Attracting Female Readers, part 1Arkhaven
by The Legend Chuck Dixon
There’s a lot of loose talk and misinformation about what the comic publishers need to do to attract more female readers. The conventional wisdom is to create titles specifically aimed at women and girls. Thus the spate of GRRRL power, female-centric comics loaded to the rafters with wise, knowing, capable Mary Sues with all the color and half the density of a piece of Christmas wrapping paper.
But there happens to be a much simpler way to attract more of the ladies into the comic book camp.
Make better comics.
Since these recent efforts over the past few years are more an extension of identity politics than an attempt to offer entertaining stories and art, quality and craft are not really a part of the equation. And they should be.
Once upon a time, more comics sold to girls than boys. There were also comics aimed at females exclusively. Archie comics and the many romance titles from various publishers had primarily feminine readers. The romance comics in particular sold in the millions each month. At its height of popularity, Young Romance was selling three million copies a month.
That would dwarf the total sales of Marvel and DC Comics combined even on their best month of the last twenty years.
Girls also bought and read the same funny animal, superhero, Classics Illustrated, Mad and horror comics the boys did. Perhaps war and western comics were the only titles that sold primarily to boys. And publishers even tried to woo the ladies to those genres with characters like Mademoiselle Marie and Madame .44.
As a kid, my sisters read comics as did many of their girlfriends. My oldest sister was a big fan of Green Lantern because she thought Hal Jordan was “cute.”
How did the comics publishers successfully market to girls back then but can’t seem to manage it today? Mostly by creating quality work with universal appeal combined with redundant publishing. They’d come up with (or steal) an idea they thought the kids might like and put it out there.
If it sold, they did more. If it sold a lot, other publishers “borrowed” the concept and the presses rolled until sales dipped then they’d jump onto the next trend or hot genre.
In the Balkanized world of comic publishing today, the geniuses have decided to present comics aimed at smaller and smaller segments of a comics reading population that has already shrunken to sub-culture status.And when the public reacts with yawns and sales suck, they simply re-boot the same character in anew series because the buying public is wrong and will see the light. If not in the next re-launch then maybe in the next, or the next or the next.
It’s simply insulting to potential female comics readers to assume they’d they buy poorly-produced, shoddily-crafted comic books that put reaffirming the readers’ womanliness over any real effort to entertain. It doesn’t help that much of this work is done by comic book “tourists’ from other media or areas of publishing who are slumming in the world of “graphic novels” as a means to “lift the medium” and promote their elevated sense of justice.