Call me a bit of a geek, but I felt a great disturbance in the Force this weekend, as if thousands of women suddenly cried out in celebration and were suddenly heard.
That much revelry couldn’t be ignored. So using a Jedi mind trick on a dainty little droid called Siri, I tracked down the cause of duress to a massive pop culture convention called Louisville Comic Con. If you’re into sci-fi, comic books or the fantasy genre, it was the place to be.
And that’s where I found them.
At least half of the crowd was made up of women — yes women — jetting from one place to another. A few laughed and smiled and even screamed when they met their favorite television star.
Others strutted around in elaborate costumes, posing for photos. Known as cosplay, these ladies transformed themselves into heroes, villains and even the occasional zombie.
While a blonde accessorizing by placing a giant dragon on her shoulder does raise some eyebrows, the bigger stunner was how did all these women turn into these types of fans?
Times, it seems, are a changing in the comic book world. Gone are the days of my youth when people stereotypically assumed that pimply boys with pocket protectors dominated the scene.
Sure, most every girl had her Wonder Woman Underoos, but only the Lasso of Truth could get us to confess that we, like the guys, also loved the stories on those painted pages. It just wasn’t accepted.
Not so much anymore.
Women have begun to claim their stake in this land of fantasy by both purchasing and creating comics. According to Comicsbeat.com writer Brett Schenker, a recent Facebook survey found that of more than 24 million self-identified comic fans, 46.67 percent were women, the highest percentage he’s observed.
As an owner of the comic shop Heroes and Games, Cory Simms has witnessed first-hand an increase in female buyers. Although comics come in almost every genre, he credits the recent avalanche of superhero movies as contributing to the trend.
“You don’t see as many older women I’d say, but definitely a lot of younger ones are coming in,” Simms said. “The movies are a big thank you to that. They get tied into the movie and they want to know the back history.”
Of course, just like with fanboys, women can love the genre without actually reading comics. Following the Teen Titans cartoons, New Albany resident Logan Corn attended the event dressed as a character called Starfire. She noted that comics haven’t always been the most welcoming to girls.
Older portrayals of female characters seem to reflect more male fantasy than reality. That could turn some women away.
“A lot of times women are over sexualized,” Corn said. But these newer characters, like Starfire, can do the opposite, especially for those engaging in cosplay. “I feel confident like this. I like it. It’s really fun for me to do it.”
Realizing this growing demand for more complicated female characters, the comic book industry has started to take notice. Indie publishers have always been on the cutting edge of the trend, but recently at least one of the two comic book giants has responded.
In the past year, Marvel Comics added some fresh depictions on a few of their traditional female superheroes. An all-female X-Men comic released last May became Marvel’s top seller for that month. As part of this “Characters and Creators” initiative, Ms. Marvel, Elektra and, my personal favorite, Black Widow, will additionally get the star treatment with books focused around their lives.
“While we don’t have any market research, the eyes don’t lie,” Marvel’s editor-in-chief Axel Alonso said to Washington Post journalist Sabaa Tahir as reported in the newspaper’s Feb. 4 edition. “If you go to conventions and comic book stores, more and more female readers are emerging. They are starved for content and looking for content they can relate to.”
So while the big-breasted heroines in skintight costumes might not disappear, an alternative for ladies who want more substantive lead characters continue to become more available.
May the Force of women’s buying power be with all of them.
— Amanda Beam is a Floyd County resident and Jeffersonville native. Contact her by email at email@example.com