Gender-Reading Bias in Comic Books?Posted by buddyscalera on July 11, 2021 at 12:03 am
I read this article today.
Why do so few men read books by women?
It got me thinking…do we have this kind of bias in comic books? Is there a male bias against female creators?
It is a relevant topic for our community, since we want to create comics that reach an audience.
What are your thoughts? Does it exist? What does it mean for us as creators?
MemberJuly 11, 2021 at 8:01 amMakes 323 Forum Points
I have raised this question in my store, the most common answer is that the politics that some writers force on readers both male and female are not appreciated. When someone pays $3.99 for a book from one of the big two the story and art are the things that need to come first and a persons political beliefs need to come second at the end of the day if no one buys the book you are selling it comes down to either not liking the story art or both adding to that if you are too busy pushing your agenda without context to a viable storyline the average comic book reader who likes major characters who have been around for 50+ years that expect a pb&j sandwich but instead receive a mustard sandwich they not all are going to be happy about it.
My second favorite run on Daredevil was written by Ann Nocenti Gail Simone did an amazing run on Birds of Prey Wendy Pini was awesome on Elfquest and by all means Social justice has its place in comics of course but if you are going to preach from the comic book soapbox why not make the story interesting as well? Example EC Comics. As I said that is the type of response that I receive from both female and male comic book customers. At the end of the day all anyone who spends their hard earned money wants is to be entertained.
AdministratorJuly 11, 2021 at 9:25 am
I am similar to @MisterAnderSiN in this case. I rarely look at the sex/gender of a writer, artist, or creator until after I have read the book, but I am familiar with ‘guys’ who don’t think that content created by women has anything to offer or interest them. I haven’t experianced the reverse with women.
I have challenaged this notion before, when it comes up in conversation. The guys in question usually respond “it’s not FOR me”. This belief is most often based on a single biased experiance where they where instructed to read or take in content about “women’s issues” or a “woman’s perspective” that was unpleasent or uncomfortable to them and as a result they refused to consume similar content again. This is faulty logic of course because not all women write only a woman’s perspective, and as more than half the people, on this planet at least, are women, it is unlikely we all have one or even the same ‘perspective’ on all things, saying nothing about the many women who can and do write stories about both sexes with many ideas and stories explored. Or the idea that they can’t consume content that isn’t expressly created ‘for them’.
I think if you are serious about reading comics the gender of the author or artist shouldn’t interest you as much as the work they produce. That’s just my opinion. But it is an interesting issue to notice. Do we all see content as gendered? Either by the creator or by the content of the story?
As a girl I was often told I wasn’t allow to read certain comics as a kid because “they were for boys”. I was ‘allowed’ to read Archie, and maybe Casper the Friendly Ghost, at the same time my brother was allowed to read Superman, X-men, Watchmen, and Maus. Looking back now, I can’t help but see the disparity in complex storylines, and metophical themes that were examined in “boy comics” vs, the simple misunderstandings in the wholesome “family” comics I was allow to read. My brother was only a year older than me, and was not restricted in the same way. We couldn’t ‘trade’ comics because I understood quickly to ask the question “Why would he want to read Betty and Veronica?” And the answer was simple, he wouldn’t. It didn’t interest him. My comics were seen in my house as “less than”. But any other ‘Romance comics’ or comics for girls were pratically non-exsistent. Let’s not even dive into the fact that “romance” was seen as a girls only comic, but Superhero and other ‘boy’ comics are litered with relationship experiances that are not seen as ‘romantic’ and there for somehow more masculine and appropreiate for male readers. In newstands they were overlooked and under represented because “girls don’t read comics as much as boys” and “Boys don’t read romance comics”… there is a lot to unpack in this subject matter. Not even getting into the fact that in my house it was always implied they were all for children anyway, but that’s a converstaion for another thread another time. Getting back to the topic at hand, let’s face it in the 1980’s gender was a highly profitable marketing construct. Even Howard Chaykin said go back and read the romance comics there is some dam good work there, in our Talent Talk, and I didn’t see a single person who could agree with him, because it seemed like none of us had ever read them?
So I guess my question to the Men and boys and the Women and girls on this forum is
– Do you read “girl” comics?
– Do you differenciate between what content is written for each gender?
– Does the sex and gender of the creator or the protaganist of the story deteremine if you are interested in the content of the story?
– As any gender do you restrict your reading to only those books that you personally identify with?
– Do you create comics with the idea that only one gender could/would/should enjoy?
Thanks for the thoughts @buddyscalera
D. Alley, the Redheadeded.
MemberJuly 11, 2021 at 10:58 amMakes 323 Forum Points
This is very interesting to me. I think a good question to ask is who are your top 5 comic writers and why / what story or work of theirs made the biggest impression on you as a comic reader?
- Garth Ennis Hellblazer run
Frank Miller Dark knight Returns
Walter Simonson Thor Run
Alan Moore Watchmen
John Byrne FF
these books are great now the characters are not my favorites except FF. I think it would be interesting as an experiment to find out who everyone’s favorite Characters are what the ratio is male to Female race, etc. this would be more telling and more helpful for Female writers as they could write stories based on what the pulse of actual comic readers are.
And I am a huge fan of “big feet” books ex. Casper Carl Barks Ducks etc.
I have a 8 year old young girl who comes into my shop 2 times a month when she was first coming in she picked up Jem and the holograms and Disney books to start because that is what her mom had read when she was little, then she was crazy about star wars now she like the books with monsters on the covers and it is pretty interesting to watch a child buy comics because they will first buy for the cover art big colors whatever, but that kid will read and draw and look at the book hundreds of times. I always ask what happened in the story and they get so animated about it the excitement they get from reading is awesome. They dont care who writes or draws just the adventure it takes them on is enough.
The only real dream I have now for creating comics is to make a company that sells its new books for .99 and is geared towards kids / young adults where they can afford to go to the store every week and pick up something new like I did growing up.
ModeratorJuly 11, 2021 at 9:45 pm
I am very much a reader who supports a good story over a creative team. That being said, I have looked at some of my favorite creators/writers and found that majority of them are male. This could possibly be also due to the fact that majority of the writers who get attached to the comics I read (I’m talking about the Big 2 here) are males. Thinking about that, I’m looking in recent memory where the female teams are for comics like Spider-Man and X-Men, or Green Lantern and Justice League. The only books I can really think about that have female writers happen to have female protagonists, I’m thinking about books like Harley Quinn, Birds of Prey, that kind of stuff. I could be totally wrong here, but I think female writers thrive more in the indie scene, because they’re not being “bogged down” by studios catering to rampant “male fanboyism” (I’m thinking of something like Monstress). But again, I’m not as in-the-know for creative teams as I probably should be.
And eye-opening documentary to watch is the Chris Claremont X-Men documentary. His editors on X-Men during his historic run were females. I know he creates killer characters in general, but It somewhat could hint why he created so many awesome female characters and his editors could’ve been a driving force for his writing. Check it out on Amazon Prime, really awesome doc.
MemberJuly 17, 2021 at 4:51 am
I confess that I don’t follow contemporary authors as much these days, and superhero stories not at all, as there is no comic store within 70 miles of me. That being said, I can name at least a couple good female creators off the top of my head. I feel like the question is more contemporaneous than anything; twenty some years back when Christina Z was writing Witchblade I don’t recall there being any substantial controversy relating to her gender in regards to her writing ability, stories or subject matter, any more than the stories created by the (all female) manga team Clamp. Maybe there was, but it didn’t seem to be reflected in her books sales or popularity. To be fair, if there were ever any gatekeeping, it was likely largely on the part of publishing houses prognosticating what “would” and “wouldn’t” sell. If there’s anything thing to be learned from Japanese comics, it’s at least that there’s probably a market for anything, and anyone. Unfortunately, and I think especially in the age of antisocial media, many people seem to be finding their tribes in “us vs. them” situations, which takes many forms (boys vs girls, elephants vs donkeys, Scots vs Irish, Irish vs everybody). My hope is that the worst of the bile from this is coming from the “noisy few”, and observation seems to bear this out, but I digress.
The thing to remember in relation to this primary question, I think, is that most of your easily named mainstream comics were created specifically with young boys in mind as the audience. It shouldn’t be terribly surprising that the broader market would then remain predominantly male in that landscape. Whether this has led to the infantilization of the readership (as Mr. Chaykin insists) is a separate question, but trying to take a product focused on such a narrow group and restructure that for a completely separate buying group… Well, there’s probably going to be better ways to tap that market.
ModeratorJuly 19, 2021 at 9:00 pm
Surprisingly, the majority of the authors i have on my book shelf are female. Since I mainly read urban Fantasy. Female authors seem to rule that genre. Comics I don’t really notice the authors too much because of my completionist brain set. I just keep reading and don’t really notice when the author changes.