Oh no not gender and comics again! Yes, but this times with GRAPHS AND PIE CHARTS.

In all the gender controversies rattling the comics world, one of the most frequently cited paradoxes is that although research such as DC’s 2011 reader survey showed only 7% of comics readers were female, yet when you walk around any comicksy event you see a lot more than 7% women. Women make up a lot of tweeters, tumblrs, and cosplayers and cartoonists. Why this disparity?

Some argued with the very methodology of the DC study. The online branch of the survey showed a higher number of female readers—23%—but DC went with the lower number.

Several people I’ve spoken with in the last year or so have pointed out that there really isn’t any good, recent demographic information that shows the very obvious growth in female genre fans that you can see everywhere around you. I don’t really know why this is, but this lack of information informs many marketing decisions made at the highest levels of corporate entertainment and tends to reinforce the same old, same old marketing skews.

However comics blogger and political consultant Brett Schenker has been doing some very interesting research using Facebook’s advertising statistics. Demographic information is readily available on Facebook to help advertisers target their messages. On the one hand this is a creepy reminder of why FB is really one big marketing survey that sells your photos of your child’s first steps and drunk selfies to anyone with a buck or two. But as Schenker shows, it can also be used to reveal some very interesting demographics.

Every month, Schenker does a search based on various terms and FB spits back a precise demographic breakdown. In this case, Schenker searched for various comics related “like” terms. He does it every month, and the stats for September can be found here. The results were some 11,600,000 people in the US who “liked” the various terms. The gender breakdown was a lot closer to what observations suggest it might be.

With the gain in male fans, of course the male percentage would increase as well. Men gained about 200,000 fans, while women dropped the same amount. Men now account for 58.62% of the fandom, compared to 57.895 last month. Women account for 39.66%, compared to 42.11% last month.

Although more men joined in August, that’s still nearly 40% female fans. Schenker also looked at the age vs gender breakdown.

While there are many mind boggling things about this chart, it also seems that as the fans age, the female population INCREASES. Maybe all those 50-year-old male fans who say they will never read a DC comic again are telling the truth.

[UPDATE: I understand this rise in readership is because Facebook itself skews 53% female, so more readers are at the older levels. Still, it was a funny joke and I’m leaving it in. ]

I’ve reached out to Schenker to write a guest post explaining more of his methodology and analyzing these results, but these statistics are still eye opening. (He’s run other surveys on various fandom terms and found, for instance, that most Doctor Who fans are female.) Are these numbers accurate? Well, like we said, Facebook has aimed to become the biggest data miner in the known universe, so I’d say they are pretty damned solid.

Are there really more than 11 million comics fans in the US? Hitting a like button is easy, spending $50 on a Floyd Gottfredson boxed set is a bit harder, but I think what we have here is at the very least a start for a more accurate and up-to-date snapshot of the comics-friendly US population than we’ve had in a long time.


  1. That’s interesting study. I do see more women liking comic entertainment. I’m sure if they are frequenting the comic book store or digital comic scene. But I do see more women do like to get involved in the Geek Culture. The movies help in bringing more attention to comics and maybe it makes them more curious to see what the big deal is. I think it’s great more women likes comics, it is something that men and women can share together.

  2. “In all the gender controversies rattling the comics world …”

    Got it wrong in the very first sentence. It doesn’t really become controversial until either/both sides start that “nyah-nyah” crap. It’s funny books … have fun …

  3. Sales being what they are, the 11 million number is probably more reflective of movie fans cross posting likes onto pages dedicated to the comics.

  4. @jacob: considering the only prerequisite to become a part of “geek culture” is to buy certain things then yes, enjoying a relatively obscure comic book DOES make one a member of geek culture.

    This is being a certain type of consumer, not a member of the Cherokee Nation!

  5. I’ve said it before, and will no doubt say it again, but the majority of comic fans these days? Not in comic shops. They’re the ones behind the huge boom in graphic novel and trade collection sales in bookstores and on Amazon, which is one of the only expanding “genres” in the publishing market – in both the US and UK at least.

    Half my customers? Female? Lots of my customers? Young. Plenty of customers? Older women trying out their first graphic novel. Quite possibly now the majority of my customers? Not buying superhero books.

  6. @Johnny Memeonic

    Nope, I keep the term apart, and these are very specific terms for comic books. Marvel Comics and Marvel Entertainment are two totally different items in this and I don’t include characters.

  7. The sheer number of females that like comics is impressively large, but the survey results would be much more meaningful if they were broken down by type of comics and subject matter. Compare the result to the number of people who like movies or like books. Even if someone likes comic strips, that doesn’t mean that she reads every strip that runs in the local newspaper. Given the importance of marketing, publishers want to know what readers prefer when faced with choices.


  8. 11 MILLION. (Pardon me while I celebrate with a bottle from the Lasseter Family Winery.)

    From a Facebook U.S. population of 166 Million. Almost 7%.

    I’d like to see a more precise breakdown.
    Comic strips. Comic books. Various publishers and franchises…

    If that number does not include media tie-ins, then it’s even more amazing. Can’t wait to read the methodology!

  9. @Synsidar and Torsten, that’s somewhat difficult, but I’ll give it a shot. I actually don’t include comic strips in this at all.

    I have done previous ones on publishers and characters/franchises.

  10. “Enjoying your copy of Fun Home or Ghost World does NOT make you a member of “Geek Culture”.”

    You heard the man everyone, having good taste in non superhero comics does NOT make you eligible to carry a Geek Culture membership card. Owning an entire run of Maximum Carnage, at least 27 different foil covers, or regularly posting on a comic book related news website will however make you eligible for consideration. The requisite list is long and arbitrary but NECESSARY to maintain the pure nature of Geek Culture.

  11. @ Jacob Lyon
    Take it somewhere else, it’s not welcome here.
    Thanks for posting this, Heidi. Yes, a large number of women and girls are now reading comics and I suspect that this has been the case for some time. And personally it’s a point I really want to drive home. Women have always read comics and been active in fandom, we just haven’t had much visibility until the advent of social media. My friend Mercy is in her late 50’s and has been a Dick Grayson fangirl since her teens, not to mention she’s been working in comics for over 30 years. My friend James’ mother read Plastic Man when she was a kid and even had a crush on Superman in the comics, she’s currently in her early 80’s.
    We’re here, we’ve always been here and we’re not going anywhere.

  12. Water is still wet I see? How can anyone doubt there are a ton of female comic readers when you can just look at the webcomic world and see it’s true.

  13. Great study, and I’d love to see a more thorough breakdown of what he searched for in terms of interests. As an expansive user of Facebook’s ad platform, I can say that there are a significant amount of mis-guided like terms – after all, comics could equal comedians – no matter how precise Facebook would like you to think their tracking is. It’s all still subject to user error. That said, that is quite cool, and I hope you can lock him down for a bigger piece.

  14. jacob lyon goddard is correct. I wasn’t allowed to be a member of “Geek Culture” until I passed a written exam, completed a thorough background check and failed a physical fitness test. ONLY THEN was I allowed to like geeky things!

  15. Some more demographic figures, from the Nov.-Dec. 2012 Public Libraries:

    Who are the adult readers of graphic novels and why are they important? Very little demographic data pertaining to graphic novel readers and purchasers has been gathered. It is a great mystery and much of the “data” available is implied. Most data has come from the observations of others and not from thorough survey methods. Based on their experiences with patrons, Lee County librarians agree that graphic novel readers can be placed into five demographic groups: (1) children, (2) teen males, (3) teen females, (4) adult males, and (5) adult females. (3) Adult females account for the lowest interest among the five groups, while the other four groups have comparable readership levels, each four times the amount of adult female readers. In 2003, Diamond Distributors, the company that distributes all comic books from all publishers, found that the average graphic novel reader was twenty-nine years old. (4) Ryan Searles, graphic novel enthusiast, estimates that in 2012 that number is still relatively accurate, with most graphic novel readers and purchasers being between the ages of twenty-five and forty. (5)

    On his blog, Graphic Policy, blogger Brett Schenker used the social networking website Facebook as a way to estimate the ages and genders of comic book fans. [. . .]

    He found that eighteen to thirty is the prominent age range for both males and females with male readership dominating each age group. While I believe that this group is the most prominent, it is also important to note that teenagers and tweens frequently lie about their ages (with the help of their parents) in order to use Facebook. (7) Therefore, the eighteen to thirty number is likely inflated and the seventeen and under demographic is underrepresented due to this inflation.

    It’s past time for publishers to get serious about obtaining demographics info. Simba Information’s survey is outdated. Publishers who want to have solid bases for marketing programs need the info.


  16. @David totally agree that not all terms are equal, but I use terms like “graphic novels” “digital comics” and publisher names mostly. “Comics” I know is a tough one as you said, but I did some digging and think it does lean more towards “comic books” which is also a term.

  17. Nope, I keep the term apart, and these are very specific terms for comic books. Marvel Comics and Marvel Entertainment are two totally different items in this and I don’t include characters.

    This does not disprove my point. The public at large knows Marvel as Marvel Comics. It remains entirely possible that movie only fans are posting likes to Marvel Comics, DC Comics, etc and you’re listing them as comic fans.

    Speculation aside, I’d also like to see your methodology, if only because a look at some of your past posts appears to indicate that comic books somehow picked up 10 million fans since January of this year.

  18. @Brett – Absolutely. It gets a little all over the place, and I hope you didn’t take my “user error” comment as something about you. It was more directed at people clicking things at random when setting up their Facebook profiles. I assumed you got pretty deep in the endeavor, but that’s why I said I’d be interested in seeing your search terms. Very cool stuff man. Is there any way you can remove redundancies? As in, limiting someone who lists “Graphic Novels” “Digital Comics” “Comics” etc. all under their likes, so they count as three instead of one?

  19. @Johnny, I’ve done a study of movies, I don’t think that’s the case at all, Marvel Entertainment dwarfs Marvel Comics. People are smarted than we give them credit for.

    @David Didn’t take it that way at all. I think if someone does have 3 terms covered it only counts as 1 person. The reason I think that is because, when I add terms it’ll give me the audience for that term, lets says 100,000 people, but my count won’t go up when that term is added or only a fraction of the count it gave. I always took that as it getting rid of the overlap.

  20. I’m actually inclined to agree with jacob lyon goddard– because lumping all comics under “geek culture” is inaccurate and probably not helping the growth of the comics audience. I’ve talked to enough new female readers (including my mom) to notice a pattern in how they came to take the plunge: “I didn’t realize there were comics out there I would like.” Because the perception is that all comics are “geeky” in some way, and not everyone’s into that. Fun Home and Ghost World aren’t “geeky”, and that’s perfectly fine. They’re still comics. The real problem is only if you think the new readers don’t count as ‘real’ comics readers because they don’t read spandex comics.

  21. Alexa got my point.
    Geek is a pejorative term, and not one I would slap on a woman just because she has Persepolis on her book shelf.

    You don’t have to be a geek to enjoy comics and continuing the myth that buying comics also buys you your geek card hurts the artform.

  22. Jacob, I got your point as well, but given the long standing opposition to any suggestion that women read comics, it came off the wrong way.

  23. I’ve done a study of movies, I don’t think that’s the case at all, Marvel Entertainment dwarfs Marvel Comics. People are smarted than we give them credit for.

    This would be expected since there’s tons more people who see the movies than buy the comics. However, that movie audience is so large that even a relatively small percentage of it peeling off to like Marvel Comics as a term could skew your results for comic fans only.

    and the 10 million jump is my updating the terms to take advantage of Facebook updating how it runs ads and uses keywords.

    These explanations are still too vague and evasive. Please give us specific information about your terms and methodology. A 10 million jump really can’t be hand-waved.

  24. @Heidi – Great to hear.

    @Brett – I’m not sure if that’s the case. Next time I talk to my Facebook rep I’ll ask. You very easily could be right, as what you said makes sense, but I just wonder if they treat each as a separate list or if they automatically remove dupes.

  25. @Johnny actually it is that simple. When I first started you had to put specific terms, then they included hashtags which expanded what those terms covered. So, I added the hashtags and another point added more terms. I believe I explained that in each post when there were changes to the methodology.

  26. The only people I’ve known to read and enjoy stuff like Ghost World on their own were still plenty “geeky”…just not the kind that would go to a convention and give a sh@ about how Marvel and DC treat old characters.

    The term “geek” as a classification is meaningless. Legitimately enjoying something is all that matters. Those who need certain benchmarks met in order to consider them “legit geeks” say more about themselves than those they judge.

  27. So i’m the only one wondering who are the 200,000 unknowns?

    Would that be the contingent of Babymen ?

  28. I’m a female comic book geek. Various genres, including fantasy and slice of life, adventure and humor manga without too much sexism, but my particular interest is superheros. I specifically don’t “like” DC and Marvel comics on Facebook because I don’t like the entire properties, I like specific characters, writers, and eras, almost none of which are currently in print because the Big Two don’t believe that their female audience matters.

    I love superheros, but not the way they are mostly being done right now. I like Captain America in theory, but he’s had so many different incarnations over the years that the only version I actually feel comfortable liking consistently is the MCU version. I adore Blue Beetle II (Ted), but he was killed off in the Batman-is-being-a-paranoid-git-oh-and-did-we-mention-[spoiler]-is-evil-now OMAC incident. I really love Blue Beetle III (Jaime), but from what I hear, the family and friend connections he had that made him different from ANY other teen super have been dropkicked into the stratosphere. I actually like the new Hawkeye books, but I would really appreciate if Natasha stopped getting sidelined by men in every title she’s in. Big Barda and Mr. Miracle were my favorite couple in comics, buuuut, well. Oracle was AMAZING, but um, disabled heroes aren’t cool, apparently? Despite the fact that I firmly believe she could have taken down Batman, no, we’ve got to drop the tech genius with the awesome information network to reboot the night-hopping woman who kicks crime in the face because we’ve shunted all the OTHER women in the Bat books who do that out of the country/continuity. The X-folks are so freaking interbred that I have a hell of a time figuring out what title the characters I like are even in, apart from the ones who’ve been offed for the sake of what I will generously call the larger story arc… I enjoyed the Authority title, until the artists started to suck and the writers decided to destroy ALL THE THINGS.

    I collect Ditko Blue Beetle and the Justice League Giffen/DeMatteis comics which were published late 80s-early 90s. I’m buying the Blue Beetle III series that Giffen and Rogers wrote. I’m sort of collecting Runaways, but I have reservations about the later books. I will actually probably buy the two Hawkeye books that are out so far. I’m putting together a piecemeal collection of Birds of Prey and anything containing Rictor and Shatterstar (currently of X-Factor Investigations). That’s not something Facebook has a like button for.

  29. Sorry, not convinced of the high percentage of female comic fans or of the 11 million US comic fans. It just seems high and ideal. Just add up the total copies of Diamond distributed comics, add maybe 10% for digital and that’s your total number of buyers. Okay, add maybe 40% of all convention attendees (who might pay for attendance but do not buy books).
    Interesting topic, looking to see more solid research.

  30. I personally know plenty of women and girls who LIKE comics and own a few or dozen. I don’t know many who BUY comics with the obsessive regularity myself and other male comic fans I know do.

    Which is understandable considering most comics are not marketed towards women/girls. It’s become a boys thing over the past few decades as far as I can tell.

  31. Jacob is circling a correct idea, but didn’t quite hit the nail on the head. If I were to try and rephrase it, it’d be that people sometimes partake in an aspect of a culture/subculture/fandom/etc but aren’t really immersed in it. For example, I’ve seen a few good horror movies, but I wouldn’t consider myself a “horror fan”, because I have nothing more than a passing interest, don’t follow the day-to-day happenings in the horror movie fandom, etc. Similarly, there are people like that for comics. They might read Watchmen because a friend tells them it’s really good, enjoy it, put it down, and never be inclined to read another comic. I think it’s valid to demarcate between a “fan” and an occasional consumer.

  32. This sorta reminds me of when you have some change in the comics (like Wonder Woman getting pants) and the media reports on it, and you have all of these people commenting on how they “liked it better before”. But I find it hard to believe all of these people were actually buying comics before. So it’s just that they liked knowing things were a certain way if it happened to pass before them, but they made no effort to access the material. So you could call them a “fan”, but they are almost irrelevant if they do not make an active effort to spend money on the product.

    Another thought is this: the number 1 DC/Marvel book at any given time probably sells around, what, 150,000 in the direct market? Let’s say that book is Batman in a given month. How many “comic book fans” did not buy the #1 book that month, relative to the number that did? 2? 3? I can’t imagine that out of 11 million “comic book fans”, only 150,000 bought the #1 DC/Marvel super-hero book in a given month. Not to mention that 150,000 is what the retailers ordered (which we’ll assume is fairly accurate) but also includes people buying multiple copies. I’m not saying the number isn’t 300,000 or even 600,000 (for every person who bought that #1 book, there are 3 others who didn’t, say.) But 11 million seems like a very loose definition.

  33. To back up what Brett is saying about overlapping search terms, in my limited view as a Facebook advertiser I’ve found that when you select audience targets for an ad it works exactly as he describes.

    When you add a limiting term, like “Comics,” the total size of the potential audience drops from the total number of Facebook users to a few million. If you add a similar term like “Graphic Novel” or “Comic Book” the number changes very little or not at all. But if you throw in an unrelated term like “LEGO” it jumps back up by a few million.

    My understanding from that is that Facebook definitely doesn’t double-count people — it’s giving advertisers the total number of people who like any or all of your search terms. That’s also the only way the system would be at all useful for advertising.

  34. In other news, 95% of the general public can be defined as “rabid comic fans” since they’ve seen at least two superhero movies in their lives.

    These studies are ridiculous. The researcher obviously has a political agenda and conforms the facts to fit it. I mean, I’d love it if 40% of comic fans were women, but it just isn’t true. Sorry.

  35. >>>The researcher obviously has a political agenda and conforms the facts to fit it. I mean, I’d love it if 40% of comic fans were women, but it just isn’t true. Sorry.

    So just how did he get Facebook to go along with his agenda? because I’ve got a few things I’d like them to do, too.

  36. @Dan I don’t think I used the word “rabid” at all or as to other comments, never said these were “buyers” either. These are people who said they have an interest in comics, they “like” them. Now the question is why can I find 11 million people just in the US so easily, but sales are 150,000 copies. There’s a failure here, and it’s not by those with an interest in comics, they have identified themselves for publishers to target and reach out to.

  37. @Dan, you’re absolutely right I have an agenda, it’s expanding the market and getting comics into the hands of people who are, or might be interested in them. It’s the same as all our agendas, I hope.

  38. Comics readers read comics. That should be the main thing right there. It shouldn’t matter what types of comics they read, and whether or not they purchase them or borrow them from libraries. And I can tell you that in my school, the majority of my comics readers are girls. Also, I’ve been reading comics for more than 50 years, I started as a girl at age 5.

  39. @Dan, you’re absolutely right I have an agenda, it’s expanding the market and getting comics into the hands of people who are, or might be interested in them. It’s the same as all our agendas, I hope.

    The problem with that might be providing comics that give readers what they want. The book market is partly driven by best sellers, but it’s also driven by genre fiction fans who prefer reliable sources of entertainment. A comics-format story can be wonderful, but that doesn’t mean that all comics-format stories are wonderful just because they have artwork. Recently, Chris Beha dismissed coverage of genre fiction and commercial fiction (labeling literary fiction as a genre of sorts) in favor of “holy crap” fiction.

    That might be a minority preference, but it can be satisfied through marketing. Literary comics succeed as art, but have limited appeal. Superhero comics have rabid fans, but also have limited appeal. How useful is the artwork in a genre fiction story in giving a reader what she wants, or can the writer do that by himself?


  40. @Synsidar I don’t disagree, but that’s the job of marketers, to figure out what type of comic individuals want. Like Heidi, I was at SPX this past weekend, and you can see the diversity of the comic format there, in both story content and presentation.

    I know my fiance isn’t really into super hero comics, but she loves The Massive and Locke & Key, so I point out comics like those she might be interested in. If she indicated she likes those on Facebook, as a marketer I would target ads to her of my similar comic. That’s why this data is powerful, it allows you to get very specific in your marketing.

  41. Here’s a crazy idea, one that’s not easily enumerated:
    Total up all the attendees to comic book shows in a given year.

    Yes, it’s a bit flawed, as there is overlap (I attend about five shows a year), and some of the attendees might be “innocents” (parents spending a day with the kids) or industry professionals (movie execs, as well as comics fans). But that would give a good benchmark over the years.

    I’d peg the U.S. and Canada at 500,000, easy. 1,000,000 wouldn’t be a shock.

    Statisticians usually ask more than just one question (Do you like comics?). A survey, especially on readership, will ask how many comics and books a person buys periodically, what other printed matter they read, of what other media they partake, which media properties they enjoy…

    So, is the person who reads one graphic novel a year a fan? Sure! Because then someone can sell them another book!
    Only read the comics in the newspaper? That counts! (Think of it as a three-panel comic book.)
    “Are you a fan of Sandman? But there are no more issues? Have you tried… ?”

    Nostalgic for Archie and Betty and Veronica? Did you sneak MAD into English class? Run around with a bath towel tied around your neck? Jump off the garage? Here…come sit down by the fire…tell us what you remember, so we can recall what we forgot.

    As for Batman, I’m not one of the 150,000. I bought Indestructible Hulk this month, but that’s it for DC/Marvel. Oh, and Astro City I’d buy, if I wasn’t comped. The rest… is interesting, but not worth me spending money. I’m a fan of many DC titles, but when voting the pocketbook, I don’t buy many.

    How many manga fans have ever bought a copy of Batman?

    Do you think a webcomic creator is angry when those millions of viewers only translate into a few thousand collections sold? Or do you think they’re making money from those page visitations, and sending out email announcements?

    So, maybe the “Wednesday Crowd” is only about 300,000 people. That’s 0.1% of the population. 12.4 Million viewers watched the season three finale of the Walking Dead. That’s roughly 4% of the population.

    Or if you want it in comics numbers, who are the one million people who purchased a copy of Watchmen during the past twenty-five years? Yeah,,, some of them are libraries. So those copies probably count double. And there are probably people who own more than one edition. (I own three.) And copies which have been loaned or passed on to other readers. What else have those people read? What about just the ones who bought the GN after the trailer was shown during Batman? Those were probably brand new readers. (From June 2008 through April 2009, comics shops sold/ordered 155,706 copies, as reported by Diamond and estimated by ICV2.)

    Or, and here’s where it gets people salivating and rubbing their hands dreaming of the sweet, filthy lucre: 85 million copies of Wimpy Kid books in print in 44 markets worldwide. 6.5 Million copies were printed in the U.S. for the last book. Now…imagine if the evil mastermind behind this franchise (who used to work for DC comics) decided to do a tie-in with comics shops…maybe a free mini-comic if they show up with the book…how to make comics workshops…guidebooks for parents to encourage their children to read…kid-friendly creators doing signings…
    (Oops. Sorry. Got mesmerised by my crystal ball.)

    Or an even better number: How many people show up during Free Comic Book Day? (4.6 Million FCBD comics were ordered in 2013). That’s your base number for the Wednesday Crowd: people who know about the event, and will seek out a comics shop.

    Me? I make the assumption that everyone enjoys comics, or would enjoy them. From there, it’s just a matter of finding out what they like, and me recommending titles.

  42. How many publishers have TITLE SPECIFIC Facebook pages?

    I don’t go that deep (I stop at “comic books”, don’t even have “graphic novels” on my profile). Sure, there are many I enjoy and advocate, but I find it clutters the profile, and TL;DR sets in…

  43. @ Torstein – I appreciate the thought you put into your count, but I don’t think the convention attendance figure is super useful. Certainly not for NYCC, the show i’ve been to the most. There are definitely, as you said, employees and people that got dragged along, but I think you left out a chunk of attendees: the “freak watchers” and the “single purpose attendee.” For instance, at NYCC, there are always a lot of people who seem to be there just to gawk and take pictures. When I was waiting in-line to enter one year, I was standing in front of a couple of hipsters, both of whom were just making fun of people that weren’t dressed as expensively as them. The single purpose attendee would seem to be more of a SDCC thing, but think of the people who lined up for Twilight panels. These people bought a ticket, but many of them aren’t going for anything comic book related, and thus may not be comic fans. Add in people who go for movie stuff, tv stuff, anime stuff, renaissance stuff, gaming stuff, etc., and your con stat becomes less and less useful.

  44. Novelist James Patterson is on Facebook, of course. He uses Facebook for various sorts of promotions, including his Middle School books and his novels. The Facebook page for the novel When the Wind Blows has the following note: This Page is automatically generated based on what Facebook users are interested in, and not affiliated with or endorsed by anyone associated with the topic.

    Facebook might be better suited for creators to promote their works than for publishers to promote what they’re publishing.


  45. Daniel Clowes is on Facebook; he also has a Web site. There might be some advantages in using Facebook to market to Facebook users, but a creator’s Web site and his Facebook page will have a lot of overlap.


  46. Zach missed my point.
    I’m saying that geek is a negative term usually reserved for sad adults in a state of arrested development. If you self identify as a geek that’s your decision, you can label yourself as anything you damn well please, just don’t continue the stereotype of the fanboy/babyman by suggesting that everyone who enjoys sequencial storytelling also has to play with toys, watch Saturday morning cartoons, and day dream about wearing tights and fighting space aliens.

    More people are casually reading comics!
    That’s good!
    Normal people!
    All different kinds of people!
    That’s really really good!

    Telling them it means they are now seen as geeks is counter productive.

    Anyway, this got way off topic. This is wonderful news, and hopefully this trend will continue.

  47. I suppose a better way to say it is:
    100 million people reading 5 comics a year is way healthier than 100 thousand people reading 5 comics a week.

  48. The only number that truly matters is sales by gender. Nothing else matters. It’s all about cash in the bank.

  49. Jacob said:

    “Zach missed my point.
    I’m saying that geek is a negative term usually reserved for sad adults in a state of arrested development. If you self identify as a geek that’s your decision, you can label yourself as anything you damn well please, just don’t continue the stereotype of the fanboy/babyman by suggesting that everyone who enjoys sequencial storytelling also has to play with toys, watch Saturday morning cartoons, and day dream about wearing tights and fighting space aliens.”

    So you’re objecting to people projecting a stereotype on the type of readers you approve of, but you don’t mind perpetuating it yourself? Classy.

    Yes, FUN HOME is not read by the “space alien” crowd. But who says WALKING DEAD isn’t?

    Your screed overlooks the fact that a lot of these regular readers are now willing to pick up fantasy-oriented graphic novels if they perceive them as being accessible.

    The market has changed a lot since the days when fantasy was only made by (perceived) geeks and read by them.

  50. I can see jacob’s point, but it’s oddly defensive. Yes, it’s hard to define what constitutes a real “geek” (which could bring us to the great debate of: Why do we HAVE to define who is a “geek” when everyone has a different metric and the follow-up debate of: Why the heck are there so many gatekeepers in Geek Culture?). But what a knee-jerk response that is, and the sort of thing women hear every. freaking. time. this subject comes up.

    “Hey, this study says that a large percentage of comic fans are women.”
    “Ch’yeah, but they’re not reading REAL comics.” Or “the right” comics. Or “they’re not really fans, they just liked the movies.” Or “they’re probably not spending money.” (Oh, have you SEEN the way ladies take to merchandise? Hot Toys of hot boys in superhero costumes? Yeah, suuuure we’re not spending money.)(Follow up parenthetical–why should the percentage of ladies who call themselves comic fans without buying whatever you deem to be a significant amount of swag be any greater than the percentage of males doing the same. I’m fairly certain that most of the guys on this campus I see sporting a Batman Logo shirt can’t tell me what’s up with the nu52, but no one kicks up a fuss over that.)

    What it comes down to is, there’s a pervasive attitude that superhero comics are for menfolk. And any evidence presented that challenges that long-held belief, be it anecdotal (“50% of my customers are women.” “Just look at the people at the cons!”) or hard, numerical facts, is met with flat-out denial (“No, don’t believe it.”) or goalpost-moving as mentioned above.

    And then it’s followed up with a statement like, “It’d be great if that were true, but it isn’t.”

    You guys are baffling.

    (PS. Take con attendance at a Heroes Con. Everybody there is there for comics.)

  51. Since I got a little rambly in that last bit, I’d like to just sum it up with a simple question:

    Since we all seem to be aware that it’s very very hard to figure out exact numbers of who is buying what comics, why does it seem that some guys are very invested in believing that the number of women buying comics–and specifically superhero comics–is so low?

  52. I guess I did get a little defensive. Apologies.
    I dont like the idea that people assume that I must be a geek because I keep schmancy comics in my reading rotation (though I doubt this bit of internet rage is helping my case).

    I do believe the “one of us” mentality is holding comics back from reaching casual readers, and automatically identifying them as geeks (or not geeky enough in some cases) is hurting comic’s growth and development.

    Comics should be for everyone, not just the awkward or the enthusiastic.

  53. Since we all seem to be aware that it’s very very hard to figure out exact numbers of who is buying what comics, why does it seem that some guys are very invested in believing that the number of women buying comics–and specifically superhero comics–is so low?

    Some guys are defensive about their reading habits because superhero comics are widely regarded as junk. If a comic’s aesthetic deficiencies are pointed out, what comebacks are there? “_____ isn’t any worse than _____” isn’t really a defense. Readers of other types of genre fiction don’t need to defend their preferences, because stories are published as standalone, satisfying chunks, and the author of a given story takes responsibility for the success or failure of it. With the typical Marvel or DC superhero comic, none of those factors applies. They’re naked, sexist power fantasies. The writer of a superhero comic might be doing the best job that he can, given deadlines and editorial constraints, but he’s just doing his job. He’s not creating anything, and criticism directed at how he’s doing his job can threaten his income. Superhero stories should be judged by the standards applied to other genres of fiction.


  54. Laura:
    Gatekeepers exist in every subculture, not just that of the “fantasy-nerds” (which seems to me more narrowly descriptive than “geeks,” but to each his own). Every group, in fact, defines itself by saying “we are x and all others are anything but x.” The recent mini-tsunami over “context in indie comics” may be viewed as a gatekeeper response. “We don’t really want this sort of thing to represent indie comics/artcomics, do we?” The response ceases to be an individual aesthetic dislike when it becomes concerned with group boundaries.

    But since you bring it back to the clannishness of fantasy-nerds, then, yeah, that unofficial group has its share of self-appointed gatekeepers. I’m sure there are any number of fantasy-nerds who don’t care if the TWILIGHT readers show up at conventions. The ones who rag on “phony women fans” or suchlike become the bad representatives of the group, though. I won’t get into who I deem the bad representatives of the artcomics group.

    But whatever the gatekeepers’ motives for exclusionism, it certainly has nothing to do with Synsidar’s odd pronouncement:

    “Readers of other types of genre fiction don’t need to defend their preferences, because stories are published as standalone, satisfying chunks, and the author of a given story takes responsibility for the success or failure of it.”

    Oh, really? Are you implying that no other kind of readers but comics-readers have had their tastes put down as inferior to some mainstream standard? If so, I have a few acres of prime swampland I’d like to sell to anyone who believes that. The fact that HARRY POTTER was published in “satisfying chunks” did not keep Harold Bloom from sneering at Rowling’s project, much of which, like a serial comic book, is designed to be read as parts of a greater whole, rather than something “standalone.”

    “Superhero stories should be judged by the standards applied to other genres of fiction.”

    I’ve heard this hackneyed proposition tossed around a few dozen times and I’ve never heard anyone allude to what those standards should be.

  55. Heidi M. said: “Jacob, I got your point as well, but given the long standing opposition to any suggestion that women read comics, it came off the wrong way.”

    When people say “Women don’t read comics,” what they really mean is “Women don’t read superhero comics.” To some people, unfortunately, comic books ARE superheroes, and that’s all they are.

    I’ve noticed that the heavier a comics-related website emphasizes superheroes, the fewer female posters it has. I know of one site that is nothing but a superhero trivia-and-nostalgia hangout. It has plenty of middle-aged men but NO female posters. A decade ago, this site (which shall go nameless) covered other aspects of comics and did have women posting comments. As the focus narrowed to superheroes and nothing else, the women went away.

    How many superhero comics have had a substantial female readership? I can think of three examples: Wonder Woman in the ’40s, the Superman Family comics in the ’60s, and X-Men in the ’80s. Anyone know of any other examples?

  56. THose 40 percent are probably very causal readers.

    The hardcore every Wednesday crowd is still mostly male. And lots of those women you see walking around at a con have probably never read a comic.

  57. Jason said: “The hardcore every-Wednesday crowd is still mostly male.”

    That’s what I see at my comic shop — and the average age looks to be 40.

    “And lots of those women you see walking around at a con have probably never read a comic.”

    I haven’t been to enough cons to know if that’s true. But I have only one female friend who’s been to Comic-Con, and she doesn’t read comics. She went for the TV stuff.

    Women tend to be into TV sci-fi and fantasy shows to a greater extent than men. That goes back to “Star Trek,” which always had a huge female fan base. And “Next Generation” had the largest female viewership of any syndicated show up to that time.

  58. I think we all know why the difference between DC research and facebook one. Reading is not the same things as buying.
    That’s why only 2% is younger than 18. Pirate bay is there for them, baby!
    What we learned is that women like comics but don’t buy them.
    Nothing wrong with that. Most media is consumed like that, for free from people that aren’t willing to buy it. Mostly likely they’ve gotten that 7% of female buyers because of that. They experienced the media and decided to buy it.
    One other reason for that is that most of these girls started with manga, where you get the issue first online and then on sale, fansubs are quicker than official ones, so they only buy what really claimed their fandom.
    And since they already get a shit load of manga they wanna buy, they decide it’s best to just go with the scanlations for comics.
    Nothing wrong with that, most avid fans of manga do that. And even though they read comics, they usually don’t buy it.
    And that’s nothing wrong with that.
    What those companies have to do (now that they are competing with manga companies) is trying to appeal either to this late buying stuff, or appeal on the cliff hangers (since they got the advantage of this market being native to their language) and making sure they wanna buy the online issue to get the story going as soon as they can.
    What also we can learn from manga is that women don’t buy that much into superhero stuff, and they write even less of it. So, writing sitcoms or romantic stories might be the way to go. But what they aren’t supposed to do is what feminists want them too, to turn stories that are about sacrifice, morality and struggle into stories about daily life and drama.
    They could make a different segment for that, but they can’t turn their current segment into that.

  59. 40% women are comic fans, but there are only a handful of female superheroes that reach superstar status like Batman or Superman. Or, is there?

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