Sunday, July 29, 2007

Comics: What Women (and Girls) Want

I conducted a series of impromptu interviews with female attendees at the San Diego Comic Con and these are my findings:

1. Mainstream Superhero Comics:
The minority of females I spoke to had any interest in mainstream superhero comics whatsoever. This lack of enthusiasm for the capes and tights seemed to be strongest in girls 12-20 years of age.

2. Fandoms for Females:
Fandoms cited as favorites included "Smallville," "Pirates of the Carribbean," "Harry Potter," "Firefly," "The Sandman," "Lord of the Rings," "Batman the Animated Series," "Justice League Unlimited," and various manga/anime.

3. Why Did They Visit The Con?:
The majority of women/girls I spoke to did not come to the convention because of comic books; rather, they were either into fantasy lit, gaming, anime/manga, and selected movies/TV shows.

4. Have They Ever Heard of the "Minx" line from DC?:
Most did not.

5. Format Preference: "Floppies" or Trades?
Most women preferred trades.

6. What Did They Think of Comics Specifically Marketed As "Female-Friendly?":
HATED IT. Makes them feel patronized. They also feel that "Female-Friendly" books promises "weak & boring" topics like shopping, dating soap-operas, and the like.

7. For the Girls: Is It Common For Their Female Classmates To Be In Fantasy/Sci-Fi Fandoms?
Yes. But again, it is not common for them to like mainstream superhero comics.

8. Did They Encounter Any Harassment or Were Offended By Anything In The Convention?
Most of the younger women, ages 12-20 did not -- in fact, they were not even sure of what I was referring to. But older women, 25+, did refer to some offensive images, negative experiences at past conventions, etc.

9. Why Did They Prefer "Smallville," "Justice League Unlimited," and "Batman Begins" But Not The Comics?
"Better Stories."

10. What Was Their Biggest Criteria In Choosing Their Books/Comics/Movies/TV?
"Good Stories."

11. "If A Marketing Person From DC or Marvel Wanted to Figure Out How To Get A Female To Buy Their Monthly Comic Book Titles, What Would You Say To Them?"
"Write good stories." "Stop marketing to me as a gender and just appeal to me as a person." "Publish more stories in book format."

In addition, virtually all of the females I talked to appeared to be highly literate, intelligent, forthright, and happy (even eager) to discuss the above. A good number of them also wanted to be writers.

I will be transcribing a few of the interviews I wrote down, from a spectrum of age groups, in a future post.


  1. The first three "fandoms" you mentioned as popular among females (Smallville, Pirates, and Harry Potter)are also the three which my 15-year-old daughter is absolutely obsessed with. :)

  2. Yeah, I noticed a gigantic difference between the gender makeup of the general crowd and that of the questioners at the so-called "DC Big Guns" panel. Sigh, girls just don't understand. (Joking, obviously... I really don't blame most women at all, especially when I hear the questions asked and, to a slightly lesser extent, some of the answers from the professionals on stage).

  3. I look forward to seeing the interviews! I am kind of curious if one of the questions asked considering the treatment they were receiving at the con was better than previous attendance (which would indicate that things might be improving for women).

    I'd also like to hear more about what the slave Leias had to say about why that particular choice of costume...

  4. 'Stories' instead of recycled franchise soap-operatics retreading the same plots and creative teams endlessly until the book's cancellation?

    That'll never catch on.

  5. neat. hope a lot of editors wind up reading this.

    looking forward to the interviews.

  6. Very interesting, but not too surprising, results.

    I look forward to reading the interviews. Did you indicate their race as well as gender? It would be interesting to see if there were any racial disparities, or if all women, regardless of race, commented similarly. When you share the interviews, please state your questions completely, as the wording of the question can influence the answer.

    This would be a great thing to share with the folks at P.O.W.E.R. In Comics.

  7. "The majority of women/girls I spoke to did not come to the convention because of comic books; rather, they were either into fantasy lit, gaming, anime/manga, and selected movies/TV shows"

    Strange, I was under the impression that manga were comic books. ;-)

  8. As someone above said: not surprising in the least. But lovely, and certainly instructive.

    That certainly sounds like most of my own female friends (we all like fantasy, sci-fi, animation, etc; I'm the odd one because I like superheroes and floppybook format).

    I'll be interested to read the transcribed interviews.

  9. If you feel like indulging me ...

    What do you mean by "fandom" in this context? I haven't been able to get a grasp on the term even though so many people use it. Is it specifically tied to writing and reading fan-fiction, or not?

  10. I'd be interested to see what you mean by "mainstream superhero comics." It seems like that is a dying breed since there are so many new takes on the superhero genre. Do you mean just DC and Marvel comics? Or any comic with any sort of superpowers?

  11. Maybe some of those "Just write good stories" women should crack a book once in a while. There are plenty of comics that have much better stories than Batman Begins or JLU.

  12. I hope you don't mind, but i've carried a small part of your findings across to a debate on 'Girls Read Comics - and they're pissed'

    I use your findings to forward an argument that Minx is possibly missing its target audience.

    I quote you directly, and don't rebute any of your findings, tho i do mention MY lack of knowlege regarding the science behind them.

  13. Thanks, Kelson.

    (Partly due to your answer) I realise that my confusion came in part from the fact that "fandom" often connotes groups of fans that are active in and consider themselves part of a fan community, but not necessarily those fans who just really like the given thing in question.

    I first saw the term pop up lots on LJ, usually connected with fic readers, and it soundly weirdly slangy to me, like that tendency to use and exclamation point instead of space to separate an adjective from a character name.