Ain’t I A Woman?
For as long as there has been a comics’ press, people have been wondering why there aren’t more women reading comics. And often those people wondering are, themselves, women: Maggie Thompson (who in 1960 co-published Harbinger, one of the first comics-themed fanzines back), The Beat‘s Heidi MacDonald, Trina Robbins (whom I’ve loved since the days of underground comix), cat yronwode of Eclipse, among many others.
We stand on the shoulders of giants.
Yet, like these women, I read comics. In my case, I read superhero comics. And I loved them. For all that time, when I was a girl, then a young woman, then a woman, a wife, a mom, I loved them. I still do.
How can this be? Don’t women hate superhero comics? Don’t we hate mindless violence, shallow characterization, demeaning stereotypes? Don’t we crave emotional connection and involving storylines?
Well, yes and no. Or rather, no and yes.
When I was a girl, my dad would take me to James Bond movies. At the time, these were the ne plus ultra of sex and violence. He took me to see The Dirty Dozen. We would watch I Spy on television. He and my sister went to ball games, but he and I went to watch chases and explosions.
From my mom, I developed a love of mythology, of fairy tales from E. Nesbitt and Madeleine L’Engle. Unfortunately, there were no new stories about Apollo and Athena and the Wouldbegoods every week. Instead, I read the adventures of Superman, Wonder Woman and the Legion of Super-Heroes.
So here I am: A woman, which can be scientifically verified by the existence of both a biological child and a closet full of shoes, who loves action adventure. In my case, this includes superheroes.
Oh, sure, I also like Grace Paley and Nora Ephron, Don DeLillo and Will Self, Merrill Markoe and Barbara Ehrenreich. I liked Pan’s Labyrinth and Little Miss Sunshine, Casablanca and Gone with the Wind — although, as I’ve matured, the racism and glamorization of rape in the latter has made it a little less entertaining to me.
In short, I like good stuff. By "good stuff," I mean, "What I like." I assume that when you refer to "good stuff," you mean, "what you like."
If you want to attract more women to comics, publish more good stuff. Publish more stories that more individual people of all kinds will like. If this means explosions and car chases, publish more than that. If this means more deep, insightful conversations between finely developed characters, publish that. If this means talking animals, fairy princesses, genies, space cabbies and robot detectives, that’s good, too.
In the meantime, you can find me at the salon, getting a pedicure and reading Preacher.
A long time comics and media veteran, Martha Thomases is ComicMix’s director of corporate communications and we’re dang glad about that.