Always-wise commenter Anthony Damiani asks a fair question about the challenges of building female comics readers:
But the counterpoint is that it’s not like they haven’t tried, a number of times. A book like She-Hulk (in its Superhuman Law incarnation) was a good book that should have attracted a female readership. Marvel Divas and Models Inc weren’t good books, but they were clear efforts. Ms. Mavel? Ghost Rider? Alias? Marvel’s solo books with female leads have had a hard time selling for some time now– and it’s not all because they’re vapid cheesecake male-oriented fantasies.
I think part of this is an equilibrium issue; the “comic-book-shop-as-smelly-boys’-club” effect makes it hostile terrain for books that would otherwise be appealing to a female audience. Which, in turn, leads to Brevoort’s attitude: a sort of despair that what they feel is socially responsible to produce is directly at odds with what they’re actually able to sell.
I agree that it’s true that the comics industry has produced some quite fine comics about female characters. Dan Slott’s Superhuman Law arc on She-Hulk is one of my all-time favorite comics and one of my all-time favorite procedural stories, and it’s tragic that She-Hulk has sort of slipped under the waters, that she’s not even on the list for a second-tier movie in Marvel’s slate.
But I don’t think that’s actually sufficient. It’s not as if women have some sort of mysterious homing pigeon hormones that allow us to swarm the best in lady culture when it’s published even if no one lets us know about it. I’d be genuinely curious to know if Marvel and DC have done substantial advertising campaigns in women’s magazines, or on female-oriented television shows when they’re rolling out new storylines or new artists on comics with female characters? Or if they’ve pitched their comics characters as cover girls or interview subjects a la Marge Simpson’s Playboy spread? Just for fun, I checked the Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire archives for references to She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, the Scarlet Witch, Catwoman, Wonder Woman. Only the last produced any results actually related to comics or related products: in a guide to famous breasts in Marie Claire that misstates Wonder Woman’s history. If any other industry was making a push to get a product to its core audience and was failing that miserably in reaching them, they would fire their PR people and their marketing department. Maybe someone can offer information I don’t have here, and if so, I’d be curious to hear it.
You can’t expect women to go into comic book stores if they have no idea that anything’s there for them. You can’t expect them to swing by comics and graphic novels sections in physical or online bookstores if they have no conception that there are characters they should get excited about. If you really want a female audience, go after it.