Do More Women Create Work for Younger Readers?

I was asked to help consult on an acquisition project recently — a college library was looking for some suggestions of graphic novels by women that they could add to their collection as part of their build-out program in the area. I pulled together a list, keeping in mind that they already had work by Marjane Satrapi, Lynda Barry, and Julie Doucet. When I answer such questions, there are some basics I factor in: picking works that are in print, for example, and I prefer to recommend stand-alone books or short series.

One thing that surprised me, when I was thinking of women who make impressive comics that I enjoy, was how many did work for younger readers. Raina Telgemeier, Hope Larson, and Jill Thompson were all top of my list, and they’re all best known for works aimed at teens and younger readers. Even Linda Medley’s Castle Waiting, as a twist on a fairy tale, might be considered for girls. I also included Julia Wertz, Chynna Clugston, and Faith Erin Hicks for specifically a college-age audience.

I wasn’t only looking at this age group, though, as I also recommended Alison Bechdel and Carla Speed McNeil. But it did seem like something to comment on. Is it easier for women to get work creating for younger readers?

8 Responses to “Do More Women Create Work for Younger Readers?”

  1. Johnny Bacardi Says:

    Ever check out Dame Darcy’s Meat Cake?

  2. Tintin Says:

    Something I’ve also been thinking about. It does seem to be easier to find work in this arena. At least that’s the case for me.

  3. David Oakes Says:

    The cynic in me wants to say Women and Children are both regarded as lesser, and are therefore pigeonholed together.

    The sociologist in me will claim that women rely less on violence, so their stories are seen as more kid-friendly.

    (Which the cynic in me says is saying the same thing…)

  4. James Schee Says:

    Not just in comics, look at prose book series two with the two most popular series of the last decade plus being Harry Potter and Twilight both written by women and popular with younger crowd.

    Not that there aren’t great comics for youth done by males. Amelia Rules! by Jimmy Gownley, Akiko by Marc Crilley, anything written by J. Torres, and Owly by Andy Runton. Yet they are fewer and far between.

  5. William George Says:

    It could just be that more women are willing to try their hands at something for an audience that comes paired with the screaming psychosis of their parents.

    Also, in our culture all men who do anything involving kids are viewed as secret child molesters in waiting. Who wants to deal with that sort of crap?

  6. Jim Kosmicki Says:

    Colleen Coover is one of my favorite artists, and most, if not all, of her work after “Small Favors” has been general audience/younger readers focused.

    I honestly think that female readers and younger audiences are more willing to read a looser, more cartoony style. Adult males still seem to gravitate towards either the more realistic Neal Adams style or the hyper-muscular “Image” style.

    You see this even in manga – I would be surprised if manga like “Fist of the Northstar” or even “Akira” have a huge female audience compared to adult males. The manga popular with female audiences and younger audiences is more cartoony and exaggerated.

    DC discovered this back in the early 70’s when having Captain Marvel drawn in the traditional Fawcett style (which was always more cartoonish than the DC house style) was very unpopular with the fan base. Even back then, the general newsstand audience was drying up and the more hardcore collectors were driving the market (with the exception of Archie and Harvey/Gold Key, which were primarily for females and a younger audience).

    I would guess that if you looked at the ALA lists for popular graphic novels in the library system, the more cartoony, loose style is more popular overall – it certainly seems to be at our local library. The standard DC and Marvel books are usually there on the shelf waiting to be checked out while Bone and Smile and others like it are never available because they’re always checked out.

  7. Jim Kosmicki Says:

    the female artists of the undergrounds had trouble being taken seriously as well, even though Roberta Gregory, Trina Robbins, Dori Seda, etc. were very strong creators. Does Zap Comix have a female contributor yet? I don’t remember one – Trina and Roberta had to create specifically female focused underground books to be published at all, in my memory.

    so there probably is something sociological to our general cultural expectation of female creators’ audiences…

  8. Grant Says:

    Laura Hudson had an interesting article at Comics Alliance where she quoted Rebekah Isaacs (who had an even more interesting article at deviantart) about this. Isaacs said…

    “If you want to work in mainstream comics, style matters. I’ve reviewed hundreds of portfolios and I’ve been surprised to meet many women who draw in a very manga-influenced, storybook, or cartoon style, but have ambitions of breaking into Marvel and DC. Marvel and DC have to run a business around a franchise of instantly-recognizable characters, so it makes sense that they mostly hire artists who draw in a “superhero” style for consistency. It’s possible to change your style — I did quite a lot in college — but there’s nothing more heartbreaking than seeing an artist change they unique personal vision just to try to get a job. If you find yourself having to do this to get closer to a “house style”, then you might want to reconsider how passionate you’d really be about the job if you did get it.”




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