Audience, Fans, and Marketing to Women
The question, “what audience do superhero comics aim for?”, has been of much discussion (at least, around my house) this week. Brian Hibbs, after telling an adorable story about his son making a Leprechaun Trap, starts things off pondering what kind of entertainment is suitable for his 7-year-old.
despite the perhaps foolish nature of some of [Buddy Saunders’] complaints, a tremendous amount of what he said ended up coming reasonably true — “mainstream” superhero comics are really unacceptable for kids these days; I literally can’t have my son look at this week’s new books until I fully vet them first, and that’s a pretty drastic sea change from 1980-something, and probably not one for the better.
He goes on to talk about specifics with recent DC Justice League and Green Arrow comics:
on-screen graphic murder and dismemberment, with blood spraying everywhere… clearly “Justice League”-branded material is no longer suitable for kids, but I don’t know any adults who are saying that this is what they want or need to see.
Me neither. I’d like to read more superhero comics than I do, but they’re all so violent and depressing and pointless and joyless and hopeless. But then, I’m female, so that still makes me something of a nonentity when it comes to many comic publishers and the audience they aim for. Valerie D’Orazio points out (link no longer available) why that’s stupid, with four key business principles that illustrate how women should be part of your target market, two of which are: they control the vast majority of spending in the U.S., and “seductive”, sexy selling turns them off.
But note that they’re smart shoppers, and sometimes comics’ value isn’t obvious (link no longer available). Kelly’s thinking about that problem, about time spent versus price:
I’ll blow through an $18 graphic novel or trade in a couple of hours and while I’m entertained, I suddenly have this book in my hand and an $18 hole either in my pocket, or of the pocket of the friend who bought it for me. I brought a few of the Buffy trades with me on a week-long vacation and had to stop reading so I wouldn’t be done by the end of the first night. … As near as I can tell each [single] issue isn’t a complete “episode” and I’m faced with a week or month-long commercial break. I’m impatient and I have a short attention span. … With either books or single issues, I feel “done” long before I feel like it’s time to be finished.
I haven’t even mentioned the abuse female fans often face, as Melinda Beasi takes abusers to task:
somebody, please explain to me how–in a fannish universe filled with things like lolicon, yaoi, replica underwear, and Hot Gimmick, all revered with levels of obsession so great they have a special word for it–there can possibly be anything wrong with Twilight fans. They are too obsessed? They are too vocal? They are too weird? Seriously, people have you looked around at your own fandom lately?
Sure, teen girls get goofy over things they love. So do teen boys and adults of all ages and types. Maybe we could all find comfort in our similarities instead of trying to make ourselves feel better by hating someone else?