Tuesday, January 13, 2009

More Crazy Notions About Women And Comics

No, women shouldn't have to support other women who write superhero comics and make an effort to check out their books. That was *crazy* of me to say. Excuse me.

We should instead just sit on our thumbs and complain about how all the comics starring superheroines suck, all the superhero comics created by women suck, and IF ONLY (sigh!) the comic book industry could come up with a magic formula (read some minds, perhaps, toss the bones, divine the tea leaves) that would satisfy the self-described female superhero fan. Those morons at the comics publishers, who don't really care, who don't really try, who just don't understand the essence of the "fangirl."

Along the way, as we sit on our thumbs, we can direct our frustration towards one obvious scapegoat or another.

I call bullshit.

We need practical solutions.

1. Who are buying these (specifically) superhero comics?
According to incidental and actual marketing data, the answer is that the majority of superhero comic book purchasers are male. Now, if some people feel this is inaccurate, then it's time to conduct some hardcore marketing surveys to rectify this perception.

Practical solution #1: Conduct marketing surveys to get accurate gender breakdowns on superhero comic book readership.

2. It seems as if there is a good deal of female fans (huge numbers) of fantasy/action stories in other media. If we could pinpoint why there is such a disparity between such readers and the readers of superhero comics, that would help a lot. And we need something a bit more substantial than "superhero comics for women suck." That doesn't help the editors much.

Practical solution #2: Conduct studies of comparable fantasy/action stories in manga or TV with that of superhero comics. For instance, Action Comics vs. the TV show "Smallville." Smallville has a large female audience. Action Comics does not. Why is that?

Action Comics: Features Superman (costume)
Smallville: Features Clark Kent (no costume, street clothing)
Action Comics: Focus on standard superhero plots and action.
Smallville: Focus on relationships, with action as a backdrop.

Why are female viewers so hooked on Smallville? Is it because they are fascinated with the show's hackneyed pseudo-sci-fi/conspiracy plots? Or is because of the soap opera like continuing narratives regarding Clark/Lex, Clark/Lana, Clark/Chloe, Clark/Lois?

What are the majority of female-run Smallville fan sites concerned with? Kryptonian technology or Clark/Lex, Clark/Lana, etc, etc, etc?

We need to look at all these aspects and quantify things. Physically count how many fan sites for Batgirl, for instance. Who is running these sites? What do they focus on?

Female fans of Harry Potter, Twilight, Sailor Moon, Smallville, Supernatural, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc, etc, etc. Talk to them. Find out what draws them to these stories. It's not enough to say "good stories, I'm looking for good stories." What, to these female fans, makes a good story?

Now, I'm talking about the majority of female fans. That may sound unfair. But any TV show, movie, comic, etc, has to take into account the biggest possible audiences they can get. Smaller audiences are catered to with "niche" products. But if I am launching a new superhero TV show starring women, I need to know a few things.

Do I want to attract a male audience for my TV show? What will I need to focus on? Or do I want to focus on developing female viewers? What do I focus on in that case? And if I want to get a big audience from both genders (like BTVS), how do I do that? What do I have to balance?

In my opinion, in order to get the biggest audience of both men and women for your superhero comic book, you need to balance action vs. "relationships." You need to keep the action moving, but you also need to focus on the relationships between the characters. Chris Claremont, in his prime, was a master at this. So is Joss Whedon.

I read X-Men as a teenager mostly because I was interested in the relationships between the characters.
I watched GI Joe as a teenager because I was interested in the relationships between the characters.
I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer because I was interested in the relationships between the characters.
I watch Smallville because I am interested in the relationships between the characters.
I read Patricia Cornwell crime novels because I'm trying to bone up on my forensics knowledge, and also because am interested in the relationships between the characters.

I used to love professional wrestling. Do you know why? Because of the relationships between the characters, drawn out in the acted segments between the matches. I actually would tune out when the matches happened.

I read Guardians of the Galaxy because I am interested in the relationships between the characters. I read Incredible Hercules because his friendship with Amadeus Cho is touching, and also because I am wondering if he will continue to have an affair with Namora. I read Amazing Spider-Man because I wonder what's going to happen with Harry. Will he and Liz ever get back again? Is it really going to work between Harry and this new chick? And what about MJ? Will she come back? Will she and Peter ever be reunited? And what if Felicia Hardy comes back to town?

Tigra is pregnant with Hank Pym's Skrull babies? Will she get a change of heart and keep them? And what about poor Hank? He must be devastated about the loss of Janet. And this Emma Frost thing and Scott -- I hate that! "She don't really love you, Scott!" Scott and Jean should be together forever! They have a love that is immortal.

Don't get me wrong -- I like the action too. I like my steroidal muscle-headed capes-and-tights personalities. I mean, one of my favorite comics is X-Force, and that has plenty of the over-the-top action I like.

But running a close second to the great art and the kooky violence in X-Force are:
Warren: can anything melt his heart and bring back that devil-may-care playboy with the boyish charm?
Rahne must be just heartsick, caught between her faith and the essence of her own animal nature.
Will Wolverine & Domino "do it?" Have they already "done it" and I was just too naive to notice?

There are subtle differences between (in general) male and female comic book readers. Do not fool yourself into thinking those differences in preference and taste do not exist. Know your audience(s). Do your research. Step out of your comfort zone. Most of all, know yourself.

All my life, I've been a female who was interested in the relationshippy things within traditionally "male" entertainment. Superheroes. Pro Wrestling. GI Joe. Etc. In all those things, I sought out and drifted to the relationships, the feelings, the human drama. When there wasn't relationships to be found, I invented them. Hence the creation of the "slash" genre.

But I feel I have a natural inclination towards these sorts of narratives, at least in part, due to the fact that I am female. And I am one of the more "masculine" females you might meet. I don't always find these elements in my superhero comic books. I tend to drift to those comics that do have them. Those comics aren't "women" themed, but they are the ones that I think have the biggest potential for female audiences. Who would think that Guardians of the Galaxy, as it is written now, might appeal to larger audiences of women? I do. I think it's perfect.

The worst superhero comics, either written by women or starring female characters, have no idea what they really want to be, who they are speaking to, or what audience(s) to target. The most ineffective type of feminist believes that to speak of any sort of differences between the sexes is to "lose," to "give up." They have no clue about actual demographic or sales numbers, they have no clue about how a business like comics actually works, they have no plan. They just want to be outraged and have something to write about; and don't we all? But at what age do we grow up and come up with practical solutions? I'm too old to keep banging my head against the wall. I don't view my role within "comics feminism" as to give young women a set of useless platitudes to make them feel better.

You are being sexually harassed? Go straight to a lawyer. No, don't take the scenic route. Do not stop and see what the other female pundits have to say. Do not depend on them. Go straight to a lawyer.

You feel superheroine comics suck? Pinpoint it. Quantify it. Get data. Do surveys. Learn about the industry. Learn about how much money it takes to make a comic book, or a movie. Learn about how marketing decisions are made, how the money is allocated. Start a dialogue with editors and writers that might actually make a difference.

You think there's not enough female comic book creators? Do you want to be one? You want to write a monthly superhero comic? Really? Learn what that entails. Get data on the demographics of the comic book reader. What audience do you want to target? "I don't believe in audiences. That's labels. I hate labels." Well, you know, you don't believe in the concept of "the audience" -- the audience don't believe in the concept of you, either.

It begins with your audience. What is your audience? Who are they? What do they tend to read? No, not what is your idealist version of things -- what is your audience?

And as for the original point about women supporting other women in the superhero comic book know, whatever. You know, men support other men in the superhero comic book industry all the time. It's called "the comic book industry."

"The Boy's Club! Damn them!" (shakes fist)

Well, how about a Girl's Club?

"What, just because I'm a woman I have to support women? That's pretty presumptuous on your part, isn't it? Maybe I don't want to read any comics by women! Did you ever think of that? Stop labeling my vagina!"

Okay, so how do we beat the Boy's Club, then?


Look! Josh Tyler just passed by!

"Kill him!"


  1. Anonymous12:50 PM

    I imagine writing a Superheroine comic would be easy...

    Receptionist: How do you write women
    so well?

    Melvin Udall: Easy. I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability.

  2. The last cover is pretty

  3. Marketing, promotion, and research are what I argued for in your last post, and what you said you did NOT want to blame this issue on! My head is going to blow up.

    But seriously, that's precisely the issue. I don't think there IS an effort to cater to this demographic. I will admit, yes, it is clearly a smaller demographic than that of the 18-35 year old male but it's there and I'd venture to guess that it's not as insignificant as people think. So yeah look at those shows, and look at those books that you mentioned and figure it out (though as I said in the previous post, I think TV goes about it differently.)

    Or what we may find out is that if more books were like Hercules then we'd ALL be a lot better off; that you don't like those books/shows so much because they encompass "things that girls like", but rather because it's multifaceted storytelling that appeals to people across the board.

  4. I think you're on to something.

    I know I'm more interested in characters than in who can beat up whom. These are people who are on a journey, and I wanna see where they're headed and how they get there. And if they fall from grace, I wanna see if they continue their descent or if they can find their way home.

    And, well, yeah, sometimes I just wanna see them hit stuff. But I'd rather the action was an integral part of the unfolding drama than a typical comic book set piece. If that means not blowing anything up for five or six issues, I'm okay with that.

  5. Wolverine and Domino have already done it. They casually make plans involving the words "no strings attached" and "animalistic" in New X-Men Annual 2001, AKA the first appearance of Xorn. It doesn't get referenced again in-panel, so it's possible they didn't go through with it. It gets rather incestuous, since Domino's old squeeze, Cable, is the kinda-son of Jean, the target of Wolverine's feelings.

  6. Matty,

    That's exactly what I thought of, especially when I read about the female fans of Smallville. I am a huge BTVS fan, but Smallville was so horribly written. (Don't know if its improved since then, but I haven't seen it in over three years. Tuning in Thursday for the Legion) I believe the only women who could enjoy Smallville (at least up until the mid 4th season) are the same women who eat up those mindless romantic "comedies" that are churned out every year. And whenever one of those does well, I can only think of As Good As It Gets. Lois and Clark had a more sophisticated take on relationships for Christ's sake.

  7. I'm really excited whenever I find a new female writer - mainly because I'm drawn more to relationships in works than action scenes. I'm sure I'm not the only guy that's tired of works "aimed" at guys.

  8. You hit the nail on the head. If you want female readers, you need relationship stuff balancing your action. You know how I got back into comics as an adult? Strangers in Paradise. That's how it's done.

  9. You can market research things to death, but I still think you have to get past the "superhero" comic stigma among potential female readers (broadly).

    I have female friends who look at me cross-eyed when I tell them I collect comic books who then happily go off to watch the latest installment of "Lost" or "Smallville," "Buffy," or "Xena."

    Why those same women don't pick up copies of "Wonder Woman" or "Bids of Prey" or "Manhunter," I have no idea. But I think it has much to do with the percetion that cape-books are largely a male preserve where women are largely adornments.

    I go back to the example of my wife, who is a devoted reader of "Fables," formerly read "Aria," and blazed through "Tamara Drewe" when I brought it home from the library.

    What do all those titles have in common: story, story, story. And they also have (most importantly) believable and empowered women as their lead characters.

    You'd meet, and probably like a Buffy Sommers while you're shopping at the mall. But if you're a woman, what are the chances you'd identify with Diana Prince or want to hang out with her?

  10. As female fans and comic creators, we need to have as much as an understanding of the demographics of and marketing data for comic book readers as the people who work at the publishers. This information is crucial.

    This is what I mean by saying that an understanding of marketing is important.

    There was no magic marketing formula or allocation of promotional funds that would have made that huge an impact on the success of a book like Wonder Woman.

    Wonder Woman herself is a feminist icon. But this iconic status has consistently not translated into sales. And I feel she, as it stands now, is not a character that can grab the imagination of the non-comic book reading female action/fantasy fan.

    Who is the audience for a Wonder Woman comic book? Women? Data has female readership of superhero comics at as low as 9 percent.

    Is it women who are not already reading comic books, but love action/fantasy in other genres? Is this the audience we are targeting with the Wonder Woman comic book?

    If that is the case, has Wonder Woman the comic over the last several years delivered something that might attract this audience o much that they would be willing to give comic books a try? The way these audiences read Fables, Y the Last Man, Buffy, etc?

    I would argue that the fault lies not completely at the feet of DC. It also lies in the public perception (or demand) that:

    a) Wonder Woman be a comic "for women." Just because a comic book stars a woman, doesn't mean it's necessarily best targeted to women. To market and prepare WW as a comic for a mostly male audience is pretty simple. It might not be the most PC thing to do, but it's pretty simple. But the desire to do so has been fought both within DC and without in the blogosphere. Witness Adam Hughes and the success of his covers -- and the flak for them.

    b) That there "needs" to be a Wonder Woman comic book. Yeah, DC has this legal thing where they have to always keep the title in print. But her best success may lie in a Smallville-type TV show or other adaptation outside of comic books. And then you roll the success established in that medium back into the comics.

    Somebody once told me that if they could just translate the Wonder Woman TV show from the 1970s and put it verbatim in the comics, WW would sell well. I don't know about that, but the massive success of that series does beg further examination.

  11. Anonymous3:39 PM

    Michael Rosenbaum totally wants Tom Welling in that picture.

  12. "Michael Rosenbaum totally wants Tom Welling in that picture."

    Dude...I know! I know!

  13. "You'd meet, and probably like a Buffy Sommers while you're shopping at the mall. But if you're a woman, what are the chances you'd identify with Diana Prince or want to hang out with her?"


  14. "You know how I got back into comics as an adult? Strangers in Paradise. That's how it's done."

    for me, it was Love & Rockets

  15. What's really awesome about this post is that for the first time in my life, I really understand why I liked those things -- GI Joe, WWF, superhero comics.

    The GI Joe cartoon has excellent writing -- far superior to other action cartoons -- and a great deal of relationshippy stuff. Flint/Lady Jaye, Lady Jaye/Destro, Dusty/Zaranna, Scarlet/Snake Eyes, Shipwreck/lots of women.

    That's how I (a female) became a fan of GI Joe.

    But at the time, I thought I was *above* soap opera type stuff. Though that's exactly what I was indulging in.

  16. @Yero
    Doesn't a character at some point reference to having had no sleep because they shared a wall with Wolverine in the hotel they were staying in and couldn't get any sleep because of Logan and Domino's rutting?

  17. With TV there is a loose formula that gets me. It is very tolerant of varied writing ability. Buffy, Veronica Mars,, Gilmore Girls, Smallville, Supernatural, etc.

    -A nice sized group of main and supporting characters. All characters have real or implied depth to them.
    -Banter (Smallville is the weakest, GG and Buffy are the strongest)
    -Overarching themes and plots that develop or unfold as you go.
    -A sense of continuity. It is important in letting one form a connection. You know the past is the past and things build on it and reference back to it.
    episode sized stories that fit inside the overarching plot and may have very little to do with it at any given time.
    -Elements of fun and a good sense of humor. Even lives of suffering can have some humor in them.
    -Action! Even in GG there is stuff going on and flurries of activity. In most of the other shows there is action and conflict and peril and suspense, etc. in the course of all those other good things.

    This formula really can work in comics as well, and the nice part is that when it is done in a fresh, well written and interesting way, it doesn't even look like a formula. It may not appeal to all women or all men, but I think it has been used perfectly in a number of shows that garnered a good solid fan base of both

  18. I look forward to reading your research, Val.

  19. Let's be clear on something . . . Smallville is an awful show. Sure, it has relationships and back and forth. It also has some of the worst written plots I've ever seen. The character motivations make no sense, and every episode has such glaring plot holes as to make Uwe Boll blush.

    That's not to say every comic out there is an instant classic, but if you want to pattern getting a female audience to comics based on how these shows get viewers, do you really want to appeal to the type of audience Smallville attracts? Buffy, Doctor Who, and a host of other shows have a lot better consistency in their writing and acting, and they hold a female audience very well.

    Do you want the books to just sell? Not quality, just moving issues out the door. Is that the goal we really want for any book?

    Written by a man or written by a woman, a bad story is still a bad story. I realize Smallville was just an example here, but I don't see how it would be desirable association to make.

  20. Anonymous7:28 PM

    Lex is totally stradling Clark in that picture.

  21. Hmm. Re. the opening: I see nothing wrong in fans (female or other) wanting to read comic books that cater to their tastes. They at any rate are making their opinions known and thus volunteer information that would be material for the audience research you call for. (And of course it does seem to contradict what you say later about talking to the fans to find out what their tastes are).

    Anyway, re. your suggestions:

    ad 1.
    I'm not really sure how much use this research into who is buying superhero comics. As far as I am aware no one is disputing that the huge majority of buyers is male. You also say that there are actual marketing data, so why not use these? If you were going to look at long term trends (e.g. comparing male and female readerships in the 1980s and today) you would have to rely on existing surveys anyway. On the other hand, the fact that you say that this type of research needs to be done by the fans and apparently has not already been done by the comics industry does not exactly raise my confidence in the way the comics industry is being run.

    ad 2.
    Since the aim would be to get people who at the moment are not buying superhero comics to buy them, this is much more important. But here I think doing things like counting the number of Batgirl fansites may lead off in the wrong direction - the fans with the time, energy and funds to run such sites would be a tiny compared to that of the past and present Batgirl audience (some of these Batgirl sites are also going to be nostalgically dedicated to the Bat-Girl of the 1950s, the Batgirl of the 1960s TV series or the Alicia Silverstone Batgirl), so the opinions expressed on them will not be representative of the current Batgirl audience, but rather of a niche audience minority.
    Studies comparing superhero comics vs. other action/fantasy stories or even superhero movies would be quite useful, but I don't really expect them to show dramatic differences. If you look e.g. at Spider-Man movies and Spider-Man comic books (at least before 2008) the balance between action and relationship aspects was not dramatically different. Also, one should perhaps see if there really is such a big difference between male and female fans re. the importance of relationship aspects etc., because the impression that I get is that male fans are very often passionate about relationships in superhero comics (most every X-Men fan has a definite opinion on Scott Summers and his love interests - Jean/Scott and Jean/Emma shippers (and detractors) as well as those who still haven't forgiven Scott for leaving Madelyne - and neutrality is only to be found among those who don't want him in the book anyway). There has been so much soap opera in superhero comics for so long that I really think superhero comics also serve as young males' romantic soaps, pretty much in the way that boys' dolls are called action figures or the bodice-ripper novels became a more genteel form of pron for ladies. I'm a man and for me the relationship aspect as well as questions of ethics, themes like redemption etc. have always been much more important than fisticuffs or convoluted plots. Which is why the mainstream Spider-Man died for me with "One More Day", although I still passionately care about the Ultimate Spidey (and Ultimate MJ). OTOH I suspect that the general image of superhero comics as a male domain and the way how comic shops (at least going by anecdotal evidence) are a male habitat where women who venture there are gawped at like space aliens would tend to discourage girls and women from buying superhero comicbooks. But it would be good to find out if that hypothesis is correct.

    Re. your closing remarks: I have to wonder how much use it really is to know how the comics industry works (from one of your other posts I learn it is run by a cabal of liberal activists :-) <- smiley face). Does knowing how the industry is run mean you're no longer allowed to blame it for producing stuff you despise? Knowing how the industry is run would probably lead a lot of people to the conclusion that attempts at a dialogue, at reasoning with them would be futile. If you look e.g. at the way the automobile industry reacted to concerns about limited natural resources etc. it would seem that change is less likely to be effected by reasoned dialogue than by harsh economic realities like sinking sales. Hmm, maybe a revolution is necessary, overthrow capitalism to get better superhero comics! ;-)
    Finally, I think one can make a bit too much of a fetish of audience research. There is a rather unkind but common expression for trying to appeal to the largest possible audience: the lowest common denominator. So there is something to be said for writing for oneself. Legend has it that this even can work in comics, for at least the way Stan Lee keeps telling it, the "Marvel revolution", which propelled a fairly minor company to the top of the comic industry and captured a sizeable new demographic (of relatively older readers) came about when he started to write superhero stories in a way that would interest him as a reader. (Which is not to deny that Stan Lee could be very sensitive to readers' opinions as well).

  22. "You'd meet, and probably like a Buffy Sommers while you're shopping at the mall. But if you're a woman, what are the chances you'd identify with Diana Prince or want to hang out with her?"


    Please don't tell me you took that post personally, I was just trying to illustrate the difference in relatability between Buffy and Diana.

    If we proceed from the premise that female readers are looking for characters who are relatable, I'm just saying that Buffy might offer more of that than Diana.

    Diana is an aspirational/inspirational figure. But I do think if you met her in real life, she'd intimidate the crap out of anyone.

    I can just imagine the circumstance:

    "Why hello, immortal Amazon princess who's seven feet tall, can fly and can probably break me in half, would you like to join me at the soda shop for a malted?"

    I'm just sayin' ...

    And thanks for the BoP photo in the post. I still miss that show -- as flawed as it was.

  23. If we're talking '80s cartoons with strong relationship/emotional content, the Macross section of Robotech set the absolute bar for me.

  24. Val, I noticed there will be a Friends of Lulu panel at NYCC; will you be moderating/attending, and since this has been something of a hot issue over the last couple of weeks here on your blog, will it be a topic at the panel? I think I'd be interested in hearing this debate in person.

  25. I'm not sure that women need to focus on supporting female comic creators per se as much as we just need better written comics with compelling characters and development of said characters where the heroes may or may not be women period.

    Let's face it, comics has ben somewhat on a downhill slide of late. Temporary buoys such as movie tie-ins notwithstanding.

    I want to see STORIES, not event programming become the focus again. I'm a sucker for strong female protagonists juxtaposed against the traditional role of powerful male hero, that's why I am a huge Alias fan (the TV show that is)

    I long for the heady days of Chris Claremont when the x-Women were so much better written and interesting than the guys. Let's face it, the guys don't need to be as interesting. They've got the whole aggressive male power fantasy thing locked up.

    Seems to me the industry did a lot better back in those days. before event programming killed character development and stories...

  26. Well, I've already put in my two cents (though considering the length of my comment on your previous post, it was more like two dollars) about why I as a male haven't ever picked up any female superhero comics, though that's about as much help as I can be here until you write up an official survey that folks like me can print out and distribute, doing some free, small-scale research for you.

    Anyhow, I can at least report that your blogging has encouraged the sale of two superheroine trade paperbacks so that I can be more informed about the matter.

    Today I picked up Wonder Woman: Paradise Lost (the Batman crossover should make it easier on me in case I don't end up liking Wonder Woman) and Ultimate Elektra Vol. 1, to go along with the Ultimate X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Spider-Man that I've been reading.

    So there ya go. And even if I hate them, I'll just go back and try some different superheroines. But if I really like them, you can bet that I'll be back for more.

    ...It is still okay if a guy supports superheroine comics, right?

  27. Call me a tool but is this not kinda part of what that one guy bitching about superheroins said?
    Guys want face punching and girls want relationships right?

    Sounds kinda sexist to assume that girls are hardwired to enjoy romantics more then men but at the same time Sex and the city made a ton of money so.... Yah maybe more girl things in comics are needed.

    If what you say is true then a healthy mix of action/relationship should bring in both numbers, and a fast look at BTVS would also suggest that is true.

    If its that simple I can't buy that so few have thought of it.

  28. Anonymous11:51 PM

    I think superhero comics really has its work cut out competing against other mediums, namely gaming, which is the new mainstream that now outsells movie tickets.

    Companies like Nintendo have broadened their audience at the hardware level and game studios are doing it at the software level.

    Take Mass Effect as an example. In that game, you can customize your main character to be either male or female and any ethnicity you want. Physical features, hair, eye color, etc.

    That's tough to compete with in terms of audience identification.

  29. I too like relationships amidst my action. Sometimes it gets a little too soap-opera-y for my tastes, but when done right it's all gravy.

  30. Groovydaddy: I wasn't taking offense.

    I was agreeing with you!

    I can't relate to Wonder Woman.

  31. I agree practical steps need to be taken. I'm unconvinced that getting metrics or bringing more women into the system is necessarily the right approach. The problem is much more fundamental than that.

    The word "industry" is resonant of a medieval guild term for "women's work", meaning labor too demeaning for a man to perform. That usage has expanded to encompass mass production with a preference for all around exploitation.

    This system wants uninformed fans making irrational choices and writers/editors/managers who operate within the narrow, acceptable spectrum of the people who write everybody's checks.

    The last thing the owners want is people making connections with one another and figuring things out. That means the core, fundamental act of comics - a connection between storyteller and reader, is bad for business.

    My point is, the first practical step that should be taken is recognizing illusions and taking conscious steps with the fact of those illusions in mind. Otherwise, metrics can be ignored if they don't say the right things and only women who have been trained to understand the rules will be hired.

    Yes, get that information. Yes, get women involved in "the industry", because we operate in real life. These things do have a measurable effect over time and should be on the table. But withdraw your projections and realize what it is you are doing!

    Fighting and sex, struggle and relationships are fundamental human experiences. For them to matter though, you have to take a stand, pose a conflict, and ruffle feathers. The owners of the industry are not selling that; they are selling power fantasies for the weak and infantile.

    Our image of the superhero is over with. Not what stands behind the superhero - that mystery is self-renewing. Time for all of us to do some serious self-reflection on what a superhero is (or was, or might still become). Because connection in the only game in town.

  32. I would love to address these issues at that Lulu panel.

    In general,

    We need to address specifically what the issues are.

    We need to look at the facts.

    And then we need to specify goals to address our issues in a concrete way.

    Saying that we think the industry is unfair to women is not enough anymore. I've been hearing this since I started in comics in 1996.

  33. Articles relating to the difference between male & female "wiring" (non-kooky sources):

    Actually, according to studies, women use more of their brains (literally) than men. But they seem to lean a little more towards communication and social issues as well.

    In one study, babies were given a choice between looking at an abstract mobile or one with a face. The majority of the male babies chose the abstract mobile, and the females the one with the face.

    I don't think it's sexist to explore these issues.

    For example, I never got into Transformers or those other robot cartoons (not counting ones with a strong human component). I didn't "get" Transformers. I would look at Optimus Prime and he'd just be a jumble of abstract shapes to me. I'm not into cars, either, and have no interest, outside of writing purposes, in one car over another, their "makes," etc.

    Does my initial "wiring" as a female play a part? Or is it socialization?

    Well guess what -- I WAS socialized to enjoy and turn to traditionally male entertainment. I've done so my entire life. But I still rejected these aspects that seemed to lack a "human" element. Baseball statistics, cars, robots. I embraced comics, pro wrestling, even GI Joe and He-Man figures.

    And maybe there is no conclusive reason. But I'm not going to cut off my mind to the possibilities that biology might play a factor. I'm not going to cut off discussion about it because it's "sexist" to even contemplate. That's self-defeating, because you get to the point that you start ignoring reality.

  34. This whole discussion is really interesting.

    For example, I never got into Transformers or those other robot cartoons (not counting ones with a strong human component). I didn't "get" Transformers. I would look at Optimus Prime and he'd just be a jumble of abstract shapes to me.

    I actually knew a girl who had a crush on Optimus Prime when the original show was on. I think it's human nature to look for and/or find the humanity in abstractions. If the original TF show had the distinct characterization that, for instance, the new one does, perhaps you would have enjoyed it more.

  35. I have to tell you something about trains.

    Doesn't sound relevant, I know, but stick with me.

    My 2 year old son LOVES trains. Don't know why. He just does. One day he just started noticing and talking about them.

    Anyway, not at all appropos of this, we decided to take him to this children's museum just outside of Chicago. It's relatively small, and privately backed. To be honest, it kind of skeeved me out, as it was obviously designed to breed little consumers...everything had a corporate logo on it.

    Anyway, we wandered around for awhile, and then he found a train set. He beelined for the thing and started playing. It was one of the wooden ones. The tracks were nailed down so the kids couldn't move them, and the trains were generic (Brio, I think).

    As I watched him play, I noticed that there was a swarm of little boys around the trains. They were everywhere. Upon closer examination, I realized they were ONLY boys, and all around the same age: about 2 years old.

    Now, you can argue that the phenomena of Thomas the Tank Engine has made trains en vogue of late, but my son was crazy for them before he'd ever seen an episode. And why weren't the girls there? They were all over the place.

    But (and it kind of pains me to say this) the girls seemed to be FASCINATED with the fake grocery store in the museum. A local chain had set up a scaled down store, complete with cash registers, check-out counters, baskets, and shopping bags. This "exhibit" was so popular, they needed a person at the door to control the flow of traffic. As one person exited, another entered.

    We got in line with our son to visit it, but he was screaming for the train the whole time we were there.

    I have no idea why this is. We have never pushed "boy" things on him. For his second birthday, we got him a play kitchen set that he LOVES. But the train thing...I just don't get it.

  36. "Why hello, immortal Amazon princess who's seven feet tall, can fly and can probably break me in half, would you like to join me at the soda shop for a malted?"

    Hee...'cause you only date people in the fifties?

  37. There was also a Scientific American article after the "controversial" comments by a Harvard chancellor a few years ago. The article disclosed a number of experiments and observations regarding the differences between male and female brains and behavior.

    One behavioral study was performed with chimps (or something similar). They put three piles of toys in front of a mixed sex group. One pile was stereotypically (male-oriented) (e.g, guns), one pile was stereotypically female (e.g., dolls), and one pile was gender neutral (I forget, but I believe crayons and tops, etc.)

    It turns out a majority of the males and a minority of the females went for the male toys, a majority of females and a minority of males went for the female toys, and they both went about equally for the gender-neutral toys.

    So, the whole train thing from a previous post is not surprising.

  38. Valerie,I like and understand where you are coming from. Your arguments are sound. I agree it should be a balance of relationships (not just romantic) and action. I loved Buffy for that.
    I wish that they would do a strong Wonder Woman show movie. I guess I just have to hope and pray that the new animated Wonder Woman DVD that is coming out in February does really well.

  39. Here's an interesting article on a therapy that appears to be helping with autistic children. The reason I post it, is that the creator of the therapy has a theory that autism is just an extreme form of the male brain - all pattern recognition with poor emotion and human interaction skills

  40. Anonymous4:59 PM

    I was simply coming in here to post this:
    Michael wants to Baum Tom's Well.

    But that hilarity about autism maybe being a super version of a brain? Awesome.
    Does that mean my Asperger's make me a superhero?


  41. loved this blarticle, it might be dead, but I thought I'd add.

    Ok I know she's not talking about niche writing but there are niches that overlap with large audiences, and the ven-ish diagram can be usefull in pulling in the numbers to justify well crafted art/new aproaches over the same old.

    I'm a gwm, and I love stories that revolve around strong female characters and really focus on the characters not just their impractically stylish/revealing outfits (although I enjoy those for entirely different reasons than their target audience).

    I found the origional x-men stories so compelling because the women were very prominant and not background glitter. They felt like real people and I identified so much more with storm than wolverine (ok I just wanted to be storm).

    Clearly writing for a female audience doesn't = writing only female characters, but I think (in reference to my comic book loving friends) I represent a group of people who want to see that relationship side of the characters as much as any fangirl.

    We also happen to want to see that girl kick the crap out of some boys but that's mostly a bonus to the relationship, character driven stories we crave.

    I read stories revolving entirely around action and I just lose interest within the first couple pages.

    I find the Ultimate X-mens of late to be this way, so I gravitate to the astonishings of whedon and the x-factors of david.

    So don't forget the overlaping markets with similar interests, and if you wanna do research for a book that works for both men and women, how about polling some transgendered fans?

  42. Anonymous8:52 AM

    What I'd like to see in superhero stories that I can get in books, manga, mangwa and films is the same writer throughout.

    When the one writer owns the characters and story, you don't see the rubbish in marvel and dc where the characters keep changed personality and people die for dumb reasons.

    So I'll keep buying non-dc and marvel content and never have to see a character I liked, suddenly being emo or doing something completely against character for no reason.

  43. Anonymous9:04 AM

    >Why those same women don't pick up copies of "Wonder Woman" or "Birds of Prey" or "Manhunter,"

    Because the women characters are used and miss-used. The outfits are silly. They killed off for stoopid reasons.

    And same as my last point. No one author writes them. They don't stay the same.

    Birds of prey = their outfits are daft. It seems like a mans fantasy and they are unreal.

    So you look at the front, think thats the same old rubbish and never buy it.

    While runaways, you look, think they look normal, read it for a while and buy it.

    Manhunter = the name even, what am I some sort of american sterotype.

    Wonder women, hmm might read it if a) she wasnt famously used an abused by dc.
    and b) it was more like the come of the cartoons, or that neat manga type versio comic that was on the internet.

    so instead ill buy a few books and manga a week and not buy a dc/marvel comic again.