What do Women Want in Superhero Comics?
Most of the time I assume that comic blog eruptions are exactly that: Comic Blog issues which will remain comic blog issues.
However, yesterday the Mary Jane Statuette Scandal spilled out of comic geek circles and over to the New York Post, shedding a bit of light into the shadowy world of comic blogging. And, then, of course, the most shocking image of all.
At points the debate got downright ugly, with one poster insisting that Johanna was supporting "separate but equal" treatment for comics appealing to women (which mostly suggested that the reader wasn't terribly familiar with Johanna's resume or the context of her blog. But, hey, that's okay.).
Bit of interest: Johanna's slightly dated, self-selected survey found a whopping 90+% of DC comic readers in 1995 were male.
David Oakes presented some statistics collected in Phoenix and beyond (at the Cactus Comic-Con? I'm not sure.) that suggested that Johanna's numbers may still be fairly accurate.
So all of this sort of raised a question in my mind...
In a general sense, women have a lot to be angry about in comics. The field is, in fact, dominated by men. More often than not, heroic and villainous women alike are portrayed in flesh baring, cheescake-y and down-right impractical costumes intended to appeal to the more prurient eyes in the audience. Violence against women, particularly as helpless torture victims, and instances of rape do make an appearance in comics (usually with the promise that a male hero will save the day).
Some editors think they know what women are missing, such as Supergirl editor Eddie Berganza. Meanwhile, many women and girls have found themselves drifting towards Manga or independent publishers who are providing some of that intangible quality (possibly due to the many genres within Manga and indie comics).
Since the 80's, the Big 2 superhero publishers have added a great number of female characters who can hold their own alongside their male counterparts, from the revamp of Oracle to X-23. And, currently women hold the Chairman/personship of both the Justice League of America and the Justice Society of America (coming in about two decades behind Storm leading the X-Men). Some moves have been made. Do they even get noticed?
The topic I felt was conspicuously absent from the discussion was any sort of feeling as to what women might actually be looking for in a superhero comic. At least "what women want in a superhero comic" got nowhere near the coverage of what some folks would prefer the publishers omit.
So, seemingly reading my mind, Johanna went on to post on some superhero comics she does read.
Honestly, I'm not interested in getting into redundancies here at Comic Fodder regarding what isn't welcome. I'd like to try something vaguely constructive.
And so I cast wide the net to ask:
(Assuming that things like Power Girl's breasts as depicted by Michael Turner are an obvious problem, and that the publishers don't plan to repeat the infamous scenes from Identity Crisis...)
WHAT DO WOMEN WANT IN SUPERHERO COMICS ? What would draw you in? What would have to happen in Superman, Batman, Wolverine, Wonder Woman, Ms. Marvel or any of the cape and tights comics to make you consider giving those comics a second glance? What sort of stories would interest you? How could the characters be handled in a manner which doesn't make you simply roll your eyes?
What's working for you now? What can you cite as an example? What can the publishers do more of?
Or is that not a good question?
before this goes the way I think it's about to go:
I am fully aware that I would get different opinions. I hope to God I get different opinions. But I also am trying to shed some light on the constructive side of the argument that women are underserved by superhero comics. How can that be changed?
And the question wasn't supposed to be "dudes, what do women as a mass want in comics?" It was supposed to be a forum for any woman who has an opinion on the topic to express it.
Hopefully that assists in clarifying my intentions.
Anyway, the point is to hear individual voices. If patterns emerge, great. If not, let's all have a cheer for diversity!
ALSO: FYI: the spam filter catches all entries with URL's. If your comment does not immediately appear, do not worry, I'll get to it. With the weekend here, I may wander off and get some sunshine or play with my dogs or something. I will post pretty much anything and everything that isn't a viagra ad.
And, dear God, how we get the viagra ad spam.
Ryan is your resident reviewer of DC Comics. He keeps his comics and himself in Austin, Texas. He likes Superman.