Earlier this week, The Beat’s Heidi Macdonald wrote a smart piece entitled “Why DC and Marvel will never truly target female readers.” If you haven’t read it yet, you should; she writes that “By addressing female readers (and also younger readers), DC risks alienating its core audience of teenaged boys and men 25-35,” going on to suggest that Marvel doesn’t have the same concerns (I’m unsure about that part, personally, considering that Marvel has fewer female-led solo titles than DC, but I get the “The X-Men readership has traditionally had a large female percentage” point she makes in defense of the idea). “The truth is,” she concludes, “as much as some individuals within each system would wish to deviate, the mandate to both Marvel and DC from their corporate owners is to be for boys. Period.”
If that were true we wouldn’t have seen DC blink after the efforts of Kyrax last year. We wouldn’t have seen DC and Marvel continue to put out books that feature female characters drawn so don’t have their tits and asses as the main focus (God bless you J.H. Williams III and Cliff Chiang). That those books sell well, kinda hits at some of the assertion of the Beat as well.It also means you wouldn’t have DC bringing a new writer on Catwoman who said publicly its because the company wants a “female perspective.” And as far as DC Entertainment goes you wouldn’t have DC Nation featuring content with real, gosh doggone GIRLS like Super Best Friends Forever, Amethyst and the Black Lighting sisters. I’m sure you could try and make a case that this is simply an attempt at a Brony play where female friendly content creates a male fanbase rather than emanating cooties, but really I think that’s unlikely. Now none of those are particularly change agents. I’d say more they are cracks in the ice. Signs of a thaw. Signs that yes we do recognize that people who don’t identify as male are an audience and here’s content for them.
It strikes me that the upcoming Amethyst revival – written by a woman and, seemingly from the promo material at least, divorced from the sturm-und-drang of the regular DCU – may tie into this thinking a little, as well.
Me, I’m unconvinced that either DC or Marvel really have a mandate to be “for boys”; I know that Disney’s purchase of Marvel was in part related to the company’s desire to build up its male audience, so there’s at least some truth there, but I don’t think that either Warners or Disney would be anything other than overjoyed at the prospect of building a female audience. I suspect the truth is that both publishers have a mandate to be successful, and that the various Powers That Be in both cases don’t necessarily know how to do that in any way other than the familiar, male-centric methods.
That said, I can kind of agree with Heidi on this:
Thus, I would much rather spend my energy enjoying the work of the hundreds of successful female creators outside the Big Two than hope that corporate culture will change very much on this point.
I certainly hope that corporate cultures can (and will) change, but really? Many of my favorite creators these days are female, and working outside of either DC and Marvel (and superheroes altogether). Yes, it may be a seeming constant struggle for women to break into the Big Two’s ranks, but the culture is already changing for the better outside of those publishers and will hopefully continue to do so, because, hello, progress. If Red Hood and the Outlaws (as a random example) is getting you down, why not read Octopus Pie or Family Man instead?
(To those snarkily saying “But those aren’t superhero comics, it’s not the same thing!” Well, fine; try The Adventures of Superhero Girl instead, then.)