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She Has No Head! – Is Wonder Woman A Gateway Drug? Could She Be?

wonder woman caldwell

Caldwell's Wonder Woman from Wednesday Comics

As I mentioned recently in the comments on one of Greg Burgas’ posts, I am painfully burned out on mainstream comics right now.  It’s been building for a while now, but the last four weeks have left me with a massive stack of mostly unread comic books.  Sure I read a few, and I’ve flipped through most of the rest multiple times, but looking at the pile…imagining reading them…is suddenly akin to something like Chinese water torture.

This has happened to me before, a few times actually, and it generally results in me taking a sabbatical of sorts from reading mainstream books for undetermined amounts of time – only to later return with vigor (and cluelessness as to why I ever needed to take a break from something so awesome).  However, this time, I find I’ve built a lot of little bits of my life around comics – my blog is regularly about comics, and I have this column, not to mention a superhero novel out on submission to publishers – so for the first time I don’t feel comfortable just walking away.

So I’ve been trying to analyze my burnout and what may be causing it (and maybe what caused it in the past) and while it’s not sexy, the only answer I can come up with is plain old boredom. Right now, like many times before, I just find myself feeling like I’ve already read everything before…nothing mainstream is feeling very new or fresh or interesting to me.  And very little of it feels fun.  At the same time that everything seems boring, I’m also paying a fortune (and far more than ever before) on a weekly basis for the privilege of that boredom.  I don’t know about you guys…but I just don’t have that kind of cash, certainly not for something that’s leaving much to be desired.

But rather than dwelling (more than I have already) on what’s NOT exciting me, I tried this past week, in order to get out of my funk, to think of things that I do find exciting right now in mainstream comics and the first thing that sprang to mind was Ben Caldwell’s YA (young adult) Wonder Woman Pitch that’s been making the rounds on the internet.  There’s nothing about Caldwell’s fresh take on Wonder Woman that feels seen before or dull to me, it seems exciting and shiny and new and full of potential.  The kind of book that could jumpstart me out of my malaise.

Image from Ben Caldwell's Wonder Woman YA Pitch

Image from Ben Caldwell's Wonder Woman YA Pitch

Caldwell’s take, from the attitude (young and hip and continuity free, at least to start) to the format (digest size) to the mythology (new takes on old favorites) to the visuals (very cartoony with a skew toward the generally female friendly Manga style) feels like such a refreshing take on Diana – one I’ve never seen before in comics.  Considering all the variations (and books) we have for Batman, Spider-Man, Superman (sometimes, he’s only got one book right now I guess) and even characters like Deadpool…I’m not sure why the Queen of all superheroes – Wonder Woman – isn’t worthy of two versions herself?

I suppose I know all the standard arguments against a book like this.  “Kids books are loss leaders”; “Wonder Woman’s EXISTING book doesn’t even sell well enough”; “Minx was a failure”; and even “Well, we just shut down our whole Manga imprint, why would we choose to do a Manga skewed superhero title”…

All of those things may be true but that doesn’t mean that the right combination isn’t still out there, for example “a YA digest book about the most well-known and powerful superheroine in the world, Wonder Woman”…I don’t know, it sounds like a really great idea to me, especially if I say it while looking at some of Caldwell’s stunning and straight up badass imagery.

Sample Page from Caldwell's Pitch

Sample Page from Caldwell's Pitch

But, just for fun, I’ll take a swing at refuting the above arguments…

”Kids books are loss leaders”.  This is probably true, I believe it, if only because kids don’t seem to be reading (western) comic books.  But that doesn’t mean you can or should just stop making books for them.  If you don’t make books for them they CERTAINLY won’t read comics because there are a million other things for them to spend their money on that is geared directly at them.  If you don’t even try to court them it’s like just giving up entirely, because it means you’re not even trying to get any new readers.  You’re just saying you’re satisfied with your existing readers, who, myself included, are getting older and older and are eventually going to literally die out.  That seems like a bad business model any way you slice it.  I think maybe there has to be some sacrifice on the expected performance of YA books with the understanding that what they’re really there to accomplish is to build an audience.  Doing books for kids or young adults is an investment.  And sometimes investments don’t pay off right away…they pay off down the line.  When you’ve hooked those kids into comics and they become regular readers and better yet your next generation of adult readers.  To continue the drug metaphor (perhaps at my peril) you give a discount to get someone hooked, and once they’re hooked, then you can charge whatever you want (although you shouldn’t, because you’re slowly killing your adult readers too, fyi).

New readers are not a luxury, but a necessity, at whatever that costs you.  Plenty of media and industries are making a play for their dollars and affection, if we don’t even try, why will they bother with us?

For a related discussion, that tackles a different issue on the surface, but that I think overlaps interestingly regarding the industry, check out Michael May’s excellent piece from last week on Robot 6.  The piece and the ensuing reader comments are both worth a look.

WWmangaproposal37

Image from Ben Caldwell's YA Wonder Woman Pitch

As for Manga, as I’ve said here before I’m woefully undereducated when it comes to Manga, but I guess I’d just say that it seems to me that there’s a real proven record thus far of girls responding to Manga and reading it in big numbers.  So perhaps a way to help coax them into mainstream superheroes would be through a book that has both Manga and superheroes, or more to the point, the most badass female superhero of all time – Wonder Woman.  Just a thought.

As for the idea that Wonder Woman’s existing title doesn’t (or hasn’t) sold well overall, I doubt anyone knows for sure why that is, but whenever I see it debated by fans, critics, and professionals, I always see a lot of discussion about her complicated origin, somewhat weak or at least limited rogue’s gallery, and convoluted history/continuity.  Though I’m not a fan of re-boots in general, I think I could certainly be a fan of a new take, geared at a new audience.  And I’m inclined to think that a nice fresh continuity free start to a powerful female superhero might appeal to old fans as well as a new younger generation of women looking for powerful role models but unable to find them in comics amidst the T&A and continuity porn of your average comic book.

The Minx question is the most deadly, because it’s the closest example to what this book – that doesn’t actually exist would be – a digest size book geared directly at girls.  Via Minx that was failure for a few legitimate reasons – reasons that we have not managed to solve – the most obvious of which is that girls don’t go into comic stores in big numbers and we’ve failed to get these books into the YA section of the bookstore and library with any consistency.  This is a problem that is yet to be solved.  At my local Barnes & Noble there is a fantastic YA section and a fantastic Comics/Graphic Novel section, and I was pleased to see some YA comics (mostly trades of Runaways) housed in the YA section, but I was also disappointed to see that the Manga was both separate from the graphic novels, and housed next to the YA books, suggesting…hell, warranting an easy bleed between the YA and Manga sections, while the Graphic novels were on the other side of the store…and not somewhere that teen readers would ever venture unless deliberately seeking something out.  And that’s at a great well-maintained store, I’m sure the problem is worse in other locations.

How is this solved?  I have no idea, but it seems to me there must be some way to do it.  And mainstream comics, now backed by Disney and Warner Bros., seem like they should be powerful enough to get it done.

WWmangaproposal36

Caldwell's Bruce Wayne/Batman looks broody and delicious

But even independent of the placement and access, Minx had other issues, including the fact that there was not one single superhero book in their opening line up.  I enjoyed many of the Minx books, but I do think that it was a mistake not to offer one single superhero title, when that is the bulk of mainstream comics offered via DC and Marvel.  If there was any hope of getting girls reading Minx and then crossing over into other mainstream books, why would you not create better gateway books – like a Supergirl or Wonder Woman title that a girl could fall in love with and be prompted to try to seek out more of the same?

Many girls like slice of life and relationship stories as dominated the Minx line, but just as many hate that kind of stuff and prefer horror and whodunits.  I think many girls would be surprised to find out that they like superheroes, but only if they could first find one geared a little more toward them – which as I’ve mentioned before likely doesn’t involve reinventing the wheel – just removing the implied ‘no girls allowed sign’ that hangs on so many books.

And for those that continually get angry at even the hint of change, at the idea that mainstream comics aren’t and shouldn’t be for girls or women, as a comic lover going way back that doesn’t want them to bite the dust (despite my current boredom), I firmly believe that getting girls on board with comics is one of the best ways we can help save this floundering industry. Bringing girls and women (and most importantly their dollars) on board doesn’t mean there isn’t also room for “just boy” books, or even mean the end of T&A, if that’s something you’re attached to.  There’s room for all of us in the medium (as independent comics have well illustrated over the years) but without women you guys are having to carry this industry on your backs alone…and I sense it’s getting heavy.

Without solving the access problems I suspect any female geared book – including a badass YA Manga-ish Wonder Woman digest size– even by a talent like Caldwell – would fight the same uphill battles that Minx did three years ago, but I guess my point is, it doesn’t matter if it’s successful overnight.  You have to spend money to make money and you have to invest in something in order to eventually see a payoff.

safeword1color

this looks like so much fun I can hardly stand it

There is no better mainstream comics pay off than capturing women readers, most especially young women readers.  Yes, it’s a huge challenge, but if anyone can manage it – the spoils will be significant considering that girls read fiction in record numbers –  in fact women make up 80% of the fiction readership – why shouldn’t some of those dollars go to comics?  Well, right now, it’s at least in part because we don’t produce much that appeals to them, or that they KNOW appeals to them.  Figuring out what works for a revised demographic takes time and money and several swings at bat, but Caldwell’s pitch and passion strikes me as a potential homerun with the right platform (a Fables/Vertigo style ad during some carefully chosen television shows certainly wouldn’t hurt in getting the message out to girls so that they even know we’re making something for them).

Why would a publisher continue to ignore a totally untapped market?  I’m not making some silly argument that great books made more girl friendly in hopes of catching female readers will do well, sell well, or be anything other than total flops, but if you want to be the publisher that eventually makes a fortune by figuring out how to get girls into comics…guess what?  You have to be visionary.  You’re not just going to stumble into that success without any risk, without spending (and wasting) plenty of money.  But the first publishers to figure out how to capture and keep women readers are going to be freaking kings…who doesn’t want a shot at that?

C’mon DC, fortune favors the brave and all that crap – don’t you want to be the first to take the prize?  In fact, how ‘bout this…I double dog dare you.

102 Comments

Oh man. I would buy the heck out of that book.

[…] comics news, comics should be good, female positive, she has no head!, wonder woman A new She Has No Head! about Ben Caldwell’s YA Wonder Woman Pitch, and the need for mainstream comics to court new […]

A lot of it may have been due to the format, but I found the Wonder Woman segments in Wednesday Comics unreadable. And I mean that literally; I was physically incapable of reading it.
It seemed like it was a cute idea, but the reward wasn’t sufficient for the effort that went into trying to read it.
I can’t imagine that condensing that style down into a digest size would help matters any, so hopefully the layout will be better suited to the format.
Still, I like the overall idea. Not thrilled by the style, but if I’m not the target audience, that hardly matters.

I’m also leering about it simply because his Wednesday Comics WW story was so terrible, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt because of the weird format.

Def will be better than the crap JMS is writing for her.

I think Caldwell’s idea has a lot of potential, especially in the format he describes in the bits of treatment we’ve seen. I also agree with Heimdall that the Wednesday Comics stuff by Caldwell was difficult to read (though better than Teen Titans), but I do think that a manga-style book, with that pacing, would de-clutter the art and work well.

I would love to see DC or any comic company work on alternate formats and take some risks. Books like Acme Novelty Library, Palookaville and Love & Rockets changed their formats away from pamphlets and onto hardcover books or square bound books, which I bet hasn’t hurt their sales. (in fairness Acme Novelty Library was never a “traditional” comic size).

As always I think more attempts by comic companies to lure the high percentage of female fiction readers into the world of comic, the better.

Is that Etta Candy swinging the paddle?

YES.
In a world where both of the two biggest comics publishers in America are owned by mega-corporations, you would think the American comics industry could be more daring.

I agree that this is the most opportune time to court female readers and I especially agree that well-placed advertising would be a big help.

~ Jon Gorga

“And I mean that literally; I was physically incapable of reading it. ”

Can you explain? Did the ink on the page receive a part of the light spectrum that your eye couldn’t process?

The Ugly American

August 16, 2010 at 9:50 am

Ate some candy, indeed. Ate a lotta candy.

Can you explain? Did the ink on the page receive a part of the light spectrum that your eye couldn’t process?

Nope; it was just too washed out, cramped, and muddy to make out what was happening in the images*, and my aging eyes couldn’t make out the tiny lettering.

*Which, I suppose, you could chalk up as a mental failing.

Wonder Woman needs more than an art style change. (and I doubt that kiddie manga is it)
Wonder Woman needs a good writer, that’s it.

His wednesday comics strip of wonder woman was tough to read in the first «newspaper» version but read well in the collected edition. I even found it was one of the best stories.

The question probably shouldn’t be so much “could she be?” as “should she be?” And, given her visibility with the mainstream public, the answer has to be “yes.” She can bring in female characters that Batman and Superman cannot, and she’s not a derivative of a male character, like Batgirl or Supergirl.

That said, I can’t stand Wonder Woman, at least not the comic book version. I loved her in the Justice League cartoon, where they dispensed with the silly Golden Age tropes that no one is willing to strip from the comic version (at least not permanently) and focused on the fish-out-of-water aspects of her having been raised a warrior in an all-female society. Without the goofiness that’s always played straight, she became an interesting character.

What do people, including a lot of comic book readers who have no problem at all with a female lead character, think of first when someone says the name “Wonder Woman”? They think of the invisible jet, and how Wonder Woman is seated in the cockpit, still completely visible. They think of the magic lasso that forces anyone to tell the truth and isn’t good for anything else. And they laugh. Silly little things like that, unfortunately, define Wonder Woman for a lot of people. They need to be axed, or at least updated. Why can’t her invisible jet get a facelift like the Batmobile gets every five years or so, for example, including some feature that makes the pilot invisible as well? (Maybe it could be brought on when she’s shot down and has to bail out because someone sees her and not the jet.) Or why can’t a writer poke fun of some of it, like maybe have another character comment on how her magic lasso makes villains tell the truth, and she makes a comment that lets the reader know she realizes that it’s pretty limited in its use, but, hey, it’s Amazonian magic, so what can you do but make the best of it?

Wow. I think I’m in love.

I’ve been whining for years that DC needed to aim for the girl market, with many of the same supporting arguments. I’m glad to see someone else as impressed with Ben’s work as I was and the passion he has for the project.

That should be “female READERS” in the first paragraph. Though bringing in more female characters wouldn’t hurt, either.

Tom Fitzpatrick

August 16, 2010 at 11:09 am

Missed you ’round here.

I get burned out of being bored by not reading your column. ;-)

Uhhhhhhhhhh…the pilot of the invisible jet IS invisible. You’ve either not read the book in over 20 years or you only remember the limitations of the 1970’s TV show. You’d have to have also missed the JL cartoon and the WW animated movie. The lasso has recently been used in a myriad of ways, including to remove limbs.

What Golden Age tropes exist in the Wonder Woman title? Really, I’m curious–’cause there ain’t any–and it happens to be the most interesting, pure take on the character that exists. She’s funny, she’s confident, she’s sexual, ALL of the Amazons are powerful and she comes from a technologically advanced race.

NONE of that is in the current, nor previous, run of the book. The idea of Wondy actually being on equal footing with her counterparts has ALWAYS been a well documented problem for the editors and heads of DC. Ask anyone who has tried to write the book.

Except for JMS. He’s put Diana in the sewer–literally, in case you’re not following along–and that seems to make the editorial smile from ear to ear. There is certainly a problem at DC headquarters for the Amazing Amazon.

Adamantium Wholesaler

August 16, 2010 at 11:20 am

I’m a little uncomfortable reading something by one of CBR’s few female writers in which she says she’s burned out on mainstream comics, and thinks the answer–or part of the answer, anyway–is to have art with floaty hearts (see kissing image). On a logical level, I know these stereotypes aren’t true, but it kinda freaks me out.

I don’t care about getting new/different readers. Yeah, the industry may die, but I care more about the stories. I like Pixar movies just fine, but if I had to read a Pixar-ized version of Brubaker’s Cap, or Morrison’s Batman and Robin, I’d be seriously angry. Does some random demographic not liking Inception keep me from enjoying it, or have anything to do with my experience? Nope.

Caldwell’s take looks like so much fun. I’m already a Wonder Woman fan, and have been since I was very young, but the latest reboot just makes me tired. This would be immensely refreshing, and I’d personally be thrilled to read it alongside the main continuity version (or even in its place, so long as the mother/culture-killing “gritty” crap continues).

I do tend to think that one of the (myriad) reasons for Minx’s failure was the fact that it was so oriented on “realistic” narratives (for the most part, anyway). Some of those titles were great, but I never quite understood the logic behind their thematic choices – it seemed borrowed from a completely different demographic. Many of the popular teen-oriented manga titles have involved magic/science/superheroes (I don’t read much manga these days, but back when I did–as a teenage girl–I was primarily interested in “magical girl” adventures), and then there’s the “paranormal romance” boom (though I can muster little enough enthusiasm for THAT, I have to admit that as a teenager, I might have seen it in a different light). I suspect that a story about a kickass female lead with magical origins – and a dose of romance – would have quite a lot of appeal, depending on how effective the marketing (shelving, etc) was.

I also happen to really enjoy Caldwell’s Wednesday Comics story, although it admittedly reads a lot better for me when collected in its entirety. His art is gorgeous and has fantastic visual flow. (However, I might suggest that he allow someone else to do his lettering for him.)

I would love to see DC take a chance on this – which would have to involve really throwing their support and advertising power behind it, and giving it ample time to find its feet.

My bad. I didn’t know these things had been addressed, as I’ve not read Wonder Woman in ages. I don’t seek her out unless she’s in something else that stars other characters. But maybe DC should do something, other than totally dumping everything about her (as they seem to be doing now) to let the public at large know the silly things aren’t around anymore.

Not sure how I feel about the lasso used to sever limbs (I’m guessing you meant removing limbs that were attached). Ultra-violence and a lack of aversion to killing doesn’t seem to be the way to go if she’s supposed to hang around with Batman and Superman.

I don’t remember the jet showing up in the Justice League cartoon, but maybe I should re-watch it. (Any excuse to re-watch anything from the DCAU is a good one. :))

Honestly, I’ve tried to enjoy Wonder Woman, but she’s never clicked with me and I gave up on her ages ago. I like the concept, but not the character. Maybe the joke about the invisible jet is too prominent in my mind, and it’s really more a matter of the muddied, constantly-changing backstory.

the problems, as always, are price and quality.
What makes quality we can quibble on, but price?
We all know these damn things are getting too expensive.

If I had been TOLD that Caldwell was pitching Wonder Woman, I would have been adamantly against it. His WW strip in Wednesday Comics was EASILY the worst thing in an otherwise very strong anthology.

Having seen the samples, though, my opinion changes. Gone are the cramped and muddy images from WC, and instead we have something that looks wonderfully fun.

I’m a young girl and a comic book reader, and I don’t think I would ever buy this version of Wonder Woman. Then again, I did make the transition from manga to Superhero comics myself, and I can see why it might bring more girls over. I’m just a bit burnt out on manga. Especially manga remakes of established characters. The X-Men manga was just painful. I often feel that things like that are condescending, as if implying that young girls are only interested in fluffy, relationship-focused things. Which, in a way, is true. I personally much prefer stories that are character-oriented, but that doesn’t necessarily mean romance. Or making everyone a teen obsessed with romance. That’s the kind of thing I’m sick of.

I agree with everyone here that despite stunning imagery in Caldwell’s Wednesday Comics’ Wonder Woman, that it didn’t work – it was too much and too cramped and though I wanted to love it, I could not. Although I will also agree that the story does work better collected, and I’d also add that I think it/he got better as the story progressed – i.e. the pages became much more simplified and readable with each week for the most part.

And in that same way (learning through seeing what worked and what didn’t) I feel that this pitch has really learned from past mistakes and seems simplified and tight.

I’m sure on some level that’s yet another reason why I want to see this book realized – because it’s another swing at bat for a Wonder Woman project that had tons of ambition and passion, but didn’t quite execute correctly.

Agree: manga on american comics characters looks stupid.

Ritchard,

She used the jet once in Justice League Unlimited. “For The Man Who Has Everything.” They never said it was made by Amazons.

Actually, I find the cartoony style of the artwork fitting. It brings to mind the original stories from the 1940’s. Contemporizing a classic character while embracing the spirit of the original run is always a good way to go.

Although, if it’s for young adults, they should probably lay off the bondage stuff that Marston was so into.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ruCWzUWDFU

There has been a Fables ad running on BBC America…

He basically said ‘I want to do Scott Pilgrim with Wonder Woman as the lead’. Sounds decent. It’d be better without cameos from the likes of Batman.

Also, Kelly, how do you not have a problem with a fat female character named Ate-a-candy?

fanboy:
fat is the new black.

*Triple posts because he didn’t hit the notification radio button*

*hangs head in shame*

I don’t think the basic practices for “attracting female readers” are that complicated:

a) You can’t have T&A / cheesecake. Women need to be drawn respectably, period. A major problem is that cheesecake is so industry wide, that if a curious non-reader sees a J. Scott Campbell / Ed Benes cover, I would imagine she’d be instantly turned off and just assume that all comics art is like that.

b) You can’t have continuity beyond the series itself. Look at the series that are popular with females, like Sandman or Scott Pilgrim, all you have to know is right there in that series. You pick up volume 1 and you start reading.

c) You gotta expand outside of comics shops. There’s too many negative stereotypes you’d need to overcome to get lots of women readers in comics shops. Bookstores are very female-friendly, they’re probably more female-oriented than male-oriented.

d) I would avoid marketing your product in a way that screams “GIRL FRIENDLY!” It seems like you’re pandering to your audience and speaking down to them. The product should be marketed gender-neutral, or if female-focused, done in a subtle way.

e) This should be common sense but the series needs to be written well. With a lot of mainstream superhero comics, the comic only seems to exist because “we need a Booster Gold monthly” or “we need another book to focus on the left over Green Lanterns.” I don’t think new readers would be interested in books like that because they basically only exist to serve continuity. The stories need to stand on their own and be worth telling. I think this is where a lot of mainstream superhero comics fail. Out of DC / Marvel’s line, how many of those books really have a purpose and deserve to be published? Probably 20% tops.

Moving on to the main topic, as a male reader, I have never found Wonder Woman remotely interesting or appealing. I feel like she has no set personality or drive, no reason to read a Wonder Woman story. With that said, I’d read anything that had great art and looked cool, and Caldwell’s pitch certainly fits that. His art seems like a mix of Darwyn Cooke with some Frank Miller-esque energy.

I don’t really know if Wonder Woman would be a good “gateway” for female readers. The character feels very dated and irrelevant to 21st century culture. Superman is the same way but Superman is so iconic / inherently tied to American culture that he kinda gets a pass. If they want to push Wonder Woman to new readers I think they’d really need to reinvent / market the character in a totally new direction, moreso than the jacket costume. Just going off of quick generalizations / stereotypes, it sort of looks cool to be reading Sandman or Scott Pilgrim. Wonder Woman looks lame.

Personally, I always felt the women in the X-Men were the most interesting and appealing women in comics. Storm actually feels like a strong woman, unlike Wonder Woman who often seems like a 2D caricature. Jean Grey is the “Superman” of female characters, the ultimate / perfect female superhero. Emma is a total bitch but is likable and even respectable / admirable in her own way. Kitty Pryde and Rogue have real-life emotional conflicts that people can relate to. Etc.

From what I have been noting, I’d say that Wonder Woman does seem to have plenty of iconic appeal, but for the most part she has been moving to that area where icons are remembered but few remember what elevated them to icons…ie. nobody reads the comics. A bit like what seems to have happened to Mickey Mouse.
I’m not really a fan of WW, haven’t read that much of her stories, but she does seem quite interesting with plenty of potential. Shame about much of that potential being untapped or handled poorly…

But anyway…changing the actual title to this would probably piss off the current fans and as dwindling as that group may be, it would probably still be better to keep them around (especially since the next creator change would probably switch the style back to the current one, because that always happens).
So this would need to be a separate title.
And oh yes, this should be as continuity-light as possible. Earth-W-pocket universe or something. Throw away what has happened before and just look at the character, not the history. Dropping in some other famous superheroes every now and then might be nice but they shouldn’t bring any excessive continuity baggage with them either.
And no, it shouldn’t be just about romance and doing your hair and floating hearts.

Not a fan of pseudo-manga and from what I have heard, it is not a big draw. I’d go with something that takes some visual cues from manga but still sticks closer to Western traditions…stay away from Benes though. Some of the pitch pics do look good (but that full page you have there isn’t one of them).

Yeah, this could be interesting. Then of course there are the distribution issues, getting in the correct shelves in book stores and libraries and so forth…

(incidentally, Dan, I always found Jean Grey to be lacking a personality. Power she had but I never quite figured out who she was and what did she want).

I remember I was pretty impressed when Caldwell first posted this and I still think it’s a great idea. It would definitely have to be aimed at a non comics crowd. I really hope this gets approved, DC doesn’t seem to be too keen on anything besides mainstream superheroes at the moment.

Why does CBR give room to someone who starts off saying: “I am painfully burned out on mainstream comics right now”? I stopped reading after that line. We need more writers who enjoy the AWESOME experience of comics, not people who talk as if they loathe words with pictures. Yeah, let’s not be blind and never criticize, but where is the unswerving wonder that comes from reading Wonder Woman comics? If a writer of a comic book website can’t find it, then the problem is probably not “mainstream comics.” I bet it is the negative attitude and lack of love for the medium of the critic herself.

@Rob T. I’d be willing to take your criticism more seriously if you’d finished reading the article. Since you stopped after line one, how do you possibly know what I went on to say…or not say?

Jesus. If you didn’t read the entire column, which was about how a pitch for a mainstream comic is awesome and should be done, then, you know, shut the fuck up. Why would you comment about a very long column when you didn’t read it? That’s just idiotic. And I wrote about how I was burned out on comics a bit a few weeks ago – it happens to everyone, at least everyone who doesn’t enjoy the utter crapfests that most mainstream superhero comics can be. I always find something to reinvigorate me (this week: Brian Clevinger and Brian Churilla on Avengers and the Infinity Gauntlet – whoo-hoo!) and so does Kelly … as she wrote in the damned column. But you wouldn’t know that, because God forbid you find out if she has an actual point. That might take time away from reading a DC comic in which a small child gets butchered!

No, Wonder Woman is not a gateway comic. The character is, as has been said, sort of dated due to her connections to World War II and the Greek Pantheon. You really cannot modernize the character without eliminating those aspects of the character, and once you eliminate those aspects, she’s no longer Wonder Woman, but “generic superstrong female with a rope”. The closest anyone came to getting a modernized WW ‘right’ was Perez and that was over twenty years ago, and even he was very much reliant on the Greek Mythology.

DC has other properties they could make strong animation & comics that appeal to both genders and yet can be aimed towards a more female centric audience. You don’t need to do it with superheroes.

Thanks Burgas for your generous reply.

Here’s the thing: this article wasn’t about ANYTHING that is going on in DC comics. Its about a pitch to DC Comics. And you have the audacity to say that I am idiotic! Really? The best thing going on in mainstream comics is a pitch?

You and other bloggers on here have a responsibility. Part of the problem of comics not growing outside our little circle is the “crapfest” of blogs that complain rather than contribute.

We have no responsibility except to write about what’s on our minds. Sometimes we’re in bad moods about comics, because comics unrelentingly tell shitty stories. Sometimes we’re in good moods about comics because we find something excellent. Kelly found something that she thinks is excellent and she wonders why DC wouldn’t take a chance on it. That’s exactly about growing an awareness of comics outside of a little circle. People don’t read comics not because they’re not awesome, but because they cost too much for too little payoff and they have hopeless back stories embedded in them. Caldwell’s pitch helps with both of those, although I doubt that DC is going to do anything about it or if they would market it well enough to make it work. Because they’ve never proven they can market anything well enough to grow the audience. The insistence on making a larger audience read comics they way we read comics is part of what’s killing comics.

Anyway, I do apologize for being coarse. I shouldn’t have been, because I do like the fact that most people here are polite. I just don’t understand why you would leave a comment when you admitted that you hadn’t read the entire column. Yes, this column is about being burned out on comics (and again, many people here have admitted to that, so I don’t think it’s that big a deal), but it’s also about discovering things that you fell in love with about comics in the first place. It’s quite a hopeful column in general.

@RobT: The site is “Comics *should* be good” not “Comics should be understood as good”. And “unswerving wonder that comes from reading Wonder Woman comics”? Seriously?

You and other bloggers on here have a responsibility. Part of the problem of comics not growing outside our little circle is the “crapfest” of blogs that complain rather than contribute.

What percentage of Kelly’s post would you say was a complaint? Cuz I’m thinking like 70-80% of your two comments were complaints or snark. As it happens, Kelly has done in this post exactly what you say you want bloggers to do. She contributes to the growth of mainstream comics by making a detailed argument in favor of a pitch that aims beyond the Wednesday LCS crowd (that is, “our little circle”). All your grousing has no basis in the content of her post.

Oh! And! @RobT : “You and other bloggers on here have a responsibility. Part of the problem of comics not growing outside our little circle is the “crapfest” of blogs that complain rather than contribute.”

Have you considered the possibility that the reason comics aren’t growing outside this little circle is because Big Two comics generally aren’t very appealing to people who aren’t already soaking in the Marvel/DC superhero pool?

Regarding the Invisible Jet and the Justice League Unlimited cartoon, I believe it DID appear in the JLU or at least the JL cartoon once or twice. The origin of it was revealed in the recent Direct-To-Video-“was supposed to branch JL to JLU but ended up being it’s own thing” “League of Two Worlds” movie. Spoiler: It’s Owlman’s jet.

You and other bloggers on here have a responsibility. Part of the problem of comics not growing outside our little circle is the “crapfest” of blogs that complain rather than contribute.

You know, others have already pointed this out, but the level of ignorance on display here is really kind of staggering. Our responsibility is to Jonah, who pays us to write for him. The agreement is that we do that to the best of our ability.

But that doesn’t even matter; even if the agreement included some sort of “don’t be negative” clause (?!?). Because Kelly didn’t do what you are accusing her of, and neither did any of the rest of us, by and large. Even the most cursory examination of the archives would show you that the vast majority of what Greg, Bill, Sonia, Kelly, MarkAndrew, Brian and myself write is about bringing something we think is cool to the attention of the readership. Hell, in Greg Burgas’ case it’s often in the title — “Comics You Should Own.”

You want to know where the real vitriol is about the state of current comics? It’s in the comments. Most fans live for that kind of snark. Whenever I want to jack the number of hits into the stratosphere on a column I write, all I have to do is snarl about the state of Marvel or DC. Instantly a horde of commenters descend to chime in with “Preach it, brother!” and “Didio needs to go.” And this is the civilized part of CBR. Go look at the actual forums if you want to see some REAL negativity about comics.

Of course, that might involve actually reading something all the way to the end, which I suspect is beyond you. But if you’re going to insult all of us, it should at least be about stuff we actually wrote, not based on some imaginary blog you create in your head after seeing one sentence of one post.

Great column and seemingly great pitch. (Can’t tell from the art alone if Caldwell can write the thing.)

I don’t mind the Greek mythology since I’m a fan of it. But if it’s a problem, downplay or ditch the Greeks. Same with the plane and lasso. She came from a magical island of women and doesn’t return for visits. Treat it like Superman’s Krypton or J’onn J’onzz’s Mars: a rarely seen backdrop.

Oh, and the comics industry needs much more constructive criticism like this. If anything, I’d say Comics Should Be Good spends too much time gushing over comics that appeal to fanboys but not to grown-ups.

P.S. You get paid to write this stuff?! ;-)

Kelly, I think you are spot on. I also loved Ben’s pitch for Wonder Woman and find it hard to believe that DC didn’t jump on this. People who truly love comics should be thinking of ways to bring in new readers and not reject ideas because they are not just more of what we’ve already seen. I think the other opportunity that DC is missing as a gateway book is Batgirl. I did a post last week on my blog http://bit.ly/buXnoZ about the ways that DC could be using the book to bring in young female readers.

@DC Women Kicking Ass

my 4yr old girls love WW because they see lots of WW art all over the place, and batgirl because the gap had batgirl and supergirl shirts a few years ago. i really wish there was more comics/books/shows for them, because by the time they’re old enough to get into “infinite rape” or whatever they will have spent tons of money on disney princesses and bratz — because there is no alternative.

As much as people rail against the character, doesn’t it say much about about Wonder Woman’s timeless potential that she always gets this much debate/response?

There are characters that are constantly brought back then forgotten for awhile… Diana always comes back to the debate forefront with every new tweak in direction. So for everyone who says she isn’t popular enough, I think that is proof enough.

The Ben Caldwell pitch is interesting but really… do we think DC will ever give this the time of day?

I wasn’t a big fan of Caldwell’s Wonder Woman strip in Wednesday Comics– in fact I think it’s safe to say that it and Gaiman/Allred’s Metamorpho were my least favourite. But I freaking love everything about his manga pitch for Wonder Woman. I think it’s brilliantly thought through– not just in terms of the actual story, but the whole packaging of it– and it has a lot of clever touches that makes Wonder Woman compelling and could make comics accessible to a whole new audience.

I know lots of teenaged girls who read manga who would totally go for this that aren’t going for the version of Wonder Woman in comics right now. Part of that is that they don’t read mainstream comics and part of that is there isn’t a lot being done with Wonder Woman that frankly captures their imagination. (Nor mine. At the end of the day, aside from Dan Mishkin’s stuff in the ’80s, the Diana Prince Wonder Woman of the late ’60s and some of the George Perez stuff, the only Wonder Woman that’s ever captured my imagination and heart has been the Lynda Carter TV show).

I read Kelly’s piece after reading the recent New York Times piece on Archie and what they’ve been doing to improve their market position over the past few years and the risks they’ve taken in terms of format, different modes of publishing, outlets and overall approach to the characters. And those risks have been, frankly, huge in many respects: drawing Archie in a modern style, long form stories, magazine publishing, attention grabbing storylines that get press, improved internet delivery. And I see something like this that could take some huge risks with Wonder Woman but at the same time get the property *in the hands of people who could really connect with it* and I throw my hands in despair. If *Archie* can understand this, why can’t DC?

I read the rest of the piece so that I wouldn’t be “one of those posters”. I am OK with the criticism and name calling that I am getting. My opinion still stands. Minx was all about reaching that “untapped market” and yet it failed. I do not believe that “Comics Should Be Good spends too much time gushing over comics that appeal to fanboys but not to grown-ups.” I think that a lot on this site nitpicks.

About Wonder Woman: we both agree that there is an untapped (probably huge) market for her. Yet CBR has focused on a pitch for her at least twice, rather than critiquing what JMS is doing right now with her. He is taking chances with her, but is it going to bring in scores of new readers?

Kelly, I read your pieces every time they are posted. I am sorry if I hurt you. I think the reason I wrote what I did at first was because of two things: 1) I was in a bad mood (must have been the pizza I ate last night), and 2) I am jealous that you got this nifty job to write about comics! That is awesome.

They think of the invisible jet, and how Wonder Woman is seated in the cockpit, still completely visible. They think of the magic lasso that forces anyone to tell the truth and isn’t good for anything else. And they laugh.

Bah. I find both those things to be awesome. It’s everything else that bores me.

I would totally buy this Wonder Woman project were it to come to fruition, and I don’t remotely fit any of the target demographics. But I also think DC should have an entire fleet of books just like this, manga-inspired graphic novels for tweens and teens. Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Amethyst, Metamorpho, the Metal Men, Robin & Batman. What I like about this version of Wonder Woman is that it isn’t just another superhero tale– “superhero” is a concept that can spread out into an almost infinite number of subgenres.

You and other bloggers on here have a responsibility. Part of the problem of comics not growing outside our little circle is the “crapfest” of blogs that complain rather than contribute.

I try to focus on the positive in the pieces I write, because needlessly savaging bad stuff feels pointless to me, because it doesn’t really help anyone. You need a balance, though, and if we ignore the aspects of comics we believe aren’t working, then they will continue to not work. Sure, they’ll probably do that anyway, but criticism is just as important to a medium as the work itself. It’s “Comics Should Be Good,” not “Comics Are Good,” and if we’re not feelin’ comics– I went through a burnout period recently as well– we reserve the right to say so. If comics aren’t good, it’s our job to figure out why. Or just post silly stuff until we get un-bored, but maybe that’s just me.

And if you’d like a refund, you can write your Congressman.

Steven R. Stahl

August 17, 2010 at 9:47 am

If Wonder Woman has to be substantially altered as a concept and aimed at a different audience to succeed, then why use the character? Create a new one.

I’m struck by how often people think of a character existing separately from the stories she’s in. There might have been “n” unsatisfactory stories written about her, but the problem isn’t with the concept, it’s with the writers who use her poorly, the thinking goes. But, if the reasons that the stories were unsatisfactory were because of her history, her powers, mediocre opponents, etc., then the primary problem is with the concept.

There’s nothing so precious about the “Wonder Woman” name or writing an Amazon as a heroine that cosmic justice demands revamping and relaunching the character in series until she finally becomes a hit.

SRS

Isn’t wonder woman just an icon because she’s a central justice league member? Ie people keep drawing her because she’s stuck in the middle of the continuity and people can’t get rid of her even though she sucks?

What would it spoil if they just removed her from the world? What role is she playing that would be missing?

Bill–

As someone that loves manga and American comics (and who is also not in the demographic for this) I’d love to see something along those lines. Even better if they could be in digest form, to keep costs low. With the right creative team how awesome would manga-inspired Batman and Robin be? Or Metamorpho and the Metal Men?

Re: Steven R. Stahl: Icon recognition. Wonder Woman is one of the best known characters among the population who (at the moment) don’t read comics, and throwing that out just because she has a dodgy reputation among the minority group that is avid comic book readers does not make sense.
I don’t wish to see the core concept changed: she should be a warrior woman from amazon island who has been sent to the world to make it better. Going back to the roots, updated of course where necessary. The part that deserves to go is the excessive baggage like being a member of JLA, those folks are just cramping her style.

As an aside, I am sure I am not the only one who would want to see more self-contained superhero comics. The type where you pick up the book 1 and not need to worry about constant continuity references and bloody crossover events. Let’s get more of those for adults too, no?
That’s the part I like best about Silver Age comics, you could just read them as they were (the part I like least about Silver Age comics is the atrocious writing in most of them).

You get paid to write this stuff?!

Not a whole lot. About enough to cover my tiny pull list and the occasional discounted trade. But it pleases me that comics are now at least a sort of break-even proposition in this household.

As a manga and indie reader, I had to chime in on this one. I think Ben’s pitch has some good points, mainly being the format and to a lesser degree the art. As for WW herself, I feel that she’s a character that hasn’t aged well, that she can be credible enough in todays world.

Someone else said about using lesser known non super DC works in this format, that I can agree with. On top of that, I feel that continuity has become a living death for many superhero works (yes I know many love them, but your circle of wagon is shrinking). You want a slice of that varied manga demographic pie, certain things need to be done.

First, proper deep research has to be done on manga. There are plenty of books out there that will teach all you need to know. For a long time, many have only thought as far as a japanese influenced manga style of art, when in truth this is false and only skimming the surface of what manga about. We know that both DC and Marvel can afford to do such research, and if they have done enough of it, they clearly haven’t listened to the results and acted accordingly, thus a lack of success. Guess what, readers are really smart, even in manga circles.

Manga has its ongoing tales with Bleach, Naruto and One Piece. There are others but even these will have an ending at some point, as the creators aren’t afraid of ending a series and trying something fresh and new. Best to keep such a superhero tale short and sweet, say 2 – 4 volumes. This would be a less risky investment for the buyer. If success follows, just don’t run it into the ground.

The fact that Bryan O Malley, a man in the street can create Scott Pilgrim, shows that he more in sync with the gears in fans heads, than corporate production line suit with dollars for eyes. It also speaks volumes for original creator owned works. And perhaps there’s a damn lot of weight to what Robert Kirkman said a while back, if The Walking Dead, Kick Ass and Scott Pilgrim have done so well. No doubt TWD will blow up like a mainstream Lost nuke too. Also notice a trend with these mentioned works, they are stories that not entrenched in nebulous super powers etc, but just people in a situation, dealing with it.

To summarise, would I try WW as a GN format book? No, because the platform is better off for something original. Hpwever, better to try Batgirl/Batman instead, because there’s a certain attraction to a character that can die doing what they do. Superheroes largely escape death, when in much manga, death is common place with no comeback. Anytime a character can die or be hurt and be human, the more likely the reader is to connect with it. With the right stuff (arrtist, writer and promotion) it can happen.

“I don’t wish to see the core concept changed: she should be a warrior woman from amazon island who has been sent to the world to make it better.”

Yes. I don’t know if others disdain it, but I always liked the ambassadorial role developed by Perez. She’s here to convey a message of peace, love, and human rights, with a special emphasis on women.

I think making her a Big Three warrior alongside Superman and Batman, fighting second-rate villains like Cheetah or Circe, is part of the problem. Let’s face it: her powers are generic and not especially interesting. Without her striking costume and status as woman’s icon, she’s an inferior derivative of Superman.

I’d have her leave the JLA/Crisis stories to “the boys.” Instead, send her traveling around the world in her capacity as ambassador. Insert her into all sorts of weird, unpredictable corners of the DCU. Make her a mainstream equivalent of Wolverine or John Constantine: Someone who’s on a perpetual road trip. Who gets involved in everything from espionage to horror to straight superheroics. Who is always doing his own thing but always shows up when you need her.

And give her a couple gimmicks akin to Wolverine’s claws so she isn’t so bland. Maybe she gets her strength or flying ability from her bracelets. Maybe the magical lasso can perform its own “rope tricks” as if it were semi-sentient. Maybe she has a sword or shield with additional abilities.

To me this would be way more interesting than your typical storyline involving Steve Trevor, the robot plane, and gods, demons, or harpies. Steve could be her contact with the real world: an off-and-on love interest a la Brenda Starr’s Basil St. John. Make him an international man of mystery like something out of “Steve Canyon” and he fits this format too.

Anyway, these are just some things to think about. But if DC won’t go for Caldwell’s version, maybe I’ll pitch my version. I think it would rock.

Wonder Woman has huge character recognition and marketing potential outside of comic books, that’s what makes her an icon. Wolverine maybe be far more popular among comics fans, but does not have nearly the mainstream recognition, even with his recent movie appearances. I don’t understand why DC doesn’t see that.

They see it with Superman and Batman. There are tons of superheroes whose books see better sales than Superman yet do not make up half of thier publishlers line like Superman does. This is because Superman has far more mainstream recognition, making him the more viable choice for live-action television and movies, although the latter has been a challenge for him lately. Every few years the comics need at least a soft-reboot if not a hard one in order to bring sales back up enough to justify all the monthly titles. Why bother? Because it’s the best way to keep the image “out there” so that he maintains his mainstream recognition and potential.

That’s why I don’t understand Warner Bros hesitation in putting out a Wonder Woman movie. I believe that a WW movie would draw in far more viewers than the comic does readers, much like the Batman and Spider-man movies. I remember as a child watching Wonder Woman on TV every week with my parents, brother, and sister… and I was the only one of us who read comics. Niether of my parents ever read comics and yet they fondly recall listening to Superman on the radio and watching him played by George Reeves on TV. These are the sort of people who would make a Wonder Woman movie a success, and the younger of them might even give the comic a boost in sales afterward.

And yet WB seems afraid to do a WW movie because of lagging sales on her book and sluggish sales on her animated movie(which, let”s face it; the DCU animated line really only appeals to fanboys, not the mainstream audiences a live-action movie would be reaching). They have it right with Superman and Batman: do whatever it takes to keep the comic going so we can continue to exploit thier mainstream appeal Why do they have it ass-backward with Wonder Woman?

Oh, and just my opinion but if you really want to reach female readers they should probably add some more fabric to WW’s costume. The star-spangled thong and excessive cleavage certainly appeals to male readers, but I think a more modest version of the costume would go a long way towards helping female readers feel comfortable even pulling one of her magazines off the shelf. Something like the Silver-age version or even the Golden age with the star-spangled bike-shorts and halter top that fully covered the breast. And as long as the writing is good, I really don’t think a more modest costume would drive away the boys. I mean, she’s still a superhero and that still means tights!

Everything looks great, except the digest size. Digest size is for kids.

Well, I was starting a big post, then my browser crapped out on me.

Anyway, my thinking is that DC IS missing an opportunity. And other publishers are going for it. BUT, those publishers aren’t our “mainstream” (read, superhero) publishers, they’re PROSE publishers.

I read a lot of stuff at the library, and beyond worrying that as a 31 year old tall bearded guy I’m frightening small children and their mothers, I see that there IS a fair amount of different kinds of comics. You’ve got prose authors trying comics (Jane Yolen’s Foiled is pretty good, Janet Evanovich, James Patterson, there are adaptations of the Alex Rider (is that his name?) books, of course the Twilight manga, and good old Stephen King). You’ve got big publishers backing other kinds of comics (whoever it is publishing the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books, and whoever is doing the BabySitters Club books, First Second is, I think, backed by a big time publisher, and so on). There are the attempts to cash in on the fantasy type books (Harry Potter and Twilight) with things like Holly Black’s Kith and Kin and Foiled, and other books that are escaping my brain right now. There are comics out there like Tracy White’s How I Made it to 18, about a girl who checked herself into a mental facility to get her head straight, or the other book I got out, whose name escapes me, that appears to be about eating disorders. There was the Cancer Vixen book from a few years back by Maria (something, names are escaping me right now). Hope Larson’s latest Mercury came out from a big name book publisher.

I don’t know how these sell, however.

My point is that BOOK publishers have picked up on the GN trend (and they’re not throwing their money around in this economy, so if some people are being published, it’s because the publishers are willing to invest in this “trend”). Comics publishers are behind because even though they have big companies behind them, those companies are focusing on the movies and merchandising and don’t care about the publishing. These characters are just marketing tools. I don’t think that currently, either DC or Marvel are backed by a company with a really strong publishing presence (I could be wrong). So they aren’t willing to take risks, or they bow to the self fulfilling prophecies (they won’t sell well, so why promote them? well, because that’s how you get sales…)

About Wonder Woman, she does seem to be the (potential) gateway. As someone else said, she’s not a derivative of a male character. “Everyone” knows her. I don’t know why people want to dump the mythology aspect. I’d think that if anything, done right, that could be a draw. My girlfriend liked Incredible Hercules, and was in part drawn in due to the mythology aspect. She’s reading some mythology comics I got out from the library, George O’Connor’s new Zeus book (first in a new series, that filters Greek myths through superhero comics, good stuff from First Second, iirc) and (I forget the guy’s name) book of humorous takes on Greek myths in comics form. The “goofy” elements (lasso, plane) also add to the character, imo. To dump any of it would make WW “generic girls kick ass heroine”, and she should be more than that.

WW SHOULD be the gateway for young girls to get into superhero comics. But let’s not confuse “superheroes” with “the mainstream” (in publishing, anyway, they are mainstream in the movies), because the “mainstream” just might be ahead of the curve here.

You’re preaching to the choir. This pitch shouldn’t have been passed up imo.

Greek pantheon is always fascinating for kids. And with the Percy Jackson books doing so well I can say its viable as well. And kids love superheroes too. And with girls reading manga and Scott Pilgrim being such a hit with the ladies…

Its absolutely the right time to put out a digest sized WW book aimed at girls. The current WW run by JMS is not girl friendly at all. WW is and should be something both boys and girls can relate to.

It would work much in the opposite way that Scott Pilgrim did. SP was a ‘girls manga’ influenced comic with a male protagonist and lots of fighting. WW is and should be a ‘boys comic’ with a female lead and lots of romance. ie it should be subversive and have huge crossover potential.

Right now JMS’s run is intriguing but not delivering in crossover potential. This is a travesty really. Something like the Caldwell pitch needs to happen stat.

Why don’t we ever hear anything about the Darwyn Cooke proposal that was shot down? That sounded great!

I love that a couple of knuckleheads are dismissing the JMS WW book after ONE issue. Shear stupidity.

I love Caldwell’s art and I’d go for this, but the format would have to be much better than Wednesday Comics…the WW story was totally unreadable.

” Women make up 80% of the fiction readership ”
This statistic is bogus.

I absolutely adore Ben Caldwell and his youth-alternative take on WW. I just cant understand how this version hasnt been snapped up by DC, unless theyr scared it undermines the current new direction she has. I really really wish this could be collected in some form…the Wednesday comics were a qualified success so there is a definite market for it.

i think there are many possible characters that dc could use to create a series of digest sized books aimed at younger audiences and girls. they need to do what marvel did with ultimate spiderman and boil the characters down to the essential elements and make the characters relatable without being condescending. many of dc’s female orientated characters could work in this way: wonder woman, power girl, zatanna, supergirl, batgirl, catwoman etc

they need to look to companies like oni press or slg for how to do it. imagine a book about a young zatanna toying with magic she doesn’t understand by paul dini and jill thompson or a teenaged babs/batgirl by andi watson or a fun supergirl comic by j. torres and j. bone. they would be great imo.

they could be part of the earth 1 imprint so that it’s stated they aren’t continuity heavy but so that they don’t say they are aimed at girls. (people resent being categorized and told what to read).

A-%^!@*ING-MEN!!! This looks exactly like it should, and if DC doesn’t publish it, it would certainly lay a lie to the whole ‘no fear’ line bandied about at the end of Levitz’ run. PLEASE, DC, PLEASE PUBLISH THIS!

I am a female and I know many young girls and this kind of thing is not guaranteed to succeed cause it plays to “girls”. What is that anyway? First off we had a call for Twilight and now manga. This is DC. DC has had kids team comics that get canceled cause they don’t sell. I sincerely doubt pretty cutesy pictures with kissing as the main core concept will bring in a drove of girls. Women on the whole love WW but they don’t buy her comics. What they should do is try and focused on writing the good comic title and have other media pick her up. TV being the most obvious. WW is a merchandising money making machine. A cartoon with Ben’s designs instead of this effort to force her into a medium that was never WW in the first place. And focus on WW and her mythos I expect her decided to drag in Batman cause she really can’t sell by herself can she. Irony of ironies. But he looks like something out of Twilight .So hurray.

@ramboratrat : (w/r/t/ doubting “women as 80% of fiction market”) That’s certainly what the internet claims. Do you have any of that, you know, evidence suggesting otherwise?

You want girls to read comics or do you want them to read superheroes?

What to do with Wonder Woman?

I like this best. Your idea here.

this is great. And get girls reading
do it
be shameless…get girls reading! what are you waiting for? Girls are gossipy…give permission for WW to be a gadfly. Why not make Steve Trevor an Iraqi War vet…or Etta Candy being a sorority sister?

Thanks,
Eric

Well, there’s something about this that has potential.

I think a) there’s a curious lack of romance and passion in the current version of Wonder Woman. Right there, you cut off a major segment of stories. And I think it might be a bit off putting to readers (both casual and ongoing).

b) the current WW is way too dignified. And perfect. And stuffy. She’s written like an icon, and she reads like an icon. WHich means boring. And less reader attachment. Doesn’t have nearly enough fun or exuberance; she doesn’t make enough mistakes of enthusiasm. (I’m thinking of the panel of Caldwell’s WW on top of Steve Trevor–there’s a kind of goofy charm there that could be a more accessible take).

casual comics reader

August 21, 2010 at 9:26 pm

I’m going to be a bit of a jerk here. Who cares if girls read comics? Do fantasy love story publishers sit around trying to figure out how to sell to men? Anyway, if a story is good (which should be the main goal), wouldn’t it attract readers regardless of their genitalia?

What DC/ Warner really needs to do is better mainstream marketing. Marvel markets the crap out of their products! I can’t remember the last time I saw DC Happy Meal toys. DC’s getting better, but there’s always twice as much Marvel merchandise.

I’m going to be a bit of a jerk here. Who cares if girls read comics? Do fantasy love story publishers sit around trying to figure out how to sell to men?

I hope so. But it doesn’t matter, because comics aren’t a genre. “Comics” is a medium. It’s like saying “Who cares if adults ages 18-49 don’t watch TV?”

All i can say is, I think Ben Caldwell’s take would be stunning. Getting it successfully out there in key market segments, I admit, could be a bit of a problem, but certainly not insurmountable. His amazing art speaks for itself! Just imagine the cover he would do for this, and I truly think it would catch the eye of many, many people in bookstores, wherever. I hope DC reconsiders!

Wow, this is the first I’ve heard of this and I would instantly buy this book. No second thoughts.

Wouldn’t it be great if the big two publishers took some time and money and invested in young, female readers?

That’ll be the day. One things publishers don’t realize, invest now…reap the rewards later.

Concur, I don’t care if women or girls read comics.

And why would you care? Comics right now are awesome.

I think that comix are for everyone. And that all comix do not have to be superhero comics to be good. One of my favorites I got turned onto (by a comics-reading grrrl ^_~) is the nigh-famous “xkcd”.
http://xkcd.com/653/

I’ve been seeing missed opportunities with the Wonder Woman property since I was a kid. I was a child of the 70s so I had Superfriends and the live action WW Lynda Carter show. Both are better examples of the character & her potential, both helped further WW’s exposure.
The best, recent incarnation of the property IMO was the DC Animated version for JUSTICE LEAGUE/UNLIMITED…I didn’t like that she could fly but I liked what WW brought to the team & the show.
That one Caldwell panel of Diana kissing Steve Trevor with the Chapter Seven caption “says it all”…one picture & 1,000 words come to mind. Diana looks like a young woman who just fell in love at first sight.
I love women. I think women are wonderful…complex mysteries, lively batteries of energy and also judgmental & wrathful. Any reallife Wonder Woman I know is also a mother, a worker, tolerates her husband/mate & also still finds time to get mostly everything done. I’m thinking of my single, working mom in a time whrn it was not cool to be a single, working mom…my aunts & cousins; strong Irish-American women, the archtypes I’ve come to admire in the fairer sex. I’m thinking of all the female friends I have now in out mid-30s, balancing career & family…true Wonder Women.
I’ve always wondered why modern Diana never had any children…why not? To me a real wonder woman is a real hero of any home & family. Sure, Earth-Two WW had Lyta but I’m thinking our Earth-Zero WW, post-Crises and reboots amok!
PS I like the Old Suit…not a fan of the new look. As Grant Morrison said, these are paper people. They’re not real. Diana will never have a “wardrobe malfunction”. Caldwell nails a great look for Diana.

thanks,
Eric

Anything that makes Wonder Woman not look like a patriotic hooker anymore is an improvement.

@Kelly T
Its okay to feel burnt out, it happens to everyone at some point. Everything in moderation.

Back on topic and to the negative nannies, you part of your problem for a start. Art is a vehicle to tell a story. I love art too, but too many comic fans get caught up on the eye candy, instead of the real meat of the story. The story and character of WW is where the problem is, and because many are so against any kind of change or deviation from what they know, it’s a not going to go anywhere. Better off trying something new.

We male readers and buyers are sucker for cute curvy butts, cleavage an such, but what do we really know about what a female reader wants and needs? Has anyone actually asked them? Manga, can give a lot of hints, but that’s all you’ll get without digging deeper. I think its very easy for some to get all angry, and dismiss such potential readers from invading your comic turf. That ‘Waaaa! Don’t care, don’t want to share toys’ attitude, won’t help. Potential customers + growth equals more comics and a brighter future us all.

Scott Pilgrim isn’t a girls comic, just an action comedy, but its great example of content treading equal lines of appeal. Some girls do like action or shonen manga, that’s aimed at boys, so it hits that sweet spot with its influences. Its a very hard sell, to get that some kind of readership for comics where women are very much an after thought (comics, its a boy club, with a no girls allowed sign out front). Where if they aren’t sporting that sexy outfit (well pointed out, ME Baz) they aren’t cool enough to carry a story. On top of that, real women have a lot of real issues to deal with, that also might not be pallatable for male readership. And what does the sometimes faux body images we present say to them?

Marvel and DC need to create comics specifically for the female crowd. It can be done, as manga has been doing this for freaking years. I guess the other obsatcle is that 80% of the people producng these american comics are also male. There’d have to be a shift somewhere, for some female writers to come into the picture, or perhaps some works co-produced with females. All in all, publisher efforts have been poor. If you want to attract a female crowd, run competitions and seek out females writers and artist, and shift the status quo. Post Twilight, try adapting some novels stuff females might actually want to read (I know some of this is happening).

And if you wanna tell a good tale without hero stuff, produce an A Drifting Life autobio like work of Wendy Pini, and her struggles to break into this male dominated industry. That I would definitely read as a comic, than anything hero based, and who knows, might actually be picked and inspire some females along the way too. What’s clear is it’s going to take more than more super hero fight club tales to draw them in.

@kid Cody:

You make a valid point. I just wanted to talk semantics. Scott Pilgrim (the comic version) is much less influenced by Shonen manga as it is by Shojo manga. The relationships and the interpersonal drama takes center stage. The fighting is more ‘tacked on.’ It’s very much like Magical Girl Utena or some other ‘magical girl’ story. It, by its very nature, is girl friendly.

It subverts the whole ‘magical girl’ thing by having a male protagonist. Thus, guys aren’t turned off by it. But it’s definitely written in a way that is conscious of the other gender. I mean, look at the major supporting cast? Ramona, Kim, Knives, Julia, Lisa etc… all girls. Except for Walace the gay roommate. Or Stephen Stills (also gay). It’s all females.

Like I said before, I think Scott Pilgrim is a good example when talking about Wonder Woman because it seems to be the exact opposite. SP is a girls comics marketed at guys and WW SHOULD be a boys comic marketed at girls. And it was during the golden age. We just need to bring her pack to her roots. Bring back the Romance. Bring back the male supporting cast. Get her book out to more girls.

This is possible. DC just needs to realize that it needs to make it a priority.

@Kid Cody: “what do we really know about what a female reader wants and needs? Has anyone actually asked them?” As a matter of fact, yes. See : http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2010/05/31/she-has-no-head-interview-with-hope-larson-about-girls-comics/ and ensuing trivialization of results in comments.

I have no idea what book would appeal to girls, but I do know why I don’t care about Wonder Woman. I’ve tried to read WW a few times and most writers seemed to admire her godlike attributes, and while that may be interesting for a couple of issues, the books I’ve enjoyed the more are either those that use the book as a platform to discuss more important issues, or those who develop a character that’s complex enough so that you can believe he/she is a real person, and you can identify with his/her motives… for me Wonder Woman has none of those attributes.

I like the idea of a book designed specifically for women, as long as they don’t notice it. Most attempts try too hard, and end up with a product that reads as what men think of women in their own fairy tales, and we know women hate that… real women at least.

I believe that American books are too clearly compartmentalized. If you watch Anime, you’ll see that kids aren’t treated like idiots, and different shows have the quality of providing stories that are attractive for a wider audience. An american Saturday cartoon, will probably only appeal to little kids (with a few exceptions), while a manga designed to adolescents may have an audience that exceeds its target demographic. It’s not hard to imagine a kid watching “Naruto”, and a few years later imagine him reading, I don’t know… “Death note”. If you like manga you can change from one tittle to another and keep reading manga until you are old and you sill get Manga designed for you: “Blade of the Immortal”, and whatnot.

If you like superhero comic-books you have to be a teenager or a old guy who has read them for a long time and enjoys obsessive continuity, and if you are a girl you are screwed because you probably don’t even know about books like Runaways or Strangers in Paradise. Or “what the hell happened with that lovely “Mary Jane loves Spider-man”, book that you read once?”.

The Caldwell pitch seems like a good idea, and maybe trying something like a Shonen Jump magazine wouldn’t be so bad either. But I would try to sell comics outside of comic book stores (or eliminate them altogether. I hate those places), and design them for a wider audience… If you publish 80 books a month, maybe you can sell 20 to young kids, 20 to people who’ve been reading comics for 5 years, 20 for people who are not too jaded, and 20 for people who are tired of everything else. Now it seems that Marvel and DC are trying to get the same reader to buy all 160 books they publish every month.

You know, I liked what Caldwell tried to do in Wednesday Comics. It was a bit of a mess in the final analysis, but I’d rather see somebody try something interesting and not quite get it right than, well, the Teen Titans or Superman strip.

While Caldwell’s pitch is undeniably creative, I’m not sure the art style and approach would come across as anything other that ‘talking down’ to most readers. Maybe I’m wierd, but even as a kid, I never went in for “youth-oriented” subsets of comics. As soon as I could read, I was reading Amazing Spider-Man, Justice League, Iron Man and all the other “mainstream” titles. I suspect that this sort of approach to Wonder Woman would flop because the target audience would feel patronized. Of the women that I know that enjoy comics, most of their “gateway” comics have been things like Sandman, X-Men (during the Claremont era), Fables, and the 80’s run of New Teen Titans. The link I see between all of these titles are complex characterizations and an exploratiuon of moiral and interpersonal themes. Caldwell’s pitch strikes me as understimating the sophistication of both young and female readers dramatically.

That’s not to say that what passes as modern mainstream comics are all that sophisticated. The recent “back to basics” and “getting back to the core of the character” approaches have, in many cases, left us with much flatter and less nuanced approaches to characters and sucked away a lot of my enthusiasm for the titles. Sure, some readers may consider them “fun,” but fluff only takes you so far. I’d love to see more character-driven stories with an emphasis on personal growth and challenges.

Which brings me back to Wonder Woman. Too often, she seems to be put out as a fait accompli, a complete character without room to grow and change. Perhaps this is out of fear of making the character look too weak in relation to her male counterparts, but without that room to grow, the character seems to become rather flat and boring pretty fast. I’d love to see a psychologically complex Wonder Woman with a strong supporting cast and facing adventures steeped in classical greek mythology. I suspect taking a more mature and sophisticated approach to Wonder Woman (by which I do not mena T&A or blood and guts) could make it a flagship book that was accessible to young female readership.

However, I think the best idea circulating here is risking a change of format. Monthly floppies are unlikely to target a young, female reader (or perhaps even young male readers) anymore. Having a single graphic novel on the shelves of bookstores, alongside Young Adult fiction, would be a great vehicle for getting young female readers to sample the medium, especially for the first time. In fact, I’d love to see both Marvel and DC develop and take a serious shot at a direct to bookstore graphic novel series with any of their flagship characters to see if it makes any waves.

Nave Hayder (TORMENT)

August 23, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Wow, I completely agree, and I’m supposed to fall on the guys-demography. Those WW pin-ups look like masterpieces (you get what i mean) that were shunned by those who didn’t ‘quite get the point’. I back you up on that Dare to DC. But here’s the thing, they already tried to sell a YA-oriented WW , just not in comics-format. I’m talking about the animated movie, it’s perhaps one of the BEST WW origin tales I’ve seen and there’s was plenty for everyone. Adults, teenagers, school-kids, ladies, dudes, what you may.

What I can’t figure out is why DC won’t give Diana another book especially since they insist that she’s one of their staple characters? It’s almost sad that her place in the Trinity seems more and more like a simple ornamentation — like including women in the jury coz for the sake of it, not coz they need her verdict. I was terrified, like most, at first with Jim Lee and JMS’ reboot, but the more I think of it it’s not really “HOLY SHIT” worthy, since it’s just another ploy with DC’ s “Neo-Silver Age”isation. Yes, despite the very 90s-era feel to Dee, the new storyline reeks of Silver Age influences, and I for one am against that. You gotta look beyond that jacket to see what I mean. But all that’s beside the point here. To get back to what you wrote here — the bit about a YA-oriented take, that’s brilliant, DC should definitely grab that. But at the same time, it shouldn’t be on WW’s main magazine, but a subsidiary one.

Now onto the issue of multiple magz for the same character — is it over done? Do we really need 3 different bat books? Why not mix them up? Why not, instead of releasing a YA-oriented maxi-series, do a Graphic Novel altogether? And why not take the money spent on so many multiple titles and jam it together into a fatter monthly issue consisting of 42 pages? You’ll get more stories told that way, and more importantly, if a certain team has a certain good idea, then they ought to wait their turn. I think that’s the way the Big Companies should handle things. I dunno, just a stray thought. Thanks for the read, and for reading.

1) Wonder Woman as an adult story probably doesn’t work too well. I’ve not been a die-hard fan, and while the current storyline is holding my interest, mostly from mystery, I don’t know how to make it a “must have” title.

2) This YA manga title is so easy to sell. It’s got romance, it’s got the mystical magical stuff that other manga has, it’s got a strong female lead, and it’s got the entire DCU to use for inspiration.

3) There should also be a Juvie version as well. Don’t forget, Wonder Woman is a PRINCESS. Not the kind that gets locked away and must be rescued, this is one who does the rescuing. Add a mystical hidden island of strong women. Throw in some mythical beasties, maybe a winged unicorn, some magic… If this grown-up WW sells, then spin off a Wonder Girl series where she’s younger and exploring the island and Getting Into Trouble.

4) DC never has success when starting an imprint from scratch. Matrix/Helix, Piranha, Paradox, Impact, Minx… Instead, DC should just publish YA titles, and then, when there are enough series, brand them together into a new line, like they did with Vertigo.

5) Back in the day, when girls didn’t read comics, girls were fans of X-Men and Teen Titans and the Legion of Super Heroes. Why? Because of the interpersonal relationships. Runaways sells to YA audiences (Marvel publishes digest editions for YA, GN editions for the adult trade), so why not LSH? DC wouldn’t even have to start over, since LSH has been rebooted so often… just find a good starting point, redraw the art to fit a digest page, and see how it sells.

6) Sales… if kids graphic novels do not sell, why are there so many kids graphic novels being published? (9K+ in BN.com) Baby Mouse, Geronimo Stilton, Warriors, Odd Thomas, Lunch Lady… Papercutz, Lerner, First Second, Amulet, Scholastic…

Probably because educators know comics are a great way to help kids who don’t like to read, to read.
Yup… it’s not just kids who buy kids comics. Teachers and parents and relatives buy them too.

Speaking of which, I gave my nieces copies of “Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade” (1401225063) for Christmas. I enjoyed it as well, and wish there was more! If you’re bored with comics, try this. Lots of fun, a new spin on the character, and enough fan service to please without hurting the story. (You won’t believe who her roommate is!)

Oh, you mean in Comic Book Stores? Who cares? I didn’t set foot inside one until I was 14. Before that, I hiked to the local shopping center and bought my comics from B. Dalton and Waldenbooks. Sure, the smart retailers have a kids section, but, again, why bother? Go where the kids are: schools, libraries, shopping centers. They’ll discover the comics shops eventually.

Girls didn’t discover manga in comics shops. Books marketed to girls will not sell as well in comics shops. Yeah, some stores get it, but libraries are the non-returnable “direct market” publishers covet.

You know, if the internet can get Betty White on SNL, maybe we can at least get Caldwell’s pitch a second look by the new DC publisher/editorial line up.

@Matt Blind. Wouldn’t that be great? I have to say, I’ve been shocked (pleasantly of course) by the positive reaction not only to this column, but to Ben’s pitch. It’s one thing not paying attention to me (just some random blogger) but 90+ comments is no bullshit…I think DC should pay attention. :)

@ Bill Reed, I’m glad you mentioned Amethyst. I recently reread the original mini (which I loved as a kid), and a LOT of it still holds up. I remain surprised that DC hasn’t tried to spin it off into its own thing, given the similarities to Harry Potter. I’d still love to see a collected edition I could give to my daughter or my students…

I love the responses too…s’why this is #3 for me here.

I want to make a defense of Etta Candy. She’s a great, big personality and character and has soooo much potential. Its our own glammer-obsessed culture that presumes juxtaposing a round gal with a Greek model is wrong.
Also the Holiday Girls as a modern-day “Suicide Girls” spin? WOW!!! I got round people in my family both male & female. There’s nothing wrong in being round. Why not more round heroes like Bouncing Boy of hte LSH, or Chunk of the Wally West THE FLASH or Etta Candy of WONDER WOMAN. Are round people supposed to go and hide? No…they’re our co-workers & family & friends too. Why can’t Diana’s best girlfriend be a round, spunky gadfly? Why does it make you uncomfortable?
Just food for FunnyBook Meditations….

crea shaakti,
Rev sully

Eric O’Sullivan
Boston, MA USA

I admit, I like the Etta Candy character, as its nice to see a female that is inperfect, like us all. That name would have to change though. I like sometimes that’s one of the industries failings, plenty of heroes and villains, but not enough real flawed characters, that anyone can connect with. Change that name and run with the character.

As for some of the tales of comic book shops, and as someone who also worked in one, I can understand how some feel. I think comic shops suffer, from there being no chain and level set of standards, for layout, interior design etc. I know this may be changing with a chain of U.S stores by someone. If the layout, lighting, ventilation and customer service are right, it can be a much better, more approachable place.

Digressing a bit, No matter the best or worst store, there will always be those customers that make you swear water wasn’t pumped to their house, and soap is an alien concept to them. Which begs the question for a possible article should you reject such customers, until they raise their personal hygiene standards or just serve them, suck up bad body toxic air and take their cash? (Get on it, Kelly)

Hmmm…I wonder what Ben C is thinking of all this feedback.

@Rusty Priske So when you were reading Wednesday comics you didn’t happen to notice the Teen Titans? Lucky you.

@Rusty Priske So when you were reading Wednesday comics you didn’t happen to notice the Teen Titans strip? Lucky you.

Why wouldn’t they make that? It’s brilliant!

This calls to mind the same problems with the aborted plans for the ZUDA reboot using catalog characters to tell vibrant, out of continuity stories (one here by Cameron Stewart: http://cameronstewart.blogspot.com/2010/09/zudatanna.html the other here by Ramon Perez: http://www.ramonperez.com/v1/2010/09/02/a-kernal-of-an-idea/).

Who the hell is running things over at DC?

Things like this *should* be considered loss leaders. The entire concept of a “loss leader” in retail is to offer something at a discount so that you draw people in, move that product and… get them to buy other items. And you create a loss leader not with crappy, throw-away junk (that’s a large portion of remaindered items) but with strong items that you kow will sell. Last year, Steven King’s UNDER THE DOME was a loss leader for major retailers (with a serious price war online); it was Stephen King, they were going to sell a lot of books anyway and could have made a lot more money per copy… but they used this to pull people in and sold a lot more items – strengthening their own bottom lines and generating more sales for other authors/items.

Now, take this model and apply it to the publishing side. DC in particular has already shown their willingness to discount the price of the initial volume of a series or line. For example, the first FABLES collection is priced below the norm for the series; the debut volumes in their black & white SHOWCASE collections were cheaper than the subsequent editions of the line. This helped to generate interest in the lines and engendered a willingness to sample the product.

Caldwell’s WW pitch – and/or something similar – could be just the ticket to get back into niche markets (impulse buys at the grocery checkout) as well as an entry into other markets and areas of existing markets, which we know Marvel & DC want to do, *need* to do, in order to expand and grow beyond the poor sales of today’s market. Not just for girls/women, but for people who don’t know that there really is a lot of great stuff out there in the comic book format.

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