PR: What Not to Do: Pushing Balloon Babes on Me

Between conventions and email, lately I’ve been given the push sell by a couple of different guys. The one thing they had in common was that they were trying to get me to try comics that were being promoted primarily with images of balloon-busted, barely clothed “female” grotesqueries. (I’m talking here about Jim Balent-level caricature, not just the standard Witchblade-style exposure.)

They have every right to plaster their covers and promotional material with these helium hussies, of course, and in a way, it’s helpful to see these ridiculous images featured so prominently, because it makes it easy for me to turn them down quickly. Anyone selling that kind of project isn’t doing the kind of comics I want to read. I reject those pitches out of hand, since the material is clearly not aimed at readers like me.

Why I’m talking about it now is that, in both cases, I got pushback. These guys (and they are always guys) bemoan how quick I am to misjudge (in their opinion) their projects. Their female characters are strong, they say, and they only use such exaggerated pictures because they sell so much better than anything else.

I’m sure they do. There are still enough adolescent (in mind if not in body) males buying comics that that kind of pitch will get a certain amount of attention. But if I put a naked man on the cover of my “serious” novel, you’re going to jump to certain conclusions about who the audience is likely to be. And you’d be justified in doing so — packaging is chosen to send those kinds of messages. If you put one of those “couldn’t exist in nature because her breasts are larger than her head” girls on the cover of your comic, I don’t care what’s inside it. I’m going to be too distracted and annoyed by your marketing to go any further. It’s not “prejudice”, as one affronted publisher put it — it’s being selective about what I’m willing to read and promote to my readers.

In my case, it is right to judge a book by its cover. Either that cover accurately represents the contents — in which case, yuck, I’m not interested in that kind of badly drawn crap — or it doesn’t, in which case you’re engaging in false advertising and I don’t want to reward that. I know it’s tough to get attention in comics, where most new projects are ignored, but there are many better ways to catch the eye. They involve more hard work than taking the low road of pitching to the groin, though.


11 Responses to “PR: What Not to Do: Pushing Balloon Babes on Me”

  1. Suzene Says:

    Wow. Were these guys fishing for a review, or actively trying to get you to buy their product? Either way, I can’t imagine how they thought pushing the material after you’d declined was going to get them anywhere.

  2. Ed Sizemore Says:

    “Helium hussies” is now one of my all-time favorite phrases.

  3. Johanna Says:

    One of them wanted a review. In addition to the generic art, he’d dreamed up some “new concept” of online delivery then books — I don’t know the details, I wasn’t paying attention. The other wanted me to buy his gaming/fantasy comic.

    Sometimes it takes a hard sell, especially in a convention environment, but telling me not to believe my eyes felt like a not-useful approach.

  4. Diana Green Says:

    I could not agree more. There are some smart, realistically written and drawn women in superhero comics. I’m thinking of things like Ivory Madison’s Huntress.
    It’s a stupid argument to say “it sells better” and stop there. If all you cared about was making money, there are easier and faster ways to do it than publishing comics.
    And if you care about comics, why not make good ones? I don’t get it.
    But then, I’m just a girl.

  5. James Schee Says:

    Wait, wait.. let me guess. Did either (most likely both) guy pull the “well all guys in comics phsyique(know I spelled that wrong but I’ve got insomnia at 3 am) is embellished too. Or the “well you’re a girl and don’t like her because she’s pretty.” nuggets out?

  6. Johanna Says:

    Thankfully, no, I didn’t get the idiotic “jealousy” argument, but then the conversation didn’t go on very long, either. One did try the “our men are exaggerated too”, but that just showed how much they didn’t understand the objection.

  7. Joshua Macy Says:

    Apropos of which, today’s
    Evil, Inc. comic.

  8. James Moar Says:

    “I didn’t get the idiotic “jealousy” argument”

    You’re just jealous because *your* spine can’t do that. :)

  9. takingitoutside Says:

    Prejudice!?! They actively chose to put that image on the cover to represent their work – how can your judging the work based on what they themselves put forward as a basis for judging the work be prejudice?

    I’m frequently amazed by how many guys just do not get that women read covers like that to mean “You are not the intended audience.” What meaning exactly do they think we’re going to get out of it?

  10. Johanna Says:

    James, it’s true, I tried once, and hurt myself. :)

    TIO, apparently, I am biased against impossible women with no internal organs. :) You’re right, they don’t think about what women think — or they’re used to knowing the few women who have become inured to this kind of exaggeration, those who put up with it without saying anything. Often these women are girlfriends or relatives. :)

  11. Geeking Out About… » Author’s Note: Covering Books Says:

    [...] about publishers pushing the “wrong” covers on people. Johanna at Comics Worth Reading talks about webcomic guys who put helium hussies (her term, and I love it) on the covers of their comics and [...]




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