Now THIS is interesting. The other day we were talking about how the lack of strong demographic readership info is definitely felt in the comics space. It’s not a scientific survey, but Kelly Thompson at She Has No Head has started something called the Ladies Comics Project where she asks her female friends — some comics readers, some not — to pick and read a comic previously unknown to them and give their thoughts.
Here’s how it worked: I sent all the ladies images of all the comics I was planning to buy in the month of September and based solely on cover image, title/issue number, and expected release date, they had to pick which comic to review. You can go here if you’re curious to see all the books they had to choose from – which is also a bit of an intimate peek inside my average monthly pull list for any of you who have been curious.
Almost immediately some interesting things happened. For one, though the list of comics was nearly 70% superhero related…only 5 out of 18 women picked a superhero book, and of those, 3 picked something else non-superhero first, only to find it already taken and having to go with an alternate. Amazing. I knew the superhero books would not be the most coveted but those low numbers really surprised me.
The readers range in age from teens through 30s and from publishing professionals to stay-at-home moms. The responses are particularly interesting because many of them are coming in on storyilnes already in progress. Here’s one reader’s view of STUMPTOWN #3 by Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth:
I thought the characters – especially the women – were really strong, and well-drawn, and the writing overall was good. I also really liked the interior art. It was kind of sketchy and really fit the tone of the writing. It felt very masculine, in a sense, like the detective story that was being told, but featured strong female characters and I liked that combination a lot. The story was good, although, like I said earlier, coming in for the last quarter of a story is tough, especially a detective story, but on the second read I really appreciated how well the story seemed to come together.
I work for a publishing company and do a lot of reading for work, so don’t end up buying many books for pleasure, so keeping that in mind, I’m not sure I would search this out and buy it; but I admit that I did consider looking for the rest of the issues so I could read the first part of the story. But even though I’m not sure I would go out searching for this or other comics on my own, if they were recommended to me, or lent to me, I would definitely read more.
Recurring themes: an interest in a book based on the cover situation and mood, an interest in strong female characters (just what that means is a book in itself), and among the non-comics readers, difficulty in following the storytelling from time to time.
This article is something every comics creator and editorS should read — not just for new female readers but new readers in general. Every comic is someone’s first.
I tried a similar experiment with my then-girlfriend, now-wife, and convinced her to read a few comics and share her thoughts. Her first choice was something I never would have guessed in a million years—Etgar Keret and Asak Hanuka’s Pizzeria Kamikaze, which you can read her thoughts on here: http://www.playbackstl.com/features/7159-crude-ink-012508–pizzeria-kamikaze
I haven’t done much more than skim the Ladies Comics Project, but it looks interesting…I’ll definitely be giving it a full read later on today.
I hope this project keeps going. It seems very worth following.
Please, please, please put books like Suppli by Mari Okazaki, Bunny Drop by Yumi Unita and A Drunken Dream by Moto Hagio in the hands of “women’ who normally don’t read comics.
Both books offer a perspective / storytelling style and content that’s made by and geared toward female readers age 20+, even 30+ and 40+ — a rare breed in the North American comics market. i love ’em to death and think other women who don’t normally read manga would too.
My now-wife saw me reading The Invisibles, and was intrigued enough by the cover to ask me what it was about, and then intrigued enough by my synopsis (such as it was) to ask to borrow the series!
Fantastic project – I’d love to see it expanded.
This is amazing.
Ta for directing me towards the piece, Beat, it’s so interesting to see what folk unused to the grammar and habits of comics make of the form.
I agree, creators should bear in mind that every comic needs to be accessible as an entry point. Of course, readers shouldn’t have everything spoonfed to us, but there need to be enough dollops of transparency to enjoy the book at hand.
Now leaving this tortuous metaphor ….
Fantastic Read! Looking forward to more! Bookmarked the site and will be back again!