My last post concerning the Facebook demographics of those who “like” comic terms caused a bit of a stir. The comments section was filled with lots of back and worth, and lots of misunderstanding what the point of it all was. But, in those comments, one bit inspired me to dig a bit into specific titles.

>>>Would be awfully nice if those 12 million female comic fans would buy a book once or twice too.

Oh you mean like this? The chart that shows Fun Home, Persepolis and Hyperbole and a Half consistently selling graphic novels? And books like Smile and Dork Diaries best sellers in the kids arena?

But that got me wondering, how does gender break down for some of the more popular “indie” graphic novels versus mainstream graphic novels vs the average? And it’s clear, there’s a difference. Taking 17 various graphic novels (and if folks add suggestions in comments, I’ll be happy to add upon this) I looked at men and women who were fans in the United States. I tried to stick to actual graphic novels, or books that have been long out of print and thus a complete graphic novel is how it’s now consumed.

The generic terms “graphic novel(s)” was dominated by men as far as likes. They made up a massive 72.73%. But, when you looked at individual books, there was a clear difference.

Out of the 17 graphic novels, men were the majority in a landslide (over 15 percentage points more) for 5, all published by DC Comics. 3 books men were the majority, by the difference was less than 15 percentage points (about 5), all are from smaller publishers. For 1 graphic novel, the percentage of women and men is almost even. Women are the majority, but less than 15 percentage points, for 1 book. And women are the majority in a landslide for 3 graphic novels. For 4 books, the amount of fans was too small to break out individually, though they contributed to the overall total.

When you mix the generic graphic novel terms with the books themselves, the percentage of men and women breaks down to 62.07% male versus 37.93% female.

Gender is near even, or women are the majority for the graphic novels published by indie or small press publishers. DC Comics’ contributions to the list it turns out are “liked” overwhelmingly by men. One has to wonder if DC or Marvel were to publish graphic novels like Fun Home or Persepolis, how that might shake out demographic wise. In other words, how much does who the publisher is weigh in on who may like the material versus the material itself driving the likes. It also makes you wonder how having data like this would help publishers, especially small ones, spend their marketing dollars better, focusing on more targeted audiences. As well, this again shows, comics and graphic novels aren’t the domain of just men anymore.

Below is the full breakdown of the graphic novels looked at (and again, post your suggestions of what else to look at in the comments). For those with fewer than 1000 likes returned, gender was not able to be assessed. The negative amounts are due to Facebook not always returning results to the single digit, which forces some rounding of results.

graphic novels gender

And is anyone surprised the classic A Contract With God  has so few likes? Talk about tragedy!


  1. In this whole gender debate, my hair pulling moment is when women are insisting that Marvel and DC start catering to them more when as this chart shows…WOMEN ARE NOT THAT INTERESTED IN SUPERHEROES!!! My ex had comics, she just bought what was suggested to her(like i suggested to her Asterios Polyp, she already had Watchmen and Blankets when i met her.) and her collection expanded per the suggestions, she was a very casual reader. My mother never touched a wonder woman comic since she was a girl and whenever i did bring up wonder woman, she has a nostalgia trip, deflects some imaginary bullets with her wrists and then watches the real housewives. my point is, the majority of women see mainstream comics solely as a niche/novelty to indulge in for a moment and that’s it. women in the fandom, just like the men are an outlier. instead of mainstream comics, what would really be a boost to the readership would be a hunger games graphic novel or a story of that ilk. if big name YA writers started writing more for comics, that would have an impact.

  2. I love it when people go to comment sections to say the very thing that the article has already (at least in part) disproved. Killing Joke wouldn’t have so many “lady likes” if WOMEN ARE NOT THAT INTERESTED IN SUPERHEROES!!! as Serhend posits. That’s a pretty specific comic that casual readers aren’t going to automatically flock to in such numbers.

    Also, it is possible that women aren’t all like the few you have in your life, anecdotal evidence notwithstanding. I’m certain they’re not all like the ones I have in mine!

  3. But the percentages show that even for the killing joke it’s not that interesting compared to fun home or blankets. maybe women(i’m talking about women who don’t read comics avidly or even casually, but occasionally. like their book shelf has one-three graphic novels. one of which is most likely Persepolis) want to read other comics but their choices are far and few between. The 60%-80% in favor of ladies on this list is what they really care about in terms of story-telling, more comic like that is what they want.
    Like I said before that’s because those like are just riding the coat-tails of the fandom and The Killing Joke has become a mainstream staple everyone buys(the book you must buy to be a “true fan”). If you ask any person to name a comic book, those listed comics will pop in peoples heads readily. Most women would rather read(based on this data) Allison Bechtel, Kate Beaton, or Hyperbole and a Half over a DC/Marvel rag.

  4. While I don’t particularly care one way or another but a greater number of women would like superheroes if they we written and drawn in a way that appeals to both genders instead of mainly 1. And if those books were marketed to women outside of the usual comic book marketing channels.

    EG Josh Whedon Buffy-verse, Claremont X-Men, etc..

  5. I really am convinced that Marvel and DC don;t care about women readers and will take what they can get with the least amount of effort. Ms.Marvel is another one of their “See! were trying!” and they’re going to let it die slowly. the last series i read avidly(ever) from Marvel that was across the board in “representation and equality”(i value creative freedom over social peace of mind…even if i don’t like the outcomes of said freedom) was the Runaways. everything people clamor about was in that series and i think that was the last time for marvel at least that they tried such a series and i guess they gave up. good comics for everyone are everywhere, you just need to look for them now. i’m hoping Top Shelf and co. have a smash hit/killer app that tilts the readership in favor of “indie” comics.

  6. I have an hypothesis about why these numbers look like this and I’d be interested to see if you can dig up data to support or refute it. I would guess that women are enjoying a broader selection of comics then men because women are purchasing their comics at trade bookstores with a broader selection of nontraditional Indy books then the comic book stores where men usually get their stuff. Perhaps you should look at a correlation between gender identity and liking comics AND a large chain bookstore like Barnes and Noble or a digital service like comixology.

  7. Serhend Sirkecioglu says: “But the percentages show that even for the killing joke it’s not that interesting compared to fun home or blankets.”

    I’m no defender of how DC and Marvel serve their female readers. But look at the number of readers. 1,460,000 women Liked Killing Joke. 8,000 women Liked Fun Home.

    Claiming women don’t like The Killing Joke is like claiming that men in 1964 didn’t listen to the Beatles. It may have been a 60% female audience, but that 40% remainder was still the MAIN thing the men were listening to. Killing Joke has SIXTY (60x) the female readers as the next title on the list, Hyperbole And A Half. Pairing up Alan Moore and Brian Bolland on Batman is the equivalent of the Beatles for a comic book.

  8. @jwcarroll

    I can’t cut the numbers of people who like graphic novels AND like BN or Amazon…. but….

    Total: 38,000,000
    Men: 14,800,000 (38.95%)
    Women: 24,000,000 (63.16%)

    Total: 3,400,000
    Men: 900,000 (26.47%)
    Women: 2,600,000 (76.47%)

    B&N and Amazon:
    Total: 40,000,000
    Men: 15,000,000 (37.5%)
    Women: 24,000,000 (60%)

    Comic book shops (I grabbed a bunch of shops I could think of off the top of my head, so definitely not a great list, but something I want to explore further):
    Total: 70,000
    Men: 48,000 (68.57%)
    Women: 22,000 (31.14%)

    And since it was mentioned:
    Asterios Polyp
    Total: 1,860
    Men: 1,220 (65.59%)
    Women: Less than 1,000 (?)

  9. Well, as a woman who has been collecting comics since 1976, I’ve read most of what’s been mentioned above. frankly, all i’ve ever cared about is a well written story with good characters: I do love good art-heck, it was Neal Adams 1960’s work on Deadman that was one of the two books that roped me back into comics.

    But, I don’t think i’m the average woman reader. What I’ve noticed is that Fun House and Persepolis are what a woman who is not a regular comics reader seems to like.
    Also, just a personal observation: love Eisner’s The Spirit: never could warm up to his later works. There was just something couldn’t relate to. maybe I am not the only one? And, after years of trying, I can’t stand most of Jack kirby’s work-just like his fourth world stuff for DC.

  10. But like the Beatles the killing joke is mega hit. how much of that like is hype or essentialism(you bought bought because its the hot new thing, there’s a movie coming out, or your BF/GF recommended it to you?) compared to buying it because it personally appealed to you. part of the reason im skeptical of those number for the Killing Joke is because Alan Moores other works are way more in favor of men(Watchmen: 73% V for Vendetta:64%). If you control for francise hype(the Nolan Batman films) I surmise the killing jokes number would be more in favor of men similair to watchmen. smaller works like Fun Home and Persepolis give a more honest read because they rest on their own merits as books instead of their IPs and associated hype.

  11. Killing Joke is only a mega hit if you already know something about comics. The average non-comics person will know who Batman and the Joker are, but wouldn’t know that comic from any other of the 1000+ Batman vs. Joker GNs and TPBs out there.

    So I’m pretty sure a woman getting and then going out of her way to “like” Killing Joke on Facebook means she knows her shit comics-wise.

  12. Serhend, I agree that Marvel and DC want to remain boy-focused brands but the 40% of Killing Joke readership that is female is STILL way more than the 7% DC claimed on their own survey! There is a huge disconnect with the “common wisdom” of how many women are interested in comics and the ACTUAL REALITY of women who are ENGAGED with the medium.

    BTW if anyone doubts the power of FB advertising there is a particular brand of shoe I like whose page I liked. Recently on my FB feed I got an ad for a new shoe shop that sells discounted models of those shoes. Of course I liked and now follow that shop. This was a very narrowly focused campaign but I’m sure it was very effective for this new store.

  13. It’s a classic, meaning you buy it because of it’s status among the core fandom and any person going into comics will instantly have this recommended to them. i know people who are casual comics readers who own watchmen and the killing joke brag about it like they are a comics scholar. Alan Moore is a household name behind Neil Gaiman and Stan Lee. Those three names will pop in everyone’s head if you ask them about comics creators. The Injustice Game had a whole pack of DLC dedicated to the book. Plus the actual likes you’re talking about are only 146,371 on Facebook i would like to see the breakdown of those numbers.

  14. @Serhend — I’m not sure why you would want to “control for Nolan hype.” The Batman movies are part of what makes (and has made) Batman such a widely popular character, leading to more book sales as a result, notably across gender lines. Why exactly does this need to be factored out of the analysis? It’s exactly the type of data a media company should want: “Movie X resulted in vastly icreased sales to a demo we’ve otherwise identified as having an affinity for our brand. Let’s try to do that again.”

    At first you said women aren’t interested in superheroes. Then you said they’re only interested in well-marketed superheroes. What exactly is your point?

  15. Sorry to hear that. I’d also be interested in seeing how these books did since I’ve met female readers that are really into them. Thanks! :
    – Jimmy Corrigan
    – Sandman
    – Love and Rockets (any volume I suppose)
    – Pride of Baghdad

  16. @ Heidi, yeah 40% is greater than 7%(though how they got that number is a curiosity in terms of what they controlled for) but no one has really debunked the fact that 40% of interest is still in the minority and does not compare to the 70% and 80% of Persepolis and Fun Home. If only Marvel/DC actually tried, but they’re set in their ways and want to focus on boys(part of the reason why Disney bought them). It all boils down to individual choices and this data shows that women and girls want more Persepolis, Adventure Time, Fun Home, Steven Universe, Detentionaire, etc. and if they had the reach and bankroll of a DC book the demand would be greater. i’ll rest my case here.

  17. I never said women were into “well market heroes” i was arguing that using a such a staple IP mega-hit like the killing joke on the heels of a hype train like a upcoming film is a less accurate and honest read compared to the other works and people art still looking at raw numbers instead of percentages in terms of interest. Is the book being bought on its own merits or through associative hype? no-one still has yet disprove the 42% of interest, the data and headline still proves my point of women’s comics reading taste lies elsewhere….I’m done here, Serhend out!

  18. Jimmy Corrigan
    Total: 2,600
    Men: 1,820 (70%)
    Women: less than 1,000

    Sandman (just did comics, no spin-offs or characters)
    Total: 98,000
    Men: 54,000 (55.10%)
    Women: 42,000 (42.29%)

    – Neil Gaiman himself is 50% women and men are just under 50%
    – Adding in characters and spin-off comics (no Neil, sorry Neil):
    Total: 152,000
    Men: 78,000 (51.32%)
    Women: 72,000 (47.37%)
    – add in Neil and women are the majority with 53.57%

    Love and Rockets
    Total: 8,600
    Men: 4,400 (51.16%)
    Women: 4,200 (48.84%)

    Pride of Baghdad
    Total: 1,660
    Men: 1,080 (65.06%)
    Women: less that 1,000

  19. Thinking through the Neil Gaiman data, this means if you wanted to target men who like Sandman, it would be good to also target men who like the term Neil Gaiman, but if you wanted to target female fans of Neil Gaiman, you might as well just focus on the Sandman terms…..

    See, there’s nuance here!

  20. I’m glad Serhend is out, he was making no sense.

    Back to the task at hand, it’s interesting that non-genre comics have a more even split or female majority, and I wonder if that tracks the same way with prose novels. (i.e., men prefer sci-fi but women and men equally like literary fiction and memoir).

    The high percentage of female fans of SOME superhero genre books over others is interesting, too. Killing Joke has more female fans than Watchmen which came out around the same time from the same author (but has more popular/recognizable characters). But the Earth One books, which seemed to have pretty aggressive marketing campaigns, barely register, with or without Batman. I wonder if the classic books simply have more name recognition and, if so, if that perennial backlist should get more of a marketing focus than newer releases when trying to reach a wider audience.

  21. Some of those books do get assigned for school projects as well. I’d be interested in figuring out if that’s a factor too. My only thought is looking at what’s assigned on syllabi and see if there’s a higher number of likes for that school. Maybe a long term project

  22. I would also be curious to hear how this methodology controls for the behavior of the FB algorithm. Like the prior poster, I don’t tend to use FB to like things, but playing with the search on it a bit, I noticed how some books are a lot easier to find than others, often due to how common the name might be. (For example, you have got to go looking for ‘Will Eisner’s The Spirit’ because too many other things have the word ‘Spirit’ in it. Could that at least PARTLY account for the idea that there are only 382 likes to be found there?)

    Similarly, Saga has 3.073 likes. Saga. One of the hottest and best selling books of last year (in paper and digital). That seems low. Of course, to find the page for Saga there are a lot of video games with the word “saga” in it to get through. Could that be at least part of why Sweet Tooth (and not to pick on Sweet Tooth, I loved that book) a now-finished series that started only half a year before Saga, has 3,954 likes? The page for Sweet Tooth is lot easier to find.

    I am curious if the required effort of the participant to find the ballot item and opt in, as well as the behavior of the algorithm, is accounted for in this data?

    And, I shouldn’t have to say this, but the way comments around here have been taken lately, I feel like I should clarify for the record: Yes. I do think that comics publishers large and small should find and appeal to women. I can believe that, and ask a question about methodology and data at the same time.

  23. ** Correction to the above. Sweet Tooth was about 2 1/2 years before Saga, not half a year. But I think the difference in their popularity on FB relative to what we know of their relative sales is still telling. (And, again, Sweet Tooth is a great book, all the readers it got and many more, I mostly picked it not because it was such a bad seller, but because it seemed like a search term that, having two words in an esoteric combination, would be easier to find on a FB search).

  24. David, the methodology is simple. I use the Facebook advertising algorithm which combines likes, interests and activity of individuals on Facebook.

    Saga through this is actually a little over 75,000 individuals and 26,000 in the US. Sweet Tooth (I think is the right one) is 242,000 and of that 102,000 in the US. I’m pretty sure these are the correct terms for each, though there was a few choices.

  25. When it comes to deciding which terms to use, especially when there’s many to chose like with the Spirit, luckily Facebook suggests other terms based off the ones you choose so that helps a lot. If you pick Saga, the suggestions aren’t comic related but Saga (comics) is a good choice as an example. Sweet Tooth I’m not quite as sure as there is one with the word Vertigo and another with comic after. I didn’t dive in too much to that one. They could be for the same thing or two different comic things both for sweet tooth. For example Captain Marvel is a term for the DC character but not Marvel’s. That gets backed up if you choose it because the choices get DC centric.

  26. To the people screaming “women aren’t interested in superheroes” I wonder if you feel the same about minorities? Because the numbers aren’t high there either, and as a minority, just because we aren’t purchasing the books doesn’t mean we aren’t interested. I can’t speak for all women (if any women at that), but from a minority standpoint I imagine the reasons are similar.

    I don’t want Marvel or DC to piss on my head and tell me its raining. Everything feels like a gimmick or quick sales stunt, from the Black Captain America (which has been done before) to female Thor. Things feel trite and forced. I don’t want that. I also don’t want to see Black characters funneled through the White male perspective. We get “BOOYAH,” screaming Cyborgs and “SWEET CHRISTMAS,” shouting Luke Cages with a street-punk, graffiti creating Black Wally West. I’m tired of that. And I know countless others who are also tired.

    But you know what I do purchase?

    The old Milestone trades of Static Shock, Hardwire, and Icon. I purchase the titles passionately crafted by minority writers and artists who treat women and POC like people and not hyper-stereotypes. That’s where my money has been going for years now. So just because we aren’t purchasing Superman, Batman, Captain America, Wolverine, and the hundreds of other White, male superhero titles doesn’t mean we don’t like superheroes. That is such an ignorant, limited perspective of the situation.

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