Monday, November 27, 2006

Comics for Teen Girls

I've been reading a lot about DC's announcement that their new imprint Minx will specialize in graphic novels for teen girls. A lot of what I've read has bemoaned the fact that the books will be written and drawn by men. And it's a valid point. True, men can write female characters; after all, women manage to write male ones fairly well. But with all the women in the creative end of the business now, albeit not exactly at the big companies, there must be some talent DC can entice to work for them. Not that I think Supergirl is the worst book out there -- it's been better with Joe Kelly writing it, and there have been far worse Supergirl stories/versions out there -- but I don't think she's the best character to emulate in the new books.

Birds of Prey will be getting an all-female creative team. In all these years, a book focused on women has been in the hands of men until Gail Simone took over writing chores. And I'm not complaining about the job those men did; the early stories were mostly wonderful. But Gail brought a certain sensibility to the book that most male writers can't grasp, the way women generally are with their friends, the way they talk to each other. The things that make them laugh when there are no men to overhear.

I hate to generalize, and I won't, but there is something to be said about the way BoP is being written now vs before Gail's tenure began. Some men might get that special camaraderie same as some women writers can capture that special guy friendship, male-bonding thing. But wouldn't it make more sense for books aimed at pulling in teen girls be the best possible to attract that demographic, meaning being something they can relate to? Wouldn't or shouldn't you try to get the odds as much in your favor as possible?
"'It’s time we got teenage girls reading comics,' said Karen Berger, a senior vice president at DC Comics."
and
"Teenage girls, Ms. Berger said, are smart and sophisticated and 'about more than going out with the cute guy. This line of books gives them something to read that honors that intelligence and assertiveness and that individuality.'"
Karen's got it right, of course, and DC has the distinction of having been run by a woman, Jeanette Kahn, for a lot of years before she stepped down and Paul Levitz took over. DC has been reasonably fair when it comes to females, with some of the strongest female superheroes and other characters out there. They've tried to improve on their diversity with minority characters, too. But come on, DC! Can't you find some talented women who can make these newly proposed books fly off the shelves when published?

I hope the books do well enough that more books are needed and there will be room and money to bring in women writers and artists, maybe some unknowns who will get their big break. I've said many times that things won't change until the creative teams are more equalized. It's not enough to have a few female editors in the business.

Meanwhile, the whole thing had me thinking bizarre thoughts. What if the whole DCU got turned on its ear and the male and female characters swapped roles? There would be Superwoman and Superboy; Batwoman and her sidekick, a girl named Robin, and a sometimes helper called Batboy. How different would the stories be? How different would the characters be?

7 comments:

  1. Would it look like...this?

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  2. OMG, I do not remember that at all. It's a bit frightening, actually. ;)

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  3. Not one of the great stories, but harmless fun back in 1978. The story also includes gender-swapped versions of Jimmy and Lois and Perry as well as the JLA and a bunch of Superman villains in cameo appearances. The interior art was by Curt Swan who managed to give it all a bit of dignity. It's strange they had the balls (you should pardon the expression) to go with the "hot pants" look for Superboy but copped out when it came to Wonder Warrior, coloring him so that it looks like he's wearing long johns. I can't remember what sort of legwear the Black Canary replacement had...

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  4. The mind boggles.

    Curt Swan's art was always classy and dignified. For me, that's the ultimate Superman.

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  5. Well, Ross Campell will have a story published and I don't care if it's labeled as a "girl book" or written and drawn by a guy... I will buy because Ross Campell it's pretty awesome

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  6. I don't really care re: the sex of the writers/artists, provided the books are good. But I also want to see women get the same chances as men to succeed in this business. I often wish I'd been more aggressive and confident back in the 1970s to try to have become a comics writer instead of thinking it wasn't an option.

    And I hope the new books do appeal to teen girls. I just think women writers would have an advantage there. Thanks for commenting.

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  7. oh, i love the idea of the gender role switch -- imagine the possibilities!!!

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