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Fighting Crime AND Fat
May 27, 2009 9:22 AM   Subscribe

Marvel think that not enough of their readers are female. So they decided to hook them in in a way that girls understand.
posted by mippy (160 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
That is sad. And hot. But mostly sad.
posted by Servo5678 at 9:25 AM on May 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


As a girl who read comics from about 11+, I want to say how deeply offended I am by this. And I will, as soon as I clean up all the soda I just sprayed all over my monitor and keyboard laughing at how pathetic and silly these are.
posted by strixus at 9:28 AM on May 27, 2009 [14 favorites]


Yeah, this oozes fail. I'm all for kids and comics, but I believe my oldest daughter (who is 10-ish) would find this sort of lame.

So a big fat meh.
posted by jquinby at 9:31 AM on May 27, 2009


It sounds like the reviewer really hates comic book readers.
posted by dibblda at 9:31 AM on May 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Where's the pink? Who's going to buy these if they aren't pink?
posted by maudlin at 9:32 AM on May 27, 2009 [9 favorites]


Tim Gunn of “Project Runway” fame will also make an appearance.

[raises hand to mouth as he critically studies Emma Frost's costume] "It's a lot of look."
posted by Joe Beese at 9:33 AM on May 27, 2009 [15 favorites]


Models Inc.? As in this????

This is a disaster.
posted by hermitosis at 9:37 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, yes, Marvel, the same company that's reaching out to women via Marvel Divas, which was pitched as "...'Sex and the City' in the Marvel Universe, and there's definitely that 'naughty' element to it, but I also think the series is doing to a deeper place, asking question about what it means…truly means…to be a woman in an industry dominated by testosterone and guns." What it apparently means is that women like, I dunno, shopping? And talking about men? Any bets as to whether these efforts will pass the Bechdel Test?

As far as I can tell, the editorial staff of Marvel wanders the halls muttering, "What is this thing you hu-mans call 'women'?"
posted by sgranade at 9:38 AM on May 27, 2009 [8 favorites]


Marvel is hoping to give away copies of the first issue of Models Inc. at New York Fashion Week in September.

They're not even convinced they can give. them. away. I disagree - everyone needs kindling.
posted by Lemurrhea at 9:38 AM on May 27, 2009


You'd think that they'd have learned from the previous Mary Jane merchandising adventure.
posted by mippy at 9:39 AM on May 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Models Inc?
posted by WolfDaddy at 9:40 AM on May 27, 2009


And they should give out copies of Blue Monday with them. Now, there were girls who kick ass.
posted by mippy at 9:40 AM on May 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


What's so wrong with Little Lulu?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:40 AM on May 27, 2009


I generally agree with the content but not the tone. It isn't like comic book heroes have attainable or realistic levels of musculature and it isn't just the women who wear skin tight outfits. I don't want to be disingenuous, I can dig that female characters in comics are usually shallow and over sexualized but I don't think "tits too big" figures all that highly in the list of reasons why comics are so dude-centric.
posted by I Foody at 9:42 AM on May 27, 2009


Where's the pink?

Uhh... Ick.
posted by dersins at 9:43 AM on May 27, 2009


Stoopid girls will probably get nailpolish and period all over their comic books.
posted by ColdChef at 9:46 AM on May 27, 2009 [21 favorites]


Hm. Comics and fashion are two of my favorite things. Somehow they do not turn into a peanut butter cup when you smash 'em together.
posted by padraigin at 9:48 AM on May 27, 2009


if you want girls to read your comics, this is how you do your female characters.

not this
posted by 256 at 9:51 AM on May 27, 2009 [10 favorites]


Instantly makes me think of Glamourpuss. Minus the history of comic book artists. And the irony.
posted by Dr-Baa at 9:53 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hm. Comics and fashion are two of my favorite things. Somehow they do not turn into a peanut butter cup when you smash 'em together.

I'm thinking following the lead of Dave Sim is maybe not the best way to develop a female audience after all.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:54 AM on May 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


It's not just Marvel that's tone-deaf when it comes to getting new readers and it's not just female readers that suffer for it. More and more, it seems that the comic book industry is willfully clueless as to how to recruit new readers.

At this year's Free Comic Book Day, I picked up the promotional brick of free comics that Forbidden Planet was handing out. While I didn't think I was going to discover anything new in the pile, I figured that after I was done browsing through them I could give the comics to the local kids in my new neighborhood in an effort to bribe them from knocking over my trash cans.

Except that almost every comic in that pile sported either ultraviolence or ultracleavage or ultraboth. There was no way I would give those comics to kids and not expect their parents to come knock on my door to punch me in the face. I'd rather not be the neighborhood perv, thankyouverymuch.

Those comics that I could safely give away, nobody would want. Archie? Really? I'm trying to bribe these damn kids, not ask them to TP my house. Maybe they would want a NASCAR comic, who knows.

So yeah, a comic about characters becoming models and being models and whatever else Marvel imagines these "females" they've read about in Scientific American and heard mention of in shadowy chat rooms like seems to be about par for the course.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:58 AM on May 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


"KA-POW" how to fight crime and fat!

I'm sorry, Marvel, I know you tried hard but you still can't top my all-time favorite sexist remark about weight loss, which I believe is from a Jenny Craig ad: "Now I'm skinny and happy!"
posted by DU at 10:00 AM on May 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


robocop is bleeding - none of the Marvel Adventures stuff? That's a shame, because it would be ideal. I'd actually argue that not only are the Marvel Adventures books more accessible than mainstream marvel output these days, it's also flat-out better than most of it.
posted by Artw at 10:03 AM on May 27, 2009


I wonder if "women's magazines" pass the Bechdel Test. My women's intuition, if I had any, would say no.
posted by DU at 10:04 AM on May 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


As for Models Inc... Hmm. Well, it's an interesting cover gimmick, and TBH I think they HAVE got the tone right (have none of you guys ever seen the magazines at your local supermarket ccheckout?), but I really wonder who the audience is.
posted by Artw at 10:05 AM on May 27, 2009


re: This: Am I the only one who'd be a little freaked out if my girlfriend had underpants with my face on them? I only watched the movies, but I don't remember Peter Parker being THAT narcissistic.
posted by mccarty.tim at 10:05 AM on May 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, Marvel doesn't really get their male readers, either, so this isn't much of a surprise. Good to see they're keeping up the tradition of insulting the intelligence of their entire audience.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 10:05 AM on May 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


DU - well, quite. And as for the Manga comics that girls do actually read in large quantities, Jesus, WTF...
posted by Artw at 10:06 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I hope when my daughter gets old enough for this kind of thing she turns to something more wholesome and feminist, like Bratz dolls.
posted by edheil at 10:07 AM on May 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


I kind of surprised that Mefi never covered the sad story of minx, the comics line DC created to take on the female young adult market which didn't quite work out.
posted by Artw at 10:13 AM on May 27, 2009


When I was an 11-year old girl, my favorite comic books were Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Actually, those were terrible - both in writing and art. But at least they didn't have cleavage OR violence, two things that bored me. I wasn't old enough yet for Sandman or Watchmen, but I think I might have liked Bone if someone had given it to me, and I would have loved the The Books of Magic (just as serious as Sandman, but simpler story and relatable young hero).
posted by jb at 10:14 AM on May 27, 2009


If there's one thing you won't get from Star Trek: The Next Generation it's anything sexy or violent.
posted by Artw at 10:17 AM on May 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


Yeah, this is stupid. Yeah, Marvel is stupid, and they routinely act in such a way as to demonstrate their stupidity. Yeah, stupid.

But have you not seen Cosmo or what-have-you in the last 20 years? Half the grocery stores cover it up with a black plastic sheet, so that the raunch on the cover isn't visible to the children waiting in line. Recent cover copy includes: "an orgasm almost killed her," "the bitchy little move men love" and "you, you, you - feel instantly happier with one tiny change." All from the same issue. The current issue boasts such insights as "be a lucky bitch" "dirty lying brides" and our gutsy new tips are guaranteed to give him the most badass orgasm imaginable. and you too!" Nothing on the Marvel covers is any worse than what is out there, except that what is out there now purports to be sincere and helpful.
posted by paisley henosis at 10:20 AM on May 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


You'd think that they'd have learned from the previous Mary Jane merchandising adventure.

Jesus Mitchell. That's just one big porny ball of wrongness, that is.
posted by middleclasstool at 10:20 AM on May 27, 2009


Oh, and before anyone asks, my 60 year old mother in law subscribes to Cosmo, and leaves them around the house. The recent back issue is the one I keep my shoes on, so they don't get muck on the carpet.
posted by paisley henosis at 10:21 AM on May 27, 2009


Is there something wrong (besides in terms of marketing) with comics just not being a girl thing?

I think the 'models inc' thing is funny, because the comic book covers are not so far off from what the women on magazine covers actually look like now. A friend visited and left behind a copy of a UK photography magazine, which gave some tutorial on how to enhance fashion photos; basically, the result was that they made people look like video game characters. It's just strange to see the comic-cover girl and and the mag-cover girl converging to the same point.
posted by troybob at 10:23 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wonder Woman, Artesia, Battle Angel Alita. I've got a circle of women friends waiting for more women heroes who kick ass.

Or, you know, Marvel could just publish Yaoi. That works too.
posted by yeloson at 10:24 AM on May 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


I haven't seen Cosmo in years. Do the women on the cover still look like they were just moments before being buggered upside down in a windstorm?
posted by troybob at 10:24 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


robocop is bleeding -- also, no Top Shelf sampler at Free Comic Book Day? Great kids comics in there.

As for Models Inc., a friend who is pretty sensitive these sorts of issues promises me it's supposed to be very tongue-in-cheek. Admittedly, I do want to see Tim Gunn in the Iron Man suit.

But I do agree that Marvel flounders when it comes to marketing things to women. They often get really close, like with the Pride & Prejudice adaptation -- first issue had an appealing cover, they get a romance writer to do it -- but then they completely destroy it with your typical comic-book art. And as for Marvel Divas ... well, I'm looking forward to it because the creative team appeals to me and I think it's going to work in their hands. But yes, the promo cover was awful and pretty much turned off the people who'd probably like it the most.
posted by darksong at 10:25 AM on May 27, 2009


Before the internet, some young onanists honed their craft with National Geographic or underwear ads in newspapers. Some dudes I know preferred Jean Grey and the Black Cat. So, I call bullshit. Is Marvel attempting to attract more female readers or using the possibility of such an attempt to segue into their own hentai brand?
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 10:25 AM on May 27, 2009


Wow. They've managed to get the worst bits of comics and the worst bits of trashy mags in one patronising, ignorant package. Way to go, Marvel.

Girl Jilder read a lot of Sandman as a teenager, too. Maybe Marvel should look to comic writers who've had success with the female market, instead of cobbling together a pastiche of things-boys-don't-like-so-that-must-be-for-girls.
posted by Jilder at 10:26 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Or, you know, Marvel could just publish Yaoi. That works too.

Really, really bad idea.
posted by Artw at 10:28 AM on May 27, 2009


Is there something wrong (besides in terms of marketing) with comics just not being a girl thing?

It's not if comics are, in the main, not given to sexism or objectification of women and provide stories that women can relate to and be interested in (not necessarily as women, per se, but just as human readers) -- and women and girls still aren't interested, mostly.

But that's not the way it is, at least not with the big two.
posted by middleclasstool at 10:28 AM on May 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


I refuse to accept any reality where Dazzler isn't an alcoholic has-been hosting reality shows.
posted by The Whelk at 10:31 AM on May 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


If marvel wants more female readers, they probably should think about hiring more female writers and artists.
posted by empath at 10:32 AM on May 27, 2009 [14 favorites]


You know, this topic walks a fine line. On the one hand, there's dissing the comic for perpetuating negative stereotypes about young females. On the other hand, there's dissing young women who like things that older men may not like.
posted by DU at 10:33 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Some dudes I know preferred Jean Grey and the Black Cat.

Recovered memory: When I went into the Navy I had to take those psychological tests where you draw shit and they interpret it. I was trying to hide the fact that I wanted to do the guy sitting next to me, so I drew one of those full-page-type drawings of Phoenix, with the really exaggerated breasts and hips, and hair that took up half a page. I have no idea how they interpreted that, though--particularly considering that I added that little elegant hip sash.
posted by troybob at 10:35 AM on May 27, 2009 [10 favorites]


High fashion meets high exploaive - it's the most fabulous look this season - Judge Dredd's recent fashion makeover.
posted by Artw at 10:36 AM on May 27, 2009


When I was about 14 years old, I decided I was going to learn to draw, and I started with the numerous 'How to draw comics' books that were out there. I quickly came to the startling realization that there were three female body types (four if you count kid, who is the same as little boy, except with a different costume), adolescent nymphet, adult woman and mom. To make matters weirder, while you could rearrange the features of the adult women into different racial configurations to differentiate between one or the other, in comic book land, all female heroes are exactly the same height, size and weight, and measurements. Basically if you need to find out their secret identity, you could probably just ask around clothing stores, since it's nearly impossible for a real woman to find shirts for the busty and slender.

Of course, comic book men tend to be these brawny, rangy types who look like male body builders, but there seems to be slightly more individual variation in slenderness, if they're all pretty tall.
posted by Phalene at 10:39 AM on May 27, 2009


Heroic proportions! Heroic proportions!

(Re: Free Comic Book Day selections: Sometimes covers can be deceiving. THIS was one of the Free Comic Book Day 2009 comics that women readers picked up in our stores... but it's not really for kids, tweens or teens. Love & Rockets actually does have pretty amazing female characters, some of whom have large breasts and have sex, which they seem to enjoy. This is not a defense of Marvel's marketing ploys by the way.)
posted by Ron Thanagar at 10:40 AM on May 27, 2009


troybob: Is there something wrong (besides in terms of marketing) with comics just not being a girl thing?

In Europe and Japan girls read plenty of comic books. Of course, there the market has not been dominated by superhero comics.
posted by Kattullus at 10:40 AM on May 27, 2009


Or, you know, Marvel could just publish Yaoi. That works too.

Even discounting yaoi, it's kind of sad (wait, no, it's very sad) how Japan, a nation notorious for misogyny, still soundly thrashes us when it comes to making girls' comics. Seriously, could we fail even harder?
posted by PsychoKick at 10:41 AM on May 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


Maybe girls like misogyny?

(ducks)
posted by Artw at 10:43 AM on May 27, 2009


Artw: I don't expect most people know the difference, but loli-con and yaoi are... reallly different. I mean REALLY. Unless its shota. -shivers-


Honestly, I think the prime problem is that Marvel and the other big American comics houses aren't willing to look at a model other than the one they have. Comics in Japan are made for all age ranges, all walks of life, and the largest money making chunk of that are 11-18 year old girls. But they are entirely different from American comics beyond being images printed on a page with words. Believe it or not, pre the comics code scare here in the US, our comics used to be like that as well. But for some reason, girls comics went the same way that horror and crime stories comics went with the code. And the markets have never really recovered.
posted by strixus at 10:44 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Or, on post, what everyone else just said.
posted by strixus at 10:45 AM on May 27, 2009


troybob: Is there something wrong (besides in terms of marketing) with comics just not being a girl thing?

In Europe and Japan girls read plenty of comic books.


Actually, my comment could be taken the wrong way. I don't mean in the since that it should be a boys-only thing, just that maybe the essential elements of comics are just not part of girls' makeup. But then I tend to view comics as being of the superhero type. (Though the possibilities of a dark, moody NASCAR series seem fun and interesting, particularly if you throw in a gay angle.)
posted by troybob at 10:47 AM on May 27, 2009


I'll stick with the old ratty copy of "Are you there, Professor? It's me, Rogue" that my mom gave me when I was a wee lad so I'd have a better understanding of women.
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:50 AM on May 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


More seriously, I think it's a shame that the above linked Minx didn't make a dent in that market - there's some great talent in that line up*, and the idea of pushing it into YA rather than leaving it in some comics ghetto was sound - I suspect the problem was that it was far too late, and that Manga is far too established there. Or they simply got cold feet and gave up far too early.

* there's been some complaint that there weren't enough women in the line up. I can see the point, at the same time telling Andi Watson and Mark Hempel, both of whom have a significant female following, to screw off because they are the wrong gender would just be mental.
posted by Artw at 10:58 AM on May 27, 2009


But for some reason, girls comics went the same way that horror and crime stories comics went with the code

The code was REALLY down on anything that went outside of 50s social norms in romance comics - i.e. anything you could actually do a story about. Horror and crime get all the press but Romance comics caused just as much of a stir.
posted by Artw at 11:00 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Re: Comics for Kids

One thing I've noticed is that kids/adolescents don't want stuff that seems to be overtly aimed at them. They want stuff that they imagine 'older' people like. Look at High School Musical, for example. No high schooler would fess up to watching that, but tweens and younger ate it up with a spoon.

So a comic written 'for kids' can't actually seem to be for kids, because what kid wants to be a kid? They want to be a Grown Up (and once they've grown up, they'll want to be a kid again, just ask my stuffed Cthulhu collection) and do Grown Up Things.

So the Free Comic Book Day stuff I saw was either too much for kids, such that they wouldn't want it, or too much for adults, such that they shouldn't be getting it without their parents' blessing. The Marvel Adventures line is pretty on target. Why Marvel lost the faith regarding Runaways, I'll never know.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:00 AM on May 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


They got the look of Cosmo down -- good for them. I'm glad their insightful satire department was able to do so. And perhaps this will be a tongue-in-cheek take that subverts the stereotypes it appears to be playing to. But based on Marvel's ham-handed attempts to market to women, and how they've marketed female characters to men, I'm not willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Subtlety, for Marvel, is that fast food restaurant down the road that makes one hell of a hoagie.
posted by sgranade at 11:04 AM on May 27, 2009


The Marvel Adventures comic where Ego The Living Planet turns up and falls in love with the Earth, and the way that the Fantastic Four convince him to go away is, esentially, to convnce him that Earth has crabs is AWESOME. And entirely kid friendly despite the LOLSTD stuff in there for those who pick up on it.
posted by Artw at 11:04 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one who'd be a little freaked out if my girlfriend had underpants with my face on them?

Just you. Nobody else is freaked out when they put their face on your girlfriend's underpants.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:06 AM on May 27, 2009 [9 favorites]


Go over to your local chain bookstore. Look at the kids milling about the manga section. It's surprisingly gender balanced. Sure, there's problematic stuff going both ways (the hyper tit action of shonen vs. abusive stalker boyfriends of shoujo), but still.
posted by yeloson at 11:06 AM on May 27, 2009


abusive stalker boyfriends

The YA supernatural romance genre revolves around that shit as well.
posted by Artw at 11:07 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


maybe the essential elements of comics are just not part of girls' makeup

The essential elements of comics are sequential pictures and, most of the time, words.
posted by lampoil at 11:11 AM on May 27, 2009 [8 favorites]


Well, maybe the problem here is a faliure to seperate comics the medium and superheroes the genre... that said, there's plenty of decent superhero comics that should have universal appeal.
posted by Artw at 11:20 AM on May 27, 2009


troybob: Is there something wrong (besides in terms of marketing) with comics just not being a girl thing?

1) (Mainstream American) comics are "not a girl thing" because of a variety of small and large sexist traditions.
2) American comics are going to die out unless the publishers evolve and learn how to attract new readers rather than continually catering to an every-shrinking, long-entrenched market set. That means women.

Incidentally, when people complained about the resoundingly stupid first cover of Marvel Divas, E-i-C Joe Quesada answered with this stunning riposte:

If you're [a] Marvel reader and truly feel we're sexist, then why are you reading our books? Now, perhaps you're not a Marvel reader, then if that's the case, I'm not quite sure what you're criticizing if you don't read our books?

Bravo, Joe, Bravo. You tell 'em.

Oh, and he also talked about Pink.
posted by bettafish at 11:24 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, on non-preview, Artw, the Marvel Adventures comic you're thinking of is an Avengers comic, not Fantastic Four. I love Marvel Adventures Avengers, it's way better than main universe Avengers.
posted by bettafish at 11:26 AM on May 27, 2009


Of course ladies looking to get into comics, and those seeking to get their lady friends into comics, should really check out The 86ers, an exciting space series with NOT ONE, NOT TWO, but THREE STRONG FEMALE LEADS, making it progressive as all fuck as well as being flat out awesome. Also it's the first time anything of mine has ever been collected. It's a work of staggering brilliance, you should totally buy it now.

/shilling
posted by Artw at 11:30 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


bettafish - could have sworn it was FF, them being the usual foes of Ego, but pf course you are correct.
posted by Artw at 11:33 AM on May 27, 2009


*smokes pipe* Girl, what comic book does she want?

Okay, now that we're done giggling at what is clearly an Idiot Jed kinda moment by Marvel, if you want to think of this as a terrible solution to a real problem, you must make certain acknowledgments:

1) that a differential exists between girls/young women and boys/young men with regards to the uptake of comics. This in turn has a few potential causes, not all of which must be false if #1 is true:

2) that girls/young women might have some non-zero correlation with a different (though not necessarily non-overlapping) set of interests with regards to art, dialogue, story, etc., which might be mediated through the comic book/graphic novel format as might boys/young men.

3) that girls/young women might, regardless of the plot, art, attitudes, and so forth within, have a differential in interest versus boys/young men with regards to the comic book/graphic novel form in and of itself. Perhaps boys, as an average, actually like what are so often flimsy, overpriced picturebooks more than girls do.

Replacing every single male artist, writer, inker, and letterer with a female version of the same means nothing if changes do not occur because of it. And by that, I mean some combination of #2 and #3. This means that, to solve the problem, we must first admit the problem and its dependencies exist. After which, we have to have the courage to ask the question and realize that the answers may make us uncomfortable.

And, hey, it could lead to some hypertargeted niche comics or it just might lead to the form as a whole sucking less.
posted by adipocere at 11:36 AM on May 27, 2009


I think marvel would be falling over themselves to get younger MALE readers. It really is horribly true that the average comics reader these days, at least thoseof them willing to drag themselves to comics stores, is a dude in his 40s.

Interestingly I see a lot of younger people at comics conventions, and gender-wise it's pretty mixed, but i'm really not sure they are there for the comics.
posted by Artw at 11:40 AM on May 27, 2009


Quesada: "I've got it! See, what the young broads want is the same kind of action and thrills that...Kim, why are you rolling your eyes?"
Kim: "Hmm? Nothing. Forget it."
Quesada: "You think the young broads don't want action?"
Kim: "No, no. Just 'broads.' I wasn't..."
Quesada: "I don't mean anything by it."
Kim: "Ok. Yeah. I know. I just wasn't aware anyone used that term anymore."
Quesada: "I'm not sexually harassing you am I? I'm sorry if I am. I'll stop. I'm not..."
Kim: "No, it's ok. Go on."
Quesada: "Ok. Well anyway, what these chicks really need ... Kim, do you need to see an ophthalmologist?"
posted by Smedleyman at 11:42 AM on May 27, 2009 [9 favorites]


There seems to be something about many comics that just comes off like a penis enlargement spam mail to me. That is, it's fairly screaming, "You, Woman, are NOT the target audience of this product. I am clearly addressing this to a MALE AUDIENCE."
posted by pointystick at 11:45 AM on May 27, 2009


There's a cogent phrase I just read for the first time, in an article about the Detroit auto industry's dealings with foreign automakers in the '50s: culturally autistic.
posted by overhauser at 11:57 AM on May 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


It's certainly notable that any post that is basically a set up for people to crap all over comics for being sexist or whatever will get a couple of hundred more comments than ones that are about comics doing anything good or cool... If I was a rather grumpy gloomy sort I'd think that despite saying that comics should be this or comics should be that people actually don't want anything from comics except to shit on them from a height.
posted by Artw at 12:00 PM on May 27, 2009


MAKEUP MADNESS! Conceal your pores and your identity!

Accidental honesty.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 12:02 PM on May 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


I am shocked, shocked, to find misogyny going on in this comic book company!
posted by Legomancer at 12:06 PM on May 27, 2009


maybe the essential elements of comics are just not part of girls' makeup.

What, are comics made of penises?

I would like western comics, if there wasn't a 90% chance that any comic I picked up would piss me off with its sexism. That's what keeps me away, not any the "essential elements" of the story, unless you count sexism as one.

I'm already a fan of many comics from Japan. Some of those are also horrible when it comes to female characters, too, but it's much easier to find titles that are better than Marvel, and that have similar plots. (Girls don't like the superhero trope? A lie.)

Marvel is full of dumbasses. All of their efforts to reach women have come off as based on condescending stereotypes, when all they really need to do is listen to the female fans they already have despite themselves. Sadly, whenever the comics industry does notice what female fans have to say, they get defensive and insist that those fans are wrong, wrong, wrong and they're not sexist at all.

It's just that girls want more stories about lipstick.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:09 PM on May 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


That's odd, Artw, because the few times I've dragged myself to the remaining places either in my area or the one in the college town I visit, the people in the store seem to be the "I really really want to grow some facial hair this year" sort. Usually lorded over by one forty-something eldergeek you mention. The manga section in joint seems pretty evenly split between genders, but has way young folks hovering over it.

Comic cons, though, that would be a whole 'nother story. This is starting to turn into a data gathering conversation, but now I wonder what proportion of comics are bought via traditional comics stores versus other venues.
posted by adipocere at 12:13 PM on May 27, 2009


So ... we all seem to be pretty sure these comics aren't satire. We're confident that Marvel is just determined to somehow mash together superhero comics with Cosmo to create the worst possible body images for women, end of story? I mean, we're actually taking the "How to fight crime and fat" blurb at face value? Because the linked article seemed to get that it's a joke. But ... no? "616+ ways to make your costume look like more than just tights"? Because it's Earth 616? Nothing? Tim Gunn cameo doesn't set off any "they're taking the piss" alarms?

*crickets*

Fine.
posted by Amanojaku at 12:24 PM on May 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Six degrees of The Defenders: these bad fashion comics will feature Hellcat.
posted by vrakatar at 12:28 PM on May 27, 2009


I'm not a girl, but I do read a shitload of comics, and if I were going to recommend anything to a female, it'd be Strangers in Paradise or Death; The High Cost of Living. SiP would be my strong, strong suggestion though because that was the most confusing rollcoaster of awesomeness I ever read.
posted by Bageena at 12:28 PM on May 27, 2009


You know, many women do like Strangers in Paradise, but many other women get really annoyed at the suggestion that they'll like Strangers in Paradise just because they are a woman. Just for the record. My suggestion, to those who want to recommend a comic book to a female friend, would be to think about what they read when it isn't a funnybook and then recommend something like that.

Oh, and I almost forgot the funniest part of this story: for no reason anyone can discern, Mary Jane has been written out of Models, Inc. Yes, that's right, Marvel's new comic about their model characters no longer stars its most famous model. This is destined to go well. Seriously, does anyone actually remember Millie the Model? And has anyone outside of comics actually heard of Patsy Walker/Hellcat? I think she's awesome, but come on, really.
posted by bettafish at 12:47 PM on May 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


adipocere:

I buy my monthly comics at the local comic book store. I could go to the big chains, which actually do carry some issues week to week, but I don't want to hand them over my money, you know? Support the little guy.

Though I must say, any time I buy trades (or the giant Sandman volumes) I go to Amazon and Amazon Marketplace. When we're talking 20 -- 100 bucks, I gotta go for the discount.

Though, being a young woman, I have to say that no price can be put on the attention I get at the local comic book store. On a bad day, that can be nice.
posted by CPAGirl at 12:52 PM on May 27, 2009


You know, it's not like guys can't create comics about girls/women that are funny, engaging and don't objectify them or insult their readers' intelligence. Or haven't been doing so for over a quarter of a century.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:02 PM on May 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is this thread literally about judging a book by its cover?

These books could be fantastically biting and subvert the whole idea on the cover. That could be the point of the cover.

And yeah, mainstream American* comics suck with regard to female, disabled, trans, or gay characters, but I'm not sure they really lag behind the rest of media world so much. And the lag is (in my opinion) mostly due to the "they're for kids!"** attitude, a real self-fulfilling prophecy. If you aren't sufficiently condescending towards the above groups, you aren't mainstream.

Maybe these are great books by Marvel, maybe they're terrible. But I'm pretty sure that, by the time mainstream comics have a superheroine whose secret identity includes a change of clothes and a girlfriend, it will be minimally controversial. That's just what 'mainstream' means.

[on preview: I didn't read enough of SiP to get hooked, but I've yet to meet someone that didn't love Maus]

* not anti-American-ist, but I don't want to label all the comics in the world which I'm not familiar with
** and kids shouldn't be encouraged to question their role in society, naturally
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 1:11 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


The problem with women and comics purchases could simply be that walking into the comics store is a depressing endeavor if you're female. You get stared at as if you were from some alien planet and they're so SHOCKED you can speak that they are unwilling to answer any questions you may have.

There is a comics store in another town run by a woman. Every time I walk in there I spend about 100 dollars, but the last time I went to my local comics store I bought nothing, because the gawking and poor customer service were off-putting.
posted by winna at 1:19 PM on May 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


Purely based on observations in my two stores over 20+ years:

1) Comics aren't dying, in fact dollar sales and piece sales have increased from 2001 up until 2009 (which is down a bit so far but well above the general economy). See HERE for industry data. Click on the big blue years for the info.

2) Our stores have a nice customer mix of kids, girls, men, women, boys and oldsters (of all genders, colors, creeds, political outlooks, musical tastes, etc.) Yes our biggest customer group is made up of 20-40 year old men. Go figure. Probably the same segment that spends their dollars watching big-budget action-adventure movies that seem to clutter up the multiplexes. I myself am indeed a pasty aging 47-year-old fanboy.

3) We strive to have a clean. pleasant, well-lit environment for all to shop in with absolutely no posters of giant-breasted swordswomen displayed (although there might be one or two in the poster rack with everything else.) We have a wide diversity of product to capture the attention of most tastes. We do not carry porn comics, except via special order.

4) I will order this comic (and all others) based on customer demand. As of today, I have less than five customers who have requested either MODELS, INC or MARVEL DIVAS. Out of 650+ "pull/hold box" customers and a couple thousand others. I'm not sure these are truly aimed at young females... what's the demographic for "Who wants to be a Supermodel?" or whatever?

5) Again, none of this is in any way supporting/apologizing for Marvel's sales ploys, or even disagreeing with them. I always reserve judgment for things when I can actually take a look at them.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 1:21 PM on May 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


There is a comics store in another town run by a woman. Every time I walk in there I spend about 100 dollars, but the last time I went to my local comics store I bought nothing, because the gawking and poor customer service were off-putting.
posted by winna


I always cringe when I hear stories like this, but I'm proud to say that our staff has been made up of just about every group that you'd like to see more of in a comic store. Pretty much a reflection of a cross-section of our customers!
posted by Ron Thanagar at 1:29 PM on May 27, 2009


maybe the essential elements of comics are just not part of girls' makeup.

What, are comics made of penises?


I don't pretend to know all the differences, but I'm thinking more in terms of the kinds of themes that define comics. Not that there isn't a variety, but there are certain things that are characteristic--hero themes, hidden identity, physical strength and powers, exaggerated features--that perhaps on some level work for boys in a way they don't work for girls. But it's not only that the industry was raised on male fantasy; perhaps even the medium itself isn't ideal for what girls like, generally. It's not a judgment or condemnation; just wondering how much that might be the case in the way, for instance, baby showers are constructed within and echo certain ideals that men don't generally respond to in the same way that women do; it's not as if there is pressure for designing a baby shower that affects men the way that it affects women.
posted by troybob at 1:38 PM on May 27, 2009


I should probably also mention The Girly Comic, an anthology which has been a regular feature of the UK small press comics scene for some time. They have strips online as well.
posted by Artw at 1:54 PM on May 27, 2009


hero themes, hidden identity, physical strength and powers, exaggerated features

Do Manga comics not have a shitload of all of those?
posted by Artw at 1:55 PM on May 27, 2009


but there are certain things that are characteristic

But they don't have to be. I grew up on Elfquest, which still had the macho men, but had non-macho men, too, and some macho women to even things out a bit- not bad for the '70s. Pretty much everyone was scantily clad. Later on I got into Sandman, (and Tank Girl, to a lesser extent, and then Hothead Paisan, which is a whole nother story) and a few years ago I discovered Finder.

Women friendly comics exist- they just aren't Marvel.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:59 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I still don't understand the whole "girls don't read comics" statement. They do read comics, and they read a shit ton of them. You do realize that Neil Gaiman's Sandman sells more copies each year than the last? Who do you think is buying those comics? Who do you think fueled the rise of Japanese animation in the US?

Girls do read comics, they are just more discerning regarding plot.
posted by domo at 2:10 PM on May 27, 2009


Marvel think that not enough of their readers are female. So they decided to hook them in in a way that girls understand.

I've got two words for you, Marvel: Sexy Vampires.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 2:17 PM on May 27, 2009


I guess I've been lucky, but walking in to a number of comic stores, I've never experienced any gawking, rudeness, or anything to indicate that my presence there was unusual. It made me think that women readers of comics aren't all that rare a breed.

I do like some element of superhero in my comics, but I have never gotten into the mainstream ones because I feel like I've missed so much canon (being a latecomer to the genre). To tell the truth, sometimes I *am* in the mood to see (busty) women kick ass - see Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. and Daughters of the Dragon. I guess I just like some sarcasm/satire/wit along with my ass-kicking. Too bad what I've found so far is this limited-run stuff and is over far too soon.

On to the subject of the post, I can see how it's possible the covers are satire. I hate Cosmo and similar magazines for exactly the reasons evident in those covers. But my issue with Marvel's attempt here is assuming that I would be more likely to give a rat's ass about a woman solving crime because she is a model, as opposed to, say, a homicide detective. I just don't find modeling to be a particularly compelling career, nor one that lends itself well to crime-solving.
posted by misskaz at 2:27 PM on May 27, 2009


This may be a big Fail for Marvel, but I follow some of their thinking. "Millie the Model" was (a good many years ago) a successful comic aimed at girls. It was one of a number of titles that occupied a girl/fashion/adventure niche -- the most successful probably being "Katy Keene" (which had less adventure and more fashion than most.) Deni Sim tried to resurrect the concept with a pretty direct takeoff on Katy, done by one of the original artists. IIRC, Trina Robbins also tried her hand at something similar. So this is a concept that's been around the block and sometimes been successful -- I wouldn't expect Marvel to try anything really new.
One of the attractions of Katy Keene was that readers could send in their own fashion designs which would be featured in the book with credit going to the young artist. That sort of reader interaction seems missing from the new Marvel project.
posted by CCBC at 2:30 PM on May 27, 2009


I think the real place where Tim Gunn needs to make a guest appearance is with the Legion of Super Heroes.
posted by wittgenstein at 2:35 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I honestly have no idea what this thread is about. I know precisely two (2) male comic book fans, but I can't even count the number of female comic book fans I know— using "know" sort of loosely in both instances. Granted, they mostly gravitate to more cerebral fare like Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman. I'm not sure that comics need to be "retooled" to meet the demands of a female audience at all, since as far as I can tell they already appeal to women.
posted by Electrius at 2:38 PM on May 27, 2009


I honestly have no idea what this thread is about.

It's about how stereotypes are bad!
posted by Artw at 2:40 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


hero themes, hidden identity, physical strength and powers, exaggerated features

Sailor Moon has all of that and it is also the girliest (in the pink sparkle unicorn sense) thing ever.
posted by betweenthebars at 3:14 PM on May 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry, Marvel, I know you tried hard but you still can't top my all-time favorite sexist remark about weight loss, which I believe is from a Jenny Craig ad: "Now I'm skinny and happy!"

I'm sorry, DU, but nothing, NOTHING will ever top that 2002 Jenny Craig commercial about being fat and 9/11. Let me cut and paste from my 2002 bloggerly outrage:
Here, in modified transcript form, I bring you…The Tackiest Commercial Ever

Attractive, large-ish blonde chick (ALBC): “Standard diet commercialese, blah blah blah blah blah…I was fat. Real fat. Boy, was I fat. But then September eleventh happened.”

HUH? (It’s ok. Stay with me. Yes, she really did go from “I used to be fat” to “then September eleventh happened.” Nonsequiturville, here I come.)

ALBC: I realized that if there was another disaster, I might not be able to help other people. And I’m an elementary school teacher, so that would be bad. Most people have one reason to lose weight. I have 20. (pan across sea of beaming children’s faces). End with American flag and sugar-free apple pie.

I can only hope a Todd Beamer “Let’s Roll” line of rollerblades isn’t coming next.
I'll take a rack full of Power Girl's rack over that crap anyday.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 4:22 PM on May 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


Lame: "Hellcat, Jackpot, Dazzler, oh my!"
Awesome: "Wildcat, Jackpot, Dazzler, oh my!"

You see, Marvel? It's that easy.
posted by No-sword at 4:26 PM on May 27, 2009


I'm not a girl, but I do read a shitload of comics, and if I were going to recommend anything to a female, it'd be Strangers in Paradise or Death; The High Cost of Living. SiP would be my strong, strong suggestion though because that was the most confusing rollcoaster of awesomeness I ever read.
posted by Bageena at 3:28 PM on May 27 [+] [!]


I am a girl, and I have read both of those comics.

And yes, I agree, they are great. Two of the better comics I've ever read. Love and Rockets is also a good series. And Y: the last man is terrific - notably written by a man, and about a man. (Okay, every other single character except the monkey is female, and there is a hell of a lot of gender stuff in there for men and women, but heh...) But I would also recommend a lot of other comics that one might not think of as immediately appealing to women, on the strength of their quality: anything written by Gaimen, anything written by Moore, anything written by Eisner but especially his Brooklyn stories (like A contract with God, The Building), that crazy one with the teddy bear detective and a murdered panda showgirl...

And I did quite like Sim's Church and State, but never ended up reading the rest of the series (and thus didn't come across anything crazy, though I've heard he's gone a bit).

See - comics can be great for people who happen to have ovaries instead of testes. It helps when they are well written and have complex characterisation of both male and female characters.

Or at least, if they are the aforesaid ST:TNG comics, equally bad writing and silly art for male and female characters.
posted by jb at 4:34 PM on May 27, 2009


, but there are certain things that are characteristic--hero themes, hidden identity, physical strength and powers, exaggerated features--that perhaps on some level work for boys in a way they don't work for girls.

My absolutely completely most favoritist books when I was a little girl were about a girl who disguised herself as a boy to become a knight (aka hero). Okay, not much on the exagerrated features (she was a little bit short, but still within normal), but the heroic themes and hidden identity was clearly no problem.

My own tastes being what they were, I would probably have much preferred medieval-style fantasy comic books to modern-set superhero comics when I was a kid; had my local library had something like Thieves and Kings that would have grabbed my attention much more quickly. (Of course, the mention of a library brings up one major issue - monthly comics were so not going to happen for me, since I almost could never buy books - obviously not a gender issue, but one to think about...)

My kids are getting Bone as soon as they can read...

perhaps even the medium itself isn't ideal for what girls like, generally.

The medium does take getting used to - learning to read comics is a skill just like learning to read text-only prose. Many girls and young women won't read comics as easily as some boys and men, but that's from lack of practice. I learned how to read comics later than some of my male friends (about age 19-20), but my husband didn't learn how to read them until he was in his 20s (and dating me, and having me shove Sandman, Watchman and V for Vendetta into his hands).
posted by jb at 4:51 PM on May 27, 2009


I'll read one issue before I comment, as noted above although Marvel has a bad track record, they could be mocking Cosmo here. I'd think looking at the past work of Paul Tobin and the artist Vicenc Villagrassa would give a better idea of what to expect.

I fully expect Cosmo, etc... to get more and more depressing in the future, with cover headlines like:
"Fat, Hate Yourself"
"From the how to force yourself to do self hating things in bed to drive your man wild series: pretending to be bisexual"
"Enhancements, C cup is not enough!"

posted by BrotherCaine at 4:57 PM on May 27, 2009


Not that there isn't a variety, but there are certain things that are characteristic--hero themes, hidden identity, physical strength and powers, exaggerated features--that perhaps on some level work for boys in a way they don't work for girls.

Why do you think those things inherently work for boys but not girls? That's kind of a big assumption.

baby showers

Interesting comparison, since it's not as if the traditional baby shower just happens to be something that inherently doesn't interest men. The traditional shower actively doesn't ALLOW men to take part, regardless of whether they'd want to or not. (Of course, a shower is also neither a creative medium nor a commercial product).
posted by lampoil at 4:57 PM on May 27, 2009


I have taken part in baby showers. For those that don't know, subjectively speaking baby showers are around a million years long.
posted by Artw at 5:16 PM on May 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


hero themes, hidden identity, physical strength and powers, exaggerated features

These things exist just as much in manga, which has a huge female following. They even exist in many manga that are aimed at a female audience.

Frankly, these arguments are old and irritating, because female comics fans have heard them a bajillion times from the mouths of people who will not accept their opinions on their own experiences of being alienated by the sexism in the industry. You're doing a very good job of acting out Marvel's (and other companies') problem.

Anyway, if anyone is interested in reading some female comics fans' opinions on gender in comics, and recommendations for female-friendly comics, Girl Wonder is a great site.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:21 PM on May 27, 2009


Why do you think those things inherently work for boys but not girls? That's kind of a big assumption.

It was not an assumption; it was a poor attempt at illustration. I was trying to get across there are perhaps differences at play here--differences I am not knowledgeable enough to detail--in a Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus kinda way; that the examples I gave do not illustrate this (which jb was kind enough to detail) does not mean there are not other factors I am unable to identify that do. For instance, if I think women engage on a more emotional level than men do (not that it's necessarily true, so don't jump all over that), I might explore whether the comic book format does not support that level of engagement.
posted by troybob at 5:31 PM on May 27, 2009


troybob - you are perhaps thinking of psychological secondary sex characteristics - but there the research is far from clear. It may be that boys and girls are inherently interested in different kinds of stories, but if this is true it would be (like most secondary sex characteristics) on a statistical level only that had no meaning at the individual level - to make up a completely fake example, a sex preference for action stories would mean that some 60% of boys like adventure stories, as opposed to 40% of girls. Interesting, but not exactly meaning that there aren't a lot of girls who still like action stories.

But as it is, there are so many social factors muddling the story (as brought up in this thread - how comics alienate girls with the big boobies, etc) - and the Mars/Vensus book isn't exactly solid research (it's pop psychology, which is more like pop-astrology than pop-astronomy).
posted by jb at 5:49 PM on May 27, 2009


Yeah, i never read the Mars/Venus thing--I just used it as shorthand for 'maybe guys and girls think differently.' Akin to the way some people are visual thinkers and some are verbal thinkers.
posted by troybob at 6:00 PM on May 27, 2009


THe real problem is that any gender in comics whatever thread gets too big too quickly and then you have to skim it and you can't make an honest comment.

I wrote an AMAZING (if I say so myself) Dazzler story about that. It was a one-off, but never bought. I have another in purgatory, I hope it gets out, but it's She-Hulk in Edwardian New York. Superpowers meets The Yellow Wallpaper. All the editors loved it but it hasn't seen print yet, but I'm told someday Eh. I liked it.


My own book comes in in July. It has a female lead. I will leave now.
posted by The Whelk at 6:14 PM on May 27, 2009


Whelk, if the She-Hulk ever gets published will you MefiMail me? I would be all over that.

I should probably clarify some of my earlier comments - I'm actually far more skeptical/eyerolly about Marvel Divas, Marvel's marketing fail, and Joe Quesada's attitude than I am about Models, Inc.. Though, as I said before, with Mary Jane being written out (oh, apparently because it's now in the canonical universe, where she's stopped modelling) I'm quite positive it's not going to do well, and then Marvel will point and say, "See? Girls don't want to read comics!" Sigh.

But Paul Tobin is a solid writer who's written stories lots of good stories - he's the current writer of Marvel Adventures Spider-Man (I don't read it) and Marvel Adventures Avengers (which I have already praised in this thread). For last year's King-Size Spider-Man Summer Spectacular, he wrote a charming little story (pencils by Colleen Coover), about MJ, Millie, Patsy/Hellcat, and a bunch of female superheroes foiling a plot by Enchantress to brainwash them all into her evil minions and cause havoc.

Ron Thanagar, comics are certainly doing better this decade than last - I'm betting a lot of that has to do with the success of superhero movies. But that doesn't mean it's any more than an upward blip on a downward spiral. The most popular comics these days sell, what, 100,000+ units? And 50,000 is respectable. In the early fifties, Walt Disney's Comics and Stories sold sold almost three million units a month. Supposedly, though I'm tracking cites for these, Dell had multiple titles breaking a million, and EC Comics' niche horror stuff still sold four times the "blockbuster" titles of today.

Three million vs. 100,000. And it's worth noting that many of those three million units were women and girls - you can tell who the publishers expected to be reading their comics by looking at the advertisements. Some time back I was reading a Namora comic that someone had generously scanned. This is a mid Golden Age action/superhero mag about Namor the Sub-Mariner's cousin. Female lead, yes, but if she were being written in 2009 (actually, she's one of the Agents of Atlas, but I meant as a solo title), Marvel wouldn't try marketing her to women; they'd get Greg Horn or Greg Land to draw lots of covers of her with big boobs and an o-face. In 1948, her comic had bra and make-up ads.

Obviously, in the forties and fifties they didn't have the home movies, TV, the internet, iPods, etc etc ad infinitum. People have so many more venues to spend their entertainment money on than they did just a few decades ago. So those sales probably aren't happening again (although it's worth noting that the new print run of Watchmen has supposedly come up to about a million comics). A smaller, sustainable core audience is fine - but the key word is sustainable, which a group of 20-40 year old men that's constantly bleeding off and not being replaced in anywhere the same numbers is not.

For (mainstream) American comics to survive, the big publishers need to learn a few things:
1. Basic marketing techniques, e.g. not insulting your readers. I am talking to you, Messrs. Didio and Quesada! Also, starting something new, then throwing it away two seconds later and whining that it didn't work is not actually trying something new. (Minx is the classic example.) Also also, you have to actually advertise to get new readers. Shocking, I know.
2. How to get young readers (in numbers) and keep them as they transition into adulthood. The Marvel Adventures line is great, but good god, imagine a Marvel Adventures reader trying the 616 universe for the first time.
3. How to get women readers at all beyond the small numbers they've managed not to drive away. Look, if you can relate to Superman and Beast of the X-Men, surely you can manage to relate to women and figure out that they are people too, boobies or no boobies1.
4. How to encourage creativity beyond the lone rogues at the fringes and not self-sabotage their character franchises by thinking about "the purity of the character." Please stop retconning Spider-Man/Superman/the X-Men/Green Lantern for the sake of the imaginary twelve-year-olds. They don't care what the comic was like when you were twelve. Whatever the comic is like when they're twelve is what their "what the comic was like when they were twelve" will be, don't you get it? Sheesh.

By the way, Joe, this means you need to stop using your daughter as a defense against accusations of sexism.
posted by bettafish at 6:50 PM on May 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


bettafish - I'm not sure if I want to know, but what's an O-face?
posted by jb at 7:18 PM on May 27, 2009


Google it, jb.

Actually, yeah, don't.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:22 PM on May 27, 2009


bettafish Whatever the comic is like when they're twelve is what their "what the comic was like when they were twelve" will be, don't you get it?

I didn't realize this when I was twelve, it actually took me 'til my late teens to get this, but they'd already been doing all that retconning and crap for the prior fifty years too. Characters like the Earth-2 versions of the JLA had actually been the characters in previous decades, they weren't just made up contemporaneously to add to the invented history of the characters as they were now. I'm sure most young comic book readers go through the same realization.

If they stopped retconning, that would be a novelty. I put it to you that your desire to stop them retconning may be to some extent a desire for the story to gain some internal consistency, and that's all good, but to some extent is also a desire for it to stay how you remember it, from when you were twelve.

But the stories weren't any better when you were twelve, and they probably won't be any worse when kids born this year are twelve. (If anything they'll be slightly better, since the comics industry enthusiastically recycles those old ideas that work out well, and buries the ones that don't.)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:24 PM on May 27, 2009


re all the retconning: Maybe it's just doomed to want to keep making stories about the same characters forever.

I know I'm saying this as comics, but not superhero comics, fan, but why not just end characters and invent new ones? Even Sandman only went for a few years, and in that one the main character wasn't even the main character half the time. Books of Magic started great, and I liked the first dozen or more John Ney Rieber issues even better than the Gaimen beginning, but it started to fizzle because it didn't have that tight graphic novel structure.

I realise this ruins the whole character franchise thing, of course, and the author based franchise (that Gaimen or Moore have going for them) takes too much power away from the publishers. But on artistic grounds, would it make just more sense to move comic books into a more graphic novel form? And to end character stories when they naturally want to, so that characters can change and grow and eventually become boring (because they are either happy or dead).
posted by jb at 7:37 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Betta, I will! It's in a weird dead zone with Marvel. They have all the stories and art but are dragging thier feet on publishing the thing. It's a whole "What If!" with indie artists and my story is like 4 pages, but I like it and they've been sitting on it for a year and plus. I don't care cause I've seen paid, but, c'mon why the hold-up? What do ya have to loose?
posted by The Whelk at 7:44 PM on May 27, 2009


> These books could be fantastically biting and subvert the whole idea on the cover. That could be the point of the cover.

I think the point that's emerged in this thread is that Marvel can't even buy attention from women on appropriated credit.

And I would also be all over Shulkie and Green Wallpaper. Your mailing list, sir: I would like to subscribe to it!
posted by Decimask at 8:03 PM on May 27, 2009


*cough*fugupress.com*cough*hack*

The She-hulk story is trapped in purgatory. I wrote it and sold it now, oh almost two years ago, and they've been sitting on it and I'm really, really annoyed cause I want to say DUDE I WROTE FOR MARVEL LIKE FOR REALZ, but they wont let me.
posted by The Whelk at 8:17 PM on May 27, 2009


I might explore whether the comic book format does not support that level of engagement.

You mean, you might not make any sense.

Why would you do that when there are fans (and potential fans) right there, telling you about their problems with comics?

You're saying you might decide that Marvel comics have such-and-such quality that, according to certain pop psychologies, women aren't interested in; and then you would "explore" whether or not that's why women aren't buying--regardless of what the women themselves say, and instead of addressing the sexism in the industry.

As long as that huge, known problem exists, speculating that just maybe women don't like comics because they're just different from men somehow is pointless and kind of offensive.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:04 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


While we're all recommending comics that the chicks like, let me heavily plug kris dresden's amazing work. I love everything she's done, but my favorite of the moment is grace, which is not safe for work but is tender and funny and features the most seductive picture of a foot I have seen in many a day.

There's the wonderfully-drawn appropriate for all ages Korgi, anything Nicholas Mahler ever drew, Rebecca Dart, Renee French, Hope Larson, and if you don't read anything else on this list, I second that you need to read Carla Speed McNeil's Finder.

Women read comic books. Women are in the industry. It's not an issue of us not being able to understand images and text together because of our simple lady brains.

Although I have to say that I hated Sandman.
posted by winna at 11:51 PM on May 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's not an issue of us not being able to understand images and text together because of our simple lady brains.

You know, I've heard of guys trying to make that argument before in complete seriousness. Guys who aren't Dave Sim, I mean.

As for the appeal of ongoing character franchises (besides the merchandising appeal to the companies, I mean), getting to play in decades-old sandboxes is fun. I mean, I do rant a lot about the current state of the Marvel universe right now, because I think it's silly, but that doesn't mean I think all forty years of it are awful or that I don't think it will ever turn around.
posted by bettafish at 12:17 AM on May 28, 2009


This wouldn't be such an epic fail if the women didn't look like such horrible stereotypes, I think. I mean, I started reading Sam Kieth's comics almost solely because the women looked like me. Like, to the point of waiving around comic books and exclaiming to my boyfriend "HEY! ZERO GIRL HAS A BELLY! AND SHE'S CUTE!" (Full disclosure: I even dyed my hair like hers!)

Of course, the fact that they were well-written besides that is probably what kept me reading.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:31 AM on May 28, 2009


As long as that huge, known problem exists, speculating that just maybe women don't like comics because they're just different from men somehow is pointless and kind of offensive.

I don't get how I'm being offensive just by making an academic inquiry in which I have no personal stake or bias to support ; I haven't read comics since 11th grade--I'm not some spokesman for the industry. Proposing that women might be different from men is not offensive; it's not like I'm saying the love for comics the ne plus ultra of gender excellence. (Really, I'm more likely to think that guys like comics more because they are more simple; maybe for a guy a comic with a bad story can be redeemed by a full-page rendering of some superwoman with huge breasts, but women are too complex to be fooled so easily.) I know there are girls who like comics; my questions are trying to explore why, if that is the case, comics are more popular with men and women are poorly represented within them; and whether that involves some other form of bias--inherent or constructed--besides the 'men-are-just-being-assholes' variety. The basis of my questioning probably emerges from the thought that surely the comics industry does not benefit financially by shutting women out, and businessmen probably like their money more than they like their sexism. And how many goddamn generallly's and perhaps's do I put into a post to make it clear I'm not making blanket statements or assertions, but raising questions.

If this brand of willful obtuseness and quick offense is typical of the discourse that women bring to the debate within the comics industry, then I understand why its a guy's game. I wish those poor boys luck and now enjoy one more reason to be happy I married a dude.
posted by troybob at 8:21 AM on May 28, 2009


If this brand of willful obtuseness and quick offense is typical of the discourse that women bring to the debate within the comics industry, then I understand why its a guy's game. I wish those poor boys luck and now enjoy one more reason to be happy I married a dude.

troyb, I was with you until this, which sounds dangerously close to "women are being shrill and stupid about this stuff so who can blame the (male) comic book industry for not wanting to deal with them?!"

I, for one, am not particularly offended by Marvel's attempt at roping in women--I just think that it's way lame and offbase in that it emphasizes women's looks in a particularly male-gazey way. Sure, it's trying to riff on women's magazines in doing so, but women's magazines are notorious for capitalizing on women's insecurities, rather than strengths. And when we're talking about superhero comics, shouldn't a character's strengths be their primary draw?

(And, of the women I know who read comics, there's really not a huge overlap between them and the women who read Cosmo. So this becomes alienating to their existing female readers, to boot, who might already be looking for a different sort of reading material in their consumption of comics at all).

You only have to look at manga to find entire successful genres of comics aimed at girls and women. Of course, these comics capitalize on what the Japanese see as different about a women's reading concerns, and those, too, are by default somewhat stereotypical--these comics are often largely about interpersonal relationships, for example, and flowers and sparkly eyes abound. And the women sometimes look no different than their big boobied Western counterparts. But there's something that seems inherently more respectful in say, a CLAMP comic book than these really weak attempts by the Western comic industry to talk to rope women in. It could be the presence of more women writers and artists, or it could be that they actually are trying to talk to women, rather than just copying another industry whose goal is more predatory (to get women to feel bad about themselves to buy some thigh firming cream, or whatever).
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:40 AM on May 28, 2009


troybob, rather. Sorries.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:40 AM on May 28, 2009


Troybob, what you're doing is wading into a topic that has a pretty rapid, well-established current. You're repeating arguments that everyone who has a stake in this discussion has already heard, and doing so without any sort of apparent cluefullness, then blaming women for being "defensive." Thus, you're swept away in a torrent of criticism.

Hey, what if gays are just too promiscuous to get married, because of their genetics? I'm just sayin', jeez! Well, if the gays are going to be so pissy about it, I can see why no one would want to give them the right to marry.
posted by klangklangston at 9:49 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Willful obtuseness and quick offense is MetaFilter's game, these hypothetical women who are boucning out of the comics industry because of it should stay the hell out!
posted by Artw at 9:56 AM on May 28, 2009


Oh, and to respond (obliquely) to something ArtW said upthread about posts talking about problems in comics getting more comments than posts praising comics for doing things right:

First off, you've got MeFi discussion bias—Think about how LOLXTIANS or newsfilter can ring up 200 comments in an hour, while AMAZING ARTIST gets 15 comments over three days. On some level, I'd argue that's a reflection of how seductive the material is. I'm commenting here, but I didn't comment on the Hulk post a couple down, because I just went and read the Hulk post and enjoyed it, but didn't have anything to add.

Second, the audience here is Liberal Nerd. Comics and Sexism are both Serious Business. And while I'd say that of total population, there are probably more people who care about sexism who read comics than there are people who read comics who care about sexism, you're going to get a lot more of the former here.

Third, a lot of us who are now on the older end of comics reading (I've been reading comics for over 20 years now) are used to the narrative of Big Comics Company Does Something Incredibly Stupid. And we've got years and years of practice bitching about everything from Night Nurse to Liefeld (both of which take some well-aimed sexism barbs).

Fourth, part of the problem is that, like Sturgeon's Law, 90 percent of comics are crap. That's a big target, and even a lot of the New Canon creators have some pretty obvious shortcomings. It annoys me when Sandman is treated like the Bible for Comics Girls Like, because I think that it's about 40 percent fey pretentious crap. But when even titles like that get pilloried, it makes you realize that there really isn't any perfect comic (aside from maybe Bone).

Finally, to paraphrase Al Franken, we love comics as adults. Like how liberals love America, we're aware of the flaws and want comics to get better. We've grown up with them, we recognize the potential, and we criticize because we love them. Fanboys love comics like children love—defensive and possessive.
posted by klangklangston at 10:19 AM on May 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


Troybob, you struck nerves with other posters since many of your comments happened to align with a history of excluding women from traditionally male spheres because, "Oh, they're just different."

"Oh, they're just different, so they're not going to be interested and it doesn't matter if all our stories portray women as damsels in distress with large breasts. " Or, "Women are just different, so it doesn't matter that the gender ratio in the sciences among college freshman is 50:50 but it keeps dropping the higher up you go/our executive club is male." Or hey, "Women are just different, so it doesn't matter if we have a tiny quota of 1 woman: 10 men for our medical school - it's not like that many of them want to apply, anyway." [My mum applied too late, and got told, "Oh, we'd let you in, but we've already filled our quota." She went for her MA instead.]

Suggesting that maybe women are too complex to appreciate comics isn't any better - that's just a positive stereotype of a minority, which is only marginally better than a negative stereotype, if it's better at all. Women should not be put up on pedestals any more than they should be scorned. Also, it's just disrespectful of the genre of comics, superhero or otherwise - I mean, forget Watchmen or Maus, read James Robinson's Starman before you start suggesting that comics are too simple for x segment of society.

Anyway, my point is that you may have been asking about this stuff in good faith, but not only are you retreading ground that I'm betting most of us female comics fans in this thread have gone over to death, but you're doing so while recycling logic that has historically been used to disenfranchise women. Maybe you are trying to reframe it in a different way, but speaking only for myself, I'm not a mindreader, and all I saw was the same tired stereotypes (maybe girls don't like heroes as much! maybe comics aren't as emotionally engaging!) with a few defensive disclaimers.

Honestly, I think people have been the opposite of quick to take to offense - you've been gently informed that Mars/Venus is pop psychology and therefore not the best thing to base an analysis on, one person told you your comments were "kind of offensive," and there were a couple of short, sarcastic rebuttals. No personal remarks, no one telling you that you're being sexist. Then, your response to this was basically call all the women here dumb and oversensitive and declare that they deserve to be excluded from the industry and fandom that they love.

Don't you think that's, you know, kind of dirty pool?
posted by bettafish at 10:23 AM on May 28, 2009


Hey, what if gays are just too promiscuous to get married, because of their genetics? I'm just sayin', jeez! Well, if the gays are going to be so pissy about it, I can see why no one would want to give them the right to marry.

I think the difference is that, unlike the parallel criticism that gays are 'too promiscuous', my suggestion that women might approach comics as a medium with a different mindset isn't some kind of statement that women are 'too' anything, or that they are inherently 'less' than men; and it seems that is how it is being taken, rashly and reflexively, based on whatever challenges have been faced by women within the comics industry, without my knowledge. I didn't come here as some kind of comics authority, and there was no pre-requirement that I need be familiar with the historical intra-industry discussion on it; I don't know what arguments you've heard about it before, which ones are worn out, and which theories have been debunked; and I thought my probing on it was not unusual in terms of someone trying to understand the phenomenon from the outside. I thought jb made a good-faith effort to answer the questions in the spirit in which they were asked, which I appreciate.

My later reactions weren't particularly charitable, to my discredit, but it was more frustration that the reaction in here rather resembles what right-wing talk radio does when it intentionally misinterprets a statement out of context to form a platform for their outrage--particularly since I tried to take care to express that my intentions were not to reinforce some bias but to explore what is, for me, a vague notion of gender differences in psychology. I didn't realize that the notion that men might like some things more than women, and women might like some things more than men (in general terms), and that there might be legitimate reasons for that--reasons even possibly rooted in institutional bias against women--was so loaded.

Maybe they are misconceptions, but I figured there was something to the idea, for instance, that men engage with porn in a way that women do not, and not based simply on which sex they are looking at on the screen. Or that men might like war or action movies more than women; or that women like romantic comedies more than men. Even if they are misconceptions, though, its not as if I've attached judgments to them; they are, to me, simply expressions of differences that do not mask some kind of nefarious agenda or reflect a qualitative assessment.
posted by troybob at 10:35 AM on May 28, 2009


(qualitative isn't the right word...i mean more in a comparative sense, as if stating that one gender or perspective is somehow inherently superior)
posted by troybob at 10:43 AM on May 28, 2009


Well, I can see why it might be a reasonable line of inquiry, but the premise is fundamentally shakey ("women don't like comics" what, all women? FALSE all comics in all cultures? FALSE. Even "Women don't like superheroes" crumples completely if you look at the people going to see Spiderman.) and then you get to shit like "maybe for a guy a comic with a bad story can be redeemed by a full-page rendering of some superwoman with huge breasts, but women are too complex to be fooled so easily" and, well, my response to that has to be fuck the hell off.
posted by Artw at 10:53 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm real bacon.
posted by The Whelk at 10:54 AM on May 28, 2009


I think what Klang and myself are saying here is that you seem to have inadvertantly (or not, maybe) placed yourself in the intersecting area of a Venn diagram of hate, and no good can come of digging in there.
posted by Artw at 10:58 AM on May 28, 2009


"women don't like comics" what, all women? FALSE all comics in all cultures? FALSE. Even "Women don't like superheroes" crumples completely if you look at the people going to see Spiderman

I take that as disingenuous considering I made it clear I was speaking in general terms, not to mention that I was talking about the particular medium of comics and not film. And I never said that women don't like superheroes (why are these things in quotes?); I suggested that there are recurrent themes in the superhero genre that maybe men respond to in ways that women generally do not. The examples I've tried to give to explain my line of thinking are crude illustrations that attempt to explore, not assertions.

You know, I get all kinds of silly questions about being gay from straight people. But unless they are clearly an attempt to insult or degrade me (and none seem to have been so far), I don't jump to the conclusion that someone is being homophobic just by asking them, even though I have had my share of experience with homophobia. Rather, I tend to appreciate that they show an interest.

But I'll fuck the hell off in any case.
posted by troybob at 11:06 AM on May 28, 2009


"Even if they are misconceptions, though, its not as if I've attached judgments to them; they are, to me, simply expressions of differences that do not mask some kind of nefarious agenda or reflect a qualitative assessment."

Who says I'm attaching judgment to being promiscuous? Maybe gays just have some sort of genetic predisposition against monogamy, which would make allowing them to marry futile.

Sure, I could listen to what gay people tell me, or even maybe read up a little on my own, but I didn't realize that the notion that straights just like marriage more than gays for legitimate reasons was so loaded.

Dude, since I'm done (for the moment) with being facile, here's the thing: Comics is a medium. Arguing that there's something inherent in television that makes men like it more than women is silly. Likewise, novels or movies or paintings. On their own, media are neutral things, and trying to come up with some sort of physiological explanation is as ridiculous as trying to posit that there's something about gays or lefties that makes them less interested in manga, especially in the face of so many obvious proximate causes like, say, overt discrimination for all of modern comics' lifetime. It's especially ridiculous if you know anything about comics markets globally, because then you're down to arguing that epicanthic folds and right-to-left reading are the secret to engaging women if you need that physical explanation. Otherwise, nearly all of the criticism comes from realizing that American comics are focused on mainstream adolescent dudes and their world view, and for anyone outside of that, they look hinky and dumb on the whole. That there are plenty of great comics that step outside that, or, even better, that manage to appeal to adolescent dudes while still appealing to a huge group of non-fanboys without making the non-fanboys feel excluded or weird, is a testament to the medium.
posted by klangklangston at 11:11 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


This account is disabled.


I, humph, what? I was just going to mail him a funny story about my mom being a medical transcriptionist cause of his comment in metatalk. Dang.
posted by The Whelk at 11:13 AM on May 28, 2009


"I take that as disingenuous considering I made it clear I was speaking in general terms, not to mention that I was talking about the particular medium of comics and not film. And I never said that women don't like superheroes (why are these things in quotes?); I suggested that there are recurrent themes in the superhero genre that maybe men respond to in ways that women generally do not."

Troybob, one of the first and best lessons you can learn about comics is that superhero is a genre and comics is a medium. Superhero is the dominant genre in America and is explicitly geared to appeal to adolescent males, so, yeah, of course there are things that are more appealing to men than women. Duh, it's by design.

But it doesn't have to be that way, and in a huge way that assumption of 12-year-old boy norms is bad for comics as a medium, and bad for superheroes as a genre.

(Oh, and I meant facetious earlier, not facile.)
posted by klangklangston at 11:16 AM on May 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


"the kinds of themes that define comics. Not that there isn't a variety, but there are certain things that are characteristic--hero themes, hidden identity, physical strength and powers, exaggerated features"

Lots of folks have chimed in to say "manga has this too, and women like manga", but I'll go ahead and chime in with the opposite response: lots (and LOTS) of manga don't have this (in fact, in regards to "hidden identity", I'd wager that 90% or more don't have that), and yet they are very popular. Those aren't characteristic of comics, they are characteristic of superhero comics. If Marvel wants more female readers, they should try more non-superhero stuff. Not because women prefer non-superhero stuff to superhero stuff in any intrinsic way, but because the superhero genre is so laden with baggage that it's much harder for Marvel to dump the bad and keep the good than it would be for them to start from a clean slate. A good writer can pull it off (Sandman existed in the superhero universe, and had superheroes from Marvel continuity appear from time to time), but it takes a good writer to shake off the baggage, whereas even a mediocre writer could probably shake off the baggage if they started from a non-superhero base.
posted by Bugbread at 11:44 AM on May 28, 2009


I don't think troybob is wrong, in the main, he just chose poor examples. Rephrasing his initial contentious statement with a better example, we get something more like this:

"there are certain things that are characteristic--dominance by male characters, extreme sexualization of female characters--that perhaps on some level work for boys in a way they don't work for girls."

I don't think that's a particularly wrong statement. Obviously, there have to be some differences between male readers and female readers, be it due to nature or nurture, because if there weren't, the comics would already have a 50/50 split of male and female readers.
posted by Bugbread at 12:09 PM on May 28, 2009


I think that's an entirely different argument, though, bugbread, because what you've set up is the question, "What elements in the medium of American mainstream comics prevents girls from enjoying them as much as boys?" Whereas troybob kept asking, "What traits of girls keep them from enjoying the medium of American mainstream comics as much as boys do?"

As to your argument about manga, I think you missed the point people were making when they said that manga have the same heroic elements as superhero comics. Yes, many of them don't, but that's because manga is much more diverse than American comics overall - arguably, much more healthily diverse. American comics are very strangely divided in that the vast part of the market is taken up by a niche genre, that genre being superheroes. That said, that genre is alive and healthy in manga as well, in its own form. Earlier posters were not claiming that most manga is superheroic, because that's not true, but rather that there is a healthy niche of superhero-like manga in amongst all the others, which is.

Oh, and Sandman is a Vertigo/DC comic, not a Marvel comic.
posted by bettafish at 12:23 PM on May 28, 2009


TBH the DC characters turning up in the first book are probably less of a distraction than the horrendously inappropriate artwork.
posted by Artw at 12:35 PM on May 28, 2009


The interview I linked here kind of touches on this - It's Alan Moore talking about Swamp Thing, which was very much the prototype for Sandman and other Vertigo titles, and he talks about why it has the JLA turning up in it.
posted by Artw at 12:43 PM on May 28, 2009


Bettafish:

Regarding the manga comment, I phrased myself poorly. I didn't mean to contradict what people were saying, but to add to it. That is, there are manga which share traits with western superhero stuff (secret identities, etc.etc.), and they have female fans, AND there are manga which don't share traits, and they also have female fans. So the first set of manga says "women are fine with superhero trappings", and the second set says "and even if they weren't, there's a heck of a lot more to comics than superheros, so that would be no reason for incompatibility with comics themselves".

Regarding the difference between "what elements make women not like it" versus "what traits make women not like it", those seem like two different phrasings of the same thing. Like "who threw the ball" and "by whom was the ball thrown". I'm not going to argue the point too much, because I'm sleepy (night shift), and if you think there's an important difference, there probably is, and I'm not alert enough to catch it right now.

And thanks on the Sandman DC/Vertigo thing. I finished reading the whole series last month, but I haven't read Marvel in decades, and never really read DC, so it was all unknown characters to me anyway, and hence easy to mix up (if Superman or Batman had appeared, I'd remember it was DC. If Cyclops or Spiderman appeared, I'd remember it was Marvel. As it was, it was folks like Doctor Destiny and Element Girl, so the name of the company found no purchase in my brain.)

Artw:

Yeah, seriously. If it weren't for years and years of people on the internet saying how great Sandman was, I wouldn't have gotten through the first 5 pages. As it was, I read the whole series, and loved it. The art never got good (with the exception of that issue about Bagdad, perhaps), but it got way better than that...dreck that filled the pages at the start.
posted by Bugbread at 12:54 PM on May 28, 2009


Look, I am a woman. I did not grow up reading comics. I first read any comics in college, when I started with Sandman and then moved onto Moore. More recently I actually read some marvel superhero stuff, Civil War and the most recent Iron Man stuff. (The movie having awakened a fannish interest in Iron Man, like it did for a lot of women.)

Reading Marvel comics is challenging, because I have to keep stopping and getting my husband to explain things to me. About the Marvel world, about who this and that is and how they're connected and this reality and that alternate sub-past-meta-future-never-was universe, etc. My male friends grew up reading comics. They have at least a 10-15 year grounding in the superhero universe. I don't. It's like trying to turn on the TV and watch a soap for the first time with no background, and no one to explain to you who everyone is and what's going on. It's not really enjoyable until you are sort of able to catch up and then you still get the feeling you're missing things, that you are not the target audience. Because comics are written for 20-40 year old men these days, the people who have been reading them for the last few decades.

Is it any wonder I prefer to pick up a manga that starts at #1, or read a graphic novel? Even if you got rid of the blatent sexism and improved the quality of the story lines, there are still huge reasons why the mainstream books don't get new readers.
posted by threeturtles at 12:54 PM on May 28, 2009


"Regarding the difference between "what elements make women not like it" versus "what traits make women not like it", those seem like two different phrasings of the same thing. Like "who threw the ball" and "by whom was the ball thrown". I'm not going to argue the point too much, because I'm sleepy (night shift), and if you think there's an important difference, there probably is, and I'm not alert enough to catch it right now."

Yeah, the difference is "What is it ABOUT WOMEN that makes them not get [superhero] comics?" versus "What is it ABOUT [superhero] COMICS that makes women not get them?"

The causes are inverted.
posted by klangklangston at 1:51 PM on May 28, 2009


I see them both as causes. Like the fire triangle: to have a fire, you need fuel, oxygen, and heat. You wouldn't say that fuel is the cause of the fire, and heat the result, nor that heat is the cause of the fire, and fuel the result. Fuel and heat are both necessary but insufficient causes, and fire is the result. In the same way, women having a difference in tastes from men is a cause (necessary, but insufficient), and comics having certain elements is a cause (necessary, but insufficient), and women not reading comics is the result.

To be honest, though, on this issue, I'm more of a sexist on the other side: I don't think women are faulty to not read superhero comics. Nor do I think they're admirable for not reading superhero comics. I'm neither positively nor negatively stereotyping women. But I think males are idiots for reading them. Sure, there are great superhero comics, and I fault no-one for reading them (Dark Knight, Watchmen, etc. etc.), but the weeklies are shit. I understand why women wouldn't like them, but I don't get why some men do. So I am being sexist, but it's entirely directed at males.
posted by Bugbread at 2:56 PM on May 28, 2009


Actually, joining the second paragraph above into the first paragraph above, I should probably restate this as:

"What is it ABOUT MEN that makes them like [superhero] comics?", and "What is it ABOUT [superhero] COMICS that makes men like them?"
posted by Bugbread at 3:01 PM on May 28, 2009


But I think males are idiots for reading them. Sure, there are great superhero comics, and I fault no-one for reading them (Dark Knight, Watchmen, etc. etc.), but the weeklies are shit.

Your ... argument ... such as it is, would be a lot stronger if you were aware that the vast, vast majority of superhero comics come out once a month.

Hey, folks in this thread, can I make a suggestion? Can we try having this discussion without a) being sexist for the sake of it or b) insulting people's taste in reading just because?
posted by bettafish at 3:26 PM on May 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sorry, I should have said "regulars". I haven't read comics in so long that I've forgotten the release schedule. My knowledge now all comes second-hand, from blogs discussing comics. And, perhaps, comics have grown much, much better than when I stopped reading (early 90's). Probably it's just that the trainwrecks are what stick in my mind now. (And, yes, I do realize that it's not all All Star Batman & Robin out there. I'm not that divorced from reality).
posted by Bugbread at 4:48 PM on May 28, 2009


And, yeah, I apologize for deriding the genre. The world isn't composed of "good" and "bad" entertainment, it's composed of "stuff I like" and "stuff I don't like". Everyone occasionally falls into the trap of thinking that they like stuff because it is Good, and dislike stuff because it is Bad. That's what happened to me up there.

So I should say "I understand why female readers don't like superhero comics, but I don't understand why males like them". No denigration was needed. Sorry.
posted by Bugbread at 4:59 PM on May 28, 2009


Couple three things:

1) Like I said above, most comics are crap, no matter where you go, superhero or not.
2) The '90s were the nadir for mainstream American comics. You could count the number of good books coming out on one hand.
3) I feel like you're missing a different point than the point troybob was missing, in that what you're stumbling towards is actually "I don't understand why anyone likes superhero comics." No real need for gender in what you're saying, and it's been pretty well established why spotty teen dudes love superheroes—because there's a lot of wish fulfillment in them, and they have bombastically dynamic art. You may as well ask about summer blockbusters and Grand Theft Auto too.

As for why folks who aren't being pandered to like superhero comics, well, a fair number of them do have great stories once you understand the form. But for folks that I've gotten into comics, superheroes are almost always a taste acquired after moving through the other genres, and usually that superhero love comes with a heavy dose of Kurt Busiek, who's hands down the best modern Superman writer.
posted by klangklangston at 5:18 PM on May 28, 2009


I have no internet access at home, so am wading in now.

I'm female and started reading comics at about sixteen (and kids' comics from the age of two) when I went to places that actually sold them (no decent bookstore or specialist store in my hometown). I quickly gravitated toward Action Girl, Hate, Naughty Bits, the Death miniseries; as I got older I found more graphic novels which I loved, such as It's A Good Life... and Fun Home (Black Hole was pish, though).

I never picked up superhero comics. I read The Green Lantern once and liked it, but I didn't get into them in the same way that fantasy novels don't grab me - they seemed to be too removed from human interest, too serious. Nothing to do with them being about men, or lack of female characters. They just didn't engage me. I agree too with one of the comments above, that you're coming in on a story late. I've never seen Star Wars and I don't feel I can appreciate it objectively because it's become this big cultural thing, and I don't know what Tattooine is or cantina band or whatever. The colossi of comics strike me as much the same. I struggled with Watchmen because I didn't have that information about narrative, conventions and style absorbed (plus I was quite young when I read it...)

liquidindian did his dissertation on comic book narrative, and explained to me that a lot of the large series use the idea of the hidden identity as metaphor - this is something that would interest me a great deal. Why not start a new series which can use this from a female perspective - girls go through puberty and identity problems too.

As we've established, girls like comics. It's hamfisted things like this, though, that might actually change this.
posted by mippy at 4:23 AM on May 29, 2009


Mippy,

I'd recommend giving Star Wars a go. Not because it is so awesome (I love it, but I grew up on it. No idea how it would feel to an adult who had never seen it), but because, unlike comics, it is really easy to pick up. That is, the problem with coming into comics late isn't that the cultural steam has built up before you got to it, but because there is so much back story. Plus, the really cool stuff isn't the stuff at the start (Batman didn't get interesting until decades after the character had been invented), so to understand the cool stuff, you have to catch up on what came before. To catch up, you'd have to spend hundreds of dollars and read hundreds of books. With Star Wars, though, really, you can just watch the original trilogy (Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi), and you've seen the core stuff that everyone is so fond of. It's just 6 hours or so, and would cost less than $10 to rent from a video store. It's entirely self-contained, so you don't need to watch the next trilogy to understand stuff in the first trilogy, nor read any novels to understand the movies, etc. In other words, unlike comics, there are no cryptic comments with a little gloss at the bottom of the screen saying "See Mighty Thor issue 76!".
posted by Bugbread at 7:05 AM on May 29, 2009


Good Comics For Kids
posted by Artw at 2:25 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


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