Thursday, August 2, 2007

Do girls want to shoot laser beams out of their eyes?

Mel Barber's article from the York Dispatch, Graphic novelty: Comics cozy up to teenage girls, covers DC's The Plain Janes. It raises a point that I, a guy working primarily in a world of female professionals and readers, have often wrestled with: Why do girls read comics?

Popular culture is steeped in images of strong, handsome men with superpowers who wear funny outfits and save the world from mad scientists and alien invaders. Boys imagine themselves with Superman's ability to fly or Batman's cool gadgets.

And girls? Mostly they're the love interests and the damsels in distress.

But DC Comics is challenging the boys-only stigma with a line of graphic novels targeting an often-overlooked audience: teenage girls. The Minx imprint launched this summer with "The Plain Janes," a realistic high school story written by Cecil Castellucci, an award-winning author of young adult fiction.

"I don't think girls have the same type of power fantasies that guys do," said Karen Berger, executive editor of DC Comics. "Their whole makeup is less on the physical power and more on internal wisdom, individuality and assertiveness."

Many conversations with my sister, Jenni, have revealed that she, in fact, preferred the male superheroes when she was a kid, because they were much cooler (their powers, their costumes, their vehicles) than the female ones. I asked her what she thought about when she read comics as a kid. For me and most boys I know, you want to be able to fly, shoot laser beams out of your eyes, etc. etc. Do girls want the same thing? My sister says, "yes." But she also reads Shojo Beat and read a heap of Harlequin romance novels through her teen years.

We know girls are reading comics like crazy ... but why are they doing it? What do they get out of it, and is it any different from what boys get out of it?

PS: I just noticed that both the
York Dispatch and the Scripps Howard piece yesterday eschew the use of proper title capitalization ... is that over for newspapers, now? Blogs really have defeated the mainstream media!

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