Comics for Adult Women? The Marvel/Guiding Light Crossover

You may have already heard about the upcoming Marvel/Guiding Light crossover.

An eight-page story featuring GL characters interacting with the Marvel universe (written by Jim McCann, Assistant Manager Of Sales Communication, with art by Udon) will be included in a number of all-ages-friendly titles, including Marvel Adventures books, flip titles, and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane. That last one would take my vote for “Marvel title a soap opera viewer would be most likely to like”, so good choice (although I wouldn’t have bothered with Civil War: Choosing Sides — maybe, though, they wanted to include the story in at least one comic their traditional core audience would possibly read).

On the TV side, in Guiding Light‘s November 1st episode “She’s a Marvel”, one of their characters gets superpowers. (I knew soaps were stretching for viewers recently, but sheesh!) In the link above, McCann talks more about his background in soap operas; he worked on One Live to Life as part of the ABC Daytime Writer Development Program.

Soap operas and superhero comics actually have a lot in common, as McCann goes into:

Beyond the usual hallmarks (evil twins, back from the dead, etc.) take a quick look at this description and tell me what you think I am talking about:

“What other medium are you faced with telling a story using characters with 60 years of history and continuity, trying to keep the essence of these established stories while moving characters forward, putting them into extreme circumstances, and delivering these stories on a consistent basis to a rabid, but declined from years past, fan-base?

“Both! Soaps and comics are two of the greatest forms of serialized story-telling today. And both are faced with the same problems. Both have to produce their product year-round – each soap has to put out 5 hours of original programming a week – that is 260 hours a year! Marvel currently puts out 70+ titles a month, over 50 of which are monthly on-goings. Both have faced negative stereotypes in the mainstream.

Even so, I don’t think a lot of stereotypical soap viewers are going to suddenly subscribe to the Avengers. Marvel just doesn’t have any comics aimed at the adult woman. That’s the last market in terms of comics, in my opinion. There are now plenty of books for girls, young women, and adult men of all ages, and there have always been comics for boys… but what do you recommend to a middle-aged woman? (Please note that I know there are plenty of titles that a woman might enjoy, but I’m looking for graphic novels particularly targeted at that audience.)

And I haven’t even gotten into the nature of having your big opportunity for exposure written by a marketing guy. Maybe he’s the next Peter David, or maybe he’s the only one willing to do the research necessary to create a story set in GL continuity. Does he have any previous comic credits?

This blogger (link no longer available) isn’t optimistic, either:

How can it not be obvious that the thing that draws soap opera fans to their stories are elements that Marvel (and DC) have failed to bring into their regular storylines; consistent emotional follow through. … even if I’m being unfair, it feels very much as if no one’s paying attention to what women want in comics. It feels like ‘someone’ heard that women want comics and ‘someone’ thought there was a demographic that wasn’t being mined. But no one bothered to find out what would make their premise work.

It’s as though someone said, in desperate concern for ever-declining audience numbers, “hey, these two genre have similarities … maybe we should cross-promote!” not thinking about what the two different audiences get out of them, and whether they actually match up.

The Guiding Light site (no longer available) has a preview clip but doesn’t appear to mention the comics. I do hope that there’s more promo on the TV side, or this whole thing will be a waste of time for Marvel.

21 Responses to “Comics for Adult Women? The Marvel/Guiding Light Crossover”

  1. Dwight Williams Says:

    Leaves me scratching my head from my side of the equation as well, which doesn’t mean it won’t work…

  2. Eddie Mitchell Says:

    Soaps are suffering a lot more than you’re aware of these days, Johanna. Even the top-rated The Young and the Restless draws like a quarter of the rating it did at its peak, and once heavy hitters like All My Children, As the World Turns, General Hospital, and Days of Our Lives trail way behind that. They’re a lot like comics in that regard.

    There are so many variables in this that just don’t click for me. Guiding Light’s audience tends to be older than a lot of other soaps. And I question the wisdom of anything that’s supposed to push non-comics readers to comic shops, when there are so many areas of the country that aren’t served by one. And how many of those shops are actually going to have extra copies of the featured titles on hand? The whole pre-ordering thing doesn’t make sense to someone who doesn’t read comics. I’m not sure either side thought it through very well at all.

    I’ve seen one tiny mention of the deal in the soap press, by the way. I’ll DVR the episode because GL was a fave of mine at one time and they’ve chosen a strong, popular character played by a strong, popular actress to carry the story. That’s one point in their favor, at least. The experimental Wednesday episodes aren’t big faves with GL fans, except when they focus on core characters the fans like.

    I won’t be getting the comics, because those art samples are so god-awful.

    By the way, contrary to the blogger you linked to, soaps have done a pretty good job of forgetting how to tell their stories in a way that hook and hold fans and viewers. There’s too much focus on young hot bodies these days at the expense of core veteran characters that the viewers really care about. Obvious story beats and relationship elements get glossed over or dropped all together.

    Days of Oulr Lives finally canned their head writer not long ago, after three years of stories that were big on bang-up events and weak on emotional follow through. (Sound familiar?) It had become truly painful to watch.

    Still, she’s right about the thought process that seems to have gone into the whole thing. Sigh!

    Sorry for the ramble. You’re getting bits and peices of the post on this topic I’ve not had time to finish.

    As a fan of both mediums (media?), I’d love this to succeed, but there’s way too much both sides have over-looked.

  3. Jer Says:

    An eight-page story featuring GL characters interacting with the Marvel universe (written by Jim McCann, Assistant Manager Of Sales Communication, with art by Udon) will be included in a number of all-ages-friendly titles, including Marvel Adventures books, flip titles, and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane.

    Of these, only Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane makes any sense at all for the demographic, regardless of which way this is supposed to flow (i.e. if this is supposed to get comic book readers to watch Guiding Light OR if its supposed to get GL viewers to pick up and try a Marvel title). Despite being shown during the daytime, daytime soaps are not really traditional “all-ages” fare, and I see no real crossover between audiences for Guiding Light and, say, Spider-man Adventures. Even the crossover with SMLMJ is a bit weak – how much crossover is there really between daytime soaps and teen romance?

    As for adult women being a vast untapped market – maybe. Right now they read a lot more prose fiction than the other demographics do, so there may not be as large a reservoir of untapped potential there as you might think at the outset. If their casual reading needs are being fulfilled by the prose fiction market, it may be really hard for comics to push into that niche and compete.

  4. Augie De Blieck Jr. Says:

    CBR seems to be down at the moment, but here’s the Newsarama quote from Jim McCann to help soothe any worried about his writing prowess for soap operas:

    “I was in the ABC Daytime Writer Development Program for years, where I was lucky to write an episode of One Life to Live that made it to air.”

  5. Johanna Says:

    Eddie, thanks for all the background info — I’ve never been a soap watcher, so it’s good to hear from someone who knows about the genre.

    Your point about stores having copies of the books is a good one — these are all low-selling titles for Marvel, which might be an issue.

    Jer, someone else mentioned Runaways as a better choice for potential crossover, to elaborate on your thoughts about the choices.

  6. Johanna Says:

    Augie, that information was in my post above — it was his comic-writing ability I was questioning.

  7. Alan Coil Says:

    Comics for adult women? From Marvel, I can’t think of any. From DC, Possibly Y: The Last Man and Fables. From all others, I can only suggest Love and Rockets, as my experience with comics for adult women is limited.

    Seems a total loss for Marvel on this deal, but one never knows.

  8. Johanna Says:

    Oh, sure, it’s easy to be a nay-sayer — this might be more successful than anyone hopes.

    Re Fables: I would hesitate to recommend ANY Willingham work to a woman, just because his viewpoint is so very male-centric, and as a result, his women are often limited to being types or stereotypes. They never seem as three-dimensional to me as the characters of some other authors do.

    Personally, I recommend Tramps Like Us to any woman who likes good women’s novels, but there’s an additional hurdle to jump there — it’s not just a comic but a translated Japanese comic.

  9. Jer Says:

    Johanna –

    Runaways is a bit better than, say, Marvel Adventures Spider-man, but still – its more “prime-time teen drama” than daytime soap. I could see a tie-in with the OC, but with Guiding Light?

    Now that CBR is up again and I can look at the whole list – I’m shaking my head even more than I was before. Franklin Richards? Power Pack? Wha? These might have a good crossover potential with some kids cartoons, but with soap opera fans?

    Now, if Marvel were still publishing something like 80’s Claremont X-men, THAT I could see getting a crossover audience from soap fans. The characters were a bit overwrought, but not any worse than soaps that I remember.

    re: Fables – would stereotyped characters really be an obstacle to a daytime soap fan? I don’t mean to be snarky, but I haven’t watched an episode daytime soap in maybe 15 years – has the characterization actually gotten better on them?

  10. Augie De Blieck Jr. Says:

    Oops, sorry, Johanna. I have no idea how my eyes slid completely past that paragraph. Eep!

  11. Johanna Says:

    Jer, there was some comment that made me think that they were hoping that the soap opera viewer would pick one of the all ages books up for the crossover and then give it to her kids. I dunno if that’s really the case.

    Augie, no problem!

  12. Kiki Says:

    I always thought Kitchen Sink should have made the effort to advertise Omaha the Cat Dancer in magazines like Soap Opera Digest. That seemed like it would be the perfect cross over book to me. Today though, about the only books I think might work are some of the Oni books and manga like Monster, maybe something like Please Save My Earth. I don’t really see mainstream books as appealing.

  13. Journalista » Blog Archive » Oct. 23, 2006: Chewie is my crucifix Says:

    […] Johanna Draper Carlson looks into Marvel Comics’ upcoming crossover with the soap opera Guiding Light, and expresses skepticism as to whether it’ll do Marvel any good. I’m wondering if anyone’s going to buy the whole soda-and-light-socket origin story, myself. (Sequence from Marvel’s upcoming Guiding Light crossover insert ©2006 Marvel Characters, Inc. and Proctor & Gamble Productions, Inc.) […]

  14. Brian Pearce Says:

    If you think this is unusual, you may be interested to know that about eight years ago, GUIDING LIGHT featured a storyline in which a much-beloved, deceased character was brought back into the cast by having been cloned!

    Apparently, it was great (albeit briefly) for the ratings, though my understanding is that this story drove quite a few longtime viewers away. Sounds like modern-day comics, doesn’t it?

  15. Lyle Says:

    I’ve been one of the few who’s had one foot in both fandoms at one point or another and likes the idea of a crossover. That said, however, I don’t like what I’m hearing of what’s happening.

    While a major part of the soap audience is adult women, what the networks have been pushing for ages are younger viewers, hence all the stunts and de-emphasizing of veterans… which eventually gets enough fan fury that they reverse course… somewhat and temporarily. The thing is, though soap viewing used to be generational and young viewers would often watch the soaps their mothers and grandmothers did and those shows would balance the storylines so that everyone had stories they could relate to. One other similarity I see between the two storytelling forms is that both are what I feel is a creative downwards spiral driven by a desire to move the needle the greatest, when what would really help would be a long-term process that wouldn’t make a noticable bump in the quarter-to-quarter comparisons. There’s also been a shift in vision, it used to be that writers were the big behind-the-scene stars but the only big name writer still working on soaps that I know of is Claire Labine and James Reilley. Nowadays, the creative visionary is the Executive Producer, much like how overall editorial mandates tend to take over superhero comics.

    Whoops, went on a tangent there… anyway, the initial point was that there is a market within the soap audience that comics could aim to reach.

    As for the titles that should be a part of the crossover, I say it should involve any of the digest titles, since those tend to be the easiest to start reading without prior knowledge and often have a better mix of characterization and superheroics (though, I just finished reading Sentinel v3, so that particular experience might be skewing my feeling towards those comics). The Ultimate Flip Magazines don’t sound like a bad choice, either… I think the two main Ultimate titles have given me the feeling I got from comics in the early 80s, which was the same feeling that got me to discover Guiding Light in the mid-80s.

  16. Willow Says:

    To Eddie Mitchell,

    I haven’t watched Soaps in a good couple of years. And like I said, I only check in now and then. I’d hoped it was just that I was lost to see certain characters SOAS’ed and having babies etc.

    It’s sad to hear that the emotional follow through that I learned about has become a thing of the past. And if that’s the case, how will two wrongs make a right?

  17. Johanna Says:

    Thanks for the terrific analysis, Lyle!

  18. Alan Coil Says:

    Ouch. Didn’t think I was being a nay-sayer, just can’t see what benefit this gives Marvel. I am willing to be proven wrong, ’cause I know I don’t know everything.

    Re: Fables—Point taken on Fables being male-centric. I was thinking that perhaps the fables part would be more interesting to women than to most men, as many men might consider themselves too macho to read it.

  19. Dan Coyle Says:

    When it comes to Bill Willingham’s work, I consider myself too decent, not too macho.

    I read the story, and I had no idea what I was looking at. Only GL fans could possibly “Get” it.

  20. Joanna Says:

    Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series was a huge hit with women.

  21. Chris Swain Says:

    Now I may not be to much help in this subject, but i agree Marvel really couldn’t benefit from it, also since i’m a 13-year-old boy it’s hard to say i’m even in the right to say anything

    Anyway, i also saw that Sandman was a huge hit with women as well, and i rather liked. It took the best elements that i’ve seen in any soap opera, and that is storytelling and emotion.




Most Recent Posts: