Valerie D’Orazio whines that nobody buys female super-hero comics.
The next step for women in mainstream comics is to translate our hopes and dreams and talents and superheroines we love into comic book sales. Past the idealism, past the blog posts, past everything — we need to sell these books. Nobody fucks with JK Rowling, and there’s a good reason for that.
Of course, D’Orazio is talking about stuff like Wonder Woman and Hellcat (how many of you bought the Hellcat mini-series? she asks plaintively.)
Here’s a tip or two for those wondering about super-hero comics:
1. Supporting titles as an act of socio-political charity may get you an unread copy or two of Hellcat, but it’s not going to prevent the series from getting cancelled.
2. There are a number of extremely successful female super-hero comics. They just aren’t put out by Marvel and DC.
Number 2 is probably going to leave the fangirls scratching their heads. Where are these successful super-hero titles with woman they ask? Why haven’t I seen them?
Well, the titles I’m thinking of are things like Buffy, and Sailor Moon, and Cardcaptor Sakura. Stuff that doesn’t look like super-hero comics; that comes out of a manga genre or crosses over with horror/goth. These titles have all the hallmarks of super-herodom — someone with extraordinary powers runs around saving people. But they forswear the kind of tights/double-identity/clubhouse continuity crap that is there to appeal to 25-35 year old guys.
In other words — you want super-hero comics for women? Then don’t go begging to the fans to support you. Instead, write fucking super-hero comics for women. Lots of women. Not just the very small number of women who care about the super-hero-genre-as-sold-through-the-direct-market. Because you know what? There aren’t enough of those women to support a title. There’s never going to be enough of those women to support a title. It’s just not going to happen. Especially in a fucking recession.
And, let me add, it’s not clear why it should happen. There’s lots and lots of product out there. Why do women need to run around trying to appreciate a genre that has never, and will never put them center stage as consumers? The fun bits of super-heroes for women can be picked out and put in other contexts — and, indeed, they have been. So why deal with the rest?
Now if you want to blame mainstream comics for promoting an insular, unimaginative approach to their product and marketing — hey, I hear you. But blaming women (or anybody) for not buying this crap? Color me unimpressed.
Update: Edited to correct spelling of D’Orazio’s name. Sorry about that Valerie!
Update the second: Well, to no one’s surprise, I didn’t actually read all the back links before I posted…but now I have (sort of.) Josh Tyler started things off with a kind men are from mars, women are from venus argument about why women don’t like super-heroes; then Heidi has a round-up of various folks taking him to task because women do too like super-heroes and he’s sexist.
I think Josh is right that women and men have different genre interests. I think his accusers are probably right that the way he parses those genre distinctions (women like romance; men like things that blow up) is simplistic enough to verge on lad mag territory (which is to say, it’s kind of sexist.)
Josh’s argument is in the context of movies; he’s arguing there aren’t many super-hero movies and there never will be, and that’s fine. But, of course, and again. there are heaps of female super-hero movies. Lara Croft, Buffy, Underworld (or whatever the hell that’s called), the Terminator, Alien — just lots of tough women onscreen performing super stunts in the interest of saving people. Oh, right…and Kill Bill and The Matrix has that too…and Charlie’s Angels, and…well, the list goes on. A lot of these are aimed at guys, obviously, but it’s hard to imagine they don’t have a bigger female audience percentage-wise than DC and Marvel do in general. Again, it’s not that women don’t like super-heroes; it’s that, within the limits of corporate fan fic, the aging stable of female characters owned by the big two just isn’t all that appealing to a broad audience. I mean, could you take Wonder Woman, give her a gun and a vampire boyfriend and…I don’t know, a horse, a cool car, anything except that fucking stupid invisible plane and the weird-ass lasso — and have her suddenly be popular? Maybe. But once you’ve done that, why call her Wonder Woman?