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May 11, 2012

Roundtable: Girls Just Want to Have Comics

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As more and more attention gets paid to comics, manga, and graphic novels, I was interested in seeing how the format appealed to women and girls. Manga, it has long been said, has an enormous female readership. Can traditional comics follow suit? And where does the graphic novel fit in? I wanted to know what female readers thought of the format in general and how it specifically appealed to (or drove away, possibly) girls and young women. Knowing that this was an incredibly diverse and broad series of questions, I decided I had to start somewhere...so I turned to some of the incredibly talented and passionate female comics enthusiasts I knew to start things up. I think the resulting conversations were a fascinating look at where comics are today.

First, let me introduce the ladies who took part in this roundtable discussion:

Leigh Brodsky is a teacher at Watchung Hills Regional High School in Warren, New Jersey, who often teaches comics in the classroom. She has contributed many articles to GNR.



Cathy Camper is a librarian, writer, and illustrator. She is the author of the book Bugs Before Time: Prehistoric Insects and Their Relatives. Her website is cathycamper.com.



Gina Gagliano is a marketing associate for graphic novel publisher First Second Books.



Jennifer Hayden is a writer and artist and the creator of Underwire. (Photo by Seth Kushner.)



Diana Maliszewski is a Canadian teacher-librarian and comics enthusiast. Her teenage daughter Mary answered some of our questions as well.



Doré Ripley is a college professor who uses comics in her English classes; she is also a writer whose website is at ripleyonline.com.



 
 

When did you first start reading comics and graphic novels?

Doré: I can't remember when I started reading comics, but as a young girl I can remember spending summers frying on the Russian River while reading comics like Casper the Friendly Ghost, Fantastic Four, and any Classics Illustrated I could get my hands on. I also have fond memories of hiding out in the alley behind the local drug store waiting for the owner to throw away perfectly good comics with their covers torn off.
 
Leigh: While I was always a fan of science fiction, fantasy, and superheroes, I didn’t actually start reading comics until I was in high school. I was a huge fan of the ’90s animated series X-Men, Batman, Superman and I probably would have read them earlier, but they just were not easily available where I grew up. It wasn’t until I was in high school and spending more time at the mall (and the comic book shop in the mall) that I was able to pick up comics for myself. My high school boyfriend (now husband) was also instrumental in my comic book education. As a fan and collector, he introduced me to a variety of titles and characters that he thought I would be interested in, and as our relationship grew, comics and graphic novels became a shared interest for us. Comic book stores can be a little intimidating, especially if you are the only girl in the store (not that I was ever bothered by that). Still, it was nice to have someone with me as I entered into this world.
 
Jennifer: I don't remember how old I was when I started reading comics—but I was probably nine or ten. We didn't have a TV in our summer place, so comix were the only way we could rot our minds. My little brother and I used to ride our bikes into town and buy all the new Archies at the general store, and Mad magazine, and try to get home before reading them from cover to cover. When I was a preteen, my friend turned me on to romance comix, and we'd ride all the way out to Larry's PX and buy as many of those as we could. I was always reading Peanuts, which was lying around the house, and recently I remembered I used to love reading "Little Annie Fannie" in Playboy, which my father always left on the coffee table. My older brother brought home Doonesbury and Asterix and Obelix, which was my favorite. I loved both of these because they were long-format, so I could really sit with them. I thought Asterix and Obelix was by far the best, though.
 
Diana: I was actually a late convert to comics. I’d read the occasional Betty and Veronica comic I’d find lying around a house or dentist office, but it wasn’t until I took a course called “Comics and Graphic Novels in School and Public Libraries” as part of my M.Ed. program at the University of Alberta that I began my genuine love affair with the panels and gutters.
 
Mary: I began reading graphic novels at a young age. I forget exactly when, but I was around seven years old.
 
Gina: I first started reading graphic novels when I was in college. The college I went to–Reed College, who I can be forever indebted to for starting me on the path to my current career–had a very academic library; there wasn’t a whole lot to read for fun. This was disastrous news for me, as I had previously been in the habit of reading multiple books a week–possibly even multiple books a day. But to my delight, I soon discovered the college had a comics-only library. And then I spent the next four years reading everything in it.
 
Cathy: I started reading comics as a kid. I read Mad magazine voraciously, and also a weird mix of traded kids’ comics, like Archie, and books of older comics my parents had, including Krazy Kat and Saul Stein. As I got older I read underground comics, mainstream comics, alternative comics…I liked a big variety.
 

Who is your favorite female character
in comics and why?

Cathy: Of all time? It would be Krazy Kat. Krazy Kat was fine art. I also loved Hopey in Love and Rockets.
 
Gina: John Allison’s crime-solving girls in Bad Machinery are absolutely awesome. They’re funny and smart and occasionally solve crimes whilst being sarcastic! If you haven’t been reading that series, you absolutely should go check it out.
 
Diana: I absolutely adore Courtney Crumrin. She’s smart, moody, tart-tongued, multidimensional…and she can do magic!
 
Mary: My favorite character would be hard to choose, but at the moment it’s Ichigo Momomiya of the Tokyo Mew Mew series. She’s very cute and charming, though a bit naïve. Plus, she’s a cat girl, which makes her extra cool.
 
Doré: My favorite character is Frank Miller's Martha Washington. She is every(wo)man; a heroine who is strong, intelligent, caring, patriotic, and loyal. Despite her lack of superpowers, she works her way up from the Cabrini Green projects to a top position as a military officer. Martha has her flaws and battles depression and even psychosis, but she overcomes them all to save the world.
 
Jennifer: My favorite female character in comix is Julie Doucet, starring as herself, in her own autobiographical comix. Because she is funny, honest, rude, disgusting, smart, courageous, and completely independent. And French (Canadian). She also has great boots.
 
Leigh: My favorite female character is Jean Grey/Phoenix. Since I was in high school when I began my comic book education, Uncanny X-Men resonated strongly with me and I have always had an affinity for women who were the first in something. While Jean Grey was not the first female superhero, she was one of the first X-Men and possessed a strength and power that was separate from her role as a woman. Her initial costume as Marvel Girl was fairly modest for female characters at the time, and she even tried to have an education and a life outside of her role in the X-Men. As the embodiment of the Phoenix Force, she transcends gender roles as one of the most powerful characters in all of comics.
 

Overall, do you see the comics format as still primarily a male-dominated art form?

Mary: Not really. Most comics and mangas I read are written by women, but that might just be due to the genres I read. For example, one of my favorite graphic novels, Magic Knight Rayearth, is written and illustrated by an all female group, called CLAMP. In addition, I write lots of short comic strips myself, so I tend to think that girls do an equal amount of graphic novel writing.
 
Diana: I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I don’t pay as much attention as I should to the gender of the creators. Maybe it’s because some of my favorite comics are made by women—Raina Telgemeier, Colleen A.F. Venable, and Katie Cook—and maybe because I see both my son and daughter actively involved in writing and drawing their own comics. I don’t notice the gender imbalance, if there is one.
 
Doré: Comics. Male dominated industry? Yawn…yes, but I don't necessarily think that is a bad thing. I don't want to say artists and houses like DC or Marvel haven't made strides to attract female audiences, because they have. I also think female tastes have changed and women and girls are apt to pick up superheroes, cowl and dagger, sword and sorcery, vampire love stories, comics and manga. Women like solid story lines, such as those found in Alan Moore's Promethea, or Neil Gaiman's Sandman.
 
Gina: There are so many angles to consider this question from! Working at First Second puts me in a comics-publishing position where women outnumber men three to one; our company consists of our senior editor Calista Brill, our designer Colleen AF Venable, me, and our sorely outnumbered editorial director, Mark Siegel. Even our parent company, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, has a female staff that vastly outnumbers the guys. And First Second publishes books with a whole lot of female creators—Jessica Abel, Vera Brosgol, Faith Erin Hicks, Danica Novgorodoff, MK Reed, Sara Varon, Jane Yolen, and Jen Wang, just to name a few.
 
Because First Second publishes graphic novels with a lot of general consumer appeal, I spend a lot of my time working with people who are generally considered part of the book industry rather than the comics industry. But the librarian buying comics for her collection, the bookseller coordinating events, the teacher using comics in her classroom, the journalist writing about comics for her magazine—these people all have a foot in the comics industry, and a whole lot of them tend to be women. It’s interesting to go from that environment to something like the ComicsPro conference, which I attended this February. There were, I think, five women at the whole thing—retailers, publisher reps, distributors all-inclusive. Of course, one of them (the most excellent Amanda Emmert) was organizing the entire conference, but it really makes you aware that from different angles, the demographics on the industry change completely.
 
Jennifer: Right here is where I'll give fair warning that I'm a newbie to the comix business. I've been working in the medium since 2005, and making friends in the field since 2007, and I only know about so-called "independent" or "alternative" comix, which I make. I know nothing about the mainstream superhero business. So I can only talk about my experience with the indie art form for the past five years. I understand from people who have been in it longer that there has already been a big shift in that time, more women creators, more women going to conventions.
 
It's funny, but I don't see indie comix as being male-dominated. If there is a spectrum of traditionally feminine to masculine attributes, and individual men and women fit at different points all along this spectrum, then I would say that indie comix are on the more "feminine" side of comix—which is why I consider Jeffrey Brown an honorary woman. He's so humble and gentle and funny about baring himself on issues of the heart. He's a big reason I went into comix. There are still probably more men making indie comix, but the women who are doing it are so talented and prominent, and have made such masterpieces, that men and women alike regard them as a vital part of the comix landscape. Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, Lynda Barry's 100 Demons, Doucet's Dirty Plotte and 356 Days, and then the ongoing work that Gabrielle Bell and Vanessa Davis and Julia Wertz are doing—this to me represents total female ownership of comix.
 
Leigh: At the last New York Comic Con, I spent a lot of time thinking about this topic. The history of comics is male-dominated for sure, which makes some sense given that men were writing and reading the books from the beginning. I am seeing more of a turning of the tide, especially now that comics are not just dominated by the big two, but more can be done. The larger companies can afford to have more female writers and artists on staff, and I love the direction these women are taking the characters they are working on (Gail Simone’s Batgirl is a great read so far), but at NYCC last year I felt that the conversation was “Wait, women like comics?” It was as if all of a sudden the industry realized that women make up a large percent of their readership. While it was wonderful to finally see women truly represented at the event, we still felt like the new kids there. As I waited in lines full of women for female-centered panels, the conversation always seemed to come back to this issue, and the fact that this question still needs to be asked says a lot about how far we need to go.
 
Cathy: Yes, [it’s still a male-dominated art form,] but I also see that changing, with more women graduating with art degrees in cartooning, graphic novelling, whatever it’s called. I think the industry is still primarily male (and white…that’s another problem), but I see more evidence of change than I have before. Mainly women getting high-profile gigs doing graphic novels. I’m not sure they’re making lots of money doing it, but they have a lot more visibility (example: Hope Larson doing A Wrinkle in Time).
 

Do you see girls reading comics more now than you have in the past? Or less?

Leigh: Definitely more girls are reading comics now than in the past. Every year the female population of my graphic novel (and science fiction) class increases. Most girls seem to have their introduction through manga, but the interest is there. I also wonder if I am seeing an increased enrollment because my class is taught by me, an adult woman who loves comics and graphic novels. Perhaps because they see an ally in me, they feel more comfortable exploring the medium.
 
Gina: I think that everyone is reading comics more now than in the past. With teachers, librarians, and traditional bookstores getting on board with graphic novels, it’s really opening the medium up to new readers—girls, but also kids, teenagers, and even whole cities who’ve read graphic novels like Persepolisin their All City Reads projects!
 
Jennifer: I really don't know much about this, since I don't do work for younger readers. My daughter is 16 and doesn't read comics. Several years ago, when I was still doing commercial illustration, I developed some ideas for young-adult publishers, short graphic novels about glamorous girls. Nothing sold, but I was heartened that there seemed to be a market for solid stories with girl heroes. Recently, Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol and Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge are stunning examples.
 
Cathy: It’s very evident in libraries, schools, comics conventions, and comics events—girls love them. Manga led the way as it offered lots of girl-friendly stories, but also kids now see comics as movies and on the Internet. I also think illustrated stories help ESL kids jump into new languages, so I see lots of immigrant kids reading manga, comics, and graphic novels.
 
Doré: These days, I see more girls reading comics. I also find more and more fangirls in my classes showing up in DC/Marvel Universe T-shirts over their jeans. I often assign comics and during the first class, the guys are busy thumbing through the pages, while the gals are rolling their eyes. By the end of the semester, many women have changed their minds. I think there is still the assumption that comics are for kids (and guys).
 
Diana: It depends on the girls (and the comics). For example, last year, my school’s Graphic Novel Club consisted entirely of girls. This year, three boys have joined. I know that both boys and girls are avid comic readers; it’s just that fewer boys tend to join the club, and I’m not certain why.
 
Mary: I see a lot more girls reading now, but that might be because of the types of girls I’m friends with. Most of the girls in my Gifted Center love reading Archie Comics.
 

Which do you see young women reading more: traditional comics, graphic novels, or manga?
Or all three?

Diana: All three. Once again, it depends on the girls. I will be speaking at the Toronto Comics Arts Festival in a few weeks and as part of my panel discussion preparation, I surveyed my graphic novel club on their top three series. Titles that reappeared constantly in their lists were Maximum Ride, Full Metal Alchemist, Yotsuba, Inuyasha, and Majoko. I guess upon reflection that there are a lot of manga titles there, but this may be a reflection of my school culture—I have a high Asian population. Past clubs have actually expressed disdain for non-manga titles, but that bias is disappearing among my current students.
 
Mary: I mostly see people reading traditional comics and graphic novels, in my social circles. As I said before, there are lots of Archie lovers in my Gifted Class. Even at my school, I see a number of girls reading graphic novels like Amulet.
 
Doré: I see girls reading lots of manga. One of my favorites is Me and Devil Blues: The Unreal Life of Robert Johnson by Akira Hiramoto. Graphic novels are also popular, like The League or Watchmen, and I also see traditional comics peeking out of a few pink backpacks.
 
Jennifer: My daughter says that some of her friends read manga.
 
Gina: I can really only speak for my corner of the industry, and that’s graphic novels—but we get a whole lot of female readers.
 
Cathy: Graphic novels and manga are what seem to attract females most. I think books like Smile and Anya’s Ghost are fantastic and have attracted tons of girls as readers.
 
Leigh: Most of the girls I know are reading manga or graphic novels before they get to comics (I verified this with my graphic novel students as well). Again, they get involved in the medium that they are comfortable in before branching out. Also, manga and graphic novels are more easily accessible through bookstores and through online resources. While comics are available online, comic book stores tend to have a “members only” feel to them and can be overwhelming to new readers.
 

In regards to how women are represented in comics: As they’re often overly voluptuous, male-fantasy figures, does that turn a lot of girls away?

Gina: There’s really no simple answer to this question, and probably an academic study of some sort is required to really give any sort of definitive response. I personally enjoy superhero comics a whole lot, but not everyone feels similarly.
 
Leigh: I feel very mixed on this topic because I have to answer as both a feminist and as a comic book fan. As a feminist, I recognize the portrayal of women in most comics as visual eye candy, and that is something that does bother me. I have a hard time taking some books seriously because of how the female characters are portrayed, and walking down Artist Alley at Comic Con can be more of an exercise in averting ones eyes than actually enjoying independent art. Also, while I don’t have any children yet, should I ever have a daughter, I would have a hard time justifying a lot of these images to her. The idea that you have to be impossibly proportioned and scantily clad in order to be considered powerful is one of the most damaging lessons girls can learn from comics. And at an event like Comic Con, where the images are everywhere (along with the “booth babes”), those lessons are hard to ignore. So from that end, I do think the image of women turns a lot of potential readers off from traditional comics. I also think that it is because of this reason that more female readers read manga and graphic novels, where women are portrayed in a much more realistic manner.
 
Now, as a comic book fan, there is a lot that I overlook or knowingly ignore as well. As an adult reader, I have the luxury of not buying into the fantasy image that is portrayed in comics because I know it’s not real and I can focus more on the story. I also have seen some amount of change happen in the industry. The attempt at changing costumes shows that there is an awareness of this issue. I also think that the issue of fantasy figures goes both ways. The way male characters are portrayed is just as much of a fantasy (either what men want to look like, or what women want them to look like). I think overall women (and men) want strong stories and characters that they can relate to, and they want to feel represented.
 
Doré: There seems to be a thin line between busty babes in comics with storylines directed at guys and strong "kick-ass" females who can be role models for young women. I'd say women shy away from the male-fantasy-figure types, but I think that may also be a function of the story playing out in that type of book.
 
Jennifer: To me, it's an instant visual signal that says: Hey, in this comic, the men are characters, but the women are cardboard. So I assume a lot of girls' eyes just glaze over and they move on to something more interesting. I liked Betty and Veronica, but they weren't hot, really; they were just well-turned-out. Sure, they had ’50s boobs and impossible waists and permanent false eyelashes, but even in a bikini they weren't drowning in their own well-greased chest orbs. They were people. I want to read a story about people. I think girls are the same way.
 
Cathy: It isn’t just the representation…I mean, we’re not against women being sexy in comics! It’s the whole picture; they’re drawn to fit a male fantasy, the characters are often written the same way (and even adventurers like Lara Croft are really still male fantasies), and the stories are often plot oriented, lacking in character development. Plus, there’s the larger picture of comic-book guys…
 
Diana: We used to have the “breast talk” a lot at our Tinlids-GTA Graphic Novel Club meetings. (This was a club for educators who were interested in comics, run by Maria Martella; we’d read graphic novels and discuss them both as “readers” and as “teachers”.) One of my colleagues was very concerned whenever a voluptuous character appeared in a comic (like Beet the Vandal Buster) and I used to joke that “they can’t all be flat-chested!” I found that we teachers were a lot more sensitive about the subject than the students were.
 

Are girls drawn to the major female superheroes, like Wonder Woman and Supergirl and Storm, or do they want something besides superheroes primarily?

Cathy: It’s hard for me to judge, because I get bored quickly with the formulaic nature of mainstream comics. It’s like, how many times can you keep telling Batman’s or Superman’s story? I’m more attracted by creative indie stuff.
 
Jennifer: I know that some of the women I have met in comix did read superhero comix when they were girls and still do, but I imagine that the majority of girls would be interested in reading stories that work out their real problems in real ways. Judy Blume is a bestseller for this reason—she's a nuts-and-bolts writer about really embarrassing, difficult stuff girls have to figure out early on. As a big girl, I know I prefer the stories that are about real women—and men—living real, complicated lives, and how they deal with them. That's what I want in my fiction, and it's what I want in my comix. I've raised a girl and a boy, and my son constantly worried about being dominated by "the big boys" and coming up with ways of protecting himself. Here I see a market for Superman, Spiderman, The Hulk. My daughter, on the other hand, never worried about that. She never felt threatened by anyone, it seemed to me. Her games involved getting on with life—holding a job, having a kid, being in charge. So the superhero genre would be lost on her.
 
Doré: Girls want strong, realistic females who can take care of themselves. On the other hand, I do see lots of manga characters—adolescent girls who wander through Tokyo in Catholic school uniforms.
 
Gina: Everyone’s tastes in literary entertainment are different—so just as with boys, you get girls who want adventure-fantasy books and girls who want existential literary meditations. The good news is, with the current state of the graphic novel market, there’s something for most readers—from ballet stories to nonfiction to heroic fantasy.
 
Diana: In my experience, they want a good story, first and foremost. Some protagonists may be hero-like (such as Angel in Maximum Ride) but they aren’t necessarily seeking a superhero story per se.
 
Mary: In my opinion, I like engaging characters, especially females. But most girls like the main characters and nothing more. But then again, it depends on the girl.
 
Leigh: I think what draws girls in is solid storytelling and characters that they can identify with. If girls feel that they can see themselves in a text, then they will become invested in that text regardless of whether or not the main character is a superhero. I know that personally I am drawn to female superheroes because I like the idea of women playing a major role in a male-dominated culture, but that is also how I identify with the text. A lot of female students I know seem more interested in something other than superheroes, but they still gravitate toward female characters who are strong and hold their own.
 

What are the books or series that you see resonating most with girls?

Jennifer: I defer to the librarians and booksellers on this one.
 
Leigh: This is hard to answer because the books my kids read are all over the map.
 
Gina: A good story is a good story—if a graphic novel has good writing, an engaging plot and characters, and dynamic, attractive art, it’s going to attract both a male and female readership. And sure, with the cultural dynamics in the U.S. today, a book like The Color of Earth (a manhwa about a girl coming of age and exploring sexuality) is going to get a higher percentage of female readership than male, while something like Orcs: Forged for War (lots of orcs; they kill each other and then kill some other stuff too) is probably going to skew the other way. But that’s not to say that both books don’t have a substantial readership in the opposite gender as well; what resonates to a person about a story really ends up coming down to individual preference.
 
Doré: Older teens appreciate story-driven books like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or 1602. I think young women appreciate characters they can relate to, characters that remind them of real people with real emotions. Great art and strong colors are also important.
 
Cathy: Of recent comics, I liked Anya’s Ghost, because it dared to be quirky but was also a good scary ghost story that girls love. Allison Bechdel’s Fun Home was amazing, and set the bar very high for what a graphic novel can do. And I think women always loved the women of Love and Rockets, who are often very sexy, and even drawn by men, but have a human tale that makes them feel like one of us, instead of something we’re supposed to be.
 
Diana: I’ve mentioned quite a few that my school’s Comic Club enjoy. (The students in my Comic Club are in grades 6–8.) The younger students are fans of Fashion Kitty, Babymouse, Bone, Owly, Binky, Totally Spies, W.I.T.C.H., and Lunch Lady. The middle-grade girls enjoy Choco Mimi, Yotsuba, Peach Fuzz, Majoko, Kamichama Karin…these are all general observations. Both boys and girls like series—they appreciate the familiarity and comfort of reading/seeing favorite characters and scenarios.
 
Mary: Most girls I know, as I said before, enjoy comics about high school and teenage life. I think this is because most girls have a heavy desire to grow up.
 

Do you think the industry is doing enough to retain female readers when they reach adulthood? How so? Or how is it not?

Doré: I think the industry is creating books I enjoy, but they could always make more….
 
Cathy: Well I have to say no, just in the way that manga publishing in the U.S. was really cut back, though I guess a lot of readers migrated to the web when that happened. Just look at what has a presence at San Diego Comic Con if you want to know where the money is directed. I’m a lot less interested in what “the industry” is doing, and a lot more interested in what individual artists are doing. Kickstarter and indiegogo projects are better indicators of where comics are busting out at the seams…sort of like lava boiling out of the cracks between the tectonic plates and forming new land.
 
Off the top of my head, some women artists I love and haven’t mentioned include Hellen Jo, Angie Wang, Becky Cloonan, Julie Gfrorer, Joey Alison Sayers, Heather McAdams, Krystine Kryttre, Mary Fleener, Dale Messick, Trina Robbins for both her comics and her support of women in comics, Lynda Barry, Lauren R. Weinstein, Annie Murphy, Vanessa Davis, Dunja Jankovic, Carrie McNinch, G.B. Jones, Joan Hilty, and of course my sister, Jennifer Camper. In the larger picture, I’d like to see comics represent more people of color, for kids and adults. I think that would really help keep people reading; we all look for “people like us” when we read stories.
 
Jennifer: What I see now is the indie publishers increasing their focus on female readers. I think the indie publishers are realizing they need to recruit more female talent to make the comix their adult female readers want to see—and they are doing it. Mainstream comics will probably never risk losing their male readership by catering to a female readership. To me, it's just vital to encourage more women to participate, to tap a whole new bunch of readers and a whole new bunch of voices. And really, it's all about good comix. We all want more good stuff to read, and we don't care who wrote it. I have been blown away by the support of male comix artists for my work, and I think we all strive to hit something universal, that's not just for men or women, but for everyone. I don't like the idea of women being stuck behind a "women's comix" or "women's fiction" label. Let's make it for all of us.
 
Diana: I’m a bit odd—one of my favorite titles as an adult is Ranma ½, which is an incredibly sexist, goofy comedy. I also love Death Note. I think I’d have to fall back on a comment I heard J.K. Rowling utter when I had the good luck to see her at her last Toronto appearance—to paraphrase, she says she doesn’t try to write for a specific audience like “girls” or “boys” or “reluctant readers”; she just tries to write good stories and the quality of the story, rather than audience targeting, will draw people to books.
 
Gina: One of the things that I think this industry really has a dearth of is graphic novels for adult mainstream readers—the women who are part of Oprah’s Book Club and reading popular literary fiction. I think we should publish more of those books—but that takes comics creators who want to write them first!
 
Leigh: I think parts of the industry are working to retain female fans, but more than that, I think the female fans are doing more to retain female fans. The comic industry seems more focused on introducing kids to their titles and keeping the fan boys happy rather than trying to retain the fan girls. As I said before, last year at NYCC, it seemed for the first time that the industry was finally aware that women were present as fans and the convention seemed truly excited by our presence. Most of the panels I attended were about women in comics and where the industry needs to go in order for women to be a larger presence in this world. Marvel especially needs to really make more strides in endearing itself to its adult female readership. In the past, I attended several panels (when Joe Quesada was in charge) where the overall attitude was that female characters and female readers just did not matter to the company. Even as a diehard X-Men fan, I was totally put off by that mentality and found myself gravitating more toward DC and Vertigo, where the female voice was much stronger.
 
It also seems that the independent publishers and the blog community have helped to encourage adult fan girls to stand together. Websites such as Geek Girls Network and All Things Fangirl, as well as the book Geek Girls Unite and the Womanthology project show that there is a sisterhood among the women of various fandoms and that we need to support each other. Also, Ashley Eckstein’s Her Universe clothing line has made huge strides in marketing science fiction clothing specifically for women. To know that there are so many women around the world who are fans of comics and science fiction allows our voice to be stronger and soon the industry will hear us. It’s just going to take a little more time.