DC’s New Target Audience Is Younger, Still Male

To reassure comic shop retailers concerned about the recent relaunch news, DC is holding a series of meetings around the country. Word has begun to spread that the news includes mention of the new readers they hope to attract to comics, which has been characterized as 18-34-year-old males.

That’s not particularly surprising. That’s the demographic sweet spot in lots of media, including movies, which corporate comics are now mostly a feeder system for. DC’s older male audience is aging out, and younger men are considered hard to reach consistently. That’s considered a hole, an opportunity to be a medium that does hit that audience, which would help pitch comics to ad buyers (as we know they’ve done in the past).

The news that this is the DC message has upset some fanwomen (see the “males” link above), who feel left out. Their hope was that the DC message of greater diversity extended to females, but that appears not to be the case, as already seen from how few women are working on the new titles. I suspect it’s another example of “change, but not too much change” thinking on the company’s part — they want new readers, but not enough to break out of the ghettoizing idea that “superheroes are for boys”. Women read a lot more than men do, and as manga has shown, that includes words’n’pictures formats. But the guys running DC and making the decisions still don’t know how to reach outside their fan boxes, even if that audience is eager to spend money with them.

That angry post concludes

I’m pissed off (and I’ve heard from many others today who feel the same way). I think it’s time to consider whether the money I spend on DC is best spent with a company more into me. What do you think?

I think women should not buy products that annoy, offend, or marginalize them. But I also think that it’s easy to say “boycott” and hard to follow through on — if you’re interested in the item in the first place. Fans of all stripes have a long history of complaining while continuing to spend, which is part of what DC’s counting on. So this likely won’t happen, and even if it does, it won’t have the desired effect, because DC doesn’t see its female customers in the first place.

Now, want to send a message? Buy Wonder Woman #1 and ONLY that during the DC relaunch month. Buy extra copies of that title for your friends. Show consumer power by spiking sales on one particular title. In the meantime, watch this and be mesmerized (via elfgrove, another annoyed fan):

Tumblr hates DC


15 Responses to “DC’s New Target Audience Is Younger, Still Male”

  1. David Oakes Says:

    ‘[B]ut not enough to break out of the ghettoizing idea that “superheroes are for boys”.’

    Yes, yes! That is it *exactly*.

    And it is also why I don’t appreciate well meaning comments like “There is plenty of Manga” or “Have you read Faith Erin Hicks”. It’s like they are ceeding the Ghetto as fact, and giving up. Like telling me to sell my house at a loss and move to a new city if I don’t like my neighborhood, rather than first asking the Frat House on the corner to pick up their kegs once in a while.

    That’s why I like the idea of buying Wonder Woman. It is pro-active and participatory. (I just hope it won’t dilute my vote too much if I buy Wonder Woman and Demon Knights. But nothing else, I swear!)

  2. Dwight Williams Says:

    Also another little bit of counter-argument: as Terry O’Reilly recently noted, older people – male, female, gay, straight, trans, whatever ethnicity you care to name – are where the bulk of the money is going to be for the next couple of decades. They may be “aging out” but there’ll be a lot of them for a few decades yet and they’re going to be earning and/or inheriting a fair bit.

    Are they really so eager to walk away from that pile of money?

  3. Paul O'Brien Says:

    But we’re talking here about the target demographic for the DC Universe titles. Just because there’s a potential market among older readers, it doesn’t follow that the DCU books are the correct product to target them with. Some might say that even 18-35 is too old a target audience for a Superman comic.

  4. Caanan Says:

    Generally, in the world of advertising the rule goes that – if you aim for 18-35 year olds, you won’t get them. 12-16 year olds however, will be looking for that aspirational spending in a never-ending cyclical game of one-upmanship to prove they’re more mature than their friends. The juvenile attempts at being “adult” with ultra-violence and the focus on boobs and butts – I can’t see how 12-16 ISN’T their true target. You just can’t come out and say that, ‘cos of the power of the jinx.

    I mean, movies like Scream are rated, what… 15+? But it was probably seen by more 12 year olds than we might care to imagine.

    Of course, the whole thing could just be as misguided as it seems.

  5. Greg Manuel Says:

    First, here’s something I did for funsies: http://twitpic.com/5ez7qv

    Now on to the topic at hand – I definitely agree with David Oakes. If I wanted Manga, I’d be reading Manga. What I want is high quality SUPERHERO comics.

    The problem with that is, the only place you can get it is with the Big Two, and nowadays, I really have a problem believing that their primary concern is publishing high quality superhero comics anymore. If it were, we as readers could be fans of a character as opposed to a writer or an artist’s interpetation of one – which in itself is a complete crapshoot in itself. (A comic book fan could like Grant Morrison’s comics because he or she is picking up a vibe that Grant Morrison is someone whose primary objective is to WRITE COMIC BOOKS, as opposed to say Mark Millar, whose primary objective I’ve heard some argue is to write movie pitches DISGUISED AS comic books.)

    Basically, I feel the larger problem is this: our memories of a time when the Big Two USED to have comics on their front burner is being used against us, and they’ll keep doing this so long as we can be made to think that whatever asinine reboot or status quo will MATTER. Meanwhile, how about checking out this TV show we’ve got coming down the pike? Or this video game? Ooooh hey, how about our movie? Ryan Reynolds is in it…

    I’ll bet you this much: if the Wonder Woman pilot got picked up, her comic book would get all the promotion it could stand.

  6. Daniella Orihuela-Gruber Says:

    I’m going to pick up Wonder Woman and Batwoman. Both are pretty awesome ladies and I like how Batwoman doesn’t really concentrate on her sex appeal.

    Also, wow, a lot of people getting upset in the comments over the mere mention of manga. I think Johanna was merely pointing out that ladies read and manga is a good example of ladies specifically reading a form of comic books. I know plenty of ladies who read both manga and superhero comics, myself included. Johanna was just making the point that if ladies can read one form of comics, they can probably be attracted to read another form of comics with the right formula.

    Don’t get your boxers in a bunch, guys. You don’t have to read manga if you don’t want to. It wasn’t what was being suggested at all.

  7. James Schee Says:

    Wouldn’t the books you’d pick up to show a support of women, be books like Batgirl and Batwoman which are the only two books with female creators?

    18-34? Darn, proof that I’m not the target audience for DC! lol (I turn ugh 36 next Saturday) If I hadn’t already experienced that years back when I realized I was older than than Superman & Batman were *supposed to be* in the comics I’d be concerned.

  8. Dwight Williams Says:

    Paul, I’d argue that, seeing that DCU’s already got a foothold in the “ages 18-98″ with the DCU line – regardless of what they’ve intended over the last two or three decades – they need to expand upon that foothold. Despite its earlier history, DCU has evolved from kids’ fantasy-adventure into fantasy and science fiction (among other genres) for grown-ups of all ages.

  9. Johanna Says:

    James, oh, yeah, that’s probably a better idea. I’m just looking forward to Wonder Woman most, because of Cliff Chiang’s art.

    Dwight, I think you’re being overly optimistic about the widespread appeal of DC comics. I think that’s more true of their characters than the actual portrayals of them.

  10. Dwight Williams Says:

    I’ll cop to the “optimistic” charge.

    Certainly it might mean recruiting a few new hands that have never written for any comics before to go in tandem with the better of the old hands.

    Along those lines, here’s a thought-experiment question: who would you like to see write a DCU title who’s never written for comics before?

  11. Grant Says:

    I do wonder why DC and Marvel havent “Manga’ized” a few female friendly characters that women are on the same page about. I’d make some just to see if that mythical rollover of Manga readers to traditional Superhero comics that people are so certain can happen is anything other than mythical.

    But if the collective of women readers reading “superhero comics” doesn’t reach a level that causes DC to take notice with regards to sales as a rule, then will just buying the new Wonder Woman really send any message at all? That’s not to say that it’s not worth doing, just that one might not want to get ones hopes up.

    “I think women should not buy products that annoy, offend, or marginalize them. But I also think that it’s easy to say “boycott” and hard to follow through on — if you’re interested in the item in the first place. Fans of all stripes have a long history of complaining while continuing to spend, which is part of what DC’s counting on. So this likely won’t happen, and even if it does, it won’t have the desired effect, because DC doesn’t see its female customers in the first place.”

    That really sums it up pretty completely right there. Especially when the thing that offends you isn’t universally offensive to the demographic it’s marketed to.

    I’ve been reading the various blogs and the comments regarding the DC reboot have gone from blinding outrage, to slightly miffed to apathetic to cautious to mildly curious and finally to blatant interest. The number of people against the reboot seem to be slowly dwindling. For a boycott to work you have to get more people involved than just the vocal minority who perpetuate the anger on their blogs. And lets face it, anger is a tough emotion to sustain for very long.

  12. Dwight Williams Says:

    “…DC doesn’t see its female customers in the first place.”

    And that brings us back to a key question: “doesn’t see” or “refuses to see”? The jury’s been divided on this point for quite some time, hasn’t it?

  13. Alex Says:

    “DC’s New Target Audience Is Younger, Still Male”

    Ah, but us older male fans are the ones with the disposable income to spend. And after the end of August, which I guess is when the final issues of Action Comics and Detective Comics will come out (two new publications are replacing them, but the original magazines with their 75-year histories are being abandoned), I won’t be spending any more of my disposable income on DC.

    Rather than everyone buying Wonder Woman #1, I’d rather see everyone boycott Action #1 and Detective #1. Not to mention Batgirl #1 since it reportedly will destroy the continuity of the strongest female character in comics today, Oracle.

  14. It’s All Changed Forever — Again: Thoughts on the New DCU 52 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Some evidence: Kids don’t recognize the new characters. But that’s ok, DC still doesn’t care about them as customers; their focus is teenagers. That’s a stupid choice, as Heidi points out: “[Kids are] the fastest growing segment of the comics market at this grim time — but then nothing Didio or Lee says gives any indication that they know who their audience — actual or potential — really is in more than a wadded up spitball sense.” But then, it’s clear that for all the talk about expanding readers, they’re not comfortable reaching for anyone outside the traditional adolescent male. [...]

  15. Sunday links… | MidniteTease Says:

    [...] isn’t much to say about it. DC had already raised eyebrows prior to the relaunch when they announced that their target demographic was young males (ostensibly because DC’s primarily-male customer base has been shifting up the age brackets). [...]




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