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CSBG Archive

Let the Girls Take the Lead

Here’s a guest piece by longtime comic book writer Barbara Slate – BC

I have been following the widening discussion of girls and comics that began with Janelle Asselin’s critique of Teen Titans last month. We all know why women are sexualized in boys’ comics. Boys like boobs. Therefore grown men who draw the comics will continue to draw big breasts because they like to and because they know that it sells comics. We may never get them to stop drawing humongous mammaries, but the industry leading publishers can and should have a counterbalance. Instead of just trying to “educate” the boys, give the girls the lead.

In the 80s, Jenette Kahn, president of DC Comics, took a first step by publishing Angel Love.

In the 90s, Tom DeFalco, editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics, started a girls’ line. It was a courageous move because ‘girls don’t buy comics’ was the catch phrase whenever the subject was brought up. But Tom boldly went where no man had gone before and got licenses for Barbie (Mattel) and then a few years later, Belle (Disney’s Beauty and the Beast) and Ariel (Disney’s Little Mermaid).

slate1slate2slate3

These female leads were wonderful role models.

I wrote 65 Barbie comics. Every month Barbie would have a different profession. She was an astronaut, a teacher, and a designer, to name a few of her seemingly endless career paths.

Barbie could do anything and live anywhere. We won the Parents Choice Award two years in a row. Even Ms. Magazine loved Barbie comics! Her breasts were normal size. Why? Because under the keen eye of the marvelous Marvel editor, Hildy Mesnik, a team of women wrote, drew and adored Barbie. We were all conscious of the fact that young girls would be reading our work and we wanted them to grow up to be strong, independent and successful women.

Of course our sales couldn’t compete with Spider-Man and other male dominated superheroes. Comic book readers were, after all, 95% boys. But every month our numbers increased. To make a very sad story short, just as the girls’ line was getting traction, some a-hole who knew nothing about comics bought Marvel, looked at our monthly sales numbers, and eliminated the entire girls’ line while sending Marvel into bankruptcy. (Don’t get me started.)

So here it is, 2014, and girls do read comic books. I teach how to do graphic novels and comic books in schools, libraries, and art centers. Half the students who sign up for classes are girls. But where. oh where, is the girls’ line? A recent survey suggests that nearly half the comic fans are now female, and quotes Axel Alonso, Marvel’s editor-in-chief, as saying “They are starved for content and looking for content they can relate to.” So instead of investing in yet another super hero, invest in our girls. Bring back DeFalco’s vision of strong, independent regular anatomized girls. Rather than just educating boys, what we need are strong girls who respect their bodies.

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Barbara Slate has created, written and drawn over 200 comic books. This fall she will be the Keynoter at the Wildcat Comic Con. Visit her website www.barbaraslate.com.

58 Comments

Mike Loughlin

May 13, 2014 at 5:43 am

The good news is that My Little Pony sells enough to justify getting more comics based on properties associated with girls into print. The other good news is that Archie is still going strong. My daughter now wants me to buy Betty & Veronica when we go to the comic book store.

The bad news remains (as Greg Burgas pointed out) price point and availability. There are options to change that if publishers get just a little daring…

Archie Digests are a good value. I wonder what would happen if other comics used that format and were available at the front of the grocery store. Teen Titans Go! digest might be a hit. Same with Adventure Time or another Cartoon Network series. Certain manga series printed cheaply and pocket sized might work. Embrace the Archie model, other companies, and we might see readership increase.

What with Disney owning Marvel, a new line of girls oriented comics based on at least some of the Disney Princess characters ought to be a no-brainer, right? Besides the excellent work Marvel are doing with their female led superhero books of course, of which I read and enjoy several, I admit.

To echo Fury, a Disney Frozen comic would sell like hotcakes. It’s amazing how badly Disney has screwed up their marketing/tie-ins on that film. It absolutely owns the under-12 female demographic, and you can’t find anything related to it anywhere.

Another potential girl-focused Disney comic would be Sophia the First, which would let them bring in a lot of the other princesses, since they seem to be in a shared universe.

Mike Loughlin

May 13, 2014 at 8:29 am

Disney has been baffled by comics for years now. They have all the clout in the world but can’t push Princess comics? Bull. I think they’re both uninterested and scared off by past failures.

Believe it or not, I started reading comics with Disney. Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Goofy, they were huge in Brazil, and sold a lot in newstands until well into the 1990s. I know that in the US Disney Comics haven’t been successful in a lot more time.

This is less an issue of gender and more an issue of age and availability. Marvel and DC don’t know how to appeal to anyone not already very invested in the hobby – usually males in their 30s and 40s.

Bill Williamson

May 13, 2014 at 9:03 am

“Her breasts were normal size”

Ah, but her waist, was that normal size too?

OT: In Japan they seem to have comics (manga) aimed at just about everybody. If they can make it work there, there’s no reason it can’t work here.

I love how everyone wants comic book publishers to do something to push a socio-political agenda to make themselves feel better. So what if the sales numbers wouldn’t be there? Marvel and DC should lose money to raise awareness.

If you feel that passionately about it risk your own money. Start your own comic book company. Get a kickstarter going. It’s so easy to tell other people how they should spend their money to suit your needs.

Paul -

A commitment to variety isn’t necessarily part of a leftist socio-political agenda. Yes, I added the leftist; when people complain of a socio-political agenda there is always a silent “leftist” appended to it.

It would be cool if they published lots of comics aimed at lots of audiences. Even groups that are not “liberal”, like religious Christians, could have their comics.

It would be “cool”. Would it be profitable? Believe it or not, businesses aren’t in business to be cool. They’re in business to make money. You should apply to be an editor at Marvel. During your interview, please espouse your views. “Under my direction, we’re going to do all these things to make the book more cool so little girls will buy it. Sales are projected to go down by half, but in 15 years we might get back to the level we’re at now. So when do I start?”

@Paul

You’re falling into this very dangerous trope of “don’t criticize, do it yourself!” and that’s just so fundamentally flawed I can’t even.

For starters, many people that talk about these issues and are interested in these kind of books/activism/etc. DO create comics and companies, etc., and you may just not know about it. So its annoying to have people tell you to “shut up and do it yourself” when you ARE actually in the process of doing that exact thing, or HAVE done that thing and these people shouting you down don’t know about it. And by the by, creating a comic (or running a Kickstarter, etc.) all take a tremendous amount of time, so things are certainly in process that you don’t know about, they’re just not here yet because doing things right is a time consuming adventure.

Secondly, not everyone has the ability or desire to create, it doesn’t mean they can’t have a voice (critical or otherwise) about what they would like to see in media – whether that be writing high profile and analytical columns about issues, or starting a Tumblr, or talking to creators at cons, or just gossiping with their friends at the comic book store. Activism and community is a big deal and telling people not to talk critically about things unless they’re willing to “start their own company” or “create their own comic” is just ridiculous.

Actually, I think it WOULD be profitable to invest in the younger market (both boys and girls). That has less to do with changes in content, and more with price point and availability, as others have said before.

How can attracting brand new customers not be profitable? Appeal to a market that you haven’t appealed to before and you have people buying comics that never bought comics before. Some of them are going to transition to other titles. That’s more money.

Sophia the First?
Paul, do you have some evidence that comics targeting a female audience won’t sell? As someone pointed out above, manga and My Little Pony have plenty of female fans. There’s no reason to think that other comics couldn’t do the same. They might fail, but of course any comic might fail, whoever it’s targeted at. To paraphrase Stan Lee, nobody sets out to do an unsuccessful comic, but it happens anyway.
The Janelle Asselin piece that got so much hate mail pointed out that Teen Titans Go has a big female fandom but DC made little effort to grab new fans with the Titans relaunch. Why bother when they can have superboob Wonder Girl?

Paul – Just because you’re dismissive and obnoxious, does not mean you have taken the rational side of the argument. You actively argue for short term profits over building a new audience to support a company over the coming decades. That tactic might work for hedge funds or a short-term business, but for a large publishing company it’s incredibly short-sighted.
There’s also nothing stopping Marvel from publishing a line aimed at girls without cancelling or scaling back the side of their business aimed at the ‘traditional’ market. They have the resources, it’s simply a matter of corporate/editorial desire, which is the very thing espoused in this article.

TLDR: Sardonicism doesn’t equal business insight

“Under my direction, we’re going to do all these things to make the book more cool so little girls will buy it. ”

Not actually what was suggested. What was suggested was to add more books that girls would like, not change any existing books. So nobody’s taking away your toys, just adding toys to the box that people who aren’t you might like to play with. Can you share the toy box with the other kids? Good boys who share get cookies and juice!

I remember when I was reading the Wikipedia entry on the film studio “American International Pictures” that one of the executives there had the following marketing philosophy:

“a) a younger child will watch anything an older child will watch;
b) an older child will not watch anything a younger child will watch;
c) a girl will watch anything a boy will watch
d) a boy will not watch anything a girl will watch;
therefore-to catch your greatest audience you zero in on the 19-year old male”

I suspect that comic industry executive have the same philosophy, although in this more PC age they are unwilling to admit it.

If this is the case then it suggests another avenue of attack in the campaign for there to be more girls comics. Why is it that a girl will watch/read anything a boy will, but not vice versa. Possibly it is because in our society masculinity is regarded as something a man must earn through behaving masculinly and can lose if they behave in a feminine fashion. Femininity, by contrast, is regarded as something intrinsic to anyone with the right set of genitals, regardless of how they behave. As a result of this the social consequences for a boy who likes feminine things are frequently worse than the social consequences for a girl who likes masculine ones.

Therefore, one way to encourage a publisher to publish more girl-centric stories is fight the stigma that boys get from reading feminine things. We’ve already made some progress in this regard with the large male “My Little Pony” fandom. Is it possible to do more?

Paul is not making an empirical argument, he’s making an argument based on a particular interpretation of capitalist theory. He is not asserting that girls comics are unprofitable. He’s saying that IF girls comics are unprofitable in a market economy, THEN it makes no sense for a business to publish them.

If there is evidence that girls comics can be published profitably, then Paul’s argument is just an application of theory to a set of facts that are untrue. That’s fine. Theorizing is a valuable passtime.

However, it is possible to refute his theoretical argument by challenging the premise. His premise is that corporations exist solely for the making of profit. This is neither true by necessity, nor empirically true.

The profit motive does not have to be the only driving force in a corporation. People organize corporations for complex reasons, some of which are to make money, but others are to provide jobs, innovate, to produce art, and so on. Though the making of profit is a sin qua non in a market capitalism (putting aside non-profit organizations for the moment), it can be balanced with a political or social agenda. Many corporations do just that; they make products priced to be competitive in the market, taking a smaller profit, in order to accomplish a particular social agenda.

It is not unreasonable for consumers to seek out products from corporations that have a more balanced set of goals than simple profit. It is not unreasonable for consumers to ask Disney or Warner Brothers to produce and distribute unprofitable comics which are subsidized by the more profitable ones.

Indeed, many businesses with no goal other than profit will sell certain products at a loss in order to make more sales of other more profitable products. Google the concept of a “loss leader.”

On a different note: why is it that all of the examples of “girls comics” in this column are marketed at children? Aren’t the majority of comics readers young adults? Shouldn’t the industry be trying to speak to college age and professional women, rather than just pre-adolescents?

I have mixed feelings about “Pink Comics”, or comics targeted at exclusively girls as demo.

First, gender-based segmentation is less useful for young people than it was in the past. Girls like boy things and vice versa. Gender roles still plainly exist, but they are not the mutually exclusive categories that they were a couple generations ago. Young females who are geek-friendly enough to read comics, but not into any of the traditional geek genres strikes me a challenging audience to zero in on.

Second, their existence strikes me as a potentially disingenuous excuse for not making geek genres more accessible to female fans. Humongous mammaries are essential to some characters, but they are kind of detriment to others. There is no particular reason that superheroes, spy-fi, science fantasy, western and the rest of the “Boys Adventure” genres couldn’t be inclusive. Much more gendered genres, like high fantasy and horror, have opened up in recent years. If you can keep genre trappings as female unfriendly as the semi-rapey barbarian AND use it tell a feminist enough story in something like Game of Thrones, then it seems like almost any genre can be opened up.

With that said, it seems insane for Disney and Warner Bros to not leverage their IP in more traditionally girl-oriented genres in comics.

I mean, a Disney Princess Universe seems like a bit of a no-brainer. It is not incredibly dissimilar to FABLES (or SHREK), but it seems it would sell and potentially produce new IP to exploit.

Ghatanathoah –

I was thinking the other day that instead of economics or religion, the surest predictor of a person’s political leanings is how much importance they afford to “manhood” and how extensive the “manhood codes” are for them. Strangely enough, that seems to hold true even for libertarian conservatives, that idolize some ideal manhood as much as social conservatives.

It is not unreasonable for consumers to ask Disney or Warner Brothers to produce and distribute unprofitable comics which are subsidized by the more profitable ones.

It always seems “reasonable” for someone else to lose their money, even if there aren’t enough consumers willing to put up their own.

If you want subsidized content you don’t need other modestly successful comic books, but really, really successful other media versions. My Little Pony can do well, and that’s good, but as long as it works as an advertisement to sell more toys, it doesn’t have to top the sales charts. The corporations will subsidize a failing comic book industry, because they’re making billions off those properties on the big screen. Get some more female centric stories in movie theaters selling toys, and those characters will be everywhere. Disney seems ideally placed to do this with female lines of characters and a comic book house. (I mean, if they can get Frozen into Once Upon a Time, why not comics?!?!)

Dean’s right: a ghetto of female comics is not the answer, but making current comics more inclusive. Female titles if they sell; but female characters that don’t just turn away female readers is even more important. As I male I can’t say I always hated looking at them, but did anyone ever really buy a comic because the character had big boobs? At current prices, that seems like a BIG waste of money. And equalizing it is probably not more characters with really big packages. But maybe…

Sounds like a comics revival of “separate but Equal” I don’t’ speak for the women but I’d imagine they don’t want separate comic lines Just for them. They want a place at the table with the “boys” comics and acknowledgement of their existence and contribution to both the creative side of the industry and especially on the consumer side. Creating a Girls only line just seems insulting to them. My Opinion.

You really don’t speak for women. And there’s little need to imagine what we want, when we’re right here writing articles like this. Just listen!

You want to know what I want? Lots of things! Yes, a seat at the big table. I love that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a terrific gender (and racial) mix. I love that there’s an X-book of all women. I love Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel, and She-Hulk and Black Widow and the upcoming Storm series. And Birds of Prey and Batwoman and Batgirl. And some of these books are written by women and are great!

I love indy works too, like Rat Queens and Lumberjanes and Princeless.

I’d also like more titles for younger readers. In what way does Barbie or Frozen comics diminish my experience? Not in the least. There’s nothing wrong with girls reading superheroes, but there’s also nothing wrong with boys reading these comics too. THERE’S REALLY NOTHING WRONG WITH A BOY READING BARBIE COMICS. If you think there is, I recommend some self-reflection rather than more posting to comment boards.

A recent poll put the attendance at Emerald City Comic Con at more than 50% female. (Even if you take issue with the methodology, it’s inescapable that the gender ratio doesn’t skew like it used to.) A lot of these women are interested in comics and just getting started. It’s the perfect time, from a raw financial standpoint, for comic companies to reach out to this undertapped market and hook them for life. The market is ripe. Companies that make books with female protagonists, and hire female writers, are just going to see a good return on this investment.

Slate specifically notes that the comics WERE profitable. So any doubts about the profitability of doing a girl’s line are not supported by the actual article posted here.

chakal, the great

May 13, 2014 at 2:38 pm

” Instead of just trying to “educate” the boys, give the girls the lead.”

Wise words. And a good idea.
Also, even wiser words:
“Boys like boobs.”

“It always seems “reasonable” for someone else to lose their money, even if there aren’t enough consumers willing to put up their own.”

Of course it’s reasonable for me (a consumer) to request that the company balance its profit motive against other social causes. As a consumer, I have not only the privilege, but the responsibility to try to consume as responsibly as my means allow. If the company cannot or will not accommodate my efforts to be a responsible consumer, I may choose to take my business elsewhere.

We’re not talking about losing money here. The comics were not losing money when they were canceled. That whole avenue of discussion is not on topic, so avoid it, please.

Unless you have an on-topic comment, don’t bother making it. Off-topic stuff includes all diversionary comments like “But what about this other topic?” or “Shouldn’t we talk about something else other than the topic that we’re talking about?”

If you find yourself beginning to write stuff like that, just stop yourself.

That sounds fair to me. But you know where the problem lies? It lies on social implications as well.

There are studies and studies out there about how gender differences can have socially impacted causes. Whether is physical fitness or getting into a field like science, studies prove that is more than gender. Is social psychology as well. Look at today’s shows that target women: The Young and the Restless. Those shows are girls, girls shows. They are femininely attracted, because girls like, on average, emotionally attached shows. The girl catching his man cheating? That’s emotionally engaging. And I think is important to separate a medium like comic books vs a medium that represents womens behaviors, thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Even if you read comic books today that have a strong female lead you see that these women have one thing in common: they are independent. Look at Catwoman. No one helped her. She did evrything on her own, and she is a very recognizable anti-hero in the Bat-universe. Or look at an underrated woman like Red Sonja. She kills, she’s independent, she leads, etc. The ideal woman, right? Well, for us men. So, yeah, a strong line of exclusive women comics will infact solve the women problem. But will they read them? Will young women read these distinctive stories? Is more complicated than it sounds.

Even if you look at Youtube personalities you see young women talk about baking, beauty, well-being, and other relatable women issues. Do you see women talk about comics? Not really. Even video games, where women are having success, seem to not make a difference. But look closely at the social forum when it comes to women in a predominantly guy field: you still need a guy in there somehow.

The only way women would be represented in comic books is if they can produce a field of innovative and out-of-the-box ideas. Barbie, My Little Pony, or other Disney favorite characters can work. But we’re talking about a field where verbal stimuli limits a childs imagination. Children have imaginations, and you have to compete with a market that is looking to enhance that imagination, and behaviorally speaking, a barbie toy is more appealing than a book. Not just exclusively for girls, but just for children in general.

Franky, your idea of what women read is a little off. Women have been a huge part of Star Trek fandom from the very first, for instance. They also make up the majority of Supernatural fans–certainly a show that’s very heavy on relationships but hardly devoted to “relatable women issues.”
Women also make up the majority of TV viewers, not just soap operas. Game of Thrones has female fans (strangely enough my wife, a non-fantasy reader watches it and I don’t). Women also read a lot of comics already.
I agree it’s hard figuring “What new comic will appear to female fans?” But that’s because it’s often hard to figure what comics are going to sell, to any audience.

As far as just making regular comics more accessible/appealing to women,that makes sense too.

I love the writer’s voice. She’s being sensible and mature about a topic that seems to be mostly fought by braindead manbabies and entitled princesses who cry out for each other’s blood, and no one ends up walking away with a solution. I respect her all the more for having actually been part of an initiative to change things.

It’s one thing to say “but it’s important that the subject be brought to the forefront!” which I’ll agree with ten thousand percent. But how much longer is gonna just sit at “the forefront” before anything’s done? I’m so ready to drop $50 bucks on an anthology produced by all-women comic creators, professional or otherwise. An anthology that continues to blow my mind and shows me how the next generation of comics should be all-inclusive.

But I guess if Marvel or Image ain’t willing to publish it, then I suppose it’s an absolute impossibility, then. Oh, well, then let’s just keep arguing.

I have shilled Rat Queens to everyone I know, and will continue to to do so with anyone that has either picked up a comic or has a sense of humor. Make a great comic and everybody wins!

Brian from Canada

May 13, 2014 at 4:05 pm

I have to side with Paul here: Disney, Barbie and My Little Pony aren’t comics aimed at girls, they are LICENSES of existing products aimed at girls that seek to gain some of the same money spent on other products — and the series’ cancellations had little to do with the publisher, they had more to do with the license holder. Disney shifted publishing in house, and bought CrossGen to boost its publishing efforts. My Little Pony is part of a wide-line push at IDW for Hasbro Toys, who did the same thing at Cartoon Network (only to see every boy toy cartoon series fail miserably in the ratings).

The last real efforts by Marvel and DC to publish comics aimed at girls that wasn’t trying go cash in on the latest trend (i.e., manga, which Americans can’t replicate and is already on the downturn in North America based on TokyoPop and Viz’s dwindling sales) was in the sixties. Millie The Model. Nellie The Nurse. etc. These were books clearly not superhero comics, and their audience has basically continued into the Archie line while the big two retrenched in superheroes during the 70s comic market shift.

Today, those genres are gone. Romance has been diminished in prose fiction, and even the prime time soap operas have become about backstabbing business plans rather than emotional developments of the family. Teen fiction once dealt with dating issues; today’s teen shows — particularly aimed at teen girls — all seem to be about solving murder mysteries that would stump Nancy Drew.

The last real efforts by someone ELSE to make a line with books aimed directly at young girls was CrossGen. And look what happened to them — they failed. They got bought by Disney and then shut down. They got resurrected at Marvel quite poorly and failed. And this has nothing to do with the quality of the books, since there were some great writers and stories coming out of their fantasy-oriented line.

For much of the comic book industry, the girls’ lines aren’t proven profitable. Worse, young girls DOMINATE young adult fiction — but none of that translates into comics. You don’t see Twilight, Divergence, Vampire Academy or The Hunger Games being replicated into comics because it’s not really something the publishers can understand at the moment… or Hollywood, given that two of those four examples are box office flatlines.

(Boys stories in the young adult section are barely existent: boys seem mostly to be expected to either take the “young heroine who has the single combination to save the world” fantasy stories or jump right into mostly adult science fiction/fantasy novels — or graphic novels.)

It IS profit that the big two have to look at, it won’t be a visionary like Tom DeFalco who decides to cash in on the success of other franchises. The only way one of the big two can make girl comics work — and I am NOT advocating they shouldn’t, because it’s a key part of comics that needs to return — is to do some serious universe building like Amethyst or Sigil had done in the past when they can afford to give it the support it needs.

But the market just can’t right now. Stalwarts like Teen Titans and Legion Of Super-Heroes are failing, and the focus on event cycles and making comics for movies is distracting them from the real attempts to build a universe that’s separate from the big lines.

Personally, I think that a girls comic line CAN succeed IF the publishers (a) find an editor who has both the vision and ability to create a small secondary line that deals with elements of the genres that sell to girls, (b) find the creative teams that can work within that vision, (c) avoid the crossover desires and event cycles that are rampant today, (d) give them constant push in ways that the other comics are not getting, (e) promise to support it for three years at the minimum, and (f) MOST IMPORTANTLY avoid selling it as “comics for girls made by girls.”

The comics have to stand by themselves. They have to show the publisher that there is some profit in expanding the output without hurting the central line. The bottom line is to make sure the publishers see it makes money for them to do it.

Resurrect the Star Comics division at Marvel. Create a DC Star line that is a different branch between DC Kids and Vertigo. That’s the ONLY way to really give girl comics the spotlight they need. Because otherwise all you will have is articles like these bemoaning the lack of girl comics as the superhero lines flog out female-led superhero comics that start good and get run over by crossover events until the character becomes cannon fodder for the rise of the next one.

@Brian from Canada:

“For much of the comic book industry, the girls’ lines aren’t proven profitable. Worse, young girls DOMINATE young adult fiction — but none of that translates into comics. You don’t see Twilight, Divergence, Vampire Academy or The Hunger Games being replicated into comics because it’s not really something the publishers can understand at the moment… or Hollywood, given that two of those four examples are box office flatlines.”

Um. So I guess I’ll just put this here?

“[Twilight's] first printing was reported to be of 350,000 copies, which, according to USA Today, was believed to be the largest first printing for a graphic novel in the U.S. market.[1] A typical first printing for a graphic novel is between 20,000 and 25,000 copies.[2] Yen Press announced that the book sold 66,000 copies in its first week, which it claimed was a record for U.S. sales of a graphic novel in its first week.[3]

As of June 10, 2010, the Twilight graphic novel was at #1 on the New York Times best-seller list for hardcover graphic books in its 12th week on the chart.”

Also…how on earth do you get to “given that two of those four examples are box office flatlines.”

I’ll give you Vampire Academy, but the others you list, Hunger Games, Twilight, and Divergent are all monster hits. Divergent is the least of them but it’s still a huge success – the kind of financial success most movies ache for.

@Kelly Thompson

Why do you have to go and bring things like ‘facts’ into this! We were perfectly happy with our discussions based on assumptions, historical prejudices and no research!

pixie_solanas

May 13, 2014 at 4:34 pm

About time. Why do you think i’ve been championing girl-positive comics like Pixie Strikes Back?

The original Amethyst series did a number in shaping my future aesthetics. I can’t bear the thought of a new generation of girls not getting the same exposure towards gender-positive characters and books.

pixie_solanas

May 13, 2014 at 4:35 pm

And no Twilight, Divergent, Hunger Games, et al. A girl’s worth is not valued in how much ass she kicks or what bo-hunk she chooses.

“Romance has been diminished in prose fiction,” Actually it’s a massively successful genre. And far from being diminished, I think there’s much more romance entering into SF and fantasy than back in, say, the 1970s.

The Japanese comics industry has been pretty successful with comics specifically aimed at boys (Shonen) and girls (Shojo) respectively. There’s no shame in it. It doesn’t mean girls don’t read “boys” comics, or that boys don’t read “girls” comics. They just know where to go depending on what they want. Trying to please everyone with one kind of comic will only result in something nobody wants to read.

Part of me laughs when female readers complain about the way women are portrayed in comics. While I DO see their point, and I sympathize, have they looked at how boys/men are portrayed in fiction geared specifically for women? Go read a shojo comic; apparently all men are pretty, suffering emo types who have no interests or lives outside of whoever their respective female protagonist.

Tomb Raider by Dark Horse is PERFECT for girls.

Female hero? Check.
No big boobies? Check.
Interesting story? Check.

Good story with a solid lead. No need for some Disney stuff. those are for KIDS.

Amelia Cole. That is all.

I have to admit, part of the reason I make mine Marvel is because is because of the current crop of women-centric books. I’d love to see more younger female-centric books. I, for one, would love to see a Monster High and Ever After High comic books as well as a return of Barbie.

Gray –

That is an old complaint of masculinists that has no validity. It is a false equivalency. There is no social expectation for males to conform to the stereotypes of female fiction. Romance novels have been popular in my country for decades, and no male child was ever raised or influenced to conform to the stereotype of the shirtless stud that adorns their covers.

Since almost all of the decision makers in all modern societies are males, the stereotypes in female fiction targeted at men have no bite to them. When men are affected by stereotypes in fiction, those are the ones in fiction created by and targeted at males, such as adventure stories that teach that a male must be ready to fight, to kill, and to die in battle.

Obviously, that is not the same for women, who actually ARE expected to conform to the stereotypes of them presented in fiction created by males.

This is an interesting article to say the least. Indeed, I agree that a lot of good can come from bringing forth a girls’ line of comics, and a portrayal of positive role models for young girls on all fronts, in all sorts of careers, is something that we can stand to see more of. And perhaps, by taking away the focus on superheroes, we can indeed do some good for the comics industry. Another tactic that could prove beneficial, like others on here have said, would be to lower the price and increase availability. Marvel’s recent push for more female-centric superhero books is also pretty cool. I would suggest doing a little bit of all of these things. A more diverse market, greater availability, and most of all, making the titles inclusive, are all things that can only serve to help an industry that desperately needs more costumers, and are also business tactics that I would personally incorporate in my own practices if I worked in the industry.

I think I would really, really like a Marvel Barbie comics omnibus for my daughters….

love that there’s an X-book of all women.

That’s called X-Men. Really, would X-Women have sold that many fewer copies? Would that have been so bad?

THERE’S REALLY NOTHING WRONG WITH A BOY READING BARBIE COMICS.

There’s nothing wrong with it, but why would he want to? Most wouldn’t want to go see Twilight either. And I don’t feel a young girl really need to get into, say, Lobo. There are differences in desires and tastes, and they should be celebrated, not forced into one train of thought.

We’re not talking about losing money here. The comics were not losing money when they were canceled. That whole avenue of discussion is not on topic, so avoid it, please.

But we are talking about making enough money. Because that’s the standard all comics have to reach to stay on the stands. How many old regular superhero comics have you read the letter page of the last issue where they said “the sales were good enough to continue…ok, they aren’t great, but we decided to end it before we were made to end it…”? Because no matter how badly Marvel was being run, if Barbie had Walking Dead sales, they’d still be publishing it. It’s two fold- how to tap into a large ignored market so Ms. Marvel can sell as well as Iron Man, and making Iron Man just as appealing to female readers.

Of course it’s reasonable for me (a consumer) to request that the company balance its profit motive against other social causes. As a consumer, I have not only the privilege, but the responsibility to try to consume as responsibly as my means allow. If the company cannot or will not accommodate my efforts to be a responsible consumer, I may choose to take my business elsewhere.

You can request it; but if it’s not best for the bottom line, it’s certainly acceptable for them to ignore you. And you can take your business elsewhere. But considering there are enough people to discuss this on this site, the medium hasn’t had enough people leave for that reason that those publishing it consider it a major problem.

Since almost all of the decision makers in all modern societies are males, the stereotypes in female fiction targeted at men have no bite to them. When men are affected by stereotypes in fiction, those are the ones in fiction created by and targeted at males, such as adventure stories that teach that a male must be ready to fight, to kill, and to die in battle.

Obviously, that is not the same for women, who actually ARE expected to conform to the stereotypes of them presented in fiction created by males.

I won’t presume to judge how things work in your country, but men are hardly the only or main people portraying women in an unrealistic light. Fashion, and fashion magazines, are much more female run now than in the past, and the image of woman they show is no better. Far more girls get complexes from the cover of Cosmo or Vogue than X-Men. Now if you want to want to expand on the societal problems that are the root causes, I’m sure there’s somewhere you can do that; though it probably doesn’t really fit here. But the idea that women have to reach some ideal as foisted upon them by men isn’t really true, and in fact men have much broader conceptions of beauty than female centric media portray.

And while there’s far less pressure, if men had no societal pressure to conform look wise, you’d still have Humprey Bogart and guys with normal bodies in all that fiction you speak of, rather than hairless, shiny, six packs on every screen or page. I won’t say it comes close to the image to starve oneself to death that women face, but it’s there. Some man may manscape for himself, but most are doing it for women. Whereas a lot of what women do to look good is to look good to other women as much as men.

I sense an implication, mostly from the headline, that there are entrepreneurs who do want to do this, but are being ostracized by THEM and that THEY should “let the girls take a lead”. Who are them and how exactly are they ostracizing these entrepreneurs?

Last time I checked there is no set limit on the number of titles the market can handle and any potential entrepreneur is free to supply whatever type of a comic book he or she thinks there is a demand for.

The article basically says that women are not good enough, hence they need men of Marvel to do the heavy lifting and just “let the girls” have a few titles, too.

Wake up! For decades it isn’t either publish at Big Two, or not at all.

If anyne feels Marvel is leaving money on the table, you’ll free to take them. You don’t need to ask permission.

renenarciso said “no male child was ever raised or influenced to conform to the stereotype of the shirtless stud that adorns their covers.”

Gyms are FILLED men who were raised like that.

Danny, there is nothing wrong on specializations. If publishers like Phantagrapics specialize on a certain type of a reader and nobody complains, why complain when Marvel does the very same thing?

where are articles about Phantagrapics leaving out these HUGE demography of horny teen boys and how they’re so stupid for doing so?

Comics should be (and IMO they are) for everyone and anyone. Specifically Marvel/DC Comics do not have to, nor should, try to target everyone.

I just feel like there is this unnecessary focus on the Big Two as if if it isn’t by them, it doesn’t count when talking about comics in large.

Cylon –

I doubt that romance novels are part of the reason men rush to gyms. As someone who has frequented such places for years, I can tell you that muscle freaks aren’t affected in the least by the other stereotypes associated to the romance genre: they’re not any more dashing, romantic, “darkly mysterious”, angsty, etc. than any other guy. And they don’t try to be. If anything, they’re practical men who talk about the normal subjects of cars, girls, and sports.

Stephen Conway

May 14, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Good article. Amanda Conner did some early work on those Marvel Barbie books. Sadly they were a casualty of uber-capitalistic Perelman era. Sean Howe’s book on hte history of Marvel said the cancellation point in those days was 125,000 sales, a figure only Batman and Spider Man even approach in today’s market.

The need and desire for more diverse and more quality comics is there, but the books themselves don’t seem to exist. There are improvements, especially from the likes of Boom!, Image and IDW, as well as from OGNs from the literary publishing world, but there is certainly room for much much more.

As people have already said, leveraging the Disney princesses would be a great opportunity. The one thing that is necessary in all this is that good quality books are made.

A Frozen comic should work wonderfully now. Elsa is basically a superhero in her own right, one who is a queen to boot. She already has a rich supporting cast so just give her a fun Rogue’s Gallery and you have a comic selling like hotcakes, as someone said previously.

Slate’s Barbie was a good series. (I didn’t get it regularly but picked it up when I noticed that one-brief-time-acquaintance Amanda Conner worked on that particular issue.) Since the advent of direct sales becoming essentially the only source for comic books, marketing has been the key factor in any series that doesn’t fit into the mainstream of Marvel/DC superheroes, and alternative marketing for the big two has been traditionally poor. With digital, there’s a new venue of content as well as wider venues of marketing that needs to be tapped into. It’s all about the long-term health of the industry/format, for women, for kids, for everyone.

M-Wolverine –

“I won’t presume to judge how things work in your country, but men are hardly the only or main people portraying women in an unrealistic light. Fashion, and fashion magazines, are much more female run now than in the past, and the image of woman they show is no better.”

It’s a nice strategy. You get a group that has been historically considered second-class persons or even property, that has been put into a real pressure cooker by a dominant group. Then, when members of this population start to turn on each other, you can say that is all their own fault. Black-on-black crime, women being “bitches” to each other and starving to death to gain other women’s approval, neighbours snitching on each other for an oppresive government, etc.It’s sort of brilliant.

Another way of putting it is this: when 100% of women become perfect in the way they see themselves and treat each other, then and ONLY then, we can start talking about what men are doing wrong. Not one second before.

You got me. We all sit together at old white guy meetings planning historic, intricate plans to subvert the will of all the minorities of the world.

Or, you know, other people could have faults and take responsibility for their own faults. Nah, let’s stick with the former.

But keep setting up the straw men. Because really, what can we do about all these women until men become perfect in the way they see themselves and treat others. If one doesn’t like oneself, they can’t be kind to others, you know….we should be working on THAT problem! SMH

Following on from paul’s reasoning, if you are an avid moviegoer, and you are upset at how women are depicted in the majority of American movies, you should not complain about it. Instead you should just shut up and make your own damn movies even though, y’know, the majority of the public are not actors or directors or cinemetographers or own a movie studio.

In other words, it is a ridiculous argument. You don’t like Marvel or DC’s comics? Hey, just become the next Marvel or DC and make your own! Never mind that none of us have either Disney’s or Time Warner’s money.

And, looking at it another way, what if it was not an issue of gender, but of race or religion? What if Marvel and DC’s line of books were insulting to blacks or Jews or whomever? I guess everyone who isn’t a male WASP should then just go off and create their own comics because major corporations are solely in business to turn a profit and not be worried about sensitivity or diversity, right?

M-Wolverine –

Let me guess. Libertarian?

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