The rising discontent with the treatment of female comic book readers and creators by the comics mainstream bubbled over on social networks this week after two new releases: the results of DC’s Neilsen Survey on their New 52 reboot and the premiere of Kevin Smith’s Comic Book Men. DC’s survey was made of customers purchasing New 52 titles in stores during the crucial first few weeks of the release of their #1 issues; some important results to note:
- 93% of the participants were male
- Consumers aged 13-18 were only 2%
- Female readership was down to 7% from 8% 20 years ago
Disappointed comments abounded on the Tumblr blog DC Women Kicking Ass, run by Sue from the 3 Chicks Review Comics podcast. Comments like this one from pluckyredhead: “The really sad thing? They’re going to take this as ‘proof’ that ‘women and kids don’t read comics’ and continue to ignore them as viable demographics.” Sue frequently posts on this topic, as she did last June when she said:
They (DC) are out on their DCnU roadshow and are saying that “new readers” they are targeting are males 18-34. The same readers they have been trying to sell to for the last decade with diminishing success…
Despite the fact that DC doesn’t lift a finger to market to females;
Despite the fact that DC publishes artwork of female characters that regularly crosses the line from cheesecake to embarrassing;
Despite the fact that female characters are often treated like crap in comparison to male characters AND that being treated like crap is still better than some of the other things that have been done to them;
DC still has many, many loyal female customers.
Gail Simone, the current writer for Batgirl and one of the few DC female creators working after the infamous 12% to 1% drop, ran an informal survey of her own from her Twitter feed asking comic book retailers to estimate what percentage of their customers were women. This was a significant change of wording: while DC’s survey only polled purchasers of the new 52, comic book store owners estimated their total number of female customers was much higher than 7%. This suggested that while female comic book fans do buy, they aren’t buying DC. One owner said it best: “My shop is closed now, but when it was open, customers were about 30% female.” Some retailers responded that their female readership bought a higher percentage of Manga and were more likely to buy strictly through a pull-list.
As in, they aren’t finding what they want in stores, so they are pre-ordering. This goes back to that chart I posted last week about the overwhelming presence of superhero comics in store layouts; pull-lists are a common way women combat the scarcity of topics that interest them on the shelves. And “DC Women Kicking Ass” prophetically warns: “By the way, the biggest consumers of digital content, where everyone agrees the future of comics is? Women.”
Meanwhile, the premiere of Kevin Smith’s Comic Book Men series on AMC raised immediate questions about the absence of comic book women on the show. Smith, while interviewed over a lunch by New York Observer, said this:
It’s not like there aren’t chicks in the show…there are chicks. But the reality of the comic book stores is that these are the people who work in them. There’s not a woman among them. When we originally showed the idea to AMC, they said ‘It’s a sausage party,’ so we said all right, let’s bring in a chick. And for the presentation we brought in and shot a chick, and it was wonderful and great, but then AMC, god bless them, said ‘Well, that’s not the reality of the show.’
The woman originally cast on the show was Zoe Gulliksen, who mentions on her blog that she is a long-time frequent customer of the comic book shop featured by the series. According to the Observer:
The Clerks director mentioned that store manager Walt Flanagan “learned a powerful lesson” after claiming that girls didn’t know anything about comics and then meeting Ms. Gulliksen.
Too bad that’s a lesson Comic Book Men never plans on showing us.
Instead of disappointment with Comic Book Men, I feel disgust. It was’t subjected to stereotyping, it grasped it protectively to its bosom. I was gonna give Comic Book Men another chance and watch next week’s ep, but apparently, I’m not real, so never mind.
DC will also conclude that as female readers don’t exist, content offerings don’t need to change. As long as mainstream comics continues to ignore and offend female audiences, the more they will see that audience shrink, leaving plenty of opportunity for independent titles made available digitally to take their place.