Friday, January 09, 2009

Show Them The Money

This is a post inspired by this post and this post and this post and this post.

When good comics starring female superheroes -- especially written by females -- come out, why don't they get bigger numbers? Why are critically acclaimed books like Manhunter canceled due to low numbers? And that book was actually given several cushions and reprieves due to DC's desire to have a good comic starring a woman -- as early as the first few issues. It had many, many chances to get bigger numbers, to build this devoted fanbase of people who like to read comics starring smart and strong superheroines.

Where is this huge bloc of female superhero fans at? I mean, on Wednesdays at the DM?

Wonder Woman currently bleeds almost a 1,000 readers with every month that goes by:
01/2008: Wonder Woman #16  —  42,897 (- 3.9%)

02/2008: Wonder Woman #17 — 41,948 (- 2.2%)

03/2008: Wonder Woman #18 — 40,771 (- 2.8%)

04/2008: Wonder Woman #19 — 39,489 (- 3.1%)

05/2008: Wonder Woman #20 — 38,116 (- 3.5%)

06/2008: Wonder Woman #21 — 37,086 (- 2.7%)

07/2008: Wonder Woman #22 — 36,514 (- 1.5%)

08/2008: Wonder Woman #23 — 35,562 (- 2.6%)

09/2008: Wonder Woman #24 — 34,583 (- 2.8%)

10/2008: Wonder Woman #25 — 33,583 (- 2.9%)
It's written by a woman. There you go: a comic with the biggest iconic female superhero in the world, written by a popular female writer. You want more books like this, you want more superheroines in comics and movies -- go arrange a movement or something and get more issues of this book purchased.

Why don't these books get bigger numbers? Why didn't She-Hulk or Catwoman get better numbers? Or the myriad of other titles starring female characters who come, go, and are forgotten? Were all these books bad? Was White Tiger bad? It was written by a successful female novelist, starring a strong female character. What more do you want? Is it a conspiracy against every female writer and superhero ever?

There are several answers:
1. It's a conspiracy against women.
2. There are lots of female fans in other media: TV, novels, movies, etc. Lots of female manga fans. But they are just not making the transition to mainstream superhero comics -- they may not even be aware of the comics starring female characters that are available to them. There's a disconnect.
3. There are not the legions of female mainstream superhero comic book fans out there to support these comics with the numbers that it will take to make them successful.

Personally, I think the answer is somewhere between #2 & 3.

But I'm saying: If you really want these comics to be successful -- and, in turn, convince Hollywood to make more movies starring these superheroines -- then make more of an effort to support these comics. Talk them up on your blogs, and support them with your wallets. No, I'm not saying support the ones you think are "crap." But go support Wonder Woman. How many of you have read the Hellcat mini-series written by Kathryn Immonen?

I think there are definitely barriers thrown in the way of women in the comic book industry. But I also see a fair bit of outreach to female writers on both sides of the aisle. And no matter what the gender -- if the bucks are there, if the numbers are high, nobody is going to argue with that. I read a comment on one of those posts that said, "movies are an artform, not a way for making money.", not really. You can't support Hollywood without making money. You can't support the comic industry without making money. You know that nice CGI, those awesome colors on that comic book you adore -- THEY COST MONEY!!!!!!

The only way women are really going to break the barriers in mainstream comics is by their books making money. The only way you are going to see a boom in well-written superheroine comics is if those comics make money.

A publisher can -- and have -- supported superheroine books that were well-done but not pulling in the numbers. But they can only do that for so long. And then when it comes to plan out the next year or two years of books -- they remember those poor numbers. They have to. They run a business.

The next step for women in mainstream comics is to translate our hopes and dreams and talents and superheroines we love into comic book sales. Past the idealism, past the blog posts, past everything -- we need to sell these books. Nobody fucks with JK Rowling, and there's a good reason for that.


  1. Manhunter's problems were a bit like what struck down Firestorm . . . I read the book. I tried to get into it. I liked the concept. But there's a balance you have to strike in comics between focus on character and focus on plot . . . Manhunter always seemed to tilt too heavily toward character focus.

    She-Hulk's problem seemed to be the abrupt "One Year Later"-ish reboot . . . one day she's a lawyer, the next she's a bounty hunter, and she's hanging out with a Skrull? I liked the old book, and if there'd been some transition for old readers it would have been nice. Unfortunately, I think the plot device of jumping ahead and flashing back really turned off a lot of potential readers to a book that had some really great dialogue under Peter David.

    Wonder Woman . . . ugh. It's had its up and downs, but mostly a lot of downs. The One Year Later jump really fubared the book. I mean, you pick it up one day and suddenly Diana's got four white gorillas rooming with her . . . what the *hell?* I have my fingers crossed that Gail Simone can help the book, and given how well she's done in the past with Birds of Prey and Secret Six, there's a good chance she can sort it out. To be honest, these days Cassie (Wonder Girl) is a much stronger character than Diana is. Between the death of Conner and sorting out things with Ares, it's a more compelling read.

    I can't address why women aren't buying the books. From my own perspective, right now some of these titles just really aren't worth forking over three or four dollars. I liked Spider-Girl, especially the retro feel to them (sometimes you just gotta let the decompression go). I like Buffy, but that's mainly holdover from the TV series.

    I think women and men have this in common: if it's not a good book -- especially when money is tight -- we're not gonna buy it.

  2. maybe it's because the character designs are still off putting to some people - she hulk, catwoman, and wonder woman all fit the same stereotypical big boobs, perfect figure, sex icon stereotype that a lot of women who are into comics that I've talked to just seem to be tired of... so it doesn't matter if it is written by a woman if it's still buying into the same BS on some level.

  3. I think the argument here, to me sounds like "See? We gave them their shot" is sort of bullshit, because it isn't a fair shot. Birds of Prey sold decently and was canceled. DC only promoted Manhunter AFTER it's cancellations. Wonder Woman is supposedly one of the "Big Three" but I didn't even know "Rise of the Olympian" had started already. Gail Simone is basically the only big female writer on DC's roster, and off the top of my head I don't know any at Marvel. I wrote a little about this last week. Basically, I don't think it comes down to "boys like one thing, girls like another." I think that over-simplifies a serious issue. And while I agree there probably isn't an overt "conspiracy" against women I think the general consensus is that "they probably won't like it, so we won't cater to them."

  4. Whether you are male or female in this industry, you only get so many "shots." Superheroes and superheroines only get so many shots at solo books. After that, it's up to sales.

    Manhunter received an advantage -- more than one shot -- based not only on the creative team, but the fact that it was a female solo book. I know this -- at least regarding the book's first reprieve -- for a fact.

    It's my observation & belief that certain female solo books -- especially those with long-standing characters -- actually will get more of a reprieve than other books of similar sales numbers.

    How long will we blame it on marketing? I've known several male writers throughout my time in the industry who attributed their book failing due to lack of marketing. Is it really a gender issue? Does DC's promotional department actually get a memo from Dan DiDio saying: "make sure to give less marketing $ for Gail"?

    I don't want to blame it on marketing anymore. It seems like a cop-out. It embarrasses me as a woman.

  5. I do tend to shell out money if I notice the writer or artist is a woman. It's instinctual and part of my belief in comic book karma! I'm a chick who wants to be a comic book creator. So I mean what goes around comes around. Same reason I try to only shop at comic shops. Not big book stores.
    The more women making comics the better!
    However I don't like WonderWoman at all. I think she is boring and just too high above me to relate to. (sorry wondy! it's the same reason i don't like superman!)
    I ADORE Gail's run on secret six! It's the best comic I've read in forever. AND Hellcat is hilarious! What are some other good ones? I'm always on the prowl.

    (spam alert! you can check out my art here!
    and I would LOVE it if you would look!!)

  6. Here's a shock - I'm reading the Hellcat mini at the moment - and I'm loving it. Probably one of the best things Marvel has done in the last twelve months. Art and Writing. It helps that its at Marvel though.

    As for Wonder Woman, well, jeez, it would help if they treated her like the supposed A-List character she is. Ever since DC booted Rucka off the book - the book has been in a tailspin. This supposed member of the "Trinity" - and you put a comedy writer on the book. Can someone point out the exact "You'll all be sorry" column where it was decided - "She'll be the best writer of the number one female superhero character on the stands". The writer of Agent X and Secret Six is deemed good enough to write a major story like Rise of the Olympian??? Where's Andrew Lis when you need him.

    I work in a shop - ever since I started there I've tried out more stuff than I can remember. But Wonder Woman - with its current creative team, deserves to be selling no more than Hellcat, frankly. I'd have no problem reading any book headline by a woman if the creative team is right - and I read Queen and Country for years - and putting Simone on Wonder Woman and Pfeifer on Catwoman had the exact opposite effect. And we do get girls in the shop. And they buy stuff - one of them buys Wonder Woman, but even she said the book was missing...something..

    And as for White Tiger - it didnt help that the writer went and did a vitriolic rant about Mark Millar's alleged sexism midway through Civil War.

    I'm also digging Majorie Liu's take on NYX, but you're ignoring that.

  7. But again look at Wonder Woman. One of the better writers in the industry writing one of the supposed bigger heroes in the industry. The big event comes up and we're flooded with advertisements and interviews for Blackest Night, New Krypton, and R.I.P./battle for the Cowl, but none for Rise of the Olympian. Like I said, there's no vast conspiracy, I'm not saying DiDio is twirling his mustache and cackling while killing Manhunter or BoP. However as an outsider looking in, both in terms of gender and of "the industry", I do think there's this idea that women just don't care about comics, and so why bother marketing to them? Why bother promoting female-centric books?

  8. I am still buying WW and I am surprised by those numbers. I would talk it up, but none of my friends read comics and I have no interest in blogging.

    With respect to Manhunter, which I have also bought consistently since the mid-teens, The book only hooked me after they introduced Chase and Mr. Bones, two of my favorite characters. I will say that the main character hooked me more as the story went on, but it was the supporting cast that brought me in originally.

  9. I read Wonder Woman. And She-Hulk. And I'm picking up the Hellcat mini, which is charming.

    I don't buy these books because I'm a woman and they're female heroes. I buy them because I want to read them, which is the exact same reason I'll pick up Thunderbolts or Angel or Green Lantern.

    At some point, it's not about "Hey girls! That's a female hero! That's a female writer! You should buy this because you all have breasts!" It's about telling good stories.

    Wonder Woman has had its ups and downs. She-Hulk's transition from lawyer to whatever was handled poorly. I stuck it out on both books, but I'm not surprised that others didn't.

  10. I don't know why they don't sale but I know it's not the characters. I dig Wonder Woman. I showed my six year old daughter a Wonder Woman comic from the 40's and she can't take her eyes off of it. But hey, it's a good comic. Beautiful art. Wonder Woman is beautiful and youthful and powerful. She's fighting these huge impossible looking dudes that are the henchmen of a guy who manipulated Hitler etc. into starting WWII. It has cool stuff with the Greek gods. Awesome costumes. Stories told in a world wide setting. Now that is a freaking awesome comic! Now, the stuff DC has been making for, oh say the last 30 or so years? Soap opera drama borefest. Not great comics. No disrespect to Simone but the Wonder Woman comics I've looked at in the past year or so just don't make any damn sense to me. The artists draw fine but are bad storytellers. I can't figure out what is going on. I want to like it. I want to buy my daughter every issue. It's just not very good. I don't think DC gets the character at all.

    But as to the women in comics thing. Women can write, draw and most importantly sell comics. Full Metal Alchemist comes to mind. Which might be part of DC and Marvel's problem. manga, webcomics and other avenues might be attracting the best talent. If I were a strong female writer with a good pitch and I just went to a book store and started reading names on spines and realized that most of the Marvel and DC books were written by the same five or six dudes...

  11. I'm one of those 1,000 readers that left wonder woman a couple months ago. The book just stopped being good.

    Every couple of weeks I'll sort through my stack of comics I haven't read yet. When I find more than 2 or three consecutive issues of the same title I take it as a good sign I'm not really enjoying the book anymore. With wonder woman (and BOP) I had about 5 back issues I hadn't read yet. At that point it's time to get off the pot.

    Last weekend I noticed 3 issues of Ms. Marvel in my unread stack. I guess it's not a good year for me an female superhero comics.

  12. I think women are reading comic books. The more appropriate question here is, why aren't they
    reading SUPERHERO comic books.

    And I think that's the question that Val raised in Point 2.

    And I think there's a pretty simple reason for that: Superhero books have always been a traditionally male preserve.

    That's not a diss or a criticism, but it's just the way it's always been. There is, by and large, something about the testerone-y nature of the genre that (very broadly) turns women off.

    Try as I might, I have not been able to hook my wife on a Superhero book, with the exception of "Birds of Prey."

    On the other hand, my wife avidly scoops up the copies of "Air," that I bring home. She also independently decided to read "Fables," and formerly read "Aria," when Image (I think?) was publishing the book.

    This goes to a point I raised earlier in the week: Titles can be written by men, women or iguanas. But if the story isn't there, the readers won't be either -- regardless if it's written by a member of The Sisterhood or not.

    In these times, you need a better reason than gender-identity to get someone to fork over $4.99 for a funnybook. In my house, that buys a gallon of milk for my 3-year-old, and that's the calculus of a working mom.

    I'll also add that I loved "Manhunter," and even wrote about the need to keep it alive ( In the end, I think it may be hard for some books to find an audience. And it's not like DC didn't give the title a shot -- three of them, in fact.

    After a certain point, it becomes clear that one character may not be enough to sustain a free-standing title (that's why Hourman was in the JSA in the 1940s, and not "Hourman Comics).

    As to Wonder Woman, it just seems like that title is as ill-starred as Aquaman (who I also think needs his own book again). There have been so many conflicting versions of Diana that I don't think anyone really knows what to do with her.

    That said, I wish Gail Simone all the best. If anyone can come up with a formula and make it work, she can.

  13. THANK YOU.

    Idealism can really get in the way of reality.

    It's all well and good to say that comic books/books/movies/music are art forms, but that doesn't wash when the printers send you a bill for a 300,000 unit print run. And you've got another run next month, too. If these people were scrawling the comics on paper, scanning them and emailing them to everyone, there'd be no issue.

    But the reality is that this company is bearing a burden by laying this stuff out, editing it, printing it, distributing it and marketing it. None of that is free. People work for the company. They must be paid.

    Anyway, I absolutely concur that the solution is A) Collect as many statistics you can around sales trends (considering industry and company trends) / distribution / marketing dollars spent B) Review information around titles that have been successful C) apply as many winning strategies as you can.

    Of course you're never going to be able to cover every variable. And, as a writer, you have no control over the company's final decisions, but no company goes into any venture hoping that it will tank. If you can make your case, it'll help you in the long run.

  14. I was a She-Hulk devotee until Peter David took over and the book ceased to be of quality, I gave him for issues and then saved my money.

    I also bought Ms. Marvel from her newest #1 and went twenty issues with her until the writing and crossovers started to lower the quality.

    I agree that the Hellcat mini-series has been a lot of fun. That's a must read for people that don't need straight forward beat-em ups to enjoy a story.

  15. All I know is that there IS a market for these books, I just don't think it's as big a market as they want.

    Numbers for the entire industry dwindle. Me, I'm always up for supporting books with female superhero leads - as long as they're respectifully done. Like C.E. Murphy's "Take A Chance" miniseries from Dable Bros. A great strong character without exploitive art.

  16. Perhaps another tactic should be to market books and creators not only to the "traditional market," but toward more female-centric media. Get female writers and artists featured in Jane and Bust; promote them to channels like Lifetime or Oxygen; get them booked on talk shows talking about why their work and their characters should matter. It might not work. But then again, could it hurt?

  17. Marketing . . . I dunno. No firsthand experience with how these books are promoted, so I can't comment on it. (I will say that while Marvel's new Black Panther promotions are a bit over the top, they've got people talking.)

    All I know is that I personally read what I like. If I don't like or can't follow a book, I'm not going to keep reading it. If I don't have something invested in it, I'm not going to bother. I think that's pretty universal no matter who's doing the reading.

    I've noticed the number of books being dropped of late. I don't know if this is a normal thing in the industry or not, if it comes in cycles or what have you. I also don't know how much politics is behind it. All in all, getting women to read these books is a matter of appealing to the audience in the same way every other medium does it. Harry Potter crossed damn near every demographic. Buffy, Doctor Who, BSG . . . there are tons of shows that get asses in seats out there.

    I guess the question is, what are they doing that comics don't?

  18. I think it's a more fundamental problem that has little to do with the gender of the character or the writer(s).

    Superheroes are obsolete. They are old, and boring, and used up. There's no more life in Wonder Woman, or Superman, or any of these fifty-plus year old titles. None of these characters are young and fresh anymore. They are stuck in a narrow channel of allowed storytelling based on obsolete mass-production business models.

    The fact that they are focused on moneymaking is the problem. Risk and sacrifice are not part of the equation. There is no money, and there never was. It's a zero sum game where only those standing on the backs of the bruised, in charge of the inefficient market at the top of the pyramid scheme, go home with the benjamins.

    The lifeforce is elsewhere.

  19. If I may be so bold as to propose a fourth possible answer:

    4. Current mainstream female superheroines are not as appealing as the current mainstream male superheroes.

    Like in that quote you included in your "My Last Precinct" post, maybe some male comics fans are afraid of smart, strong female leads. Or maybe, like Ian Aleksander Adams suggested above, the character designs are too sexy for their own good. Or, maybe it's that some male readers who read comics as a form of escapism, imagining themselves as the hero, might find it difficult envisioning themselves as a woman.

    I admit that I haven't yet read a comic with a superheroine as the main protagonist, but that's largely due to the fact that the superheroines that I'm aware of have not attracted my interest.

    Now, perhaps it's just because I'm terribly uninformed about superheroines (whether through poor publicity, not talking to people who read superheroine comics, or the fact that I've only been reading comics for a few months), but the little I know about superheroines has not been enough to inspire me to read them.

    I haven't read any Wonder Woman because mythology isn't my thing. I'm not a fan of the Hulk, so I haven't bothered with She-Hulk.

    Without any knowledge whatsoever about them, Spider-Girl and Supergirl look just like knockoffs designed squeeze more money out of the Spider-Man and Superman franchises.

    I'm just a little more familiar with Batgirl because I've read more Batman than anything else, but if I'm going to spend my money on a comic starring a bat-themed crime fighter, I'd prefer to stick with the Batman I already know and love rather than take a chance on the Batgirl I barely know.

    Catwoman, on the other hand, I might be inclined to read because (again, speaking from my limited knowledge) she's more different from Batman than Batgirl is, and I've liked all of her appearances that I've seen so far.

    Cameos go a long way in making me interested in a character--The Dark Knight Strikes Again is single-handedly responsible for my interest in a number of superheroes who I otherwise would not likely have started reading. Aside from Catwoman and Barbara Gordon (as Oracle, not Batgirl), I have not yet seen any superheroines with their own solo comics appear in what I've been reading, hence a large part of my ignorance.

    I'm also avoiding individual issues at all cost, so unless I can find superheroine comics in trade paperback format at my local comics shop, you can bet I haven't even considered them.

    I really don't have a personal grudge against any of the aforementioned superheroines, or against females in a leading role. But I have yet to see a superheroine who isn't the offspring of a popular franchise, and who sounds appealing to me. Maybe they exist and I just haven't found them yet?

    Give me a medieval princess who raises an army to take back her family's throne, or a nerdy girl in the future who makes giant robots for a living. They don't even need super powers--in fact, it might be better for them not to have any superpowers unless they're ones that are totally unlike anything that's seen on the market right now.

    That's why I play video games and watch anime with female protagonists but haven't touched superheroine comics--Samus Aran, Cate Archer, the cast of Azumanga Daioh!, etc. all appeal more to my interests than Wonder Woman and She-Hulk do, regardless of whether they're smart, strong, sexy, or have super powers.

    Jeez, I didn't mean for this to turn into a post-length comment. Sorry.

  20. Practical steps need to be taken.

    We need numbers on how many females read mainstream superhero comics.

    Here are numbers cited in a marketing research study by Simmons in 2006 for one publisher: 92% male readers, 8% female readers.

    Now, I do not believe the disparity is quite so stark as outlined in that data. But then we do need new studies to get accurate marketing information.

    Also, what do the gender breakdowns look like for fans of other action/fantasy media? Like videogames, Harry Potter, etc?

    Smallville, for instance: big female following. Buffy -- big female following. Harry Potter -- big female following.

    (But these TV shows & book series also work a combination of soap-opera and action. I think this combination is key, in order to get the biggest numbers possible from as varied a pool of readers, male and female, as possible.)

    But we need to know all this. Vocal fans on message boards and blogs do not equal hard data that can be worked with by editors, marketers, etc.

    My fear is that ten years from now, female superhero comic creators will be in the same boat they are in now. Like ten years ago. It's not good enough. And it isn't enough to say that the industry is unfair. Because if that's all we say, and take no responsibility for ourselves, we've just gave up all our personal power.

    Other issue: if females only make 10% or 20% or even 30% of the mainstream superhero readership -- should a publisher devote just that percentage of resources to cater t o that audience? Or more?

    Or do they turn some of those resources towards attracting other types of female fans -- fans of non-superhero action/fantasy? Fans of manga?

    If the numbers are indeed around 15, 20 percent: I think mainstream publishers have almost reached or even exceeded the matching amount of resources and attention to female superhero fans and superheroine comics.

    The real key, to me, is reaching out to the female action/fantasy fan who is not tremendously familiar with comics per se. That is the holy grail. In terms of huge numbers, numbers that change things forever.

    And perhaps by taking that angle, comics (and in turn, movies) featuring female heroes (superhero or not superhero) can flourish.

  21. I didn't stop reading Wonder Woman because I thought it had gotten bad. I stopped because my cash flow has been slow recently and because all of DC's other events were too confusing for me to keep track of, so I stopped buying any comics they put out. Is WW the only book that dropped by that many readers? Or have other once popular books seen similar drops? I stopped reading Marvel, too, because Secret Invasion and all its tie-ins were too much for me to handle/pay for. It's like if every single CSI/Law & Order/Crime Drama all crossed over with each other for one big event for one week only and if you missed them all you couldn't understand everything. I don't get why there has to be some big event every several months, and it has really turned me off of buying books from either of them. (Minus Vertigo. I love DMZ.)

    I think everyone else has touched on possible reasons why this is happening and I don't have anything new to offer. I find it interesting though that on the Cinema Blend website, I wrote up a well thought out (if semi sarcastic) response to that article TWO days ago and it still hasn't passed moderation, and I'm guessing it won't since people who submitted after me have already been accepted. And it seems like that guy is standing by what he wrote, even though it's totally ridiculous. I really, really, REALLY want him to be proven wrong at some point.

  22. And here in Japan, I'm not sure how much any of this is even an issue. Takahashi Rumiko is a perennial bestseller and her comics are beloved (and she's one of the richest women in Japan) and Yazawa Ai's Nana series sells huge numbers and spawned a hit movie and a less-successful sequel. Even one of my comic-disliking friends gave Nana a shot and became an addict, and he'd never read a comic in earnest in his life!

    We don't need anymore female superheroes? Superheroes schmuperheroes, we ALWAYS need more comic book characters and creators people can get interested in, whatever gender they might be. How much is enough? There's never enough, if the books are quality and the people making them are writing from the heart. We need more books making money.

    Actually, for some reason, when I do read a superhero comic, I'd rather read one about a female character. All other things being equal, if the story is compelling enough and the lead character is female, I'm much more likely to read it. I tend to identify much more with them.

  23. I don't really understand that Josh guy's point that making superhero movies about female heroes "twists" a male genre unfairly into a female one. He gives the same tired personal experience examples as comic conventions being male-oriented and then uses the Sex in the City movie as an exemplar and My Super Ex-Girlfriend as another for why female-oriented superhero movies can't work.

    Fortunately, a couple of people point out Super-Ex flopped not because it twisted a male genre into a female one, but because it stunk royally. And wasn't female-oriented because it was from a completely male perspective and supported male fears and anxieties about strong women.

    As almost always, his argument fails to take into account quality and the great equalizer. Male and female superhero fans alike will go see a good superhero movie no matter the main character's gender. And sometimes even a lousy one, if the Fantastic Four films teach us anything. Someone brings up The Dark Knight as appealing to both male and female audiences, and he dismisses that argument by claiming it's not really a superhero movie, just a great movie.


    A Wonder Woman movie with that level of perceived quality will appeal just as equally to men as it does to women. It's not about twisting anything or imposing pink and dolls on top of guns and capes.

    Josh has a very reductive view of male and female gender roles and it's skewed his arguments.

  24. Personally, I found Manhunter's artwork to be pretty poor this last run, and stopped reading it.

  25. Anonymous8:18 PM

    We need a LOST comic book.

    Shirtless Sawyer.

    Then we'd see some serious shit.

  26. Anonymous9:32 PM

    "When good comics starring female superheroes -- especially written by females -- come out, why don't they get bigger numbers? Why are critically acclaimed books like Manhunter canceled due to low numbers?"

    Because retailers are too busy ordering "52 Ways To Have An Identity Crisis In The Midst Of Having A Countdown To The Ultimate Final Secret Invasion In Our Bullshit Civil War - Part Deux"...


    "Talk them up on your blogs, and support them with your wallets. No, I'm not saying support the ones you think are "crap." But go support Wonder Woman. How many of you have read the Hellcat mini-series written by Kathryn Immonen?"

    Okay, you just said you're not saying I should support books I think are crap, but then you turn right around and tell me to go buy Wonder Woman, which I think *is* crap.

    *GASP!* But it's the most popular female hero written by today's hottest female comics writer!

    To which I say, "So what?".

    I haven't enjoyed Wonder Woman since the Perez era, really.

    And yes, Val, I HAVE looked at the title during Jiminez, Simonson, Rucka, Picoult, and now Simone. Guess what? Outside of Rucka's one issue with Lois Lane interviewing Diana, I never got past five pages of an issue. Because none of them had a clue as to who this character is compared to the vision Perez put forth, for my money.

    And to be honest, I do not like Gail Simone's writing style and never have. I think she's a nice person and I have nothing negative to say about her craftsmanship as an author, but her writing style doesn't appeal to me.

    Now let's address Kathyrn Immonen's Hellcat: I'm just not that into the concept of Patsy Walker as the registered Initiative superhero of Alaska or being connected to S.H.I.E.L.D. or whatnot. That's hardly Kathryn's fault, seeing as she's only playing off what was developed elsewhere. But a bad concept is a bad concept, no matter how well executed.


    "A publisher can -- and have -- supported superheroine books that were well-done but not pulling in the numbers. But they can only do that for so long. And then when it comes to plan out the next year or two years of books -- they remember those poor numbers. They have to. They run a business."

    And I'll stick to my guns - if they didn't self-sabotage those books' sales by producing crap events that they attempt to cram through every pore and orifice in every fanboy's body when they could be a leaner, meaner company with quality books that people might actually buy if they weren't broke from buying the shit books, then these 'critical darlings' might not be getting axed all the time.


    "Were all these books bad? Was White Tiger bad? It was written by a successful female novelist, starring a strong female character. What more do you want?"

    I don't want the successful novelists or screenwriters in comics, regardless of gender. I get more than enough content from them in their other fields, thank you very much.

    I don't necessarily want female conterpart versions of male characters, ala She-Hulk, Batwoman / Batgirl, White Tiger, the female Bloodstone, the new Black Panther, etc. I would be much happier with ALL NEW ORIGINAL female characters.

    I happen to think that the bad guys should never have their own books or become protagonists, ala Catwoman, Emma Frost, or Mystique, to name a few.

    I want Jo Duffy, Ann Nocenti, Mary Mitchell, Susan Van Camp, Elaine Lee, Tara Tallan, Terersa Challender (formerly known as Teri Sue Wood) and other female comics creators back in the game, and given the same amount of creative freedoms as the Morrisons, Johnses, Ellis, Bendises and Hollywooders have been given.


    That is what more I want.

  27. In the case of Wonder Woman, my local Borders tried putting copies of it near the Jodi Picoult books when she was writing the book.

    Only problem was, I felt like the Picoult issues of WW read like any other standard superhero comic, with all the in-jokes and references to other titles that I figured would baffle a Picoult fan willing to give a comic book a shot.

    I wondered at the time, why hire a big name author like Jodi Picoult to write Wonder Woman, and then make the book read like it could've been written by anyone else?

    It kinda felt like DC was telling any potential new readers lured in by Picoult's name that they weren't wanted, and they weren't going to bother to craft a book anyone without 20 years of comic reading under their belt could follow.

  28. I'm not sure using the declining numbers--especially with this economy--will prove your point. (Although I do happen to agree with you.)

    My humble opinion rates Gail Simone's skills at least equal to those of Geoff Johns, so I'm a little surprised at those numbers. Maybe DC should entrust the next major event to her, let as many people as possible see what she can do (or remind them at least). Of course, the timing would suck, because I think people are about done with events (until the next event, that is).

    I guess Wonder Woman has never had that special story that pushed her to the top of fandom's awareness, not like DKR, Miller's Daredevil, Wolfman's Titans, Claremont's X-Men, and others have. Greg Rucka came close at times, but Infinite Crisis sort of interfered with that.

  29. First of all what publisher are we talking about? Because if it's something like IDW or Avatar that's much different than Marvel or DC.

    Secondly: I completely agree. Shows like Smallville or Buffy have a big female following.... along with a big male following. These are television shows, and in general television is marketed wayyy more than a comic book. There is a concerted effort behind making that show a commodity, bringing it into the public consciousness. And so the reason why tons and tons of people watch a show like Smallville or Buffy is because it's compelling television that the network has gone completely out of it's way to promote. There's a serious difference between what comic books people think women/girls will enjoy as opposed to television shows. Look at Heroes or Lost. Those shows are very comparable to modern comic books and yet their audience runs the gamut.

    Numbers aren't really going to do anything if the issue is the perception of "what women want." Yes, women make up a smaller percentage of the readership. But that's the entire argument! WHY is there such a small number of female readers, creators, and characters. The publisher, at least at this point in time, SHOULD devote more resources to catering to that audience. I am the typical comic book fan. A young, white male, who has been interested since he was a kid. I am always going to be here. Hell, I hate half the shit I read and I'll still keep coming back. You don't need to market to me. You need to convince the people you've ignored for the past 65 years that you're also also here for them.

    Ten years from now I sincerely, with all my heart, hope that female creators are more prominent in the industry. And that hope is twofold; I think it puts the silly old boy's network politics to bed, as well as opens the door for a wider range of experiences and backgrounds to strengthen a creative environment. And if "it isn't enough" to say the industry is unfair in this case, than it wasn't unfair on Wall Street, or in Hollywood, or in the police force, or in dozens of other workplaces where real change did in some way, and still continues to, take place. I don't see the difference.

  30. I have always been of the opinion that a good comic is a good comic no matter what character is headlining that book. But lets remember that comics have for most of their history been male orientated - this is the reason all female charcters have the body type that they do - to attract the learing male. I love She Hulk and Hellcat not because they are female but because they are telling a good story that just happens to have female character in it. These things move in cycles but no one can argue that female characters especially in team books have never been stronger. They are the engine that drives the relationships just like in real life.

  31. "maybe it's because the character designs are still off putting to some people - she hulk, catwoman, and wonder woman all fit the same stereotypical big boobs, perfect figure, sex icon stereotype"
    I think thats just the party line and a cop-out.
    I don't see comics selling to girls like I see manga selling to girls and those have big boobs, perfect figures, full blown sex, and sex icon stereotype.

    Ninja thongs are NOT what is keeping girls from picking the books up.

  32. How much did Danger Girl sell?

  33. I'm the manga manager at one of the biggest (and oldest) comic stores in Canada, but I got my start with American comics, and I'm just curious - why do you think manga fans would want anything to do with Western comics? It's not that there aren't worthwhile superhero books with women for them - they don't give a shit about superheroes. A majority of them are interested in compelling stories about real girls with real problems, regardless of medium. They just aren't superhero fans. That's all.

  34. I have a couple of points here. One of them is that, if the figures that Valerie mentions are right then the issue is less how to attract existing female comic-readers to female-centred books, and more how to attract more female readers to the medium in general. The success of TV programmes like Buffy suggest that there is a potential market out there. To tap into it, the industry would need to advertise its wares to people who are not already comic-book readers. Nobody outside of comic-book readers has ever heard of Hellcat, nor of the Black Panther - despite the extensive marketing (to comic-book readers) of the latter title. Yet on the face of it, you would think that Hellcat in particular would be attractive to a large number of younger female readers.

    Secondly, given that the large majority of the existing readership is male, the success or failure of titles like Manhunter and Birds of Prey depends only in part on attracting female readers. The other main question is why don't these titles attract sufficient numbers of male readers?

  35. There are many well-reviewed books that don't sell well as comics. Vertigo, for example...
    They may sell better in other markets, like Spider-Girl.
    Superhero comics are sequential fiction. Superman is a soap opera with on-going plotlines. The superhero titles which historically appealed to women included romantic and character-driven plots. Scott and Jean. Kory and Dick. Kara and Brainiac...
    Most Bollywood blockbusters have something for everyone... romance, action, singing, dancing, beautiful actors... go watch "Krrish" and you'll see.
    My favorite superheroine? The Johnny DC Supergirl! Best. Supergirl. Ever. (second place: Supergirl One Million) Oh so good! Great cartoony art, fresh new origin, and a true nemesis! And her roommate...OMG!

  36. There are two types of male comic book reader. Those who like cheesecake with their comic book and those who don't. Since the early nineties when I first started reading funnybooks I had high standards for storytelling even then. I associated the booby and ass books with low qualiy art and convoluted story. And I don't bother with Wonder Woman, Cat Woman or any other female superhero title DC (or otherwise) for the very same cheesecake factor. Whether they deserve to be ignored (that week) or not. I read Buffy season 8, though.

  37. This isn't my issue at all, and I'm not really up nights about (except insofar as I want comics, generally, to have a stronger fan bas) it, so I think it makes my take somewhat unbiased.

    It always seems to me that no matter what the companies do women-wise, it just is never quite good enough for the fangrrl base. The trouble is, they don't at all agree on what "perfect" is, so if the companies try to adjust to please one vocal legion,
    a different vocal legion hates the change.

    The issue with costumes, I think, is the perfect one.

    Some people think Black Canary looks like a hooker (okay, I do too).
    Others think it's some whacked sort of sexual empowerment (which I guess means they sorta agree she looks like a hooker but that's okay).

    So what's a company to do? Leave her as is? The former hates it.
    Go back to something like her 80s costume? The latter hates it.

    So, really, the problem with female led books is that they always seem bogged down with trying to appeal to an ideology rather than being compelling comics.
    Maybe Simone can overcome this, given time. I haven't been buying ANY floppies for about six months, so I haven't seen any of Simone's stuff, but I'll check it out in trades. I'm definitely curious.

    She's been writing long enough that she may just have the chops not to try to please any of these groups and just do good comics and maybe people will catch up some day.

    But please make her put her artist in a strangle hold and cover Diana's butt all the way up. I don't care what anyone tells me, anything less than full briefs coverage is going to ride up in combat and the Amazonian princess does not want to be digging out a wedging while she tries to get herself out of mental headlock by Starro. You know?

  38. Wait, are you talking about the declining sales of comics featuring female characters or comics created by creators?

    You don't think they're two separate issues that need to be dealt with separately?

    Besides, a LOT of comics are hemorrhaging readers. We need to isolate the reasons for declining sales as unique to the particular books you're referring to.

    Critical acclamation does a really crappy job of guaranteeing good sale. Sigh... RIP Nextwave. So sometimes, yeah, success and lack of success CAN be attributed to marketing, but so can what the product simply IS, and whether or not people want to read about THAT, no matter how good it is.

  39. "Here are numbers cited in a marketing research study by Simmons in 2006 for one publisher: 92% male readers, 8% female readers.

    Now, I do not believe the disparity is quite so stark as outlined in that data."


  40. Here is my entirely non-empirical, non-statistical, non-analytical guess as to why this is happening.

    A) Comic book market in general
    The direct sale market into specialty retailers is, perhaps, the WORST way to attract new readership. It enforces a kind of insular sales strategy that acts as a barrier to new readers.

    B) Trades are not much better. Usually shelved at the back end of the sci fi area, they have been "ghetto-ized" in a way that is intimidating to casual interest. There is often no way to browse these books in an easy way--and gaining the shelf space/floor space for facing the merchandise out in a way that might encourage the casual reader is expensive.

    C) Because of reason A, reason B, and various other cultural attachments to comic books in this country, a stigma has been attached to the "comic book geek." I remember seeing a guy getting off the train a couple of months ago. He had greasy hair, was overweight, and wore a T-shirt with a Flash symbol. I didn't even have to see the tell-tale, comic-filled plastic bag under his arm to know what he was about. This is another barrier.

    I think if we can find a way to overcome A and B, we can side-step C. Use digital distribution. Amazon. More diffuse marketing methods.

    But, again, that's just a guess.

  41. Anonymous8:06 PM

    Teen Titans is currently dropping 1k a month. Titans dropped 30k over 5 months. Titans stars 4 white dudes, one black guy, and 3 women. TT stars 3 guys and 1 girl, is

    It seems like unless a comic is being promoted as ZOMG TOTALLY VITAL AND EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRONG AND IF YOU MISS THIS YOU'RE AN IDIOT it's going to drop. Wonder Woman is currently being a fun, awesome comic that's not vital to the DC Universe. It's not going to completely change everything you think about DC. So of course no one will buy it.

  42. Anonymous7:35 AM

    I think that Wonder Woman's biggest problems are a complicated/forgettable origin, poor rouges gallery and lack of character development, i.e. she has no life and is kinda boring. There is a lot of obvious potential there, but the fact that nothing has ever happened with her shows that either the publisher is reluctant and/or her writers are uninspired. Either way the IP needs a fire lit under it and Snooze of the Olympian hasn't done it yet.

  43. I think the problem is that the super-hero genre as utilized by the mainstream is geared towards men. There's never going to be a big female audience for it -- nor, indeed, should there be. There is a female audience for super-heroes done in more female-friendly ways — like Buffy and Sailor Moon.

    If you're interested in a longer, crankier version of this argument, I've expanded on it here.

  44. I like Wonder Woman. She's one of my favorite DC characters. But ... I am one of those who dropped the book. After issue #23 I had enough. It wasn't economical reasons, I just wasn't enjoying it.

    I really liked Rucka's run. I picked up the Heinberg issues. I read the first Jodi Picoult issue and just felt she didn't get WW. All I remember was Diana at an amusement park and being confused about something stupid, like having to pay for her lunch. Not a take on the character I was looking for.

    I picked it back up with Simone (with whom I have no problems, I love Secret Six). I really liked the Circle arc. The one in space was OK. Then she goes off with some Beowulf knockoff to fight ... some kind of demon? I was done.

    I still have some interest, but the recent Genocide villain looks too ridiculous. Until I start seeing some better reviews, I'm done.