Over at She Has No Head, Kelly Thompson’s market research project The Ladies Comics Projects reaches its third and final part with another selection of women of varying ages and comics-reading backgrounds who give detailed thoughts about comics they have selected to read. Some express enthusiasm in continued comics exploration but others are just not that into it — but the percentage of each goes against the common wisdom, as Thompson sums up her findings:
But for one reason or another these comics didn’t seem to hold onto them the way they did to me. Why not? Motivation? Timing? Personal Taste? Access? It might be an unknowable question, but I think there’s a definitive answer to whether ladies in general are interested in reading comics and would with more frequency if they were more easily available to them. Of the 18* ladies that ended up participating about 33% felt compelled to seek out the story they were reading, and possibly more books beyond that. Another 38% were interested enough that if books were more accessible (i.e. loaned, recommended, available digitally or at bookstores, or even just lying around) they admitted they would probably read them – and I would add, that gives us a chance to hook them on something great. Only about 27% were unhappy enough with their books that they seemed disinclined to seek comics out more than before. And of those ladies, most admitted that it was likely the specific book they read was not a good fit, more than dislike of the medium as a whole.
One thing that struck me, regardless of the results of the actual books that were read and the reaction to them, was just the enthusiasm with which this project was met. The plain fact that over 85% of the women I asked to participate immediately (and excitedly) got on board for the project tells me that comics don’t have as bad a reputation as they once did with non-comics readers and that many women are open to them and interested. I mean, we could chalk their interest in the project up to my charm…but I’m just not that charming. And even if that was true initially (that I’m super charming), almost all the women I’ve solicited about a Phase II of the project have expressed interest. You don’t get on board for Phase II of a time consuming project if you didn’t get something out of it and maybe enjoy it the first time around.
Have we really reached the saturation point for comics readers in the US? (Knowledgeable comics folks peg the actual comics market as about 300K consumers.) Thompson’s figures suggest there is a potential to reach new readers — as long as publishers don’t do things to actively drive them away. You’ll notice that overall women wanted to read stories that featured strong women, or at least women characters. We suspect that that “strong women” as female readers often define it does NOT mean every character has to be a combination of Ripley and Lady Gaga. Rather, it means a woman as a REAL character, with motivations and an inner life, not blow-up dolls.
It would be really fantastic to conduct a Gentlemen Comics Projects, or Youngsters Comics Project as well. Market research companies charge five or six figures for this kind of thing, so people should pay attention to the results.
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.