March 14th, 2012 | guest informant
Yeah, it is a really creepy song, isn’t it? Sorry, the title just seemed to fit, to be honest.
Normally I steer a wide path away from the personal blog, just because I am likely to bore you all to tears about my son’s milk allergy, or needlecraft techniques (I shit ye not), but today I will make a special exception for dear old Warren Ellis, who has pickled his remaining skull-tripes in cheap bourbon, and thus has asked me to guest blog.
Everyone knows fangirls rule the world, they pay for most of it. Drifts of Twilight cushions and Harry Potter scarves, Legolas action figures, obscure game character cosplay outfits, nyancat lunchboxes and kitten mittens. The world is literally awash with Things Girls Like. We are surely never further than 2m from a Hello Kitty.
So what is it about comics that’s different? What makes comics suddenly this great thrusting phallus of masculinity?
Girls read comics, not just Manga either. Girls read superhero comics, indie comics, autobiographical comics, historical comics, literary comics, horror comics, romance comics and even just plain terrible comics. Girls are comic fans. They want comics aimed at them, or aimed not at them, or just comics that are good. They want all the same things male comic fans want. They want to be sold to, they want to buy the cold cast porcelain model of Rogue looking badass and put it on their shelf. They want Wonder Woman underwear sets and Wolverine stationery for the new term. Women are just as whimsical, gullible, romantic and fanciful as men. They are capable of grasping the finer points of all the weird freaky made up stuff that we all commonly know to be “ACCEPTED CONTINUITY.” They will talk about costume changes and characterisation.
I know this because I have been around comics and comics fans for my whole life and I am also a woman. I have done nothing but sit at (largely empty) signing tables for ten years, watching all of the comic loving world go past, and at least half of those convention-going money-spending awesome-t-shirt-wearing people were women, if not more!
Times are hard all over, and nobody likes to point this out more than your average comics professional. We all know that work for hire is the best we can get. Creator Owned a delicious dream we might dare have if maybe a spouse won the lottery. We see characters rebooted at lightning speed, properties revamped, relaunched and resold-with-added-sketchbook-section. Comics is eating its own tail to try and survive the economic storm. We are all broke and wondering how to save our ailing industry, rescue our beloved characters and pay off our huge millstone-like mortgages which seemed such a safe bet at the time.
Is it just me that sees a possible idea forming between the last two paragraphs? The fan-girls, hell bent on spending millions on anything related to their chosen fascination. The ailing industry full of sad fan-boys, empty cash registers, and stories about big strong men staring at large breasted women through their ridiculous costume cut outs. No? Nothing?
Okay, well, let’s say, instead of jumping in and writing comics designed to attract women readers (Minx comics discovered this is harder than it looks), how’s about writing comics which don’t actually put women off? How’s about a bit less objectifying, a bit less sexualisation, a bit less pervy gusset shots and tit windows? Just a bit? Make some of the regular mainstream big name books everyone enjoys reading a bit less eyewatering and weird about women. That would be a great start.
If comics is to survive the financial turmoil we are all suffering under, it doesn’t matter if it’s paper comics or digital, trade paperbacks or floppies, it’s about “ARE THE COMICS ANY FUCKING GOOD?” and “ARE WE SELLING THEM TO AS BROAD A MARKET AS POSSIBLE OR ONLY 50% OF IT?” If we continue to try and sell crappy comics to half the population based purely on what they keep in their underpants and nothing else then we are totally doomed.
What is required is an all hands to the pumps mentality. Action stations! Let’s find some new blood, let’s find some new ideas, new characters, and most importantly new readers kind of plan.
I honestly think that anyone who doesn’t see women as a rich untapped potential source of ideas, or labour, or cold hard revenue must be delusional. Why should comics sit in a sweaty locker room of ignominy when novels and films and games skip about hand in hand with wealthy teenage girls? Doesn’t that make comics feel a bit sad?
Even if all of this is not true, and that no amount of sprucing up our beloved industry can save it from oblivion, I know I’d rather have had a go at it first. Let’s see if we can sort out more women in comics, or make the ones there are more visible and so induce more girls to get into it. Let’s look at the content we are putting out, and see if we can do it better. Let’s stop using the past as our only reference point and look forwards. Let’s make whizzy super future electric digital comics, and deluxe overpriced editions, and dinky little collectible books and comics on all kinds of subjects, and educational comics, and controversial comics. We already know how, we are already doing these things, but let’s try and do it better, and be less misogynist and prickish about it.
Right. Off to practice my French knots.
Leah Moore is the co-author, with husband John Reppion, of many excellent graphic novels, including RAISE THE DEAD, THE COMPLETE DRACULA and THE COMPLETE ALICE IN WONDERLAND (from which the above image was taken), and also the groundbreaking online comic THE THRILL ELECTRIC. You can learn more at their website. You can find Leah on Twitter @leahmoore. Thanks for this, Leah.