Posts Tagged ‘Letter Columns’

Read My Article on Comic Book Letter Columns in Gender and the Superhero Narrative, Available Now!

October 19, 2018

gender and pic

Today I got my copy of Gender and the Superhero Narrative, pictured above with a Funko of Diana Prince enjoying an ice cream cone, and I’m very excited to tell you all about this book. First off, I’m in it! That’s the main reason I’m telling you about it. I’ve written an article called “The Evolution of Female Readership: Letter Columns in Superhero Comics” and it is a DEEP dive.

I looked at over three thousand comic books for this study, and longtime readers may remember me asking for help tracking down some issues a couple of years back. Thanks to all of you (and especially thanks to Johanna Draper Carlson, KC Carlson, and their EPIC comic book collection) I got all of the letter columns I needed for this project, and the end results turned out very interesting.

I tabulated the folks who got published in letter columns at DC and Marvel by gender from their rise in the 1960s to the start of their decline in the 1990s. First, I established a baseline, with forty years of letter columns from Batman, Justice League, and Superman at DC and Amazing Spider-Man, Avengers, and Fantastic Four at Marvel. These numbers alone showed some fascinating trends, including the steady decline of female readers getting letters printed in superhero books.

But that was just step one. I averaged out these numbers and then compared them to a female-led series from each decade. At DC, we had Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane in the 60s, Wonder Woman in the 70s, Supergirl in the 80s, and Catwoman in the 90s. The choices were fewer at Marvel, but we had Millie the Model in the 60s, Ms. Marvel in the 70s, Dazzler in the 80s, and a combination of Sensational She-Hulk and Silver Sable and the Wild Pack in the 90s.

Needless to say, this article’s got charts on charts, which shouldn’t surprise any of you who are familiar with my work. And there’s some compelling information therein. I won’t tell you everything I found, because you should go read this book. But here’s a fun tidbit: The average female readership for each female-led series was ALWAYS higher than the baseline average of the other titles. Every year, for forty years, across ten different series. There’s various ways to interpret that, but a key takeaway is: Girls will read comics when girls are in comics.

Anyway, it’s a jam packed article with all sorts of fun information, some great letter column quotes, and, like I said, all of the charts. It was very fun to put together, and I had a great time working with the editors Michael Goodrum, Tara Prescott, and Philip Smith. It’s an academic book and I am not an academic, but they kindly invited me to be a part of the project anyway. And now it’s published by the University Press of Mississippi, which is kind of amazing for a comics history nerd like me. I cite their great books on comics all the time in my research, so to actually be in one is very cool.

And, of course, I’m just one of several contributors (here’s a flyer for the whole works: Gender and the Superhero Narrative). If you like letter columns, my article will be your jam, but the book covers so much. It’s got pieces on Batwoman, Bitch Planet, Jessica Jones, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Gwen, and more. Plus an introduction from Ryan North! Everyone loves Ryan North. He is as smart and delightful as he is tall, and he is very, very tall.

I hope you’ll check out Gender and the Superhero Narrative! It’s available now from the University Press of Mississippi or via most bookselling sites. And it’s only $30 US, which is pretty dang good for an academic book like this. These things can get pricey. Anyway, I’m really proud of my piece, and I love that so many readers helped me find the comics I needed to finish the research for it. Good group effort, gang! I think it turned out really well. Go pick up the fruits of our combined labours today!

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Comic Crowd Sourcing, Round Two: Sandman Letter Columns! Got Them? Win Prizes!

April 18, 2016

sandman

Earlier this month, I put up a list of over 150 comic books that I needed letter column data from for a research project I’m working on. The response was AMAZING, and I got all of the information I needed in about ten days. Thanks so much to everyone who helped out; it’s so great to have a complete data set.

Inspired by this success, I’ve decided to branch out a bit. All of my initial data was on superhero comics from 1960 to 1999, tracking the female readership of them through letter columns, but I think an interesting comparison to that would be Sandman, a comic that’s said to have had a substantial female audience. The late 80s and early 90s were not great for women in the letter columns of superhero books. Marvel was averaging about 5% women in the books I looked at, well DC was at about 6%. It’d be fascinating to compare this to the letter columns in Sandman, and see what sort of a difference it made in what was a very male dominated industry at the time.

This is where you all come in. I have NO issues of Sandman whatsoever. I’ve got the Absolute editions, and they’re swell, but they don’t have letter columns. There’ll be a full list of Sandman issues at the end of the this post; if you’ve got any, let me know what’s in the letter columns and I’ll cross the issues off the list as data comes in. In return, you’ll be entered in the ongoing contest to win some swell prizes. Here’s how it all works, copied straight from round one:

  1. For every issue listed below that you send me the gender breakdown of the letter writers, you get ONE ENTRY in the contest.
  2. For every issue listed below that you send me a list of all of the names in the letter column, you get TWO ENTRIES.
  3. For every issue listed below that you send me a readable photo or a scan of the letter column, you get THREE ENTRIES.

These entries go into a raffle, the prizes for which are these:

GRAND PRIZE: $25 US

SECOND PRIZE: $15 US

THIRD PRIZE: $10 US (awarded to three winners!)

So five prizes are up for grabs, in various denominations, and I will give them to you in whatever format you’d like. Straight cash? Sure. Amazon gift card? No problem. Comixology credit? Can do. McDonald’s gift certificates? Okay. Is BitCoin still a thing? Because I’ll get you some. All in pennies? That would be super annoying, but I’ll do it.

Moreover, because of the nature of the contest, you could win more than one prize! If you’ve got every issues of Sandman and send me tons of data and I can close this thing down tomorrow, guess what? You’re probably going to get some prizes. Conversely, if you’ve only got a few of these books, you’re still in the mix if you send the data along!

Plus, win or lose, you’re helping with some fun research. I’m putting together a really interesting portrait of comic book audiences over this decade that I think will make for an enjoyable read and be helpful for other researchers and historians.

Figuring out the data is pretty simple. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re reading a letter column:

  • The gender of each writer is pretty obvious from their name. Richard is probably a guy and Rebecca is probably a girl. Stick with what’s obvious.
  • There are some ambiguous names, like a Pat or a Sandy or some such. If you’re not sure of a name, don’t count it but let me know the name.
  • Do the same with initials or letter writers who use weird pseudonyms or titles.
  • With some ambiguous names, the text of their letter may reveal their gender, so it never hurts to read the letter if you aren’t sure.
  • Some issues won’t have letter columns. That’s fine, and important information that will get you a contest entry. Just say there’s no column in the issue.
  • If you have any other questions or aren’t sure about something, just let me know the name(s) and I’ll figure it out!

Here’s a hypothetical rough idea of what I’m looking for with each issue:

Sandman #45 – 6 men, 3 women,  2 unknown = Sandy Jones, T.K. Smith

And that’s it! You can add more information or send pictures for more entries, but this is the core of what I’m looking for.

To participate in the contest, send the information to:

comicletters@gmail.com

Thanks so much, everyone! The first round was a huge success, and I’m hoping to get another big response here. This’ll be the last round, too, so it’s your final chance to get on board to win prizes and/or be a part of fun comic book history research. Any information you can provide will be hugely helpful!

Here are all of the issues:

  • Sandman #1 (1989)
  • Sandman #2 (1989)
  • Sandman #3 (1989)
  • Sandman #4 (1989)
  • Sandman #5 (1989)
  • Sandman #6 (1989)
  • Sandman #7 (1989)
  • Sandman #8 (1989)
  • Sandman #9 (1989)
  • Sandman #10 (1989)
  • Sandman #11 (1989)
  • Sandman #12 (1990)
  • Sandman #13 (1990)
  • Sandman #14 (1990)
  • Sandman #15 (1990)
  • Sandman #16 (1990)
  • Sandman #17 (1990)
  • Sandman #18 (1990)
  • Sandman #19 (1990)
  • Sandman #20 (1990)
  • Sandman #21 (1990)
  • Sandman #22 (1991)
  • Sandman #23 (1991)
  • Sandman #24 (1991)
  • Sandman #25 (1991)
  • Sandman #26 (1991)
  • Sandman #27 (1991)
  • Sandman #28 (1991)
  • Sandman #29 (1991)
  • Sandman #30 (1991)
  • Sandman #31 (1991)
  • Sandman #32 (1991)
  • Sandman #33 (1991)
  • Sandman #34 (1992)
  • Sandman #35 (1992)
  • Sandman #36 (1992)
  • Sandman #37 (1992)
  • Sandman #38 (1992)
  • Sandman #39 (1992)
  • Sandman #40 (1992)
  • Sandman #41 (1992)
  • Sandman #42 (1992)
  • Sandman #43 (1992)
  • Sandman #44 (1992)
  • Sandman #45 (1993)
  • Sandman #46 (1993)
  • Sandman #47 (1993)
  • Sandman #48 (1993)
  • Sandman #49 (1993)
  • Sandman #50 (1993)
  • Sandman #51 (1993)
  • Sandman #52 (1993)
  • Sandman #53 (1993)
  • Sandman #54 (1993)
  • Sandman #55 (1993)
  • Sandman #56 (1993)
  • Sandman #57 (1994)
  • Sandman #58 (1994)
  • Sandman #59 (1994)
  • Sandman #60 (1994)
  • Sandman #61 (1994)
  • Sandman #62 (1994)
  • Sandman #63 (1994)
  • Sandman #64 (1994)
  • Sandman #65 (1995)
  • Sandman #66 (1995)
  • Sandman #67 (1995)
  • Sandman #68 (1995)
  • Sandman #69 (1995)
  • Sandman #70 (1995)
  • Sandman #71 (1995)
  • Sandman #72 (1995)
  • Sandman #73 (1995)
  • Sandman #74 (1996)
  • Sandman #75 (1996)

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