Superpowers Revealed

The “girl power” trend that has been so prevalent in entertainment, toys, and other products for the past few years is not limited only to children. There are also more female-focused initiatives geared toward teen and adult consumers—of both genders—especially in the video game, comic book, and other segments of “geek culture.”

Examples include:

  • Books and comics featuring female characters or creators. Examples of the former include DK’s Marvel Fearless and Fantastic! Female Super Heroes Save the World, Marvel Press’s Marvel: Powers of a Girl, and Chronicle Books’ Star Wars: Women of the Galaxy, the latter of which features profiles of 75 female characters and more than 100 new images by female illustrators. Titles focusing on real-life women include IDW’s Synergy: A Hasbro Creative Showcase, which includes fiction by and nonfiction about female creators working on Hasbro-licensed comics, and Prima’s Women in Gaming: 100 Professionals of Play, a collection of interviews with women working in all facets of the video game industry. Books in both categories are typically meant for adults as well as children, with some skewing toward the former and others toward the latter but with the expectation of many adult readers as well.
  • Retailers, especially ecommerce sites, focusing on female superheroes and/or fans. eBay this month partnered with two comic book creators, writer Gail Simone and illustrator Cat Staggs, to launch Superheroine HQ, a curated selection of new and used comics, collectibles, and merchandise tied exclusively to female superhero characters. In its announcement, eBay said it has seen a 34% jump in year-over-year sales for female superhero goods across the platform. Meanwhile, Loot Crate launched a Loot for Her edition of its pop-culture subscription box several years ago; the ongoing program features comic book-, video game-, and superhero-inspired apparel and accessories in women’s sizes and styles.
  • Entertainment vehicles putting female superheroes front and center. These include this month’s release of the Captain Marvel feature film and 2017’s Wonder Woman. Both have been box office stars, leading to studio interest in more such titles. A Wonder Woman sequel is set for 2020, for example, while a standalone movie is planned for the character Black Widow, for an as-yet-undetermined release date. The latter character has appeared in a supporting role in six Marvel movies.
  • Products, from collectibles to clothing, highlighting female characters and/or designed for women. Zenescope released a series of action figures tied to its female characters, including the protagonist of its Grimm Fairy Tales series, Sela Mathers, in the anime-inspired bishoujo style. And Her Universe, a female-owned apparel company and pioneer in this space, has long specialized in “fashion for fangirls,” incorporating properties ranging from Star Wars to Dr. Who to Wonder Woman.

It should be noted that some of these examples have been on the scene for some time, while others are recent additions to the list. But the frequency of new ventures is clearly growing of late.

The rise of such initiatives in the geek-culture business is particularly significant in the wake of #MeToo. The industry has historically been male-dominated in every facet: in its target consumer base, in its content, and in the artists and executives working behind the scenes. It also has gained a reputation for misogyny. One high-profile example is the #GamerGate online harassment campaign against female video game creators and critics. Another is the ongoing effort by masses of online trolls to “review-bomb” female-centric films such as Captain Marvel with negative ratings in an attempt to undermine box office.

Programs such as the ones mentioned here not only represent a counterpoint to this history, but also an acknowledgment of a strong female consumer base that has traditionally been underserved or ignored.

Reminder: The next issue of Raugust Communications’ monthly newsletter goes out tomorrow, March 19, 2019. The Licensing Topic of the Month will take a look at the implications of the continued shrinking of major retail chains, while the Datapoint research spotlight will provide a glimpse of distribution strategies used to launch licensed product initiatives. If you are not already a subscriber to this free publication, you can sign up here.

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