• How To Get Girls (To Read Comics)

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I’m not sure why, but I have a passion for empowering girls in the arts. I played in a couple of bands throughout the years (Three Alarm Fire, Two Week Notice) and every incarnation of these bands had girl singers. Maybe it’s because I feel that girls brought a unique voice (literally and figuratively) to the early 00’s pop-punk that we were playing, which was a very male driven style of music at the time. We were almost a novelty.

I hope to bring that same passion to the world of comic books. The traditional comic book industry is very much a man’s world. The majority of comic books are still male escapist fantasies, but it is slowly changing. And hopefully I can be a force to help move that change forward.

Seeing as how I’m a guy, it’s a bit presumptious to think that I would know why girls do or do not read comics. So, these are just my opinions based on what I’ve observed. I welcome comments from girls to tell me I’m wrong, as I’m sure I will be on a number of points.

1) Create Books of Quality.

Girls are more selective than guys. A guy will buy a book just because it’s got Spider-man in it. However, a girl is looking for great stories she can connect with. It’s not enough to just fill a book with Hulk smashing things or huge events where multiple characters die for no reason. But guys keep buying Hulk smashing things and huge events, so the industry will keep making them.

2) Create Books with Emotion.

Girls crave an emotional center to their stories. Whether it be a love story, personal issues, or relational issues, girls enjoy the emotional ride. This is why the “CW” shows do so well. You follow characters on these big emotional journeys from week to week. Comics should do the same thing. And really, isn’t this what makes great stories anyway? It’s something all comics creators should be thinking about from the get-go.

3) Allow for an Entry point.

It comes back to the reoccuring problem that comic book publisher’s MUST overcome. Douglas Wolk states in his brilliant book, Reading Comics, “Many new issues of long-running series – and sometimes even new series’ debuts – are so inbred and rooted in continuity with other comics that it’s nearly impossible for a new reader to make sense of them… The industry has circled the wagons, dedicating itself to serving its biggest fans, at the expense of letting new readers into its fellowship.”

More and more girls are reading comics every day, but without an entry point, they are going to turn to something else.

4) More female creators.

The more female creators we have, hopefully the more female stories we’ll have and hopefully the more female readers we’ll have. The female voice is lacking in the comic book industry. Even Minx, the brilliant teen girl-targeted line from DC, has most of their books written and drawn by guys! This makes no sense to me.

I know the talent is out there. I’ve done my homework as I’ve been looking for a female artist for Strongsville. There are some major undiscovered or underutilized talents out there. I don’t think there is sexism in the industry in the way that publishers don’t believe that females are as talented. It’s just a matter of numbers. The majority of artist and writers out there are male, therefore the majority of books are going to be created by males. But I do believe that there are certain books that would benefit from a female voice, so publishers need to do their part to look for the talent that would best fit a book.

5) Less sexism in art & writing.

To read a superhero comic from the Big Two (Marvel & DC) these books are almost sure to have scantily-clad, big breasted, impossibly proportioned female characters… and not a single girl can relate to them.

Granted, the male hero’s in these books are chiseled-chested, 7 foot tall with 22-pack abs. But guys love the fantasy aspect of superheros. They like to escape into their imagination and believe that they can tear down walls with their bare hands.

Girls, on the other hand, want to escape, but they want someone they can relate to. Why can’t more books have heroine’s that look like real girls that deal with real problems?

6. Learn from Manga.

Those who say that “girls don’t read comics” are wrong. You can walk through Barnes and Noble on any given school night and see rows of girls sitting on the floor reading through digest sized comics, exported or influenced by Japan, called Manga.

I don’t read much Manga, so I’m afraid of walking into this territory, but I started to pick up some here and there recently to learn from it. What is it about these books that girls are so drawn to. And I think a lot of it is what I stated above. The stories are smaller, more personal, dealing with relationships and other things teen girls care about. However, this doesn’t mean that they are boring stories. Some of my favorite comic stories are heavily influenced by Manga.

It is my goal to create comics that bridge the gap between Manga and traditional comics. To create stories that feature escapism, but that are still grounded in an emotional reality. These are the types of movies I love, the types of TV shows I love, and the types of comics I love.

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1 comment
  1. mellon said:

    1. girls are seemingly more selective. comics just don’t offer enough material for you to notice that their buying habits aren’t that different from guys. hence why manga is popular with girls. A LOT of content to choose from and latch onto. girls will buy the big smashing books too, they just expect there to be a bit more heart every now and then.

    2. any good tv show follows that arc because it hooks guys too. we just are less vocal about it. i watch 24, alias, buffy, etc. because i care about the characters journey, and not for whatever they’ll do that looks cool. and most people are this way. that’s why it boggles my mind that shows like CSI are even remotely popular. there’s no “there” there. the character developement happens in the first few minutes of the show then the last few, and fortunately for the simple plots, thats where all the story for the episode is as well. ugh. anyways, the thing that i’ve noticed the more writers in comics i meet and read their work, and hear them talk about it is; most of them often think that they are bringing an emotional core to their books. and that, to me, is where the change needs to happen. the creators need to percieve that their work is only hitting a limited audience and then figure out from there if they can/want to branch out.

    3. this is something that will never go away truly as long as there are people that love continuity. it’s the perpetual death of the medium every time a story has to be adjusted or re-written because of something else going on in the “universe”. it doesn’t just keep girls away, it keeps A LOT of fans away. unfortunately, at this point, not enough to force a sea-change.

    4. yup.

    5. i would say that women readers could handle it if the characters themselves were treated better in the books. women understand that there is an ideal on both sides of the fence and i don’t think they have a difficult time accepting most of what men want to draw. it’s treating the characters as second class and not featuring their more mental/emotional assetts as often as the physical ones where the problem lies right now. even someone like ‘strangers in paradise’s terry moore, who draws “regular” women, still draws them very pretty and often endowed. they just look more normal compared to issues of ms. marvel. but both books have the opportunity to reach the same audience if the core of the character is done well.

    also, i think girls do want to escape, but i think they tend to escape through emotionally relating to an abject lesson/character. guys can do that, but are less likely to off the bat. (or at least are less likely to be consciously aware of it).

    6. manga is simple. in all ways. the stories are simple, the drawings, while technically amazing a lot of times, are simple. this says nothing about the audience, other than our lives are often so complicated we need to read something that is not. plus, while i’m not into manga, i appreciate the drawn out story-telling where there is more focus on developing characters, so that when something bad happens, it really means something. a tact that western books tend to overlook quite often. in recent memory of mainstream books, bendis’ daredevil run is about the only thing i’ve read that comes close to doing in mainstream comics what manga and television does so well. characters you care about. (i’ll throw in his alias series as well).

    -mellon

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