FCBD: What About the Girls?

Lots of discussion already about the Free Comic Book Day comics I covered yesterday, but I wanted to raise a related question… and I can’t believe it took me this long to notice:

What am I supposed to give girls? FCBD has never been strong on titles for women (neither is the direct market, so that’s not a surprise), but in previous years, there were good choices for the younger female. This year seems to have gone backwards in this area.

The only manga this year is aggressively male-targeted. Archie went with Little Archie and a camp adventure instead of anything that features its well-known female characters. Amelia Rules was a favorite to push, but they’ve been doing more superhero role-playing stories, which I find less interesting because they’re less about Amelia’s experiences and more about Reggie. (To be fair, others may not agree with my perception of their change in focus.)

Legion of Super-Heroes has plenty of female characters, so that’s a possibility. There are several regular titles that can appeal to both boys and girls: Bongo’s Simpsons, Mickey Mouse, and Owly’s always a great choice (and that even features a new female character this year). Older, Whiteout and Love and Capes would both be good.

In the bigger picture, I’d say that the selection this year is a fair representation of the direct market, so all I’m doing is recognizing the bigger issue, which we’re all already aware of.


27 Responses to “FCBD: What About the Girls?”

  1. Ed Sizemore Says:

    I’m disappointed that Viz isn’t filling the gap by offering a sampler of thier Shojo mangas. How about an older copy of Shojo Magazine for retailers to give out? Also I would love to see Del Rey do a sampler.

  2. John Gallagher Says:

    My suggestions (and one plug) for “Girl-Friendly” books, assuming you mean little girl, and not just Wimmen:
    – Amelia Rules
    – Owly/Corgi
    – Buzzboy/Roboy Red
    – Archie
    – Mickey Mouse (Mickey’s Playhouse is Da Bomb with my 5 year old)

    Just a point of disagreement (which I know you were ready for), Amelia Rules is a consistently good book for girls– and boys. I don’t think it needs to ignore one to be for the other. Does a Disney book need to be about Minnie for a girl to think it’s for her?

    As an example, one of the creators of Kim Possible said test audiences were convinced it was for them on both sides: girls saw it as a “girl” show, and boys saw it as a “boy” show– but really the kids just enjoyed it as fun– just as with Owly, and (plug alert) Buzzboy/Roboy, which has a drawing contest to create-a-robot– taking cue from last year’s popular create-a-hero contest in Buzzboy: Sidekicks Rule!

    But boy, I’d love to see a Sardine comic from FirstSecond books for next year!

    For more girl (and boy) friendly titles, people should check out the Kids Love Comics site: http://www.kidslovecomics.com

    All the books listed are super cool for kids, and available from comics shops and online…

  3. Lew Newmark Says:

    If when you say girls, you are referring to little girls, I really think that’s a tough one. I had done a quick cursory glance at the list for FCBD and I really did not see a comic aimed at a little girl. And any of the more hero based comics featuring girls will more than likely not be too appealing to them. A tough call to be sure, and also a real industry fau pau at the very least, and leaves alot of open discussion to be sure.

  4. Johanna Says:

    Lew, I mean little girls and teens. And yeah, you take my point.

    John, there’s nothing wrong with comics for kids (if they really are — some claim that without realizing that they’re boy-focused or of much more interest to boys). However, when you only have comics for boys and comics for kids, there’s something of a lack there.

    You say a comic doesn’t need to ignore one to be for the other — but girls are very used to being ignored when it comes to boy-focused comics (like most superhero titles). We need to be aware of their needs that aren’t being met.

  5. John Gallagher Says:

    Johanna– my post was more of an answer to the initial question of what to give girls for FCBD.

    Big picture, I do agree with your point that there are not enough girl specific items out there at this point, especially in the fact that there are 40+ titles coming out on Saturday…

  6. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » May 1, 2007: Hunter S. Thompson’s missed opportunity Says:

    […] Johanna Draper Carlson wonders what retailers are supposed to hand out to girls on Free Comic Book Day. Odds that this is the first time anyone associated with FCBD anywhere along the Direct-Market foodchain has even asked this question: 3-1. […]

  7. Hope Larson Says:

    Well…I have an 8-page Salamander Dream thing in The Beguiling’s FCBD book, Comics Festival. Unfortunately, the rest of the book skews older, and there are no other women involved.

  8. Johanna Says:

    Thanks for pointing that out. I want to reread that section when it’s all over and I can relax and enjoy it.

  9. Peggy Burns Says:

    Well, there is our (D+Q’s) Lynda Barry comic book. It is good for women and for girls, anyone actually. She actually designed it as an activity book.

  10. Hope Larson Says:

    I have a copy of that Lynda Barry activity book already and it’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I love you, D&Q.

  11. Johanna Says:

    Oh, goodness, how did I miss that? I’ll have to look for it.

  12. Carol/Klio Says:

    ComicGenesis’ FCBD sampler includes several comics by women including my own, SPQR Blues, which I think would be just right for young girls, teens, and young women, on account of it’s what I wanted to read as a young girl, teen, and young woman. Of course, I always wanted to grow up to be a Roman soldier with the cool uniform with the little skirt. But, yes, there are women in the story, which satisfies my other need, for wearing great quantities of drapery and being frighteningly formidable.

    I will readily admit to feeling occasional pangs of, “But if I want to write for girls, maybe my comic shouldn’t have quite so many boys….”

  13. Lisa Lopacinski Says:

    Definately Unseen Peanuts and Owly are great for girls. Definately NOT Liberty Comics!!

  14. Carol/Klio Says:

    Ah me, I just backed up and read the commentary on ComicGenesis’ FCBD offering, which was, er, let’s see now: Keenspot and Comic Genesis are webcomic samplers, so there’s nothing from them for retailers to sell the rest of the year. They’re riding the coattails to get low-cost advertising. Looked at uncharitably, they may even be trying to poach comic shop customers. I don’t know why a retailer would choose to give these out. (They’re also wildly varying in quality and printed on cruddy newsprint.)

    The creators represented in the samplers had no control over the paper stock (I did ask what would be used and never received an answer). Some of us are, yes, using the day for advertising, just like, oh, everyone else producing a comic for FCBD. And some of us also produce printed minicomics or graphic novels (on real nice paper) and would like comic shops to recognise us when we tiptoe timidly to them to peddle our itty bitty wares.

    I’m of the opinion that webcomics and free versions of both out-of-print and new-to-print comics on the web support retail sales. Evidence (anecdotal) indicates this is in fact this case. Rising tide, all boats, that sort of thing. It’s certainly how I plan to market titles in future.

  15. Greg Hatfield Says:

    Johanna,
    Our free Impact University comic has how to draw comics and fantast art featuring excerpts from Colleen Doran’s Grrl to Girl Manga book and DragonArt Fantasy Characters by J “NeonDragon” Peffer. All appropriate for girls (and boys) of any age.

  16. Lew Newmark Says:

    Well Johanna, it looks like there is a more diverse universe of items that are for girls without the
    ” Superheroine ” tag associated with them. Alot to think about and consider, although it might be a little late for this year’s event, but it is never too late to start planning for next years FCBD. Hope that this Saturday turns out well for you.

  17. Nat Gertler Says:

    Some of us are, yes, using the day for advertising, just like, oh, everyone else producing a comic for FCBD.
    Yes, but the print publishers are asking retailers to pay for advertising -for products which the retailers sell, and thus profit the retailer-. The goal is mutual benefit… which is not the goal of the webcomics samplers.

  18. Carol/Klio Says:

    Hi, Nat.

    The goal is mutual benefit… which is not the goal of the webcomics samplers.

    I disagree, for the reasons given in my post above. Things that draw people into stores–including people who might never have gone into a store, or people who only read webcomics and would like to start trying print comics–offer mutual benefits for everyone, retailers, publishers, and creators alike. Particularly for web publishers who will be moving into print (i.e., producing things retailers can sell, offering a commodity that draws in a segment of readership who can then discover other types of comics once they’re in the shop).

    I say this while not knowing whether it is more than a nominal fee for retailers to stock these FCBD comics, but my thoughts were that retailers should consider this not only as advertising for the FCBD producers but as advertising for their stores as well: “Such-and-such store will have the biggest varieties of goodies to give away on FCBD, so go there instead of that-other-store.”

  19. Nat Gertler Says:

    No, the reasons you give in your posts above are why you want shops to carry the book, because it advertises you book to them. That’s a benefit to you, not to the shops. You think it might have some blowback on the shops in the longer term, but that wouldn’t seem to be the reason the publishers put them out.

    Shops do indeed pay more than a nominal amount for these books (although less than they pay for for-sale issues). The ComicGenesis book cost retailers 39 cents a copy (plus shipping), which means they’re charging more than the Sonic The Hedgehog book and the Spider-Man book combined, or more than three times when retailers pay for the Legion book.

    And that the thought that they would be forced to include these books that aren’t designed for their benefit in order to compete on selection of giveaways just builds the depiction as leeching items rather than something that builds FCBD as a whole.

  20. Carol/Klio Says:

    Hi, again, Nat.

    I’ll continue to disagree with your reasoning. My personal intention for putting out an FCBD comic is for the mutual benefits I outlined above–and that includes the belief that eventually offering a store a product people will purchase is a mutual benefit, not merely a mercenary one, but that’s how my mind skews. Of course I can’t prevent someone from having the philosophy that the benefit is only one-sided, and that offering webcomics samplers is not an attraction for increased traffic and for bringing in new readers unfamiliar with print comics. As a side note, I had no control over nor knowledge of the cost for the ComicGenesis book, but gave it a go by including my comic. Perhaps in future years ComicGenesis can find a way to be cost-effective and find a way to speak to retailers’ concerns.

    Also, of course, I will continue to believe that the inclusion of webcomics in the general comics industry dialogue is a benefit to all facets of the industry (publishing, retail, online). In some discussions, yes, webcomics have the unfortunate reputation of being leeches. It would be lovely to receive reviews from the greater market on the merits of individual offerings rather than to be dismissed as a group with no worth to the publishers or the retailers. I do see a rising tide amongst more felixible publishers in support of the (relatively new) online world and its legitimacy as a way to increase sales across the board by growing new readers/customers. We’ll see over time how the trends trend.

  21. Johanna Says:

    The problem with your theory, Carol, is that I’ve seen the kind of customers the webcomic samplers attract, at least in the store I help in. Every year, the same group of three come in, ask for the free webcomic books, claim they have no money to buy anything else, and leave. One year, they asked about a specific other type of comic, we showed them the publications we had, they stood there and read them, and then left. Maybe they’re just bad apples, but they’re not great advertisements for the potential to convert webcomic readers.

  22. Carol/Klio Says:

    Fair enough, Johanna, though I wish the results were better (at least, the results you’re seeing at your store). While I hope that other shops will see increasing interest as the number of people who read webcomics increases, I do also think it’s essential that webcomics samplers be easier for retailers to take a chance on stocking, rather than being priced right out of consideration. I’d also like to see more participation in FCBD by publishers who are producing graphic novels for younger readers including young girls, but some of these children’s book publishers might not even have FCBD on their radar. (Did First Second participate? Scholastic? Shouldn’t they? I’ll go have another look at the list.)

    On another note, it may be a few more seasons before we can truly measure the impact of free online comics on sales of those same titles or sequels to those titles in stores. I’ll stay hopeful–just can’t help myself.

  23. ~raina Says:

    I’d also like to see more participation in FCBD by publishers who are producing graphic novels for younger readers including young girls, but some of these children’s book publishers might not even have FCBD on their radar. (Did First Second participate? Scholastic? Shouldn’t they?)

    I suggested a compilation of titles in the pipeline to the Graphix editors numerous times last year; hopefully they will do something for 2008!

  24. Nat Gertler Says:

    In a way, though, such a compilation title might not be a great giveaway comic — if it’s a bunch of selections from various graphic novels, you’re not getting complete stories. It’s a way of telling kids that your books — and comics in general — are unsatisfying.
    However, if you have the right material, short stories related to the larger work, then it could work well. On the Scholastic front, for example, I know there are a couple of short Bone tales out there. I don’t know if they’ve been reprinted in the Scholastic collections, but they were intended as stand-alone introductions.

  25. Johanna Says:

    First Second did a sampler of the upcoming Eddie Campbell “Train Was Bang on Time” book, but it was not for kids, IMO, due to violence.

    If there were webcomic books for retailers to sell, then I would have no problem with a free sampler. But I don’t believe that’s true of most of the contents of the anthologies, is it?

  26. Carol/Klio Says:

    I can’t speak to everyone in the two samplers, but the goal of some is to follow in the steps of so many webcomics and produce a compilation book, if they haven’t already done so. Some people say they’re happy to be called amateurs and satisfied to stay online, but many of them (us) would enjoy the legitimacy that comes with producing something that can be sold. Also, some of us like things you can read in the tub without short-circuiting a keyboard.

    A chance to participate in FCBD is hard to resist. Will retailers remember the antho when a webcomic’s print books are ready for distribution, which could be months away? That was my hope, but: Will they remember it negatively? I think this might be a problem.

  27. Carol/Klio Says:

    Just to flog this poor ex-horse one last belated time: I received my contributor’s copy of the ComicGenesis FCBD sampler today, and see that the inside back cover is a full-page advert reading, “Wecomics/Not just on the internet! Ask your friendly local comic book store to carry the book collections of your favorite webcomics!” Along with a cover image and ISBN-10 for Sore Thumbs volume 1 by Owen Gieni and Chris Crosby. Admittedly, it doesn’t look like the sort of comic I’d buy, but… there it is, a printed product and exhortation. Maybe next year there will be more print compilations, of quality, represented in the pages of the samplers.




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