May 24, 2010

Hope Larson holds a survey about Girls and Comics!

Indie creator Hope Larson held an interesting survey among girls who read comics as tweens and teens, in hopes of trying to figure out how to get tween and teen girls into comics.

It's an interesting read for those of us who care about the diversification not just of the product, but of the reading audience as well. In the end, of course, you diversify the audience by diversifying your product.

While I would recommend that those interested read the survey in its entirety, I'd like to comment on a few of the findings.

Contrary to what most message boards may indicate, girls still gravitate more toward superheroes than anything else -- manga is a close second. That's just odd to me, since I just assumed that manga was not only more popular now among girls, but that it's just more popular in general. Still, just because superheroes came up on top here is no excuse for the industry to stop diversifying genres.

When asked about what made comics so appealing, the most cited answer is still the characters - girls wanted to be able to relate to the characters or experience the wish fulfillment associated with these characters. Story and art come in next, with story just edging out art. In that sense, the female demographic isn't much different from the male demographic at all, though I would hazard that for guys, the art may top story.

Of the 198 respondents, 4 had gone to author signings, 5 attended a comics-related library event, 50 have attended Free Comic Book Day, and almost half have gone to cosplay conventions as teens or tweens. Make social judgments as you will.

When asked about what comics professionals can do to draw in more female readers, the following answers were given.

More and better female characters, especially protagonists. Girls want to see strong, in-control, kick-ass women calling the shots.

Use licensed properties to lure new readers into comics.

Pink, sparkly cutesy comics about boyfriends, ponies, cupcakes and shopping are widely reviled. Condescend to female readers at your peril, writers and comic publishers.

Head... hurts... Exploding.... How does all three account for the success of this particular property??

I'm not kidding, folks, that is an official Twilight comic book. Yes, it's a licensed property, but it doesn't have a strong female lead, and it's a particularly "sparkly" story about boyfriends. So what's up? I think sales figures on the Twilight comic will be interesting, especially if we can get a demographic analysis.

The problem, also, I think, with introducing female protagonists and making a POINT to introduce female protagonists is that it "targets" the female demographic, and no matter what anyone says, people hate being targeted. Historically, that's why "comics made for kids" don't sell -- because kids hate being spoken down to. Similarly, any effort made to target females has been less than commercially successful, because the truth is girls hate being patronized. I mean, Minx, anyone?

This is a long debate, but Hope Larson's survey is a good start to what can only be better for the industry. If comics can rake in more girls, then it can't possibly be bad for business.

Thanks to Robot 6 for pointing me to this survey!


Peachy said...

Girls like the Twilight bit because they mistake the female character's wilting despair for profundity. They also think that the vampire-boy's constant flip-flopping ("I'm breaking up with you. Wait. I want you back.") shows emotional complexity, when it just really means he's an asshole.

Duy Tano said...

I would have said that they would think his stalking tendencies show great sincerity, when it really just means he's a creep.

RaceForTaste said...

Yay for superheroes! Boo to Manga and Twilight!

I love me some Wonder Woman! It doesn't get more kick-ass than that.

Hmph...whereas I can't stand Hawk-girl. I think she was just made for man drool.

Very interesting post. I really didn't think female comic book readers were interested in superheroes. But I guess I'm female and can't live without JLA, so it makes sense.

Duy Tano said...

I don't intrinsically hate manga; I think it's good to have as many genres as possible. That having been said, I do hate the overexaggerated, cutesy patootsie manga, which has been its unfortunate trademark for many years. Of course, I guess one could say the same thing for badly done superhero comics in relation to western comics.

I'm not sure how Hawkgirl was created for man-drool when she's been around since the 40s and she shows less skin than Diana does.

I think something has to be said for the sample audience of this survey -- they were adults who read comics as tweens and teens. I wouldn't be surprised if manga was more popular now among the girls of today.

Kat said...

One other thing I want to add to this discussion is that Twilight is extremely popular among the general population, and I would suspect that the high sales of it probably wouldn't be the hardcore comic girls that would've been approached by this survey. I think the buyers would probably be members of the general population that don't necessarily read comic books any other time, but will buy anything and everything Twilight just because it's an official property.

As much as it sucks to acknowledge, I think history shows that the general population sometimes has shit for brains, and lots of people will absolutely tolerate condescension and sometimes seek out the dumbest shit imaginable for the purpose of distraction and escapist fantasy that sparkles like a vampire in the sun. :p

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