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Offline Dan

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Why so few female comic book heros?
« on: February 26, 2013, 03:58:09 am »
Very interestring answer from a female comic book artist to this question: Why do you think it's been so difficult for Marvel to establish a female hero who isn't 1.) based of a male counterpart, 2.) made to give gender balance to a team or 3.) made to be the love interest of a more popular male hero?

Quote from: Kelly Sue
Marvel is a publicly-owned company. They exist to make money. Period. If there was an idea that extra dollar could be made with female-led comics, Marvel would have more lady-led books than Avengers titles--with multiple variant covers, no doubt.
Why are there so many Avengers titles? They sell. Reliably.

Right now, we're stuck in a cycle. The perception is that women do not buy comics in significant numbers and that men do not support lady-led books, unless those books are loosely-disguised T&A books.

Retailers are stretched very thin. Comics are not returnable so whatever they buy, they're stuck with.

Let's remember this, okay? It's important. The publisher's customer is not the reader. Follow? The publisher's customer is the retailer. Once the retailer orders the book, from the publisher's standpoint, THAT IS THE SALE.

Those sales figures you see on icv2 or whatever? Those do not indicate the number of readers who pick up a book, they indicate the number of copies ordered by stores.

We all together on this? Good. Okay.

So.

Ever wondered how a book could get cancelled before it ever hits the shelves? That's how. Once the orders from the retailers are in, those are the sales figures. Period. Doesn't matter what the internet thinks of the book(1), doesn't matter who reviews it favorably on IGN or CBR or whatever. It matters how many copies of the book the retailers order before the book even hits the shelf.

The retailers have limited budgets, limited shelf space, and hundreds of new comics that come out every week. With rare exception, comics lose their value quicker than used cars (quarter bins, anyone?) so retailers must order very, very carefully. Every month, they have to try to determine exactly how many copies of each title they can sell through. If they over-order on just 2 titles per week, think about how quickly those stack up (literally!).
What's the takeaway here? Change is hard. Retailers, understandably, cannot take risks. Perception becomes fact.

If our "base" won't reliably support female-led books (and that is a whole other conversation that I do not have time for) then we need new readers. Strictly from a sustainability standpoint, we need new readers--our readership is aging and dwindling and the goodwill we should be getting from the comic book commercials commonly called "tentpole movies" we are, in large part, squandering. As an industry we put up high thresholds against new readers--whether it's something as culturally repugnant as this whole "authentic fangirl" crap or just our mind-boggling practices of shelving by publisher and numbering books into the 600s.

Think about the manga boom for a minute. The American notion had always been that women would not buy comics in significant numbers. There was even a commonly bandied about notion that "women are not visual." Who bought manga in the US? Largely women and girls. At ten bucks a pop, no less. Women spent literally millions of dollars on what? On comics.

Now, some people will argue that that had as much to do with the diversity of genre in manga as anything else--and that is a fair point. But I would argue that there is nothing inherently masculine about the science fiction aesthetic, nothing inherently masculine about power fantasies or aspirations to heroism.

So what else was it about manga that got women to buy in in huge numbers?
Well, for one thing, they didn't have to venture into comic book stores to get it. No risks of unfriendly clerks or clientele, authenticity tests or the porn basement atmosphere that even if it's not the reality of most stores, is certainly the broad perception. They could buy manga at the mall. What's more, they didn't need a guide. All they had to do was find the manga section, flip the books over and read the description (just like they'd done with any book they'd ever bought in their lives) and then, once they found one that interested them, find the volume with the giant number 1 on it and head to the check out.

Contrast that with an American comic books store experience for a new reader. First challenge--find the store. Now say you just saw the Avengers movie and you think you might want to find something about Black Widow. Where do you even start? If you don't have a friendly clerk, you're going to get overwhelmed and leave. If there's no BLACK WIDOW #1 on the shelf, you literally do not know what to do. New comics readers have to have a guide.

Compared to getting into traditional American comics, it's easier for a new reader to learn to read backwards! Think about that.
Anyway. That's it. The summary is "change is hard." Our industry is built to sell Batman (literally--all of our sales figures are relative to the sales of Batman) to the same guys who have always bought Batman and change is hard.
So what can we do? As readers, the most powerful tool we have is the pre-order. PRE-ORDER, PRE-ORDER, PRE-ORDER. Why? Because when you pre-order with a store, that is a sale to the store. The store is not assuming any risk. Therefore they bump up their orders with the publisher, which is reflected in the title's sales, which then becomes a cue to the publisher... hm... maybe these books will sell? Let's make more!
With me? If there is a book outside the most mainstream of mainstream--especially books from smaller publishers, but also "midlist" books from DC and Marvel, if you want to encourage those choices, the thing you must do is pre-order.
Do I hate asking that? Why yes I do. I don't want to ask people to commit to paying $3-$4 for a book three months before they've even seen it. It's embarrassing. But it's literally the only way I can see to affect change.

All right. That's all I've got.
"Politics is an ocean of toes" - Jacques Parizeau (1930-2015, RIP)

Offline Daft

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Re: Why so few female comic book heros?
« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2013, 02:21:37 pm »
Of course this isn't the definitive answer, but one of the reasons is because there isn't enough female creators. Not only artists, but specially writers. It's a historical thing.
A nova geração.

Offline Dan

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Re: Why so few female comic book heros?
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2013, 12:07:19 am »
Of course this isn't the definitive answer, but one of the reasons is because there isn't enough female creators. Not only artists, but specially writers. It's a historical thing.

I don't think so for the reasons outlined above. Even if there was an equal number of female artists working in the comic book industry that kind of book would still not be written. The problem seems to be primarily in the business model that results in always the same rehashed stuff.
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Offline Daft

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Re: Why so few female comic book heros?
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2013, 12:19:41 am »
Of course this isn't the definitive answer, but one of the reasons is because there isn't enough female creators. Not only artists, but specially writers. It's a historical thing.

I don't think so for the reasons outlined above. Even if there was an equal number of female artists working in the comic book industry that kind of book would still not be written. The problem seems to be primarily in the business model that results in always the same rehashed stuff.

Of course that would not change instantly. It's a slow process, but I do think the more female creators we have, the better female characters will be written, even if the big companies (DC and Marvel) don't acknowledge that.

One interesting thing is happening on DC right now. Most of its book with female protagonists are written by women:

. Gail Simone writes Batgirl
. Ann Nocenti writes Katana and Catwoman
. Christy Marx writes Amethyst and will start writing Birds of Prey next month
A nova geração.

Offline Dan

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Re: Why so few female comic book heros?
« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2013, 12:32:47 am »
Quote from: Daft
the better female characters will be written, even if the big companies (DC and Marvel) don't acknowledge that.

The best way to improve the situation is to drop the inadequate aging business plan those companies are using.

Retailers don't want to take comic books featuring girls? Fine. Let's sell on the web.

And let's stop refusing to learn the lessons from japanese comics.
"Politics is an ocean of toes" - Jacques Parizeau (1930-2015, RIP)

Offline Daft

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Re: Why so few female comic book heros?
« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2013, 12:39:03 am »
Quote from: Daft
the better female characters will be written, even if the big companies (DC and Marvel) don't acknowledge that.

The best way to improve the situation is to drop the inadequate aging business plan those companies are using.

Retailers don't want to take comic books featuring girls? Fine. Let's sell on the web.

And let's stop refusing to learn the lessons from japanese comics.

I agree that this whole american distribution system is weird (specially because it doesn't work that way here in Brazil). It seems that the big two are kind of "hostages" of this system, and can't change.

But with digital distributon (through Comixology), this situation is starting to change. DC, for example, now put his weekly comics onlin a few hours before they hit the shelves of comic shops. Of course that made the owners very unhappey and they complained a lot.
DC also has about ten digital-first titles, which are published every week online, and then, only in the end of the month, they're collected in paper.

But this is a problem for the whole comics market, not specifically regarding female characters, creators or readers. It's a system, IMO, that doesn't attract new readers (male or female) at all, just the same old folks who already buy comics.
A nova geração.

Offline Dan

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Re: Why so few female comic book heros?
« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2013, 12:52:59 am »
How does it works in Brazil?
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Offline Daft

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Re: Why so few female comic book heros?
« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2013, 12:56:21 am »
How does it works in Brazil?

DC and Marvel are published through Panini (an italian multinational).

You can find and buy comics in any newsstand on the streets, and in some bookstores too. We have comic shops too, but only a few (my city has only one) and they don't have this "monopoly".
A nova geração.

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Re: Why so few female comic book heros?
« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2013, 06:53:03 am »
I heard it said that it's like going into a bookshop and 90% of all books are about hospital romances. There are so many more things that you can do with comics than draw superheroes and diversity is slowly increasing. Webcomics are on the rise. I was thinking of making my own but I found out how time consuming it was just to draw 5 panels, but then I'm not very good but still want it good enough. I'm considering adding some naturist cartoons to freerangenaturism.com  I have ideas for a textile dog who lives in surburbia and a beautiful model who gets shipwrecked on meerkat island.

Offline AElf

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Re: Why so few female comic book heros?
« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2013, 10:53:37 am »
My one and only comic book interest . . .



I'd love to see it as an animated feature film.
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Offline Daft

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Re: Why so few female comic book heros?
« Reply #10 on: February 27, 2013, 01:11:59 pm »
My one and only comic book interest . . .



I'd love to see it as an animated feature film.

Is that Hazmat from Avengers Academy? lol




I heard it said that it's like going into a bookshop and 90% of all books are about hospital romances. There are so many more things that you can do with comics than draw superheroes and diversity is slowly increasing. Webcomics are on the rise. I was thinking of making my own but I found out how time consuming it was just to draw 5 panels, but then I'm not very good but still want it good enough. I'm considering adding some naturist cartoons to freerangenaturism.com  I have ideas for a textile dog who lives in surburbia and a beautiful model who gets shipwrecked on meerkat island.

For independent creators, the best thing that could have happened to comics was Kickstarter. Now many creators are having money to finance their projects.
« Last Edit: February 27, 2013, 01:17:42 pm by Daft »
A nova geração.

Offline Dan

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Re: Why so few female comic book heros?
« Reply #11 on: February 27, 2013, 04:06:18 pm »
I would argue that the web as an easy publishing medium and print-on-demand are even better advances.

But overall progress seems to be at door. But not Marvell's or DC's.
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Offline Delta

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Re: Why so few female comic book heros?
« Reply #12 on: February 27, 2013, 04:38:37 pm »
Print-on-demand is probably vital for getting newcomers in because... well, being unable to get to the beginning of the story without hunting down rare collectibles and commiting the sacrilege (not to mention the incredible waste) of actually using something that has become quite limited in supply might turn off people.
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Offline skycladsusy

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Re: Why so few female comic book heros?
« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2013, 07:14:56 pm »
The idea that females don't buy comics is just wrong. Look at images of any ComicCon convention & alot of females in all types of costumes attend. Some are probably worn by non-comic readers just for the entertainment value of dressing like a scantily clad herion & getting alot of attention, like to adult halloween costumes. Some are real comic book fans however.  They spend money to buy the costumes or to buy the supplies to make one & then spend the time to make a costume. I don't buy comics, I'll read some online if I find them & I'll watch movies based on them.

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Re: Why so few female comic book heros?
« Reply #14 on: March 07, 2013, 12:43:12 am »
Some are probably worn by non-comic readers just for the entertainment value of dressing like a scantily clad herion & getting alot of attention, like to adult halloween costumes.
There are certainly some people who do that. They're not very common and I do wish people would stop talking about them so much, because currently it is the default assumption that all women in nerdy cultures are fake nerds just there for the attention until they manage to prove themselves otherwise.

It's also sad that comic book companies' (and a lot of others, like video games) reaction to the perception that women don't read their material is "oh well, guess they never will so let's not care about them" rather than "oh wow, we could double our market easily!" I mean, not only does it lead to conflicts like the one I mentioned before, but there could be so much more variety in material so more people could have more things to enjoy.