201012130244.jpgFandom’s deadliest duo are back: Ragnell (Lisa Fortuner) and Kalinara (Melissa Krause) are two writers who founded the link blog When Fangirls Attack and set off a whole generation of conversation and outrage. A few years ago they passed WFA to others due to real life stuff — Ragnell is in the Armed Forces, and Kalinara was in school — but it’s kind of foundered just recently. since they left — two posts explaining why there are no posts since October. [NOTE< since this was written the site has had a MASSIVE update.] So R&K are back with a NEW link blog Dispatches From The Fridge, which, while not taking over WFA, is

We gave away the old blog, but we got bored so we’re taking up again part-time. We’ve no intention of replacing When Fangirls Attack. We consider ourselves a weekend supplement, perfect for slow Sunday afternoons.

The blog is back JUST IN TIME to capture reaction to former DC President and Publisher Paul Levitzsaying in a TCJ interview::

I’m not sure that young women are as interested in reading about superheroes. The fundamental dynamic of the superhero story has historically been more appealing to boys than to girls. There are any number of very successful superhero comics over the years that have had a better gender balance than others, but the genre as a whole has been a more male genre.

Levitz was actually asked quite a bit abut gender and comics throughout the interview. None of his answers were much more satisfying to the women who read and like superhero comics, sadly unaware of how freakish they are. Other statements get picked apart at DC Women Kicking Ass

Levitz goes on to talk about the attempts to get girls into superhero comics:

I don’t think the love for the character necessarily means that they love the comic expression of them. Or maybe they do and with the right writer at the right moment, that can happen and have a larger audience. Certainly any version of that has been tried by the company at some point or another in time. You’ve got the whole period around 1972 when Dorothy Woolfolk comes back into the company and she’s editing both the romance comics and the girl superheroes. She’s given Wonder Woman, Lois Lane, and Supergirl on the theory that we can sell more of those to girls with a woman driving the bus. It’s not clear that it particularly worked, and the company abandoned the experiment fairly quickly.

You. You over there. Yeah, you the one who didn’t buy Wonder Woman, Lois Lane and Supergirl in 1971-72. Thanks for screwing it up for all of us. What? During the ascent of the women’s liberation movement, you didn’t want to buy comics where Wonder Woman had no powers? Or was tied to a bomb on the cover? Just take a look at the covers of those comics from those years and see what I mean.

Having hung around the comics industry for as long as I have, I can testify that such attitudes and far worse are often expressed aloud…one can only imagine what is being thought. Bottom line, you can get girls to wear Supergirl CLOTHES, but you can’t do a Supergirl book for girls. Why? I’m sure there will be lots of links to answers to that question in future weekend editions of Dispatches from the Fridge.

That said, when looking at matters of this sort, it usually comes down to cooties. Boys don’t want girl cooties on their boy nerd things and exert all kinds of pressure to stop the cooties. The now infamous story of a seven year old girl who was bullied for liking Star Wars illustrates many points. Of course seven year old kids are mean, just learning about things, and tend to parrot what they hear. She could have gotten bullied about a lot os things.

They most telling part of the story — to me anyway — is the part where Katie wants to swap her Star Wars water bottle for a PINK water bottle so she won’t get picked on. Yes, socialization begins VERY early! Way earlier than seven.

I’m reminded of a brunch a few months ago with a friend (who’s a comics artist) and her young daughter — not sure of her exact age but probably four or five. They were talking about Halloween, and which Star Wars characters they could go as. The child wanted to be Han Solo. That left mom to be…Boba Fett.

Ya hear that? The kid wanted to be the cool, brave adventurous one. NOT the one that has to be a slave even though she is equally cool, brave and adventurous. I hope as soon as she gets to school this girl doesn’t get this teased out of her and instead decide to dress as Kim Kardashian. That would be sad.

Anyway, following the links on the new blog will lead you to all sorts of outrage and research and studies and so on.

UPDATE: WHoa, When Fangirls Attack is back with 17 posts.


  1. “None of his answers were much more satisfying to the women who read and like superhero comics, sadly unaware of how freakish they are.”

    Over-reacting much? I see nothing there about women who like superheores being freaks, I see a lot about there being more boy readers than girls much as there are more male sports fans than female.

    Attacking Levitz for saying the truth and putting words in his mouth is pretty petty.

  2. Wow, the sixteen months of solid blogging myself and my partner did before taking a haitus (one we just got back from with 17 STRAIGHT POSTS OF CONTENT thanks to the wonderfulness of my partner) is “foundering”?

    Thanks a lot, glad to know you appreciate the work we did.

    My partner and I fully support Ragnell and Kalinara with their return to linkblogging and really look forward to it- and honor them as founders and amazing women-, but that doesn’t mean we (most she- I don’t care about you dismissing me, but my partner has worked tirelessly and come up with some amazing ideas for the blog i.e. categories) haven’t busted our butts maintaining the site. We fell of the wagon for a whole there, but excuse us for having lives.

  3. Yeah, it’s merely more of the hostess being disingenuous, and not giving credit to the folks who valiantly tried to keep WFA going after Ragnell and Kalinara bailed out on the site.

    As for the Levitz dig, he’s had it coming for awhile now. And with DC being more misogynistic and racist than ever in their books while true fans are clamoring for a Lois Lane series via Twitter…the unintended irony is rather obvious.

  4. Nevermore999 — if you’ll note the update, we had crossed wires there — when I originally wrote this post you had yet to update. I’ll make the correction more prominent. Really glad to see you are back — I could spend my entirely holiday just following your links.

  5. That’s great. Even if we hadn’t updated, that doesn’t give you the right to dismiss the huge body of work my partner did beforehand.

    I notice you still kept your “foundered” line in. Until you acknowledge my partner’s efforts, I still have problem with this article.

  6. Thanks for the link and nice words, Heidi.

    I mildly protest the notion that we “bailed”, KET. We gave the blog away after long periods of hiatus because we knew we weren’t able to keep it going due to personal matters. We’ll always be grateful to Caitlin and Maddy for all their hard work.

  7. I’m glad Ragnell and Kalinara are getting the proverbial band back together. While the new crew at WFA has done a decent job of keeping things afloat (hiatus aside), I must admit to a preference for the original lineup.

    All that said, while I think I share many of the fangirlosphere’s concerns about superhero comics — the response to the Levitz interview seems to be a serious case of overreaction and/or stipulating facts that are simply not in evidence.

    Levitz said: “I’m not sure that young women are as interested in reading about superheroes.”

    He didn’t say NO young women were interested.

    And he didn’t negatively label the ones that were/are interested in superheroes in any way.

    He simply asserted that by and large, more boys/men tend to gravitate to the superhero genre than girls/women. Which is more than likely true.

    Saying that doesn’t erase women who enjoy superhero comics, nor is it an argument against addressing issues w/r/t misogyny, objectification, etc. in the genre– even if female readers *are* a minority, superhero comics ought not to actively repel or alienate them.

    Levitz was a somewhat conservative leader (likely overly so in several instances) during his tenure at DC, no argument there. But a lot of the fangirls ripping into him over this interview seem to be reacting more to what they believe he believes than what he actually *said* — and in this case, amateur mind-reading seems to have led to a lot of poor, overblown criticism.

  8. @J.K. Simon I think the current team at WFA has done more than keep things afloat. Team A did a great job. Team B has done a great job as well and expanded the scope of WFA to include more about abelist and LGBQT issues. An important point to consider in the case of either team is no one is paid for doing anything to do with WFA or its new supplement. It’s a labor of love where lives, jobs, and school need to come first to all participants. I’m glad to see the demand is voracious for the content, but I’m sorry to see a discussion about what is a valuable resource in comic commentary turn into a partisan issue.
    Moving on to Levitz. You clearly have a different interpretation of Levitz’s remarks. I get that. I can assure you that there are many, many people who read the same interview who disagree with your interpretation. I am one of them. Yet instead of simply stating your view you have chosen to attack my reaction and that of others by calling it “fangirl rage” and “Poor, overblown criticism.” It is not. His statement that girls/women are not interested in reading superheroes is an assertion based on flawed, if any data. Anytime you make a broad, baseless claim using inductive data against a category of people you can assume those people will react strongly. Add in that many of those reacting, myself included, are customers of DC Comics and the reaction will be even stronger. I recommend the next time you choose to jump to the defense of someone’s bobbled comments you mount it without resorting to name calling.

  9. @DC Women Kicking Ass

    Reread my post and see if you can find the phrase ‘fangirl rage’ ANYWHERE in it.

    Also, “I’m not sure that young women are as interested in reading about superheroes.” is hardly the same as “girls/women are not as interested in reading superheroes” — you can tell because because, well, the words themselves are different.

    I also find it revealing that you called my read of Levitz’s comments an ‘interpretation’ while presenting your own as fact — an interesting choice since your read is much more subjective and relies considerably more on speculation and inference than mine.

    But thanks for illustrating my point about criticizing comments based on things that were never said.

    I’m not trying to say that Levitz is a paragon of feminism. But he’s not saying *you* don’t read comics or aren’t important — he’s not even saying that *many* women don’t read superhero comics or that their purchases are meaningless. He’s just saying the number of male readers is larger. Are you really prepared to argue that *more* women read superhero comics than men, or that the numbers are statistically even — because, even in the absence of anything other than anecdata (from either side), that seems unlikely to the point of being ridiculous.

  10. Actually, Ragnell and I both included LGBTQ-related posts in our WFA coverage.

    We did not however cover race or ablism, which were new areas that Maddy and Caitlin brought to the table.

  11. BTW just to make it clear, I think you are ALL AWESOME and all this UNPAID work is fantastic. Blogging is hard work, and anyone who steps up to the plate to do it deserves laurel wreaths.

    I’ll take these links when I can get them.

  12. @J.K.Simon: The reason for the reaction is that it’s one of those fallacies where the more it continues to be repeated, the more it’s going to continue to be believed.

    It’d be like someone in an influential position saying: “I’m not sure that young women are as interested in mathematics. The fundamental nature of the mathematics has historically been more appealing to boys than to girls.”

    Sure, he didn’t say no girls are good at math. And certainly, the number of males pursuing fields related to math is larger than the number of females. But that isn’t exactly evidence of mathematics (comics) being fundamentally more appealing to boys.

    In the case of comics, almost everyone — regardless of gender — enjoys a power fantasy. The problem is that there is such a smaller ratio of superpowered women to superpowered men, and always has been. And while some women are more interested in male superheroes and some men are more interested in female superheroes…it seems that people more often gravitate to superpowered heroes of their own gender. So is it really surprising a smaller ratio of superpowered women results in a smaller ratio of women who appear to be into the superhero genre? There’s probably a reason why the X-Men have typically had a closer to gender-balanced audience than most comic books…

  13. @Kate Willaert: I’m all for creating more cool superheroines, but if all it took to increase readership amongst women was having a heroic female lead which they could identify, then more women would have seen Aliens (with Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, one of the most kickass action heroines to appear anywhere in media) than men — and that didn’t happen.

    I’m certainly willing to believe that far more women read superhero comics than Levitz suspects — but at the end of the day, I still think there’s little evidence or data to suggest that their numbers equal, much less eclipse, the male readership.

    Because as much as they are a power fantasy, superheroes are also a predominantly action-adventure subgenre — and evidence from elsewhere in the entertainment industry strongly suggests that action stories/narratives have significantly greater traction with the male contingent. Even the X-Men titles’ significant female readership seems to be outnumbered by their male counterparts.

    Again, I’m in sympathy with female readers who want better heroines, less misogyny and objectification, etc. But I’m not sure that those gains are to going to be made by arguing that women equal or outnumber men amongst the superhero readership. IMHO, rather than trying to assert that there are as many or more women reading superheroes than men’, female readers should simply say, ‘A lot of us read superhero comics, enough to be worthy of some attention and consideration.’ That strikes me as an equally persuasive argument, and one which relies less on a dubious and unproven assertion — while establishing a valid rationale for the tangible gains they seek.

  14. @kalianara I stand corrected.

    @J. K. Simon You are correct. You did not say “fan girl rage” you said “fangirls ripping into him”.

    I said we both had different interpretations. And I pointed to evidence that many others felt differently than yours. The main point I called you out about what was that you demeaned those who had an opposing opinion to yours by describing it as an “overblown and poor”. And of course the line referenced above.

    As I read your comments it seems you are focused on the words “as interested” as equal to “bought as many copies of superhero comics as men” and denouncing criticism of Levitz’s remarks based on that. But you’re missing out on the real issue of why so many people (I can assure you, it is not just women) are concerned and enraged by his remarks. His assumption women are not AS interested in superheroes is based on their lack of consumption of a product which is made and marketed by a individual/company representative who clearly feels they HAVE less interest. Or the proverbial “chicken and the egg.” That’s the frustrating part.

    There is no research that says that women are not “as interested” in superheroes. There is no research anywhere that, as Levitz says, “I think the whole myth of superheroes is that they simply aren’t appealing to women as they are to men.” His, their, assumptions are based on the fact the women, to date, have not consumed their superhero comics at the same rate as men. That doesn’t necessarily show the genre has a lack of appeal but only a lack of appeal for the content that is available in that genre.

    Assuming that women don’t have a appetite because they won’t consume your product is a basic mistake of marketing. Whether women go to see Aliens more than men as a point of evidence proves what? I’d say that Universal didn’t know how to market a film to women. We’re not like cats; you can’t just open a can of food and expect us to come running.

    Earlier this year the Wall Street Journal ran an article on how television producers had spent some money to research what women wanted in their action heroes. I posted about it here. http://dcwomenkickingass.tumblr.com/post/1064041734/womenwantactionheroes.

    The main takeaway was by throwing some bucks at market research they found out their assumptions on what women wanted from female actions heroes was off-base.

    As I said in my piece if DC has one market survey showing that women saying they do not find superheroes “as appealing” as men I’d be be less critical of his remarks.

  15. @dcwomenkickingass

    It seems like you’re saying “women don’t consume superhero comics but we like superheroes but we need the comic companies to cater to us in the hopes that we will buy comics, even though we already like comics but don’t buy them”

    If the female friendly comics had sales through the roof or at the very least proportionate to the number of female readers that you claim are out there then you might have a valid complaint. But since you admit that women aren’t as interested in “consuming” the product as much as men, why would you expect them to do more for you? Given the lousy numbers on Batgirl and Birds of Prey and the traditionally and historically low numbers of Wonder Woman, a company would have to be crazy to gear up for some new “marketing” campaign tailor made for women when women aren’t buying the product anyways. In that link you make this claim…

    “how when media pays attention and coughs them up, women consume them..”

    Based on the numbers and your claim that they like them but don’t consume them, then that comment is clearly, factually wrong. If you can’t muster up enough monetary loyalty to the product that’s already out there to show the company that you actually ARE out there, then it’s rather ridiculous to complain when they don’t do more.

    “Whether women go to see Aliens more than men as a point of evidence proves what? I’d say that Universal didn’t know how to market a film to women.”

    But the product was still there wasn’t it? Do they really need to make the posters pink before you come running? This excerpt from the link you give is in direct contradiction to what you yourself are saying….

    “Their core audience—female viewers—want to see a woman take down the enemy, preferably with a little bloodshed along the way.”

    Sticking with the Aliens analogy, a movie poster of a strong female character, flame thrower in hand…protecting a young girl isn’t enough? Or maybe to you that’s pandering and insulting? Even a cat knows he’s going to get food when he sees the can. Based on that statement that you claim to support, every women should be buying every female superhero title just based on the cover alone, but they aren’t are they.

    I always hear about the powerful female dollar when this topic comes up, of course those saying that never take into account that women buy for “families” as well as themselves. By making the rather incredible statement that women don’t consume what they actually claim to like and then to compound it by wanting marketing that you’re already getting, you basically are showing your demographic to be unreliable and rather bizarrely fickle at best.

    When women put their money where there mouth is, you can bet the companies will take notice. But they won’t do it until then because really…why should they?

  16. @John “It seems like you’re saying “women don’t consume superhero comics but we like superheroes but we need the comic companies to cater to us in the hopes that we will buy comics, even though we already like comics but don’t buy them”

    Wrong! That is absolutely not what I’m saying, John. And since your entire response is based off that belief and is also dripping with condescension and outright sexism, I have no desire to parse the rest of your words. I have better things to do, like “go bake cookies or something.”

  17. “When women put their money where there [sic] mouth is, you can bet the companies will take notice. But they won’t do it until then because really…why should they?”

    Women not buying something is also a response.

    Women buying something else, such as manga, is a response.

    A company can innovate and seek new readers (such as DC in 1985) or become creatively inbred (such as Marvel in 1996). Fans will find other things to spend money on.

  18. Then how do you explain the poor sales of titles that women claim to love? And please don’t try to spin it and say they’re not poor or they’re only poor because blah blah blah and it has nothing to do with women not buying them. All we have to do is site the DC/Marvel sales figures listed on this very blog.

    And the old stand by of “but women buy Manga” is irrelevant. Manga and monthlies are completely different animals. If female readers of Manga were the same audience that read Birds of Prey, then Birds of Prey would be doing a hell of a lot better.

  19. “I have no desire to parse the rest of your words.”

    translation: “I can’t back up my self contradicting and factually incorrect statments”

    Fair enough.