Yeah, yeah, stop laughing.
You know, lots of women read manga. Lots of girls read manga. Few women or girls read comics. Why is that?
The obvious answer is that comics basically have a giant "No Girls Allowed" sign on them. A lot of your superhero books are adolescent male power fantasies. Females are super sexy and their appeal is based on how hot they make the guys. Even the Vertigo line-up, supposedly the most progressive, has seen its haul of female readers drop. DC recently blew it when they released a Batgirl treasury, subbing the original cover with one of her selecting her make-up. Sure, the series was a product of the times, but fans felt they had been subjected to a bait and switch.
Today, I'm reflecting on the latest evidence that guys in the comic book field continue to see women as "The Other". It didn't really sink in until recently, but there's been a trend lately towards "femming up" super heroes. First, Spider-Girl. In the Thor comic book, Loki has been turned into a woman. There have been hints that the new Black Panther is going to be a woman. This is really nothing new to us anime fans, who have seen lots of "gender switch" stories happen. Mostly, the ones we get stuck watching are cheap tittilation (yes, that word is intentional) as opposed to something that really tries to do something with the premise like A Cheeky Angel, still one of my faves. And most of these are cheap tittilation in the comic book world. Admittedly, Mantra from Malibu's Ultraverse line-up played the gender switch card, but there was more of an overarching attempt at understanding there, and the character did start to understand the new responsibilities of his situation, so I hesitate to lump that with the current trend.
There's always this temptation to think that we are making progress, because there are fewer instances of old gender role-defined women in comics. But no progress has really been made. All that has happened is the prejudices have been forced underground. To your face, comic creators will say they believe in equality and such. Then they'll pull something that makes Dave Sim look like feminist.
Online, there's something called the Otherverse, where classic superheroes are given new identities, typically through a gender switch. Professor X merges with Scarlet Witch, becoming Scarlet X and turning into a slut party girl. Tony Stark gets a spell cast on him by the Mandarin, which turns him into a woman, and his new female instinct make him fall in love with the Mandarin, and all he can do is cry. Lots of stories like this, where turning into a woman is the ultimate horror you can inflict on someone or they stop acting respectable and start acting like Paris Hilton on crack. It's stupid, it's chauvanist, and you can get sketches of these new characters sold to you easily, so it's also popular. And these aren't about what it's like to live as a woman in the modern world, just that being a woman is Hell unto itself.
Right now, comics need all the fans they can get. And we'll never expand our numbers as long as this adolescent objectivication runs loose.