Wednesday, May 03, 2006

women and comics

In response to some of Jeff's comments recently I began a discussion with a female friend of mine about why American women are more likely to read manga (as opposed to American comics).

It couldn't be the sexuality expressed in US comics, because as bare as some of the heroines are these days (*cough* Phantom Lady *cough*), manga has naked women everywhere - not to mention girls battling evil in schoolgirl outfits. In fact many of their "superhero" costumes ARE schoolgirl outfits... with VERY short pleated skirts. So I have to believe that most girls aren't going to be discouraged from picking up a Birds of Prey because Zinda's showing too much leg, or reading Legion because Supergirl seems to have misplaced to mid-portion of her costume.

So, I asked my friend, what is it?

She actually came up with an interesting theory. She said that it was probably because girls care more about the personal lives of characters than they do the action.

The more I think about this, the more I believe she's probably hit the heart of it. We like the action of the comics, don't get me wrong, but the heroics of said super beings are meaningless if we don't care about the characters - and it's hard to care about the characters if we don't hold some interest in their personal lives.

For example, lets take Invincible. Invinsible is a comic I enjoy for more than just the story or the action-packed battles. I enjoy it because I like Mark Grayson. He's a good kid trying to deal with his family falling apart, college woes, a girlfriend he's falling in love with, and many more issues that the average reader can relate to. Because of this I not only sympathize with him - I empathize. In doing so I have a vested emotional interest in what becomes of Mark. So when he's beaten within an inch of his life I worry what will become of him. So I read the next comic as well. Slowly but surely I've been hooked. Same thing with Legion - its not the epic fights to save the Universe that keep me reading, its the jokes about "Microlad" and the developement of Brainy's feelings about Dream Girl (well that and the fact that I've always had a small crush on Brainiac 5 that I can't explain). Because I care about the characters, I care about what happens to them and their world.

Girls usually need a emotional attachment to a story to keep reading. Without that empathy for the characters most of us lose interest. Manga offers that emotional outlet, it allows girls to imagine that they could be that girl with powers, or even just the girl with a wacky cast of friends dreaming about getting into Tokyo U. It's why I'm so attached to Kitty Pryde, because when I was a kid reading X-Men, I felt as if I could have been Kitty if I had been born to her world. Being drawn into a character's personal world makes you feel as if you know them, as if you could be their friend. Girls in America don't expect this connection from characters in American comics - as US comics have the stigma of being boy's action stories. I think if more girls were handed Birds of Prey or Invincible or even Elfquest to get them interested they would be just as interested in them as I am. I just had the advantage of learning to read on Wonder Women comics.

Just don't hand a girl a current GL issue. Not if you want her to like comics anyway.

Of course this is just one reason that there are more men reading comics, and it was mostly to answer the question of why girls are more willing to head for the manga shelf.



It may be that girls are suckers for a good romance too - and manga is big on true love type romances, as opposed to US comics where the characters are always sleeping around. Also, manga is "cool", for some reason US comics are still geeky. Damn you Yu Gi Oh!

13 Comments:

Anonymous Jeff said...

Thank you so much for this view into the mind of a female comic fan! Very appreciated as I know you are a very intelligent and, if I may say, beautiful woman whose opinion I value greatly. I think you hit it right on the head. We males are very much visually oriented while females seem to live more in an emotional world. We need the action and fight scenes and get giddy when we see Wolverine sink his claws into the Hulk. Women just don't get joy in that kind of thing. And I think that Invincible's real life drama is matched only by Peter Parker's when he was in college. This made Petey one of the favorite's among women in their mid to late 30's. You made a lot of great points. I don't know how to bridge the gap between manga and mainstream comics. Can't tell you how many people thought I was gay just cuz I read Promethea, one of the best written books on the market. For some reason, men won't read comics starring women. Why is this? Are they so insecure of their masculinity? Very few books cross the gender boundries. I've personally got many people into Fables, including self proclaimed bi-sexuals, homosexuals and mega-sexuals. Invincible seems to cross all boundries as well. Fans of all ages, genders and races love Invincible. Why can't Marvel and DC clue into what it is about this book that appeals to so many people? Thanks again for the input! Much appreciated! Now if I can only figure out why kids won't read comics anymore, even if they're given them for free. "If you don't eat all your brocolli Timmy, you're gonna have to read a COMIC BOOK!" "No Daddy, No!! Anything but that!! Take me out behind the woodshed and whip me, but don't make me read one of your funny books!!!"

Wednesday, May 03, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

It was a very good column and I enjoyed it.

Invincible is really the "it" book to me at this point in time. It reaches across all boundaries and contains what all genders care about. If you read the old Spider-Man stories (the first 30 issues) you will see that Invincible really picks up on alot of those themes. Also Invincible does what I have been harping about for years and that is Mark is growing older and experiencing different stages of his life. It makes a comic more interesting and we are more vested in a character that is growing. Almost all the Marvel and DC characters give us an illusion of chage only.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

I hope for Red Sonja's sake that men read comics starring women or she'll never have a fan base!

I think women are visually oriented too - just not in the same way. I just prefer seeing Dick Grayson passionately kissing Babs over Wolverine sinking his claws into the Hulk. I think maybe its because the end result is different - for many girls the end result of a story is the personal comclusion, for many guys it's the battle conclusion. Good writers can make these one and the same. In fact, good writers can make action appeal to the emotional and romance appeal to those who prefer epic battles. Mark Waid has a talent for it (as seen in his Flash run) as does Gail Simone and Kirkman. Jeff Smith had it also, although I'm still disappointed in the ending of Bone. And Neil Gaimen does all this and more.

I think manga has actually helped the US comic book industry - I think there is more of a market for character based stories now days - its just sometimes hard to pick them out amongst the masses of books.

And Jeff...
flattery will get you everywhere ;)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

and as for Jim's comment, I think I'll have to do a different post about aging in comics...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lol. Funny thing is, I actually read comics for the same reason; the various battles that happen are generally secondary to the psychology of the characters and their relationships.

I just find that there's a glut of testosterone in comics today. There's this weird puerile obsession with fighting and "who is badder than who" and I think it's supplanted a lot of good story telling.

Good post, though. Thought-provoking.

Keep at it. ;-)


- PGS

Saturday, May 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's interesting that you bring up the romance vs sleeping around angle as well - we girls are suckers for romance, and romance is definitely something entirely different from just sleeping with someone!

Arielle

Sunday, May 07, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

So if women want romance, what are the best romance tales going in the testosterone heavy comics these days? The classics used to be Lois and Clark, Peter and MJ, and Cyclops/Jean Grey/Wolverine. Once Supes and Spidey got married, the romance seemed to die. In fact, I got really mad when I read the story where Petey hits MJ open handed right across the face. My vote for great romance right now goes to Snow White and Bigby in Fables. Other choices??

Monday, May 08, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

Oracle and Nightwing is still a great romance - DC just needs to let it happen! Wally West and Linda was a great romance when Waid was on Flash. I'm still waiting for the day when Marvel realizes that Kitty Pryde and Nightcrawler should be an item... but that may be because they are my favorite Marvel characters ;) Ollie and Dinah were a pretty big romance, but that got messed up =/ I really like Kyle and Jade together but I guess that won't be rekindling *sigh*

I guess besides Dick and Babs I really can't think of any great romances in comics today. Wally and Linda was the last romance that really aspired to the heights of Lois and Clark. Maybe Waid is trying to to that with Brainy and Dream Girl, but we'll have to see (yes, I know DG is dead, but that's never stopped comics before!). Oh! There's always Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad, but that's not as exciting.

Bigby and Snow is one of the best romances around in comic books right now. And for suckers like me who can't get enough of those two in the books, check out The 10th Kingdom! They have a simalar Wolf and Snow White relationship :)

Monday, May 08, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

And men are suckers for anything that will get a woman into bed with us!

Bigby and Snow White is a good one, Dick and Babs need to be together, Connor and Wonder Girl - nope that's over, Linda and Wally - oops - that's over, Raven and Gar - that's over and never really happened, Alfred and Aunt Harriet - she's gone, Jay and Joan Garrick, Dr. Midnight and Power Girl, right now the great romances in comics are few and far between - I guess Kitty and Peter, Captain America and Sharon Carter. Wow that needs to be fixed.

Monday, May 08, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

Dr. Midnight and Power Girl??? Wow, I didn't see that one coming!

Monday, May 08, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

It was a small bit in a JSA issue and has been hinted at very rarely.

Monday, May 08, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

What, since Midnite is blind Power Girl thinks he must love her for who she is and not her more obvious and never covered up assets? What do you all think about the much hyped romance that will culminate in marriage this summer: Storm and Black Panther?

Monday, May 08, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

The Storm / Black Panther wedding feels totally false. I haven't followed either character a lot in recent history, but it feels very, very forced.

It is an easy story to market and sell and will be a nice politically correct type deal. Total marketing hype from Marvel.

Monday, May 08, 2006  

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