Martha Thomases: Comics Girls Like?
It’s a modern meme that geeks are guys, and tech nerds are guys, and that first adapters are guys. Girls are more interested in gossip and romance and shoes.
All guys are Sheldon Cooper. All girls are Kim Kardashian.
Needless to say, none of this is true. Not only is it a ridiculous exaggeration (which it is), but the initial assumptions aren’t true.
It isn’t even a societal expectation any longer. According to a new study, girls “are getting earlier and deeper access to (digital) devices than boys.”
Girls have always read more books than boys, and, as a result, women have always read more books than men. This is true throughout all genres of fiction, including science fiction and mysteries.
The area in which it is not true is comic books.
We can all recite (in unison) the reasons girls don’t read comic books as frequently as boys. The environment doesn’t welcome girls. Too many comic book stores (still!) promote their wares with posters featuring super heroines with impossible anatomies and sculptures of super heroines with impossible anatomies and action figures of super heroines with impossible anatomies.
Thank goodness there is more to comics than comic books like that. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for a new customer to discover other kinds of books when stores don’t promote them.
Girls with parents who give them tablets to play with in numbers greater than boys, and girls whose parents let them read books on tablets in greater numbers than boys will soon be girls who read comics on tablets in greater numbers than boys. They will provide a lucrative market for the kinds of comics girls like, and they won’t have to go into a comic book store to do so.
If these girls are like other readers of e-books, they will enjoy reading books online, and then want to own physical books as well. Will comic book stores be able to deal with this?
Successful bookstores don’t separate their wares into girls’ books and boys’ books. They rack them by subject matter and genre. They promote new titles and famous authors, true, but they also tend to “hand sell,” which means that employees will recommend books they’ve enjoyed to customers who ask. Publishers might use sex to sell (see Fifty Shades of Whatever), but they tend to use cover art that won’t embarrass the reader in public.
The comic book business would be smart to do the same. It might mean fewer women in refrigerators, and there are a lot of executives invested in that attitude. One would think that women with wallets would be a bigger draw.
SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman
SUNDAY: John Ostrander
This is a fantastic article. Hopefully in the very near future publishers will be desperate enough to do the right thing, and try to appeal to all demographics instead of catering to stereotypes.
But one sidenote- and not to downplay the obviously negative affects that exaggerated forms can have on young female readers (as well as the sexualized programming it can instil in male readers), but I’ve always been surprised that the same is not mentioned more often for the other sex. I’d bet many young male readers can really feel just as ostracized by the idealized masculine forms in comics as well. I know I did when I was in my preteens, which likely played a role in my later depression. I got over all of that for the most part (partially thanks to Tai Chi and isometrics, sorry, TMI), but maturing males can be made to feel just as hopelessly compelled to match society’s ideal as does the fairer sex. Hell, maybe I should finally get around to writing something on it myself…
My wife, (and myself also but that’s not pertinent), was a fan of Ms. Tree. She occasionally asks if that series is coming back. Wish it would.
I loved MS. TREE, George. But I think Max is too busy with novels and such.
Ms. Tree “returned” in one of the “Hard Case Crime” paperbacks a few years ago. The novel, “Deadly Beloved” adapts the intitial two Ms. Tree comic-arcs (graphic novels, whatever) into a single prose novel. Not a new story, but the prose format allows Collins to give more depth and background to the characters. And good old Terry Beatty did the cover!
Great column, Martha! Great minds must think alike, because my column on Monday is related to this problem, which, maybe, is in the process of disappearing as the next generation(s) come up behind us?
Oh, yeah, did I tell you about the time I went for an interview, and there was a young woman, in her twenties, sitting next to me reading one of the collected graphic novels of SANDMAN? It was SO cool!