Marvel (Fan)Girls

Marvel (Fan)Girls

Feb 04


I sometimes deliver these pronouncements that make me sound like I’m permanently stuck in 1999. “Wow, the internet!” I’ll say. “So goddamn amazing, no?!” (I imagine myself sporting a too-big dot-com swag tee, Discman headphones jammed over my ears and piping in “69 Love Songs” as I’m saying this, by the way.)

But, look, I’ve been thinking a whole lot about the internet — and its amazingness — recently, thanks to a bunch of virtual kerfuffles and debates, mostly having to do with ladies and comics. I was depressed by the raftload of negativity that greeted the Girl Comics announcement*, then perplexed that there wasn’t more negativity towards that sausage fest Heroic Age image**. I track all of this on Twitter, of course, then follow up with longer outraged/not-outraged/outraged-by-the-outrage emails between internet friends. But whatever your feelings on any of these topics, here’s something I never quite thought about whilst debating them: it seems like we’ve finally moved beyond the “yeah, girls do read comics!” portion of the discussion.

Do you know what I mean? I was just thinking back to some of the scandals of yesteryear (ie, like, 2006): remember LarsenGate? Erik Larsen writes this column, tons of angry responses (including mine) occur, track the results on When Fangirls Attack? At that point, I did feel like it was necessary to say — again and again and again — that, yes, women do read comics. Superhero comics, even. I am one of these women! Hear me roar from behind my massive stack of Authority back issues!

The idea that maybe we’re a little farther along in the conversation in 2010 coalesced for me the other day, thanks to the whole T-Shirt Product Description Incident (…T-ShirtProductDescriptionGate? Hmm, nah).

Basically, this one merch site, Superhero Stuff, had some totally horrific copy describing this shirt. It was all about how the guy writing said copy was trying to decide which Marvel lady he’d like to have in his “harem” and I don’t feel like replicating the whole thing, but basically? It was really over-the-top, on-the-nose gross and sexist and quite grandly reinforced the hoary old “girls don’t read comics” thing. (As you can see, it’s since been changed. But more on that in a sec.)

I Tweeted about it and then other people picked that up and pretty soon, there was all kinds of cool, 140-character commentary flying back and forth. Friends Jeff and Carla had a great exchange about why “wooting up” copy should generally be avoided. Colleen Coover made this amazing comment, which is just so precise and right on, the most intelligent response I could come up with was, “Yes, totally!” (Why don’t I just say “totes” while I’m at it, eh?) People were pissed off enough to email the site and @ them on Twitter and hey, 24 hours later, the product description suddenly has no mention of harems. Friend Sigrid over at Fantastic Fangirls did a great write-up that documents the whole shebang in detail.

I suppose a bit of changed copy seems like a pretty tiny thing in the grand scheme of the world, but still: I thought it was neat.

Here’s what’s even neater, though, and yes, I’m about to get SO CHEESY. The minute that link started making the rounds on Twitter, there was no debate about “oh, hey, but do girls read comics? Why should they care?” I didn’t feel the need to preface all my statements with “yes, I’m a comics-reading lady and…” It made me think that maybe the ol’ comics internet has progressed a decent amount since the debates of yesteryear (again: 2006!). It made me think about the amazing variety of kick-ass fangirls whose words I can read and listen to online, people like Evie Nagy and Laura Hudson and Jill Pantozzi and Esther Inglis-Arkell and Karen Healey and Ragnell and Kalinara and Caroline/Sigrid/Jennifer/Anika. It made me feel like, these days, it’s way harder for some clueless person to equate the “girls reading comics” thing with “hey, unicorns!”

I could be wrong. Maybe something will happen today that will make this post look like the ridiculous rainbows-and-sunshine ravings of an idiot optimist. It is the goddamn internet, after all. And if that happens, well…at least I’ve still got this massive pile of Authority back issues.

*I’m sorry, but can we talk about how totally fucking amazing the creator line-up for GC is? Colleen Coover and G. Willow Wilson and Kathryn Immonen and Amanda Conner and, and, and?! I drooled a little. I suppose my general view is that spotlighting women does not have to equal marginalization and if done right, can be quite awesome. If this book had existed when I was a kid, I would’ve clawed and shoved all of the other unfortunate comic shop urchins out of the way just to get my grimy mitts on Jill Thompson’s Phoenix/Kitty Pryde/Scarlet Witch-highlighting cover. Hell, I might still do that. As an adult. You’ve been warned.

**Seriously, there is one woman in that image. ONE. Not okay by any stretch of the imagination.


  1. I love it! I mean, I love all your observations, but I maybe especially love how Caroline/Sigrid/Jennifer/Anika is a four-headed superfangirl 😉

  2. I imagine you all assembling into an awesome Voltron-style entity whenever it’s time to make a blog post.

  3. Web copy is always pretty much the lowest common denomination, unfortunately. And I still think marketing is stuck on some loop of “do girls influence purchasing decision” (yes, 85% of all purchase made by women, the rest usually influenced) that “do girls read comics?” is like a mind-blowing question.

    I had completely forgot about Larsen-Gate. Still yucky.

    You have a pile of Authority back-issues too? I swear I’ll get around to them.

  4. You know that Heroic Age promo only has ONE gorilla in it, too.

  5. Erica: Yes, excellent point. The pile of Authority back issues are actually ones I’ve read…at some point, I want to do a post about why I’ve held onto the first 12 issues even though I also have the trades. There’s a very sentimental reason! (I do have plenty of other back issues I haven’t read, though!)

    Jeff: You should do a protest post on behalf of oppressed gorillas everywhere.

  6. Shhhh! Don’t reveal the secrets of the Fantastic Fangirls MegaZord!

    In all seriousness, I think you’re right. I came into comics at exactly the time you’re talking about — 2006 — and I can feel how different the comic fanworld (at least on the internet) has become in that time. Attitudes all over the world haven’t changed as much, I think, but there has definitely, definitely been progress.

  7. I cant believe i missed this! >:0 Also, i have this shirt, but not with the low collar like that… i even wore it at SDCC on the day Colleen Coover was at the Women in Marvel panel – that i was live blogging. Because i am that much of the mythical comics nerdgirl.

    Jennifer — i came into comics about the same time as you (late bloomers we are!) and i agree — things are a changin’. Takes time tho :((

    And, i am *super* *EXCITED* for Girl Comics.

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