Yesterday’s comments by Tom Brevoort on the lack of sales support for female characters at Marvel did not go unnoticed by the usual gender issue commentators.
Sue at DC Women Kicking Ass suggests that blaming the readers may not be the way to go given a lack of marketing support:
Did we give these books the level of promotion that we do for the bazzillion ‘WOLVERINEDEADPOOL!” titles.
Do we maybe ask our overlords at Disney for some advice, “Hey, you guys seem to know how to market female-led IP, um, help?”
Right now Marvel is profitable; they have the money to grow the business. And as I said about DC earlier this year, I believe Marvel is leaving money on the table with female readers.
I am aware that Marvel’s purse strings are apparently tied up in in the hands of dude who makes the Simpson’s Mr. Burns look like a soft touch.
Susana Polo at The Mary Sue also suggests that not trying to reach a new audience may not be ultimately advantageous:
That’s right, ladies. All we have to do to get a retailer to see us as a part of their audience is to spend money on them. But the money comes first, and in comparable quantities to the rest of the entrenched demographic that they are already focusing on to the exclusion of others, or no dice. This is absolutely how a shrinking industry should feel about attracting a new and potentially eager audience. It is absolutely not the opposite of the way this transaction is supposed to go. Companies in the business of giving product in trade for money always play hard to get with untapped demographics. That’s how you know the demographic wants you.
The comments thread after this one is particularly lively if you like that kind of thing.
Also linked to at the Mary Sue: this two-part Escapist look at the strange history of Ms. Marvel
I watched these videos all the way through because they clicked something in my subconscious brain. Short version: In Avengers #200, Ms. Marvel, who was (as the above covers indicates) was created as a direct attempt to play off the then current surging waters of feminism, is abducted to hell, given mind altering drugs, has sex while in this date rape state, and eventually gives birth to the guy who raped her, all while the rest of the Avengers look on and think it’s awesome. At the end of the story she even goes off with the guy who arranged the kidnapping, rape, and mind control pregnancy. And no one stops her.
Although the Escapist doesn’t mention it, the story in question was written by Jim Shooter, George Perez, Bob Layton, and David Michelinie. It squicked out enough people to give rise to this bit of historic comics criticism from the ’70s by Carol Strickland..
It also squicked out Chris Claremont, who
created the Ms. Marvel character wrote several issues of the Ms Marvel comic. (Gerry Conway created the character.)Say what else you will about Chris Claremont, but he sure created a lot of great female characters (and male ones, too.) Claremont eventually wrote an Avengers annual where a depowered Carol Danvers (she lost her powers to Rogue, remember) busts on the Avengers for failing to look out for her.
And now the memory dump: I do remember reading both these stories as a kid. And I remember being really, really disappointed that Ms. Marvel, who was a total kick ass hero, had to get all loved up AND later lose her powers. I was pretty young but I remember a real feeling of disenchantment and never really liking the Ms. Marvel character again. (It was Claremont who depowered her, BTW.) Even though she came back as Binary it wasn’t the same. Spider-Man and Thor and the Hulk and all the guys got to stay themselves…why did Ms. Marvel have to get de-powered?
I’ve written about this many times before, but as a kid, picking up an issue of JSA with a hugely boobtastic Power Girl was enough to totally turn me off DC for the next 10 years.
So, just FYI, Marvel and DC, young girls do pick up on your subliminal messages. And when we don’t like them…we walk away.
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.