Now THIS is interesting. The other day we were talking about how the lack of strong demographic readership info is definitely felt in the comics space. It’s not a scientific survey, but Kelly Thompson at She Has No Head has started something called the Ladies Comics Project where she asks her female friends — some comics readers, some not — to pick and read a comic previously unknown to them and give their thoughts.
Here’s how it worked: I sent all the ladies images of all the comics I was planning to buy in the month of September and based solely on cover image, title/issue number, and expected release date, they had to pick which comic to review. You can go here if you’re curious to see all the books they had to choose from – which is also a bit of an intimate peek inside my average monthly pull list for any of you who have been curious.
Almost immediately some interesting things happened. For one, though the list of comics was nearly 70% superhero related…only 5 out of 18 women picked a superhero book, and of those, 3 picked something else non-superhero first, only to find it already taken and having to go with an alternate. Amazing. I knew the superhero books would not be the most coveted but those low numbers really surprised me.
The readers range in age from teens through 30s and from publishing professionals to stay-at-home moms. The responses are particularly interesting because many of them are coming in on storyilnes already in progress. Here’s one reader’s view of STUMPTOWN #3 by Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth:
I thought the characters – especially the women – were really strong, and well-drawn, and the writing overall was good. I also really liked the interior art. It was kind of sketchy and really fit the tone of the writing. It felt very masculine, in a sense, like the detective story that was being told, but featured strong female characters and I liked that combination a lot. The story was good, although, like I said earlier, coming in for the last quarter of a story is tough, especially a detective story, but on the second read I really appreciated how well the story seemed to come together.
I work for a publishing company and do a lot of reading for work, so don’t end up buying many books for pleasure, so keeping that in mind, I’m not sure I would search this out and buy it; but I admit that I did consider looking for the rest of the issues so I could read the first part of the story. But even though I’m not sure I would go out searching for this or other comics on my own, if they were recommended to me, or lent to me, I would definitely read more.
Recurring themes: an interest in a book based on the cover situation and mood, an interest in strong female characters (just what that means is a book in itself), and among the non-comics readers, difficulty in following the storytelling from time to time.
This article is something every comics creator and editorS should read — not just for new female readers but new readers in general. Every comic is someone’s first.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.