No, no, no, yes, no – Thanks a bunch USA Today.

No, no, no, yes, no – Thanks a bunch USA Today.

Jun 13

So, the discussion of women in comics got co-opted today in order to pimp the new Fantastic Four movie, and it’s enough to make grown man who happens to like reading comics cry. Comic fandom just got sucker punched by marketing execs.

Everyone had a look at the USA Today article? Here we go.

The opening thesis is that comic movies are big bank, but only if the lead character is a dude. If it’s a woman, it’ll tank. To support that, the article author points out that critically weak-to-downright-sucky, male-lead films made big bucks (Ghostrider, Daredevil, and Batman and Robin) but Catwoman and Elektra didn’t.


It’s nice to pick and choose, but he forgets that while the numbers for Batman and Robin were big, they weren’t enough to make a return, that’s why it crushed the Batman franchise. He also leaves out movies like Superman Returns, where the movie made two-thirds of its budget before leaving theaters. Maybe, just maybe, with DVD and international, it broke even. Batman and Robin was the same way. The results are skewed, as those big movies got a lot of advertising, got put on a lot of screens, got a massive opening weekend, and then dropped like a stone. Big numbers, but not good numbers. Two different things.

There really aren’t a lot of comic book movies out there to consider this a decent data set, but you can kill the hypothesis by pointing out movies like Underworld – not a comic book movie, but clearly a comic book premise, and solidly female-lead. Doubled it’s budget and spawned a sequel. It’s budget by the way was 22 million, to the 50 million it made back – small numbers, but good numbers. Two different things.

Spring-boarding on that is a quote from Blair Butler from G4TV, who says that, well, the problem is that boys will be boys and boys like boobs. You know, like that Catwoman movie. And that it’s great that the Fantastic Four movie has the guts to put Sue Storm in a full body suit.


Catwoman tanked, remember. So, obviously it’s not the fanboy catnip being suggested. And c’mon – a full body suit for Sue… like the one she’s always worn. This isn’t a new invention for the character and certainly not one deliberately created to fly in the face of all those fanboys that did/didn’t go see Catwoman, as suggested.

Comic2Film chimes in that just look at Wonder Woman and how she’s drawn. Totally pandering to the male fantasy.


Her roots are certainly pandering to one particular male’s fantasy, but he’s a whole doctoral thesis worth of study. Several, probably. But that aside, yes – Wonder Woman’s hot. No doubt about it. But that’s not why I bought the Wonder Woman comics I own. I’m sure it’s a draw for some guys, but there’s something more to the character that brings in male readers, and it’s got to be good, or it wouldn’t work on boobs and boobs alone – just look at the Catwoman movie, after all, right.

Does anyone know what the numbers are on male readers who read female lead comics? Do we know how many like the characters versus like the characters secondary sexual presentations? Until then, why are all male comic readers getting painted with the same brush? Herein lies the dark heart of the article – but first we must get to the end before everything falls into place.

There is a short breeze of reality from Marvel’s studio exec, that points out the naked emperor (you know, the lion one from the Disney cartoon – well, it is to me) – bad movie-making probably had more to do with Catwoman and Elektra tanking than the notion that they were female characters and fanboys don’t like that. When you drop the “comic book” label and broaden out to other, similarly fantastic movies (sci-fi, action, horror), the ladies have scored big hits (Underworld, Aliens, The Matrix… c’mon, that movie owes just as much to Carrie-Anne Moss as it does Keanu and Larry Fishburne) and big misses (Ultraviolet), just like the guys. And why did they hit and miss? Same as any movie, regardless of who’s the main character – quality of the film, adjusting for the money spent in hype (a powerful factor no one really has a clear lock on, beyond advertising = more asses in seats, regardless.)

The article wraps up with a quote from Jessica Alba, whom is a fine Sue Storm (soon-to-be-Richards), but not a long-time FF reader;

Alba believes one way to attract moviegoers to female superheroes is to worry less about die-hard comic fans.

“I think the success of our movie is that we were aiming for the families as much as the fans. And that’s a group that recognizes strong women roles.”

So the movie, based on the comic, which was all about family, is aimed at families? And that’s why the movie roxxors, regardless of those stinky fanboys. No.

But what’s the point of arguing otherwise? The article is specifically about selling the movie to as many people as possible, which isn’t comic fans. We number in the millions and they need tens to hundreds of millions – the only thing the article needs to say is that the movie is The Fantastic Four, suggest that families will love it, and feature a quote from a star. This idea of discussing why comic book movies with women fail is the false-front, built to convince more of the middle of the bell curve to come see the movie.

The real point the studio wants to make is that Ma and Pa N’fanboys-Pas should take themselves and as many children as possible to the movie theaters to see the Fantastic Four movie. Don’t worry, it’s not a comic book movie, not like those stupid, tit-obsessed fanboy malcontents want. Screw them! This movie is for you! Don’t forget to buy popcorn!

You know what I think? 20th Century Fox has a movie with a silver man from space on a surfboard and (maybe) a really big guy that eats whole planets. And I think the execs went “holy shit, that is the weirdest comic book premise we’ve ever heard – how do we sell it to mainstream America in order to recoup the massive budget required to make it?”

And the answer is to reinforce the idea of a male comic book reader as a basement dwelling loser, and to do it in the name of women comic readers, by name dropping the women-in-refrigerators concept, the core rallying cry of feminist comic readers and critics online.

Rack this one up as a big loss for comic readers, gender-regardless.


  1. Sarah

    Dumb, clueless article, but I don’t think it does anything “in the name of women comic readers,” because (as usual) it doesn’t really acknowledge that women are comics readers. It paints *all* readers as the aforementioned basement-dwelling fanboys.

    The Elektra/Catwoman argument has always pissed me off. And anyone making that argument always seems to forget the X-Men franchise, which has strong characters of both genders.

  2. Chris

    I agree, the article references the concept of fanboys directly and the concept of feminist comic fans only indirectly, by awkwardly dropping the WIR concept into the middle. But the fact remains, they were using it to set up this idea that the movie is made with non-stupid-head fanboys in mind, and that’s not going to help comic fandom as a whole, at all.

  3. Sarah

    Oh, I agree that it\’s bad for comics fandom as a whole — I just don\’t think average joe readers (which the article is pretty clearly aimed at) would get that a WIR reference is somehow tied to female comics fans. I don\’t think the writer even knew what he was referring to, exactly.

  4. Chris

    As a single instance, you’re probably right, it doesn’t mean anything to the average reader – the thing to do now is watch to see if this is repeated. I’m putting my quarter on the cabinet that this is the first shot in a favorite new tactic by marketers, dividing us in order to conquer the mainstream – which sucks, because we’ve wanted our love of comics to reach the broader masses for ages, and now it may happen, but at our expense. Booo!

  5. Matt

    I like how they mention Sue in a “full body suit,” but neglect to mention the cheap cheesecake shot in the first FF of Alba in her underpants in the middle of the street in NYC.

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