[cross-pasted from The Comics Journal message board]
Dirk, I haven’t received my copy yet but I’ll join the chorus praising your opening essay. Here’s hoping it gets photocopied and pasted in editorial offices across America.
Your assertion that Marvel’s response to the shojo invasion has been “how can we get these girls to buy Spider-Man?” is pretty accurate. It would probably do comics a world of good if the Big Cheeses would realize they’ll never get most people to buy Spider-Man (or condescending attempts at “Spider-Man for girls”) — but that DOESN’T mean they’ll never buy MARVEL (or insert other publisher here) comics. If Marvel will get over their goddamn superhero obsession and realize that it wouldn’t kill them to publish something Stan & Jack wouldn’t have thought of (or something the Direct Market won’t buy) — that they’re a publisher of literature, dammit, not a franchise factory — then maybe they can be a part of the solution. Right now, it pains me to say, they’re an embarrassment.
With that said, I’d like to contradict myself and point out that not everyone in mainstream comics has been caught unawares. By that I don’t really mean creators that have adapted to the rise of shojo so much as writers whose work has been shojo-like for years.
I mean, what are we seeing here? That when a creator concentrates on interpersonal relationships and realistic (or even interestingly unrealistic — perhaps “accessible” is a better term) characterization, there is a huge potential audience, generally consisting of the “fangirl” personality. How unique is this idea? TV soap operas for lonely housewives, teenage equivalents like “Dawson’s Creek,” Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise, Los Bros Hernandez, and plenty of other indie comics. I don’t know what the readership demographics for X-Men were like in the 70s, but Chris Claremont used this style all the time. Devin Grayson gave a brilliant interview last month explaining her character-centered style of writing Batman, and you could swear she was a twenty-year shonen-ai veteran. And the fans (those who aren’t turned off at the mere thought of superheroes, and brave enough to enter a comic shop) eat it up!
I’m not really sure where I’m going with this. Comments, anybody?