And I don’t know if this would count, but look at the Godzilla comics by Dark Horse, or even the current series by IDW.

@Christine: “I just don’t want to read stories featuring women who are nothing more than love interests or sex objects”

Really? As far as love interests go, they exist, get over it. An they don’t exist just as women, but also men. Or did we forget characters like the detective would be love interest in Batgirl.

As for characters that exist only as sex objects, name me 5 contemporary characters from the big two that fall into that category. Because people always make these claims & they always turn out to be wrong. So i double dog dare you.

@Anna You aren’t in the minority Anna, your actually in the happy majority. It this overly vocal minority that invents reasons to be pissed off, that are demanding that everything in the universe be adapted to there particular needs.

@Matthew Lane

You seem to have misunderstood me. When I said I don’t want female characters to only be love interests, I literally mean that the character should have more going on that in her life (or his if we’re also talking about male characters) than a relationship or a potential relationship.

Lois Lane, for instance, is primarily a love interest, but she is also respected journalist and occasionally I expect to see her shine as a journalist AND as a love interest. Even a character whose main function is to be a love interest should be well-rounded, in other words, or I’m going to question why he or she is so appealing as a love interest outside of physical attraction. The detective in BATGIRL, for example, is a detective. He’s more than just “the guy” for “the girl” because he has something else going on in his life that adds layers to his character. He also gets to be smart and heroic on his own terms and adds to the plot from time to time in ways that are not explicitly tied to Batgirl.

I don’t want women in comics reduced to someone whose only purpose is to support, encourage, and have sex with the hero. She should have a life and a purpose outside of her man and some attention should be paid to her internal struggles that may or may not revolve around the man her life.

Regarding your challenge, I’m not sure why you seem to be questioning me as though I’ve made a claim of some kind. I didn’t say anything about contemporary female characters who fall into the category of sex objects. I spoke only about a general personal preference without singling out specific offenses. I merely said I don’t want to read superhero stories that reduce women to sex objects. I didn’t say this was a pervasive problem in comics today. It’s just something I dislike encountering when I read comics despite its rare occurrence. As a woman, simply eliminating this rare practice altogether would be appealing. For example, I didn’t particularly like how Catwoman was described recently as a “sexy” woman who is “addicted to Batmam,” so less of that would be nice. Just slightly limiting the sex kitten poses would also go a long way.

By the way, telling someone to “get over it” and using phrases like “double dog dare you” come off both patronizing and juvenile. I don’t know if that was your intention, but that the impression your words gave me. I’m fond of more civilized discourse. If this conversation is going to continue, that’s how I expect to be treated. If you can’t handle that, then we’re going to have to agree to disagree.

Wow are these comments ever depressing. I’m a woman who loves superhero comics and has read them for nearly 15 years now, but many of you guys are not fans I’d want to associate with.

@Anna and @Matthew Lane

Anna, I really hope you weren’t chiding Matthew for not calling me a b**** because that’s totally uncalled for.

Matthew, it’s clear you didn’t really the majority of what I wrote, since I didn’t call for sweeping adaptations of any kind. I asked for better storytelling and more well-rounded characters. I didn’t ask for more romance. I didn’t ask for female characters or creators to be equally represented in comics. Would I welcome more female characters and creators? Yes. Do I think DC and Marvel should try to find more female talent? Absolutely. However, both are only worthwhile if these new characters and creators add to quality of the product. I’m not suggesting change for the sake of change, in other words.

More to the point, I was speaking only about what it takes for me to be interested in buying and reading superhero comics. It turns out, that storytelling is all that matters to me. I don’t need superhero comics to be more girly, romantic, or soft. I’m just asking that the women who currently populate superhero comics not be marginalized or objectified unnecessarily, which doesn’t happen often, but when it does happen, it grates. If you’re going to showcase all the Robins, then do it, and don’t just showcase the male Robins. Don’t retcon the Clark/Lois marriage just so Superman can freely date other women like his non-rebooted counterparts and potentially revert a feminist icon like Lois Lane back into an easily fooled hero-worshiper just so creators can play around in the triangle-for-two sandbox again. So, no, I’m not demanding for universal adaptations.

@Christine No she wasn’t. She was talking about my comment to Sue, where i called her a hack (An Anna called her the b word). An just like i said to Sue, do not make sweeping statements about the upcoming line until its out (or at the very least your suspisions have been officially confirmed). The Clark/Lois thing as far as i know has not been confirmed or denied (its fan speculation), Batgirl (the good one, the one that was robin) is in Batman Inc (The other one, no one really cares about anymore).

Acer, the only flaw in the original Hama GI Joe stories was Hasboro constantly bumping Hama’s elbow with last-minute lineup changes brought about by last-minute product changes. This really got annoying over time, especially in regard to his long-running plots. That’s not a problem anymore. Yay!

Most of the women I know would rather read a GOOD war story than a mediocre romance any day of the week. We want stories where people are tested to their limits, and quality war stories do that. There’s a huge female following for quality stories that take place in wartime settings, such as Donna Barr’s The Desert Peach, Greg Pak’s Magneto Testament, Avatar the Last Airbender, M.A.S.H., the new Battlestar Galactica, the Hornblower Series, Game of Thrones, and Bujold’s Vorkosigan series among others. But these are all gripping stories about people staring hard choices of life and death in the face, not Rockem Sockem Robots.

@Matthew Lane

I’m not making “sweeping statements” about anything. I used words like “potentially” and the fact that you referred to the other female Batgirl as “the other one” who “no one really cares about” really says it all, since she has a name and it’s obvious people do care about her.

Also, I don’t appreciate being told how I should feel or react to the existing DC relaunch news. If people are permitted to be excited about change, then I believe I should be equally free to be skeptical and to voice reservations based on specific criteria, especially when I am speaking hypothetically about things that could dissuade me from purchasing comics. If you’ll notice, I haven’t said I’ve given up on anything yet.

@Christine: Whose telling you how you should feel? I’m telling you not to confuse known facts about the reboot, with internet rumour.

An as of yet, you haven’t justified your statement “I just don’t want to read stories featuring women who are nothing more than love interests or sex objects”

Thats good, i don’t want to read comic books about sheep having kinky extra-dimensional sex with japanese hentai tentacle beasts, or about interacial blob porn… But since that doesn’t happen in the aforementioned medium, its a rather pointless statement for me to make. Its an even more pointless statement to make if i’m trying to use it to back up a point of view.

So to back up what i’ve already said, unless you can point out say 5 contemporary female characters from the big two companies (an by contemporary, lets say since the beginning of the previous year), who exist as nothing but sex objects, its a loaded statement that is completely devoid of meaning. A statement said for the express purpose of formenting discontent through misinformation.

You are fully allowed to be skeptical of the DC relaunch, but be skeptical of the things you know have changed, not the things that some Ed/Op piece has speculated over the changing of.

@Matthew Lane

You told me how to feel several times. You said I shouldn’t be concerned or voice my concerns about the relaunch based on the information that is currently available. You basically told me to “shut up” until I read the books. Look, I’m skeptical at the moment and I’m going to share my reasons for feeling that way. I also shouldn’t have to accept being told to “get over” anything, which is something you also told me to do earlier. It’s particularly offensive when you’re telling me to “get over” things you believe I have to “get over” when you’ve completely missed the point of my comments. You keep suggesting that I am asking for sweeping changes and adaptations to conform to my preferences as a female. I have never said anything of the sort. Basically, I don’t appreciate being ordered around. I’ll post and say what I feel like posting and saying. You are completely free to disagree with me, but please dictate terms of discussion to me.

“An as of yet, you haven’t justified your statement ‘I just don’t want to read stories featuring women who are nothing more than love interests or sex objects’

Thats good, i don’t want to read comic books about sheep having kinky extra-dimensional sex with japanese hentai tentacle beasts, or about interacial blob porn… But since that doesn’t happen in the aforementioned medium, its a rather pointless statement for me to make. Its an even more pointless statement to make if i’m trying to use it to back up a point of view.”

I wasn’t making that statement to back up a point of view. My statement was exactly what I intended the statement to be. I was sharing my very limited guidelines for what I expect superhero comics to do in order to accommodate me as a female reader. Since objectifying women is a guideline that is met more often than not, it’s not a big concern of mine. Is it a concern? Yes, because it does happen on very rare occasions. However, it’s not something that actively bothers me or keeps me away from superhero comics.

The point of my original statement was not to make demands, but rather to communicate why superhero comics don’t need to adapt in order to conform to stereotypical female preferences. I set standards instead of making requests. All that’s necessary to please me, as a woman, is good storytelling, including layered male AND female characters, and respect for women as more than just sex objects. These were standards, mind you, which means often superhero comics do meet my standards. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t be reading them.

“A statement said for the express purpose of formenting discontent through misinformation.”

That’s not why I made that particular statement, so I would appreciate if could refrain from psychoanalyzing me. As I said before, I wasn’t offering up any information let alone misinformation. I was outlining the standards I have for reading superhero comics. As long as the stories are good, the characters are well-rounded, and women are treated with respect, I’m perfectly content to read superhero comics that don’t conform to stereotypically “girlish” tastes. Since I read superhero comics now, that should give you a hint as what I think about the current state of the genre.

“You are fully allowed to be skeptical of the DC relaunch, but be skeptical of the things you know have changed, not the things that some Ed/Op piece has speculated over the changing of.”

I don’t know why you think you can tell me what to be skeptical about or why you think you know from where my skepticism originates. It would be best to avoid assumptions, okay? I’m not skeptical about the DC relaunch because of Ed/Op pieces. Where did you get that idea? I’m skeptical based on the limited information I have received from people like Dan DiDio, Geoff Johns, and Gail Simone. My skepticism comes from reading interviews with editors and creators.

More to the point, skepticism isn’t feeling something based on what you know. Skepticism is all about being concerned about things you don’t know. If I did know what has changed, then I wouldn’t be skeptical anymore. I’d just be frustrated or angry. For example, I do know for a fact that one of the female Robins is disappearing as a result of the relaunch, which does make me angry and fuels my skepticism. Skepticism is literally defined as suspending judgment about something due to uncertainty and doubt. I haven’t made up my mind about the relaunch. I’m wary based on the information (not opinions) that’s out there, but I absolutely did not say anything about giving up superhero comics.

@Lioness
Well, which issues do you mean specifically? I’ve gone over a few of the old issues, and yeah, while they have introduced characters rather hastily, some of them were pretty effective intros: Cover Girl shooting down Clutch, Lady Jaye taking Airtight, Heavy Metal, Crankcase, and Bazooka through the ropes in a junkyard, or Stalker leading a team of newbies (Hardball, Muskrat, Shockwave, and Hit N’ Run) to resolve a fake hostage crisis. But look at it this way: the first 12 issues of the comic, between 1982 and ’83, saw no new toy character intros, even as characters like Gung-Ho, Tripwire, Torpedo, and Snow Job first appeared on the shelves. And look at the early 1990′s issues: the only intros were those of Ambush, Recoil, and brief panel shots of Updraft and Major Storm, both of which got no large roles in those issues. It was mainly previous members in the spotlight throughout those stories, which happen to be the whole Trucial Abysmia conflict where several Joes lost their lives.

Acer, I don’t remember all the details and I’m away from my longboxes. I remember hearing about Hama’s discontent around 1990. It was something he could roll with in the early days (sorta like PAD’s doing with X-Factor, having his characters “borrowed” and coming back in conditions other than they left), but over time he got frustrated with it.

My larger point was that women will read anything that’s character-driven, well-written, and well-illustrated. Comic book companies don’t have to stick a pink bow on the outside if the inside has good material.

Right after World War II a car company tried to market a car to women by painting it bright pink and selling it with a matching handbag. It flopped. Women didn’t want pink cars, they wanted good quality cars with sturdy bodies and reliable engines. The same goes for comic books.

Okay, I get it. Out of the Joe comics, were there any particular stories that you really liked? (And did you have a favorite Joe team member? Mine’s the firefighter, Barbecue.)

Sarah burgess

July 9, 2011 at 6:31 am

Yes! This article really spoke to me!

I’m a girl and I draw comics. I wanted to add to these points :) first of all yeah, I totally agree that the reason girls might not be into superheroes so much has nothing to do with feminist stuff or female stereotypes or whatever!

I totally agree that i think its more to do with the lack of character. i know lots of women who are really into superhero stuff, and personally I am not- but I know that if i read a marvel or DC comic that focused more on the relationship between the characters, I would really enjoy it more.

I am really into my slice of life genres- I used to be really ashamed? That I wasn’t into fantasy and action like everyone else – but now I realise that actually, f the characters are really nicely done, I can totally enjoy an action comic/film/book any sort of story telling medium, if the story itself is engaging n an emotional way!

I want to give examples like die hard (xD) avatar the last airbender the TV series, and as said in this article shounen manga- the reason I’m usually not a fan of action or fantasy, but I realise now this is simply because all the focus is entirely on the fantasy parts and the action parts. I watched die hard for the first time yesterday, which is completely known to be a ‘guy’ film, and totally loved it because in a silly way, the characters were really entertaining

It should e noted that hwen I say I like slie of life stuff, people tend to instantly peg me as someone who reads or watches chick flicks- and I think there’s a distinct difference- because actually even a lot of chick flicks which should be emotional with good characters, simply aren’t!

As said in this article, I think it’s entirely about having a good, meaty story with relatable, emotional characters the audience, male or female, can empathise with- I gotta say if I am not attached to the character, I don’t care if his daughter is going to die in a car blowing up or whatever, and I won’t care for his revenge, ECt.ECt. I hope this makes sense!

Another thing is I find it interesting that perhaps in most cases women in particular prefer these stories to men? I’m ot sure if that’s the case or if that’s being too stereotypical but yeah- I agree I think that’s why there’s a bigger wad of women making comics online.

This is where me as an artist comes in- I kind of want to rant about this! Like all artists trying to break into the industry, I always thought it was my art that was a huge issue (that’s a whole separate matter) but now I’m egging to wonder if it’s also the sorts of stories I tell?

As said previously, I draw slice of life stories, where it’s all about character and emotion and the way characters relate to each other. In terms of published comics, when I think of slice of life, I think of the sort that focus mainly, on how terribly mundane and droll life can be (things like ‘it’s a good life’ by Seth ) ofc. This is not entirely the case, but I have to admit, mostly the published slide of life comics I read, do kind of lack the emotion I want to do with my comics

I’m not saying this is wrong! It’s just very different to the sorts of stories I want to tell? (so maybe my stories aren’t slice of life?) and I see this everywhere in a lot of web comics,mall btw are written by women.

I also don’t think there’s a lack of slice of life, or any kind of softly for that matter that’s written with emotion, that are written by men- I just don’t think publishers have yet to seize that opportunity, though I think they are starting to. I think the sorts of stories I’m talking about are very similar to that of shoujou and even shounen manga (because as a girl I found shounen manga quite emotional, as said in this article) but I think -most- of the shoujo manga we get over here in the west whilst emotional , is aimed at a younger audience.

A lot of the small press comics I read and enjoy that are written by women have a very distinctly adult feel (and ofc. That doesn’t mean porn or blood or whatever) but are also very emotional.

I could be wrong, because I am just one person and maybe I need to branch out- but I can honestly say (with a fear that I’ll be flamed for this!) that the MAJORITY of DC and superhero comics are lacking in character/story, and the MAJORITY of more indie comics (eg. Drawn and quarterly , BlankSlate, self made hero, ECt.) whilst incredibly beautiful and have interesting sotires branching out from the ‘stereotypical’ superhero stuff, are somewhat lacking in simply..emotion! HOWEVER I want to clarify this snit all comics, I feel very recently this is changing, and I don’t know if you’ve read ‘stitches’ by David small- or asterios Polyp by David massuccheli , but these among other comics I own I found to incredibly emotional

Ps. First second books- every single book I’ve brought from them I’ve found to e incredibly emotional, and every single girl I know loves stories by these guys!

Anyway, this leads me on to say, I don’t think the character and lack in story problem is just to girls- I draw a web comic which is very character based and pretty much like a shoujoy manga for older folks- I thought I would honestly get souley female readers, but I am pleasantly surprised at the amount of men who really enjoy it too, and this is the samemfor the last webcomic I did :)

I would also like to add again, so I was wondering, is it because publishers aren’t looking for stories with too much emotion (??) that women aren’t doing so well in the industry and doing better online?

I also finally wanted to say, I would LOVE to see a super hero comic that actually focuses really heavily on the secret idenity part of the super heroes. If there’s anything I’ve enjoyed more than spider man or superman or batman, it’s the fact those guys have to keep up this double act. I really enjoy the possible phsycology behind that, the emotional strain, the interesting similarities and differences between your persona and the ‘real’ you- which one is real? I mean Clark Kent is meant to e fake but it’s a huge part of who he is, and man, that part is really interesting! Sorry it’s already been done, but more of a focus on that part of super heroes would be cool, I’d badly try it one day :D

Sorry if I’ve repeated whatever one else has said here- and thanks for reading mr.blog writer if you did, it’s such a great article!

@Sarah burgess

“I totally agree that i think its more to do with the lack of character. i know lots of women who are really into superhero stuff, and personally I am not- but I know that if i read a marvel or DC comic that focused more on the relationship between the characters, I would really enjoy it more.”

no offense Sarah but have you actually read a DC or Marvel comic put out in the last 10 years? Sure our comics don’t have people sitting around spending entire issues emoting over there broken school girl harem manga relationships like a majority of manga (mainly because the target audience isn’t 14 year old girls), but thats not to say that superhero comics are lacking depth or emotion.

I suggest you pick up Dynamo 5, Noble Causes, Powers, Invincible, Ultimate Spiderman, Batgirl, Powergirl, Avengers Academy, or any of the other well written character pieces that are being produced by the majority of companies.

I’m sorry but your view is demonstrably wrong. If you aren’t interested in super hero comics, then dont read them. No one is forcing you to.

I’m a woman, and I totally love comics! Even about superheros that are male. I prefer it actually! But the problem with comics is, is that it’s just about superheros. Don’t they know how to write anything else? I mean I love superheros like superman and spiderman. But why can’t they make it interesting and funny like manga. So much manga gets sold because it’s funny, it’s easy to understand, and it’s not just about superheros in tights with secret identities. Mangas about all kinds of stuff like pirates, ninjas, romance, magic, aliens, other worlds and stuff like that. And for some comics (american comics), sometimes seem like they’re aimed at adults instead of teens. And the wierdest part is, is that manga is thick like a novel, comics are thin and flimsy like a short magazine. I don’t know if it’s just me…but I would rather buy a thick (lots of pages) book than a skinny 10 page magazine thingy.

Oof. Well. I love superhero comics, now that I’m in my 30s. But if someone had given me something featuring female characters, something mainstream, when I was 12 or 13 (you know, right around puberty, just as I was trying to hide my body so strange men would stop yelling things at me on the street or touching it by ‘accident’)? Not so much. Didn’t need another reminder that my personality was slowly playing second fiddle to my body– and I didn’t even have superpowers.

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