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She Has No Head! – Interview With Hope Larson About Girls & Comics

horses

From Hope Larson's Gray Horses

Comics creator, writer, and artist Hope Larson (Mercury, Gray Horses, Chiggers, Salamader Dream) recently conducted a survey called Girls & Comics on her livejournal for girls and women that read comics.  The results were interesting, and if you read this column and other female positive or female focused comics columns throughout the web, not that surprising.  In the wake of reading her results, I asked Hope if she’d be willing to stop by She Has No Head! to answer some questions about her survey and the feedback she received.  She graciously accepted.

Though I’m posting an excerpt of some of the relevant information to our interview here, I highly suggest reading the entire survey results yourself at the link.

KELLY THOMPSON:  So you did this great survey of girls and women that read comics that was geared toward finding out what they read and why and some of the specifics surrounding those things, like where they get their comics physically and what other motivators (people/mediums etc.), have brought them to it.  What prompted you to do this?

HOPE LARSON:  When I started drawing comics in 2003, I wasn’t concerned with who my audience was. It was exciting that anyone was interested in my work, and I figured if I was creating work good enough to publish, then I’d fulfilled my obligations as an author. I also believed that good work was honest work, and that one could not create honest work if one wrote with an audience in mind. Because that would be (gasp!) selling out.

Chiggers

Hope Larson's Chiggers

Then I wrote Chiggers, which is a fairly straightforward summer camp story, and believe it or not, I wrote that story for myself. When I sold it to Atheneum I was honestly surprised to hear that I’d written a middle-grade book. It was a thunderbolt moment: This was a story that was for me and also for middle schoolers. I naturally gravitate to stories about young adults, so it’s not a conflict of interest if I consider my work to be for them. I have had to make small compromises as a young-adult author–a curse word here, a panel of nudity there–but never anything that compromised the story I wanted to tell.

So, okay, I am a young adult author, and naturally I’m concerned about getting my books into the hands of actual young adults, but I don’t think I’m reaching them as effectively as I could. I do the odd bookstore event and I regularly exhibit at comic conventions, but most of my fans are men and women in their 20s and 30s; I almost never see teenaged girls. (As for boys, I’ve seen many a teenaged boy wrinkle his noses at my work, and well… I’m not getting my hopes up.)

I put the survey together to find out where girls are getting their comics, so I can be there selling my comics to them. That probably seems like a cold and money-hungry reason – it’s never pleasant to mix art and commerce – but I’m a full-time cartoonist, I love my job, and I want to keep it. On top of that, I’m currently planning a graphic novel series. A series is a big financial risk for a book publisher, and I’m terrified I’ll get the axe after one or two volumes due to poor sales; so the more I know about how to market it to girls, the greater my chances of keeping it alive.

KELLY THOMPSON:  I don’t want to get too much into my own stuff here, but your story about publishing Chiggers, reminds me of what has happened to me with my novel which is that I thought I was writing a book for adults (i.e. for me), only to find out from agents and publishers that what I wrote was young adult.  And it needed A LOT of tweaking to make it fit solidly in that category, so I think knowing your market and writing something you love with your audience in mind, just makes you really savvy and smart – not a sell out.

With the audience in mind…have you considered a school (grade school/middle school/jr. high/high school whatever) author’s tour of sorts.  I know a lot of popular well-selling YA authors of prose do this and it seems to have really good results as far as reaching the ACTUAL audience

Raina Telemegier's Smile

Raina Telgemeier's Smile

and creating word of mouth amongst that audience…I wonder if there is some way to get publishers to fund a sort of book tour for a group of YA graphic writers/artists, the way they do for prose.  I know this sounds both revolutionary and possibly crazy naive…but it seems like a pretty natural fit to me, no?  Even better, maybe publishers could get a few of you together, make it more of an event…you and Raina Telgemeier perhaps, a few others (male or female) with similar youth oriented material?

HOPE LARSON: Funny you should mention a tour. Raina and Tracy White and I did have a joint tour planned for earlier this year. My book was originally supposed to come out on January 6th, and Smile was coming out in February, and we figured, “This is a no-brainer!”

We were so wrong. My book is YA, Raina’s book is middle-grade, and Tracy’s book is edgy YA, so the tour was a huge faux pas on our parts. Our publishers were not happy. Then Atheneum moved the release date of Mercury to April, and we had the call the whole thing off anyway. The book industry is a complicated animal and the tour debacle was a reminder of how much I still have to learn.

I agree that I should do school events, but I have pretty intense stage fright. I haven’t been able to convince myself that the amount of work time I’d lose to preparation, stress and travel would be worth the payoff.

Hope Larson Survey Excerpt

Hope Larson Girls & Comics Survey Excerpt

KELLY THOMPSON:  I have to say, I felt that in reading the survey results – especially in your list of “10 Things Authors, Publishers, and Retailers Can Do Better” – that I could have written the results myself they were so on point with what I’ve been seeing and hearing in the industry over the past few years – were the results what you expected?

HOPE LARSON:  For the most part, yes, and most of the women I’ve spoken to said the same.

KELLY THOMPSON:  What was a surprise?

HOPE LARSON:  The hate for comics targeted at girls surprised me a little bit. Dozens of women specifically used the words “pink” and “sparkly” as things they avoid, and I chalk some of that up to our cultural perception that girly = crap. I’m extremely curious to read these pink, sparkly comics for myself, but no one mentioned which books, specifically, they hated – aside from Girl Comics, which I hate to mention because I’ve met the (delightful) editor and know so many of the creators involved.

The real problem is when readers feel that publishers are telling them what sorts of story they, as girls, “should” want to read. “You’ll never be a real fan, sweetheart, but look! We made this comic just for you.” Lots of girls are going to want the pink book encrusted with hearts and ribbons, but lots of other girls would prefer to see someone’s entrails ripped out. There’s no one-size-fits-all girl book. Girls like what they like because that’s what they like, not because they’re girls.

KELLY THOMPSON:  Well, I think you hit the nail on the head with the “publishers are telling them what sorts of story they, as girls, should want to read”.  I’ve come across a lot of this attitude – especially regarding superheroes – and have literally been told, and I quote: “Superheros are male power fantasies. Period. End of story.” Which is wrong on numerous levels. Nobody wants to be told what they like and don’t like…and it’s particularly aggravating when a publisher or writer or artist (especially if they also happen to be male) goes “well, girls all like shopping, and boys, and pink,

Marvel's Girl Comics #1

Marvel's Girl Comics #1

and pretty things, and ponies, and sex and the city, and going out for ‘drinks with the girls’ – so let’s take all those cliché elements and throw them in a blender and we’ll have a surefire “GIRL” hit!” I would cite Marvel Divas as a perfect example of why that doesn’t work (especially if you then slap an objectifying cover on it).

I understand why girls and women would have a bad reaction to Girl Comics – the name alone is a huge problem – and I talked about GC in depth with editor Mariah Huehner here before, but I don’t see Girl Comics as something nearly as “off” as something like Marvel Divas.  Because GC, while ostensibly something girls might like, I think was more about spotlighting female creators, but I understand why girls might feel that way about it.

HOPE LARSON: Most people who complained about Girl Comics mentioned that they were turned off specifically by the title. Personally, I haven’t read the book. Based on what I know about it I don’t have a problem with it, and I would read it if it was handed to me, but I’d rather not read it at all than have to go back to my LCS–which is a rant for another day.  On a related note, comics still have an image problem. It’s better than it used to be, but it’s still around. For example, in one of the surveys I got back, a girl – I think she’s still in her late teens or early 20s – mentioned that comics were perceived as extremely uncool at her high school. She was relatively popular, and she wouldn’t have been comfortable reading comics in public. And this is in spite of the fact that she was drawing her own web comic at the time! Hopefully highly visible adaptations like the Twilight Manga will help dispel the stench of nerd a little bit.

KELLY THOMPSON:  I’m not trying to be all “I’m so right!” but literally #1, and #3 through #10 on that list (and I’m working on a post about #2) are all things I’ve talked about in this column – and seen many others talk about – so if columnists, critics, fans, and a survey of about 200 women and girls that read comics are all saying similar things – why do big mainstream comic companies act like trying to address getting girls to read mainstream books is like unknowable rocket science?  Any ideas?  Because I’m fresh out!

HOPE LARSON:  I have no idea! This isn’t even an issue in small press or book publishing, where I’ve worked. I would guess that part of the problem is there aren’t many female superheroes popular enough to carry a book and make the sort of sales mainstream comic publishers expect.

KELLY THOMPSON:  Well I would argue that there are plenty of female superheroes that COULD be big enough to carry books if the books (and characters) were handled well and not immediately off-putting to girls…but THAT is a rant for another day.

One of my personal hopes for the future of getting girls into comic stores in bigger numbers (and I’ve absolutely seen it manifesting already) is the ‘Dad Factor’ – so many male comics lovers have grown up and had daughters (and sons) and it’s not only made them better more discerning readers in my opinion, but it seems like the best and most reliable way to bring girls into the comics fold in a safe and encouraging way – so I was really excited to see that reflected in the survey results.  Have you had any direct experience with that?

HOPE LARSON:  My dad wasn’t a comics fan, so sadly I didn’t get to experience the Dad Factor myself, but I’ve seen it in action! I know a couple of guys who have shared comics with their daughters, and I meet a fair amount of parents at indie shows who are shopping for their kids, who usually aren’t in tow. Often I meet dads who are working to build libraries of comics that their kids will age into; I hear a lot of, “She’s three now, but I’m sure she’ll love this in five to nine years!”

KELLY THOMPSON:  My dad wasn’t either, I was one of those “came to comics through the X-Men cartoon” people.  Although, in retrospect this isn’t actually true, because while the X-men cartoon was definitely my catalyst to fully jumping into comics and and going to my LCS and all of that, I loved and always begged my mother for Archie’s as a kid…EVERY time we went through the grocery check out.  How did you get into comics?

HOPE LARSON:  I had a funny route in. My dad is a professor, and when I was 7 he went on sabbatical and moved the family to France for a year. I knew zero French at the time (about as much as I know now!), so I ended up reading a lot of comics. I’d never read comics before, not even Archie, but they’re all over the place in Europe. I read Tintin and Astérix BD I bought in bookstores, and My Little Pony and Glo-Worms comics (yes, really) from the newsstand, and massive newsprint Uncle Scrooge reprints I bought in train stations. I loved all of it. I think I still have those My Little Pony comics, too.

When we came back to the US I had no idea where to find the kinds of comics I was used to reading. I went to a LCS occasionally and bought Magic cards, but the superhero stuff freaked me out. In middle school I started reading Elfquest collections, and then in high school I got into the Ranma 1/2 and Nausicäa Manga and various Anime. In college I read Sandman and Dan Clowes and Chris Ware. Now I read mostly Manga, graphic novels released through book publishers, and small-press stuff I pick up at conventions.

KELLY THOMPSON:  So what was your biggest take away from this experiment?

HOPE LARSON:  1: I’m on the right track. Keep pluggin’ along, Hope.

2: My approach to marketing has got to be like an octopus. One arm in the Manga community, one arm in indie comics, one arm in mainstream comics, one arm in the bookstore market, one arm online… There’s no one easy way to reach girls, so I have to think across genres and across markets.

Salamander2

KELLY THOMPSON:  I would say you’re probably right about your octopus approach and that’s exactly what the big two should be trying…with modification of course.  Has anyone approached you about expanding your survey in a more academic way as you discussed?

HOPE LARSON:  My agent and I are working on this now!

KELLY THOMPSON:  Will you personally do anything differently – in your comics, or marketing, or con attendance etc. – based on the results you got?

HOPE LARSON:  As a writer, no, although the survey suggests I’m moving in a worthwhile direction. The last script I wrote, which I’m close to placing with a publisher, is a magical girl story very much in the vein of Sailor Moon, but with a more capable, driven heroine who doesn’t need a prince to sweep in and save her. It also has dual male and female protagonists, action, fantasy, and a pinch of high school drama. It almost sounds like I went through the survey and said, “Okay, I’m going to have elements X, Y and Z because that’s what girls want.”

In terms of marketing, I was already planning to exhibit at a couple of Anime conventions next year. We’ll see how that goes!

KELLY THOMPSON:  What is the biggest thing you personally would recommend a company like one of the big two do to respond to a survey like this if they were actually interested in implementing change?

HOPE LARSON:  I’m a bad person to ask about this because I don’t and never have read superhero comics. However, these are some changes I’d investigate if I was queen of Marvel or DC:

1) Tone down the sexy on some of the covers. A big part of why I never got into capes is that the covers embarrassed me so much that I didn’t want to pick up a superhero comic, much less look inside. When I was 11 or 12 and shopping in comic stores for the first time I would head straight for the stuff I knew was “safe”–Elfquest collections and Ranma 1/2–and try not to see anything else that was on display. I’ve been in sex shops where I felt more comfortable than I do in your average comic shop, even at age 27.

2) Don’t give up so quickly on initiatives like Minx. I told friends in the publishing industry how quickly Minx got the axe, and they were shocked. It never really had a chance.

3) Advertise, advertise, advertise. Put ads for girl-friendly comics into popular books. Reach out to those dads (and moms!) who are looking for comics their daughters will like.

4) Look to Archie. Girls still read Archie because it’s accessible, and because their parents probably read Archie when they were growing up, too. How do you get girls to go from Archie to other sorts of comics? Make those comics just as easy to find! Get them into newsstands and grocery stores. Kids don’t have cars or credit cards.

5) Think outside the industry. Approach writers like Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games) and Diablo Cody, who are already writing girl-friendly, comics-appropriate material, and see if they’re interested in writing a miniseries starring their favorite superhero.

KELLY THOMPSON: Well, regardless of your experience with superhero comics, I think you nailed this answer.  I agree wholeheartedly with all of your answers.  But I think #4 and this:  “Make those comics just as easy to find [as Archie]! Get them into newsstands and grocery stores.  Kids don’t have cars or credit cards.” Is so insightful and something I rarely hear mentioned with such specificity.  Especially with girls a lot of this is access.  Because comics are not more readily available is I think why it takes a herculean force (a Dad/Uncle/Brother giving comics, other media introducing us to it, etc.) to bring girls to comics.  Boys somehow end up there naturally in higher numbers and then the product and stores caters to them – but girls, like my situation, can go years and years, just seeing Archie in the grocery story and not knowing there’s more and different stuff out there.  I think sadly that’s still very true today.

It’s one of the reasons that getting more graphic novels into bookstores in large numbers and with great variety is so important…because the stat is that girls and women read something like 80% of the fiction…so girls ARE in the bookstore, even if they don’t know where the comic book store is.

With that in mind (bookstores) do you think graphic novels should continue to have their own section in bookstores…or that they should be shelved according to type “adult fiction graphic novels go with adult fiction prose”…books like Fun Home go with other prose memoirs and your book Mercury goes in the YA prose section?  Or do you think they’re better off in some ways and easier to find if grouped together via the medium and not the specific category?

HOPE LARSON: Everyone has a pet theory about what needs to happen in bookstores, organizationally. What I’d like to see is comics racked in sections divided by age group: adult comics, young adult comics, middle grade comics, and so on.

For this sort of system to work, though, comics publishers would need to start thinking like book publishers in terms of who their books are for. I’ve been railing about this a lot lately, but to a bookseller, all-ages is not a thing. If you tell a bookseller, “Oh, but this is a book anyone could enjoy!”, she will laugh at you, and yes, that has happened to me. Booksellers need to know who they’re selling your book to. If they can’t figure it out, they probably aren’t going to bother stocking it.

I may already have mentioned this, but Barnes & Noble and Borders don’t carry my books at all–any of my books–and that’s partly because they aren’t sure where to shelve YA comics that aren’t Manga.

21_chiggers_11

Excerpt From Hope Larson's Chiggers

KELLY THOMPSON:  I’m really disappointed to hear that B&N and Borders don’t carry your books – that seems like a huge miss to me.  I hope in the future that will change.  In the meantime, what are you most excited about in comics right now – as a reader or creator?

HOPE LARSON:  It’s been incredible to see how well Raina Telgemeier’s doing with her new graphic novel, Smile. She’s selling out print runs, getting reviewed in the New York Times… Publishers have been cautious of signing graphic novels lately, and hopefully Smile‘s success will help change that.

KELLY THOMPSON:  What frustrates you the most about comics right now – as a reader or creator?

HOPE LARSON:  I hate the hustle. I wish I didn’t have to spend so much time thinking about how to sell my books, but I’ve gotta sell books to make books.

Mercury

Hope Larson's Mercury

KELLY THOMPSON:  As I mentioned to you previously, I recently read your new book Mercury and thought it was fantastic.  Do you have any great books (your own or others, upcoming or already released) that you’d like to recommend while you’re here?

Raina Telgemeier’s Smile. Tracy White’s How I Made It to Eighteen. Vera Brosgol’s Anya’s Ghost, out next year. The Aya series from Drawn & Quarterly. For horror fans, Junji Ito’s manga (Museum of Terror, Uzumaki) feature interesting female characters. And I’m sure it’ll never happen, with so many Manga publishers scaling back and Manga imprints shutting down, but it’s a crying shame that there isn’t an English translation of gender-bending shojo classic The Rose of Versailles.

KELLY THOMPSON:  So, Hope, I just want to thank you for sharing your survey with us and taking the time to sit down and answer these questions – and I hope you’ll come back.  Before you take off, would you mind just sharing with my readers what you’re working on now – what they should keep their eyes open for?  I mentioned previously your new book Mercury that was released earlier this year but what else do you have on tap?

HOPE LARSON:  I’m working on so much stuff. The main thing is a graphic novel adaptation of Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, which I believe will be out in 2012. It’s by far the longest comic I’ve drawn–close to 400 pages. Then there’s my magical girl comic. And I’m also refining a sci-fi screenplay I wrote last year, and writing a second screenplay set in the 1920s. I know that sounds like a lot, but each of these is in a different stage of development, so I’m not working on all of these projects all of the time! I just like to keep busy.

Thanks for having me!

You can find out more about Hope Larson and her books at her new website, her livejournal, and via twitter as well.  In addition to her books Mercury, Gray Horses, Salamader Dream, and Chiggers, Larson has had short works published with a variety of publications from Flight Vol. 2 to The New York Times and is a 2007 Eisner Award winner.  In 2006 Larson won both an Ignatz award for “Promising New Talent” and the Kim Yale award for “Best New Female Talent”.

214 Comments

[…] SHE HAS NO HEAD! an interview with Hope Larson about her Girls & Comics survey is up on CSBG.  Check it out! […]

Hope Larson’s list of 10 ways to better serve both genders should be tattooed on the brainstem of everyone even thinking of working in comics.

Good interview. Hope has a lot of interesting things to say about this column’s focus; women in comics.

Good post as usual. The only thing by Larson I’ve read is Mercury, mainly because she gave me an early proof for free last year, but it was quite good. I’m not sure if I’d want to go and find her other stuff, but as I’m dealing with the Dad Factor as well, maybe I’ll try to get the 4-year-old into her work a little later in life. She already digs Jill Thompson’s Magic Trixie, so why not other comics?

This is so funny (and cute). I’M A GIRL HEAR ME PURR! How these girls are so ignorant (they have smaller brains, you know, it’s scientifically proven). How should comics attract more girls?, is like asking how can a shoe company attract more males to buy pumps. Answer: Why should they? Comic books have always been a BOYS medium. BOYS, sweetie, BOYS. They revolve around extraordinary adventures, in exotic locals, SAVING DAMSELS IN DISTRESS. The term is SUPER-HERO, not super-heroine. “But our Harlequin Romances, our Twilight aren’t enough, we are entitled to comics too, and you have to make them accessible too.” Of course we do sugar, of course we do. Let’s humor the ladies by taking a closer look at the MANifesto, shall we fellas:

1.)Girls want to see strong in control, kick-ass women calling the shots.
Really? Then why are guys the first to be called when there is a spider, cockroach or mouse in your bathroom? Too cute, NEXT!

2.) A welcoming atmosphere in a local comic shop is key.
Wow, talk about spoiled! When I first started going to “comic shops” they looked like were in the basement of some creepy,stalker,pedophilia-like guys house, they had names like Doc or Gilbert,. These guys would be smoking cigarettes and accepted only cash. I’m a dude and I was uncomfortable, but you know what, went there anyway to get my fix of four-color fun. NEXT

3.)Pink, sparkly, cutesy comics blah, blah, blah …
Funny that this articles first featured pic has a chick and a pony, while the second is a pic of summer camp, and the third has braces… THESE are reviled. Then there is a page about girls talking about DATING. NEXT.

4.) The hypersexualization/objectification of female superheroines—STOP
“female-superheroines”? “FEMALE-superHEROINES” NEXT.

5.)Girls need good stories in a variety of genres.
…and GUYS don’t? Little self-centered aren’t you ladies? NEXT.

6.) Most chicks don’t even know comic exist.
Most guys don’t even know Janet Evanovich or Sue Grafton exist, but we don’t blog about it. NEXT.

7.) Comics with dual male and female protagonists.
What, you don’t like Jailbait from Incorruptible? NEXT.

8.) Use licensed properties to lure new readers.
Again too cute ; ALL properties are going to eventually be licensed. NEXT.

9.)Availability is a problem.
AMEN to that sister! Score one for the ladies! NEXT.

10.) There nee to be more women creating, editing and publishing.
This coming from a Eisner, Ignatz, and the Kim Yale Award winner, and a chick is who is paid to write about comics. Kinda like a black guy preaching inequality while I’m trying to listen to the President’s State of the Union address. Just doesn’t hold water like it use to. NEXT.

All kidding aside, women whining about getting,needing,attracting new girl reader is still just girls whining. Hope, Kelly, and thousands of other women have love, collected and contributed to this wonderful medium in wonderful ways. This blog however just comes of as whining, and I must say, it really silences any good your trying to do for your gender. Ladies the answer is as simple as it is already in full bloom; If you don’t like what’s out there, put something out there yourself. Hope can, and so can any of the millions of girls that don’t like Sailor Moon or Uncle Scrooge or Tiny Titans or Archie or Casper or Orange or Buddha or Amanda Conner. NEXT.

Wow, Johnson, I really, really hope that your post is a giant trolling and not serious.

Wow, dude, way to be a giant dick.

Back to sanity: Kelly, excellent interview, really great stuff. Some really fascinating thinking from Hope Larson. The key sentence for me: “I’ve been in sex shops where I felt more comfortable than I do in your average comic shop, even at age 27.” Comics damn themselves into a niche medium, when they could be so much more– and it’s great to see Ms. Larson actively trying to achieve this sometimes nebulous “more” by reaching out to audiences we’ve lost over the years.

I really think getting comics into more stores is vitally important. Not just for attracting more girls (although this is VERY important), but for boys, too. Few people ever go into a comic store unless they’re already into comics. How can they possibly get enough new readers this way?

….Wow. Not ten posts in and you got a troll? *sighs* Sorry.

Good article. The only thing that particularly stuck out was the story of the one girl who didn’t feel comfortable reading comics and how it eventually broke down to how comics need to “dispel the stench of nerd”.

As much as I’d like to have more women (and people in general) reading comics…that’s not something I’m interested in doing. Sometimes it is what it is. I don’t think comics need to try to be something they aren’t so people can be comfortable reading them–the bigger deal is that people simply are not comfortable being who they are, I think.

Comic book shops are creepy for a reason, they are Mom and Pop operations aimed at a very small hobbyist crowd. Incidentally, Mom and Pop can and will run their comic shops however they feel like, and Mom and Pop are occasionally creepy or weird.

Fortunately, they are far from the only places to buy comic books. Where I live if I want to buy comic books I have a few choices:

1. I can go to one of the out-of-business comic book shops and stare wistfully at their windows, hoping my magic powers can will them back into being. This rarely, as in never, works.

2. I can go to a local bookstore which usually has plenty of trade paperbacks and manga, and possibly even some actual classic format comics over by the magazines. Women do not feel uncomfortable in these kinds of stores.

3. Amazon.com or the equivalent.

One thing that totally confused me is that she characterizes Ranma 1/2 as safe in the context of overly sexy. When I was a kid, Ranma 1/2 had topless girls in it and Supergirl didn’t. Hmm… different strokes I guess, but Shampoo is a totally sexy superhero.

Of course, the thing that bugs me about most comics is that they seem to be written by Grimmy McGrimerson lately. It’s hard to find a comic where people aren’t doing unspeakably awful things to each other… and I’m talking about comics with people in capes and tights. Seriously, they’ll have Superman comics with child molesters and whatnot.

Seriously, I’m an old school E. C. horror comics fans, and nowadays I’ll pick up D. C. and have to say “that ain’t right.”

So, in that context, I can understand how Ranma can be considered safe. Ranma might have a topless Shampoo popping out of his bathtub, but he’s not going to find her raped and dismembered corpse in his refrigerator later on. (Thanks, Rumiko Takahashi! Please go and give some lessons to D. C. now.)

Patrick Rawley

May 31, 2010 at 12:49 pm

10. There need to be more women creating, editing, publishing …
This reminds me of people who say “there should be more women in politics.” Why? To prove that women are just as corrupt as men? So that women politicians “can focus better on women’s issues/problems than men can”, which is a disservice to both men AND women. Is it because women are “more sensitive”? Um, Margaret Thatcher was a woman and while she was called many things, “sensitive” was not among them. Ditto Hillary Clinton.

Why is there no “female Alan Moore”? Is it because the big bad boys won’t let her play in the sandbox? Or is it because a female writer of Mr Moore’s calibre would be writing prose for probably a great deal more money? Hell, I’d love to see a “female Alan Moore” (or Gaiman or what have you) but I don’t think I will, not for a long time. Not because there aren’t talented women writers out there but because they don’t have the connection to the medium that most men do. That’ll change in time but it’s going to take a looong time, methinks.

I would think that a YA, non-manga comic would be stocked in the YA section. But I guess I’m not as smart as those bookstore people.

So basically, female readers bash comics for being “only for men” but the comics THEY want are only for women.

I love how myopic this is. I doubt they will even realize it (or accept it).

I seriously doubt that Marvel or DC or the other top-tier publishers are going to risk alienating their mostly male customer base by changing their comics to reflect some fringe feminist agenda on the slim possibility that more girls will suddenly run to the comic book stores. You don’t expand your audience by changing your product. You say ‘here’s the classic product you love… and now we also have a version for the ladies’. If the lady version is popular enough it’ll survive, if not It’ll be quietly retired and life will go on as before. (See Marvel’s ‘Year Of Women’) There’s nothing wrong with having two different but similar types of products pushed at two separate markets. There’ll always be some crossover, but for the most part I think girls are always going to want dolls and boys are always going to want action figures. They’re essentially the same thing, but you find them in different aisles of the toy store for a reason.

“I want comics to be about strong women… but i’m scared of going into a comic shop!”

Way to ruin your credibility, Frankie.

That’s it, fellas. Keep the stereotype alive.

@Frankie Dee: I don’t understand your point. The interviewer and the interviewee, as well as the survey, explicitly state that they don’t want more comics targeted specifically at women. In fact, they say this is exactly what they don’t want.

Instead they say that they’d like to see more women working with mainstream comics properties, as well as being involved in the editing and production process. And, that it’d be great if there was less objectification of women in comics. The hope is that this would appeal to both women and men, and increase readership. Likely to happen? No. A reasonable goal? Certainly.

As to the distribution points that were brought up in other comments: comics were less overtly sexual, and certainly less over-sexualized in the 1960s and the 1970s. Comics sold in staggeringly larger numbers in these periods. Further evidence might even be gleaned from the pre-comics code days when super-heroes didn’t rule the market. There were, I think, few women working in the industry but there were a much broader spectrum of comics being offered, from horror to romance with everything in between. And, again, these sold better than anything published today. There’s no clear evidence that comics with more believable characters, written by women or men have to sell at lower numbers than current books.

Nothing here suggests some sort of “radical feminist agenda”.

More women bought comics in the 60s and 70s because there were dozens of romance comics. You know, one of the genres the survey say they don’t want… like the Twlight comic, which sold 60,000 copies on the first week. The survey also says they don’t want Hope Larson’s comics, as they have horses and dating.

So, you’ve never ready Hope Larson’s comics? That’s fine. But it doesn’t make your point about them correct. The survey says women—and let’s be clear, these are women that are currently reading comics, now some vast untapped reserve—don’t want to read pink frilly comics about ponies that are marketed solely to them. That is, they don’t want to be talked down to and pandered to. Pretty understandable, I’d say. And Larson’s comics don’t do that. Certainly, horses and boyfriends may show up, but there’s a lot of other stuff going on there as well. Just check out her work for the New York Times, or any of here online work (I really like the piece she did with Bryan O’Malley).

Instead, they say, they’d like to see mainstream super-hero comics that appeal to a wider audience. And I’ll say again that the hope is that they appeal to a broader audience of both men and women. Comics as they currently exist are reaching a very small audience. Even people—like me—that have read comics for more than 20 years (starting when i was 6 or 7) are falling away from the industry. Writing comics that appeal to more people may not be the solution, but then again it might be. Writing comics geared just towards the torture-continuity porn crowd is decidedly not the solution.

And, finally, 60,000 comics in historical terms is nothing. Historically, comics sold in much larger numbers to a much larger audience.

” “I want comics to be about strong women… but i’m scared of going into a comic shop!” ”

Scared might not be the word, so much as wanting to find an entertainment source that doesn’t involve wallowing in the sights and smells of testosterone-fueled man-children.

Lord Paradise

May 31, 2010 at 2:18 pm

“1) More and better female characters, especially protagonists. Girls want to see strong, in-control, kick-ass women calling the shots.”

A handful of these characters already exist, of course, but remain comfortably on the B-List.

“2) A welcoming atmosphere in local comic stores is key. Many respondents reported feeling uncomfortable in comic stores. They were stared at, talked down to, and generally treated without respect.”

Didio and Quesada should send out a press release telling all of their readers not to stare. I’m on board, but on a wide scale I’m afraid not all dreams can come true. I’ll be interested in hearing your take on it in future posts.

“3) Pink, sparkly cutesy comics about boyfriends, ponies, cupcakes and shopping are widely reviled. Condescend to female readers at your peril, writers and comic publishers.”

Unless they’re good, I guess?

“4) The hypersexualization/objectification of female superheroines makes female readers uncomfortable, and sexual violence as a plot point has got to stop.”

There are a few instances in comics where ridiculous absurd sexualization and gratuity has drastically improved my reading experience: Transmetropolitan and Marvel Boy, for two. Unfortunately, these shining beacons of cheesecake go unnoticed in a sea of terrible. If the people who run comics were running Hollywood, the porn industry would be ruined, because all those women would be starring in movies.

Similarly, there’s no reason why sexual violence as a plot point shouldn’t make for a good comic now and then (Alias, for one) but by God there sure is a lot of it nowadays. It’s a completely illogical trend; I guess people know that sex sells and they know that violence sells, so they think that combining the two will sell. Unfortunately, that’s like combining Jersey Shore and 24, except instead of having six straight episodes of the Situation passed out in his own urine, you have the equally unpalatable phenomenon of “maturity” by way of bad things happening to women.

“5) Girls need good stories in a variety of genres.”

Yep.

“6) Most girls don’t even know comics exist, or that they would enjoy them. Publishers need to advertise in mainstream media and comic shops need to reach out to girls.”

I was talking to a guy on the Internet who said he “didn’t know the main continuities still existed.” If you know the word “continuity” and are not aware that the thing you know the word for exists, the system has failed you.

“7) Make comics for boys and girls. Comics with dual male and female protagonists. Comics with large casts that offer something for everyone.”

In fairness, most team books worth their salt have a couple good female characters.

“8) Use licensed properties to lure new readers into comics.”

This window is almost passing. People are getting really sick of the whole superhero-movie thing.

“9) Availability is a problem. Get more comics into schools. Get more comics into libraries—especially school libraries. Get more comics into bookstores, especially large chains.”

The perverse thing is that Marvel has in fact been publishing newsstand-sized Digest versions of Marvel Adventures and Runaways and other stuff that is great and enjoyable… and then it just ends up in the bookstore with everything else. It’s like FEMA building levies around Kansas.

10) There need to be more women creating comics and working in the industry as editors and publishers.

It is hard to create comics when you don’t read comics! If they come, they will build it.

List of most popular manga:

http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/ratings-manga.php?top50=popular

Every manga for women on the list is about dating and/or girls dressed in pink and/or gay men and ALL of them have guys drawn in oversexualized ways, with bodies that make Captain America’s seem more human. In fact, many of the titles girls like who are for boys (Love Hina, Chobits, etc) are romantic too.

” This is so funny (and cute). I’M A GIRL HEAR ME PURR! How these girls are so ignorant (they have smaller brains, you know, it’s scientifically proven). How should comics attract more girls?, is like asking how can a shoe company attract more males to buy pumps. Answer: Why should they? Comic books have always been a BOYS medium. BOYS, sweetie, BOYS. They revolve around extraordinary adventures, in exotic locals, SAVING DAMSELS IN DISTRESS. The term is SUPER-HERO, not super-heroine. “But our Harlequin Romances, our Twilight aren’t enough, we are entitled to comics too, and you have to make them accessible too.” Of course we do sugar, of course we do. Let’s humor the ladies by taking a closer look at the MANifesto, shall we fellas: ”

” Boy ” is probably a good definition of this mindset, because real MEN don’t instinctively exclude people, or treat women with disrespect.

Historically radios and newspapers and tv antenna sold in much larger numbers to a much larger audience. The world has moved on. We live in the age of the niche market. Every kind of media has been winnowed down to serve a particular group or fandom. There’s no reason why a ‘girl comic’ niche can’t survive and thrive, but there’s also no reason to try to take the ground that the traditional comic industry stands on just for the sake of saying there’s equality in comics.

I am of two minds of this… a lot of comic shops I have attended have been female prohibitive granted but I know a lot of people who work in them that have been very accessible to female fans or just curiosity seekers. So I see both sides of this.

Personally with my female cousins when they see me reading and want a book to get into, I point them to my Marvel Adventures, Johnny DC, Archies, BONE, and strip collections like Peanuts, Garfield, Calvin & Hobbes, and Get Fuzzy. My older cousins, I point them to New Teen Titans and X-Men collections from the 80’s because a) they’re universally beloved and known and b) that’s what got me hooked onto comics.

I know my ex-girlfriends tolerated my habit because I had Strangers In Paradise…. My sister has continued from that into Echo, and her (mostly) female author comic adaptations… and she’s gotten some of her friends hooked in with the comic movie adaptations. So anyone can find a niche in reading, it just a matter of getting the right comic in their hands.

Nitz: So wait, guys enjoy having our senses assaulted by overgrown manchildren who haven’t bathed in a month telling us that we’re stupid for thinking Iron Man 2 was anything more than pathetic dribble?
Shows how much I know.

@Frankie Dee:

And this tells us what? That young women like romance comics? That the Anime News Network is an unreliable indicator of sales (if I remember correctly, One Piece is the best selling manga in Japan; though Naruto is a much bigger seller in the US). That we have very different senses of what counts as over-sexualization? That the audiences for shoujo manga and american comics is different?

Nothing you’ve said has challenged the point that writing comics for a broader audience might, in fact, draw in new readers. Nothing you’ve said has challenged the fact that some women would like to read a super-hero comic with a positive representation of women, that are not poorly rendered and anatomically impossible, and that doesn’t pander to them. And nowhere has anyone said that romance can’t be part of a comic. Hell, Naruto, Bleach and One Piece have elements of romance in them and they’re about as shounen as you get.

A lot of stinkin’ idiots on this here comment board.

I am so naive, I seriously thought that misogyny in comics was fading away. Shame on you, so-called “dudes.”

If you guys were REAL dudes you wouldn’t be terrified by the prospect of sharing the vast comics industry with women.

Dirty, disgusting.

” Nitz: So wait, guys enjoy having our senses assaulted by overgrown manchildren who haven’t bathed in a month telling us that we’re stupid for thinking Iron Man 2 was anything more than pathetic dribble? ”

It’s a fish in water scenario. Guys who read comics, even guys who have some level of self-respect and outward dignity, are more used to the comic store environment so it takes larger levels of manchild stink to assault our senses. Women aren’t as used to that, won’t get used to that, and SHOULDN’T HAVE TO GET USED TO THAT.

“For example, in one of the surveys I got back, a girl – I think she’s still in her late teens or early 20s – mentioned that comics were perceived as extremely uncool at her high school. She was relatively popular, and she wouldn’t have been comfortable reading comics in public.”

People with this attitude, male or female shouldn’t be reading comics. This is the sort of person the industry has to change for, people more concerned with how a comic makes them look than the actual content?

And the whole thing about about comic book stores, grow up girls, that’s no less prejudiced than some of the misogynistic comments on this board.

And honestly, I’m not trying to be sexist, but Hope Larson’s comics look like they suck, the kind of flowers and pony stuff that the girls who filled out this survey claimed not to want.

Anyone who doubts the validity of what Hope and Kelly are saying need simply look to the Asian and European comic industries.

Both are WILDLY diverse and both are WILDLY successful.

And neither has only 2 categories of mainstream comics: Those for man-children and those made for others by man-children.

@Chuck…

It’s okay Chuck… you don’t sound sexist. Just ignorant.

ok this is for azjohnson5……you are an idiot! you must not get laid and maybe you read too many comics or you are pist your girl friend gives you hell for being a nerd! i love comics and grew up reading them! just because less women read comics doesnt give you the right to bash our gender you dick! i kill my own spider and rats! not our fault some women prance around her like barbie!

Frank Rodriguez

May 31, 2010 at 3:33 pm

I just went to a comic shop in Ashland last weekend (the first time I’d been in a while) and I wasn’t ashamed to be reading Legion #1 in the car except when my friend pointed out over my shoulder the fake tits on one of the Legionnaires. I can understand how that’d scare a woman–and it’s totally freakin’ unnecessary. It’s perverted.

@Kevin J

I guess I’m ignorant for not giving a comic that seems to have subject matter I couldn’t care less about a chance, but then again, its only an opinion and I only have the images posted to go by. I’m a big fan of independent comics but the art and writing displayed in those images look subpar when compared to just about anything, Eisener award or no.

At any rate, my other two points still stand. If people have a problem with how they look when they read comics and how comic book stores look then that’s their own problem.

Some of the posts in this thread make me ashamed of being a male comic book fan.

Grow up, guys.

I never understood the mentality of feeling threatened or irritated when a group you don’t belong to makes a demand. As if their gain would be our loss, or something. Wrong. Most of their demands would benefit males and females both.

It’s no surprise that many female fans don’t feel welcome in comic book stores considering the kind of welcome they’re getting right here on what is supposed to be a thoughtful forum. I think the responses posted here pretty much prove all of Kelly and Hope’s arguments.

You know, I’m a nineteen year old guy, been reading comics for about five years. And I’m kind of scared to go into most comic shops. The dim lighting, the unwashed floors, the beligerrwnt clientele… Maybe this is just the way it is where I live (Metro-Atlanta) but just about every shop I’ve been in is just completely unfriendly to anyone but the regulars. I guess it comes from not growing up in that environment, but if I want comics, I get them from the bookstores or amazon. Maybe there should be some kind of standardization process for shops so that people are held to certain standards of cleanliness and service, I don’t know. All I know is, the industry needs to change or the industry is gonna die.

Have you tried Oxford Comics, Excel? I haven’t lived in Atlanta for several years, but they were great when I was there. It’d be sad to hear they’ve gone downhill.

Maybe its an American thing, but most stores I’ve been to in London have had helpful staff, and an aesthetic that was at least somewhat homely (in a nice way) if not well presented. So I’m not sure if the whole “Comic Book Guy” from the Simpsons thing is a myth and a stereotype carried over from television that people love to perpetuate and self fulfilling prophesy that colours the opinions of new comers to the comic book scene or something genuine.

But at any rate, male or female I’m gonna have to say “suck it up”, to expect some sort of standardization for comic book shops is bordering on fascistic, and has little to do with the industry itself. Any store selling anything that wants to make money is going to hold itself to certain standards, but implying that there should be some sort of mandate from the companies that produce its merchandise is kind of stupid, to say the least.

The whole thing about the industry needing to change or having to die is true in some senses, but untrue in others and somewhat unfair in a lot of others. It seems a lot of people want the comic books industry to make changes at the behest of its its core customer group.

Now I understand that might make it seem as though I’m implying that taking arbitrary tits and ass out of comics is a bad idea or that I don’t want girls reading comics or something like that, and that’s not the case. I just think that perhaps one of the reasons people outside of the niche demographic aren’t getting in to comics is because of their own misgivings and unwillingness to try new things and that there’s only so much changing the comic book industry can do before it completely loses sight of all the things that gained it such a loyal fan base in the first place.

Hello,
May I ask how many women readers this site has?
Best,
Luis Jaime
PS I just read Girl Comics # 2. Cool stuff. Recommended.

Hmmm to be honest i thought Marvel Diva’s was a much better comic than Girls Comic or whatever it’s name was mostly cause i felt it was trying to appeal more to the gay readers than just the females.

” Maybe its an American thing, but most stores I’ve been to in London have had helpful staff, and an aesthetic that was at least somewhat homely (in a nice way) if not well presented. So I’m not sure if the whole “Comic Book Guy” from the Simpsons thing is a myth and a stereotype carried over from television that people love to perpetuate and self fulfilling prophesy that colours the opinions of new comers to the comic book scene or something genuine. ”

I think it’s more a case where even though the majority of comic store owners are generally decent people who offer good service, it only takes a few of the neck-bearded to keep the stereotype alive. Also, it’s a stereotype that no right-thinking person would want to indulge.

” Now I understand that might make it seem as though I’m implying that taking arbitrary tits and ass out of comics is a bad idea or that I don’t want girls reading comics or something like that, and that’s not the case. I just think that perhaps one of the reasons people outside of the niche demographic aren’t getting in to comics is because of their own misgivings and unwillingness to try new things and that there’s only so much changing the comic book industry can do before it completely loses sight of all the things that gained it such a loyal fan base in the first place. ”

Maybe, but the things on Hope Larson’s list aren’t staggering concessions. All 10 things she mentions should just be givens.

Teehee.

Really got those juices flowing, didn’t I? Allow me to retort:
@Bryy “Wow, Johnson, I really, really hope that your post is a giant trolling and not serious.” As giant a troll as I can be, this was totally calculated to draw a response, but still do believe %75 of what I wrote (minus the derogatory sexism. I mean c’mon I have two extraordinary daughters who I let read this crap).
@ Bill Reed “Wow, dude, way to be a giant dick.” Dude, if I had a nickel every time a person used me and “giant dick” in a sentence together I’d be a millionaire; ALL FROM THE LADIES! BAAAAHH!(Guess the daughters won’t be reading this part)
@ Mary Warner: I always read your posts and like them. Sorry.
@ Frankie Dee “So basically, female readers bash comics for being only for men” but the comics THEY want are only for women. I love how myopic this is. I doubt they will even realize it (or accept it).” This sorta is my point, too.
@ Mike P: I like beer, football and naked chicks too.
@ Nitz: “” Boy is probably a good definition of this mindset, because real MEN don’t instinctively exclude people, or treat women with disrespect.” See, he gets it. Men don’t, but women on this thread can, apparently. Teehee
@ Athony: “There’s no reason why a ‘girl comic’ niche can’t survive and thrive, but there’s also no reason to try to take the ground that the traditional comic industry stands on just for the sake of saying there’s equality in comics.” Yup.
and lastly @ Victoria “ok this is for azjohnson5……you are an idiot! you must not get laid and maybe you read too many comics or you are pist your girl friend gives you hell for being a nerd! i love comics and grew up reading them! just because less women read comics doesn’t give you the right to bash our gender you dick! i kill my own spider and rats! not our fault some women prance around her like barbie!” Sounds like some ones got a crush!
Let’s not forget that in America, today is Memorial Day. Remember the brave men and women who have given their lives so that we have the freedom to sit here and waste our time. My wife’s a veteran, so kiss my ass!
(No one thought my black guy/ President comment merited a comment. You’re all racist.)BAAAAHH!

Wow, you really like all my posts? Thank you! That is so sweet of you. ? I know I’m probably supposed to be upset for having you as a fan, but I’m always shocked and thrilled any time somebody seems to like me.

(Were you saying ‘sorry’ because you’re sorry someone like you is a fan, or are you sorry that for the first time, you Don’t like one of my posts? I’m really hoping it’s the former.)

I didn’t write much earlier because I was running late.
So, jumping in here with my thoughts on the atmosphere of the comic-book stores… Well, I’ve only ever been in three, and only one of those more than twice, so I don’t know if I’m qualified to judge. But, the places I’ve been to always seemed welcoming enough to me. They all had big posters of comic-book stuff, and one of them had a TV behind the counter on which the owner watched sports, but aside from that, there was nothing particularly masculine about the shops. And there was nothing that felt hostile to girls in my view. In one store, the guy behind the counter seemed a little bit stand-offish, but not excessively. He didn’t insult any customers or anything. He just didn’t seem to want to be bothered with questions. I don’t know if he was always like that, or if he was just in a bad mood. In any case, I’ve certainly encountered worse salespeople in other types of stores.
Maybe I should admit that while I do have some girlish qualities, I’m not particularly feminine overall, so maybe my viewpoint isn’t the most illustrative.

I don’t know how that question mark got in there (after the ‘sweet of you’ part). Please don’t take that as an indication of irony or sarcasm. My expression was genuine.

Sorry for any confusion.

I agree with most all of Larson’s points, but I’m a little puzzled as to why there is so much focus, both in the interview and in comments on the “mainstream industry” and its old bastion, the comic shop. Reading both makes me realize how different my own personal experience is from that of most comic fans.

I didn’t grow up in such shops or reading superhero comics. I was buying Sonic the Hedgehog at grocery stores and reading my dad’s old comics, which were predominantly Archie, Flintstones, Casper, G.I. Joe, etc. When I rediscovered the medium, it was primarily through manga and shortly thereafter indie comics, both of which picked up a lot of momentum in the first half of the 2000’s, a trend that has continued. I purchased these almost entirely from the internet, and occasionally from a Barnes and Noble.

Seems to me if it weren’t for round after round of movie adaptations, merchandising, and some cultural inertia, “the big two” wouldn’t be much bigger in stature than the relatively young indie and manga industries here in the States. I say put old horses to pasture, and focus your efforts on those areas that are 1) young and malleable enough to be shaped and 2) still building momentum, not losing it.

I liked almost everything about this article, but i felt the bashing of Marvel Divas was both unfair and unkind to the creators of that book. Did you skim thru the book or actually READ it? As a fan of all four characters involved in that book (Black Cat, Photon, Firestar and Hellcat), i found the mini-series well written and character driven, rather than some simplistic fight-fest. The fact the series revolved around their PERSONAL lives, and not their super-heroics made it quite novel and interesting. Add to the fact some elements of that book are being continued in other books and series made this mini-series a win for me.

I like AZjohnson.

If women can call out for comics they want and just expect them to land in their laps, then I could very well do the same. But crying about what you want until you get it is what babies do. And as much as I don’t fully agree with what she is saying, I cannot hate on what Mrs.Larson is doing, if anything I totally applaud it. Because Hope is not just talking, SHE’S DOING. She sees the comics she wants on the stands, and through good old hard work, she puts them there. The same way I will, regardless of who likes it/hates it/has a problem with it.

Hating people for their preferences and getting bent out of shape because “real women/men don’t look like that!!” just goes to show how spoiled we are as a generation of kids who have no “real” problems in our lives. Comics, for the most part, are fiction. And at the end of the day, all ANYONE wants is to read a cool story about things they like.

@ Jakk

Well, no one I know that read Marvel Divas had anything bad to say about it. I think the anger was based on how it was marketed, not the actual quality of the work.

1) More and better female characters, especially protagonists. Girls want to see strong, in-control, kick-ass women calling the shots.

I do agree, although not every female character should be a strong, in control kick ass woman calling shots because not every woman is strong, in control and kicks ass.

2) A welcoming atmosphere in local comic stores is key. Many respondents reported feeling uncomfortable in comic stores. They were stared at, talked down to, and generally treated without respect.

Good luck finding a good comic shop. I’ve seen a lot of people talked down to in comic shops (both male and female). This is a problem with comic shops in general, their quality is not what we would like them to be.

3) Pink, sparkly cutesy comics about boyfriends, ponies, cupcakes and shopping are widely reviled. Condescend to female readers at your peril, writers and comic publishers.

Very true.

4) The hypersexualization/objectification of female superheroines makes female readers uncomfortable, and sexual violence as a plot point has got to stop.

The hypersexualization of both genders should stop, but judging by our media in general, I doubt that is going to happen. Unfortunately when a comic has a male protagonist, writers stuff women in refrigerators for a cheap rise (figuratively and literally).

5) Girls need good stories in a variety of genres.

Comics in general need a diversity of genres.

6) Most girls don’t even know comics exist, or that they would enjoy them. Publishers need to advertise in mainstream media and comic shops need to reach out to girls.

Same could be said about male readers considering how tiny the comic industry is in relation to other forms of entertainment.

7) Make comics for boys and girls. Comics with dual male and female protagonists. Comics with large casts that offer something for everyone.

Comics with large cast also give writers and artists headaches.

8) Use licensed properties to lure new readers into comics.

All mainstream comics are licensed properties.

9) Availability is a problem. Get more comics into schools. Get more comics into libraries—especially school libraries. Get more comics into bookstores, especially large chains.

Universal problem.

10) There need to be more women creating comics and working in the industry as editors and publishers.
This is like the whole “More women need to be involved in politics”. No-one gets anywhere with this discussion.

So yeah, That new Scott Pilgrim trailer is AWESOME!!

Considering all the hate being thrown at comic shops from pretty much everyone in this discussion, I want to give a shout out to my comic store, That’s Entertainment in Worcester, MA, which besides having one of the biggest back issue selections in New England also has a very friendly and open attitude towards girls and kids of all ages. I see lots of girls in the store and there are women who work there as well. Seems like it’s very out of the norm based on what everyone else is saying.

I also think that a lot of the problems comics have in general — and many of the problems bringing in and keeping girl readers specifically — are a result of the horrible distribution system in place and can’t be addressed until those issues are addressed first. The direct market, Marvel and Diamond and the whole comic distribution mess has been choking the life out of the industry for the last 15+ years. Something needs to be done.

I got into comics at two points in my childhood: during the Transformers cartoon (the first one – we don’t speak of latter editions) and shortly after the 1989 Tim Burton Batman movie.

But I did not know that such a thing as a direct market comic store existed. I wouldn’t have known to go to the one comic shop within an hour’s drive of my hometown and ask for comics, and if I had, it mostly carried smelly back issues anyway.

What hooked me was walking past a spinner rack and seeing Grimlock taking on Optimus Prime or Batman punching the Joker in the face.

Fast forward 20 years later to today: I was turned off “Girl Comics” by the title, but positive reviews from friends convinced me to buy the first issue, and it was great. “Marvel Divas,” on the other hand was a solid story by a writer I enjoy a lot, but it wasn’t at all what I was hoping for. I expected a lot of setting stuff on fire, blowing things up, and two-fisted heroics before drinks. Instead I got… cancer. And angst. You can imagine the disappointment.

As for this very moment: We’re only two issues in, but Marjorie Liu’s “Black Widow” series seems like *exactly* what I have always wanted in a female super hero title. I don’t remember ever reading a female-led book as perfect. I should probably wait until the end of a story arc to pass full judgment, but I’m really enjoying it so far, and I hope sales reflect how good it is so that comic publishers will take notice.

I don’t understand the problem why the tour was stopped? O.o

Wow… so many bigoted replies here. I am always astounded at how narrow-minded people are, kudos to Kelly and Hope for this article and it was a fantastic article and I agree with most of it. I don’t think that more women in comic writing / art / editorial positions would help because even women can be bad writers / artists and make bad decisions. Marvel Divas was a god-awful comic but a perfect example of a big company trying to make a comic ‘for women’ and failing miserably. Marvel and DC both need to realise that we don’t want to be marketed to; if they spent more money actually employing talented creators instead of using it to come up with ways to ‘write comics for women’ they might be surprised with the results. Girls Comics has been great but like many other readers I was terribly offended by the name. Despite the fact that the name has ‘historical significance’ it leaves a bad taste in my mouth and I hardly feel that it was a decent justification.

Also throwing this out there, Buffy over at Darkhorse has done amazingly well since season 8 started. It’s a wonderful example of a comic not marketed to women selling well to an already amassed female audience, it’s Darkhorse’s best selling comic title ever. Look at those sales figures and tell me there’s no market for good comics that’s appealing to both genders without being full of terrible female stereotypes.

I was at a friend’s house a few days ago, and my girlfriend and another female friend – who reads comics – admitted to feeling ostracized and out of place in an LCS. They say that there’s an incredibly patronizing and condescending “Oooh, how cute, you’re into comics,” attitude. It’s kind of sad, really.

Dan nailed it on his post.

The hypersexualization is NOT part of the long-term tradition of superhero comics. Horror, science fiction, and fantasy had decades of head start with naked females in suggestive poses in the covers, but for superheroes it mostly started in the 1990s, with the Image founders. It’s a rare instance where we can actually pinpoint the culprits (it’s true that soon the whole industry followed).

So this is easily remedied. Comics nowadays seem to sell based on hot writers, anyway. Just get rid of guys like Benes and Land, or tell them to tone it down.

Publish one or two openly fetishistic comics if they really want to appeal to the hormones of the male fans, perhaps set them in the outskirts of the official universes, but keep it away from the main books.

Another method is to just keep the sexuality really subtle. Moore in his proposals for Youngblood and Glory said he wanted to keep all sexuality unmentioned – there’s never any indication that person A has a thing for person B, but there’s no indication against it either. If you don’t spell it out for teenage boys, teenage boys will fill in the blanks themselves.

SEX, SEX, SEX. Penis here, Vagina there.
Geez, this is making me drowsy.

Like how about writting columns about good comics?

The only PINK comic that involves CUPCAKES I can think of is Babymouse, and that is an excellent comic. My five year old daughter loves the series (Babymouse Rockstar is her favourite) and I love that she loves it. It has a strong female lead with lots of insecurities and strengths and the scenarios/plots are relatable. I have a couple copies in my grade 3 classroom and they are pretty popular (I’ve even had a boy or two read them). They are really funny.

Great article.

Alex A. Sanchez

June 1, 2010 at 4:22 am

I’m amazed at how many male comic readers feel threatened by the presence of strong women character or creators in the medium!

There’s a stereotype that comics are ready by nerdy guys, and I would guess that the stereotype is true for a large percentage of the comic reading population. The chances are good that many nerdy guys dislike women (I’m thinking the popular girls in high school, for example), because they won’t give them a date, make fun of them, and otherwise put them down. Comics are their escape, their “Boys Only” club. I wonder if this type of attitude inspired the negative comments above.

I for one can’t WAIT for more ladies to read comics and graphic literature. I hate how comics are pigeonholed in this country and aimed at a specific target audience. I love this medium, and the wider the demographic that it reaches, the more mainstream it can become. In addition, female creators will add variety to the product created. The greater variety, the greater quality and options for us as the consumers.

[…] Kiel Phegley added his two cents at The Cool Kids Table, and Kelly Thompson followed it up with an interview with Hope at Comics Should Be […]

I’m speaking as a female comic fan here; am I the only one who’s starting to feel a bit of a cringe at this “GIRL POWER” attitude?

Has anyone actually expressed that they feel threatened by women getting involved in comics? I still think that one of the reasons people outside of the regular niche group are finding it hard to get in to comics is their own somewhat self satisfied and superior belief that everything that’s gotten the industry to where it is now needs to change.

“I don’t buy comics because comic book stores are scary”
“I won’t buy comic because I can’t take super heroes seriously”
“I won’t buy comics because of their hypersexualized/idealized presentation of women” (really, this affects both sexes, no one in super hero comics male or female is ever ugly or fat)

It’s like claiming you’ll only get in to sports if they take the competitive aspect out, or that you’ll only watch wrestling if they lower the emphasis on violence.

A lot of people are making snap judgements about comic book fans, an example being Alex’s comment about “nerds” who never got dates in high school etc, but the same sorts of people blow a fuse and cry sexism when people like that Johnson guy spew out a few tongue in cheek comments about women.

The bottom line is that getting rid of super hero comics is NOT going to save comics or bring in more readers, making fun of the comic book fan stereotype and changing comic book stores to fall in line with the yuppie aesthetic is NOT going to get more books sold.

The solution lies with getting in more writers, creating better stories and diverse characters and if you read comics regularly you’d know that its getting there slowly but surely. There are plenty of strong female characters in comics, with more and more turning up on a regular basis, they’re no longer just romantic foils for male characters or rape victims. They’re team leaders, independent solo characters and intelligent, well fleshed out characters. A damn sight more inspiring than any of the examples posted from this Hope Larson fella’s comics, who regardless of her gender doesn’t seem to be all that great a writer or artist.

I dunno, I think a lot of people just want to see comics as this sexist boy club so they can justify their own prejudice towards the medium more than anything else.

Great article, your books are interesting and the point I agree on most is getting these books back in grocery stores and drug stores for both girls and boys. If K&B and Schwegmann’s didn’t have comics in the 80s I might never have gotten into them. To get back into them, you have to make comics that are both exciting and safe enough to be placed there meaning avoiding some of those cussing and risque elements but not talking down to the audience be they women, girls, boys, men or smaller, younger children. A good kid’s comic should have something appealing to adults that will either attract the parent or appeal to the kid when they get older. A good comic targeted toward girls should not be totally untouchable to a boy as many girls would avoid that as well. Make good stories and sure give us strong female protagonists but treat the character and the audience with respect. Those Archie digests are the last lingering vessel. Why can’t DC and Marvel do this for their heroes? And comics for women can surely be put in the paper back sections of Wal-Mart. We need a Wonder Woman Digest.

“I still think that one of the reasons people outside of the regular niche group are finding it hard to get in to comics is their own somewhat self satisfied and superior belief that everything that’s gotten the industry to where it is now needs to change.”

But that’s the thing–IT DOES. You’re making a big assumption, that where the industry is now is where it should be. And if the way it got there was by relying on one small niche of male fans, then it didn’t necessarily get there in a good way, either.

“”I don’t buy comics because comic book stores are scary””

Replace “scary” with “full of antisocial weirdos who will leer at me, condescend to me, objectify me, or otherwise antagonize me,” and you’ll get the idea. Why should anybody have to tolerate that?

“”I won’t buy comic because I can’t take super heroes seriously””

Not everybody can. Maybe, just maybe, someone would rather read a comic about summer camp? Is that so hard to believe?

“The bottom line is that getting rid of super hero comics is NOT going to save comics or bring in more readers, making fun of the comic book fan stereotype and changing comic book stores to fall in line with the yuppie aesthetic is NOT going to get more books sold.”

Okay, THIS is where people are getting the idea that you’re threatened. 1) No one is suggesting getting rid of superheroes. No one. At minimum, people are suggesting less cheesecake, less sexualized violence, less treating women as background objects that can be disposed of to give the hero a cheap motivation. Superhero comics can do better. 2) Sorry, but since when are bright lights, a comfortable atmosphere, wide selection, and a bare minimum of politeness a “yuppie aesthetic”? Last I checked, that was called -customer service.-

Sorry, but this just reeks of entitlement. You and the others are basically comic across as saying, “NO YOU CAN’T TOUCH IT IT’S MINE MINE MINE MINE MINE.” And then you cry about “elitism” while basically telling anyone who doesn’t fit your niche to “suck it up” and force themselves to fit -your- standard, like what -you- like, or else get out. Even when it means growing and improving the industry your hobby depends on. Go figure.

“I dunno, I think a lot of people just want to see comics as this sexist boy club so they can justify their own prejudice towards the medium more than anything else.”

And I think you’re seeing prejudice where it isn’t there to justify a massive persecution complex.

The physiques of male comic book characters are just as (or usually more) exaggerated as those of the female characters. I don’t think female characters are ‘hypersexualized’ either. I can’t think of one female comic book character who’s running around banging anybody she can get her claws on, which is surprising considering there’s approximately 5000 guys with flawless Adonis bodies (and superhuman stamina to boot) floating around any given comic book universe. If anything they’re portrayed in the opposite manner. Even the ladies who dress the most provocatively seem either to be chaste ingenues (Rogue, Supergirl), serial monogamists (Emma Frost, Black Canary, Catwoman), unlucky in love career super-heroines (Black Widow, Ms. Marvel, Black Cat, She-Hulk), or just plain ice queens (Selene, Psylocke). All these characters (and many more) are strong female characters.

As for sexual violence – and by sexual violence I’m assuming that these ladies mean rape – I can’t really think of too many instances were female characters have been graphically raped just for the sake of it. With the possible exception of the “Crossed” series, which I think was just trying to be shocking, and in all fairness women AND men were sexually victimized in that series. But to say that rape can’t be a part of story because it’s wrong and distasteful is just silly. Comic books are all about people doing things that are wrong and distasteful and then either getting caught and punished for it or not. Rape wasn’t invented for comic books. It’s something out there in the world, so of course comics are going to reference it.

“Pink, sparkly cutesy comics about boyfriends, ponies, cupcakes and shopping”

What a great name for a webcomic! (Probably a bit too long, though ….)

Why is that comics get derided for how they treat females and then.. i turn on the tv and on mtv there is a hardcore rapper talking about guns and hos and bitches and his whole audience where white middle class females….

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t treat women better and i do think things are getting better since we are seeing more females writing mainstream superhero comics this year than probably ever before.

So that’s basically my point is you bring in strong female writers and the women will come after all it’s happening with Gail Simone.

Alex, I don’t think it’s just nerds.

I’ve met plenty of cool, athletic, sexually active guys who had a disdain for women that you wouldn’t believe. They’ll badmouth the bitches for playing hard to get, but they’ll also badmouth the bitches for being too easy. Apparently, it’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation for women.

I think the feelings of threat, it’s the old xenophobia. Fear of the different, fear that the different may be inside you. What the hell, we’re superhero fans, we should have big imaginations. We can imagine ourselves as mutants, as aliens, as androids, but we can’t imagine ourselves as women?

Guys, you can stop to put yourselves in their shoes for a few moments without risk of losing your manhood, seriously. They’re not that different from you.

And the same holds true for comic creators. I think Neil Gaiman said once that he couldn’t understand the difficulty many superhero writers had of writing female characters. After all, even if those guys don’t have wives or girlfriends, they must have sisters or mothers, right? Neil was naive. Plenty of guys have women in their lives but find it difficult to truly see them as their equals.

What I’m saying is, there are lot more manchildren out there than just the fat, smelling comic book guy that is openly rude to the ladies. Many of the manchildren are outwardly sophisticated and successful.

“Has anyone actually expressed that they feel threatened by women getting involved in comics? I still think that one of the reasons people outside of the regular niche group are finding it hard to get in to comics is their own somewhat self satisfied and superior belief that everything that’s gotten the industry to where it is now needs to change.

“I don’t buy comics because comic book stores are scary”
“I won’t buy comic because I can’t take super heroes seriously”
“I won’t buy comics because of their hypersexualized/idealized presentation of women” (really, this affects both sexes, no one in super hero comics male or female is ever ugly or fat)

It’s like claiming you’ll only get in to sports if they take the competitive aspect out, or that you’ll only watch wrestling if they lower the emphasis on violence.”

I think you’re way off base, Chuck. I’m not sure why you think people expressing their unease with the current comics community means they are “self-satisfied” or “superior,” but honestly, I think you’re projecting here. I have been to comic book conventions with women who are not comic fans and the result was that they felt uncomfortable and unwelcome because of all the T & A posters and covers pinned up everywhere and the boys club atmosphere in general. And that atmosphere is something that, as other women have expressed on this forum and others as well as in this interview, often keeps women from reading comics to begin with.

You seem to be under the mistaken impression that this isn’t a problem, but you are making two errors in your thinking. Firstly, when you talk about changing “everything that’s gotten the industry to where it is now,’ you seem to be under the mistaken impression that change is a bad thing, when in fact it is vitally important. The fact is that where the industry is now is the worst sales in the entire history of the comic book medium and those sales have been in steady decline for well over a decade. So if comics books as an industry and an art form hope to survive they do need to change, soon and drastically. Because as we are seeing with ever-increasing prices and instant cancellations of new books — sometimes before they even hit the stands — the current model just is not working and hasn’t been working for years. Alienating half of your potential customer base is a foolish way to run a business.

And part of that also ties into your second mistake, which is conflating superheroes with comic books. While superhero comics have often been the top sellers in the industry, there have been times in the past when other genres, including horror, western, romance and true crime, have been top dog. There are and have been plenty of other approaches to publishing and creating comics that have not only been more inclusive to female readers but have also been financially successful. By chasing the easy superhero fanboy dollars over the past decades to the exclusion of other genres, the big publishers have created for themselves a self-replicating ghetto subject to the laws of diminishing returns.

In order to survive and revive itself as an industry, I think that comics publishers have to revise the distribution system in order to get comics into the hands of a much broader audience, which in turn means that they need to also create content for and by a wider variety of readers — and that, in turn, means making themselves more appealing and accessible to the half of the country’s population that currently doesn’t read comics, i.e. women.

[…] Creators | Kelly Thompson talks at length with Hope Larson about the results of her recent survey of female comics readers. [Comics Should Be Good] […]

Anthony,
Rape was used as a tool to be more “edgy” by DC Comics. And have you ever heard of “Women in Refrigerator” syndrome?

And another thing!

“I won’t buy comics because of their hypersexualized/idealized presentation of women” (really, this affects both sexes, no one in super hero comics male or female is ever ugly or fat)

It’s like claiming you’ll only get in to sports if they take the competitive aspect out, or that you’ll only watch wrestling if they lower the emphasis on violence.”

How exactly is hypersexualization/objectification a necessary aspect of superhero comics? Idealized physiques, sure. But dressing like strippers or prostitutes? Or relying on a physical “ideal” that’s closer to a porn star or a Victoria’s Secret model than an Olympic athlete? I think superheroes can survive without that.

I am SO tired of the ‘superheroes look like porn stars’ thing. Yeah, you know who else look like porn stars? Actors, models, athletes and everybody else who’s physical appearance we value in our society.

The UK had lots and lots of comics for girls (though they were probably sometimes read by boys as well), though most were written and drawn by men. All those comics faded away in the 80s. They have been virtually forgotten but they are still available in the back issue bins of the comic markets (and attics of one-time readers). They were many wonderful tales covering a whole range of genres (though probably no westerns etc as UK versions of westerns are generally dire and very few super hero tales), with strong female characters, role models (in some cases), as well as perhaps too many Victorian servant girls victims of evil Aunts and the like. Many of the stories are still worth checking out even now, if you can find them, as they contain some gems of weird and wonderful and quirky stories, especially ones in comics such as Misty and Spellbound. Many of them have never been reprinted. The comics vanished in the early 80s, losing out to the use of photos instead of art. Now the UK comic scene has very few girl’s (or boys) comics beyond magazines full of celebrity and glitzy extras.

European comics are full of strong female characters, and very few super hero tales. They still have an amazing comics industry.

Saying that. I quite enjoy Paul Tobin’s comic book tales in ‘Marvel Adventures’ etc for his female characters and character driven stories. As well as Colleen Coover’s wondeful art in Girl comics.

I’ll again mention that, where I live, no one who works in the comic book stores is condescending, women aren’t ogled at and the customer service is much better than most retail stores I’ve worked in or been to. SO thats a side of the argument I can’t really entirely relate to, cause from my perspective it seems like its entirely made up. I took my girlfriend to Forbiden Planet not so long ago, its the flagship store in central london, well lit, helpful staff of all genders, shapes and sizes, customers who go about their business without deriding people and in fact it was her being the condescending one, stereotyping the customers and acting as though they were ogling at her and all the sorts of complaints I’m reading on here, when it really wasn’t the case. There were no pin ups or T&A, at least not outside of the Erotica section, and those were art books, not comics.

I’ll concur with a previously mentioned point that women in comics aren’t really all that more sexualized than the men, or than any woman in the TV Shows that women watch or the magazines that they read.
Its stupid of me to keep mentioning super hero comics like they’re the only comics in existence though, cause that clearly isn’t the case, but whenever discussions like this come up that’s where most of the negativity is aimed at, there are plenty of great independent and non independent comics out there that are worth checking out, but honestly, I can’t say Chiggers will be making it on to my pull list any time soon. But thats a matter of taste and opinion.

And the thing is, in most of these discussions, the majority of people ARE acting like the one way to cure any and all ailments within the comic book industry is to get rid of super hero comics entirely, at least three posts in this thread have expressed that opinion in one way or another.

And yes, Guy Gardners girlfriend got put in a fridge about ten years ago, and Identity Crisis centred around the rape of a female character, this is true, but people act like rape is some how a linchpin of super hero comics or something, when that’s clearly not the case.

So yeah, comics do need to change in some ways, writing needs to improve, good books need to stop getting cancelled for shitty ones, people like Greg Land need to stop getting hired, but there are a lot of things that I and a lot of other people enjoy about comics that shouldn’t be changed, because if you alienate one customer in order to grab another, you still find yourself in the same position you were before.

Sorry if I’m coming across as elitist, I’m not a sexist, I respect smart, intelligent and strong women, but I think women need to open their minds just as much as men do in regards to this whole thing.

Kyle Rayner, not guy, bleugh, not a big GL fan at any rate.

@Anthony: Apparently you need to read more comics (since you don’t know that rape and other sexual violence is an oft used device in comics) and yes, Bryy is right that you should check out and learn about Women In Refrigerators (though I’m sure you’ll vehemently disagree with it). You also apparently need to look at more porn…as the average female porn actress is not what your average Hollywood actress looks like. At all. Not that female superheroes should look like idealized actresses, models, or porn stars when male superheroes get to look like idealized athletes anyway, but whatever.

@Chuck: So you don’t believe your girlfriend when she says that she was uncomfortable and being ogled at when you took her to the comic store? You’ve got bigger problems than women in comics my friend. I seriously suggest you exit post haste and work on that instead. That said, if your own girlfriend can’t convince you of what’s going on…then I’m quite sure nobody here can.

As for the rest of you…for those of you bringing up salient points (whether they agree or disagree with Larson, myself, or the results of her survey) thank you.

Some of you though, I have to be honest, I’m pretty disappointed in. The level of discourse, considering this was an independent comics creator that is only trying to make good comics and find her audience that was kind enough to come here and answer my (largely mainstream) questions, is pretty low.

I’ll have to think twice now about doing a column like this in the future if this is the reception creators can expect to receive here.

The open hostility, sexism, and misogyny present in a good portion of these comments is I guess the best proof I could have asked for that Hope’s survey is dead on and we have a long long way to go. But I still can’t help but be pretty disappointed.

Two things I want to point out…which others have done, but I’d like to emphasize…

1. Why all this talk of “whining” and “complaining”? At no point in the interview or in the survey results to I see ANYONE whining. It’s simply a discussion of things women readers of comics would like to see…things that would probably make them buy more comics and potentially help save the industry by widening the audience base. How is an open discussion of such issues immediately tagged as whining? I don’t get it…it seems like a desperate reach to me.

2. This survey keeps getting twisted as “girls are afraid to read comics”, “girls are afraid to go into comic stores” etc. Did you guys not READ the survey…or do you just not have reading comprehension at the necessary level…the survey was given to women and girls who READ comics…let me say that again women who READ comics. They are ALREADY reading (and I assume venturing into their LCS and more). They’re not afraid of anything…they’re just expressing…through a survey…what kind of things they think could be better and would make them buy more, and perhaps better allow them to recommend things to their girlfriends (etc.) that are maybe not already in comics. How is growing the industry bad for any of you?

Lastly, how heavy is the irony that in a room full of people well familiar with superhero mantras such as “people fear what they don’t understand” that THIS is the hate-filled fear-induced response to something as simple and innocuous as a discussion of growing the comics field.

Interesting post! It’s frustrating to think about all the great comics girls never see. I would add to the survey excerpt “What can comics fans do to better serve teen/tween girls?” Check out the comics section of your local/school library. Make a donation of a girl-friendly comic: Tiny Titans, Magic Trixie, The Courageous Princess, Bone, Teen Titans Go!, Akiko, Polly and the Pirates, The Good Neighbors, The Plain Janes, Chiggers, Runaways, Buffy. Give a comic as an end-of-the-school-year gift to your child’s classroom/teacher. Organize a “Buy a Comic for a Girl” Day using Amazon and the publishers will see a direct spike in sales numbers. Unfortunately, the most effective way to enact change in the industry is through purchasing power.

Kelly, She wasn’t being ogled at, if she was I’d believe her, but she wasn’t. You weren’t there so you really can’t comment on the matter. I love the girl a lot but she is the sort of girl to think everyone in any room, any where is looking at her and passing judgement on her.

And, this is probably going to sound sexist as hell, but what position is she in to convince me of anything regarding comics when she knows nothing about them? I’d say that her attitude to them is similar to a lot of people’s regardless of gender or anything like that, equally as afraid of things that are different as some of us can be. More willing to take stock of cruel stereotypes than to actually open their eyes and see things for what they are. She’s not adverse to comics and comic book stores because of the inherent sexism and misogyny, she just thinks they’re for geeks. The bulk of her criticism was geared towards the fanbase and not the content.

But hey, I’m just an ignorant sexist who doesn’t know how to take care of his girlfriend, clearly.

I haven’t noticed anyone else bring this up (and am sorry if someone did and I missed it), but there are a lot of potential MALE readers (myself included) who are turned off by the sexism in comics. Partly because it’s offensive, and partly because it’s often indicative of plain old poor writing. Marvel and DC seem to want to have their cake and eat it, too–they want to make their comics more “mature” and “realistic” by loading them down with sex and violence, but have real problems with the things that would actually make their comics more mature and realistic. (Never mind that they mostly still star guys running around in brightly-colored underwear. No one in their right mind would dress like most superheroes. Dress them like that, and you shoot your “realism” in the foot.) Part of real realism has to be female characters who look and act like real women. Even as a kid twenty years ago (man, I feel old!), I always thought it was ridiculous that Psylocke fought evil in a sports bra and thong… and I was able to totally gloss over Wolverine’s bright yellow spandex because he wasn’t just obvious eye candy.

Another thing that I’d mention: comics, at least superhero comics, should be more FUN for all readers. I don’t mean they have to be written for kids. But most women I know who read comics got into them in the 1990s or before. I don’t know any women who got into comics during the “Dr Light raped Sue Dibny, Black Cat was raped, oh, and the Lizard ate his own kid” period of the past ten years. But I don’t know any men who have, either. Mainstream comics are becoming more insular, and the industry can’t sustain itself this way forever.

I find it pretty funny that one of the few comics I’m reading now are the reprints of the 1980s GIJoe series, one of the most supposedly “boy-focused” comics of the decade, and both my wife and daughter love them despite the dearth of female characters. Then again, what female characters were in the series were some of the strongest characters, and there’s a reason most GIJoe fanboys (or fangirls) who list their “top tens” out of several hundred characters will almost without exception include at least three of the (only) six main female characters in their lists. (Obviously, this does not apply to the recent movie, which was just bad at every level aside from Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s gloriously ridiculous role.) So I’m not sure there has to be more female characters per se, just better-written ones.

“She wasn’t being ogled at, if she was I’d believe her, but she wasn’t.”

Chuck,
Do you even realize what you wrote here?

Yeah, I realize what I wrote, Bryy. She thought people were looking at her, I’m a fairly observant person, I didn’t see one person so much as glance in her direction. We’ve been at places and in situations where guys have been ogling at her, for whatever reason and this wasn’t one of them.

You can either not believe me and think I’m some sort of neglectful alpha male boyfriend who dismissed his poor hard done by, objectified girlfriend’s complaints and poppy cock or believe me and understand that no one in the store cared that her or I were there.

I guess one is more convenient for your argument, and the other isn’t, either way I was there, you weren’t, I know what I saw and whatever you think, I’m not pathetic enough to lie about something so trivial.

Chuck, it would be best, then, if you were to clarify your posts, rather than going “I only believe her if I believer her rawr!”. That’s all I am saying. It makes you look very, very idiotic. You say that you are ill-equipped to talk on these matters, yet you still do as if you are an authority just because it doesn’t happen when you live or whatever.

I find it very hard to take “the other side of this issue” seriously (and there have been some very good points made about the other side of this issue so far) if people are going to explode at the smallest comments.

I don’t think I exploded, did I? At the very least, I’m not calling anyone an idiot and I’ve tried my best not to be personally insulting to anyone.

Maybe I’m not getting my point across very well, but I can’t help but feel that due to my position in this argument, no matter what I say or how I say it, I’m gonna be viewed as some sexist creep who don’t want dem wimminz in his comic book store which, whether anyone wants to believe it or not isn’t the case.

@Kelly I have over 25,000 comic books and I’ve worked in adult entertainment for 10+ years, so I assure you I know both comic books and porn. There’s little physical difference between Jesse Jane (adult entertainer), Scarlet Johansson (actress), Marissa Miller (model) and Anna Kournikova (athlete). All of these women are beautiful. They represent an archetype that heterosexual men clearly respond to. So when a comic creator goes to create a powerful female character that he wants to become a comic book fixture is he going to make her look like one of the ladies above or is he going to make her look like Ellen Degeneres? Who’s selling more issues of a comic, a Marissa-type in a bustier or an Ellen-type in a sensible pantsuit?

And I would suggest that you need to watch more sports if you think that male athletes (who aren’t juiced out of their minds) look anything like the typical comic hero, who’s physique is exaggerated to the extreme.

As for the so-called ‘women in refrigerators’ phenomenon, my thing is this: That’s not sexual violence, that’s just regular violence. Characters beloved to the protagonist have always been killed off to advance the plots of stories. It’s been done everywhere from Hamlet’s father to Bambi’s mother to Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru.The fact that it happens to women sometimes is just incidental. It’s dangerous to be around the hero.

@Anthony: Women in Refrigerators does not have to be sexual. In fact, the very base definition of the WIF issue is that it is just violence in general in order to spawn heroism in a superhero. And using the death of a certain gender to spark “inspiration” in the superheroic significant other is just plain bad writing and pathetic. And, yes, sexist. Remember: sexism, racism, bigotry, ageism – it’s not okay just because “it wasn’t intended”.

Also, please don’t make this as “simple” as sales and marketing. That is just insulting to the intelligence of the people that you are arguing with. No **** it’s about sales, but that’s not what is being discussed.

@Bryy So you’re saying that even though male and female characters are both killed to advance the plot in fictitious stories, because women are killed it’s sexism? Wouldn’t the opposite of that be true.

What would you like the superheroes to do now that we’ve achieved this Utopian violence-free comic book universe? Maybe Superman and Batman can go to camp and talk about boys and stickers or whatever…

And don’t be naive, Bryy, it’s all about sales and marketing. If religion was suddenly the hot topic with American youth and Marvel thought they could sell a few more issues, we’d see six Jesus themed books a month instead of Deadpool.

@Anthony: I actually said the exact opposite of “just because it’s a woman…” – you’re not even reading my posts. You’re just looking for a rise.

I also said “no **** it’s about the sales”. So, I mean, you really should be a lot more clever when trying to take words out of my mouth.

@Bryy You said: “And using the death of a certain gender to spark “inspiration” in the superheroic significant other is just plain bad writing and pathetic. And, yes, sexist.” Well if some human being is getting killed they have to be either male or female. So it can’t be sexist to kill men OR women, so I have to assume that you mean it’s sexist to kill women.

Not every death ever done up is used as lighter fluid for a significant other.

But anything I type is going to be horribly mangled by this point.

Ummmm … wow.

After reading the utterly innocuous interview by Kelly Thompson of a creator trying to target YA readers, this comment thread was shocking. It is very clear to me that a segment of the current comic book audience sees this medium as a method of expression for their misogyny and more generally anti-social feelings. Given how vocal those people are about their preferences and how willing the Big Two have been to provide content that appeals to them, it is hardly surprising that the periodical comic market has contracted as dramatically as it has.

However, that has nothing to do with the content of the actual interview. As a fan of the “boy genres” (superhero, crime, horror, sci-fi) in comics and other media, my primary interests were the survey results and the “Dad effect”.

As to the survey, how many of those ten suggestions really apply exclusively (or even primarily) to female readers? Modern superhero comics do a pretty terrible job portraying women. Even if your primary concern is with male protagonists, then what is the possible harm in improving the portrayals of the female characters? For example, how does it hurt X-Men, as a title, to have Psylocke act like an actual human being rather than as a fetish object? I am genuinely perplexed.

The folks arguing that objectification and sexism are intrinsic aspects of the superhero genre have apparently never read a comic published before 1990, nor enjoyed the vast majority of the superhero adaptations into other media. Even a series as soapy and sometimes suggestive as SMALLVILLE has managed to bang out nearly ten seasons featuring female protagonists that do not behave like Sex Robots. The women in the X-Men movies dressed exactly like the men and it didn’t ruin the viewing experience. The Spider-Man films featured exactly one wet t-shirt across three movies and somehow was able to tell its story. Both Kirby and Byrne had Sue Storm’s shirt drape naturally instead of cling to the underside of her breasts. I have not heard many protests about how that “ruined” their respective FF runs. Curt Swan drew Lois Lane with a moderate bust-line and professional attire. Somehow, he is still regarded as the greatest Superman artist of all time.

I could go on and on.

The truth is that the hyper-sexualized imagery and use of sexualized violence have made superhero comics worse. Using one female body type over and over makes it far more difficult to convey personality differences . Look at the women that George Perez designed for his TEEN TITANS. They all have different bodies that suggest their distinct personalities: the buxom Starfire, the motherly Wonder Girl and repressed Raven. Today, most DC artists would have slapped the same stripper body on all three, then been stunned that the soap opera stuff didn’t work.

Look, I am not saying that cheesecake imagery doesn’t have its place, but it would be better for nearly everyone if publishers were smarter about it. THE ROCKETEER had one of the most iconic cheesecake panels ever. However, it would have never worked if the character of Betty had not been dressed in utterly ordinary clothes for the period up until then. Slapping women apparently wearing only paint doing broke-back poses on the cover of a superhero comic has the ironic effect of making sexuality less effective as a story element.

After all, Laurie Juspeczyk was dressed pretty modestly in the majority of her scenes in WATCHMEN.

@Anthony: I definitely see a huge difference between Jesse Jane and Scarlet Johansson but if you don’t that’s fine. Representations of both male and female forms (especially in superhero comics) are obvious exaggerations and idealizations, I don’t think anyone would argue that point. And for the record, I did say IDEALIZED athlete forms above when talking about men…though you seem to want to leave that out.

But the problem is what those forms are based on, because the male forms are usually based on the forms of athletes which suggests: ability, power, strength, etc.

While the female forms are generally based on the forms of models, porn stars (and sure, actresses, I’ll throw that in) which suggests: beauty, sex, and too often, submissiveness.

The problem is further complicated by posing and costuming. Again, both sexes wear tight fitting spandex (etc). But male costumes generally fully cover them (with a few notable and generally logical exceptions) while women are subjected to swimsuits, thongs, thigh highs, unzipped catsuits, plunging necklines, bare midriffs, stilettos, mini-skirts, fishnets, and boob holes on the regular. As far as posing goes, again, men are posed for the most part as powerful athletes…while women are posed most often like pliant porn stars.

I’m not saying sex, beauty and submissiveness don’t sell, of course they do, but that doesn’t mean it’s right or fair or equal or that women (and men) don’t have a right to want (and ask for) more from their comics. What comics is doing right now is not working…they are dying. Why not try a slightly more inclusive approach and see if that can open up the field a little…make it a little more palatable for the other 50% of the population that might be interested in spending their money.

@Chuck. For the record, what I’M bristling about in your gf/LCS story is this: You are not and never have been a woman (I’m assuming) and so I don’t know how you can assume that you know what it might feel like to be uncomfortable like that…ogled and objectified in a space in which you are a minority. It’s pretty close-minded and arrogant to assume that “if YOU can’t see it, it isn’t happening”.

I would hope that in a good relationship you would just believe your gf if she tells you that she’s feeling that way, and that you would want to support her. From what you’ve said though, it sounds like there are many other issues, up to and including the fact that you don’t trust her to be honest with you (i.e. you apparently think she’s lying about being/feeling ogled) and you obviously have hard feelings about her possibly misplaced or ignorant attitudes about comics and/or comic fans. I don’t care about any of this, except that you seem to be taking this one experience you had in which “she said it was happening, you couldn’t see it, and thus she is a liar and it didn’t happen” and seem to be extrapolating it out to “It wasn’t happening to my gf when she said it was, therefore it doesn’t happen to any women when they say it does, therefore it doesn’t exist as a problem”.

That’s MY problem. I have no interest in being involved in what is or is not going right or wrong in your relationship, or what did or did not happen at your local LCS.

For what it’s worth, I was very lucky with my LCS growing up, as it was a great shop that also happened to be run by a woman (shout out to Mimi at Night Flight Comics in SLC!) who was very encouraging of my (and my younger brother’s) new found interest in comics.

Since then I have had many good experiences with many great comic shops in the different places I’ve lived (further shout outs to Capt. Spiffy’s comics in Tucson AZ; Meltdown Comics in LA; DJ’s Universal Comics in Studio City, CA; Jim Hanley’s in NYC; and Alex’s MVP Cards in NYC).

However, had that first LCS experience not been so encouraging who knows if I would have continued pursuing comics. By the time I got to Meltown, DJ’s, Jim Hanley’s, and all the rest, I knew exactly what I was doing in a comic book store…my confidence was high, my knowledge was high, and I decided that haters be damned I was there because I loved comics…but that attitude would not have been possible at 15 as I was too new and innocent to it all. I suspect this happens to a lot of girls and I think the survey proves it out. But it certainly doesn’t mean there aren’t ALSO completely wonderful shops out there doing justice to the comics community (new and old).

I just actually posted this reply to Hope Larson’s blog directly after being linked to her horrifically awful list. Here’s what I sent her:

I am an evil MAN and I come from the link above.

2. Most comic stores aren’t welcoming to ANY customers due to the low-paying position only attracting young guys who read comics. Also, I bet the same girls were also stared at on the street, in the mall, and at school. Girls get stared at. Wanna know why? Ask the same girls how often they have asked a boy on a date and compare it to the amount of times they’ve said yes to a boy who asked them on a date.

4. Hypersexualization is not a problem with comics, its a problem with everything, and specifically women. Let’s look at some books and movies with extremely high female readership/viewership percentages… Sex and the City, Twilight, “romance” novels (translation: trashy sex novels) and daytime soap operas. They are all hypersexualized way more than comics. Please pot, stop calling the kettle black. I know the women’s conspiracy tries to keep it a secret, but you all blog and fanfic too much on the internet, and now we all know that women want sex more than men ever did.

Sexual violence shouldn’t be a plot point? We should also remove Nazis, cold-war Russians, Al Queda and murderers as bad guys too, right? Stories need conflict. Bad guys do bad things. Hiding your head in the sand doesn’t tell a story. You already said you didn’t want ponies and cupcakes. So should super-heroes only stop car-jackers and purse-snatchers?

Also, more male superheroes have been raped by women than the other way around anyway (Nightwing and Thor multiple times, Batman, Green Arrow, Starman, and many many more)

5. Girls need good stories in a variety of genres???? Is this comment even serious? Boys need this too. I’m seriously starting to wonder if you’re a misandrist or this is a really good internet troll.

6. I agree comic publishers need to advertise in mainstream media. It has been one of my two main battle cries when talking about the comics industry for years. However, I do not believe for one second that most girls don’t know comic book stores exist. Because most girls have boyfriends, fathers, brothers and cousins or have been in a bookstore. Or are you admitting that most girls just don’t pay any attention to anyone but themselves?

8. They try. It hasn’t worked well. This is directly related to the only point we’ve agreed on, the advertising. But they’ve done licenses for Buffy, Firefly, BSG, Twilight, Wheel of Time, Chuck, Eureka, the Dark Tower books, and tons more.

10. You may believe the media hype about inequality in the workplace, but right now more women are getting college degrees than men and more women are buying houses than men. Within your lifetime, women will be the dominant force of the workplace. Women have only entered the workforce within the last generation or two, you have to wait for the old men to die off before you can take charge. So really girls, you want the job, go get the necessary experience and apply for it.

You might want to step back and realize that your post is infinitely more offensive to men than you think the comics industry is to women.

I honestly do not understand why guys are taking offense to language directed towards women in comics in an article about women in comics.

“You might want to step back and realize that your post is infinitely more offensive to men than you think the comics industry is to women.”

It’s no such thing. Am I reading a different article than everyone else? Did I slip into an alternate universe when I wasn’t looking or something? Earth Y-chromosome?

@Bryy. Because in doing so its sorta bashing “men comics” and the “men in comic shops”.

@everyone else in the comments : Much like food or music; If you dont like it dont eat it. & if you dont like the lyrics find the instrumental or dont listen to it. Its not the CHEF or  DJ’s responsibility to CATER TO YOU to APPEASE YOUR TASTES. Imagine going to a restaurant, and sitting down, not liking ANYTHING on the menu and then complaining about the food saying the owner of the restaurant should serve foods that you and your friends like. He’s going to kindly tell you to fuck off and you’re going to go elsewhere to eat. NO SOUP FOR YOU. Imagine going to a concert… you like “music” right? And that particular station doesnt play the shit you like because theres no demand for it, OR even a venue… They’re not going to put on a show thats not going to sell a bunch of tickets/result in ad revenue. It’ll be you and your tiny group of friends huddled next to a radio without a lot of buzz on the arbitron OR on the front two rows jamming out in an empty arena. But if you go to a smaller venue or a club in a different part of a neighboring town you can hear what you like and nobody loses a bunch of money because of it.

Granted, I’ve NEVER really been about super hero comics(save a few artists). Majority of the super hero comics I have were gifts from people who knew I “liked comics” walked into a comic shop, bought what THEY saw as “being comics” and gave them to me. Its not because Im taking some bullshit MORAL HIGH GROUND about sexist art and story lines and objectified women characters in scantly clad clothing(uhm, news flash, all the dudes are ROIDED OUT and oversexed as well… but you dont care about that because its not women right? …i mean, im no Adonis, they dont reflect ME) This debate can also be filtered through races as well. You dont see me squawking about how “comics needs more real black/latino characters and black/latino geared stories” because that’d be the whiniest “get over yourself” shit ever, and although the DC Milestone books had some really nice art in it, it didnt move product like they expected so the books were all pulled. End of story. And SPAWN doesnt have a huge “black following” just because Spawn happens to be black. Thats not really how it works. What if every group of people stood up and was like COMICS NEED TO CATER TO MY GROUP. “Comics” doesnt need to do shit. I read someone saying that “please dont make it all about sales in marketing” ….uhm, what planet are YOU from? If youre honestly that naive in thinking that money isnt the bottomline go ahead and start downloading torrents of your favorite books. Dont buy ANY more comics of the ones you love… BUT, send them fan mail every week, shit, everyDAY and if youre not that hardcore.. dont buy any floppies, only buy trades. Even if they win several awards for how great the book is they wont stay afloat if they arent making serious profit.

None of this even matters anyway. Its 2010.. Theres this magical series of tubes called THE INTERNET(we happen to be using it right now, isnt it AMAZING??). Girls who like “for-girl comics” can EASILY find/purchase them. its not as obscure as its being painted out to be here. I personally dont check for Hopes comics. WITH ALL DUE RESPECT, I dont care for the art or the stories enough to spend money on them. But they clearly arent made “for me” so its not my place to speak on my issues with them and how i think they could improve and change to something i could get behind. How big of a douche move would that be on my part bashing her and what she does out of the blue when her work isnt even on my radar? Just like it isnt HER place to touch on how she hates comics that arent geared towards the “I like fluffy cute art and stories about dating and horses” demographic or comics that star female “super heroes” but keep the same kind of formulas are their male counterparts either. I have respect for her putting out the kind of stuff she wants to see that will hopefully inspire more women to get into this business. But if Im not reading those types of books anyway why would I “GO IN” on her versus not even mentioning it? I mean weve ALL been to conventions, we’ve SEEN the “for girl” comics FIRST HAND. THEY EXIST and are readily available to exchange your money/credits for them if you cant manage to find them online or in stores.

Why is there such a great concern? Because not every comicbook shop on the planet carries them? Because theres no warm happy barrista type person behind the counter to greet you with a sunny disposition and hand you a fresh chai tea when you come in(actually… that’d be kinda awesome)? Because there arent other women who look just like you there but instead SCARY MAN-BOYS who suddenly FREEZE & stare at you when you come in(theyre probably more afraid of you than you are of them… like giant possums)? Its almost like youre asking for comics and the stores that carry them to get a complete OVERHAUL and transform into Old Navy. Im a dude(clearly) and even I GET creeped out by the scary greasy dudes who almost seem to JUMP-CUT turn in your direction and hiss when you let light into the store coming through the front door but I dont use that as a deterrent to have a look around or not come back. Thats stupid. I dunno where you all live but I’ve only been in 3-4 shops even remotely like that in my entire life(and ALL but one have gone under). Are you sure all of that isnt just hyperbole? ..and what EXACTLY are we as a society supposed to do about that? Make girls-only comic shops? TRUST ME, ive seen JUST AS MANY huge smelly scary girls in the manga isle of Barnes & Nobles/Borders as Ive seen big scary smelly dudes in comic shops. There IS a conversation to be had as far as the actual comics(this is me contradicting myself, pay attention) their content, the consumer’s sensibilities and so forth… but as far as your STORE EXPERIENCES… I think largely, you all just need to get over yourselves. That shit comes off VERY snobbish and elitist(and blind… as steve mentioned; women get ogled EVERYWHERE. what makes you think a comicshop would be any different?) and you MAY be accidentally alienating some of your fans who happen to like BOTH the typical comics AND the “when i grow up in gonna live in the woods w/16 cats and be a hermit” type books as well.

@ee I believe that I acknowledged everything was about sales, but that this discussion was not. At least quote right if you are using a quote – let alone mine – as an example.

@Bryy dont use this comment section as a finger snapping fest. read the article again, i think you were maybe itching to reply to the comments before you actually finished.

Nice how you pulled that one sentence from that entire “dissertation” i wrote though. None of the other points matter if you can find one ad hominem, right? Not only that but you werent the only one who mentioned sales(someone turn down that Carly Simon in the back, I cant think straight) Ease up. Its not that serious.

@KellyThompson – I hope you won’t be discouraged from posting further articles like this. It was an interesting and timely piece, and I for one appreciate your bringing a female creator on board for an interview and raising these issues. What you’re seeing on this comment thread is what can be seen on nearly every comment thread throughout the main comics forums – mostly good, intelligent and engaged discussion, but marred by the efforts of a minority of (1) trolls whose satisfying interactions with women never evolved past hair-pulling in the playground and (2) entitled types who think they live in the best of all possible worlds, and see requests for change as a threat to liberty. It’s just forum culture; plus there are still a lot of cavemen out there who think any woman who isn’t simply grateful for whatever the status quo coincidentally offers her is whining, shrill etc. Personally I think it’s heartening to see how many posters of both genders have written at length here in support of your article and the survey. Please don’t be put off from writing further on the subject. To quote Nextwave, ‘This Is What They Want.’ – silence and an undisturbed status quo.

“I bet the same girls were also stared at on the street, in the mall, and at school. Girls get stared at. Wanna know why? Ask the same girls how often they have asked a boy on a date and compare it to the amount of times they’ve said yes to a boy who asked them on a date.”

@steve – So lemme get this straight. Because some girls wait to be asked, and/or have the nerve to say no, they should all just take being leered at? What do dating mishaps have to do with the issues being discussed? You just proved the theory that several other posters have suggested, that when male fans are hostile to and defensive towards female fans’ opinions, it’s because they feel the safe little boys’ club environment that nurtured them through high school is being threatened. Like someone else said, way to keep the stereotype alive.

@ eee:

I genuinely did not take anything from Kelly, Hope or the survey as a demand that their specific group be catered to. Bear in mind, the survey was of women who are already reading comics. There experience is that taken on the whole comic book retailing is not a welcoming place for women. In my experience, about half the comic stores that I have visited were not welcoming experiences for people in general, so the idea that women might find them threatening is not exactly shocking.

Old Navy and Starbucks are pretty successful retailers. My guess is that a good retail concept for any product is going to look a lot more like one of those stores than the average LCS.

Cheese louise, I’m amazed at how the most innocuous suggestions about how they could maybe, just maybe be a teensy bit more woman-friendly will get the masculinists’ tighty whities in a twist. Seriously, little laddies, nobody wants to take your man-cave away from you. There really is room for everybody. Don’t worry your rugged little heads over it.

I cant remember the last time I walked into a LCS and actually left having bought something I wasnt already looking for. So needles to say, there are far more fringe groups that have issues with shops than whats seen here. But much like more women getting into comics and drawing what they want to see, I dont see why there arent more women shop owners running their store the way they would like to see them run.

@AED I dont think this is the 1st article of its kind(not at CBR or elsewhere)… I just think for whatever reason it just fell on a day people had to get somethings off of their chests heh.

I mean Becky Cloonan happens to be one of those artists who likes the darker stuff AND the lighter sutff and she does them both amazingly and isnt in any kind of fear of not having her stuff seen because shes good at what she does. Apart from the money, thats kind of a second thing it all boils down to. If your body of work is great all that other stuff doesnt matter. People will have no problem weathering the storm of horrible store experiences to find your books if theyre worth the trouble.

@dean I guess it wasnt so much in the article as it was in some of this comments section. Theres quite a bit of back and forth from a few people as if this were a chatroom that gave me the impression of people bigging themselves up as if comics need to change for THEM versus them just looking harder for what is already out there FOR them. I see more women comic creators at indy cons than men and the work is normally pretty amazing. Majority of the men i see at indy cons are illustrators/designers who found a good niche there to peddle posters and live-silk screen prints so forth. So to kind of gripe about how Marvel and DC arent doing is kind of confusing when im not even THAT big into comics and I see it a lot more often than some people here are saying. Not to mention, your shops closer to bigger cities will more than likely carry stuff you dont see at your usual LCS/MagicCard/Pokemon/D&D game playing meet-up type shop.

“@AED I dont think this is the 1st article of its kind(not at CBR or elsewhere)… I just think for whatever reason it just fell on a day people had to get somethings off of their chests heh. ”

No, it’s not the first, and I’d say the spread of comments is about the same every time. On any article on CBR, Newsarama etc. that covers similar ground (female fandom, female fans’ opinions on comics, female creators talking about the industry) there’s always a proportion of trolling and kneejerk ‘stop whining’ entitlement. Those types of posters always seem to have the same stuff to ‘get off their chests.’

Hmm. Overcompensating trolls are overcompensating.

I just turned in a column for Publishers Weekly that was inspired by Hope’s survey and by an article by Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter, and I was worried a bit that I was too strident in it — that I was unfairly saying that many men who read comics are hostile toward women. This comment thread has made me realize that I was absolutely right.

There is so little empathy, so much entitlement. It’s ironic that so many commenters think that it’s the women who are scared! Women who love comics have been brave in hostile territory for a long time, and now we’ve gotten strong enough to start regularly speaking out against how the industry treats us badly. Deal with it, boys. And thanks to the men who also recognize that sexism hurts the whole industry and the medium in all its genres.

I’ll just move on from this, though, and say that I’m glad that someone as talented a Hope is creating YA comics. Young Adult is a huge market right now, especially for girls (though I wish we could get more boys to do more reading!), and getting graphic novels into that category is a way of gaining more readers. It’s also a very rich category, with many genres and a lot of sophisticated storytelling. There’s a lot of room for growth, and I hope more publishers will start producing books for this market.

I was very fortunate that in my young manhood i was in a long term relationship with a woman who was very good at articulating how she was affected by my obviously male-centric hobby. She taught me about how the hypersexualization of near every female character in the comics i read (nearly all the X-Women, the Image comics ladies… etc) turned her off of reading comics because though the stories might have been good, she couldn’t see it for all the cleavage and thongs.

See, we men can see through the cleavage and thongs and overt sexuality to the merits of the story because we have grown up with these images. They’ve become the norm and we accept it. But for women, and a lot of men i know, it’s near impossible to see past the images of Sara Pezzini and her barely there Witchblade outfit, or Psylocke fighting bad guys in a bathing suit or Sue Dinby being raped by Dr. Light, because they haven’t learned how.

Comic readers like myself, yourselves and Kelly have had years of practice (23 years now for me) buying and reading comics, but my 14 year old niece, or 34 year old wife, or 45 year old uncle haven’t. So why should they be expected to just KNOW how to read a X-Men comic? Or navigate a LCS? They can’t. So we lovers of the comic medium, male and female alike, have a responsibility to make it easier for them to learn. That doesn’t mean tossing out years of comic book tradition and excellence and creating a new, all-inclusive, starting point. But it does mean is doing what we can to build a culture where, no matter what your gender, age or experience, you feel welcomed and appreciated. A culture where no matter what your tastes are you find something that appeals to you.

The problem is less that comics about hypersexualized superheroes and heroines are available but more that it’s nearly ALL that’s available. And this needs to change. The discussion needs to be there and the big 4 or 5 publishers, as the bedrock of this industry, need to be at the forefront of the movement for change.

The fact that Hope and Kelly and other like them, are approaching this discourse from a woman-centric perspective and offering solutions is not something for which they should be reviled, dismissed or criticized. Instead i can’t help but be of the opinion that we owe it to the culture of comics to listen.

We’ve had a lot of male voices weigh in on how to keep the industry from dying (Warren Ellis, Larry Young, Brian Wood, et al), it’s about time we hear some more female voices as well.

Thanks for your time.

@kelly

For the record, what I’M bristling about in your gf/LCS story is this: You are not and never have been a woman (I’m assuming) and so I don’t know how you can assume that you know what it might feel like to be uncomfortable like that…ogled and objectified in a space in which you are a minority.

I know exactly what it feels like to be a minority, and to be ogled and objectified in a place where I am a minority, anyone who isn’t white and middle class knows exactly how this feels. I also know that, when you’re concious of the fact that you’re one “other” in a sea of “sames” how easy it is to wrongly think that everyone is as concious of that fact as you are and that all eyes are on you in the worst way.

Its not that I didn’t trust my gf or think that she was making it up out of a simple need to lie, I just know my LCS well enough to know that she’d never be ogled in it, there are girls in there all the time, there are about four women who work there and the store sells manga and anime so there is never a shortage of female patronage, she just had this stereotypical idea about greasy nerds in comic book shops who’ve never seen a girl in their life before and let that affect her.

But who really cares anyway.

You yourself said you’ve for the most part had pleasant, helpful experiences in comic book stores, and I can understand that perhaps, its a case of one experience being the rule and the other the exception, but I also think that what’s stopping a lot of people stepping in to a comic book store is their perception of comic book fans and not the actual way they’ve been treated upon entering one.

@Chuck: I would have thought being a minority and being able to relate to that experience would help you to BETTER understand it, but you clearly have a different take, and that’s fair, it’s not one I can really get on board with, but to each their own I suppose.

I think that knowing your LCS well enough to know that customers that you’ve never met before are definitely NOT ogling your gf or making her feel uncomfortable is pretty unlikely, but I’m glad that your store is in general one of the safer spaces for women.

I’m sure there’s some bad perception/stereotypes of comic book fans still out there…in fact I know there are as I’m open about my comics reading/love/etc., and have occasionally experienced it myself…so it’s definitely out there…but I really don’t think that is the issue that is keeping young women nervous about entering comic stores from coming in. It may be the thing that’s keeping the “popular kids” from coming in, but not the girl that is already interested and wants in, but feels nervous and ‘less than’ in an atmosphere, that even in a PERFECT store is riddled with T&A imagery at a minimum. And I don’t mean pin ups…I mean the BOOKS. This isn’t just about creepy badly maintained stores with sexist managers and help (although it would be great if we could get rid of that element as well)…we can’t expect stores to change if we don’t also ask for a bit of a change in what is put on the shelves and the basic attitude behind all of this…which I think we’ve seen through the comments is a far cry from being free of hate, fear, and vitriol.

@Kelly

Being a minority I understand that people love to feel they’re being persecuted in some way when often they’re not. I can understand why she felt she was being objectified or whatever, but she was probably one of an innumerable amount of women who walked in to that store that day, if they don’t get stared at, why would she? Perhaps this is a case of culture clashing, in the UK, especially in city centres (where all the comic book stores are) people don’t really notice other people, but I’m tired of talking about this as I’m sure you are as well.

I really wish you could come to London and see the way all four comic stores we have here are run, one is a super store and part of a franchise, well lit, even in the basement area, incredibly helpful staff who’ll be able to tell you which comics or trade paper backs to buy, mixed gender staff and comics to cater for just about anyone. Male, female, nerd, child, indy-comics-connoisseur .

The other is a really quaint place, in a great part of the city right next to (I think) the British Museum and has a small but dedicated and helpful team, the other has just been recently refurbished, massive space, well categorized and even has a sweet gallery space and the worst of the four, while probably most like the stereotypical Robot’s Dungeon style comic book shop is still a great store, with friendly (if a little weird looking) staff. Anyone who stepped in to these stores with an open mind would have a more than enjoyable time delving in to the world of comics. Maybe I’m blessed in that sense, and a little spoilt in the sense that I’ve only been to two comic book stores outside of London or the UK for that matter and my perspective is a little bit warped and one sided.

There really is not that much T&A anywhere really, I mean this isn’t the 90s at the height of Image comics popularity, most comics don’t have big titted babes making out on the covers any more, and the comics that do are a piece of shit anyway (witchblade, angelus et al). Most comics I see when I peruse the racks on a thursday (thats when the comics get shipped in the UK) don’t feature that kind of stuff.

I think some of the comments being made in this discussion about women in comics these days just being thongs and tits are a bit of an embellishment, yeah, its stupid they still have some of these characters wearing high heels and chain mail bras, but the characterization (which is what really matters at the end of the day) is on the up and up.

I think what is putting people off comics are things like numbering, the fact that some of the really great books don’t go on for very long, and some the worst are fast approaching quadruple figures. The fact that you’re not very easily presented with a jumping on point with many comics.

blah blah blah

First, I don’t know Kelly Thompson, never met, sat, spoke with her. I’m sure Kelly, you’re a lovely lass, with an unfailing boyfriend, and friends who think you’re the bee’s knees. This is not a knock at you as a person, just at this blog. My umbrage isn’t a sign
of misogyny, just as this blog isn’t a sign of your ignorance.

“The level of discourse, considering this was an independent comics creator that is only trying to make good comics and find her audience that was kind enough to come here and answer my (largely mainstream) questions, is pretty low.”
I’m surprised you started this statement with the word “discourse”, because it seems you don’t know the meaning of the word. “Discourse” is aback-n-forth of opinions, not having people agree with you regardless of the facts. See THAT’S called asskissing, I’m sure all of your contemporaries/friends/posters on this blog love everything you do, everything you try to accomplish, your person. Still doesn’t mean you’re right.

“I’ll have to think twice now about doing a column like this in the future if this is the reception creators can expect to receive here.”
Now there’s a strong, in-control, kick-ass woman in control. Back down because the response isn’t pink, sparkly or cutesy.

“THIS is the hate-filled fear-induced response to something as simple and innocuous as a discussion of growing the comics field”
This isn’t “open hostility, sexism or misogyny”, it’s a difference of opinion, and the fact that you follow that accusation with “I guess the best proof I could have asked for that Hope’s survey is dead on and we have a long long way to go” seems to say that you’re not even willing to look at a diverse view. It’s not dead-on, I think the survey is biased, I think you’re biased, doesn’t mean I’m gonna hit you, or attack you, and if you’re afraid of the response YOUR own blog inspired, then I think you’re in the wrong business.

I’m quite happy to say that after awkward visits to two different shops, my current shop is fantastic. It’s new, it’s in an okay part of the city and the owner doesn’t condescend to me. I’ve gotten quite excellent suggestions of comics to read. I love recommending this shop to people because I don’t feel as if I’m going to get stabbed there, I’ve taken people to this shop and they’ve only had good things to say when we walk out. http://www.localheroescomics.com/store.html I love comics, I love the idea, as Will Eisner put it of ‘telling a story with pictures and words,’ I just wish things didn’t get so closed off. I look forward to introducing my little sister to comics and find some that are first age appropriate, and in a few years something that she’ll enjoy and won’t be breast/cleavage and ass every panel.

The big superhero crowd isn’t just failing women by neglecting the opportunity to make “good stories in a variety of genre’s,” they are also failing many male readers as well. I hate the oversexualized nature of female characters and I am a man. I used to read superhero comics as a child, but now that I am adult there are few superhero books that can hold my interest. More women writing and working in the comics industry could only be a good thing, diversity in any field can only help. More readers in the comic industry can only help. More power to Hope Larson and every other female creator.

But I do take exception to some of the backlash on this board saying that “.. most comic book readers have never seen a girl in real life.” If we understand that female readers are not the sum of cute sparkly things then we should also understand that male readers are not all 40 something fat virgin guys living in their parents basement. It’s this marginalization of comic readers that is really at the heart of this problem. Men and Women are not stereotypes and their tastes are complex, are there should be sophisticated alternatives for a variety of readers – unless I am mistaken I believe this is what is at the base of Hope Larson’s argument.

@azjohnson5: I’m not afraid of anything, I just think it’s embarrassing that this is the level of discourse when I’ve come to expect a little more from readers of this column. For what it’s worth I stand by my use of the word discourse and am well familiar with the meaning thanks. What are essentially unmoderated comments if not a going back and forth of ideas (from different people no less)?

And as I said above, which you’ve, surprise, surprise, conveniently left out or ignored.

“As for the rest of you…for those of you bringing up salient points (whether they agree or disagree with Larson, myself, or the results of her survey) thank you.”

What about that suggests to you that I’m not interested in opinions that don’t match up perfectly with my own. I challenge anyone that expects nothing but approval and praise to write on a major blog or news site – especially to be a minority writing on such a site. I never expect approval and praise and 100% agreement, what I did not expect was what I see as largely inappropriate angry attacks on a creator…which I absolutely think Larson received for her trouble.

The knee-jerk sexism in response to this piece shocked me (and many others judging by the comments) and I think we all could have had a much more interesting exchange of Ideas (yes, differing ones) if the comments that came from the “I disagree” camp had been more reasoned and fair instead of hateful and threatened. There’s a way to be civilized and talk about disagreements and then there’s what we got over the last couple days.

I think it’s classless and inappropriate to treat a creator like that…and I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future I have more trouble getting creators to stop by after seeing how Larson has been treated (including trolls following her over to spread their ignorance on her own personal sites).

For Larson’s part, she has been amazing about this whole thing and has born it all like a champ, likely because she’s a true professional and she didn’t end up feeling embarrassed by her a large portion of her readership as I did.

“I just turned in a column for Publishers Weekly that was inspired by Hope’s survey and by an article by Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter, and I was worried a bit that I was too strident in it — that I was unfairly saying that many men who read comics are hostile toward women. This comment thread has made me realize that I was absolutely right.”

Yep, many of the guys here have pretty much turned my entire
perception of comic book culture around in a span of 20 minutes. So someone insinuated that some male-oriented comics might be offensive or unappealing to women. No shit! That doesn’t equal “man-hating femmenazi.” that’s common sense, because some of them offend plenty of men too. Who’s whining, here? Sounds like it’s all of you who are getting bent out of shape over some SURVEY RESULTS.

S.M. Vidaurri hits the nail on the head.

@ S.M. Vidaurri:

There are two issues here: the health of comics as a medium and the health of superheroes as a genre.

Taking them in order, it is pretty clear that comics need to do something to limit their utter dependence upon superheroes. The medium was clearly healthier when DC was producing its Big 5 War titles, Marvel was publishing Westerns and there were lots of horror, romance and humor titles to be had. Still, things are not horrible on that front beyond the Direct Market. There is a big market for books like SCOTT PILGRIM, FABLES and CRIMINAL. TWILIGHT is atop the Times Best Seller list and I doubt many traditional, superhero readers are picking that up. It could certainly be better, but it seems like there is progress being made.

Moreover, the move to digital distribution moots the distribution problem to a large degree. Buying comics on your iPad doesn’t require venturing off your couch, much less into the proverbial Robot’s Dungeon. Imagine what an old school indie title like LOVE & ROCKETS could have sold through the iTunes store.

My bigger concern is the superhero genre. Sooner or later, Hollywood is going to turn elsewhere for its blockbusters and then what? 350 thousand fans seems like a marginal number, given the high level of involvement both DC and Marvel need. Either of giant corporations that own them could decide new cape comics aren’t worth the trouble pretty easily.

The shame is that superhero comics do not need to be such a narrow genre. It is a glib mantra that superheroes are an adolescent, male power fantasy. However, it is not as though nerdy 15 year old boys are the only people that dream of empowerment. Moreover, that story has already been done about as well as one could hope in the Lee-Ditko SPIDER-MAN. Everyone else is playing for second place. Again, comics used to address more adult concerns, albeit to a younger audience.

[…] a little context, Kelly Thompson at CBR’s Comics Should Be Good posted a great interview yesterday with comics creator Hope Larson. The interview was inspired by Hope’s recent survey […]

@Jennifer dG: “I just turned in a column for Publishers Weekly that was inspired by Hope’s survey and by an article by Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter, and I was worried a bit that I was too strident in it — that I was unfairly saying that many men who read comics are hostile toward women. This comment thread has made me realize that I was absolutely right.”

The article was great, but I have to say that the level of conversation from both sides has been disappointing. There are plenty of examples from the people that disagreed with the article, but I haven’t found the other side perfect either. It’s an hour past my bedtime so I may be missing something, but as an example, the above quote is quite upsetting to me. I am a father of a little girl who I adore and I am a grade 3 teacher and I am the only male on staff at my school (including the custodian) and I spend my free time writing about comics, reading comics or drawing comics (usually for my little girl and my son). I know the word “many” was used, not “all”, but I can’t think of any male comic reading friends/acquaintances I have that are hostile towards women and I wouldn’t have lasted long in my profession (or marriage) if I was.

Perhaps I’m being too sensitive.

And I will state again that the “pink, sparkly, cupcake” comic in question has to be Babymouse and that series is fantastic.

@ Kelly Thompson:

Your class and professionalism in the face of some genuinely appalling trolls has always impressed me, but that last post maybe your personal record. Well done.

@Kelly Not everyone who disagrees with you is a troll or ignorant or hateful. You’re an interesting writer, but you don’t seem open to any point that’s not in lock-step with your own and your knee-jerk ‘it’s sexism’ rant is tiring. The more I read your blog the more it’s seems to me that you’re threatened by any display of female sexuality, regardless of how ‘powerful, kick-ass and in control’ the woman is.

And if Miss Larson didn’t want anyone to disagree with her poll she should have conducted it and then filed it away somewhere.

@Dean Dude, nobody likes an apple-polisher.

but….Since when is a poll somethig meant to be agreed or disagree with? are you saying the results are fabricated or invalid? It’s a collection of data. In this case, experiences. Arguing with a poll is like arguing about the numer of people in a room.

It’s plain weird (or maybe just disturbing) how many men are taking the poll data, reading in to it, and then projecting these strange “man-hating” opinions onto Hope.

@ Chuck,

True, we aren’t in the 1990s anymore, but sometimes I feel they forgot to tell that to some key people at Marvel and DC. Bad enough that Benes and Land work on the most popular teams of the big two, but just off the top of my head, I remember a few Green Lantern covers with Star Sapphire that you couldn’t show in public (except if you wanted people to think you’re a S&M enthusiast).

And it’s like Dean said. What are the benefits in terms of quality or even sales of this kind of stuff? I want to know if the issues with Carol Ferris contorting her body sexily while stepping on Hal Jordan’s head sold more than other Green Lantern issues?

Rene, yes there are people like Greg Land who make their bones with the kind of stuff you’re talking about, but they’re not as dominant as people are making out.

Lets look at March’s solicits for DC ( http://www.newsarama.com/comics/091221-dc-march-2010-solicitations.html I choose march because its the first thing that came up when I googled DC Solicits) most of these covers feature men most prominently, and the ones that do feature women, whilst displaying them, yes as curvaceous, athletic and attractive are actually fairly innocuous and no worse than any of the ones featuring men.

Yeah, there’s two covers featuring power girl that one could perhaps argue are sexist, but it’s not as if comic book covers are the out and out fuckfest people seem to make them out to be.

And yeah, I bet you that cover you’re talking about (I’ve seen it, its not all that bad) probably did sell a lot of issues that month.

Also, pole data is supposed to be read into, that’s the point of collecting data, to read in to it and discuss its implications.

@ Anthony:

I like a good message board dust-up as much as the next person, but there is a minimum level of decorum. That was the most civil thing I had to contribute at that juncture.

I would honestly love to see some sales figures from the 40s to see if Wonder Woman was a high seller among girls.

I also wonder if something like Gotham City Sirens would turn off girls. I think it’s well written, and I think it portrays three very strong women, but I am also a guy. I wonder what girls actually think about the title – specifically, Poison Ivy.

Does Catwoman count as a strong female character that girls can idolize/relate to? Does J.J. Sachs? I don’t know. The topic of what girls find cool and acceptable in other girls is so tricky, I think, and I don’t know where the line is drawn.

Scott, when you’ve seen grown men treat teenage girls like vermin at Comic-Con and hundreds of comments like the ones on this interview and worse, you realize that even men who may be fine with women otherwise lose all sense of civility when it comes to comics. They like women just fine so long as women stay out of their clubhouse.

This is the experience of a woman who has read comics for sixteen years and worked in the industry for nine. My analysis of my experience is not a comment on you personally. “Many” does not mean “all,” as you say. It does not even necessarily mean “most.” It does mean, however, “enough that the situation is infuriating.”

“Also, pole data is supposed to be read into, that’s the point of collecting data, to read in to it and discuss its implications.”

yessss. of course poll data is supposed to be analysed. I wasn’t saying it’s not. My point was this: A major problem in this discussion is the amount of people attacking Hope personally, as if this was all her personal opinion.

And is “all these women are delusional and hate men because some of them don’t feel comfortable in a comicbook store” a valid assesment of the data? Somehow I don’t really think so.

I don’t think anyone actually said that, Jack. I don’t think anyone has actually projected any of the opinions reflected in the poll on to Hope personally either. That’s not a very accurate assessment of anything. Boourns

you must have missed Steve’s comments.

Well mainstream comics are written for 14-25 year old males.

You’d be stupid not to include tits and ass.
Period.

Just because 14-25 year old males are the main demographic for mainstream comics does not mean that mainstream comics can’t try to appeal to a larger demographic.

Hello? Did you ever read one superhero comic in your life?

“Just because 14-25 year old males are the main demographic for mainstream comics does not mean that mainstream comics can’t try to appeal to a larger demographic.”

Thats’s like saying “you know i have this great idea, let’s make dentures for teens, it will broaden our target audience!!”

*rolls eyes*

Yes, because there’s only one way to do superheroes. Never mind the video game superheroes, magical girls, super sentai, Ultramen, Buffy, Power Pack…

Well, wombat, they were then pretty stupid from the 1930s to the 1980s, because superhero comics survived and thrived for 50 years without excessive display of tits and ass. Amazing, huh?

Wombat willfully ignores that large proportion of superhero comics that don’t showcase T&A, and then goes on to say “rolls eyes” like he’s made a point, without actually having made a point. Incredible.

Ever heard of censorship`? Or Headlights`?

and wtf are “magical girls” haha?
super sentai`?`huh`? Buffy I thought is that teen soap vampire crap?

oh nevermind…

@ mcracken:

I can only assume you’re joking or trolling. Then again, this post has been filled with, at best, misogynistic fanboys and at worst, mental degenerates. You’ll have to clarify exactly what you are because the bar’s set pretty low here.

There still isn’t an “excessive display” of tits and ass in most of today’s super hero comics. I mean, people would know this if they read comics instead of just complained about them.

“Then again, this post has been filled with, at best, misogynistic fanboys and at worst, mental degenerates”

Anyone who doesn’t agree with the views expressed in the interview is a fanboy and a woman hater at best and a mental degenerate at worst…yeah, attack people ad-homonym instead of attempting to disprove any of their points, that’s what sets the likes of you above the likes of us.

LOL. Shows what you know. I actually agreed with the first post you made. That doesn’t stop me from being embarassed at the stupidity displayed by a majority of the males responding.

You were right; this whole hyper-sexualization thing is overblown. Its THERE, and there’s no question, but at most you’ll see it on maybe a dozen covers from month to month, and I read at least three dozen a month with another three dozen being published I’m not reading.

(And the “maybe a dozen” is being EXTREMELY generous. Realistically…more like 3-4.)

But…really? Typical “because I don’t agree with you, why does that mean”…no. You’re an adult, I presume. You can tell the difference between disagreeing with a few points and being an outright misogynistic jerk.

Yeah, I can tell the difference. I think people are just lumping everyone in the same boat, what exactly was misogynistic about mccracken’s posts?

Anyway, I’m going to once again reiterate the point that anyone complaining about tits and ass, and thongs and female characters just being sex objects in comics, hasn’t read a super hero comic in a long time, because whilst its not perfect, its certainly not as bad as people are trying to make out. I’m glad we agree on that at least.

mccracken’s post ran closer to trolling than misogyny.

@ughhh. I’m complaining and I read somewhere between 40 and 50 comics a month, plus a lot of graphic novels. Most of my reading is superheroes.

If you read the ACTUAL SURVEY you’d also see that all the women surveyed also READ comics and that the most popular type of comics read are SUPERHERO comics.

So you can disagree all you want with either the definition of “excessive tits and ass”, and I think it’s obvious and fair to say that not everyone sees T&A the same way – what’s pretty unacceptable to me, may be perfectly fine for you – and really, that’s okay, it’s what makes the world go round, but I’d appreciate it if you’d stop assuming that people who don’t agree with you are not reading superhero comics, when CLEARLY, THEY ARE.

I am reading superhero comics, I disagree with you. Is that enough poll data for you to accept the premise that some people that read superhero comics maybe don’t agree with you?

@ Rene:

It is often remarked that comics used to sell a lot better than they do today. In the Silver Age, mid-listers were averaging a half million units, while a top-seller was shipping up to a million. That is the real reason for the eternal regression to those characters and status quos. There are simply a lot more people that are familiar with them.

While the art was cruder, the dialog less snappy and the politics more dubious, maybe there were some things that the Silver Agers were doing right in terms of reaching a wider audience. It seems like one of those things was not gratuitously offending half the human population while embarrassing the members of the other half who have wives and girlfriends. Consider:

Sue Storm as drawn by Jack Kirby in the ’60s: http://tiny.cc/d9th4
Sue Storm as drawn by John Byrne 25 years later: http://tiny.cc/8dt9c
Sue Storm as drawn by current FF artist Jonathan Hickman: http://tiny.cc/2v0gz

As a mother of two, Sue is one of the more demure characters in modern comics. Hickman is hardly the noted T&A guy that Land, Deodato and Benes are. However, notice the arrival of read cleavage in her uniform. Note that her shirt no longer drapes naturally, but clings. In silhouette, she looks nude.

What exactly is the point of that? How does it serve the story? If not, then who is the audience?

It certainly is not me and (like I said further up-thread) I think cheesecake imagery has its place in superhero comics. It seems pointlessly offensive.

@ Kelly: Now see, that’s the question. What, exactly, is where it becomes hypersexualization? I’ve read enough of your posts to know you’re not an unreasonable woman, so I’m asking.

I think we can all agree that most women (and many men!) think the Star Sapphire costume is both unnecessary AND offensive to many.

But when does it cross the line? I had an argument once over a cover I didn’t really find all that offensive, and another, outside opinion would be helpful. It was the Oracle: The Cure covers–for those who don’t remember them, here’s one:

http://yfrog.com/eioraclethecure1j

Is that hyper-sexualized too? I think, before we can determine HOW over the line comics have become…its probably a good idea to discover what the line actually IS.

SageShini – Well, the cleavage is a bit much.

To be fair, I did go through Marvel’s May solicitations, and I didn’t see a lot of excessive sexualization of women. Because the vast majority of covers featured men.

I don’t think there is a fine line–everyone has a different comfort level. I guess the problem is the very issue Hope Larson is trying to address: not enough alternatives. When there are so few comics featuring women to begin with that the T&A and sexualized violence sticks out more. If there were more comics aimed at girls and women, especially from Marvel and DC, the shelves might not be so off-putting. Female readers could safely ignore the T&A and go straight for whatever they like. Just as how I can safely ignore the yaoi manga at BAM and pick up Fullmetal Alchemist, or Yotsuba&!, or Sand Chronicles, instead.

Right now most girls’ comics come from Japan. American girls’ comics are mostly uncharted territory, so as Hope said in the interview, booksellers don’t really know what to do with them. Marvel and DC do have the resources to address these issues. If they can show some genuine interest instead of taking baby half-steps (Tsunami), treating the line as an afterthought (CMX) or aborting the project at the first sign of trouble (Minx), and avoid the naked pandering (Her-oes? Seriously?), they could completely transform American comics.

Instead, we get Blob eating Wasp. Woot.

or you can all save the world that boring discussion and choose NOT to buy comics for retards / testosterone challenged gentleman (i.e in the case of DC pretty much everything not written by Morrison)

But that won’t save you from the fact that Superheroes are read 90 percent plus from males.
As it is about punching other people in the face. This was and will always be a guy thing, sorry.

@ Alex: Y’know, that’s the thing that annoys me. Unlike most people who read American comics, I’m rather big on Japanese manga. And while there’s no doubting shoujo/josei manga draws a great deal of attention, the most popular manga is shounen: Bleach. Naruto. That sort of thing. Essentially, these are Japanese superhero manga.

And they’re almost as popular with girls as they are with guys. And there’s no real defense here. Females are all but non-existent in these stories, and the ones that ARE there tend to have huge…*ahem*…assets, and play absolutely NO vital role in the plot aside from being a damsel in distress.

I don’t quite understand why one is better and the other is, but I would love to have it explained to me.

@ McKracken:

First, I do not think that anyone is arguing with you that superheroes are a “boy’s adventure” genre. However, there is a big difference between producing content targeted at young men and producing content that is actively hostile to a female audience. Take action movies as an example. DIE HARD had a smart, capable and sympathetic female supporting character in Holly McClane, so did the original RAIDERS OF LOST ARK. SPEED put Sandra Bullock on an equal footing with Keanu Reeves. THE BOURNE IDENTITY managed the same thing with its male and female leads. THE TERMINATOR had a female protagonist in Sarah Conner, so did ALIENS.

I am pretty sure those movies would satisfy Item #1 on the survey. You tell me which one of those films is the worse for it.

Second, my comment above misidentifies the current writer of FF (Hickman) as being the artist in the link. It is Dale Eaglesham.

Third, Marvel is a business. They produce their content based upon their opinion of what their audience is. What does it say about their opinion of you that they do not think that their readership can make it through an issue of the FANTASTIC FOUR without showing Sue Storm in skin tight, semi-transparent pants? Honestly, who is really calling who the basement-dwelling nerd here?

Once more to the scans:

Here is an image of Valkyrie by her co-creator, John Buscema: http://tiny.cc/d9r65 Notice that she has a square frame and she is clearly busty under the metal bullet bra. Overall, she looks Germanic, which is important for the reader to know. She also does not look remotely sensual and she is plainly a physically strong woman. She looks like a discus thrower (http://tiny.cc/c5zx4). That is also useful piece of information about her character.

Here is an image of Black Widow by her co-creator, Don Heck: http://tiny.cc/ci9lk Notice that she is slender and pretty clearly less buxom. That is appropriate for a gymnast type character. Also, note that the sexy imagery is conveying information to the reader about her relationship with her assistant, Ivan. They trust each other and have an utterly platonic relationship. That is useful information for the reader to have and it happens to come wrapped in a cheesecake package.

Now, look this page from SECRET AVENGERS: http://tiny.cc/sja5m In silhouette not only are both women apparently nude, but they have the exact same body. It tells the reader absolutely nothing about who these character are, or how they operate.

Dear Kelly,

I’m in the process of developing the skills I need to be a good graphic novelist. As part of my “curriculum” I read your column on a regular basis because I think that understanding how your aesthetics are offended helps me build library of things to be aware of as new creator. As an aside, I go to my LCS on a regular basis, it’s not particularly woman friendly but like others have said it’s a mom & pop, and while the staff is nice, they can’t control the fanboy patrons’ attitudes.

For the trolls in the audience: Let me state for the record. I am an alpha male. I enjoy physical challenges, tough conditions, and when I get the chance – I very much enjoy blowing shit up. I even enjoy leading other men in these & other action-hero endeavors, and I’ve been doing this type of thing for a living for too many years to mention here. My social skills are such that I remain popular with ladies of all ages despite my 17 (as of this morning) gray hairs. That being said, I have managed to survive being married for over a dozen years – so I am NOT without some measure of a limited understanding of what a woman’s life can be like under the male gaze.

So. As an artist, I may someday chose to show a female character physically struggling mightily with some obstacle or adversary over something important to her, while wearing a mostly unzipped one piece bathing suit… but because I think logically – unless the circumstances of the story are terribly contrived, or surreally unusual – I *REALLY* doubt that would ever cross my mind when I’m writing & drawing. Something that egregious just doesn’t pass the common sense test – even with alpha males. I knew that before I encountered your blog.

However, your blog has alerted me to more subtle forms of sexism in the visual language we call comics – complete with myriad examples of how Not-to-do-it. As someone who intends to excel in this business, I appreciate you taking the time to raise the bullshit flag when you encounter these things. Why? Because I don’t want to create crap that unnecessarily – or worse unwittingly – offends. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of violence and sex in the stories I want to tell. My stuff will probably be far outside the YA reader category, but I feel this interview asking Hope about the results of her poll was a good info for all authors in our medium. Screw the small minded people out there. – and Hope, thank you for sharing. Please don’t clam up due to a few idiots… you are appreciated. Those of us who are going to do this in the future –are listening.

Kelly, I believe discourse is the best way to discuss these subject matters, and I agree with you fully. The interviews you conduct are on the brink of being labeled discussions. Either way, I’m happy to read them, and I believe another possible avenue for them could be a podcast or something of the same ilk.

Your questions provide insights that many readers may not have been aware of, and I’m happy whenever I get to read a new post by you.

A quote I always stick to is by the communication studies theorist Stuart Hall, “Nothing meaningful exists outside of discourse.” Thank you for bringing these issues into the realm for anyone to share their opinion (good or bad) in order to promote – hopefully – positive change.

@ Dean: ….Sue Storm’s outfit? THAT’S pointlessly offensive? Ehhhh….I draw my line there, full stop. I’m willing to admit nearly every other example being offensive (Star Sapphire, Power Girl, Black Cat, that Oracle image, even Wonder Woman!) but, that one? No.

And her outfit’s exactly the same as Reed’s. No more form-fitting, no more clingy.

@ SageShini:

Not the outfit itself, but how it is drawn in the link. I chose it because it was marginal and, therefore, demonstrates exactly how ubiquitous this stuff is.

Frankly, it bothers me more than Power Girl, or Black Cat. If you pick up a title with either character on the cover and you are offended by basically any sexual imagery that you find within, then it is sort of on you. The FF is a book about a family and we are seeing images of the cleft between the mom’s buttocks. There is a difference.

Everything Hope said is dead on. I for one, as a reader, am sickened by the continuation of rape being used as a plot point in (superhero) books.

I also never understood why Minx was discontinued. They never gave it a chance.

@ Dean: She’s wearing the same outfit as both her husband and her brother. Are we to be upset because Dale Eaglesham drew what it would actually look like on a physically fit woman?

And what’s the solution? Place her in the old outfit while Reed and Johnny keep the spandex?

If I seem somewhat annoyed, I apologize, but its because unlike Power Girl’s outfit, or Wonder Woman’s, Sue Storm’s outfit is something you might actually see a woman with her sort of career wear.

(Also…Reed from those days was a misogynistic jerk. That’s better?)

@ SageShini:

Reed has long been a candidate for the Tool Academy (http://tiny.cc/9ff91), but I always sort of figured that was an intentional part of his character. So, it is better in a way.

My solution? That would be to stop shading the area between her buttocks, which is not a change to her actual costume. Better would be to return the entire FF to uniforms that hang like actual clothes. It was always part of their charm to me, but that is strictly a personal preference.

Look, Power Girl does not bother me in the slightest. She had a boob window 34 years ago (http://tiny.cc/l7c2y). Jokes about her breasts are an established part of the character (http://tiny.cc/33o9d). Power Girl has her place and it is unique enough that she has been able to carry a very good solo series.

That goes double for Wonder Woman. Sure, she was created from a very odd mixture of first-wave feminism, polyamory and a quaint faith in the ability of light S&M to change minds. However, she has also starred in more superhero comics than the next four female led titles combined. Her outfit has been essentially the same since before most of us were born. She has been satirized by everyone from Roy Thomas (http://tiny.cc/33o9d) to Garth Ennis.

Both of those characters have sexual identities that are associated to their brands. A reader can make an informed choice whether to read those titles, or not. If you don’t want to see Austin Powers style sex jokes, then you can skip Power Girl. If female bi-sexuality offends you, then you probably should skip Wonder Woman. However, the reader at least knows what they are getting.

Conversely, FF is a title that has always been about family in an almost sit-com sense. Suggested nudity in that title bugs me in a way that it never would in Power Girl, or with a character like Black Cat. They are totally different properties.

At the other extreme, the new Star Sapphire “costume” has a shooting fish in the barrel quality. It so gross that it almost feels like DC was trying to offend people just to get attention.

[…] but an industry that relies too much on a world of fans who are stuck in their ways. Just look at the comments of this interview with Hope Larson, who did her survey in order to better reach more people who […]

The prevailing concept of “comic books are for boys” is like an addiction. The idea needs to hit rock bottom before the people who harbor such notions can truly accept the change this medium needs. Anything else is just lip service and they’ll end up in rehab six months down the road claiming that “girls don’t like comic books.”

It’s hard because so many men responding here want to see change. They get frustrated (as do we) when they have to read about someone feeling excluded from a mode of entertainment they enjoy. They wouldn’t read the articles if they didn’t care. They wouldn’t be upset if they didn’t recognize the truth. Some are upset because to change the system would unbalance something that is clearly in their favor. It’s hard to give up privilege because…it’s so damned privileged. And yes, you are privileged to believe you have an entire medium devoted to your gender (even if it’s not truly the case). Women don’t usually get such a luxury – we have genres (romance, fantasy, YA Fiction). Not entire mediums.

Honestly it makes me feel warm and fuzzy that so many dudes read your posts and care enough to respond. To those who apparently have the buying power (as the dollars I spend mean little to nothing to mainstream comic book writers, creators, editors and artists)…what are you doing to make fundamental changes so the books you love can represent women and minorities equitably?

And if you don’t care…why are you here – reading a blog that is clearly approaching comic books from a feminine perspective? I’ve read a couple different times now a plea for the author to review good books sans female interpretation. Why does she have to neutralize her gender?

Because male is the default gender of our society. And the female perspective is not an applicable lens with which to view the world. It’s not the voice of academia or authority.

Most men fail to realize how much of gender informs what they deem good or worthy of reading. And when they take the time to review, rarely mention gender at all.

It is no accident that women routinely reflect on gender when reviewing things. We experience gender as a very real barrier to many things we would otherwise be fully able to love and enjoy about our lives. And nine times out of ten, when we share that experience with men – they either deny it, or play down the importance of our experience.

I think most of the men in this forum do care. I would say most people desire stories with well represented characters from both genders. We probably love and have close relationships with both men and women. You know, cuz we’re not robots. Well, most of us. ;) It’s very heartening to see men here willing to approach comic books from a perspective that is not their own and have reasonable discussion.

An excellent post, Mindy C. I must admit to being guilty of some things you claim; although I AM an advocate for broadening the audience of comics, I do confess to actually not buying comics that seem it was predominantly written for women. I mean, I watch Buffy, read Blankets, and bought Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil because my niece loves Mary Marvel, but I can’t envision myself buying, say, Strangers in Paradise. Which leads to another problem: it’s easier for girls to read “stories for guys” than it is for guys to read “stories for girls.” Precisely because male is the default gender for our society.

Kelly, if you read as many comics as you claim to then you know its not as bad as you make out, its certainly not as hypersexualised as you and others are making out, if they were, would you and the other 200 women who filled in that survey still be reading them?

People keep mentioning things like thongs and cleavage and female characters being little more than that, and honestly I think there’s a little bit of exaggeration going on.

Anyway, I totally resent the statement that someone made about every DC comic not written by Grant Morrison being for retards and testosterone challenged men, it’s on par with saying comics by people like Hope Larson are for liberal cry babies with no taste.

@Mindy: An excellent post – very thoughtful. You are right that I get the random “just talk about GOOD comics!” in my comments…which I don’t understand…because most of the time I AM talking about GOOD comics…just comics that are GOOD and ALSO female positive.

@Hangman Jury: But I think one of the things that’s getting lost in all of this…and was evident in Larson’s survey is that women don’t just want comics FOR girls…in fact…that’s something that they generally feel doesn’t work so well…in part because no two girls want exactly the same thing and in part because it’s hard for a mostly male industry to really know what those things would be if they even existed. Sure, it’d be great if there were more comics geared towards girls for variety’s sake…but I think everyone would be a lot happier with just a little tweaking. For example Marjorie Liu’s new Black Widow series is starting off on a great foot…but why did the first cover have to have Natasha with her catsuit unzipped to her stomach? It’s small things like that, that make some women feel like “oh…this isn’t for me…because this is supposed to be titillating and ‘for men'” and so maybe they don’t buy it.

I could be wrong, but I think MIndy is saying vote with your dollars, not by buying something you don’t like or don’t enjoy (if SiP isn’t for you, it isn’t for you, no problem) but try your best not to support stuff you just straight up don’t agree with.

I think you’re right about the “it’s easier for girls to read ‘stories for guys’ than it is for guys to read ‘stories for girls – precisely because male is the default gender in our society” but that actually works in our favor here I think…as very little has to be done to existing books, characters, art, and writing to actually make it more girl friendly and palatable to those perhaps a little more sensitive to these issues. I mentioned DV8 in a previous column as a superhero (or anti-hero) book that’s reaching out pretty equally to women and men by just being a great comic that doesn’t do anything super offensive. The female characters are strong, the male characters are strong, everyone’s costumes make sense, the drawing is really good and seems to naturally not overly objectify anyone male or female, and the writing (by Brian Wood) is great. It’s a GOOD book. It’s a good book for anyone. Well, anyone over a certain age. :)

@ughhh: I really can’t have a dialogue with someone that doesn’t even believe me when I tell them how many comics I buy a month.

@SageShini: At the risk of getting really far off topic, I do want to answer your question from yesterday (though others have already come in with some great responses) I think where the line of “too far with objectification” is, is unfortunately an unanswerable question…because everyone is going to have a different opinion on it…as evidenced here (and many other places on the comics web).

For me, the answer, as always, comes down to context.

If Catwoman has her bodysuit zipped up (which she never seems to lately – at least on covers), and Harley Quinn is fully covered, then I’m more than happy for Poison Ivy to be covering herself in plants and nothing else. It makes sense for that character. But if Ivy is covered in plants, Catwoman is unzipped and Harley is running around in a mini skirt, all being drawn in a very male gaze way…and all with the exact same giant inflated boobs and porn star proportions I start to have issues and see problems.

Similarly, take X-Men. Emma Frost’s crazy sexy costumes make sense to me and have never really bothered me. This is something that, right or wrong, has been built into her character for years, and the way some talented writers have handled it in the last 5 to 10 years has helped make it both believable and interesting to me. However, when Emma is on a team with Psylocke in a thong and Rogue who is suddenly unzipping her costume to her stomach…I start to have issues and see problems. Because those are NOT believable character choices for those characters, and so I start to see it as artists that simply want to titillate and objectify to the detriment of the story and characters, rather than artists that want to have the characters remain true to their personalities and reflect it in any way they can.

I think the Power Girl boob hole is a good example of this context problem…if only because it’s so oft discussed. In and of itself I don’t have a problem with the boob hole (although I think PG has more to offer than us forever returning to same old hoop of jokes about the size of her chest) but it’s in the context of Black Canary’s fishnets, Catwoman’s unzipped catsuit, Huntress’ bare midriff, Lady Blackhawk’s mini-skirt, Supergirl’s mini-skirt and bare midriff, Poison Ivy’s bathing suit, Wonder Woman’s strapless bustier, Star Sapphire’s whatever the hell that is …and the list goes on and on…that I start to roll my eyes and go REALLY comics?

Re: the Oracle cover, I don’t particularly like it, I personally find the boobage and super low cut shirt a little ridiculous, but it’s not something I would freak out over. If everything was this mild, I’d certainly be complaining a lot less. However, I was pretty pissed about this cover

http://www.comicvine.com/oracle-the-cure-big-trouble-in-hong-kong/37-155508/

from that same series…in which we are looking so far down Oracle’s shirt that we can see her bra and stomach. Is that really necessary? It seems incredibly voyeuristic in nature and really disrespectful of the character to me, and it left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

But unfortunately it doesn’t matter what I think…or what Hope Larson thinks…or you, or “ughhh” because it’s all personal and very subjective and what works for you might not work for me and what works for “ughhh” certainly doesn’t work for me. Which might make it seem like an impossible battle since everyone has a different opinion, but my take would just be that not much actually has to change to make things more palatable…and that it’s all character based.

Would a spy of Natasha’s stature really unzip her catsuit to somewhere under her boobs, so that when she moved to you know, be a SPY and do her job, her boobs fell out of her costume? I don’t think so…therefore just don’t draw it that way. It doesn’t mean she can’t be sexy… she’s a beautiful woman wearing skintight leather…it’s STILL sexy. Why can’t that be enough and let the great drawing and storytelling inside, (which does NOT objectify her) as well as the excellent writing take us the rest of the way? Very little has to happen to make some of these good books more friendly to a wider audience in my opinion…but it takes time…and a lot of people talking about the issues and debating them I think in order for us to get there. So here we are…talking and debating…it’s a start at least.

At which point did I say I didn’t believe you? All I really said was that I think you and others were exaggerating, I’m willing to have a dialogue if you’re willing to have one.

@ughhh: this:

“Kelly, if you read as many comics as you claim to”

Does not sound to me like someone that believes me when I say (not claim) how many comics I read.

I am going to have to disagree regarding that Oracle cover.

You can’t see her bra. She clearly is not wearing one.

@Ritchard: Maybe that blue thing on her stomach, under her breasts is intended to be just the inside her shirt…not her bra…I could see that. And it’s true that beyond that piece of blue, she definitely doesn’t look like she is wearing one. But either way, I find that cover pretty problematic. :)

Perhaps you’re just getting hung up on semantics? I just made it clear what I meant, regardless of what it sounded like. If you want to stop having this discussion or whatever word I’m supposed to be using because of a miscommunication issue then that’s your prerogative. I believe you, but I think you and others are embellishing a little.

People have been constantly making out as though every page and cover of every comic is like something out of Hustler. The guy who posted the fantastic four cover is a pretty good example of what I’m saying. I understand that to some degree, its matter of opinion but an over reaction is an over reaction. I’m not trying to tell you what you think, and sorry if this comes across that way, but would you really be reading as many comics and trades as you say you do (once again, I do believe you),

SageShini: I think I can finally answer your question about shonen manga. It didn’t really hit me until I read this about Sakura from Naruto: http://manga.higevsotaku.com/?p=14

Thing is, a lot of shounen manga do start out with strong, capable, well-rounded–even well-dressed female characters. Sakura, Rukia, and Bulma all started out as interesting characters. It was only as the story progressed that they started to drift further into the background, or switch to complete passivity. I have to wonder if a lot of girls and young women read these manga for the same reason a lot of people read a superhero comic during a bad run: they’re waiting for it to stop sucking.

And at least there’s some variation in body types. It’s not like that page that was linked above with the two women who were indistinguishable in silhouette. You’re not going to mistake Rukia or Sakura for a Playboy model or anything.

(it’s actually kind of why I mentioned Fullmetal Alchemist, because I think it has great examples of asskicking female characters who do make important contributions to the plot, and aren’t shifted into the background as things go on. If anything, characters like Riza Hawkeye, Izumi Curtis, May Chan, and Olivier Armstrong have become even more prominent in the final act)

I was half-kidding, and forget sometimes that tone of voice doesn’t come through online. :) I can see how that bit of blue could be skivvies, but I thought it was the inside of her top.

That cover wouldn’t quite what I’d call “offensive,” but it’s creepy–it definitely wouldn’t pass the “would I buy this from a 60-year-old lady while shopping with my minister” test. I can absolutely see why it could turn folks off to comics, or at least that comic.

Truth be told, it actually strikes me as sexist and wrong less for the actual image than for the fact that an artist drew that and an editor approved it without once taking into account that Barbara Gordon isn’t going to be going around in public with a white low cut, skin-tight blouse and (possibly) nothing under it. It’s like drawing Clark Kent wearing cut-offs and a Harley-Davidson tank top, which would probably never happen. So, for purposes of the cover, at least (I haven’t read the issue), enough of what makes her Babs is sacrificed in the interest of making an eye candy image that it becomes gratuitous; she’s an object instead of a character.

@ughh: I read as many comics as I say I do for a few reasons.

First and foremost I love comics. I love comics so much that I majored in them in college (I have a sequential art degree from SCAD). I’m not a johnny come lately to comics that can easily cut them out of my life because they also happen to be problematic and don’t always mesh with my personal beliefs.

I love a lot of independent comics and I read and support a lot of independent creators and books. But the majority of comics today, especially if you want to read about superheroes (which I do as they’re my first love) are mainstream big two comics…and I just think they can be better.

If I leave comics because they’re not good and often offensive I’m not doing much…I’m voting with my tiny dollars sure, but that’s not much. If someone gives me a platform as CSBG has, to write about some of the issues in comics (specifically women in comics), then it’s a chance to give voice to my opinion (and the opinion of many others) that comics should be and can be better, and one of the ways to make them better is to soften the excessive objectification of women, the excessive sexual violence against women, and to better open the field up to more buyers by taking away some of the stigma that comics have because of those things.

Do you just give up on something you love every time you don’t get your way? Every time that change is slow and frustrating and you get called horrible names by anonymous cowards do you really just throw up your hands and say you give up? If I give up on comics then THEY win. I don’t think so.

The irony of your argument is that you keep saying that everyone is exaggerating about the state of comics…when in fact I would lump you in as one of the parties most guilty of exaggerating. I saw nowhere in this thread anyone say things that suggest that “every page and cover of every comics is like something out of hustler”. Nobody has said that…or at least that hasn’t been the majority opinion even if there were a few complaints of that nature.

Dean’s argument about Fantastic Four may not be something you agree with, or even I agree with, because tastes are subjective, but his analysis, whether you agree or not, is wholly valid. You believe because you don’t see it that way, that it must not be that way, but everyone sees differently and the opinion of someone who sees it that way is no less valid than your own opinion…yet you want to just stick to this argument that seems to be:
“it’s not that way…everyone but me is embellishing…I’m the only one who sees things clearly”.

How can you say “to some degree it’s a matter of a opinion, but an over reaction is an over reaction” the second half of that sentence totally undermines the first half…so much as to suggest that you don’t mean it all. It’s like saying…”hey, I know that everyone is different, but really, everyone’s the same.” It doesn’t make any sense. While Dean’s post to YOU may be an over reaction to the state of women being objectified in comics…to ME, you’re having an over reaction to the discussion on this column. Do you see? Do you see how you want it one way but not the other? It goes both ways, whether you like it or not.

@ Ritchard: This: “So, for purposes of the cover, at least (I haven’t read the issue), enough of what makes her Babs is sacrificed in the interest of making an eye candy image that it becomes gratuitous; she’s an object instead of a character.” is exactly what I was talking about above…about character choices that make sense…though I think you’ve said it better by saying “object instead of character”. This outfit does not feel like Babs…it feels like “random hot redheaded girl”…and that’s kind of the crux of the problem to me.

If someone gives me a platform as CSBG has, to write about some of the issues in comics (specifically women in comics), then it’s a chance to give voice to my opinion (and the opinion of many others) that comics should be and can be better, and one of the ways to make them better is to soften the excessive objectification of women, the excessive sexual violence against women, and to better open the field up to more buyers by taking away some of the stigma that comics have because of those things.

Exactly.

Honestly, that’s why silly/rude/whatever comments don’t bug me too much. Kelly’s the one whose views I care about, she’s the one that I asked to write for the blog, she’s the one that I have CBR spotlight through links on the front page and that’s what I get out of these things – Kelly writing interesting stuff. If her interesting stuff also brings out a bunch of silly/rude/whatever comments, it just highlights why I’m so pleased that I have her writing for the blog and not some of these other fellows.

[…] She shared the findings with Kelly Thompson in an interview format – mostly talking about some of the things women experience as barriers to the medium – social shunning of comic books, misogyny and sexism on the pages, not enough access, etc.  […]

@ Hangman Jury: I could be wrong, but I don’t think any one, from Kelly to Hope to the girls that answered that poll, are calling us to read/buy things don’t want, purely for the sake of supporting “girl comics”. If you’re not a fan of Strangers in Paradise, then spending your money on it causes the same problem as if you hate the way x artist ALWAYS draws women but continue buying their comics. You’re voting wrong.

@ Dean: That was exactly the dialogue of Reed’s I was thinking about. But I don’t find him to be a tool–he was written like that then because male characters were notoriously chauvinistic/sexist back then. Should I see anything RESEMBLING that now, I would take offense.

And while I respect the opinion that the FF should wear clothes that hang…I don’t really find it practical for an adventuring family to wear loose-fitting stuff like its Unstable Molecules by way of The Gap. What they’re wearing is clearly of sterner stuff than spandex, but its also form-fitting. That doesn’t really bug me.

As far as Sue…I think its a perception problem. Sue’s ALWAYS been the “hot soccer mom”, since day one. Jessica Alba wasn’t chosen to play Sue in Fantastic Four’s movies because she draws crowds. (Though she does.) Its a family, sure, but Johnny’s always been a playboy and Sue’s always been very attractive. We can’t deny that.

@ Kelly: Fair enough, and that’s the primary example of how desensitized men have become to some of this stuff in general, which is why I asked. It isn’t until a female friend looks over my shoulder and points out, “Why is her costume half-zipped?” that I even notice it. And once I do, I DO wonder why its necessary. (Though, with Rogue…its still stupid, but I wouldn’t mind if she dressed slightly more risque with her powers “adjusted” now.)

And yet, a week later, I’ve mostly forgotten and without reading about it online or having someone verbally bring it up, its something that never occurs to me. In much the same way I never question why Kyle Rayner, artist extraordinaire, had pecs like Superman when he first got his ring. (I strike it up to comics giving us idealized versions of men and women, which is something we should all question but never do.)

@ Alex: Ask that to the numerous women cosplaying as Sakura, Tsunade, or Rukia and Yoruichi. No, I think with the sheer variety of manga out there, there are far fewer fans hoping for the title to get “good” again.

And that article is off-base. Sakura was *always* reduced to a caricature whenever Sasuke was mentioned or seen. Her fighting skills were non-existent (evident in an arc she had all to herself where the most significant thing she did was cut her hair), until Part Two, and her impressiveness only lasted a short and then–back to the background.

(Also, I question how much of a “foil” she was. All-around, she appears to be a pretty negative stereotype of women. Naruto’s protagonist is an underdog disliked or shunned by everyone around him…so for her to basically treat him like crap is to kick the character when he’s already down [made worse since it establishes he has a crush on her from day one] and I don’t see how this makes her a positive female character/role model to anyone.)

@ SageShini:

Unlike Kelly, I am not a hardcore reader. Periodicals are hard for me to keep up with, so I started reading this site a couple years ago to figure out what collections to buy. Trying to follow some of the discussions here has forced me to pick up more of the dread floppies than I would prefer. However, I am pretty methodical about trying not to form an opinion about something until I have read it myself. As a result, I have moved around a lot between publishers and eras.

From that perspective, there is a sort of dreary sameness to a lot of modern superhero comics. It is almost like High School where no one wants to be uncool and, therefore, are willing to follow trends that really do not suit them.

In marketing speak, every franchise has a Brand Identity and there is an eagerness on the part of the publishers to take the property to places that it does not have Brand Permission to go. That results in confusion on the part of the customer about what the brand means and, over the long run, a tendency to stop buying the product.

When I read Hope Larson’s survey results, that is what I see more than anything.

The fan in me sees Item #1 and says “but, but, but Storm was leader of the X-Men”, or “what about Gail Simone’s WONDER WOMAN”, or whatever other example of a take charge female character in a given run (or issue) of a given title springs to mind. However, individual examples are not the point.

The point is that no Big Two superhero property is female positive 100% of the time. It is impossible to see the X-logo on a book, or the Wonder Woman on a cover and assume, well, anything about the content. That was what I was trying to drive at with the Sue Storm example. I totally agree with you that Sue has always been presented as attractive, but she is also largely defined by her role as a mother to both her actual kids (Franklin, Val) and her metaphorical ones (Ben, Johnny). Moreover, the FF have as a group tended the most desexualized costumes of any superhero property. If you are the type of person who is bothered sexualized superhero bodies (male or female), the FF is the one book that you should feel totally confident picking up. And yet, there is Sue Storm being presented exactly like every other female superhero. I am not saying that it is offensive, but rather that it makes the meaning of the FF as a brand less clear in my mind as a consumer. Maybe you differ. That is fine, since a Brand Identity is an aggregate of lots of different perceptions of a property.

Let me take another example of the same basic problem with a totally different type of content: Max Lord putting a bullet through Blue Beetle’s brain.

I was an avid reader of the JLI back in the day. It was an action-comedy title. Ted Kord and Max Lord were funny in a very light-hearted way. To me, seeing Max shoot Ted was like seeing George from SEINFELD blow away Kramer. It sure would have been shocking and gotten a lot of attention, but I am not sure that I would ever watch a re-run of any of the episodes.

Oh god, I read this article when it was posted and didn’t see any of the comments until now.

To Kelly and Hope: THANK YOU for the survey and discussing it here. You’re both doing great work and it’s very much appreciated.

A great many of the comments made here are depressing and disheartening, but please know that for however many jerks there are showing up to comment here, there are probably far, far more people this has enlightened or influenced for the better.

Hi Kelly. I don’t think you or anyone is saying that the cheesecake factor is predominant in Western comics; it IS however, prevalent enough to turn a bunch of girls off. Girls I know who buy comics tell me that they feel uncomfortable in comics stores for the reason that the atmosphere and the comics themselves make them feel like it’s too much of a boys club – no girls allowed! And if girls who buy comics feel that way, how much more girls who don’t?

As for the issue between guys and girls, I’d really like to see the sales figures on this Black Widow series – in the end, I think Marvel would be shooting themselves in the foot. With things like Maxim or FHM around (or, hell, the Internet), I don’t really see why a guy so desperate for titillation would run to line art to get their fix. Nevertheless, I do know some guys who would refuse to read something like Black Widow or Birds of Prey simply on account of it being led by female characters – and therefore, it must be for girls. It’s backwards, yes, but the point is that these people exist. Couple that with girls who would be turned off by the T&A, and I think a move like this is shooting themselves in the foot.

Just to clarify as well: I didn’t mean to say that I would buy Strangers in Paradise just to support “comics for girls”; far from it. What I meant to say was that I simply couldn’t find it in myself to be interested in something like SiP due to its seeming predilection for targeting a predominantly female audience. There’s something ingrained in my head as a result of 27 years of conditioning that “Oh, it looks like it’s for girls; that must mean I won’t like it.” It’s not something I’m proud of or even something that’s easy to admit, but it’s there. And if I can sit here and say that I want comics to diversify its audience and still be guilty of that, what about the other half of the male population?

So the solution really is, as you say, to create good comics for everyone. I think it’s obvious that girls don’t like to be targeted – they don’t want to be hit with “Hey look, this comic is for you, girlie.” “Oh, look at our Women of Marvel TPB. It’s got a pink background for you girls!”

But let me shift it just a bit to talk about YOUNG girls. I started reading comics as a young boy and got hooked, so it makes sense that to hook girls, they should start being hooked at a young age. I have a five-year-old niece, and she absolutely loves Jeff Smith’s Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil, and has read it and reread it about three times since I bought it for her and her brother last Sunday. Of course it’s a really good comic, but what really makes her enjoy it is the appearance of Mary Marvel. In fact, no matter how much she enjoys the Shazam mythos, she has made it clear to me that she wants more MARY MARVEL stories. It is just very frustrating because there’s obviously not much out there, and whatever is out there, she’s getting upstaged.

But the point is there: much like superhero comics appear to appeal predominantly to boys because these are stories populated by men, and much like children truly take to stories about children, it only makes sense that girls will truly take to stories about girls. I honestly don’t think having Wonder Woman appear beside Superman and Batman in Justice League is enough. But then go further than that, and you run the risk of BOYS being alienated for the cultural reasons I’ve stated before.

@Rene compare ALL MEDIA from 1930’s to now(including the clothing that you wear now that is socially acceptable as to what was back then)… then kindly stfu.

The majority of you all have outed yourselves as whiny puritans… and frankly, a bit hypocritical considering the men in these “women demeaning comics” are equally sexually charged and inflated versions of what actual men look/act like. Next thing you know you’ll be sending Warner Bros angry letters because Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd and Daffy Duck offend your sensibilities by dressing in “women’s clothing” as a gag… because WHAT? WOMEN’S clothing is INFERIOR for men to wear but MEN’S clothing is perfectly FINE for WOMEN to wear? Give me a break. If you only have one comic chop in your town I feel really sorry for you. In every place Ive ever lived there have always been two(sometimes 3)… one kind of old-school with your typical titles, way too many long boxes of back issues and some figurines with a bunch of man-child snobs hanging out all day playing magic cards in the back while somewhat ignoring their customers until theyre ready to buy, and the other more indy shop that carries a WIDE variety of books both locally made AND european titles(which are often more sexually driven than western titles… that have no problems showing full frontal) and maybe even some anime dvds/otaku candy and so forth. I cant remember the last time I bought a super hero comic… but I cant imagine toning it down being good for business even if more women want less t&a and more “women kicking ass”(in frumpy sweat suits or long dresses with a-cups perhaps?) as ive read here.

This whole debate has gotten insane on BOTH sides of the argument…. and im not saying im not guilty of helping stirring the pot. I do find it hilarious that the people who dont agree with whats being said here are called trolls tho… That’s like the argument that all Conservatives are racists or that all Progressives are socialists. Its ridiculous. I guess were all supposed to nod our heads in agreement with whatever we read… coming from a comicbook artist who doesnt EVEN DRAW SUPER HERO BOOKS that part of the argument should be dropped. Someone go find Becky Cloonan and ask her what she thinks about this. Her books are more on the dark side and she has DROVES of male AND female readers. Ask her what HER formula is and how she brought the sexes together with HER stuff… American Virgin is AMAZING.. and there is a great deal of T&A in those books too. Granted the circumstances of said skin is different than just boobs hanging out, but its still there, nipples and all.

The White Puritan reply is as moronic as Godwin’s Law. It does nothing but make the user sound pretentious. But I do agree about the troll comment. This whole thing has gone far too crazy.

Pretentious or not, thats what vibe im getting. there are plenty of titles that are super hero based that ARENT chalk full of t&a. Plus, the Whiny Puritans bit is FAR different than talks of Godwins Law and people who bring up Hitler to win arguments(ie : glen beck). Its like youre all trying to make the argument that 90% of comics is softcore porn & thats just not true.

No one is making that argument. No one is saying “90% of comics is softcore porn.” That’s your (flawed) interpretation. All anyone is saying that it’s big enough of a problem to cause discomfort among female readers.

As for T&A in Becky Cloonan’s work, sex tackled by a woman is not equal to sex as portrayed by a man. The former is a dialogue between women; the second has the impression (note: The intent or final effect isn’t what I’m discussing here; it’s the initial impression) of locker room talk. No less than Alan Moore has admitted this: when he was doing Lost Girls, he couldn’t think of any male artist to do it with, because he felt that it became too mired in a male fantasy locker room atmosphere, so he did it with a Melinda Gebbie (who incidentally happened to be his then-girlfriend now-wife).

Calling people names adds nothing to the discussion; it merely judges, without offering any further analysis, insight, or solutions. And then you say things like “If you only have one comic shop in your town, I feel sorry for you.” – Well, that REALLY doesn’t offer anything, does it? Because there are smaller towns and smaller places and remote locations where comics aren’t big and therefore there isn’t enough of a market to sustain the kind of store diversity you speak of. Once again, it just judges (“Oh, I feel sorry for you, because I’ve experienced store diversity.”) and adds nothing to the discussion.

Quite frankly, also, to turn the tables on men and women – to say that “Men are sexually charged too (they’re not as sexually charged as superhero women),” or to even bring up that Bugs Bunny wearing female clothing thing as a gag betrays a viewpoint that is not grounded in reality. Men and women are equal, should be treated equally and fairly, and are both lucrative audiences for comics to market to. That doesn’t mean they’re the same. If they were, this discussion wouldn’t even be happening.

Seriously, telling people to “stfu” and to basically just get over something that is clearly a big issue contributes nothing to the discussion. At all. You just sound high and mighty, as if you’re better than everyone else because this medium happens to cater to YOUR sensibilities, and doesn’t manage to offend/disturb you on any grand scale. In which case, you should remember: there are people and groups of people who read these things who are not you, who come from varying backgrounds, and who may see things differently from you. Calling them “whiny puritans” is no different from your own accusation of their calling the people who disagree with them “trolls.” In fact, it’s even worse, because you point out their flaw only to do it yourself.

Sorry to start with this, but azjohnson5, you really need to review your history. Comics where initially marketed to white working class males, but by the time comic books came around boys and girls where being marketed to. The height of comic readership was in the 40′ and 50’s when girls readership was just as common as boys. Girls reading comics is a good thing for comics in general. Or do you want more cartoonist to end up on the streets?

I hate to toot my own horn, but I have been siting the removal of comics from convince stores and airports as the point when comics marketing was doomed (and I understand fully why this happened…Marvel and DC where getting screwed by distributes, truckers and retailers). One thing that was good about this was it drove male readers into a safety zone that when done right exposed them to a larger variety of comics. Of course I had no idea as a kid that most retailers didn’t carry Love and Rockets or Elf Quest. I was shopping at store that was part of the underground comix movement. I find book retail chains really helpful in expanding exposure, but they have just to much to learn as they have learned. Really good small book stores will also place comics outside of the comics sections, with similar subject matters. Like Crumbs Genesis was also in the religious section at my local book store. We use to have the worlds worst comic shop, then they cleaned it and reorganized it. But the best thing they did was hire a female who likes comics on to their small sales staff.

As for advertising, again…I have been saying this for years…in fact it was major aspect of my graduate thesis.

Anyway, as Kelly can tell you I have always been looking for ways to get women and girls into reading comics. But having a daughter definitely up your game and makes you a consumer of comics that you would want her to read. Which does exclude a large portion of my library (of course she will sneak in there someday, given her craftiness). So I too have been making that library for her, first taking from my own collection since childhood and then shopping for her at antique shops and comic stores ect…I am having a blast. Hope she reads them.

I am reading the comments as I write this…what in the world is wrong with these guys…I had no idea it was this bad. Look, girls are not going to take your toys from you, they aren’t going to take over the world, they just want their share of the pie. There is nothing about women that makes them unable to help run the world or read comics. They are individuals, flaud and brilliant just like men. Man you all are embarrassing me.

GO DAN!

Frankie, girls in the 40’s and 50’s also bought superhero comics in large numbers.

@ Kelly and Hope, the survey is clear (the answers so freaken obvious, why are we having this discussion?). You need to keep this topic up, the results of this thread is clear. The need is so great, I had no idea how bad it was (and we went to school with other male cartoonists).

As for the use of rape in comics. I have a strong appreciation for Green Arrow: Long Bow Hunters. I read it at an inappropriate age, and didn’t go out and start raping women. Of course I had great parenting and lived in the feminist capital of the world. But if I remember correctly the context didn’t glorify as much as horrify. And it certainly didn’t treat it like a comics cliche, which of course makes it common place and then results in readers thinking it is a normal aspect, even acceptable part of life. If that is where we are, then it needs to stop.

I can’t read anymore right now…maybe I will.

You “scolding me” on my choice of words, thus making this exchange even MORE “tit-for-tat”(after admitting i just did it) doesn’t “add anything” to this discussion either. Hi kettle, im pot. Nice to meet you. This medium doesnt “cater to MY sensibilities”. Im a guy though, so I MUST want that kind of visuals in my graphic novels(this is me returning the favor of putting words in MY mouth, you’re welcome). if you had read my post you’d see the portion where I stated I dont even read super hero books.. which helps solidify my point that for someone who doesn’t even LIKE those types of books, its FAR from impossible to go into a shop and NOT find anything because there’s this huge scary overabundance of scantily clad women in the way.

“(they’re not as sexually charged as superhero women)”… really? How many men do you see wearing painted-on spandex on a daily basis grocery shopping? How many men to you see on a daily basis wearing shirts that take on the form of their ass and buttocks and that hug their crotches? Its not as “bad” in your eyes because men dont have breasts out in front & are incapable of being objectified? You saying one is worse than the other is a misnomer because your eyes are clearly only seeing one side of it. Me mentioning Ms.Cloonan’s work.. and then you taking it and running with it is precisely my point. If im not mistaken you took my example of a women in comics on the NON “fluffy-side” and turned it into “men do it like THIS and its filthy, women do it like this and its ok.” after i JUST said almost the same thing(only with less bias). Its like you’re hunting for something to pick apart while conveniently missing me saying her work and how she shows sexuality/nudity being the exception due to its context.

My interpretation isnt “flawed” at all. Its MY interpretation of where this collection of dissertations has ended up. You have all the women and a handful of the men making the case that this issue with women being objectified is in all comics. Are you reading the same discussion as everyone else? I mean theres a lot of garbage on TV I’d rather not watch, but theres this device that helps me advert my eyes and in this case I dont see why those rules cant apply with comics. I havent been to a comicshop since he 90s that had almost exclusively superhero/”offensive” books. Even the “dungeon”-like shops I mentioned still carry books for younger audiences.

Me saying I feel sorry for ppl who only have one shop in their town wasnt a SWIPE at anyone. But if you go into a shop and your argument is the case then why not speak up? You dont QUIT reading comics just because of that. This IS 2010, there are means to find/purchase what you’re into or find a genre you maybe didnt know existed via the internet or even mail order catalogs. I apologize if me BRINGING UP how many shops were in my neighborhood didn’t quench your debate thirst. Im not here to appease your notion of what a “proper discussion” involves. I was just painting a picture of why I might find this whole thing a bit crazy having never had to deal with “OMG, I like comics but theres only thing one kind; gross sexually charged/violent ones! Guess I better stop reading comics forever :(“. I’ve been taking notes, the next time I write anything to add to the 180+ comments already here ill assume you’ll be reading it and Ill try harder next time to impress you… if anything you picking a part MY reply is the sign of a troll.

My stance is; even though I dont read Hopes books(& her problem with stores not carrying her stuff… ALOT of people have that same problem, there is no boogieman keeping her work out of stores, its about profit.. if her books got more attention they’d be Borders just like Scott Pilgrim is) her work has every right to exist as all the other junk that you all seem to have a problem with and if you think there is an overabundance its because A- its what sells(and theres more “fans” of that stuff than any other genres) and maybe YOUR(or anyone else who has issues with whatever they have issues with) local comicbook shop needs to be clued in on what you read so they can better supply it for you.

to wit:

Wonder Woman.
Most famous and well known Superheroine ever.

Is running around in a bathing suit.

How can you take that shit seriously`? Let alone buy her pamphlets?

Hope, I really want to thank you for practical lesson on marketing…I need the help.

I’m with Richard.

Dean is right that this view of comics as a misogynist medium really picked up in the 90’s.

“But the problem is what those forms are based on, because the male forms are usually based on the forms of athletes which suggests: ability, power, strength, etc.

While the female forms are generally based on the forms of models, porn stars (and sure, actresses, I’ll throw that in) which suggests: beauty, sex, and too often, submissiveness.”
…and bitchiness. You could at ignorant hubris and competence to the male list.

“You “scolding me” on my choice of words, thus making this exchange even MORE “tit-for-tat”(after admitting i just did it) doesn’t “add anything” to this discussion either. Hi kettle, im pot. Nice to meet you.”

I’m glad we agree that that type of thing doesn’t contribute to the discussion. Perhaps we can stop doing it then.

“This medium doesnt “cater to MY sensibilities”. Im a guy though, so I MUST want that kind of visuals in my graphic novels(this is me returning the favor of putting words in MY mouth, you’re welcome). if you had read my post you’d see the portion where I stated I dont even read super hero books.. which helps solidify my point that for someone who doesn’t even LIKE those types of books, its FAR from impossible to go into a shop and NOT find anything because there’s this huge scary overabundance of scantily clad women in the way.”

I was speaking more generally – just because you (or anyone else) doesn’t find anything to be offended about doesn’t give you the license to disregard the fact that others do have something to be offended about. Again, no one is saying that there is a huge scary overabundance of scantily clad women preventing people from finding anything; people are saying that there are enough of those things to turn off potential readers — and disorient actual female readers. This has been corroborated by personal experience; I have female friends who buy comics and said that it’s these things AND the culture of a boys’ club in LCSs. I’ve experienced it both here in the Philippines and when I lived in the US – in New York, no less – for five years.

“(they’re not as sexually charged as superhero women)”… really? How many men do you see wearing painted-on spandex on a daily basis grocery shopping? How many men to you see on a daily basis wearing shirts that take on the form of their ass and buttocks and that hug their crotches? Its not as “bad” in your eyes because men dont have breasts out in front & are incapable of being objectified? You saying one is worse than the other is a misnomer because your eyes are clearly only seeing one side of it.”

Men and women are equal, but not the same. Women do not in general find superhero males “hot.” As Dean and Ben are quick to point out, male superheroes are based on the forms of athletes, which suggests ability, power, and strength, while the female forms are based on the forms of models, actresses, and porn stars, and a lot of them are MADE to titillate men. One needs only look at professional wrestling to see another example of this phenomenon: men run around all the time in little more than what would constitute as underwear, and with small exceptions, women don’t find them hot. However, the females in pro wrestling are there for T&A. Your saying that the way they are dressed means they are objectified equally implies that society views men and women with equal criteria, which is just not true.

” Me mentioning Ms.Cloonan’s work.. and then you taking it and running with it is precisely my point. If im not mistaken you took my example of a women in comics on the NON “fluffy-side” and turned it into “men do it like THIS and its filthy, women do it like this and its ok.” after i JUST said almost the same thing(only with less bias). Its like you’re hunting for something to pick apart while conveniently missing me saying her work and how she shows sexuality/nudity being the exception due to its context.”

You’re not mistaken, but what you missed is that I wasn’t even arguing with you. What I AM saying is that women doing it is not the same thing as men doing it, so male writers should be more discerning of how they treat female characters (and readers, by extension).

“My interpretation isnt “flawed” at all. Its MY interpretation of where this collection of dissertations has ended up. You have all the women and a handful of the men making the case that this issue with women being objectified is in all comics. Are you reading the same discussion as everyone else? I mean theres a lot of garbage on TV I’d rather not watch, but theres this device that helps me advert my eyes and in this case I dont see why those rules cant apply with comics. I havent been to a comicshop since he 90s that had almost exclusively superhero/”offensive” books. Even the “dungeon”-like shops I mentioned still carry books for younger audiences.”

Your interpretation is flawed in that it focuses more on the exaggerated complaints of the people who are in fact exaggerating; no one is arguing that objectification of women is all there is; people are just saying that there’s enough of it going around that turns women off.

And again, not all comics shops are created equal.

“Me saying I feel sorry for ppl who only have one shop in their town wasnt a SWIPE at anyone. But if you go into a shop and your argument is the case then why not speak up? You dont QUIT reading comics just because of that.”

I’m flabbergasted — who said anything about quitting? All I ever said was that it would turn off potential new readers.

“This IS 2010, there are means to find/purchase what you’re into or find a genre you maybe didnt know existed via the internet or even mail order catalogs. I apologize if me BRINGING UP how many shops were in my neighborhood didn’t quench your debate thirst.”

Must be nice if you live in a first-world country like the US or Canada. But no, my comics shops are well-stocked here, thank you.

In my experience though, smaller towns in the US don’t have very well-stocked shelves, and if you’ll look at number 2 on Hope’s list, the LCS plays a huge part in making current and potential female readers feel comfortable when getting into the medium.

” Im not here to appease your notion of what a “proper discussion” involves.”

Common convention would dictate that a proper discussion involves civility, for which calling people “whiny puritans” is certainly a breach of conduct.

” I was just painting a picture of why I might find this whole thing a bit crazy having never had to deal with “OMG, I like comics but theres only thing one kind; gross sexually charged/violent ones! Guess I better stop reading comics forever :( “.”

No one said that, ever.

“I’ve been taking notes, the next time I write anything to add to the 180+ comments already here ill assume you’ll be reading it and Ill try harder next time to impress you… if anything you picking a part MY reply is the sign of a troll.”

If anything, calling people “whiny puritans” or even just “whiny” is the sign of a troll.

“My stance is; even though I dont read Hopes books(& her problem with stores not carrying her stuff… ALOT of people have that same problem, there is no boogieman keeping her work out of stores, its about profit.. if her books got more attention they’d be Borders just like Scott Pilgrim is) her work has every right to exist as all the other junk that you all seem to have a problem with and if you think there is an overabundance its because A- its what sells(and theres more “fans” of that stuff than any other genres) and maybe YOUR(or anyone else who has issues with whatever they have issues with) local comicbook shop needs to be clued in on what you read so they can better supply it for you.”

You may not believe this, but I agreed with all of that.

Kelly – don’t let these trolls get to you and discourage your from writing these types of articles. They’re here because they’ll search out any outlet to spew their misogynistic rantings. I say ignore them and feel better in knowing that that the majority of your large audience are educated, fair-minded and psychologically balanced folks who, even if they disagreed with you, are those who actually raise debate in an intellectually honest, and not hateful and hyperbolic manner.

@ Steve: I honestly think there is a little bit to much reactionary thoughts going around. I don’t think the survey or Hope’s position is contradictory to much of what you say. It maybe your irritation or the way Hope is wording it. I think that the comments the survey suggest are both consistent with what women/girls need to be more engaged in comics and what everyone needs in terms of improving their comics experiences. So underneath your hype I think you have valid points, but those points are actually supported by what you are reacting against.

@eee: The choices are there, but the in significantly smaller numbers and inconstant with the history of woman’s significant readership in the past. In other words, women use to read comics and then the industry shifted away from them creating the illusion for new generations of readers that comics are for boys. It also created an environment which limited access to diversity in comics for both boys and girls. Most comic creators today struggle to try and improve diversity in content and readership, but this is hampered by the access to comics made with diversity in mind and with a shrinking market for comic readership, promotion and availability in general.

Jennifer dG: thanks so much for broadening the conversation beyond this little universe.

@azjohnson5: I do know Kelly, she is one of a handful of people in the world who are qualified to write a blog about comics form a woman’s perspective. She is a highly trained in the art of comics (very few men let alone women are) and is a discerning reader who is also female. She has been researching, making, disusing, thinking about and writing about comics for decades. That is why she was asked to write this.

@ HangMan Jury: I would love to see sales figures too. To clarify it wasn’t just Wonder Women, many of the male superheros were popular with girls as well. There was just a story on NPR about a science fiction writer and her friend. About their little fantasy world they created as kids. It sounded just as cool as mine with my male friends as a kid (actually cooler). Any way, she specifically mentioned the Flash and some other male superhero characters as being significant contributes to her world. Obviously she was reading those comics too.

@ Dean and Rene: In cartooning school a friend of mine actually got so fed up, she did a demonstration for us males on how to draw the female form so we were not just drawing balloons on chests. This was for a group of trained artist, who had taken Life Drawing and been trained in the draping of clothes. It is just plain sloppy craftsmanship to draw woman’s breast the way they are far to often drawn these days. It hurts the story, the quality of the drawing and the experience for all of us. I have no issue with nudity (if marketed appropriately). I have no issue with a style that exaggerates if it helps make an artistic or plotting point (it is what makes comics so great as a communication device), I have no issue with variations in size (in fact I encourage variety). However, the constancy of these depictions and the lack of sense it makes other then to objectify and make fantasy for sexual objections sake, is just creating a smaller market and a poor example for boys and girls that negatively contributes to the health of their sexuality and self image.

I think this getting redundant…and honestly can’t read more right now. I do love this, very cathartic.

@ bonersimpson:

I have been called a lot of things, but this is a certainly the first time that I have been called either whiny or a Puritan. However, I did make the most Puritanical statement on this thread, so I will step up and try to clarify (again).

I have no problems with cheesecake imagery, nudity or sexual content in mainstream superhero books. None. They clearly have their place and there examples of great comics that use those devices.

There are two issues that I find deeply troubling:
1. What Ben Cohen accurately described as (essentially) bad cartooning. The tendency of mainstream superhero artists to throw sexualized imagery into a comic that does not advance the story, or establish character.
2. A near total lack of choice in the marketplace when it comes to Big Two superhero titles.

Let me put it another way, can you name one (1) title at either DC or Marvel that would never let Greg Land, Ed Benes or Mike Deodato use their distinctive styles? I can’t.

Can you name one (1) female character at either DC or Marvel who would never raped and/or murdered to motivate a male character to take revenge and/or sulk? I can’t.

So, the available to people who do not like that content are either to deal with it, avoid Big Two superhero comics entirely or don’t read comics at all. I could maybe understand presenting a huge segment of the potential audience with those options if comics were setting sales records. It would still be obnoxious and sexist, but there would at least be the logic of success. Instead, comics are way off their historic peak and nearly every periodical title is losing readers every month. So, what is the harm in mixing things up? Let Power Girl be “naughty” and keep Supergirl’s mid-rift covered. Let the X-Men have their swimsuit scenes and have Fantastic Four dressed in draped clothing.

These are not radical proposals. It is akin to suggesting that TV might benefit from airing something other than Pro Wrestling from time-to-time.

I would add that Hope does not seem focused herself on Superhero comics and she is not published by DC or Marvel.

#Dean… im not the one to be speaking on this apparently. I, honest-to-god, had no clue RAPE was being used as a means to push stories/used in origins so regularly as you’re making it out to be. Thats pretty horrible O_O

@ bonersimpson:

If people who know me personally read your words calling me a “whiny puritan”, they’d find it the most hillarious thing ever written. After a few years of clubbing and Gay Pride parades, I’ve seen and wore costumes in real life that most people (even those who aren’t whiny puritans) would find shocking.

The idea that males are equally over-sexualized in comics is bullshit. Using Dean’s example of the Invisible Woman (a picture that I find not particularly offensive, by the way, but maybe that is because I’ve seen so many stuff in comics that is truly hideously offensive), it’s not just Sue’s clothing or body. After all, Reed and Johnny wear the same thing, and they too have idealized bodies in Dale Eaglesham’s stories. It’s just that if we had a simple scene of Reed or Johnny waving goodbye to someone, I doubt the artist would be showing us Johnny’s tight butt and thighs as if the camera were crouching below waist-height and pointing up (it’s the fourth panel in the page).

The saddest thing is, as far as superhero comics go, that is pretty tame. I’ve been desensitized to this stuff myself. As a guy, it’s easy to ignore the silly butt-shots and boob-shots gratuitously included for horny teens, and just read the story. So this stuff isn’t that offensive to me personally. But it doesn’t take a lot of sensibility or imagination to figure out how this stuff may look to a female reader.

And you know, what bothers me most is the schizophrenia of it all. I’m not the sort of guy that wants to ban Playboy or Hustler or Penthouse as “offensive to women”. A few times I’ve bought and looked at such magazines myself. But those mags are honest about what they are and what they provide. Now, you take the Wonder Woman comic. You have a feminist and positive writer like Greg Rucka writing a Diana that is very much a cool character that can be read by anyone, and then you have covers with Wonder Woman sexually contorting to show her butt to the camera while handcuffed. It’s like… there is some schizo divide between the writing and the art.

If you want to publish a Wonder Woman comic with intriguing modern fantasy storytelling for boys and girls, that would be great. If they want to publish a Wonder Woman comic with wank fetish material, that would be acceptable too. What baffles me is when they try to do both at the same time…

[…] comics news, comics should be good, female positive, feminism, jezebel, she has no head! My She Has No Head! interview with comics creator Hope Larson was discussed and linked to today in an excellent post on Jezebel by Latoya Peterson about Girls, […]

Hi Dean,

Off the top of my head, I don’t think Wonder Woman or Power Girl have ever been raped and/or murdered as an excuse for a male character to sulk. Sure, Diana’s been “killed,” but I saw that as just another “event” story, akin to the death of Superman (although much less publicized, which is a whole other can of worms altogether). And sure, Hippolyta’s body was killed by a man who took advantage of her, but I thought that was fitting for the story, since it’s about the liberation of women from men.

(This is, of course, ignoring Diana’s treatment ALL THROUGH THE GOLDEN AGE)/

Still, the fact that icons such as Supergirl and Black Canary have been killed and raped/tortured at some point in time is telling. What’s equally telling, I think, is their inability to give Diana a boyfriend. If they gave her an unpowered boyfriend, they would get complaints that it’s an ultra-feminist book; if they gave her a superpowered boyfriend, they would get complaints that he’s upstaging her. Either way, they can’t win.

That actually reminds me of what my friend who works at Disney was telling me about the “prince” issue in Princess and the Frog – if they gave her a white prince, black activists would complain, and if they gave her a black prince, white activists would complain. You can bet such complaints would rarely exist if the main character was a man, and would pretty much be nonexistent if it were a white man.

“Lots of girls are going to want the pink book encrusted with hearts and ribbons, but lots of other girls would prefer to see someone’s entrails ripped out. There’s no one-size-fits-all girl book. Girls like what they like because that’s what they like, not because they’re girls.”

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. If this article had to be clipped down to three sentences, these should be it. Attempts to lasso in minority demographics by applying some ridiculous “formula” is not only insulting to everyone involved, it’s just plain never going to work — no group is magically going to share a set of preferences. Want more readership? Produce a wider variety of good comics.

Ocelot_Carter

June 6, 2010 at 11:18 pm

Responses to several commentators:

re: “Comic books have always been a BOYS medium.”

Hardly. Comic books came from the newspaper comics industry, which always had strips aimed at the general reader. I wouldn’t say “Little Nemo in Slumberland” is a boys’ comic, even though it has a boy protagonist. Generations of girls grew up reading Archie, Little Lulu, Richie Rich, and all the comics based on tv cartoons, like Bugs Bunny and Woody Woodpecker, not to mention superhero, crime, horror and romance books. Newspaper strips of the first half of the 20th century included female stars like Winnie Winkle, Blondie, Flapper Fanny, and Brenda Starr. Not to mention all the strips that supposedly would only appeal to men, but that loads of women read, like Wash Tubbs, Terry & the Pirates, and Dick Tracy.

re: “When I first started going to “comic shops” …I was uncomfortable, but you know what, went there anyway to get my fix of four-color fun.”

The women writing this post were brainstorming ways to sell more comics. Maybe some artists see it as a special victory if a buyer has to force him or herself to go into a store because they want that comic so bad, but most artists would prefer the higher sales that would go with stores that are more appealing to the mainstream buyer. As someone else posted, comics in Europe are available everywhere, and thus European comic artists have much higher-paying gigs than Americans.

I have to point out that going into a comic-book store is different for women, because so many of the posters and book covers are a not-so-subtle reminder that some men think of women as contemptible (kind of like some of the writers on this board), and rape fodder. Until you’ve actually grown up female in our society, you don’t really know what that feeling is like. Not exactly something I want in my face every time I try to buy a Tintin book for my nephew (my niece isn’t old enough to read yet, but she’ll be getting them when she is).

re: “Well mainstream comics are written for 14-25 year old males…You’d be stupid not to include tits and ass.
Period.”
Interesting that you used the phrase “tits and ass” instead of, say, “nudity and sex.” Objectification seems to have become second nature to so many people in our culture.

In general:
It seems to me that there are already plenty of contemporary comics that mainstream women would enjoy, e.g., Love & Rockets, and Exit Wounds, but somehow most women don’t know about them. I think there’s been a big marketing failure going on for the last few decades and it doesn’t necessarily have to do with grungy comic-book stores. The idea of getting more comics into libraries and schools is a great one. And if teachers were more open to allowing book reports on graphic novels, that would encourage a lot more kids to read.

Ocelot_Carter:

Don’t forget also that big seller in the 50s and 60s – Lois Lane.

And I think the poster who said “Well, you know, I went in anyway,” is missing the point – the point is that we want female readers to NOT have to think about these things when they go in. It shouldn’t have to be something to overcome.

As for comics like L&R and Exit Wounds, I’m with you all the way. But I’d like to add that there is network utility when it comes to reading (that’s partly why bestsellers are bestsellers – because a bunch of people read them, and the other bunches get curious and want in on the conversation), and want to be (and I really don’t want to use this term, but it’s appropriate given the nature of the discussion) “part of the club.” In that sense, while indie comics should always be created, I do think that superheroes should be trying to draw women (and other groups) in.

” so many of the posters and book covers are a not-so-subtle reminder that some men think of women as contemptible (kind of like some of the writers on this board), and rape fodder.”

Women aren’t being raped as much as people make out, women in comics are not “rape fodder”, that’s a misconception and an exaggeration.

Please stop referring back to it, it cheapens the point you’re trying to make.

And I’d say nemo in slumberland is a genderless comic, I don’t understand why everything has to be either one or the other.

[…] Hope Larson even responds in an interview here. […]

The biggest wall we have to break down is the very impression that girls don’t read comics in the first place.

Sometimes girls are told that they can’t or shouldn’t read comics. But more often, I think, they are told that they don’t. The cultural message is sometimes wrapped in hand-wringing and good intentions, but the underlying assumption beneath “Why don’t girls read comics?” is still “Girls don’t read comics”.
The girl who does read comics, therefore, is just weird, and if there’s one thing that most kids don’t want to be, it’s weird.

http://www.strangehorizons.com/2006/20061023/gathman-c.shtml
I am posting this here because I just ripped it off horribly.

Late to the party. I really enjoyed the article. Agree totally with most of the points. Ignoring most of the comments once I saw how many were ignorant.

Any guy who thinks men have the same issues as women in many mom and pop shops has either never given it any thought or just doesn’t realize the problem. I’ve had to call friends because I wasn’t convinced the guy standing WAY TOO CLOSE to me wasn’t going to follow me out onto the street. I’ve twice in recent months gotten in disagreements about comics with guys who’ve completely dismissed the point I was making. But when another male came into the conversation and backed me up on the facts, the first guy engaged in discussion with *them* and took them seriously. Because the facts apparently only mattered when a guy said them. Or their egos couldn’t handle that I knew more about really REALLY old-school Batman than them

My sister works in a comic shop. 80 percent of the guys coming in are cool. But there’s a startling percent who either A. assume she knows nothing about comics despite working there simply because she has breasts I guess or b. assume that “I’m not interested in dating you” means “Ask again next week, I’m just playing hard to get – why else but getting a man would I work here?” Heck, the shop is even owned by a woman who’s careful about who she hires because of the experiences SHE’s had in comic shops.

I also don’t get people who get up-in-arms over wanting to end the oversexualization of women in comics. They like to compare it to the guys in comics, but there’s a crucial difference they always seem to miss. In comics, there’s no real overarching thing most males MUST have to be a force in comics. But women… women HAVE to be stereotypically attractive in order to be taken seriously. Not in-world – I have no doubt that if Wonder Woman wasn’t as curvy or picture-perfect in the face, or if Ms. Marvel were a bit thicker of build, that their counterparts would still value them based on their more important attributes. But it’s the creators who seem insistent that the only woman allowed to have power is one who conforms to a very narrow idea of beauty and then physically puts herself on display. And that’s not only gross and off-putting, it also has no counterpart on the male side of the aisle. (And I know, there are exceptions. But they are very few. And when you can only name one female exception for every ten, or hundred, male ones, it’s really a negligible number)

Anyhow, sorry for running on there. Thank you again for this great Q and A!

Lissibith: Thanks for pointing out it is the creators not the characters that cause the problem. It rings true to me.

Also this idea that a women has to be backed up by a man to convince another man (obviously not all men and hopefully the minority) reminds me of a moment outside of comics I had a few weeks ago. A fellow employee was explaining something to man who was griping, she was female and he was being rude…then I come in and say the exact same thing and he is sweet as pie and accepts everything I said. It reminded me of my grandfather. Because my dad and I aren’t like that, it shocks me that there are still people of my generation that continue this bigotry. Of course why would I be surprised?

[…] few weeks ago, I read a great interview with writer/artist Hope Larson in which she discusses an informal survey she conducted on girls and […]

[…] She Has No Head! – Interview With Hope Larson About Girls & Comics A autora levou a cabo um inquérito sobre mulheres e BD que foi comentado em vários blogues de BD. Nota negativa para os comentários, alguns completamente irracionais. […]

I’m just here to say, I <3 Hope even more now that I know she read Nausicaa!

I think I have three copies of that series "just in case."

[…] a little context, Kelly Thompson at CBR’s Comics Should Be Good posted a great interview yesterday with comics creator Hope Larson. The interview was inspired by Hope’s recent survey […]

[…] In an interview next door at the CBR blog Comics Should Be Good, you talk about your introduction to comics being on a trip to France and how shell-shocked you […]

[…] that blog in favor of a dedicated website, leaving a path strewn with dead links, as in this interview with Kelly Thompson. So one reason for this post is to share the new web address for Larson’s […]

There’s a snippet of ROSE OF VERSAILLES in Frederick Schodt’s MANGA! MANGA! The art is beautiful; I’ve wanted to see a full (or at least extended) English edition for 25 years. (I’d also like to see AREA 88 completely collected, but that’s another issue…)

[…] See also the great interview with Hope on the topic here: She Has No Head! […]

“Pink, sparkly cutesy comics about boyfriends, ponies, cupcakes and shopping are widely reviled.” Ironic, given the current popularity of My Little Pony, and Adventure Time. Hell, even that Strawberry Shortcake comic did really well. The comic versions of My Little Pony and Adventure Time have sold exceedingly well.

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