Robot 6

The leaders aren’t leading

batman-and-ironmanAfter the last week or so of “We don’t publish comics for kids” and “[Depicting rape] is the same as, like, a decapitation” and “comics follow society, they don’t lead society,” among other chestnuts, I’ve been thinking about the mentality and philosophy that produces those positions, and how it reflects on the state of comics.

Reading those quotes in a vacuum, you would think the last 10 to 20 years of progress in comics never happened. They did, of course; it’s just not easy to tell sometimes.

All of the creators involved in the unfortunate remarks come from the so-called “mainstream” of comic books. While Todd McFarlane and Mark Miller are more well-known for their creator-owned comics, they still play within the superhero genre primarily defined by DC and Marvel comics to the majority of the populace. They may not be actively steering mainstream comics these days, but many of the actions of those that do reinforce the same disappointing opinions. There are plenty of beacons of hope in nearly every other sector of the industry, and even a scattered few pinpricks of light within the superhero mainstream, but the makers of our highest-profile genre are still holding back the slowly improving public perception of comic books.

The insular mentality remains. By and large the philosophy is still to create almost exclusively for the audience that’s already here or the one that used to be here. Women couldn’t possibly like superheroes (despite the gads of evidence to the contrary). Children would never buy superhero comics (despite the booming kids and all-ages comics market and kids’ almost-unanimous love of superheroes). When they’re asked why they don’t try harder in these areas, they say that they’ve tried in the past and they just never work out. Why don’t they work out? Because, no matter how well-meaning, they have usually ended up being sabotaged on some level. Budgets are miniscule, or start off reasonable and then vanish when there isn’t instant success. Almost always, the marketing is done to the same audience who has steadfastly resisted reading anything beyond superheroes or similar male-targeted fantasy/adventure. Why expect anything beyond a small percentage of crossover? Of course there are exceptions but the Bronies phenomenon of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is a fluke, not something to bet on. DC and Marvel largely don’t know how to market outside the superhero audience, and when they do usually give it such a miniscule budget that penetration is minimal. Conventional wisdom would say to hire a marketing firm that does know how to reach the target demographic, but of course that requires money.

To be fair, DC tried this with the Minx graphic novel line, intended for young adults and teenaged girls. They actually spent a considerable amount of money hiring an outside firm to launch an advertising campaign. Smart. Not so smart? They relied entirely on in-house editors already steeped in running the Vertigo imprint. Vertigo certainly has a better track record for reaching outside the typical superhero reader, but the results were still a line-up mostly consisting of more male creative teams. That was still probably the most valiant effort made by Marvel and DC. Typically, it’s a gender-themed anthology or a comic modeled after a current cartoon, toss it in Previews, line up an interview or two at the big comic news sites, and call it a day.

That’s not enough. And yet when they don’t sell gangbusters, they’re surprised? I have no doubt there are sincere people working on these books that are honestly trying to do something different and reach different people. Unfortunately, the overriding and ingrained position is only half a generation or less removed from the speakers of the above quotes. And all of it, those remarks and the repeated embarrassments and failures at making comics for a different demographic, to me it has the subtext of “protect my superheroes.” As if making some superhero comics that might opt to not casually use rape as a villain’s character trait will take away the superheroes I grew up with. As if the existence of one will destroy the other. That’s such a ridiculous fear. Last month Marvel and DC published 239 comic books, graphic novels and magazines. 239! With the massive output of these two publishers, they have enough bandwidth to produce comics for everyone. It’s worth nothing that Image Comics, which publishes a fraction of that, is able to release comics that cater to the traditional superhero audience, and also a wide variety that appeal to a broader cross-section of demographics and niche interests. IDW and Boom also excel at kids comics as part of a broader line of material.

“But they’re in the business of making money, it’s not their responsibility” is another excuse or justification I hear often. Again, I disagree.

To the first half of that statement, the money they are leaving on the table is roughly equal to what they’re each making now or more. The current male population of regular comic readers is estimated at roughly 200,000. Obviously there are women readers already in that number. Women make up roughly half of the population. Add in children. I bet if there was a concentrated, fully committed and fully funded effort by Marvel and DC, that number would get to 500,000 in five to 10 years. Look at the uptick we’ve seen after DC’s aggressive New 52 marketing. And that was marketing to the same audience and using the same creators. Imagine if that kind of muscle was put behind books for a new audience using creators with a track record of appealing to those audiences.

To the second half of that statement, Marvel and DC Comics are widely recognized as the leaders of the industry. Based solely on comics sold to the direct market, they regularly control 60 percent to 70 percent of the market. No other publisher holds more than 10 percent, and the vast majority make up less than 5 percent of the market. That doesn’t include bookstores, libraries, digital and other outlets where the Big Two don’t always have that same dominance, but their collective presence across all channels is unmistakable. This extends to movies, TV shows, video games, action figures and nearly every other form of licensing and merchandising imaginable among comic-based properties. Despite how far we’ve come, with historically unprecedented diversity and visibility, the majority of North Americans still equate comic books with superheroes, which still translates specifically to Marvel and DC superheroes.

Two publishers dominate well more than half the comics industry. I’m hard pressed to think of any other entertainment industry with such an unbalanced market share. No other medium is so defined by the single-genre output of its largest producers. They are far from the only game in town, but when the dust settles, Marvel and DC are without question the industry leaders. So why don’t they act like leaders?

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69 Comments

Innovation rarely comes from the dominant players. Expanding into other niches is usually done by the smaller businesses because those niches are not exploited by the big guys, which seems exactly what companies like Image, Boom, Archie and IDW are doing.

I remember being a kid in the late 80’s early 90’s, buying comics for $.80-$1.00 (terrible Canadian dollar) and when the price leapt to 1.25 from .95 ( think) it hurt. Then it hit $1.35 within another year and that was it for me and comics until I started earning adult money. Prices are too high for kids. The promise of digital was to lower the price, but all digital does is maximize corporate (and not creator) profit. Anyway, big companies like WB and Disney can certainly take losses, if that is even the case, in their publishing division because they will make up for it in the movie, games, merchandise divisions. Do either company think this way? Nope.

I would love to see more comics featuring women in strong roles but it seems like DC just doesn’t want to bother. We have Supergirl, Batgirl and Wonder Woman but they are so bogged down by the mainstream view of comics or in the case of the ‘girls’ their male counterparts interfere too much with the way their stories go. Batwoman would be an exception and a glorious one at that.
Really, I just don’t see why DC couldn’t let a few of their stable (Stephanie Brown, Misfit, Cassandra Cain,..etc) go over to the Vertigo way of things. You could get some really good and mature oriented stories featuring them. Heck, you could even break out male characters like Wally West or Shade and make him more appealing to female audiences. Just look at Shade’s solo title when the New 52 started. He was smooth, witty, charming and sexy as heck..not to mention a good adventure to go with it all. It can’t be that hard can it to do this more often?

For reaching teen girls and young women, I’ve wondered why publishers haven’t done more with the approximately 50 bajillion young adult novel review blogs that are out there. Many of them have decent-sized readerships and the cost can be as low as the price of shipping a review copy (or nil, for the growing number of reviewers who accept e-books.) Their main audience is frequent readers looking for new stories to dive into – that’s got “Wednesday crowd” written all over it.

“I remember being a kid in the late 80′s early 90′s, buying comics for $.80-$1.00 (terrible Canadian dollar) and when the price leapt to 1.25 from .95 ( think) it hurt. Then it hit $1.35 within another year and that was it for me and comics until I started earning adult money. Prices are too high for kids.”

A few years ago, Marvel offered $1.00 reprints of first issues of their big-selling titles. Which makes sense–the creators have been paid, so all they need to do now is reprint the book. I thought that was a nice way of getting books out there on the cheap–sort of a “gateway drug” to get kids in. I wish they’d kept doing that, or better, gotten them out of comic shops and onto supermarket magazine racks.

You know who does that well? Lego. Lego sets, particularly the bigger ones, are VERY expensive. However, Lego also sells these small bagged sets for between $3 and $5 that have 30-40 pieces. You see them in supermarkets, Target, and other big chain stores. Yeah, a lot of them just sit on the shelves, but a lot more of them move, and they work great as stocking stuffers, mini-presents, etc. Again, comics industry: you need to get stuff out there on the cheap so that people will want to explore further. If Marvel put out a bunch of kid-friendly $1 reprint comics, I’d buy a bunch for my kid.

$3-4 per month doesn’t sound that unreasonable. Any kid who’s got any kind of money coming in can afford at least one title.

This is something I’ve been harping on for about a decade. Somewhere in my archives, I have a Marvel Comics advertisers rate card from around 2004; it lists their circulation numbers broken down by demographics, the number of comics sold to adults vs kids, etc. One interesting tidbit: the number of Marvel books sold to kids age 12 and under was double that of comics sold to kids 13 to 18. Double!

Do you know what Joe Quesada’s opinion was? “Can you image how bad it would be if we tried to do comics for kids? Let Archie have ‘em!”

They already had the sales, and their stated desire was to get rid of those customers.

“Despite how far we’ve come, with historically unprecedented diversity and visibility, the majority of North Americans still equate comic books with superheroes, which still translates specifically to Marvel and DC superheroes.”

Isn’t this enough of an answer? There are other companies with more diverse offerings than Marvel &DC – stories, creators, artistic styles – but ultimately, not much can compete with 30-50 year-old superheroes published largely by and for straight white dudes.

And a big part of it is that many people aren’t willing to look away from their favourite superheroes for the diversity they claim they want. It often seems like there’s far more digital ink spilled on whether a woman should be writing Batman than on women who are actually writing and drawing great books for other companies.

It’s been true for the past 20 or 30 years that Marvel & DC really aren’t in the business of discovering new talent or creating new characters. And since there are plenty of companies who *are* in that business, you may as well just ignore the Big Two and let them play in their clubhouse by themselves.

It seems like every year or so we get an article like this from somewhere bemoaning the lack of something in the industry. Not enough women writers, not enough women leads, not enough women artists, not enough kids books, not enough diversity anywhere in the industry. It is like clockwork. And nothing will be done about it and in 6-9-12 months from now we will get yet another article just like this one. We will all get riled up and say it should be this and it should be that and then forget about it all.

Laurence J Sinclair

August 16, 2013 at 1:22 pm

But is that value for money? Think what else a child could get for that price.

I for one don’t defend the presence of ultraviolence (whether in the context of rape or in other contexts) because I’m defending just “my” superheroes. I defend it on the same principle I defend both the Marquis deSade and Mickey Spillane, among others.

I won’t defend Millar’s use of ultraviolence, because it sucks. But there are people who do it well, and some of them work outside Marvel and DC.

The undergrounds used to be far more physically transgressive than the mainstream. Maybe the modern inheritors of that tradition have got a little too “artsy” for their own good (if one defines “good” in terms of gaining publicity from transgressing boundaries).

Thank goodness for creator owned titles. Renegade Arts Entertainment have a title with women as the lead characters, so it can be done.

It’s easy. Stop buying superheroes.

$3-$4 for a ten-minute read that’s “part 1 of 6″ might not be a good deal for a kid that *could* afford it, versus spending the money on an app instead… or putting the money toward the cost of a “real” book/renting a video game/buying music/half a month of Netflix (with cartoons featuring the very superheroes noted above)/etc.

Odd thing is, DC and Marvel *used* to publish a variety of genres in the 50s and 60s—-DC alone had western comics (All-Star Western, etc.), adventure and science fiction titles (“Mystery In Space”), romance comics, and even funny animal titles (“The Dodo and the Frog,” “Fox and the Crow”, etc., all of who ended up in the 80s “Capt. Carrot and the Zoo Crew” as Earth-C residents). If my mother as a kid didn’t want or care two bits about the grown man dressed as a giant bat, Mom might’ve still spent money on “The Fox and the Crow” or “Young Romance,” and DC still would’ve made money off of her. Flash forward to today, where nothing mainstream DC produces is suitable for my niece; there’s their small number of (inevitably superhero-themed) kids’ books based on TV cartoons, but she seems to prefer Archie. No money made off my niece by DC, despite that they used to put out Archie-style teen humor books (“Binky,” etc.).

Brigid Alverson

August 16, 2013 at 6:38 pm

DC and Marvel may dominate the direct market, but that’s only a portion of the total comics market. The biggest comics publisher, in terms of units sold, in the bookstore realm is Viz, which has an extremely diverse line. It’s all manga, but they have a huge variety of characters and different types of stories.

In fact, I got BookScan’s chart of the top 750 comics and graphic novels for 2012 and broke them down by publisher, and the top five publishers were Viz, Image, DC, Yen Press, and Dark Horse. I can’t imagine that order would change much if I had the full list. The direct market tends to be conservative and superhero-focused because it’s a niche market with a pretty stable audience and all the risk falls on the retailer—non-returnability means they own any comics that don’t sell. Retailers do take chances on new or different comics, but there’s not much of a short-term financial incentive for them to do so. But the direct market is not all of comics. Look at Homestuck, which is a major phenomenon (that many people haven’t heard of) with a significant fandom. If you pull back the camera, “comics” is much bigger and richer than the direct market.

Look at this another way: I spend all my spare time reading comics and writing about comics, but I don’t think I have read anything by any of those four guys up on that stage. They are as irrelevant to my life as Faith Erin Hicks is to Gerry Conway’s. Let them say what they like to their followers; the leadership is coming from outside the building.

Brigid Alverson

August 16, 2013 at 6:43 pm

That said, Corey, your point with regard to superhero comics is absolutely correct. The weirdest thing to me is seeing so many children who are superhero fans, with Spider-Man lunchboxes and all that, who have never read the comics these characters come from. Capstone has re-issued some of DC’s all-ages comics as large-format hardcovers and my eight-year-old niece can’t get enough of them. It’s a shame the Big Two can’t put more of an effort into growing their line for younger readers.

It seems to me that whether they’re aware of it or not, DC and Marvel, since being under the thumb of Warner Bros. and Disney, are being subjected to something Scott Adams came up with: the Dilbert Principle. Under that, “the most ineffective workers are systematically moved to the place where they can do the least damage–MANAGEMENT”. I believe that by putting certain creatives in places where they do double duty of both being a creative guiding hand on different comics and working on making those same comic characters more ‘general audience-friendly’ in other mediums, the heads of those companies are attempting to decrease the chances of those characters being changed dramatically in the long run, which they believe would make them unrecognizable to the non-fan masses and thus turn them away from the companies, depriving them of the money to maintain their bottom line. In Adams’s book, also titled The Dilbert Principle, specifically in the chapter “Change”, there’s a section that perfectly could sum up the mentality behind companies these days giving us the illusion of change, but never making it last longer. And I quote:
“People hate change, and with good reason. Change makes us stupider, relatively speaking. Change adds new information to the universe; information that we don’t know. Our knowledge–as a percentage of all the things that can be known–goes down a tick every time something changes.
…..
On the other hand, change is good for the people who are causing the change. They understand the new information that is beating added to the universe. They grow smarter in comparison to the rest of us. This is reason enough to sabotage their efforts.”

Now apply that to the behind-the-scenes goings-ons of both DC and Marvel–a lot of the whys and wherefore a behind some of their more questionable decisions can be attributed to the above.

Damn that Scott Adams! He’s almost as insightful and goddishly intelligent as Grant Morrison! Wow!
No, seriously, that’s some powerful ideas in that quote. Sad and scary stuff that does make a lot of life make more sense. Wish his artwork was as good as Waterson’s- if it was I would actually read Dilbert!

I work in the graphic novel section in a Chapters store in Toronto. I actually do a lot of the extra ordering of stock for that section and I’m a long time comic reader. Want to know the two companies I tend NOT to push when a new reader comes along?

There are so many better alternatives to the big two it’s not even amusing. I sold out of all my copies of Deathmatch today after I explained the concept and showed the amazing price point to the customer. As well as Locke & Key and Dr. McNinja.

Hey Acre (you’re not Acer, are you, with a typo?) and Seth, don’t give credit to Scott Adams/Dilbert for something he didn’t create. The phenomenon you are describing is called The Peter Principle. It was formulated by Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull in their 1969 book The Peter Principle, published when Scott Adams was 12 years old. Google it.

Marvel and DC are investment companies or advertising agencies cherrypicking publishing material or any properties onto such.

They aren’t leaders and they aren’t creators/enablers of content yet instead they only focus on getting as much returns on whatever. They are as ruthlessly corporate and phoney as much as *Hollywood* if not more.

The incessant focus on hype and mainstream and dumbed-down moviemaking will have any comicsreaders or enthusiasts be to look for other actual publishers than either DC or Marvel.

So the comments of two people reflect the entire industry? Bollocks. And making out that Marvel and DC are responsible for the view the entire world have of comics? Just as idiotic a statement.
Furthermore, saying Marvel and DC AREN’T doing anything to alter the perception isn’t true. Sure, DC’s New 52 hasn’t worked, but their relaunching of Vertigo is another sign of them trying to alter perceptions. And Marvel have a slew of books that’re NOTHING like “traditional” comics, be it Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye, Gillen and Mckelvie’s Young Avengers or Hickman’s Avengers/New Avengers/Infinity stuff.

Like i said, saying Marvel or DC are trying to whitewash comics isn’t true, this is just another example of the internet bitching and whining about something only to not actual DO ANYTHING about it. You want something Marvel and DC aren’t offering? Do what i do and go to Image, Dark Horse, Boom, Archia, 2000AD, etc. Meanwhile, Marvel and DC will continue to produce comics that’re aimed at those who already read super hero comics and those who might be interested in comics because of the countless super hero movies currently out there.

Johnny Sarcastic

August 17, 2013 at 9:15 am

I wonder… if it were ever revealed that one of these so-called misogynistic male writers who treat rape so casually were, say, repeatedly molested as children, would the remarks about how a man couldn’t possibly understand the gravity of being raped stop, or be changed?

I guess I just resent groups rallying against other groups in an effort to change the way people do things and think about things. ‘Right’ and ‘wrong’ are quite often subjective terms; as are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ (particularly when it comes to things creative) … if you struggle hard enough, every piece of created work would have something in it that would inspire another group to say, “gee, that never should have been said ever because it got me all riled up.”

Whether or not I even like any of these writers or think what they said is stupid is irrelevant. As long as it’s not a direct hate-media attack on a group or something, just don’t pick it up. Publish intelligent insight into why you think it’s stupid and maybe sway people away. This article is a good example. It got people thinking.

This also speaks to the failure to commit to creating/supporting new “legacy” characters such a Latino Blue Beetle and Asian Atom — or even something simple like giving Wonder Woman pants and Power Girl a real shirt — and instead reharvesting the classic white male icons. It takes time and concerted effort to produce a legacy and a new niche; the publishers never seem to protect interesting fresh characters in the same way they do, say, the ancient money-maker cash cows like Barry as Flash or Hal as G.L. The only way you’re going to develop new markets next door to superhero comic books is if you provide that option *consistently* over long periods, not a one-year experiment.

As a retailer, I can say with 100% certainty that the female comic book reading community does not support mainstream comic books created by women. Sure, I sell a large number of “Saga,” but when I go big on first issues of superhero comics created by a lady — simply because of that fact — I’ve always been burned and stuck with tons of extra copies. Why? Because those books still sell to the same crowd who was buying them before. The lady fans never showed up to support the titles. If women want to truly support female comic book creators and get more women writing mainstream titles, they need to actually buy the books, not just beat their drum online.

And there are great options out there right now (plus some not so great ones), but off the top of my head:

Red Sonja, Captain Marvel, Journey into Mystery, Avengers Assemble, Catwoman, Katana, Birds of Prey, Sword of Sorcery: Amethyst, Archer & Armstrong, Batgirl, Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre, and the upcoming Harley Quinn series. Probably a few others I can’t think of, too.

With the likely exception of the upcoming Harley book, I sell 0 copies of these titles based solely on their creative teams. Isn’t that the main issue here? And it’s not like all those books above are bad — most of them are pretty solid reads, but when I order a bunch with the creative team in mind, and they do not sell to that audience, how am I rationally supposed to order large quantities of future issues?

Furthermore, I went big on the “Womanthology” HC a few years ago because I thought the concept was cool and I liked the message behind the book. In all this time, I’ve only sold 2, despite it sitting in the “Women Comic Creators” section I have in my store. And the “Space” miniseries? Ordered 25 #1s and only sold 6. I mean, COME ON!!

This is my core issue with the women in comics debate — I am all for it, but if you want more women creators in mainstream comics, BUY THE BOOKS THEY’RE CURRENTLY CREATING!!

You want to see change in the comics and entertainment industry? The answer is simple, stop hiring white males. Then you’ll see change.

I feel like every time I come to CBR, I see an article making some version of this argument. Why don’t you just buy what you want to read and if it isn’t available, create it? It has never been easier to make and distribute comics.

These companies are not obligated to create any specific type of content. It may seem unfair, but they’re just not.

They should hire the best writers and not discriminate against people for being male and white

Industry is full of a-holes. Never walk into a comic store?

@Jake
It is Acer, and sorry about mis-attributing credit to Adams. Still, the concept is sound, right?

Personally, I am glad that comics are no longer written for kids. In this money grubbing, overly PC age, appropriate content for children usually translates into “stupid”. It has taken Cartoon Network quite some time to drag itself out of the grave of “kid friendly” programming it dug for itself. It’s most popular shows, Adventure Time and Regular Show, are popular with kids, but would you like to know who else like them? Grown folks, like myself.

It is quite possible to create kid friendly content that is good and appeals to a wider audience, but the problem is it is difficult. Difficult requires talented men and women to create it. Talented men and women are expensive to hire and keep employed. Modern Business will NEVER choose quality over cost effective practices, and that is why I am tired of hearing people gripe about “kids” and comics.

While kid friendly content is popular and can be quite lucrative, it also comes with a label that, often times, is more trouble than it is worth. Though common sense dictates that parents should be in charge of what their children see and not creators, lazy people aren’t going away. There are still people who quite simply can’t be bothered to take a half an hour out of their “busy” lives to see if certain content is appropriate for their spaw….kids, and instead want the entertainment industry to make it as PC as possible so that there is no guess work or investigation aka PARENTING involved.

The problem with this is kids eventually grow up, and despite what business would prefer, not all people lobotomize themselves upon turning twenty, so they can remove their child hood hobbies and replace them with a love of beer, sports, shopping, ect. Many, many grown ups still watch cartoons, read comics, play games ect.

None of this is to say that comics should be filled with cursing, brutality, crime, and other hedonistic qualities that opponents to my view point are quick to how to the rafters that I am supposedly advocating. Creators shouldn’t be bound by kids OR business. We’re never going to get over the latter, but the least we can do is not put back the leash that is the former.

@Tyler
Then how can we MAKE modern business choose quality over cost-effectiveness?

Damn that Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull! They’re almost as insightful and goddishly intelligent as Grant Morrison! Wow!
But it’s two against one and G.Mo still has the cool name! And did either of THEM shave their head? Probably not! (Did you hear? Batman killed The Joker in The Killing Joke One Million! Wow! Blew my mind!)
I still wish Scott Adams’s artwork was as good as Waterson’s- if it was I would actually read Dilbert!

@Tim Guartha

Curiously the same argument could be valid for you: if you don’t like what CBR writes… See how it’s not valid at all? Anyone is entitled to express his opinions, after all we are in democracy.

This whole “comics are for 45 year olds not kids” thing really, really grates me. Can’t they be for both?! Why cant we just have SOME Marvel or DC comics which don’t contain things like swearing and rape? We got by all right up until the late 90’s, so why the change?
I’m a grown man, but I don’t need every Green Lantern comic I read to use the word “bastard” at least once an issue. What does this achieve?

You are referring to DC and Marvel as “leaders” -profit and / or cost savings over quality/family/health/community is the staple of 21st Century thought
1.- so just like Anthony said above -the price of comics is too expensive for kids.
***We need to jack the price of comics up so that people will read comics on-line: THIS REQUIRES AN ACCOUNT TO LOGIN and use the comics. The data that is mined from tracking what your login account looks at, which advertisements you click on, what forms you will fill out, what your account purchases, and what articles and videos you click on -that data is more important that making a good “comic book”. The MERCHANDISING and LICENSING of thousands of character-based assets is what is important. Do you really think a culture of consumers (fast food, traffic, commercials, branding, “news” instead of journalism, homes that are made to be flipped instead of lived in, no one knows who makes up their local legislature, or who their congressman is, or what gerrymandering is) is going to have any “big picture” thinking that cares about the long term quality of any type entertainment???? It wasn’t until after the mass consumption of oil/plastic that we had mass consumption of records, tape cassettes CDs/DVDs, lunch boxes, and other plastic crap that demanded for us to always have to keep up with the latest and greatest -because the TV bred our “pavlovian impulses” to ultimately think we needed to SPEND in order to validate ourselves and our sense of a “good economy” instead of validating our sense of a “good DEMOCRACY”. Data mining and predictive analytics need a login account to track, and just buying a comic book on a stand does not… -In a DIGITAL AGE how can multi-national corporations better keep track of us and garner new TV shows and movies and news stations to influence and breed our “pavlovian impulses” if there are no login accounts to track our decisions???

Once again the white comics intelligentsia mines the same gender issues over and over again because there are white women and thus they are actually concerned. Meanwhile the state of racial diversity grows more laughable by the day as evidenced by not only the lack of dialogue but the Eisner Awards and recently the Harvey Awards.

Evidently the reason there’s casual swearing in comics is people casually swear in real life. I remember reading a Secret Six comic and thinking that there was more than the usual amount of swearing in it. I bought it up to Gail Simone on a forum and her answer was “Well that’s what criminals do”

“Then how can we MAKE modern business choose quality over cost-effectiveness?”

By buying quality? This always cracks me up, people assume that the companies operate in some sort of vaccuum and are directly making decisions that are unfair to consumers. If they were legitimately unfair to consumers they wouldn’t have consumers anymore. Much like when geeks complain that networks like Fox “love to cancel their favorite shows”, the argument is backwards. IF the shows, or quality comics, were a hit they’d keep making them and make more like it. Maybe you’re making an impossible request for the entire audience to change its viewpoint to match yours and should aim lower.

As for the fact that kids have Batman or Superman lunch boxes or backpacks but dont read the comic,Is that really surprising? Think about how many people that you know that watch Game of Thrones but haven’t read the books. Its easier and takes less effort to get interested in a cartoon,TV show,video game than to make a commitment to reading comics or books in general.

When I was a young girl starting out reading superhero comics back in the early 1960s (yeah, I’m old), they were fine for kids to read. There was definitely content that went over the head of my 7-year-old self, but that’s the point – it never bothered me. Fast-forward a few decades to when my younger son was in kindergarten and desperately wanted to read comics (because Mom had all this great stuff lying around the house and filling the bookshelves); there were no superhero comics I could let him read. Instead, he read other comics, indie comics, and got hooked (Patrick the Wolf Boy was one of the first comics he loved). He does now read a number of superhero comics, but he’s 18 so it’s okay.

Meanwhile, I’m a school librarian with students who love to read comics. They gladly read the independent comics I’m able to purchase for school. However, the one comment/complaint I get at least once a week is: “Mrs. Kan, why can’t you get us more superhero comics we can read?” You try explaining to an earnest 6-year-old why there aren’t any good Spider-Man, Avengers, or Batman comics for him (or her – girls ask me the same question).

The audience is there, people … thank goodness for publishers such as TOON Books, First Second, Kids Can, Papercutz, and others who publish high quality and fun comics for kids and teens, and thank goodness for Capstone and Abdo, who reprint kid-friendly superhero comics in library bindings. But we need more GOOD quality, well-written superhero comics written for children AND their parents.

“When I was a young girl starting out reading superhero comics back in the early 1960s (yeah, I’m old), they were fine for kids to read. There was definitely content that went over the head of my 7-year-old self, but that’s the point – it never bothered me. Fast-forward a few decades to when my younger son was in kindergarten and desperately wanted to read comics (because Mom had all this great stuff lying around the house and filling the bookshelves); there were no superhero comics I could let him read”

As an adult I’ve bought a lot of those old superhero comics, stuff like the Stan Lee/Kirby Omnibus’ of FF, and the stuff is safe for all ages but I greatly prefer what’s being made today (other than the ridiculously slow pacing). I really think comic writing is light years better compared to the books you’re talking about.

Huzzah Kat!

As a public librarian I see kids devouring comics and graphic novels, ones that are specifically written for them. And not written in a ‘dumbed down’ way that everyone here seems to think children’s comics are written. These are stories for varied age groups that are delightful, challenging, heartwarming and exciting.

Marvel and DC are leaving money on the table not creating comics specifically for kids.

And for everyone that says that comics are too expensive – parents are looking for value and fortunately that perceived value is in comics with a spine – graphic novels. And they are willing to pay for them, especially if their kids are developing a love of reading.

How can you expect Marvel and DC to cause any type of ‘change’ for something new when their history is simply a culmination of decisions made to comply with the following

A. conservative-extremists (Red Scare tactics that lead to the Comics Code Authority -talk about anti-change…),

B. homo-erotic power fantasy fulfillment (hey if you are a boy growing up and you are not into watching men wear tight spandex patting each other on the butt when they are not chasing each other while throwing a ball around, then read comic books),

C. comics created to *enable* and *perpetuate* the speculators bubble from 85 – 91: all of a sudden Cloak and Dagger are mutants… everyone’s got some kind of mutant schtick if not Wolverine on the cover whenever sales are falling, or hey check it out “First Issue! Collectors Item!!” is printed on the cover, Spider-Man is married, and check out “the death and return of superman” video by Max Landis.

D. comics created under a bankrupt management, like Marvel from 94 – 2000 was pathetic. -Here we are calling Marvel a “leader” and they run their company into the f*(^!n8 ground. Oh my gosh, so then what?

E. Let me tell ya what: After the blessing that was NuMarvel, 2000 – 2004, we then have Marvel following the directive of executives and created stories that would help with the Disney buyout, like things that always worked were thrown out the window -Spider-man’s identity revealed (overall I loved Civil War though -but everything afterwards post 2004 is not for me), turning the Avengers into more like the Justice League for Marvel brand recognition

The strange thing about superhero comics is that they’re entangled with the mainstream through licensing and movies but far too small to make sense in their own right to make sense as anything but a cult phenomenon. The combined influence of brand management and fan nostalgia means that there is immense pressure both outside and inside the readership to keep things the same, even as we all clamor for a more progressive range of characters and themes. We’re not going to see much more than incremental gains and rare stand-out titles when the industry retains its core audience by orchestrating big shake-ups that inevitably lead toward a cathartic return to form that tends to frame any recent characters are window dressing to the big guys from the 30s and 60s. The insane attrition of minority leads at DC has been motivated by nostalgia more often than not.

Given that, it’s best to accept superhero comics at Marvel and DC as a frustration and guilty pleasure that will produce occasional gems but will more often serve as a market scaffold that draws readers toward the more adventurous work taking place at other publishers.

I think expecting anything groundbreaking from 2 corporately controlled companies is asking a lot. Instead of focusing on how these companies aren’t taking the lead, why not as part of the reporting media, try to promote more of the independents that are. We can’t expect the comics industry to survive and thrive just on the “Big 2″. Many of those fans “outgrow” and get “event-ed out” such as myself, and prefer something different. This industry can do better if the press actually promotes independents more, than just promoting Marvel/DC 80% of the time. Just my 2 cents.

Another article about how DC and Marvel comics have no kid and women friendly books.

DC Digital has a line of Digital First books that are almost all kid and gal friendly. STOP IGNORING THEM, COMIC GEEK JOURNALISTS! Just because you’re obsessed with canon Marvel U and DCU news doesn’t mean other books don’t exist. Put your money where your mouth is, and then write about them.

@Steve
Maybe you’re right. Maybe I am making too impossible a request. But it couldn’t hurt to try, not when the big payoff in the long run should be something worth aiming for. We’re it me in charge of either company, I would have broken my ties with the parent company, put the focus on entertainment and not the almighty dollar, actually SPEND the money to sell the right comics outside the direct market, and work to put myself back on the same level as IDW, Archie, Dark Horsea, and the like are at right now. AND I would made grand attempts to reconcile the creator compensation while I was at it!

When I was growing up we didn’t HAVE to have separate super-hero comics into different lines. “All ages” literally meant “all ages”. Superman and Batman and Spider-Man and X-Men could be read, and ENJOYED, by everyone. That was a time when a comic book was considered a failure for selling 100,000 copies.

1.) Creators decided they could only be “creative” by including more and more adult contentment, thus showing how truly uncreative they were. It takes real talent to make a super-hero comic enjoyable to a 10 year-old AND a 35 year-old. “Kid’s Only” comics are NOT the answer and are, frankly, insulting.

2.) Comics started catering to the collector market with higher quality paper and printing. Gotta make ‘em last as long as possible so the owners can sell ‘em 30 years later and be, like, SUPER rich and stuff! When comics ceased to be printed as disposable, pulp entertainment the prices continued to soar. The kid’s were out-priced out of the market. As a result of that, the companies had no choice but to resort to the creators mentioned earlier to keep a dying audience.

It’s funny that a company that has been around as long DC, that has seen industry and readership changes over 70 years can’t see that not planning ahead might not cost them now but will likely be decimating in the next 10-15 years. Kids are not reading Batman. Because of talking naked flesh tapestry’s, Batmans vicious hallucinations, The Joker ripping the sking of a mans throat with his teeth and cutting his face off. By the time the younger demographic becomes what is the current demographic. Who will care? They have not grown up with it.

If people would stop looking to the Big Two, they’d find what they are looking for. As I stood at my artist alley table in Chicago last weekend, it felt like spitting into the wind at times. I have a self-published all ages superhero comic. It does feature female characters in strong roles. Those females have realistic body types, not supermodel bodies. The team is as heterogeneous as you’re ever likely to see. Although it’s $3.99, it’s a 32-page full color comic with FIVE THOUSAND WORDS of prose in the back of it. It’s not a 5-minute read and there are no ads! It has ten times the number of words that a typical $3.99 children’s book has. The people who’ve read it tell me that it’s pretty good. It’s even (gasp) funny. But since the characters aren’t on lunch boxes, many parents walked right past. And yet today at the local comic shop, my seven year old daughter asked for the new 52 vinyl Wonder Woman bank, though she’s never even seen the new 52 Wonder Woman, nor will she for at least five years. She has the Perez run with a few scattered pre-Crisis issues in her collection. DC doesn’t have to make comics for kids. Their merchandise can sell based on the iconic vision of characters that don’t even exist anymore. And they know it.

@Acer ” We’re it me in charge of either company, I would have broken my ties with the parent company, put the focus on entertainment and not the almighty dollar, ”

Then you wouldn’t be in charge of a huge company, because what you’re saying is pure nonsense. I’m not saying it to be harsh, but this is the kind of juvenile dialogue that has no place in a discussion of real world corporations. Being “in charge” doesn’t mean you don’t have to report to people, and the idea that you’d take Marvel away from Disney and go underground is pure pipe dream. If you really do want change, and don’t just want to complain (which seems to be the favorite hobby of the gender balance crowd) then buy the books you think do it correctly and tell others about them constantly. It’s the only functional thing to do.

I get the frustration, you have amazing timeless characters being abused and wasted by corporate behemoths that stifle innovation and change. The result is you have 1960s(and older) characters trying to fit into a 2013 world. Add to this an insular fanbase that thinks they own superheroes and the industry and vigorously fight any change, and that mentality also influences a large portion of the creators in superhero comics. The superhero genre has come to embody the intellectual laziness and cowardice of both a large portion of its fanbase and the IP’s corporate overlords. DC more than Marvel, but once the movies stop being productive, Disney will get increasingly heavy handed in controlling their IPs.

The expanding reach of companies like Image and Boom plus the enduring strength of the imported comics market is the future of American comics, not what DC and Marvel are putting out. I do get the desire to save the great superhero characters from executives, fans, and fanboy creators that want to tell the same stories in the same way over and over again. But it ain’t happening.

i would go one step farther than Mister Ha.

ignore them completely. They are what they are and all this whining about them doing business as they have always done it is not only pathetic but, worse, ineffectual.

If you want to see the things you’re claiming you want to see you have to put down the kool-aid jug and look elsewhere.

These are businesses, not democracies. They don’t give a shit about any of us provided the influx of cash remains relatively constant. They have no incentive to modify their pattern and, guess what? They won’t.

Grow up. Shop elsewhere. Your influence over these people is precisely nil.

Yesterday, in a store’s toy aisle, I watched a four-year-old African boy shop with his mother. He went through the entire rack of Iron Man 3 toys and bypassed every single item until, with a squeal of glee, he found what he was looking for. “My big hero,” he exclaimed, hugging an Iron Patriot figure to his chest. His mother asked if he wanted any of the other toys. “No,” he said with that innocently dismissive tone little kids have, “they’re just Iron Man.” Then he took off toward the registers, still-packaged toy held high above his head, whooping “Iron Patriot to the rescue!”

After the discouraging professional commentary of the past week, it was a breath of fresh air and a reminder that, politics and business requirements aside, comics and their characters can still inspire if done right.

@ the first comment Cory Arsenault:

Exactly! That is what brought me back to Marvel was NuMarvel :-) If Marvel did not declare bankruptcy (as in the list I indicated above using the alias “Help”) then there would had been no NuMarvel; no new talent from the fringes to come in and fill the vacuum of artists and writers that was needed as Marvel was recovering from bankruptcy. Alex Maleev, for example, did not even have a comics background before he became involved with Bendis (another ‘indi’ writer) for their *awsome* Daredevil run -which was one of the reasons that I returned to Marvel… -that and Alias, and “‘e’ is for extinction” story, and then though there was Vertigo’s 100 bullets (!!!), and the newbie’s Millar and Hitch’…

What ever happened to Marvel’s “Young Guns” or any other new type of initiative to bring in and create
appreciation for new artists and cutting edge talent…??? In any case, although there has been a new push for kids in cartoon animation, and video games, you need to have an account login (as I mentioned above using the alias “Hello”) to use comics as a kid, since they are too expensive -and a login allow for corporate data mining, and predictive analytics = which are used for social engineering (i.e. turning ‘Americans’ into consumers).

Anybody that thinks DC doesn’t have the female superhero market on lock, is either just plain stupid, or trying not to pay attention on purpose.

DC has nearly a dozen female oriented books at present, and many of their team oriented books feature women in prominent roles.

DC is leading the charge, in terms of gender, ethnic & sexual diversity.

@Steve
I might have mis-stated that. I mean to say that if Marvel was still an independent entity (same with DC for that matter), then we wouldn’t have a problem with our most iconic superheroes being turned into sell-outs. As I recall from a scene in Wayne’s World, ‘the beast’ doesn’t include selling out. Nor should it not include it.

On the subject of corporate power, we wouldn’t have this problem had our ancestors during the Reconstruction years not allowed the more corporate-oriented members of the early Republican party to insert a loophole into the Constitution giving corporations the status of being living persons. If that had happened, the larger companies would be under OUR thumb instead of the talent and IP’s currently in their grasp.

I’m curious if comic Book Resources is considered a “leader”? That and Newsarama seem to be where people go for comics news. The bulk of the news stories are about The Big two and their superheroes. (Maybe it’s just what your readers want? I dunno)

It seems if you wanted more diversity of style, not to mention of creators you could spotlight that. You could do a “Woman of the week/month” if you wanted, you could do a “best indie your not reading”, “greatest non-superhero titles”, “creators of color” and so on.

How many non-whitemen do you have on staff? :-p

pharon f fanboy

August 18, 2013 at 12:17 am

I don’t get why the Justin Beiber fans need to be reading comics instead of me.

Look at least DC is trying, They have 9 soon to be 10 female character centered books. And a great line of original Kids books (Batman Lil’ Gotham, Superman Family, Scooby Doo. etc.) It may not be perfect but it’s a lot more than marvel is doing.

Marvel has only 3 Female character centered books and soon to be 2 (since it looks like Captain Marvel is getting canceled.) and their kids line is strictly screen caps from the cartoons. It’s pretty pathetic.

I agree both companies should do more but Really at least DC is trying.

Also I should mention, That I do in fact work in a comic shop, I can tell you while Kids do buy comics it’s infrequent, like they don’t come in monthly for their books. We do have a few adult folder customers that do get DC’s and IDW’s kids comics for their kids monthly along with their regular pull list but it’s a rare case. So I can understand why the big two aren’t focusing on Kids titles, and as for other Kids comics such as My Little Ponies, Adventure Time etc. Majority of the sales of those are by adult readers for themselves. While I think it is important to have Kids Comics on the market I can understand why they aren’t a priority.

As for women in comics, honestly I point people to DC more than Marvel simply because there is more to chose from. (also to counter what another poster said earlier,there are very few female centered comics where males counterparts get in the way in DC, the exception really at the moment is Wonder Woman, which most of the time they are stopping her from putting the hurt on someone not saving her. Batgirl, Batwoman, Birds Of Prey, World’s Finest, Katana, have almost zero male interactions in them for the male counter parts to be “saving them.” I really wish people would read more comics before throwing out accusations.)

You forgot to say WONT SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!?!?!?!

“I might have mis-stated that. I mean to say that if Marvel was still an independent entity (same with DC for that matter), then we wouldn’t have a problem with our most iconic superheroes being turned into sell-outs. As I recall from a scene in Wayne’s World, ‘the beast’ doesn’t include selling out. Nor should it not include it.”

If Marvel was an independent entity there would be no conversation, so you wouldn’t have to worry about freeing them. And you’re talking about ancient history at this point, which has little meaning in these conversations if we’re being pragmatic. Also all this hand wringing about gender diversity, as I said, comes at a time when racial diversity keeps getting more and more laughable. The reality is these companies and sites talk about what sells. It’s gay marriage and gender balance because there are white homosexuals and white women, so they ignore things like the under-representation of black and latinos among comic creatives and characters b/c (a) it doesn’t actually matter to the white intelligentsia AND (b)they aren’t losing any money by doing so. You have to decide if you enjoy supporting the things you like more than being frustrated by the things you don’t, because large corporations are NOT going to cater to your interests until it’s financially beneficial to them. We can complain all day but it’s just a basic fact of life.

@Steve
Hmmm….now I think I’ll try and learn how to create and use subliminal messaging……

@Steve Broome: I think you’re right to be disturbed at the way issues of gender and race overshadow each other in the public mind instead of yielding a coherent conversation about social justice (in comics or wherever). But even so the adversarial stance that one form of media advocacy is stealing attention from another seems like an inevitable and counter-productive feature of threads like this one. For the sake of argument, if we admit outright that gender/sexuality issues are more palatable to the white middle-class than racial issues — that squares with my impressions, but I’m not sure how we would measure — it’s still the case that gender discrimination is not exclusively a problem for the white middle-class.

Curtail the profanity and I’d recommend a few more books on the market right now. But yeah, it really didn’t dawn on me until within the past year that, at 30, I’m still the target audience for funny books.

I love ‘em, don’t get me wrong. Cut the expletives and you could recommend any of the X-Books right now to an 8 year old. The complicated plots of Grant Morrison and Jon Hickman are over my head, at 30, but I still appreciate the daylights out of them–might be too much for an 8 year old but I wouldn’t criticize the writers for giving enough of a damn to think outside of the box and put something unique on paper.

And bravo to DC for 9 female fronted titles and doing something smart like keeping Gail on Batgirl. I hope Kelly Sue continues to keep Captain Marvel–a revamp vice a cancellation, please Marvel, it’s a fun book by a talented writer!!

@Jim McClain: Question- Does your self published comic also feature male super heros with realistic bodies and not perfect muscular chiseled model bodies? id wager to say no….just another hypocritical double standard when it comes to woman in comics….you do know that there are all types of women bodies out there including voluptous well toned ones and just because an artist chooses to draw a chracter that way it doesnt automatically mean something sinister is going on….id say its just as unrealistic to just draw women only in politically correct ways….

Pity that superheroes dominate. While not all such books are bad, their super strength is strangling a lot of creators from working on their dream projects. Sure, Marvel and DC have the big bucks and everyone has bills to pay and lives to lead.

I was hoping that DC would allow Vertigo titles more exposure, but like you said, they are so scared of superhero titles dipping or not selling. Marvel, still high on film success probably care less about creator owned works now too.

This is why for better comic stuff I run with Image, Dark Horse, IDW etc, where now and then something new, fresh and cool will emerge from creators we’ve never heard of before. So, no point in waiting for so called leaders to lead, when such leaders are only interested in polishing the crown, getting rich and not paying creators their dues. Better to be your own leader and follower. Lead well and other will rally under your banner and help build a better tomorrow for comics.

Yo, Kid Cody -‘you right! = Thank God for VERTIGO, because if you ask some young Marvel Zombite what the Icon brand is -they will tell you that they have no idea.

If Marvel actually cared about SEQUENTIAL STORY TELLING (and not just super hero “comics”) then they would make an actual attempt to compete with DC’s Vertigo.

Could you imagine the day when Marvel could do collaborations with Fantagraphics??? -‘Naaaahhhhhhh….

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