Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Why the comics industry is continuing to crash

Comic book sales are down. Way, way down. And it's a total head-scratching mystery as to why this is happening.

Except to people like myself, a 45-year-old woman who grew up with a house full of comic books. I used to buy them. My grandfather used to buy them for me. Notice I said "used to."

Check out Little Red Boobinghood here that popped out of my email inbox this morning.


In comic books, in 2012, female characters are still just boobs with legs, or worse. DC's Starfire, an innocent and gentle alien superhero I remember from the 1980s, has been turned into an overt slut, soliciting men for sex. It's sickening.

I thought we were past this, everybody.

Nearly everything is now written for what the industry perceives as their core demographic, men 18 -30, and they wonder why comics have slumped drastically from their peak. Guys, it's because they're full of graphic violence and overt sex, so you've lost the younger readers and a lot of the women. My son is 15 and I don't want him reading some of that stuff. Gone are the days when it was safe to let your kid buy comic books off the rack at the store.

You've turned what used to be a fun diversion into an NC-17 bloodbath with porn stars.

Okay, industry leaders. C'mere. Closer. No, my eyes are up here. Okay, are you listening? Really listening? Okay, here's why your industry is failing.

There are other people in the world besides penises, aged 18 - 30. Kids, women, seniors... a lot of people  like to read about superheroes doing exciting things. Think back to the silver age of comics. Think back to the beginnings of Spider-Man and Wonder Woman and X-Men and Superman and all the other classic characters who continue to excite readers world-wide. There's a reason why they're still around. That reason is not men age 18 - 30.

Your readers include that demographic, they are not solely that demographic. By writing only to them, you exclude everyone else. I don't want to see people being literally ripped in half with their intestines flying everywhere, and I don't want my son reading that either. He doesn't need to see Batman and Catwoman screwing on a rooftop.

This is why comic books are dying. You are killing them.

How do you fix it? Hire new writers, preferably a lot more women. Stop excluding everyone but who you perceive as the core demographic. It's become a self-fulfilling prophecy: If you write only for men 18 - 30, your entire market shrinks to become that. If you're more inclusive, your market share will increase to meet it. You'll get the kids and the women again, such as myself and my son, who are eager potential buyers, if only the comics spoke our language. Right now, most of them don't.

Is this true of all comics? Of course not. Look at the Eisner-winning Mouse Guard from Archaia. Look at the top-selling B.P.R.D. from Dark Horse that's getting rave reviews, including right here on UFN. You don't need guts and sex in order to have a well-made successful comic book.

Is anything going to change, or were you just staring at my chest?

All we're asking is for our superheroes to act more heroic, like they did before. All we want is decent entertainment for the masses. All I'm saying is that if you continue to limit your audience, your audience will continue to shrink. It's not that hard to figure out once you talk to people in the real world about what they want out of a comic book. It's not about competition with new media or whatever straw man you want to throw out there, it's about creating something people want to buy.

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