Five lessons from girls and comic books: scholarly findings!


October 4, 2012 by shepla

I just read an essay that was published in the spring/summer 2010 CEA Critic,  the scholarly journal of the College English Association, a national organization for teachers of college English. Author Kirsten Clemens is from Duke, but says she also teaches a summer program for gifted 10- to 16-year-olds, so she’s had the opportunity to talk with plenty of female readers to examine their attitudes about comic books and female protagonists. Her findings, quoted directly from the article:

  1. Beauty is important..
  2. Youth is more important than beauty.
  3. “We will read non-superhero graphic novels.”
  4. “Non-superhero comics are good, superhero comics are great, but manga is the best thing ever.”
  5. “Boy characters are for fueling our fantasies too.”

I kind of hate this list. For me, story trumps everything. I don’t care if the characters are preschoolers or geriatric, as long as the story is compelling. I’m glad Clemens’s students have discovered non-superhero graphic novels like Ghost World, but all I can think is “duh.” I’ve read hundreds of Archie comics without once ever fantasizing about the male characters. (I do agree that manga is the best thing ever, but I’ll leave that for a separate post.) Am I weird? What do you guys think?


4 thoughts on “Five lessons from girls and comic books: scholarly findings!

  1. Ta da! I’m back. 🙂 Attractive male characters are great, but mushy stories about friendship and team love are more important (note that says team, not teen).

  2. shepla says:

    Thanks for coming back! I like attractive male characters as much as the next girl, but they wouldn’t motivate me to keep reading a comic. I’d keep reading if the story was good, or if the comic was funny. I do like the team (and teen) love, though. There’s just so much drama inherent in the process of growing up.

  3. Stephen C. says:

    I’m with you. Story and character trump everything else. On a barely-related note, I’m not sure how I feel about the trend of comics getting “scholarly” attention. I don’t shout that from the rooftops since I know people who write that kind of stuff, but it seems to me that a lot of scholarly analysis sort of sucks the life out of comics, and occasionally veers into over-analysis. I generally prefer to read things like this blog, which are written by informed fans in language that can easily be understood by a general audience.

    • shepla says:

      @Stephen, now that I’m back in school I realize that there is NOTHING scholars haven’t touched. In my “Networks and Narratives” class, we watch a lot of viral videos. 🙂

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