Wednesday, December 26, 2007
She Hulk #24
Writer: Peter David
Artists: Shawn Moll & Victor Olazaba
Ms. Marvel #22
Writer: Brian Reed
Artists: Aaron Lopresti & Matt Ryan
The current arcs of She-Hulk & Ms. Marvel are surprisingly introspective and sensitive works in the sense that a lot of attention is paid to the psyche of the superheroines in question. I hesitated to type the last line for fear that unless I wrote "She-Hulk becomes a celestial goddess with the mind of a fetus who is emotionally enslaved by Cosmic Spider-Man" the books might lose that all-important "mass appeal" cachet. And that would be a shame.
Which brings me to a broader (see, I said "broad," I made a funny) point --
I do not believe that superheroine comics that are not simply cheesecake vehicles can survive depending on the "usual" Wizard Magazine reader demographic alone. Comic books starring complex, strong, clothed females need a broader (puns I have a million of 'em) reader base. They need a more vocal reader base. They need a reader base that communicates with the publishers in question & let them know when they're doing it right.
Because the fact is, if books like She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, and the current Wonder Woman and Benes-less Birds of Prey fail, they communicate to the publishers that positive superheroines don't sell books. What is even more crucial, if Birds of Prey with its new female artist Nicola Scott fails, or if Wonder Woman with scribe Gail Simone fails, that will also communicate that "women can't sell comics."
Never mind the other factors. Never mind marketing (or lack thereof). Never mind previous successful track records. I'm telling you, that's how it is perceived when the higher-ups have the numbers of sold books in their hands. And in the end, while I think the fact of the gender involved does make things a bit more complicated, it all boils down to those numbers.
But the Ms. Marvel "The Monster and the Marvel" & She-Hulk "Jaded" storylines are the sort of complex, textured character-studies of superheroines that critics complain they don't see enough of. Carol Danvers and Jennifer Walters are active, independent, and hard to pin down. They aren't mentally-fragile Suicide Girls or "full-bodied women" with the brains of newborns.
But hey..."Suicide Girls: The Comic." That would make a lot of money, wouldn't it? I mean, the idea is pure genius. And that's the tragedy of it in a nutshell. As a marketer, I know that "Suicide Girls: The Comic" would sell a million copies. It's a great license for a comic book company. It would get a ton of PR, and sell a million copies. Even if the art was so-so. They could even skip the art and go straight to a fumetti, just use photos and word balloons like those soft-core porn mags from the 1970s.
She-Hulk & Ms. Marvel could easily become cheesecake books on the level of Red Sonja and Shanna the She-Devil and sell a lot more copies. But then you soil these strong characters. Do I think in the past some of the covers of each title were devised to "reach out" to the cliche fanboy Wizard Magazine readership? Sure. Do I think DC's Catwoman has sexed-up covers by Adam Hughes in order to attract that very same readership? Sure.
But see, that strategy ultimately fails because you've enticed the readers with boobies on the cover and then there's no or not enough boobage inside. It's false advertising.
In the end, like I said, it comes down to numbers. Sales. If we do not support books like She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, and Wonder Woman now, we cannot complain. The companies have room for only one "superheroine" book each to "carry." And those are currently Spider-girl & Manhunter. Those are good-will superheroine books that are carried by publishers irrespective, to an extent, of sales. They meet the quota. Everything else comes down to numbers.
Only when a comic book starring a white heterosexual male gets cancelled, nobody questions whether white heterosexual males can really "sell" comics.
And that's why, along with the quality of the titles, I'm pushing for Ms. Marvel & She-Hulk. Plus, it looks like Ms. Marvel might be a Skrull according to some solicitations art. And She-Hulk's sidekick is a Skrull. You like Skrulls, don't you? What role will they play in the great "Invasion" event? Ooohhh, don't you want to find out? Captain America might come back! And Irving Forbush!