Valerie finds a demographic survey from a publicly-traded company:
The portrait that it painted of the average mainstream comic book reader is as follows:
Male, 20-25, video-game player, disposable income, “techie,” single.
What is the breakdown of male versus female readership?
More than 90% of the readers of mainstream superhero comics are male.
See, I feel that as president of Friends of Lulu I am betraying my own gender by sharing this information. But it is better that we know and move on from there.
Although the methodology is unknown, and one would hope for some improvement, it doesn’t really come as much of a surprise: every comics reader demographic survey we’re EVER seen has 5-10% female readership. Although things have clearly changed, maybe the methodology hasn’t?
They are talking Superhero comics, not Graphic Novels, Manga and Indy that are truly driving the industry today. There are probably more Female readers of a Shonen (Action Manga) series like Claymore than there are male readers. I think overall in comics the split is 60/40 male or closer to even. The strange thing is that at Traditonal comic book conventions the make up of the attendees is mostly male, while at Anime conventions the make up is mostly female. Even at SDCC, it leans towards being a male event.
Maybe it’s the company I keep, but I really find that 10% figure hard to swallow. It’s a strange coincidence that the same (10%) figure is often bandied about with regard to the number of women gamers out there (and I don’t buy that one either.)
I agree with Tom that they’re probably taking little outside of superhero print comics into consideration. I’d love to see the surveys used; see how they’re worded and to whom they are given.
I find it hard to believe the average age, myself — that’s about what it was ten years or more ago, and I had the impression the readership was still aging.
If they are talking superhero comics, though, the gender proportion shouldn’t be a surprise — it’s like being surprised that the audience for action movies skews male, or that the audience for romance skews female.
I’m a big fan of the superhero genre and of exploring what else it can do, and there’s certainly superhero comics that are capable of attracting and holding female readers, just as there are romances that attract guys (CASABLANCA, for one).
But at heart, superhero comics are a boy-appeal genre, and if publishers want to attract female readers to comics, the answer is to publish material that target audience will be attracted to, not to assume that comics equate to superheroes, so let’s try to sell more superheroes to women.
When Harlequin decided they wanted to reach out to male readers, they didn’t do it by putting more fistfights and fart jokes into their category romance novels; they did it by starting up (or acquiring) the Gold Eagle imprint, and publishing men’s-adventure titles alongside the romances, rather than trying to do one thing for all readers.
Similarly, if Archie wants to attract more male readers, they’re not likely to do it by putting gunplay into BETTY & VERONICA.
So if the survey is talking about superhero readers, gender balance in the readership is probably not going to ever happen. They’re superhero comics; you’re about as likely to succeed at it as you are to find a way to get as many men as women watching THE VIEW.
If the survey is about “mainstream” comics, then the answer is to publish genres and content that will attract women.* As seen with the success of SANDMAN, with the manga explosion, and more. If you want gender outreach in comics, look to FLIGHT and BONE, but don’t be surprised that it’s not happening with THOR and BATMAN.
*well, part of the answer. The usual caveats about format, distribution and promotion still apply, of course.
As someone who has recently returned to comics retail, I can say the numbers in the demographics reflect who and what I actually see. While I see a number of old familiar faces, I see plenty of new customers. The majority are younger guys than I am or the older regulars. And about 8% of who I see during the day I work are women buying comics for themselves.
What would interest me is seeing the demographics of a top manga publisher.
I also agree with Mr. Busiek about encouraging the Big Two and other publishers to look into publishing more comics that might appeal to women.
I don’t think it’s impossible to get girls to read superhero comics. Girls love Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Spider-Man movies, Smallville, etc., and I think a lot of the basic themes are likely to appeal to anyone. I think it’s a matter of taking superheroes and telling those stories in a different way. It’s unlikely that you are going to get girls to read the same superhero comics that appeal to boys, but I do think that it’s possible to get girls to read some form of superhero comic book.
>> I don’t think it’s impossible to get girls to read superhero comics. >>
Nobody said it was, of course. There was a substantial female audience for Chris Claremont’s X-MEN, for instance.
But the fact that it’s not impossible does not mean it’s all you need to do.
It’s also not impossible to get men to watch THE VIEW (to pick a more extreme example), but it’s not likely the best way either to boost VIEW ratings or to appeal to large numbers of men.
And even with BUFFY out there and selling well, I still wouldn’t be remotely surprised to find that 90% of the superhero audience is male. I wouldn’t be all that surprised to find out that 90% of the audience for the Buffy comic is male, though I also wouldn’t be surprised if it was a bit lower than that. I would be surprised, on the other hand, if the comic’s demographics were anywhere near the TV show’s.
Here’s a theory that’s probably wrong, but I enjoy watching myself type:
Maybe the increase in female readers of comics has been matched by an equal increase in male readers, all of them having been drawn in by the decade’s art/indie/manga-in-the-bookstores explosion. A rising tide lifts all boats, and what-not.
In the Lexington MA public library, there are a wide variety of trade paperbacks and hardcovers. Superhero trades (ie Marvel Masterworks and DC archives) are read mostly by boys. Donald Duck, Casper, Scooby Doo and Little Lulu are read by everyone, girls and boys.
The way to grow both female and male readership is to get more all ages comics into public libraries and encourage reading at an early age. The best books to donate to the libraries are the Dark Horse Little Lulu trades, Don Rosa’s Life and Times of Uncle Scrooge, Carl Barks Greatest Duck Tales, and Marvel Masterworks Spider-Man. Those are always checked out.
“Similarly, if Archie wants to attract more male readers, they’re not likely to do it by putting gunplay into BETTY & VERONICA.”
Personally I would definitely buy a Betty & Veronica shoot-em-up. Especially if they’re shooting each other.
well i am shocked, i say SHOCKED at these numbers
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Thanks. Nice information. Your post on attracting women has been somehow accurate with what I am researching on. I also believe that in order to attract women, one needs to overcome shyness. Some guys find that this is what that hold them back. Hey, I like your content, can we exchange blogroll? I am going to make a new blog soon. Do let me know by email. =)
These figures sound about right to me, based on the figures I’ve personally seen. Women may not like that mainstream comics (and video games, for that matter) skew heavily, HEAVILY male, but they do. The sooner we learn to accept that this is the current state of things, the faster we can get to working on the question of how to bring in more women. Just saying that “I don’t accept that because I don’t like what that says” is not a sufficient answer – it’s sticking your head in the sand. No change can happen unless we accept the truth.
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