11 August 2010

Enough Cupcakes?

In May comics creator Hope Larson sent out a survey to “a couple hundred girls and women who reads comics in their teens or tweens” [sic] about how they got into reading books in that form, and what they liked to see. She shared the results on her LiveJournal blog, but within weeks deleted that blog in favor of a dedicated website, leaving a path strewn with dead links, as in this interview with Kelly Thompson. So one reason for this post is to share the new web address for Larson’s results.

Among her findings:

3) Pink, sparkly cutesy comics about boyfriends, ponies, cupcakes and shopping are widely reviled. Condescend to female readers at your peril, writers and comic publishers.
So I guess that’s why girls don’t like Babymouse.

To be fair, the readership for Babymouse starts younger than the teens/tweens Larson was polling. But it does suggest that the more salient finding than the above is “5) Girls need good stories in a variety of genres.”

In other words, the problem may not be “Pink, sparkly cutesy comics” but bad pink, sparkly cutesy comics and/or only pink, sparkly cutesy comics.

However, even that feedback might not be helpful to creators and publishers since some bad material in any format seems to sell just fine, and some good material fails to find the audience it deserves. Many fans of any artistic genre have difficulty accepting this, feeling that someone must be at fault somewhere.

TOMORROW: Pointing the finger of blame.


Monica Edinger said...

My impression is that the poll's selected respondents were not only older than the Babymouse target audience, but committed comic readers. Babymouse appeals, from what I've seen, not to kids who are particularly interested in comics, but those who read other series books focused on the issues of Babymouse (friends, family, etc). So while "Pink, sparkly cutesy comics about boyfriends, ponies, cupcakes and shopping" may be "reviled" by those responding to Hope's survey, I don't think that is true among those who read and enjoy such comics --- again, occasional comic readers as opposed to the more-committed ones (or so I'm guessing) of Hope's survey.

J. L. Bell said...

One of the problems of any “survey” like this conducted within a self-selected community (in this case, fans and friends and followers of Hope Larson who chose to respond to her questions) is that they probably aren’t representative.

The respondents are probably indeed older than today’s Babymouse target audience, though some might have been in that target audience for the first Babymouse books, and some might even enjoy those books for their simplicity. I happened to have that Babymouse image, all pink and cupcakey, on my hard drive, so I couldn’t resist posting it here.

I suspect that not seeking “Pink, sparkly cutesy comics about boyfriends, ponies, cupcakes and shopping” might be one thing trait that unites this community of readers, or that they use to define themselves. Or perhaps that’s an amalgamation of the types of comics respondents noted as supposedly interesting to female readers but turn-offs for them.

I’m having a hard time myself picturing a single comic that contains ponies and boyfriends and shopping and cupcakes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s out there.

Monica Edinger said...

Is a Pretty Little Liars gn far off? Or Gossip Girl? Goes without saying they have boyfriends and shopping. Ponies could come by way of polo or some sort of snooty Hampton riding event. Or maybe Saratoga in August?

J. L. Bell said...

If it was “Pink comics about boyfriends and shopping” and “cutesy comics about ponies and cupcakes,” there might be more candidates. But aren’t ponies and boyfriends mutually exclusive in literature?