Brian Wood addresses the problems gaining new female readers in modern mainstream superhero comics:
I think there’s a series of barriers. You can’t just write spectacular YA or female-oriented comics and stand back and watch the crowds of new readers flood in. They simply won’t flood in, because of any combination of the following: shops that won’t order the books and/or run a shop that invites this readership; lack of marketing and outreach to overcome these barriers; truly inclusive stories and art that have mass appeal and aren’t written and drawn from an overly male point of view; hostile male fanboys ready to shut newbie women down for expressing an interest; and the entrenched social stigma that comics have always carried. It’s a ridiculous situation, and even the most targeted attempts, like the DC Minx line for one example, will only work a little bit.
What’s the answer? I don’t know. “X-Men” #1 is a step in the right direction, but at the same time that book, and others like it, will be outmatched on the shelves that month by dozens of other books that take us many steps in the wrong direction. So while I don’t know what the magic bullet answer is, I think its something that can’t happen on the comic book page alone, it has to be a social change, within the publishers, within the direct market, and within the readership.
But let’s take a look at the effort Marvel’s doing in these very recent months, with this book, with “Fearless Defenders,” with “Captain Marvel,” with “Uncanny X-Force,” and so on.
The mention of the Marvel books at the end got me thinking; Marvel really has pushed for strong female leads in its titles with Marvel NOW!, going from zero female leads to Captain Marvel, Red She-Hulk and Journey Into Mystery as solo female leads as well as Fearless Defenders and X-Men as all-female teams, with Uncanny X-Force and FF as predominantly female teams. That’s a pretty impressive shift, and led me to wondering about DC’s female-led books. Unless I’m forgetting something, I don’t think there’s a predominantly female superhero team in their line-up (Ravagers, maybe?), but there are two all-women teams books (Birds of Prey and World’s Finest) and seven solo female lead titles in the New 52 line alone: Batgirl, Batwoman, Wonder Woman, Sword of Sorcery (Well, even though it’s about to be cancelled), Catwoman, Katana and Supergirl (Outside of the New 52, there’s also Ami-Comi Girls and Vertigo’s Fairest).
So, here’s a somewhat hypothetical question: If we’re waiting for a “social change, within the publishers, within the direct market, and within the readership,” as Wood says, are the Big Two publishers currently providing enough material to push the onus onto the DM and readership to start changing?