Over the course of his Journalista blog for The Comics Journal, Dirk Deppey has written eloquently on several occasions about the stagnancy of the superhero comics market and its inability to attract new readers. Yesterday, he wrote a must-read essay on the situation, sparked by the recent celebration among a handful of women comic book fans at Project Girl Wonder who, after spending extensive time and effort into pestering DC Comics to include recognition for, as Deppey summarizes, “a minor character who briefly and ineptly served as Robin,” declared their vindication after a single panel in last week’s Batman appeared to finally address their concerns. All of which, he points out, were presented as a feminist cause to have female superhero characters taken seriously.
“[This] isn’t about making the New York City corporate-comics industry a better or more equitable place for female creators,” Deppey argues, and it isn’t about attracting new and younger female readers into the scene. It’s about building a better cocoon for 25 to 35-year-old female fans who’ve been reading superhero comics for more than ten years, just like the one that their male counterparts now enjoy… Like teenage boys, teenage girls don’t read superhero comics; they have comics of their own, in a variety of genres and age levels, and they aren’t interested in tired storytelling clichés that were played out decades ago. Grown fangirls, on the other hand, have to participate in the same fan culture as do their equally grown male counterparts.”
“If ‘think of the children’ really were at the core of this argument,” he concudes, “an authentic feminist agenda would be centered around actually thinking of the children, and not their own tastes and inclinations.” But since it isn’t, younger readers will continue to gravitate to other kinds of comics, including manga, leaving superheroes to a small core of older fans.
(Batman artwork by Tony Daniel for DC)