ON WEDNESDAY, Marvel Comics will debut its relaunch of Ms. Marvel — in which she’s introduced as a Muslim American teenager from Jersey City — as part of a broader women’s initiative that the publisher is calling “Characters and Creators.”Using a story promoting an ideology that's harmful to women is no way to make an initiative for more women readers.
As part of the initiative, Black Widow, Elektra and She-Hulk will be spotlighted in their own books, and X-Men and Captain Marvel will see a new emphasis on women.If they're referring to the Muslim character, then it's a huge step backward, I'm afraid.
Even as Ms. Marvel takes a big step forward for diversity in comics, the “Characters and Creators” initiative has broader implications, as it aims to speak directly to an audience that long was not the target for superhero comic books in America: women and girls.
In fact, I'm not sure comics publishers never tried to appeal to women decades before. In the 1980s, there were some books that did manage to win female audience members, like New Teen Titans, and Mary Jane Watson as Spider-Man's girlfriend and later wife could've succeeded in appealing to plenty too.
Axel Alonso, Marvel’s editor-in-chief, tells Comic Riffs that the stars of these new books “are not the big-breasted, scantily clad women that perhaps have become the comic-book cliché. They are women with rich interior lives, interesting careers and complicated families who are defined by many things—least of all their looks.”For the millionth time, they tell us this without giving any exact numbers. The sales charts show just 53,201 copies sold in December, and it's because, contrary to what they may boast, they're not doing a very good job writing, as the crossovers prove.
Sounds promising. Is Alonso worried about scaring off the traditional male readership associated with comic books?
“What people want are heroes,” he tells us from Marvel’s New York offices. “They want fascinating stories with compelling characters, regardless of gender.”
Jeanine Schaefer, who edits the new, all-female X-Men, agrees.
“There’s this fear that the men who have traditionally been our fan base will stop reading if we bring in new voices,” Schaefer tells Comic Riffs. “But we’re finding that that’s just not the case.”
The proof is in the numbers, and in the case of the all-female X-Men series, the numbers are solid. The first book was released last May, and became Marvel’s top-selling comic that month.
The comic book world, Alonso asserts, is no longer a boys’ club. “While we don’t have any market research, the eyes don’t lie,” he tells us. “If you go to conventions and comic book stores, more and more female readers are emerging. They are starved for content and looking for content they can relate to.”I'm afraid they are a bunch of guys doing what they think women want. They think women wanted the Spider-marriage broken up, and still do. They think women are fine with Scarlet Witch being turned into a crackpot, and even after she was cleared (something still debatable, to be sure), they wiped her out. And they even turn Jean Grey into a scapegoat again. I don't see how that appeals to women who may be hoping they'd provide the basis for character drama focus instead.
So is this just about the bottom line? Is there a group of dudes sitting around a table at Marvel, trying to come up with books they think female fans will want? After all, according to the Web site Comics Alliance, Marvel only has seven female-led books (DC Comics, for comparison’s sake, has nine female-led books).
“It’s easy for fans to think, ‘They’re just a bunch of guys doing what they think women want,’ ” Schaefer said. But, “It’s not about publicity or trying to jump on the bandwagon.”
I also don't think they should be making assumptions without market research or giving the press actual sales figures. And if they're going to stuff blatant politicized issues into the products, then it is about publicity and bandwagon jumps. There may be more women getting into reading comics today, but it's not Marvel's output they care about, nor DC's. A lot of the comics drawing women now come more from smaller companies.
Schaefer says that for many other women editors, writers and artists, these female-led books are “a labor of love.”Trouble is, if they're working at Marvel under the current conditions, they may not be able to make themselves heard well. The sad reality is that, if the Muslim Ms. Marvel is any indication, some of these efforts are done under a selective bias when the controversy over the belief system they're injecting could've been easily avoided. If they really wanted to please crowds, women included, they wouldn't be going out of their way to shove Islamofascism down everyone's throats.
“There are women here and there — always have been,” Schaefer says of the comic-book world, both on the creative side and within the fan base. “And we’re trying to make our voices heard.”
It's great if there's more women reading comics, but Marvel's current offerings are something they'd be better off without. As long as the editors continue with the anti-Spider-marriage charade, that's another something telling why women just shouldn't try new Marvel books.