I was reading the November 2016 sales figures for the top 300 graphic novels and something immediately jumped out at me. The #1 best selling graphic novel had a female lead. The #3 best selling graphic novel had a female lead. And the #5. And the #11. Granted, there was a drop off to the #26 and #28, but I’ll take it. (Check the full Top 300 here.)
I’m the father of two girls, 8 and 6. I don’t know if they’ll be a paragon tier level nerd like their dad, but I do know that I’m thankful that the superhero genre is becoming more inclusive towards them. Just this morning my girls played 3 games. One was playing with their Legos, which I approve of. Legos are creative and helps develop fine motor skills, engineering basics, and spatial thinking. Perhaps my girls will realize their dad’s dream for them that they become builders, not breakers.
The second game they played this morning was “Pet Hospital.” They take their Beenie Boo stuffed animals and use paper, tape, and other craft supplies to make tiny little casts, slings, and bandages, like they are treating wounded animals, which I approve of. This shows creativity, imagination, and compassion. Perhaps my girls will realize their dad’s dream for them that they always look out for others.
The third game they played was superheroes. They ran around imagining they had super powers that helped them thwart evil, which I approve of. This shows imagination, a sense of justice, and a belief that they can fight to make a difference. Perhaps my girls will realize their dad’s dream for them that they can be heroes.
In between those times of play they whined, asked for a lot of snacks, and talked back to their mother, so there is work yet to do.
My point is it interesting to me that graphic novels with female leads would be among some of the top sellers, as this is something that would be unheard of even a few years before. Perhaps the comic industry will realize this nerd’s dream that they diversify their audience (they already have us guys on the hook, after all). With females comprising slightly more than 50% of the population, writing more female superhero makes good business sense, even if you strip away all the other positive aspects of it.
The Importance of Superheroes for Young Girls
Specifically, the #3 best selling graphic novel of November 2016 was the 2nd volume in the DC Super Hero Girls line of books. My 8-year-old is a big fan of the Wonder Woman led team of female super heroes. In fact, she wrote a review of the first book, which I first published here on Nerds and Earth, but was later picked up by other media outlets. She thought she was famous.
Adding to her fame was Gina Bellisario, who sent her an autographed copy of ELLIE ULTRA, her latest book for young girls! ELLIE ULTRA is about a third grade African-American girl who tackles everyday problems while saving her city from the world’s worst super-villains.
Campbell loved ELLIE ULTRA and wrote a book report for it as well. And although she spelled courage wrong, she shared that the book reminded her to be “coregeous” and to do a good job in school. The book reminded her that her parents weren’t so bad and, most of all, it reminded her that she is perfect the way she is.
As a dad, I’m thankful that books like this exist for young girls.
Disney owned young girls for decades. They had their princess movies down to a science. Of course, there were also princess dolls and playsets that further captured the attention of young girls. But despite their best efforts, Disney could not capture the hearts and minds of young boys. So what did Disney do? They bought them.
Disney bought Marvel and Star Wars for 4 billion a pop. Immediately, Disney now owned the attention of young boys. And their investment has been a steal, as Disney did over 7 billion at the box office in 2016 alone.
Meanwhile, these two huge properties that were purchased as predominately “male properties” had female leads like Rey and Jyn that showed us that they never should have just been properties directed primarily at males. Is Star Wars for boys? Yes. Is Star Wars for girls? Equally yes.
And now we are seeing that superheroes are for girls as well. This a good thing. Our sons have been playing superheroes for decades, believing they can grow up to be courageous and battle villainy. We need that for our daughters as well and I’m thankful that we’re finally getting it.