Girls to X-Men
May 21, 2010 6:02 AM   Subscribe

It's amazing that every time an industry that defines itself as catering to males realizes that women are human beings just like men it's presented as shocking news.

"But they have breasts! How could we have known?" say marketing executives.
posted by Kattullus at 6:08 AM on May 21, 2010 [22 favorites]

Anecdata: My wife, not a comics reader at all, has always been a huge X-Men fan.
posted by rusty at 6:22 AM on May 21, 2010

It makes sense if you think of comics as soap operas, i.e. mindless entertainment (nothing wrong with that) that sometimes reaches higher pure entertainment.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:29 AM on May 21, 2010

Asking females what they actually like is cheating.

/likes Alan Moore, Gaimen, Wil Eisner's Brooklyn stories, Bone, Y: the last Man, basically stuff with an interesting story and realistic characters and/or stupid rat creatures...
posted by jb at 6:31 AM on May 21, 2010

"But they have breasts! How could we have known?"

It's an unfair joke, but this could have been said by pretty much every comic book fan I knew back in the day. It's no surprise to me that an industry with that many decades of experience catering to a very particular sort of young guy might have a few hiccups when trying to reach out to a broader demographic.
posted by Forktine at 6:37 AM on May 21, 2010

Ooh, I was totally one of the survey participants! Hope asked nice open-ended questions with lots of room for comments--I'd love to see ALL the comments actually.

Though I will note that most of the 5-8 year old girls I know LOOOOOVE Babymouse, which is the sparkliest pinkest series of books ever.
posted by leesh at 6:40 AM on May 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

It continually boggles my mind how the comics industry is shocked by the revelation that girls like superhero comics. Why shouldn't we?
posted by LN at 6:43 AM on May 21, 2010

Well, I think this* kind of thing is off-putting to lots of women. (I love the X-Men and Batwoman and most other books in the Batman universe, so I'm right there with you.)

*Women in Refrigerators
posted by leesh at 6:49 AM on May 21, 2010

X-Men, esp the Clairmont run was0/is hugely popular with girls in my circle. Also Deadpool for some reason.

and everything jb lists, hey guess what girls like good comics, just like guys.
posted by The Whelk at 7:01 AM on May 21, 2010

I always get real confused by these discussions. Girls who read comics like good comics. But it seems like what the marketers want to do is attract the girls who self-sort themselves out. These are the same people who say “Oh my brother plays video games, but I’m bad at the controller.” But really mean “That’s boring.” They self –identify as girly girl and don’t make room in their lives to try these things. But why should they, I don’t make room in my life for fashion blogs or celebrity gossip.* It seems like asking current comics readers what they like about comics doesn’t get at that group, so the survey is kind of pointless. But I’m of the opinion that nothing will.

*Yes, I’m describing a Sex in the City stereotype, but I work with one of them so I know they exist. I'm also being slightly judgy about that value paradigm, but in the intellectual part of my brain I recognize that as its own flavor of passion and nerdery.
posted by edbles at 7:10 AM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]

My girlfriend doesn't read comics at all but she read and enjoyed The Pro. I thought Persepolis would be the gateway comic for her which shows what I know.
posted by minifigs at 7:18 AM on May 21, 2010

Some people roll their eyes and sneer "nerrrrrrrrrds!" at the very idea of superheroes.

When a guy does it, the stereotypical comic book fan assumes it's because he's too cool or whatever. When a girl does it, the fan assumes it's because she is a girl.
posted by straight at 7:25 AM on May 21, 2010 [7 favorites]

Edbles has it. It's a survey for girls who already read comics. Comics are male-dominated, so the girls who currently read comics are fine with those stories. But how do you attract girls who don't read comics? Girls who like Sex in the City, but are dragged by their boyfriends to Iron Man 2 and actually end up liking it, but don't like it enough to set foot in a comicbook shop. I don't know, but I don't think an Xmen comic book will cut it.
posted by banished at 7:26 AM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's not a question of shouldn't, LN. It's a question of walking into random comics stores and looking at the people you see in them.

About four times a year, I hit this one store devoted to gaming, graphic novels, and books of the sci-fi/fantasy ilk. I spend an hour looking through their science fiction books and having chats with the owner along the lines of "cruel things we did, as DMs, to our characters." Well, that and the state of the RPG industry.

During the course of this, I look around. Caucasian males, all under fifty. Every time I have been in there. Nothin' but pale males. If it had been a few times, it could be dismissed as an accident. Over a decade of visits, it's a trend, and a big one. This would be approximately forty visits now and I have yet to see a woman in the store, or anyone of anything but European ancestry. So when an industry rep ambles down to the local outlet for their product and they see just this one slice of people, over and over, yeah, they might be a little shocked to hear that some other group is interested, because that other group just doesn't seem to be out in force when industry reps as a whole glance around.

I very rarely read comics or graphic novels, so I have little stake in the matter. I haven't even bought Watchmen for myself yet. I get a kick out of a few rare things, about once every three or four years, but by and large, reading about the various slow-motion trainwrecks of mismanagement and crap writing is more entertaining than content resulting. As far as I can tell, the industry survives in spite of itself, due only to rabid devotion of a segment of a population who, as often as not, are as disgusted with what they get as elated. The relevant Wikipedia articles alone are a study in almost perverse survival, like television, but worse.

With that said, this particular industry is fumbling around with a top-down approach, as so many do, and that fails because, as usual in matters of taste, a bottom-up approach works better. However, I would not fault them for catering to what has evidently been their demographic for decades. They go after the people they see buying their stuff. Broadening into new markets and demographics often results in tragically bad new products because the industry has no idea who they are or what they want. It's as true with graphic novels as it is with computers or anything else, not because of a cabal or deliberate slight, but because companies must tread a fine line between old, reliable product and new offerings of uncertain value to them if they would like to stay in business.

This is less an apologia than an explanation: if society spends the better part of a century saying that people who are into comics are perpetually immature virgin-nerds who have failed to man up, it'll take a while to swing that momentum around.
posted by adipocere at 7:40 AM on May 21, 2010

When I went into my local comic book store for Free Comic Book Day, it was super-crowded, and I was surprised to find that about a third of the people in there were women.
posted by grouse at 7:52 AM on May 21, 2010

I like how in their list of suggestions, there's "offer different types of stories and storytelling in order to attract more readers", "putting graphic novels in different sections of the bookstore," and "toning down the misogyny."

Yeah, that last one sounds like a good idea. Weirdly after it they write "(perceived or otherwise)" - which, okay, this is a genre known for Women in Refrigerators Syndrome, I think we can drop the "perceived."

Anyway, I'm a girl who grew up liking comic books. I liked the Justice League International and Cable & Deadpool and all that -- it puzzles me that we're still having this conversation framed as "what do girls LIKE?!" More strong female characters are great, obviously (and there are some good ones - from what I've seen I like Batgirl and Power Girl and the all female characters in the new Blue Beetle.) More female comic book writers/artists is also a great trend.

But I still think the biggest hurdle to getting women to read more comic books is less the content and more an unwelcoming environment. It's sort of a de jure vs. de facto thing, kind of like internet and gamer culture - even when the content is unobjectionable, those of us interested in it often have to put up with a certain level obnoxious behavior from the rest of the fanbase.

Things have and do get better obviously, and overall I'm positive. But the current atmosphere (or what it's perceived as) is definitely a hurdle to getting girls into comics and getting ones who already ARE to come out more about it.

I'm glad for surveys like this because the whole "of course we include girls! check out this month's issue about superhero girlfriends!" we so often get sometimes contributes more to the alienating environment than just not discussing it at all. It's nice to see a reasonable and thoughtful analysis.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:53 AM on May 21, 2010 [9 favorites]

It seems to me that if you take (good) female targeted comics and stick them at the grocery store check out line next to the tabloids and self help pamphlets you would sell a lot more than if you put them in a comic book store. Those stores are total man-nerd caves.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:02 AM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]

adipocere, I have difficulty believing that the comics publishers get all their demographics data from ambling down to their local shop for a look around. A great deal of activity regarding comics now happens in places other than the traditional comic book shop, and frankly, as a female consumer of comics, a comic book shop is (paradoxically) the last place I would go to get comics. Not because of all the icky nerdy-boy-people in the store, but because the store is so fucking inconvenient to get to. I tend to go online for my comics, both to read previews, talk about and buy. I'm willing to bet a lot of people do the same.

For the comics publishers, it isn't an issue of a new market, it's an issue of a change in distribution patterns. Remember when grocery stores sold comics? I do, and that's where, as a kid, I bought a lot of comics. Drugstores used to have comics in the magazine rack, but I haven't seen any there for years. There's this bizarre trope of guys in comic book shops, but frankly, comics used to be available other places, and I bet that's where a lot of girls got their books. It's still true today. I don't believe for a minute that companies as long-lived and successful as Marvel and DC haven't got this figured out.
posted by LN at 8:05 AM on May 21, 2010

See, I didn’t grow up liking comics (nerdy and tomboy-y enough just no friends who were into them), except some Asterix and Obelix that my Dad would bring home for me and my brother from business trips. I got exposed to them because a friend handed me V for Vendetta, and Knightfall in sequence, I then spent 6 months torrenting (I know, I know but I was young and foolish) all my comic book nerd friends suggestions. I was mostly buying my trade paperbacks online and in bookstores, until I found out about Bergen Comics (thanks metafilter!). So having discovered this wonderful world I have on occasion tried to share it with others. A lot of the response I get is more along the lines of it’s nice that you’re interested but they just aren’t for me, without even cracking the spine. So my point is A) it's easy to avoid the pale sweaty nerd boys and B) I think even once you remove the pale sweaty nerd boys you still run into this wall of “that’s what the other gender does.”

Also is Love and Rockets supposed to be known for being female friendly, because I had the impression it was, until I read one.
posted by edbles at 8:15 AM on May 21, 2010

Wow, Love and Rockets is one of my top two all-time favorite series--mainly b/c I find the women characters to be relatable and like them a whole bunch. Why did you think it wasn't female-friendly?
posted by leesh at 8:16 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

As a woman, I love comics where there's a love story, or 'lust' story, and not just between one man and many women fawning over him, but also perhaps a woman as the main character with many men (and women?) after her. I like comics with a good, solid story that's not afraid to hurt the character and make you feel for them. I like magic or "super powers", but in moderation. I like dark, deep, brooding comics with adult and gore scenes. Some comics I like are X-Men, The Maxx, Spawn, Buffy, Spike (two sep. comics, the Buffy and Spike ones), and there was one I read a long time ago, I can't remember the name.. the super hero's face was never shown through the whole comic until the end.

Anyway, as far as the bodies go, I like everyone to look good. I don't like the men to look bulky and dorky like in some of the old X-Men comics. I like lean males with sly attitudes and beautiful, sometimes evil women. I like forbidden lovestories like a good guy falls in love with a bad girl.

But yes, women love comics too.
posted by Malice at 8:25 AM on May 21, 2010

There was a time when lots of girls bought lots of comics, during the heyday of romance comics. Suckers sold like hotcakes; you didn't have to go a specialty store, and there was nothing "edgy" about reading them, although they were considered slightly trashy (and they were).

I personally don't think this was only because Girls Like Romance Crap, as also that romance novels were, overwhelmingly, About Girls. Not about walking testosterone farms with daddy issues and sexxy ladies hangin' off them. G

Whatever dudes get out of superhero comics, most girls don't get, because being a Big Manly Hero God King is not a role girls identify with.

(Cue extremely long-winded discussion of gender roles and problems with such. But, they exist and they certainly shape what stories we're drawn to, especially as youngsters.)

So, if you want to attract female readers, I think it boils down to simply making More Female Protagonists. I lean towards more female heroes (because women do need more hero roles, and there is a population of girls who respond to that, ala Buffy fans) but probably also, soap-opera-level protagonists like the ones in Twilight. It's twaddle, but so is most of the boy-flavored stuff in comics stores. And if they come in for twaddle, they might run across something better.
posted by emjaybee at 8:27 AM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

i was thinking about this a bit when I watched Thor last night, and saw ScarJo as the Black Widow. I think that she is thought of as a femminist icon, but she has no voice, and her being a woman and kicking ass is e nough to negate that...

Plus Pepper Pots being bad at the CEO gig, and giving it up in order to have a chance being romantically involved with Stark, really bugged me.
posted by PinkMoose at 8:28 AM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Ok, I was doing this thing where I was stopping buy the library and scrounging for whatever graphic novels they had in the rotation up front, I picked up Love and Rockets. I think an early one and another early one neither volume in sequence. This is all sort of fuzzy. It was the one where one of them has a crush on a race car driver? And then is trapped in a South American country during some sort of political turmoil? The girls just seemed real thinly written and boy crazy. The little one seemed especially vapid, written as just another dumb blond. I’d be willing to give it another shot if there’s one you particularly recommend.
posted by edbles at 8:38 AM on May 21, 2010

I agree with everything said above about this reflecting the tastes of women who already overcame the barriers to entry and like what the industry offers. I just wanted to point out one thing:
  • Either relatable, realistic characters (like the misfit X-Men) or “kick-ass” wish-fulfillment characters
  • A compelling story and strong artwork were of nearly equal importance
So given choices between A or B, they're ok with either. And now we know what they want! Keep doing what you're doing, everyone!
posted by yerfatma at 8:42 AM on May 21, 2010

One of the things that stuck out in the linked post:
they don't care for hypersexualized characters or plots that rely on sexual violence
The scans_daily community regularly discusses things like this; the latest had to do with very pin-up-ish versions of Disney princesses. It's worth noting that a good percentage of the commentariat there is female.

Other communities of note: started out as a reaction to the gruesome (and somewhat sexualized) torture and murder of a former sidekick of Batman's, Stephanie Brown, and the subsequent refusal of DC Editorial to acknowledge that she'd ever fulfilled the role of Robin. (Eventually, they changed their minds without ever acknowledging their mistake; it turned out that she was only mostly dead, and now she's the new Batgirl.) The site has slowed down in its updates, but is still relevant.

Sequential Tart, a long-running female comics fan community that regularly updates.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:54 AM on May 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

Also, edbles, I'd suggest sticking with Love and Rockets; the very early issues are kind of lightweight, but it picks up a lot of depth and complexity as it goes along. (Also, WRT the boy-crazy thing[SPOILER ALERT], Maggie (the little blonde one, who is not really blonde and won't be for long) and Hopey are an on-again-off-again couple, although Maggie is bisexual and Hopey also occasionally plays on the away team.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:00 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

edbles: Love and Rockets was an anthology series that developed separate stories by Jamie, Gilbert, and occasionally Mario. The storylines develop more depth over time. I'm particularly fond of the Palomar cycle, but never was quite able to get into Locas.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:06 AM on May 21, 2010

The scans_daily community regularly discusses things like this; the latest had to do with very pin-up-ish versions of Disney princesses.

posted by Greg Nog at 9:21 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

"toning down the misogyny (perceived or otherwise)"

WTF? (yes I've got a misogyny reading of 7.3 here, lets scale it back to 5.0 and send it to print) This sentence was written with such an ignorance of misogyny and patriarchy that it's laughable.

I should be a woman that likes comics. I hung out at a d&d/comic book store after school. I love complex plot lines, and illustration. I love fandoms and geekery of all sorts. I play video games, my sister is obsessed with comic books, as is one of my best female friends. I wear makeup and skirts, but I'm really not afraid to look nerdy. I should be a woman that likes comics. But I don't.

What turns me off from them? I think you could pretty easily say that the superhero genre is the ultimate expression of hyper-masculinism. The fact that it is "masculine" isn't what puts me off as a woman. I reject that gender is anything other than a social construct; I feel no need to pick pink over blue because it is expected of the bearer of ovaries. What I object to is this extreme version of gender roles being pumped into the eyes of young boys and girls.

Even when theres a female protagonist, she might be ass kicking and powerful but it's in spite of her gender, or because of her basketball breasts. It's like is not enough to already be a SUPERHERO with interstellar radioactive powers, you need powers that work on planet Earth, you need sex appeal.

On the whole*, I'm going to say that women in comic books are fetishized. I honestly feel like comic books contribute to some young men having limited social interactions, and therefore skewed perceptions of women. Then asking questions like "what do GIRLS think?" or "What do GIRLS like?" is already based on the assumption that GIRLS are not like you. That they are different, maybe even somehow mysterious or mystical. Maybe you want to be nice to women, have a girlfriend or wife to shower with love. Maybe you don't think of women in traditionally misogynistic-baby-making-kitchen-slaves, but you think of them as something unlike yourself, something special and sacred. This is harmful, detrimental, and misogynistic thinking. This is the line of thought that leads to Fedora-wearing, banjo-sending creepy men.

What I'd like to see, is a happy woman and man crime fighting team. Despite all the ways you can try to break gender role perceptions, kids are social sponges. So lets shows them gender roles that are equal and empowered. Outlandish villains, improbable powers, dark seedy back stories, morally grey actions, steamy romance, sure, lets keep that in there. Throw in some co-parenting and sprinkle masters degrees around, and I'd force my hypothetical future children to read them.

*no, I've not read every single comic book in the universe. Yes there are exceptions to every absolute. I'm getting a bit ranty, I know.
posted by fontophilic at 9:27 AM on May 21, 2010 [8 favorites]

"But they have breasts! How could we have known?"

Funnily enough, this is almost literally why I quickly lost interest in comic books: the artists didn't seem to understand about breasts. Even though I'm nowhere near as well-endowed as the average superheroine, I wouldn't fight crime without a very good sports bra.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:32 AM on May 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

I was one of the respondents to her survey too!

For me, it was Claremont's run on X-Men that really drew me into comics. His portrayal of female characters was groundbreaking. Of course, I had no clue at the time, I just knew I liked his stuff more than the other comics I read. Very earlier Marvel comics always had token females (Invisible Girl, Marvel Girl), but they were always headed off at the mall to go shopping or some other equally sexist plot device*. So they were often left out of the plot, and were always extremely weak.

(The main reason I can't get into all the Stan Lee hero-worship is because in his heyday, he was a sexist f*&k, and I'm not sure his attitude has changed much since then.)

But Claremont was completely different. He totally revamped Marvel Girl into Phoenix, made Kitty Pryde, Storm, Emma Frost, Rogue, etc. Remember how they used to print fan letters in the back of the comics? There's one in an old back-issue of mine from a boy complaining that the female characters Claremont created were too powerful, and he wanted more focus on the guys. Seriously. Along with Ellen Ripley and Sarah Conner, Chris Claremont is one of my feminist icons.

*No seriously, one of the first X-Men/FF crossovers is Sue Storm and Jean Grey going to the mall.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 9:32 AM on May 21, 2010 [5 favorites]

URSULA is a sea monster octopus lady not a princess.

Also: mind widened, will give Love and Rockets another shot.
posted by edbles at 9:39 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Plus everyone knows the Ursula was the embodiment of the lesbian other and a symbol for the plot to convert mermaid children to the homosexual lifestyle, which was of course a pressing concern at the time. She totally wouldn't be into you, dude.
posted by edbles at 9:46 AM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Look, all I want is to fulfill the role of Flotsam or Jetsam, snaking all about her form like a glorious living boa. I hardly think that's too much to ask.

But on topic:


Carla Speed McNeil's Finder:
Underrated fantasy world comic with spare landscapes and sexy people doing mysterious things.

Zander Cannon's Replacement God:
Underrated beautifully-drawn comic about a medeival-esque world in which a slave may become the next God of Death
posted by Greg Nog at 9:51 AM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]

her being a woman and kicking ass ise nough to negate that...

Why Strong Female Characters Are Bad for Women

But on the bright side, Natasha's brief exchange with Pepper about Stark business just barely made Iron Man 2 pass the Bechdel test. Unless you figure that the point of the exchange was that they were ignoring Tony, thus making it about him anyway.

they were always headed off at the mall to go shopping or some other equally sexist plot device

There's an early issue of the Avengers in which the Wasp is looking at some mad scientist's machine and thinking "If only I understood this... like a man would."
posted by Zed at 9:56 AM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

I remember a while back the Miserable Git That Runs The Localish Comic Shop saying in a column he wrote for a comics news magazine he wrote that he used to get a lot of girls in buying manga stuff.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:02 AM on May 21, 2010

Even when theres a female protagonist, she might be ass kicking and powerful but it's in spite of her gender, or because of her basketball breasts. It's like is not enough to already be a SUPERHERO with interstellar radioactive powers, you need powers that work on planet Earth, you need sex appeal.

That reminds me. I am SO SAD Amanda Conner is leaving Power Girl. She not only draws the running-joke-sized chest clothed in fashionable, appropriate outfits (when she's not in uniform), but she is also clearly a Cat Person, as her depictions of Power Girl's cat prove.

Me, I like The Invisibles. The Pro was good, I've read Sandman, I read Walking Dead and Buffy and well, I stopped reading Angel, it got really horrid, I loved Marvel Zombies, I have access to a GIANT comic collection with all kinds of stuff in it (thanks, boyfriend!), have really liked Gail Simone's run on Wonder Woman, I LOVED Northlanders... (if you like Vikings, really, you have to read Northlanders -- thank you again for the awesome Christmas present, kittens for breakfast)

I guess what it boils down to for me is a good story. A good story, great art and me not wanting to THROW THE COMIC ACROSS THE ROOM, YES I AM SPEAKING TO YOU, BATGIRL, OH MY GOD WAS THAT HORRIBLE AND HELLLLOOOOO? WHAT WAS THAT CRACK ABOUT SEWING?

But I digress.
posted by at 10:08 AM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm a girl who grew up with comics (X-Men!) in the late 70s and into the 80s. The "mancaves of nerdom" has gotten better; there are more females I see in the comic books stores. I raised my daughters on comics (and other nerdy stuff that made them popular with geek boys).

I like a lot of different styles and genres. I just want one thing - can we have more female super-heroins/villianesses that don't dress sluttier than a hooker? It doesn't have to be ALL of them (or cons will become so disappointing) but enough that I don't worry my daughters will pick up their fashion advice from the comics?

FWIW, one can be a fan of comics AND fashion, as long as one isn't the type to limit interests.
posted by _paegan_ at 10:17 AM on May 21, 2010

Zed everything about that article is YES! (except the Wall-E reference THEY ARE ROBOTS let it go). One of my favorite parts of Idoru is when Chia realizes she’s in over her head and just has this internal terror moment of “I just want to go home.” Which is exactly how a 14 year old girl in a foreign country who just discovered she’s been targeted by a shadowy organization that means her harm would react. (It’s coincidentally how I reacted to being away at summer camp and having a hard time making friends). I’m tired of the underpowered heroine who has to be sassy and strong-willed and save herself all the time. Give me a Chia or a Blythe, from Air, flawed and human and working around that, but not helpless. But I think it's unreasonable to expect that from series' where the male characters are also overblown 2D caricatures.

Sorry _paegan_. I live in a binary world sometimes.
posted by edbles at 10:21 AM on May 21, 2010

I'm with fontophilic. I like comics. I used to be really into them. By all rights I should still be a comics fan. Why aren't I?

When the publishers ask "what do girls want?" what they really need to ask is "how can we reach a market segment which is broader than our narrow core market?"

Girls want what non-comic-reading guys want. We want a variety of stories, a wide range of voices and narrative styles and authors and artists and a nuanced understanding of the world and its intricacies and complications. Check the "fiction" section of a bookstore as a model. You can find books written by all kinds of people, on all kinds of subjects, in all kinds of ways.

In other words, to broaden your audience, you have to broaden your offerings. I know, right? CRAZY TALK.

Once you have done that, unfortunately we - the non-comic-reading people of the world - are not in the habit of shopping at comic book stores. In much the same way that people who don't own pets are not in the habit of shopping at Petco.

So you, the comic book publishing industry, are going to have to find a way to reach us with your message of "this is an awesome and interesting comic which you might find relevant."

Advertising in places other than comic books and comic book stores is probably a good start.

And that, dearest clueless comic book industry, is "what girls want." You're welcome.
posted by ErikaB at 10:33 AM on May 21, 2010 [6 favorites]

I just realised that most of the women in super-hero comic books must be like J-size or bigger, only with a 30-32 inch band. They must special order their bras - there is no way that a department store is carrying those crazy sizes.

(I wasn't into comic books as a teen-ager, though I knew some pretty serious fans. But aside from not liking action stories (and not yet knowing about the world of brilliant non-action comics), one of the reasons I wasn't at all interested in comics was the chest sizes -- the men's weren't much better, but the women's annoyed me more personally. Best thing to get me intrigued in a comic still are very realistic looking (if still slightly stylised) depictions of the characters -- Eisner's Brooklyn stories are fascinating that way.)
posted by jb at 10:46 AM on May 21, 2010

Maybe their uniforms have some crazy kind of SUPERSPANDEX, jb... it's the only way that works. You never see VBL (visible bra line), after all.
posted by at 11:38 AM on May 21, 2010

Unstable molecules, bitter-girl. It's all unstable molecules.
posted by Zed at 12:01 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Girls want what non-comic-reading guys want.

That is a really good point, it's amazing how little it comes up in these discussions. The non-comic reading guys vastly outnumber the readers.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:22 PM on May 21, 2010

Why Strong Female Characters Are Bad for Women

I'm bored by strong female characters. I like weak female characters. Not because I like weak females, but because I like weak characters.

I am equally bored with strong male characters. Yeah, it's fun to watch the occasional Indiana Jones or Kentucky Jane movie, in which you know the hero is going to overcome the odds and make all the right choices, but I prefer stories about the losers of the world.

My favorite cartoonist is Lynda Barry. She's the Chekhov are cartoonists. She writes about the truth that most of us fuck up most of the time: we waddle blindly through life, we are more likely plain then gorgeous, we fall in love with the wrong people, we humiliate ourselves, etc.

I don't (in general) read comics, because I hardly ever see MY people in them: the fuckups. If there IS a fuckup, he's the bad guy (or he's the bad guy as a kid, and now he's a villain because he was a fuckup as a kid and the less-fucked-up kids picked on him), or he's the flawed hero who beats the odds DESPITE the fact that he's an alcoholic or whatever. He THINKS he's a fuckup, but, in a series of adventures, he learns he's more resourceful than he thinks he is. Or she learns she's more resourceful than she thinks she is.
posted by grumblebee at 12:36 PM on May 21, 2010 [7 favorites]

"If only I understood this... like a man would."

posted by Artw at 12:40 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Girls who like Sex in the City, but are dragged by their boyfriends to Iron Man 2 and actually end up liking it, but don't like it enough to set foot in a comicbook shop. I don't know, but I don't think an Xmen comic book will cut it.

Yes, but these girls are ninnies. Anyone who prefers Sarah Jessica Parker and her shoe fetish to Ironman has her priorities wrong.

I used to love reading comics when I was younger, say pre-teen and teen. The Incredible Hulk, Amazing Spiderman, Fantastic Four and then X-Men were my faves (even loved the X-Men cartoon show and I have it on DVD, thank you very much).

So I started thinking about why that love doesn't get much attention now that I'm an adult, and part of it really is the man-cave thing.

Comics, when I was young, were regularly sold in convenience stores on wire racks. You had your Madd magazine and your Cracked with Spiderman right beside them. And then, probably because they just got too expensive, they disappeared. And you could only find them in D&D type stores or really big book stores.

We had a great store in Tampa, Merlin's, which has lots of SF and Fantasy books and games and some comics, too. I used to go there all the time, and was one of only a few girls who did so. Once I moved from there, I just wasn't around any of the places where they HAD comics.

Of course, the internet is your friend, and now I can get Marvel stuff on the iPad, so I guess it's time to re-discover some old friends. Though I understand the subscription service doesn't work on the iPad (WTF?!), so I have to buy individual issues.
posted by misha at 12:41 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm spoiled. My not-exactly-local comic shop is family-run, two generations-- currently, by the founder's widow and their son. They bend over backwards to get Mr. F and I access to interviews and appearances for our blog. The clientele spans every single age and race Los Angeles has to offer-- my favorite part of last weekend's BPRD event was watching Mike Mignola put a three-year-old Latino kid brandishing a Hellboy comic up on his lap for a photo op.

I'm finding lately that the Iron Man comics do a better job of fleshing out the female characters than the movies do-- Pepper's got this epic enabler thing going on with Tony, always has, it's unhealthy as hell, and the current stable of Iron Man writers are actually starting to dig into that. Marvel's S.W.O.R.D series, short-lived as it was, had the completely awesome Nick-and-Nora-style pairing of Abigail Brand (green-haired, half-alien, cranky badass) and the Beast (blue, furry, geeky, pathologically happy) as a romantic adventuring team. I'm still annoyed that the Girl Comics anthologies have a lot of stories that involve stereotypical female activities-- browsing the personals, hanging out at the hairdresser-- but I'm glad Marvel's even trying to do books where the majority of creators and editorial staff are female.

I can't speak to DC quite as much, though. Combination of being highly annoyed that Green Arrow and Black Canary went from a semi-promising married-adventurers setup to "LOOK OLLIE HAS A CRAZY FEMALE STALKER" in less than two years, and having thrown the Brightest Day Birds of Prey reboot across the room last week. DC's mainstream titles consistently manage to push my buttons about what makes a narrative either offensive or overly-didactic harder than anything else on the market, and I don't see that changing any time soon. Non-Vertigo/ Wildstorm DC books seem to have a problem with sexism and racism that bothers me a lot (see this kind of appalling list of DCU whitewashes over the years from Ryan Mullenix).

The men and women who are making the big leagues and breaking through now, though, largely seem to be very aware that comics should be inclusive and accessible. It's cheering to see. Carla Speed McNeil's bringing Finder to Dark Horse this year, Brian Wood consistently cranks out awesome characterization for female characters in DMZ and Northlanders, Matt Fraction's complicated gender-bending pulp Casanova is getting a shiny new reprint and ongoing from Marvel's Icon label with killer Brazilian artist Cristiane Peter providing the color work. Greg Pak has done great work making Korean-American kid genius Amadeus Cho an awesome Marvel character; he also makes great SF-tinged films about Asian-American identity and conflict. Things are trending up as time goes on-- not as fast as I'd like, but it is there.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:46 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

my favorite part of last weekend's BPRD event ... Mike Mignola ...

posted by Artw at 12:48 PM on May 21, 2010

girls who don't read comics? Girls who like Sex in the City, but are dragged by their boyfriends to Iron Man 2

Girls who don't read comics =/= girls who like Sex in the City. Girls who like Sex in the City =/= girls who don't like superhero stories.

The primary reason I don't read Western comics is the format. It's simply too hard to pick up the habit. If I like the X-Men movies and want more, I can't just go to the corner comic book shop and ask for the first X-Men comic--well, I can, but I won't get it.

Most manga is easier to pick up. Titles are compiled into more affordable volumes and it's easy for a potential fan to start from the beginning. Except for a very few, titles have a limited run, and there are not five bajillion spin-offs to keep straight. Ranma 1/2 is notorious for being too long, but even that can be easily acquired and read from the beginning to the end.

The comics fandom is more established with boys, making it more likely they'll get over this initial hump due to friends, parents, etc. With girls? Not so much.

The second reason I don't read Western comics? The misogyny. I love superhero stories (and anyone who reads girls' manga knows that they have their own brand of superhero), and would probably be willing to put forth a little effort into getting into Western comics if I didn't expect to get badly burned.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:53 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't (in general) read comics, because I hardly ever see MY people in them: the fuckups.

Blech. Fuckups make me furious in reality or in fiction. Also you're not reading enough indie stuff, it's all navel gazing fuck-ups.
posted by edbles at 12:57 PM on May 21, 2010

Also you're not reading enough indie stuff, it's all navel gazing fuck-ups.

But Jeffrey Brown is so sensitive!
posted by Greg Nog at 1:04 PM on May 21, 2010

it's all navel gazing fuck-ups.

Not all fuck-ups are navel gazers. MOST fuck-ups aren't navel gazers. Are there indies about fuck-ups that aren't?
posted by grumblebee at 1:22 PM on May 21, 2010

Also, edbles, are you furious at yourself or are you amazingly well put together? You've never debased yourself by groveling after someone who clearly wasn't attracted to you (without later redeeming yourself) or whatever? I'm totally cool with you not wanting to read about such people. That's a matter of taste. (Though I don't see why comics should be so skewed towards your taste and away from mine.) But are you saying you're not a fuck-up?
posted by grumblebee at 1:25 PM on May 21, 2010

Invincible Iron Man has, for the last 20 or so issues, been building a convincing case for Tony Stark as an incredible fuckup, drunk or sober, hero or fugitive. It's annoying all my pals who liked Tony better when he just got everything he wanted regardless of how awful he was as a human being. Anthropologically fascinating, people's reactions to that book.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 1:29 PM on May 21, 2010

When you say he's a fuckup, is it the usual comic-book thing, where he's totally screwing up his interpersonal relationships but, when he's in superhero mode, his better nature comes out? Or is he just about to clobber Mr. McEvil when he realizes that he totally fucked up and left his utility belt in his secret hideaway?

Better yet, does he claim to be fighting crime but sometimes want alcohol so much that, because he's broke, he uses his superpowers to break into a liquor store and, while doing so, he accidentally kill the clerk?

Also, is it unclear whether or not he'll ever conquer his fucked-up nature, or is the story hinting that this is an obstacle that he'll overcome, and the thrill of the story is seeing how he overcomes it?

All of that stuff is good, but I'd argue it's not a real Fuck Up Story unless the character REALLY fucks up -- as in gets drunk and lets the bad guy escape and also compromises his morals. And unless there's a real chance that the story will end with him not redeeming himself.
posted by grumblebee at 1:42 PM on May 21, 2010

But are you saying you're not a fuck-up?

I am both a fuck-up and not a fuck up. That's why I hate reading about it. It's either a gut punch of sad familiarity or me yelling "Why? Why are you doing this GRAR GRAR GRAR".

The indie suggestion actually was a literal suggestion per your taste. Some indie stuff goes into here's some terrible shit I've done and we should all read about it, here's me doing it again and not learning from it!!! Which I detest and it looks like you might find fascinating. There should be tons of comics for all stripes and sizes. That statement was more on the level of "Certain types of foods you like are gross to my tastebud set. "

I'm actually looking through my goodreads page right now to see if I can find some of the fuck-ups that were causing that reaction. I think Greg Nog pointing out Jeffrey Brown is on track. Jessica Abel's main character in La Perdida is pretty frustrating. Alison Bechdel's DTWOF in the later days is basically watching a bunch of dysfunctional relationships slowly collapse. Actually American Born Chinese is a fuck up in a way I could tolerate where the main character is totally embarrassed by his identity and behaving shittly because of it.
posted by edbles at 1:43 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think your navel-gazing comment is key. I don't want that. (I think thought bubbles make most comics suck.) What I love -- in standard literature -- is the sort of character that Raymond Carver and John Cheever create. They are all fuck-ups but they aren't the least bit introspective. In fact, that's part of their problem. They lack the ability to see who they are. They don't get why their lives are so sad. Many of the characters on "Mad Men" are like that, too. David Mamet writes well about these sorts, too, in plays like "Glengarry Glen Ross."
posted by grumblebee at 1:50 PM on May 21, 2010

Cerebus is an unreflective fuck-up who destroys everything he touches, at least as long as Dave Sim remained sane.

There's gotta be plenty of other examples but my core dump is not working right now.
posted by furiousthought at 1:51 PM on May 21, 2010

Another thing that drives me nuts are stories in which every single person is a shithead. I tried to read -- I think it was -- "Sandman," because so many people recommended it to me. I didn't make it past the first issue (so don't take this as an overall assessment). From what I remember, it's about [SPOILER] this demon who is really angry all the time.

It's reasonable that he's angry (though that doesn't endear him to me), because he's been trapped by some old wizard-like guy. The guy who trapped him is an asshole. Then there are all these other characters, and they are all either really mean or they are victims of the mean characters -- which means that they mostly scream and cry and have nightmares. There isn't a single character that I'd like to have dinner with.

What's odd is that I used to be able to enjoy works like that. When I was younger, I remember scoffing at people who said they needed sympathetic characters. I thought of such people as losers who didn't have the guts to swallow REAL, MANLY stories. Now I'm one of them.

And it goes deeper. Even if there are sympathetic characters, I can't stomach the story if long stretches of it are about unsympathetic characters. I don't have a simplistic definition of "unsympathetic." I am cool with reading the story of a bad guy, but he has to be witty or something. If he's mostly just Angry And Bent On Revenge with no sense of humor, then I get bored. I LOVE Ben on LOST and I LOVE Iago and Richard III, but those guys are smart and witty. They're not just EEEVIL or bitter all the time.
posted by grumblebee at 1:58 PM on May 21, 2010

All of that stuff is good, but I'd argue it's not a real Fuck Up Story unless the character REALLY fucks up -- as in gets drunk and lets the bad guy escape and also compromises his morals. And unless there's a real chance that the story will end with him not redeeming himself.

Tony quit actively drinking a long time ago in Marvel years, although he's pretty upfront in the first issue of IIM about his fear of taking another drink. (His AA sponsor's turned up a few times in recent Marvel titles, too, generally in some unenviable position where Tony's been all "Dude! Let me give you superpowers and then you can do this one thing for me!" and it goes poorly.) He's also been the bad guy-- he pushed superhero registration on everyone else and set up the situation that allowed the fucking Green Goblin to become the US's top enforcer on superhuman affairs.

I suspect that asking Marvel to have a situation where Tony doesn't redeem himself would be asking too much-- they do have a movie franchise or two riding on Iron Man, after all. But the general theme of most Iron Man these days is "he can be a superhero, he can build all these suits, but all he's doing is laying band-aids over an essentially flawed nature and occasionally managing to aspire to better days."
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 2:04 PM on May 21, 2010

La Perdida might actually be up your ally it meets the unself-aware criteria. She also has Oleanna-level communication fails. Not male/female, but culture clash issues. There's also this one where the dude draws himself as a dog and wakes up in a pool of his own vomit at the beginning of the book that I keep picking up at the library, and then putting right back down. Gipi's stuff tends to be teenagers figuring out what their values are and doing stupid stuff because of it, Notes for a War Story was great but the plot might be a little too high stakes to get at the people like you and me thing. Garage Band is just teenagers being teenagers.

Do not judge Sandman based on the first issue, its basically an adventure story in which Morpheus gets all his shit back. The series becomes a scaffold for Neil Gaiman to hang short stories on. They get better than the first one, but Morpheus is never meant to be identified with really. He's bigger than a God, it's the people who's lives he enters that are interesting. It's also clear from his relationship with his sister(Death) that he doesn't posess the same compassion for the human race that she does.

Also I'm confused on how fuck-ups can be sympathetic, but it's possible that my brain is stuck on the navel gazing definition of that word?

Also you're not implying that Iago is a fuck-up are you? Dude got shit done. Horrible horrible things, but he got them DONE.
posted by edbles at 2:12 PM on May 21, 2010

Oh god that first volume is awful - yeah the arc of the Sandman is Morpheus realizing how much of a major asshole he's been to the human race for the last couple thousand years and then deciding to ...change ...on his own terms.
posted by The Whelk at 2:17 PM on May 21, 2010

I quit reading comics about 10 years ago because the place where I had my pull went out of business and I found I didn't miss it, particularly the physical clutter. A lot of the things women have talked about in the article and this thread (e.g., women in refrigerators) are why I haven't gone further back than reading comics tumblrs and scans_daily.
posted by immlass at 2:26 PM on May 21, 2010

Also you're not implying that Iago is a fuck-up are you? No. That was another rant of mine. About unsympathetic characters. I was saying that he's redeemed from being one of those, for me, by his cleverness and wit.

I'm confused on how fuck-ups can be sympathetic

Have you seen "Sideways"? Did you hate Paul Giamatti's character? To me, a fuckup can be sympathetic, because I totally understand why he fucks up. Did you watch "The Wire" Did you hate the character named "Bubbles"?

When I was in my 20s, I had a huge crush on this girl. I wanted to ask her out, but I was too scared. I went to her house, but I couldn't bring myself to knock on her door. I just stood there on her doorstep for about ten minutes. Then I felt like a loser, so I left. Except I didn't really leave. I pretended to be "on a walk," and I walked around the block. And then I did it again. And again. I walked around this tiny block of like three hours. And then she noticed me out the window, opened the door, and said "Hi." I said, "Hi. Gotta go," And I ran home.

By the way, this was a girl who have given me signs she was attracted to me. I never did ask her out. Oh, and tons of people I knew lived on that block. Many of them must have seen me.

Why did I fuck up? Because I was inexperienced. Because I totally lacked confidence. Because I was just as scared of what would happen if it DID work out than what would happen if it didn't.

And I didn't talk about this stuff to anyone -- not even myself. I didn't navel gaze. I just stood on a door step, walked around the block fifty times, saw a girl and ran away.

Do you read that and just think, "What a fucking loser? I have ZERO sympathy for him!"

People are usually fuckups because they are scared. Or because they hate themselves. Or because they give into temptations. Well, I have been scared plenty of times in my life. And I often give into temptations. I am sympathetic because I can totally relate.
posted by grumblebee at 2:29 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Most manga is easier to pick up. Titles are compiled into more affordable volumes and it's easy for a potential fan to start from the beginning. Except for a very few, titles have a limited run, and there are not five bajillion spin-offs to keep straight. Ranma 1/2 is notorious for being too long, but even that can be easily acquired and read from the beginning to the end.

It's my belief that mainstream comics publishing in the United States is really hostile to newcomers to the point of being pretty much incomprehensible. I've tried multiple times over the last few years to get back into X-Men, and kept getting lost because the continuity is such a huge mess. The closest I got was X-Factor Investigations which was nicely sandboxed in its own little ghetto of NYC until they decided to do yet another mega crossover over the pretzel-like Summers family tree that evidently involved yet another incarnation of Jean Grey.

Astonishing was interesting before Whedon got into development hell and promptly decided to resolve the Pitor/Kitty relationship with sex, followed by stuffing her into a relativistic fridge, but now it seems to be about Wolverine giving Emma Frost's breasts a lecture on post-colonial politics.

And of course, there's the yearly crossover "event" which makes my carefully picked and budgeted titles incomprehensible unless I want to double the size of my subscription list for a few months. It's not worth it. So by all means, yes. I don't think Marvel and DC are especially friendly to newcomers or casual readers who just want to follow one or two titles. These days, I stick to trade paperbacks well outside of a massive shared universe.

grumblebee: The first Sandman story arc was really ugly because Gaiman's foot in the door at DC involved throwing tons of cameos and intertextual references to the rest of the DC universe. It picks up legs with Doll's House and when you get to World's End he's really in full swing with stories within stories, that involve people telling yet another story.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:33 PM on May 21, 2010

Just found this feminist analysis of representations of women in comics, much better than my previous comment.
posted by fontophilic at 2:36 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Grumblebee, have you checked out John Constantine, Hellblazer? That character is very much a fuck up in the mode you say you like.

Cerebus, Church & State, Volume I and II is good also.

Blade of the Immortal might work for you too. The main character, Manji is swordsman trying to make amends for his past, but he's not very introspective about it.

I don't know why, but volume 9 of Love and Rockets, Flies on the Ceiling sounds like it could be up your alley.

Ed BruBaker's "Little Piece of Goodnight" is in your vein also, though it does get introspective/navel gazy at times. It's the shortest of these recommendations.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:50 PM on May 21, 2010

but now it seems to be about Wolverine giving Emma Frost's breasts a lecture on post-colonial politics.

Astonishing X-Men... probably isn't the best book to try to follow if you want ongoing continuity, as it's undergone a bunch of under-the-table revisions over the years. First it was going to be an ongoing Joss Whedon somewhat-in-the-mainstream book, then it got hideously off-schedule because Whedon was working on Wonder Woman, then Warren Ellis took over after Whedon produced 25 issues in four and a half years (yeah, years)... then it became "well, Astonishing isn't a title, it's an entire imprint like Ultimate Marvel, where we just let top-shelf creators do out-of-continuity stories."

This has resulted in mad, bonkers fun books like Jason Aaron's Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine, and, uh, Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Boxes and Xenogenesis which are not as much fun and are a bit dreary in their constant rehash of a couple of concepts Ellis happens to really like.

(Kirk, I know you probably know all that.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 2:57 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

To me, one of the most disheartening things to happen to comics in the recent past was the McKeever/Bedard era of Birds of Prey. Gail Simone had rehabbed the hell out of some of the DC Universe's most misused female characters and turned them into a crime-fighting team that -- surprise! -- didn't spend all their time talking about boys ... and the minute she's off the book, all that work was undone with an issue seemingly devoted to talking about Black Canary's pending nuptials with Green Arrow. And then the actual wedding ... it was like the DC stable of men writers had been like, "Female superheroes could get along and be functional? Oh, no, no. This won't stand."

Maybe that massive editorial misstep at DC is indicative of the company's wider inability to come to grips with a pretend world in which white men aren't the only ones allowed to be heroes (see also: their whitewashing of the DCU). But I do know that what they did to BOP and a lot of the female characters in subsequent books was what turned me off the DCU. Way to take one of the strongest and most innovative superhero-team books to come out in the last decade and run it into the ground because it wasn't testing well with young men. That tells me how much I'm valued.
posted by sobell at 3:06 PM on May 21, 2010

Simone's back on Birds of Prey, sobell.

I liked Bedard's eXiles, and thought I'd try his BoP when it started up. That lasted all of one issue.
posted by Zed at 3:11 PM on May 21, 2010

It has to be said that though, overall, I love the X-Men, I have fuck all idea what is going on with them right now. It’s pretty near incomprehensible and Ellis’s penchant for starting new things instead of finishing anything really isn’t helping. I would suggest reading the original Claremont run instead, or possibly the Grant Morrison New X-Men run which is nicely self contained, or even Whedon’s run which is pretty decent in collected format, even if it ends badly. But I tend to have a more creator-based approach to comics where I follow people between titles rather than following a character or title no matter what.
posted by Artw at 3:13 PM on May 21, 2010

fairytale of los angeles: Thanks, actually I didn't.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:17 PM on May 21, 2010

The rebooted Birds of Prey has Hawk in it, and he's apparently supposed to be part of the new team; that's kind of baffling to me, as Hank Hall is emphatically no kind of superhero these days, having sort of settled into "crazed killer" mode a few years back.

This article sums up the Trouble With Hawk better than I can, and contains my favorite paragraph of the entire day:

[Geoff Johns'] solution? The evil sorcerer Mordu faked Dove’s death so he can keep her captive in a magical coma, and impregnate her with a rage-crazed Hawk (that he can control). The baby would be a child of both Chaos and Order, and thus be a ‘strong’ vessel that Mordu can posses. As expected, this plan fails, and the chaos-order love child becomes the new Dr. Fate. Hawk, who is still Extant, is sent back in time by the JSA, and finds himself powerless on a plane that is quickly blown out of the sky. Whew! Glad we got that cleared up!
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 3:37 PM on May 21, 2010

Simone's back on Birds of Prey, sobell.

I read that a while back. I may have to drop my DCU-wronged-me grudge. Or maybe I'll hold out for the first trade and see if it's worth falling in love all over again. I'm also on a time-out with Marvel, thanks to my mistake in flipping through Ultimatum. When books like Northlander and Scalped seem less overtly misogynistic -- and they deal with Viking culture and the poverty of Native American rez life, respectively -- there's something rotten in the state of mass-market superheroes.

Maybe I just don't get why comics writers think it's easier to ask readers to accept a world in which men can defend a planet via a fabulous green ring than one in which women are not merely plot complications/advancement material for the real characters.
posted by sobell at 3:46 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

My roommate often jokes that I'm a fourteen year old boy trapped in the body of a thirty year old woman. When he asked me what I did yesterday my response was "read comics and played video games."

However, I almost universally loathe anything made specifically for girls. I fear this will lead to comics with a hot pink bar at the top from some new "MarvelGirl!" imprint about relationships and love and dating and cooking. Whenever I see people trying to make things that are traditionally associated with men more likable to women it seems to lead to a lot of festering crap.

See, I hear "comics for women" and I instantly flash to something like this which seriously makes my stomach turn. Since the game industry has been all about marketing to women for a couple years now, and it's only led to an influx of shitty games about ponies (seriously? Even when I was 7 I would have turned my nose up at that) and a whole lot of stuff in pink.
posted by Kellydamnit at 3:49 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, Lord, dude, Ultimatum. No, no, no. Please, do yourself a favor and flip through something like Invincible Iron Man or Kieron Gillen's run on Thor or... please, just anything but Jeph Loeb Dismantles A Boring Appendage of the Mainstream Marvel Universe Because He Got Paid To.

Ultimatum is one of those books that comics pundits trot out whenever we want a cheap "here's what's wrong with the kids these days!" post for our blogs. It really is that indefensible and Marvel should have known a lot better than they did there. Fortunately, they also have a number of smarter writers than Loeb these days, writing better material with less, uh, cannibalism and crap like that what the fuck anyhow Mr. Loeb.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 3:53 PM on May 21, 2010

Ultimatum is one of those books that comics pundits trot out whenever we want a cheap "here's what's wrong with the kids these days!" post for our blogs.

Heh, whoops.
posted by Artw at 4:05 PM on May 21, 2010

Anyway! comics are a big medium now, lots of stuff for everyone. I still love the fuck out of Fun Home, which has no superheroes but has lots of homosexual angst and literary exgensis.
posted by The Whelk at 4:16 PM on May 21, 2010

That's exactly what I was thinking of, Art. I don't deny the need for such posts, trust me. ;)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 4:38 PM on May 21, 2010

Hey, I like Sex and the City and comics. And pink. I love the color pink. I will say I don't like much mainstream comics wise. My favorite right now is RagDoll and is written, and drawn, by a woman. Melody T. Herbert rocks. Damn shame she hasn't been picked up by someone, I'd love it if she could make a living at this.
posted by SuzySmith at 5:20 PM on May 21, 2010

"What I'd like to see, is a happy woman and man crime fighting team...So lets shows them gender roles that are equal and empowered. Outlandish villains, improbable powers, dark seedy back stories, morally grey actions, steamy romance, sure, lets keep that in there."

Conan and Bêlit. Done. Not so much on the crime fighting, but they fight evil, sorta.

I don't thoroughly read a lot of the newer comics because I'd have to know too much about the backstory and characters to understand them. [The SO gets them, I just sneak a look occasionally] I'm still not entirely sure what happened in Blackest Night, and now they've moved on to Brightest Day. Don't even get me started on Crisis on Infinite Earths and that sort of thing.

I read :

Conan the Cimmerian (Dark Horse)
Beasts of Burden (though it's currently only a series of 4, boo)
A bunch of other graphic novels

I never see any girls in comic shops, either, just little old me. True, a lot were there on free comic book day, but mainly to show off their cosplay costumes or to get autographs from that guy who played Xander in Buffy.
posted by HopperFan at 5:29 PM on May 21, 2010

Invincible Iron Man has, for the last 20 or so issues, been building a convincing case for Tony Stark as an incredible fuckup, drunk or sober, hero or fugitive.

Haha. Yeah, to me this has always pretty much been Tony's shtick: self-loathing and masochistic. The whole "I will become the hated enemy of everyone I love to protect them!!" and "I will delete my brain!!" plotlines have certainly highlighted it but it's pretty much his main character trait in my mind.

Then again I do read too much scans_daily. Not that it's possible to spend too much time in a community whose patron saint is Milagro from Blue Beetle.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:34 PM on May 21, 2010

I'm actually kind of tired of these articles. It's all about "what comics should do better," meaning basically what Marvel and DC should do better, as if the world beyond mainstream comics was composed of anguished, long-suffering people who can only shriek their lungs out at a deaf heavens w/r/t any other material ever being produced, when the reality (as the author of the article says) is that there are metric fucktons of comics out there that appeal to all sorts of readers. It's also easier now than it's ever been for creators on the outside of the mainstream to create their own work. Who cares if Marvel or DC can't figure out how to do it?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:49 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's also easier now than it's ever been for creators on the outside of the mainstream to create their own work. Who cares if Marvel or DC can't figure out how to do it?

Because while it is indeed easy to make those comics, it's fairly difficult to turn a profit on them. Earlier in the thread, I mentioned Replacement God -- a fun, smart, reasonably gender-equitable book by an incredibly talented artist. It pretty much burned out because Zander Cannon just couldn't make a living doing it. So he does illustration for pay and the occasional comic project (like drawing Alan Moore's SMAX) instead. Which is a shame, because Replacement God was easily one of the best comics of the 90s.

DC and Marvel aren't the only game in town, but they do have a hell of a lot of money and power and audience behind them. They can effect change that individual creators can't.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:32 AM on May 22, 2010

Greg, I agree with you up to a point -- doing comics for places other than Marvel or DC is very often a painful and impractical way to try and make a living, and a lot of very good comics die on the vine because the ratio of work to reward is just too brutal. But when it comes to the problem outlined in the article, I'm not sure the answer is to petition Marvel and DC to make changes to the way they do business when (a) Marvel and DC have little incentive to change (their books sell well, although they could sell better, which I will return to in a minute), and (b) comics already exist (some published by Marvel and DC, and some not) that do the things that people are looking for.

As a long-term strategy, it makes sense for Marvel and DC to try and expand their base as much as possible -- but in the short term, expanding their base runs the risk of losing the audience they already have...and when that's done in an effort to grab an audience that may or may not materialize at all, it becomes a bird-in-the-hand type situation. Now, I personally think that Marvel and DC have little to lose and everything to gain, as the people most committed to their books will buy them no matter what. There are people who will buy the main X-Men books regardless of how much (and however vocally) they hate the creative team, because they literally cannot imagine a world in which they don't read the X-Men. They have very strong opinions about what makes for a good or bad comic, but those opinions don't seem to affect their buying habits in any way. I don't think these readers make up the majority of comics buyers, but they do form a reliable base that ironically allows Marvel and DC to make major changes to their flagship books in an attempt to grab a wider readership without having to worry about losing too much money in the meantime. But on the other hand, Marvel and DC dominate the why should they bother to change?

What makes more sense to me than urging the biggest publishers to change what they're doing -- which they may not see as an urgent need, and perhaps they are right, since what they're doing works for them -- is helping to make the comics that cover these bases and already exist into something that's more viable. In other words, what has to happen for a Zander Cannon to do the books he wants to do? Marvel and DC will be just fine, but these creators probably won't be, given the current climate. How do we change that?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:27 AM on May 22, 2010

kittens for breakfast: I'm not certain how many of the critics expect Marvel or DC to change, but profitability is a poor counter-argument to criticism. Which in most cases means, "there's something interesting about a comic I'd like to talk about" rather than "this comic is bad, and the creators should feel bad about making it." DC can sell huge numbers and people can talk about its successes and flaws.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:17 AM on May 22, 2010

DC certainly haven't failed to notice a large untapped market though, otherwise they wouldn't have tried Minx.
posted by Artw at 9:21 AM on May 22, 2010

kittens for breakfast: I'm not certain how many of the critics expect Marvel or DC to change, but profitability is a poor counter-argument to criticism.

That depends on what you see as your objective. I have no doubt that the average comics creator wants to do good work, and is doing his/her best to create it. The obstacles they face are the limitations of the form itself (the same obstacle anyone in any medium faces), the parameters and limitations (if any) imposed on them from editorial, and the limitations of their own abilities (again, same as in any medium). But that's creators, and if they're doing work they're satisfied with, and their employer is happy enough with to keep them employed, they are unlikely to change what they are doing in the face of criticism that doesn't work for them. Marvel and DC themselves are businesses that, even if operated by people who would like to see better work appear under their aegis, are primarily worried about profit. They really don't care about criticism, unless it's representative of something that affects their bottom line. "I hate the way women are depicted in these comics I keep buying every week!" doesn't matter to them. It might matter if Rachel Maddow did a segment on it and called out WB or Disney for producing stuff that presents women in a bad light. Guy with a blog? They don't care.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:51 AM on May 22, 2010

It might matter if Rachel Maddow did a segment on it and called out WB or Disney for producing stuff that presents women in a bad light. Guy with a blog? They don't care.

Thats not really what the linked article is about though, is it?
posted by Artw at 10:02 AM on May 22, 2010

I'm not sure what the article even is about, if you want to know the truth. Women who like comics like the same things about comics that guys generally do, but they're put off by sketchy comic book shops and comics that don't really treat female characters well? Those shouldn't be revelations, and they're things that the industry certainly knows by now. Point blank, though, look away from Marvel and DC and those issues pretty much go away totally. Most comics shops don't sell anything else, so there's no issue about creepy comic book stores. Go to bookstores, go online, find other stuff, and the problem's solved.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:23 AM on May 22, 2010

I remember looking in comics stores but never buying until Frank Miller's Dark Knight got me to spend my money - and then I was totally hooked, and started buying up old Batman and Detective comics back through the 70s issues, even with the laughable plots, just to see the different styles of art. (And doodling the batsymbol on everything, much to the amusement of my friends.) And ok, sometimes for the laughable plots, which were always fun for a snark. Gaiman's stuff, Sandman, etc., kept me hooked on comics for a long time. What made me stop? I couldn't go into a comics store without dropping at the very least $20, and it was way too easy to spend more. So it was something I gave up when I didn't have money. Also, back in the day when the store was the only source of the comics, the process of keeping up with a storyline was often annoying. So many of the comics would stretch a story for sooo many issues - and I hate unfinished endings, and waiting until everything is out so I can at least have a vague sense of part of a story's progression. (You can imagine how the dangling ending of Empire Strikes Back made me crazy, ugh.) Not to mention how easy it was to miss out on an issue just because you didn't make it to the store in time and an issue sold out - and then you'd have a big blank in the story. (Ah, the days before the 'net, and easy access to purchasing anything, not to mention spoilers.) I still have blanks in my collection where I have no idea how the story ended or what the middle part was - but I've gotten over needing to complete my sets.

Now if the comics were to suddenly pop up at say, Target, where the cover'd hit me in the face I'd definitely succomb to an impulse buy. But it's easy enough for me to stay away from the comics stores now because I know I'd probably find myself easily buying, and so not going is an easy way to save money.

Short version - I've always found myself to be pretty typical of most fans of Batman, and never saw many gender differences between the male fans that I've talked to. However I can remember always being one of very few women that went into the comics store. Didn't really bother me all that much - most people in such stores are totally mesmerized by the books they're looking at and I was pretty much the same. (I have totally different music/guitar store experiences - more of a "what are you doing here little girl" type of thing than I've ever had in comics stores.)
posted by batgrlHG at 3:44 PM on May 22, 2010

Recently watched a date I went on go down in flames when I couldn't stop talking about comic books.
posted by runcibleshaw at 12:03 PM on May 23, 2010

Recently watched a date I went on go down in flames when I couldn't stop talking about comic books.

Pro-tip: This happens with video games too no matter how many times youthrow the word ludology and narrative structure in there.

I usually avoid referncing either subject for the first 3 dates. And more generally in new people situations sometimes pretend I'm Terry Gross and interviewing them, people always love talking about themselves.
posted by edbles at 12:58 PM on May 23, 2010

Have you seen "Sideways"? Did you hate Paul Giamatti's character? To me, a fuckup can be sympathetic, because I totally understand why he fucks up.

Okay, so here’s the thing about your “I was an inept 20 year old story.” A 20 year old fuckup is massively different than a 40 year old fuckup. Paul Giamatti’s character did piss me off, immensely. It’s one thing to be new at something and insecure. It’s another to keep making the same mistakes and blaming the rest of the world for your problems, rather than trying to change. Bubbles character is much more sympathetic than Giamatti's because at various points in the series, he's trying to turn his life around. I can be sympathetic to an overly readable teen on an episode of Made, because they don’t know any better and they are trying. But an adult who’s choosing not to know any better, choosing to deny their own agency, or refusing to adjust to the reality they are living in, I have no patience for. I think this is partially because in movies where it’s semi-autobiographical that plotline seems contrived. No one who can write this story with this much self-awareness could behave that way. It seems like all they’ve done is give their “lizard brain fear voice” free reign and forced an entire audience of thinking breathing humans to listen to the writer’s internal demons. That sort of behavior is really disrespectful to people who’ve taken a chance and given that creator time, attention and possibly money. Your audience is not your therapist and is not your enemy.* Which still comes down to my taste preferences, I’m looking for entertainment and learning, you’re looking for empathy and character studies.

*You won’t be surprised to learn that I also think Theater of Cruelty is the most obnoxious form of communication ever developed. The worst thing you can do when you want to change someone’s mind is make them uncomfortable and defensive. (Clearly advice I’m bad at following in internet forums, but hey I’m learning.)
posted by edbles at 7:11 AM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

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