Women represent 50% of the available audience. Generally women do not represent anything like 50% of western-style comic book readers. Manga on the other hand, gets the girls, so clearly the medium itself isn’t the issue. If you want to reach out to this potentially huge market, what do you need to do? Female authors, in any genre, don’t struggle to pick up female readers, but if you are a guy, what do you need to know? Or, if you’d like to market your comic to female readers, how do you tell if it’s worth a go or not?
1) Women love strong, kickass heroines. This does not mean scantily clad and with a big gun, necessarily. It does mean clever, and independent. If women in your story are only there to provide eye candy and to be rescued, you will not get a significant female readership. Women are people. Starting from this premise can really help. Write an interesting character who happens to be female.
2) Women prefer actual women – realistic breasts, normal waists, regular sized lips. If your guys aren’t weirdly stylised and sexually exaggerated, don’t make your women any different. Stylised is fine, semi-pornography isn’t, unless you’re doing that kind of story line. Female characters need to talk and act like real women too. If you aren’t confident about this, you need to spend more time around people. Clichés, fetish gear, stereotyping and only using women as plot devices turns off women readers.
3) Nuances of body langue. This is an art issue. Women pay more attention to the subtleties of body language than many men do. If the body language in your comics is screwy or non-existent, women will not be enthused.
4) Hair. Really. Women notice hair styles, and we think about hair far more than men do. Make sure your hairstyles are good, convincing and eye catching.
5) Emotional content. You do not have to write romance to get women interested, but most female readers respond better to stories where there is at least a suggestion of characters having an emotional life. If it’s all about being very macho and killing things, the odds are you won’t get many female readers.
6) Do something different. Primary colours and blokes with their underwear on the outside, scream ‘this is for boys’. If it looks like a ‘boy thing’ from the outset, many women won’t give it a second look. Most comics have traditionally been sold to male children. If you want to get away from this image, attracting guys who are not just man-child types, and attracting women, you need to do something that doesn’t look like Superman too much.
7) In your marketing language, avoid objectifying female characters. Don’t present them as prizes to be won or territory to be fought over. Present them as individuals. Maybe there was a time when women wanted to be heroically rescued, dressed like dolls and treated like porcelain, but that’s so last century. Modern girls, and women alike, want to be heroic too. They want to see themselves reflected in dynamic plots and by real characters. Go that way and I guarantee, you will pick up more of a female readership.
I read comics as a child. Eventually I became bored, there was nothing for me. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and the fabulous Didi rehooked me for a bit, then it all went quiet again. I’m seeing much better depictions of women online these days – I’d like to give a shout out to two guys writing great takes on women – Tom Szwec with Alone in a Crowd – http://www.aiacrowd.com and Jimmy Miz with The Vortex Machines http://www.thevortexmachines.com . They make comics about girls that girls enjoy reading. Check them out.
(Nimue and Tom Brown are the team behind Hopeless, Maine. An amazing piece of art and literature, Hopeless is well worth the read and something that we at Crafting Comics are glad to put the word out for. Please show them some love and check out their site.)