Thursday, June 3, 2010

Girls & Comics, 3

More on Hope Larson's Girls & Comics Survey (I'll just keep posting these links and reactions as they trickle in), this time from Stephanie Villareal:

Thoughts on the girl comics market (a dissertation, ha!)


I have been seeing a lot of articles and interviews lately about a new Marvel line called Girls Comics. Sprouting from this has been the debate about what is best for the girls comic/graphic novel industry. While there are good (and really bad) points being made on each side, whether from a female comic creators, female comic readers, or male comic readers, I am concerned by one thing: Why are people speaking for those who are not present in this debate (girls who have not yet discovered comics)?


One issue that has been lighting up the Internet girl comic debate is a survey on LiveJournal done by graphic novelist Hope Larson.

Larson seems to be the name coming up everywhere (along with Raina Telgemeier) and even though I disagree with her survey (and feel that it doesn’t describe me as a comic reader at all), she is definitely succeeding in one thing: getting people to talk about what the graphic novel industry must do to reach tween/teen girls.

I know you are wondering, "How can you disagree with a survey?"

It is not so much the survey I disagree with but with some of the given suggestions/answers provided by some of the survey takers. The top ten responses were compiled as a list of "What can authors, publishers, retailers do to better serve teen/tween girls?"

The problem with the survey is that it was taken by mostly (if not all) girls/women who are already well established in comics. Looking at the comments, it seems that they have been reading comics for some time, some even making their own. In a survey trying to figure out what girls who have never read comics want from comics, why are we asking those who don't need convincing?
[bolding mine]

Stephanie has a lot to say on the subject, which is great. She also has quite different reactions to some of the suggestions noted by the survey respondents, especially concerning comic book shops (which are nearly universally decried as being dens of creepiness) and what sorts of subjects she thinks tweens/teens actually choose to read about ("Tween/teens as a whole - or mostly - in general, have no taste," Stephanie says, citing Twilight, Gossip Girl, The Cliques, and their ilk. "I know this comes off as crass, but really, think about it.").

I think, though, her reaction that she "disagrees with the survey," is misplaced. The thing about a surveys and statistics is that you have to recognize what their limits are—what each survey's limits are. Hope was quite clear that her survey was (1) a polling of a group of women and girls who were already reading comics and (2) nonscientific. This is a small sample size, and a self-selecting group of respondents. Nothing wrong with that; it just means it can only answer certain questions, and not others.

A better response to Stephanie's frustration with the fact that the survey did not answer the sorts of questions she has is: "We need another survey, only this time with a population that includes non-comics-readers, so that we can figure out why these girls aren't reading comics."

It looks like Hope may be working on another, more ambitious, survey:

KELLY THOMPSON: ... Has anyone approached you about expanding your survey in a more academic way as you discussed?

HOPE LARSON: My agent and I are working on this now!

Perhaps she can address some of Stephanie's concerns in the new survey.

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