Friday, October 17, 2008

Are Chick Comics In Trouble?

First Spider-Girl is canceled, then Manhunter...are comics starring superheroines in trouble? Is it the Minx effect?

Or are comics canceled all the time, and we're just putting special emphasis on these titles because they star women?

It's important to note that both Spider-Girl & Manhunter had repeated "saves" by the publisher, and that in total, Spider-Girl had a pretty long run. Manhunter, at least in the beginning, seemed to be DiDio's "cause," in part because it was a book about a female superhero; so as a result it received more "second chances."

I feel bad about both books getting the axe; I liked Spider-Girl very much, and I'm sorry I missed the Gaydos run on Manhunter. On the other hand, I don't want to "tokenize" comics starring superheroines. I think it is great that they sometimes get a little more of a boost by publishers in the interest of gender fairness. But I am also willing to see this or that book go (or to be reconfigured or have the characters move on to other titles), and not feel it was a "sexist" thing that they were canceled.

I still feel that the best way to court female readers is to just put out good stuff like "Buffy," "Firefly," "Smallville," etc. That's all you have to do; that's what women want. They just want good stories. On the other side of the coin, a superheroine book might appeal more to men than to women anyway. Or a superheroine blog, for that matter.


  1. I really liked Manhunter, but this current arc was taking a while to grow on me. There were some great moments, don't get me wrong...but something felt off. It didn't have the same "zing" it used to.

    It's a shame, because well-written, complicated characters are rare these days, much less ones that just happen to be female.

  2. Anonymous6:06 PM

    No, I think there will always be a market for whacky religious trac -- oh, you mean chick comics.

  3. I was pissed when I heard SG was cancelled for the umpteenth time. Now Spidey fans no longer have an option to contrast the crap that is Brand New Day. SG is a prime example of what you can accomplish when you follow through with continuity and avoid retcons.

    But, in honesty, I think books like this get the attention because they are female-starring ones. In my 17 years of collecting I have witnessed the unfortunate demise of many GREAT books with the stories, characters and chutzpah to go the distance while the worst of the worst dreck becomes popular and lasts longer than logically possible. So SG, Manhunter, Catwoman...

    On a personal note, I'll say this much; I really hate the current state of the comic-reading audience. I hate the crap that becomes blockbusters, while the stuff with legitimately great writing either gets ignored or just can't sell.

    You know one reason why someone said they couldn't get into SG? 'Cause TOO MUCH happened on one page. Too much? In the old days, much like SG, an entire scene could be done on a page or less and the story would move on from there, unlike today where an entire scene could take up HALF a book because of all the pretty art or talking-head syndrome. You know what I say? Comics are $3 a pop...I'd rather have TOO MUCH story per page than a tenth of a story per issue. And that is where we're at with readership right now.

  4. Anonymous8:29 PM

    I felt really down about seeing the damn book being canceled again, and this time I'm more then likely sure it's going to be down for good.
    Plus I always wonder at the same time, when was the last time an A-list team took on a book where the main character was female and not part of a group book.

  5. Anonymous9:54 PM

    Manhunter deserves to continue. Issue #50 was supposed to have a wedding.

    The only two characters dating in the comic are two men.


    And that's not even talking about how awesome Manhunter is.

  6. I say YES!

    My one female comic reader that I could measure was my sis.In the 90's Super Heroine books in my household were only ever read by my sis. Back then she read She Hulk (she is 5' 11" and Cat Woman (she had 2 cats) and I don't think there was much more than that.

    I don't know many female readers now (sis has a kid and dropped comics a while back). The ones at the local "floppy" shop read manga or Archie.

    So I would say that "chick comics" are in trouble...


  7. It's certainly true that female characters, much like non-White charcters, don't have a great track record for headlining ongoing titles.
    Only Wonder Woman has been around consistently since her creation.
    I think that as long as the majority of the comics-reading audience remains White males in their 30's & up, this will be a problem.

    I'm speaking of American superhero comics, of course. I don't know much about Mango but, apparently, there's a large young female audience there.

  8. I don´t like Spidergirl and Manhunter, the best comic of a superheroine was She-Hulk´s Byrne.

    Supergirl´s Peter David too was ok, but in this times i read some of Catwoman.

    Is the best.


  9. Hopefully Birds of Prey won't be next as a lot of people may have left with Gail Simone. She's probably getting Wonder Woman more attention though.

  10. At first I thought you were talking about Jack Chick comics and that made me really sad at first.

  11. Honestly I think the problem has more to do with a certain lack of patience on the part of the corporate beings. I mean let's take Manhunter for example. First it's cancelled a couple of times, then it's uncancelled. Great. But then it's cancelled again. Then uncancelled but not right away. Then a re-start date was given, which was missed. Finally the re-launch came. And now only what? five issues in they've decided that it's not performing well enough? Wow. Were they really expecting it to start setting sales records so soon? I mean even with a brand new comic with no history of cancellation woes it takes time to build an audience. Sadly clearly they are not going to give Manhunter that time. And while I agree with your views that one must be careful not to see "ism" where it may not be, I do question of Didio's committment to the title was real or just lip service because it sounds good.



  12. Everyone wants good stories. The fly in the soup is that everyone has different story agendas. They get their energy from the stories they want to experience.

    While Marvel and DC are operating under a traditional model that has become dysfunctional, part of the problem is that fans themselves are brain damaged and want that dysfunction.

    It's not easy to build alternatives, both because big companies are resistant/dependent on reader wants, and the fans have to do work on themselves.

    That said, I feel the shutting down of Spider Woman is just the standard maneuver of putting titles to pasture to lay fallow, maybe mixed with what's called "strategic abandonment" - you don't drop it from the roster, you just let it go dark. But she's part of the franchise, she'll be back again and "pimped out" when needed.

  13. I'm going to miss Spider-Girl. It's been my favorite monthly book for a long time. Still, eleven years' worth of issues is a tremendous achievement, and has to be second only to Wonder Woman for a comic with a solo female character. After all, we could name a ton of male characters who never came close to that kind of run.

  14. I championed Spider-Girl for a really long time because I liked the idea of the comic. But like Manhunter, when you really get down to it, it was actually a pretty shitty read. Not even mediocre, just ... bad. I sincerely do not understand the cultiness of either title.

    Joss Whedon and his stupid dust jacket quotes made me read the Manhunter trades, and I consider those to have been a waste of my readerly time. I came away from that experience thinking there are anti-sexism comics readers who cut entirely too much slack to those kinds of titles: they act like all you gotta do is write a strong female lead and the writer's job is done.

    Also, I'm intrigued that you would lump in some steaming offal like "Smallville" as "good storytelling".

  15. I'm a guy, and I just want good stories. Sure, some of the heroines are cute, but if I only wanted that, I'd "read" a swimsuit special.
    Has anyone taken a census of comics featuring female leads? Are there more? Fewer? Do they last longerthan before? (Catwoman is also demised.) How are female characters depicted?
    Two "girl comics" I enjoy are She-Hulk and American Dream. Young Justice was also fun.

  16. Anonymous10:27 AM

    I'm curious about whether comics are going through the same kind of crunch the rest of the economy is feeling.

    Have they announced any more cancellations than usual?

  17. I don't think the characters being females had too much to do with the books' troubles. A Manhunter comic or "Spidey's kid in a possible future" are just tough sells in this market, no matter what the gender. One was out of continuity, and the other was almost entirely independent of the cascading events that determine whether or not a comic "matters" to DC readers these days. That's a Sisyphean uphill climb right there. Blue Beetle and X-Men: First Class sell around the same level for pretty much the same reasons.

    Also, an aside to "wolverine": There are plenty of alternatives for Spider-Man fans dissatisfied with Brand New Day. They're just all in the backlist.