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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Who The New Readers Are In The Comic Book Industry



Over the past twenty years the Comic book industry has been in desperate search of New readers for their medium. Unfortunately, they can’t seem to find any of these new customers because they keep catering to a small minority of diehard comic fans instead of trying to appeal to a broader audience.

Who are these new readers? I’ll break it down for everyone:

New Readers are Fathers. These were the boys who grew up with comics and want to share the characters they grew up with with their kids. I’ve heard too many fathers say they want to buy their kids comic books but can’t because the content features such graphic violence, nudity and coarse language that it’s not appropriate for their children.

New Readers are Mothers. Moms are the gateway to getting comics into the household. If Mom thinks can see a good educational supplement, they'll buy them for their kids. Unfortunately, I’ve heard so many mothers say that they can't give their children comic books  because the content contains misogynistic content such as women being humiliated, raped, mutilated, crippled, stuffed in refrigerators, heroines, scantily clad in thongs, barely there costumes and graphically sexually costumes that it’s not appropriate for their children.

New Readers are children. There’s been a huge baby boom going on since 2000. Most of those kids right now are independent readers and YA readers the Comic book industry could capitalize on.

What’s frustrating is this current young audience is totally being ignored by comic book industry publishers who only want to focus on adults ages 18-40. I feel not targeting the Independent readers, tweens and teens is a HUGE mistake that’s costing the industry BILLIONS of dollars in revenue and hundreds of thousands of sales. Comics need to go back to being all ages content so younger readers can find the gateway to reading.

Parents who grew up with comic books want to buy new comics for their kids. They want to share their experiences with comic books with their children and bond over the adventures of the characters together. They want to take their kids to the comic book store and share comic books with them.

Publishers making comic books a family experience again could save many comic shops from going under and get the big box retailers like Wal-Mart and Target excited about stocking comic books again, but publishers are so focused on older readers they currently have that they don’t see the millions of potential new readers they ignore.

New Readers are girls. Contrary to popular belief, lots of girls read comics and want to read comics. Personally, I feel the girls market could be huge if comic book publishers put some serious effort into it.

For way too long the comic book industry has ignored girls or targeted them with patronizing dumbed-down content featuring pink covers, sparkles, flaky one-dimensional characters with no personality or depth, and stories about ponies, unicorns and dresses.

I feel if a comic book publisher focused on giving girls comic book characters with the depth and complexity of the male characters they could have a corner on the next big market. Girls like comic book characters too, and Many Mothers are looking for good, strong positive female role models to present to their daughters. I’ve always believed the girl’s market is ripe for expansion and if girls were presented with heroines they could identify with and related to they’d buy comics just as much as boys do right now.

New Readers are Women. Women also enjoy comics. But there is practically no content targeted towards them. The comic shop is a Man’s world featuring mostly male fantasies.

Many women want to get into comics but are turned off by the sexism and misogyny in comic books. And when a good female character is presented in comics that women like, they usually wind up with amnesia, raped, killed, mutilated, beaten or murdered and stuffed in a refrigerator instead of being given their own series and promoted to female readers.

I’d like to see more comics targeted towards women. Books that feature female characters with the depth and complexity of the male characters. I’d like to see more comics the defunct indie book Ms. Tree, where the ladies are as smart and strong as the male characters in comics.

New Readers are African-Americans. African-Americans could also be another strong market for comic publishers. The African-American fantasy market and science fiction market is about to emerge as the next big trend for publishing and the comic book industry could get in on the ground floor by targeting African-American readers with fresh content.

African-American readers want more than “Black” superheroes. They want complex stories, multidimensional characters and stories unique to the African-American experience. A smart publisher could gain a new generation of a million or more readers if it knew how to present new comic book material to Black readers.

New Readers are Latinos. Hispanic comic readers are also looking for fresh content. Hispanics are the largest minority in the United States, yet there is very little content targeted towards Hispanic readers. The Hispanic comic book market could be HUGE with millions of customers over several countries on three continents. A smart publisher could gain a huge international audience if it produced content to target Hispanic readers in the international market.

New Readers are Asians. Asian Americans are one of the fastest growing minorities in America. But Asian-American customers are one of the most underserved customers in all of the United States. The Asian-American experience is one that needs to be presented in the media in a substantial way. And The comic book industry could reach millions of readers if it made a serious effort towards presenting more Asian-American characters.

I feel DC Comics missed a HUGE opportunity to target Asian American readers when it killed off Ryan Choi, it’s new Atom. The character was starting to build an audience and was becoming more popular than his predecessor. It could have been a step in the right direction for comics and provided new Asian readers a character they related to and identified with, along with a gateway into comics.

All of these audiences are huge markets of a million customers or more.

But Comic book publishers can’t see these new readers because of their tunnel vision.

95 percent of the people who work in the comic book industry are White and Male. And the world is becoming more blacker, browner, yellower, redder and more female. Those readers aren’t buying comics because they don’t see themselves in the pages of comic books. Moreover, they because they don’t relate to the stories in comic books they don’t see them as relevant to their lives.

Which is why the comic book industry is having such a hard time finding new readers.

The world of comic books has become one of the last White Male strongholds in America. But if it’s going to survive over the next few decades, it’s going to have to open itself up to audiences of African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Women, families and younger readers.

2 comments:

  1. It's not just comics. I remember a show I really liked on cartoon network called Young Justice got cancelled because it appealed too many teenage girls, instead of boys. By all accounts Young Justice had consistently good ratings, and was a hit with fans. A hit is a hit regardless of who your audience is. So instead of the network asking themselves well what do teenage girls like and capitalizing on that, they just pulled the plug on the show because: "girls don't buy action figures." Stupid, lazy, and short sided.

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  2. A lot of people liked Young Justice. And you'd think the comic industry and WB would want girls to get into superheroes with the industry in a slump. From what I've seen girls do buy action figures, and they do like superheroes. So it's a no brainer to sell to whoever's buying.

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