Friday, February 8, 2008

Men Are From Marvel, Women Are From DC? Not Really But…

The perfect couple?

One of the things that really surprised me when I started blogging was the amount of women out there that read comics, superhero comics. I’ve met women that enjoyed the indie stuff over the years but never the superhero fare. Well, OK, maybe one of my older siblings liked sneaking my X-Men comics, but she was practically in the closet about it and she didn’t actually buy them, so obviously she can’t count. Plus, she’s my sister and sisters NEVER count when considering these types of things. Anyway, The second thing that surprised me was the amount passion females had for DC characters. When I was a kid nobody read DC let alone girls reading DC. There might have been some fan love for Batman but in general DC was considered lame on the playground. Marvel had all the cool and fun characters, like Spiderman, X-Men, Avengers, Hulk and ROM. That changed somewhat after Crisis on Infinite Earths, Dark Night, and Watchmen. A comics company couldn’t be too lame if they published those types of stories. So after that, it was OK to pick up a few issues of say Green Lantern, or the Byrne Superman.

Come to think of it, after seriously strip-mining my memory I do remember one girl from high school that read comics. She was in the closet about it though, and I only discovered her spandex-love after I knew her a couple of years. When she finally opened up to me, I was really surprised and thought, “Cool, a girl that reads comic books” but… she was a diehard Teen Titans fan… I didn’t really know that much about the teen titans other than their appearances in Crisis. She really wanted to discuss the characters with me especially the females like Raven, Wonder Girl, and Starfire however my lack of DC knowledge simply made me made a listener. I didn’t bother discussing my comic tastes, as she didn’t know anything about the Marvel Universe. Our one-sided comics talk was tinged with a certain sadness because her father couldn’t stand the fact that she read comic books and so she had to be very careful by hiding her collection or at least keeping it out of sight.

So, the seed was planted someplace in my subconscious, that girls preferred DC to Marvel. Now besides the obvious answer of DC having more prominent female characters, I get the feeling that something else is going on here like maybe DC is more, dare I say it, womanly? I dunno, like maybe a female vibe/energy permeates the DC universe somehow? Even going so far as to say that DC’s male characters have more of an appeal to women than Marvel’s male characters? …And perhaps that’s why, as a kid, I wasn’t attracted to DC very much?

Now, obviously guys read DC and gals read Marvel so there is no hard and fast gender rule, but I wonder on some symbolic level if there isn’t something to this including concepts like sexual attraction, hero identification and role models. Comprehensive knowledge (which I don’t have) of Joseph Campbell and classic myths would be very helpful in wrangling this out…

I’ve opened the door here for a weighty essay about the Yin and Yang of the big two but actually, I’m kinda stumped on how to proceed. I just don’t have the background to do this topic justice. What do you think?

I would note that if DC does have that goddess energy, so to speak, this might explain why women feel they’ve been punched in the gut by many of Dan Didio’s editorial decisions while Joe Quesada’s are “merely” the standard, sexist slog.


I must be thinking like this because of the Democratic Primary that’s going on.


“My plan for America is DC….”

“In contrast to my opponent, mine is Marvel….”


Hey, wait aren’t they both talking about comic books….



-Swinebread

23 comments:

Doctor Smoke said...

hmpf. I wish I could meet a girl who likes superhero comics..

DAMN YOU!
for the millionth time!

Fade said...

Those early New Teen Titans storylines were pretty good. And their female leads and the feminine storylines were a lot more composite than anything I remember in the Marvel books of the time... The marvel women were macho (she-hulk) or they were Tomboys (Kittypryde)or they were just window dressing... Donna Troy had an actual background, that was fleshed out. I am sitting here trying to come up with a strong storyline based on a woman in the Marvel of the 80s and 90s - but I cant. Every woman out there just ended up being the girlfriend of some other superhero.
The women I know who love comics are just as big geeks as guys like me, but they wanted their heroines to be more than cardboard cutouts.

Don Snabulus said...

Zen math for Democrats:

yin > McCain
yang > McCain

That is an interesting look at gender in comics.

Becca said...

Whats funny about that Obama Clinton comic is the Yin Yang is a symbol that has a male part and a female part. The female part or black part is on Obama's head and the white or male part is on Hilary's head.

I'm sure it was supposed to be a comment on race but I wonder is the artists knew the M/F thing when they drew the cartoon.

Dr. Zaius said...

I have never met a girl that reads comic books, or even one that really loves science fiction. If I did, I would probably marry her!

Eaglewing said...

Interesting theory. And come to think of it, as I've tripped across the blogosphere, I think that DC/Marvel thing could still persist. Why it might be that way, I don't really know. I think this should become the next national study funded by a government grant. We must know the truth!

D0nnaTr0y said...

I think it all depends on your gateway comic.

For me, and I would guess the same for a lot of women out there,though certainly not all, it was Wonder Woman. I were familiar with the show, so it was more comfortable to buy a WW comic. I remember my brothers (and younger sister now that I think about, who was big tomboy) reading X-Men, but my interest was never peaked. I truly was more intersted in Barbie. To a young mind, Barbie and Wonder Woman weren't that different; one had super powers, one had a ferrari.

I read WW for YEARS before I felt comfortable or was even intrested in branching out into other titles. These days I'm still primarily DC, but mainly for financial reasons. I got hooked into the DCU through WW, and while I know the Marvel world is great (perhaps even better in some aspects)I spend too much money on comics already to infiltrate a new universe.

If Marvel had had a WW type character to influence my youth, all could be different for me now.

ETG said...

Conventional wisdom in TV and movie script writing circles (i.e. the stuff they tell you in "introduction to X" night school courses) is that (generally) men like plot about big events (24, Law and Order) women like stories about character relationships (Battlestar Galactica, Alias--yeah, they're genre examples with lots of events and actions, but they're also serialised soaps).

So, women will more likely like group comics, like the Titans, X-men/New Mutants from the '80s (I think that was the Marvel exception to what girls liked), and ...

well, heck, I don't know if that makes any sense when applied to comcis. I offer it as a hypothesis that you are welcome to test against your experience.

Dean Wormer said...

What if you're from Dark Horse?

Swinebread said...

Dr. S – Well, that was a long time ago… your best shot is to talk to girls over the net

Fade – That’s what I’m talking about in the need that DC felt to have more well-rounded female characters. Marvel never cared at least not up through the 80s. On some of the team books gals shined a little but not enough to break through the male ethos… As I’ve gotten older I appreciate the Female heroes a lot more now.

Snab – yeah I worried it could happen now…

Becca – I noticed that too, Jack Ohman is a pretty smart guy so I’m sure he new the implication, but I think it just adds another layer to the meaning and the joke. Of course it wouldn’t work for the republicans.

Dr. Zaius – Not only did I marry a gal that likes comics (manga really) but she also likes Planet of the Apes…! When I discovered that, I finally understood why we made such a happy couple.

Eaglewing – lol, yeah this needs to be poked and prodded at the expense of the taxpayers, but seriously I think d0t0 (see below) has a point with Wonder Woman. DC has always had a female hero so the need for them on some level has always been there.

d0t0 – I think you are on to something here, Marvel didn’t offer a lot to girls who wanted to read comics in the past, but the first comics I actually read were JLA and Green Lantern &Green Arrow. They were fun but they didn’t fire my imagination like the marvel characters did when I discovered them about 5 years later. If I had picked up a Spiderman comic instead, maybe I would have gotten the comic bug a lot sooner.

etg – In some sense that’s true, because I read Y: the last man primarily because I find the post-apocalyptic world very interesting, where I could a woman reading it for a completely different reason. I guess that’s why a straight woman might find a gay character like Batwoman interesting (because of the drama), while I could find her interesting for different reasons.

Dean – Neuter

Isis said...

DC ran Isis comics at different times. They strayed pretty far from the historical figure, but perhaps that's artistic license. At least she was a female superhero.

Swinebread said...

Issue 23 of Back Issue! Magazine had a great article on the 70s TV Isis and the DC comic that went with the series, see here.

Also, Isis just showed up in DC comics mega event 52 but they killed her off. Too bad, I liked that incarnation…

Yann said...

I can only offer my own, highly-limited experience here, but I must admit that I've not noticed such a trend: I'm friends with three other comics-fans, two men and one woman, and I can surmise our reading habits thus:

I read a broad, but shallow range of comics - slightly indie-biased, with a healthy side-order of manga and occasional dips into the back catalogues of the big-two. Of my two male friends, the one reads almost entirely DC and Vertigo trade-paperbacks, the other underground comics and manga. As for the female friend, she reads some manga, but massively concentrates on Marvel, and in fact can't stand DC comics.

As I don't read either heavily enough I'm not going to draw any conclusions of my own to do with the relative of appeal of Marvel and DC to women and men, but clearly my experiences do not match yours.

It's probably worth noting that I myself only got into comics in the past few years, while at university - my friends have been reading them since their teens, in the mid-late 90's.

The Moody Minstrel said...

I remember back when I was in junior high school most of my comic book fan friends said they preferred Marvel because DC was "too childish". I was never aware of a possible gender issue...interesting. As for me, I was never such a big comic fan in my youth, but I did like Teen Titans in addition to a number of Marvel titles.

I hope that doesn't bode ill for my masculinity...

Swinebread said...

Yann – it’s interesting to note that my concept could break down if comic readers started in the 90s. I’m wondering if your female friend is heavily into the X-men titles or least that’s what got her into Marvel. I quit comics in the 90s for various reasons but one of them was the change in how the X-men were presented. The x-men are a lot more female friendly and the tone of the book changed in the 90 to reflect that. I wasn’t reading much DC before I dropped comics in the 90s so I can’t be sure, but DC went through some changes too. With regard to Vertigo and other companies I’m not including them in this, It’s more of a vibe of the female or male energy that pervades the two superhero universes of Marvel and DC… I do think you’ve got a good point if someone started reading in 1990s. My idea could very well reflect older readers…

Moody – I thought DC was too childish but I’m wondering now, if it was really girlish is what I meant. I did go back and buy a couple of collections of the teen titans stuff when I grew up so I wouldn’t worry about it. Besides your secret is safe with me. ☺

Batocchio said...

I think D0nnaTr0y's right about Gateway comics. My dad had saved his comics, so he introduced me Carl Barks' great Disney stuff, the really old Mads, and DC superheroes (he wasn't as into Marvel). I got into Marvel as a kid, mainly from checking out those three great old 70s Marvel trade paperbacks from the library over and over again.

Swinebread, you're right about the X-Men and I think team titles in general for both houses being more female friendly. I also think the "gateway" for some kids back in the 70s, 80s and even the 90s has been the cartoons, or for Wonder Woman fans, the old TV show. I know some women who loved that show (or the original Bionic Woman - and I had forgotten about Isis). Then there's Princess Leia - although more women knew her from the films than from any of the comic book spinoffs.

(What's crazy is I have a copy of that comic up top. In 6th grade, some friends convinced me to slide it down the long slide at school repeatedly and it got pretty battered. A bad case of succumbing to peer pressure, and I refused to ever to do such a thing again. I got a nice copy years later to atone. Love Walt Simonson's artwork, although my all-time fave is still probably John Byrne.)

Also, while I started collecting Vertigo when it started, let's not forget Epic! Some great stuff! Dreeeeeeeadstar! Willow was a great female character, pretty brutalized in some issues, but then ocming back kicking seven tons of psychic ass. I mean, it's not Dark Phoenix devouring stars and all that Galactus-level stuff, but it was probably cooler for all that. ;-)

Swinebread said...

Bat… - I think the gateway comic thing is true for most folks but actually it’s not true for me. I’ll elaborate in a future post soon.

I did some dumb stuff with my comics too. I cut out Thanos from a warlock comic so I could put him on my Pee-Chee… It did look cool though…

Dreadstar is the big sci-fi regret of my life… I never bought it the first time around and now the pennies haven’t been stretching far enough for me pick up the trades (they’re in hardcover) Alien Legion is another one…

Batocchio said...

Ooh, I need to pick up the trade paperbacks of Dreadstar, then. I have most of the originals, but am missing some issues. I missed the ending. Starlin is one of the greats in the field, IMO, and Peter David who took it over is one of the best writers (I imagine you saw his work on the Hulk). Starlin would devote entire issues to a single fight - but great ones, rich with character, and shifts in who had the upper hand. His villains really could dish it out, and the heroes were always underdogs, having to earn all their victories with guts and ingenuity, and boy, was it satisfying. (The chapters of The Infinity Gauntlet I caught, and the Death of Captain Marvel, were pretty damn cool, too.)

I regreat not buying the first 6 issues of Dreadstar when I could have, because I had the reprint versions - and I've always been about the stories. But I should have bought them. Luckily, I found some dealer that had pretty much all the issues I was missing, I think at a con back when I still did that! I did the same passing up on X-Men #137, believe or not, because it was slightly overpriced and I had the trade paperback, but later picked up a copy...

(I also think it's damn funny you must know exactly the issue I'm talking about! Oh, for the days of Byrne and Cokrum, before Claremont got too full of himself and using Yoda syntax and making weird character choices.)

I think I only read one issue of Alien Legion, but liked it.

Man, this is taking me back...

Swinebread said...

Bat – Links to Dreadstar collections here. Looks like they’re gonna’ collect them in regular trades too, good news!

My favorite Starlin is his Warlock work. I was a little too young when the issues originally came out but somebody gave me a copy of issue ten (it was the one I cut Thanos out of), the weird, psychedelic, cosmic story blew me away… I eventually bought reprints of his whole run on the title… Thanos and Warlock have been some of my favorite characters ever since although I haven’t really followed them much since the early 90s

A long time ago I came across the X-Men 141 and 142 (the first future past story) and I did pick them up. So I was pretty happy about that.

Batocchio said...

Thanks, SB! I don't think I read any of Warlock, and only knew him really through the Infinity Gauntlet stuff I read. I have a fair amount of Dreadstar, but it'd be cool to fill in the gaps.

X-Men was the title I collected as a kid. They reissued 141 and 142 as a small trade paperback, which was nice because so many of the later issues referenced that future timeline, and they were pricey and hard to find. (What's a bit scary is still remember some issue numbers and the plot lines from about 20 years back now. But my memory can be pretty freakish, so...)

I've always liked the alternative universe/future dystopia pieces. Peter David's Future Imperfect with the Hulk was great, and Kingdom Come isn't bad, although I think The Dark Knight is much better, and Squadron Supreme is pretty interesting.

Swinebread said...

I love alternative universe/future dystopia pieces Too!

My sentiments exactly!

Sam said...

Wow, as soon as I read that girls are mostly into DC I puked a little. I'm a hardcore Marvel fangirl and relating myself to anything DC is almost sacrilege to me. But I can get what your talking about DC having a girly fanbase in regards to the woman having such prominent attributes (such as being Godesses) but I gotta say that Marvel has its strong share of Bad Ass Girls and I can't imagine buying, reading or participating with anything else.

Leftarrow said...

I cruised by here from "When Fangirls Attack," started a comment, then realized that it had turned into that giant screaming comment of doom. So I just turned it into my own post:) Which should hopefully be here.
In actual response to YOUR post:
1. sorry I'm commenting so late and
2. this was fun, lots of points for you!!