From the Desk of Mr. Zissman

The musings of an over-stimulated mind


with 4 comments

Being a two-time state advertising co-champion, I know a thing or two about marketing. The whole point of marketing is to make money and you make money by convincing people to exchange their money for your product, good or service. The more people you appeal to, the more money you make. Seems simple, right? And yet, for some, the mere concept of mass appeal seems so foreign and strange. No more is this prevalent than the comic book industry, especially towards women. Granted, the industry has always been viewed as a Boy’s Club, but studies have shown an increasing number of women reading comic books. In fact, a recent informal survey on Facebook of over a million comic book readers revealed that roughly a quarter of them are women and that number is growing. And yet there seems to be a large disconnect between publishers and female readers.

One infamous example of this disconnect is DC’s recent approach to one of their more popular characters, Starfire. For you non-comic fans, allow me to give you a quick summary: Starfire is an alien warrior princess from the planet Tamaran and was a well-known member of the super-group called Teen Titans. As her character grew older in the comics, she eventually out-grew the Titans and went solo, where she faded into obscurity and disappeared into the background. Besides making a cameo here and there, she didn’t have much of a presence in the DC Universe.

Classic Starfire

But when Cartoon Network launched an anime-inspired cartoon series based on the Teen Titans, Starfire’s popularity exploded due to her animated alter-ego. The popularity of the Titans increased so much, that DC re-launched the Teen Titans comic book after years of cancellation solely because of the cartoon show. The show itself drew a range of ages, but served as a good entry point for a younger generation into comic books. Animated Starfire was friendly, strong, loved her friends and wanted nothing more than for everyone to get along.

Animated Starfire

Like all good shows, Cartoon Network cancelled Teen Titans and comic book Starfire went about her ways. Eventually, DC Comics held a massive event in their comic books called New 52. Long story short, due to some shenanigans involving the superhero the Flash, time travel and your usual comic book logic, the entire DC universe was essentially rebooted. They had a fresh, clean slate to work with and brought in tons of creative talent to usher in a new era of their creative properties. Again, Marketing 101 says they would take this ball and run with it and they did, with Superman and Batman getting excellent teams and stories to work with. Oh and Starfire?


If you can’t figure it out, Starfire’s decides to sleep with fellow ex-Teen Titan member Arsenal (aka Speedy, former side-kick of the Green Arrow) because of REASONS. No real character development, no real method or anything. Just “lol sex” for the sake of sex. I think David Willis, creator of popular webcomics Shortpacked! and Dumbing of Age, summed it up best in this strip.

Or, even better, fantasy author Michele Lee had a conversation with her then-7 year old daughter about Starfire’s sexy reboot. You can read it here. 

By pushing towards hormonal young men in readership, you’re missing out on a huge wide market. You’re limiting yourself in terms of money, readership and endangering anyone coming back to buy future issues. Granted, after constant complaints, DC and the industry itself have made some attempts to bring in more female readers, but lately it seems these attempts have been half-assed, at best.

And it’s not just Starfire getting this treatment, as female characters from other titles and companies are drawn in, shall we say, creative ways…

Clearly the chain-mail thong barely covering her ass will protect from the nefarious barbarian Hans McButtstab


Oh Rob Liefeld, you wonderful scamp!

I know plenty of women whose vaginas are perfectly outlined under their clothing and who constantly walk around on their tip toes

"Behold my THINGS and despair, mortals."

One of the worst aspects of this whole debacle is that it’s even a debate at all! It’s common sense: treat female comic book characters with the same respect and intelligence you would a male. But fanboys will be fanboys, and due to the anonymous power of the internet,  fanboys hiding behind screen names have threatened female comic book fans with rape and violence! It’s utterly ridiculous and insane. If done properly, you wouldn’t notice a change with the male characters and yet the fanboys have armed themselves with verbal slings and arrows, ready to attack anyone who wishes to harm their precious stash.

I’m a comic book fan and I want this industry to survive. I want comic books to continue to be an entertaining medium for many more generations to come. I want to be able to sit down with my future son or daughter and revel in the exploits of Starfire or Batman or Captain America or anybody. But if the industry continues to hope to ride a tsunami of testosterone to the bank, they’re going to find that it will only get you so far. Mass appeal means just that, MASS appeal. As in the masses. As in, including females too.

In the end, the future of comics rests in the hands of the readers and the readers will only buy what they like. Treat them with respect and they will treat you with respect with their pocketbooks.


Written by MrZissman

04/30/2012 at 4:00 PM

4 Responses

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  1. Most Unbelievable Line Ever Written Award goes to: “And we’re here. Do you want to have sex with me?” I’m sorry, what? Who would say that? Unless you were deliberately making a joke, no person expecting to be taken seriously would ever utter that sentence. Terrible writing.

  2. On a more serious note, the only thing that bugs me about this article is this line: “fanboys hiding behind screen names have threatened female comic book fans with rape and violence.” If you’re going to include a claim like that, you should provide some kind of source for the reader. Without one it’s just hyperbole.

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