Marvel’s Attitude Towards Female Readers

For contrast in attitudes in comparison to DC launching graphic novels for teen girls, ICv2 today interviews Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley, who when asked about the female audience for comics responds with a whole lot of double-talk:

Our category’s gotten bigger, but the only genre where we have sophisticated genre development is our superhero action adventure stuff. So looking at the growth in the bookstore business, we can see between the sales of manga and what we’re doing, there’s interest. The bookstore business wants to support that, but we need to get more genres into the category to help drive that growth engine and at the same time, get new readers because of their dedication to that property already.

I think we suspected that when we had the Dark Tower deal. When we announced Dark Tower the first time, a lot of our suspicions seemed to be true. Were we specifically looking to say we need more women readers? Not necessarily. What we’re looking for is what kinds of properties are out there that have a solid fan base that would be excited about seeing that property in our form of graphic fiction. And we think we can translate that into commerce, and bring those people in to read, and then maybe we can get a couple of Anita Blake fans to pick up Spider-Man, and send them over to Mary Jane. That gets them involved in this kind of storytelling, and that’s what we were looking at. It’s great that it’s female readers for Anita Blake, but Hedge Knight’s going to have a completely different fan base. Hopefully if we get enough people involved in this type of fiction, it will help us grow the category and Marvel can always benefit from that type of growth. […]

I know you’re talking specifically about females, but our thoughts are if we can look at properties that bring more readers to the table that are different demographics than Marvel’s core group, then we have something. If it’s women, that’s great; if it’s sword and sorcery guys, that’s great; if it’s young readers, that’s great; if it’s gamers, which Halo represents, that’s great. It can only lead to a broader mix of consumers, which can only help.

That’s why I kind of went off base with that. The soap opera thing that we did, obviously that was specifically targeted at women and moms, and we’re just seeing what comes out of it. We got great buzz out of it and we’re just going to see what happens in the stores when the stuff hits.

To me, that boils down to “if girls want to read our books, ok, but they’re not going to have much to choose from, and we really want them to read superheroes.” In contrast to THAT, DC deserves a lot of applause. Buckley sounds almost scared about attracting women.


9 Responses to “Marvel’s Attitude Towards Female Readers”

  1. James Moar Says:

    Well, it’s not like women make up anything like half the human race….

  2. David Oakes Says:

    Actually, he doesn’t even want them to read super-books:

    “[M]aybe we can get a couple of Anita Blake fans to pick up Spider-Man, and send them over to Mary Jane.”

    Marvel publishes exactly one book for women, and doesn’t even want them to read Spider-Man! I really hope that this was also a lack of extemporaneous skill on Buckley’s part, the way the rest of the quote sounded.

    But yes, DC for all it’s cold, calculating commercialism does seem willing to publish entire lines of books for niche markets, like “women”, rather than just one book. Marvel seems to view them only as ways to sell more Spider-Man.

    Personally, I am waiting for the team-up with “Hannah Montana”, to grab that tweenette market.

  3. Ray Cornwall Says:

    The real problem with Marvel in this regard is that they don’t think like a publishing company. They think like a licensing and movie company. They’re so wired into thinking about making money off the 18-to-35 male demographic that they don’t know how to make anything else. Looking to Marvel to make comics for women is like looking to ExxonMobil to make milkshakes: they could probably cobble something together, but would you really want to drink it?

    There’s a flip side to this story, of course. My wife reads a lot of “chick-lit”, stories aimed at professional women 25-35. Should I spend a lot of time pining for them to put out something I should read?

  4. Johanna Says:

    If you went into stores that claimed to carry books, with no specifics, but only stocked those kinds of books aimed at people who weren’t you, wouldn’t you pine a bit?

  5. Shawn Levasseur Says:

    The problem is that every time over the past decade or so that Marvel seeks to expand its line, its been to create more superhero universes. DC expands into different genres.

    Marvel, via it’s old “Epic” line used to do the same. But that was a looooong time ago.

    DC is a comic book company. Marvel is merely a Super-Hero comic book company.

  6. Lyle Says:

    I have to admit, when I read the interview earlier today, I had a different reaction. I found it somewhat encouraging that the perspective was “Let’s try to figure out what genres we’re not serving and try to get better there.” versus “Let’s try to guess at what an audience we’ve long served badly would buy and try to create those comics.”

    Then again, maybe it’s that I don’t expect Marvel to get far by aiming to create for female customers (or even in trying to learn from female comic readers) and I’d expect they’d be more likely to find success by approaching the question as “What kinds of stories are we missing?”

    Then again, maybe I’m still reacting to the clueless attempt to draw female manga readers that the Marvel Mangaverse turned out to be.

  7. Johanna Says:

    Marvel Mangaverse was supposed to attract women? With that Phoenix character who didn’t wear anything below the waist? Sheesh!

  8. david brothers Says:

    This is the first I’ve heard of the Mangaverse being meant to attract women. It was a ploy to ride a gimmick by Marvel that resulted in a couple good stories (Legend of the Spider-Clan is a personal favorite of mine) and a lot of bad ones (Ben Dunn on anything).

    The Phoenix thing you’re talking about, Johanna, was actually a different entity altogether. I think it took place a year or two later.

    It started out as a mainline Marvel series that was tenuously tied to the Marvel U. By tenuously I mean that there was a character named Jean, a character named Maddie, and possibly a Phoenix and that’s it. The name of the writer/artist escapes me, but I think he’s either a studio mate or contemporary of Adam Warren. Brian Kinnaird? Ryan Kinnaird?

    It was, uh, pretty bad, to be polite about it. Story was so-so at best and the art was way too cheesecakey for me, and that’s saying something. I’m a Frank Cho and Adam Hughes fan, but I like my heroines to wear a bit more than butt-floss and half a bustier :/

  9. Lyle Says:

    I don’t recall if the hype for the Marvel Mangaverse targeted women, but when the line (which got scaled back into an event which could become a line) was still rumored it was talked as an attempt to appeal to females (because women read manga). I was pretty excited about those rumors hoping we’d get something like Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, but what resulted seemed to show a “big eyes and speed lines” understanding of manga.

    They did get closer to showing an understanding of the manga audience with the Tsunami line and the series of digests that Tsunami evolved into, though I think a lot of that is a matter of stumbling into success.




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