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Interview: Vince Hernandez Discusses Aspen, Kiani, and the Changing Comic Readership

00b_FAK4-02-CMYKcrop_1In early November Aspen Comics made the announcement they were changing up the look of their heroine Kiani when Fathom: Kiani Volume 4 #1 arrives February 11th. Alex Konat, Giuseppe Cafaro, and Wes Hatman were tasked with updating Kiani’s look and the title’s overall design.

What was even more amazing was the honesty and transparency as to why this design change and update was happening:

And as our company and fan base continue to evolve, a new generation of readers will be introduced to this wonderful character, including a much larger female audience. We wanted to honor that spirit of progress by updating the look and feel of the series with an exciting new design.

In a year of major changes in the diversity of comic characters, this was the latest example that 2014 could be called “the year of the woman” in the comic industry.

We got a chance to throw some questions at the writer of Fathom: Kiani, Vince Hernandez, not just about the new direction, but also the changing demographics of comic readers and fans.

We have even more images of Kiani, and tomorrow come back for Part II, where we talk with artist Giuseppe Cafaro about the actual design process.

00b_FAK3-01-CMYKcrop[1]Graphic Policy: So the big news is you’re redesigning Kiani for her comic’s next volume out in February. How did you all come to the decision for the redesign?

Vince Hernandez: That’s correct, we’ll be ushering in a new look for the series both through the narrative and the visual aspect of the title. Like most ideas we have, this was derived from one of our production meetings, while discussing the new direction of Fathom: Kiani, and what we were looking to achieve with the final product. We’ve tried really hard to establish a library of titles that will appeal to the growing number of comic book readers, and that includes a large female audience. With this fourth volume of Fathom: Kiani, we tried to be mindful of this new audience while also staying true to the character and her rich history. This included a natural evolution to the character’s appearance that fits more with where she is in her journey. It’s all very organic to the story when you read it. I hope readers will agree.

GP: How many people were involved in the redesign process?

VH: Everything we do here at Aspen is a collaborative process, so everyone’s opinion matters. Usually, that starts in our production meetings and carries over into the individual discussions I have with the creative team, and all along the way I try to gather everyone’s opinions. For Fathom: Kiani, it’s like clockwork because Giuseppe Cafaro, Wes Hartman and Josh Reed know exactly what to do, since we’ve worked together on this title for quite some time.

GP: Were there any mandates as far as the redesign?

VH: No mandates, just to stay true to the character and the story, and our original discussions about the visual look of the series which includes covers, solicitation ads, and the approach to marketing the book for a wider audience.

KIANI-V4-01c-Garbowska-2x3_1GP: In the release announcing this you mention how the Aspen Comics fan base has evolved, and the much larger female audience. How closely does Aspen follow that? Do you have a good idea of what your readership “looks like”?

VH: I think so, although we’re always pleasantly surprised to meet new readers. The comic industry is growing larger and with that comes new readers and fans looking to enjoy our books. With the advent of more conventions and social networking, it’s a very fun time to be a comic book creator, as we can interact with our fan base directly. We try to stay current with that approach and evolve as our fan base does. One thing many people wrongly perceive about Aspen is that we have a mostly male fan base, because they see our female heroines on the covers and assume we’re something we’re not. We actually have a very strong and loyal female audience that we adore, and we’re very open to hearing our fans’ opinions. We’re here to entertain first and foremost, and with that comes a responsibility to be open to criticism.

GP: How do you feel the comic readership has changed over the years as far as habits and demographics?

VH: I think the comic readership has become much more attuned to challenging the status quo in terms of voting with their wallets, but I definitely wouldn’t mind even more change in that department. Right now there’s such a great influx of female readers and more of a focus on increasing diversity in the industry, but there’s still a large majority of readers that dismiss anything not by the Big Two. Those buying habits are hard to change, but thankfully I think it’s trending in the other direction now.

GP: This year’s big story for comics is diversity with numerous publishers headlining a lot more minorities in comics, and outright changing gender or race of characters. What do you see as the driving force behind that?

VH: I’d love to say that I think it’s all organic to the story and not part of a larger initiative to appeal to a demographic that has been under-served, but I wouldn’t be completely honest. But, then at the end of the day, anything that helps to add more diversity to the industry I can’t see as a bad thing–as long as it’s handled with respect and care for the story and/or characters.

GP: Do you think those changes are editorially driven? Number crunching/marketing driven? A combination?

VH: A combination, and I think it’s foolish to think that marketing doesn’t play a part in these decisions. Oftentimes, we as fans can get so caught up in the comics we love that we forget that publishers have to run as a business, first and foremost. Understanding market trends and areas of growth potential are essential to any good business model in the long term. Finding new readership is the best way to feed that growth, and publishers have to search out those new readers in these ways.

GP: Do you think the rise of self-publishing, Kickstarter, web comics, the explosion of indie books has helped pushed for greater diversity in the rest of the industry?

VH: Absolutely, and the benefit to that added diversity is that it puts the larger publishers in a position to not rest on their heels, which is a win for the overall quality of the work produced in comics. Being a published comic book creator doesn’t have the same value that it did a decade ago, now that anybody can publish their own work with enough determination. It makes for a more competitive playing field, and more options for fans to choose from.

GP: We publish monthly demographic studies of folks who “like” comics on Facebook. Do comic publishers consider that sort of thing when deciding what to publish and who an audience for a comic might be?

VH: You know, at this moment the correlation between a “like” on Facebook and a sale at the retail level to me hasn’t presented itself yet, but I think there are plenty of conclusions you can draw from the statistical data on Facebook. I think this is much more pronounced at the creator level, as I’ve seen some creators really build a solid revenue stream for their work due to their strong social media presence. As a publisher, we usually have to make our decisions much earlier, as we plan our production schedule far in advance. Once it hits social media we already anticipate a certain level of awareness for the property or title.

GP: Can we expect any other shake-ups like this for 2015 for Aspen?

VH: Well, the great thing about Aspen is that we’re free to really shake things up all the time, so I think Aspen fans can expect many more surprises in 2015, as we have some really fun new projects on the horizon!

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Demo-Graphics: Comic Fandom on Facebook

It’s the first of the month and that means a new look at the demographics of people who “like” comics on Facebook. This data is compiled using demographic data from Facebook, and is limited to the United States.

This data is compiled using key terms, “likes,” users have as part of their profiles. Primarily terms are focused on generic ones such as “comics” or “graphic novels” or publishers. I stay away from specific characters, creators or series, because this does not indicate they are a comic book fan. Over 100 terms are used for this report.

Facebook Population: Over 28,000,000 in the United States

The total population increaseed by 2 million, returning back to 28 million. It’s unknown where the 2 million-ish people came from. The Spanish-speaking population last month was 14.62%, and this month is 15%.

Gender and Age

Last month women accounted for 46.15% and men were 53.85%. Even with the population increase, the results this month as far as percent the results are close to last month. Women now account for 47.14% and men account for 53.57%.

facebook gender 12.1.14

We’ll next look at how the percentage of women and men break down through age.

facebook gender age 12.1.14Compared to last month, the big difference is the inclusion of those age 38 and over and women 33 and under.

facebook gender age raw 12.1.14

Relationship Status

Compared to last month, the results are almost exactly the same.

facebook relationship 12.1.14

And for those that like pie charts.

facebook relationship pie chart 12.1.14

Education

Compared to last month, the big difference is the amount of people who have indicated they have an Associate’s Degree, as if this was just discovered.

facebook education 12.1.14

Gender Interest

Compared to last month these stats are almost exactly the same when it comes to percentage.

facebook gender interest 12.1.14Ethnicity

For the first time, we now have data on ethnicity. Facebook compiles the data based on “behavior that aligns with people of that race.” It’s unknown the specifics of what that entails.

African Americans account for 2.6 million, about 9.29% of the comic fandom, while all Hispanics account for 6.6 million, around 23.57%. It’s been a few months since I’ve been tracking Hispanics, but African American is a brand new statistic, so expect adjustment over the next few months as Facebook gets better at their algorithm.

I’ve presented the data in raw form for this first report, but will do graphs for future months.

facebook ethnicity 12.1.14And that wraps up this month’s report.

Demo-Graphics: The Hunger Games

As we reported earlier today The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 topped the weekend box-office. The film had a primarily female audience.

When it came to demographics Mockingjay—Part 1 played closer to the Hunger Games core audience than Catching Fire with 60% of the crowd female compared with 57% for Catching Fire, and 52% of the Mockingjay crowd under 25 versus an even split for the previous Hunger games film.

Below is how the Facebook data breaks down.

Hunger Games DemographicsWhen you combine all of the terms, not including characters, you get an audience that’s just shy of 67% female. The movie has been reported as having 60% female audience, so again the Facebook data is off, but not by a huge amount. Where the data continues to struggle is with age. 52% have been reported as under the age of 25, while Facebook returns that number at just 41%.

In another report, we’ll add characters from the books to see how that might affect the above data.

And that wraps up this week’s report.

Demo-Graphics: Big Hero 6 vs Interstellar

It’s Monday, and I’m looking at more demographic data via Facebook. For this week I decided to look at this past weekend’s box-office results and see if Facebook good have predicted Big Hero 6‘s victory at the box-office over Interstellar.

When you look at the below stats, I think it becomes pretty clear why Big Hero 6 topped the box-office. Their stats show a much more diverse audience. The film clearly appealed to both men and women, as well as young and old.

big hero 6 vs interstellarIt’ll be interesting to see how each does over the next few weeks and months.

And that wraps up this week’s report.

Demo-Graphics: Comics and Politics

Today is election day and for those who haven’t voted, what are you doing reading this? Get out there and vote! We have a handy tool to help you out with that, including finding your polling location.

With that out of the way, we’ve been tracking a lot of information, not just demographic info of those who “like” comic related things on Facebook, but also their registration, political views, and if they donate to political causes. This data is compiled using the same data that’s used for the monthly comic demographic data breakdown.

It felt appropriate to present the year’s worth of data today! So, get ready for the first ever Comics and Politics roundup!

Voter Registration

Voter registration is a key to winning elections, and as we can see through the past year things have been a bit stagnant until August on, which us about when a lot of political organizations would get their voter registration going. There’s a sudden spike in September, but that drops. This data I believe is purchased by Facebook from the open voter roles and then matched to Facebook users.

The below is the total number of people registered for all of Facebook.

Registration Grand TotalHere’s the same information above, but just for those who like comics. You can see the same increase later in the year.

Comic Registration TotalWhere it gets really interesting is when the information is broken down by gender. You can see some of the greatest gains when it comes to registration for Democratic Women, who overtake Democratic Men towards November.

Comic Registration GenderParty Affiliation

Voter registration is one thing, but how one labels their political views is another. Facebook allows individuals to list whatever they’d like as far as party, and the system then categorizes them into Conservative, Liberal, Non-Partisan, etc. In September, they changed that a bit, eliminating Non-Partisan and adding Moderate, Very Conservative, and Very Liberal.

Party affiliation facebookIn May, there was a rather strange drop in data that I can’t explain that only showed up when I added the interests of folks. The data was checked multiple times over a few days and the same thing happened. The data returned to normal the following month. Here’s the same data above, except just those who like comics.

Party affiliation comicsWhile non-partisan dominates the below stats when it comes to gender, when that’s removed in September those that consider themselves Liberal for both men and women becomes the majority and top two results. Those that consider themselves Conservative drops in September.

Party affiliation comics genderDonations

The final thing we can look at is the habits of individuals who donate to conservative and liberal causes. We see the same strange spike we saw in voter registration in September, which makes me think there was an issue with Facebook’s data.

Donations facebookBelow is the above data, but just for comic fans. Interesting enough, the spike we see above occurs to a lesser extent in October instead of September.

Donations comicsInteresting though is when you break out the gender, men donate the least to liberal causes, while liberal women are the most generous. Overall, women became much more generous as the year went on.

Donations comics gender

And that wraps up our first report! Now, go out and vote, there’s still time!

Demo-Graphics: Video Games

VideogameretaildisplayIt’s Monday, and I’m looking at more demographic data via Facebook. In this case,  we’re expanding things a bit, and looking at the gender breakdown of those interested in video games. We’ve covered games in the past, but that focus was mostly board games, card games, miniature games, not video games.

The data is gathered using Facebook’s advertising platform, and in this case pre-generated categories put together by Facebook. The categories are based on habits, and likes from individuals. This does not look at individual games, the plan is to start looking at each of these categories separately and going into more detail.

Demographic data of video game players is nothing new. The Entertainment Software Association puts together a yearly report of the data. Their report finds that 48% of gamers are female.

Superdata Research also recently looked into gamers and found that “women play more PC games overall than men,” though it’s very close to a 50/50 split. They found that when it comes to the RPG genre women made up 53.6% of the market. MMOs and FPS’ were dominated by men with 66 percent. Also 58% of mobile gamers are women.

I broke down the data from Facebook a few different ways. What first needs to be stated is my data is for the United States only. It doesn’t include popular gaming populations like Japan or South Korea. That will be looked at down the road. Overall, in Facebook’s “game”s category women account for 53.70%. What’s surprising is, that’s a total of 108 million individuals in the United States. There’s 184 million in the United States, which makes 58.7% of the population interested in games of some kind.

What also needs to be mentioned is that the Facebook generic “games” category includes “board games,” “card games,” “casino games,” and “gambling.” I take those as not just being video games, but games in general. When those categories are removed women account for 54% of the population.

Those interested in “game consoles” is also a category to look at. In the United States, that’s 46 million individuals. Men are the majority here with 52.17%.

When you take out those questionable categories (like board games) and add in “console games” women are the majority at 52.94%.

On Facebook, women are the majority of those who like “games,” “board games,” “browser games,” “card games,” “casino games,” “first-person shooter games,” “gambling,” puzzle video games,” “video games,” and “word games.”

You can see the full data below.

video games facebook data

And that wraps up this week’s report.

Demo-Graphics: Comic Fandom on Facebook

It’s the first of the month and that means a new look at the demographics of people who “like” comics on Facebook. This data is compiled using demographic data from Facebook, and is limited to the United States.

This data is compiled using key terms, “likes,” users have as part of their profiles. Primarily terms are focused on generic ones such as “comics” or “graphic novels” or publishers. I stay away from specific characters, creators or series, because this does not indicate they are a comic book fan. Over 100 terms are used for this report.

Facebook Population: Over 26,000,000 in the United States

The total population dropped by 2 million, returning back to 26 million which was the amount two months ago. It’s unknown where the 2 million-ish people went to. The Spanish-speaking population last month was 15%, and this month is 14.62%.

Gender and Age

Last month women accounted for 46.43% and men were 53.57%. Even with the population decrease, the results this month as far as percent is nearly identical. Women account for 46.15% and mean account for 53.85%.

facebook gender 11.1.14We’ll next look at how the percentage of women and men break down through age.

facebook gender age 11.1.14Compared to last month, the big difference is the inclusion of those age 65 and over. That percentage has come primarily from those under the age of 25.

facebook gender age raw 11.1.14Relationship Status

Compared to last month, the results are almost exactly the same. The percentage of those single dropped, while those married increased about that same percentage.

facebook relationship 11.1.14And for those that like pie charts.

facebook relationship pie chart 11.1.14Education

Compared to last month, there’s been a drop of folks in college and lower in education, which matches up the general percentage shifts above.

facebook education 11.1.14Gender Interest

Compared to last month these stats are almost exactly the same when it comes to percentage.

facebook gender interest 11.1.14And that wraps up this month’s report.

Demo-Graphics: Comics on TV

It’s Monday and that means another dive into Facebook‘s data. This week I decided to do another multi-part study where I gather data now, and then will look at it again down the road. This week I decided to dive into the data concerning television shows based on comic book shows that are currently on the air and have debuted. I’ll again look at the data during the fall break, the spring launch, and then when the seasons are complete.

I think you’ll see the data gets interesting, and isn’t when I expected (some I did). Arrow has the strongest female following, while it’s sister show on The CW, The Flash has the least. We’ll see if that changes over the season. I also included the percent of the individuals in the coveted 18-49 demographic. The Flash is the best when it comes to the 18-49 demographic, while Arrow is the worst.

Facebook comic tv showsAnd that wraps up the latest edition of the Facebook Fandom Spotlight.

The Truth About Gamergate

SimAnt_SNES_boxYou might have heard about Gamergate. Its been in the news quite a bit lately, getting a lot of coverage from the mainstream media. But, those articles overlook the history of the term, which actually traces back to 1983, and was used in literature in 1984.

The term “gamergate” didn’t begin with Adam Baldwin’s Tweet about Quinnspiracy two months ago. The term didn’t begin two years ago concerning Rhode Island and 38 Studios either. Actually the term is a scientific term having to do with ants. Yes, ants.

In 1983 geneticist William L. Brown coined the term, and first appeared in scientific literature used by entomologists. The term actual means:

mated, egg-laying worker

The term is derived from the Greek words γάμος (gámos) and ἐργάτης (ergátēs) and means “married worker.” Say what?

Yes, gamergate is a term having to do with female worker ants that are reproductively viable. When an ant colony lacks a queen, what’s a colony to do? Well, this. A gamergate is a female ant that helps as a reproducer for their colony.

It’s about specific types of colonies of ants, some of which are actually queenless. Instead one worker, or a group of them, have active ovaries. Yup, for the colony to survive, the ant colony must rely upon the female ants.

This gamergate also has controversy attached to it. Some feel that the term “worker” should be applied to only ants that are part of the non-reproductive caste, while “queen” should be applied to all reproductively viable female ants.

It’s actually pretty fascinating stuff, and you can learn more here or the many scientific papers on the subject.

What does this have to do with this site? Absolutely nothing, I just learned all this last night, and found it a pretty fascinating look at a matriarchal society.

Demo-Graphics: The Walking Dead

Its been almost a year since we last looked at The Walking Dead‘s demographics via Facebook’s data. With the new season underway, it felt like an appropriate time to see how things have changed for the record setting show, and best selling comic book series.

For this report, we’re looking at fans within the United States that enjoy The Walking Dead in comics, television, books, games, or even the characters. We’ll also compare the latest results to those of last year. Keep in mind though, while the terms are generally similar, Facebook’s  system has been upgraded and the data returned is more prevalent and richer.

Facebook Population: Over 17.8 million fans in the US

That’s an increase of over 5 million fans since last year. Spanish speakers account for 1.08 million fans, 6.07%. That’s a significant drop from last year of about 500,000 individuals, and the percentage has been cut in half.

Gender and Age

When it comes to gender in 2013Walking Dead fans break down 59.38% male and 40.63% females. In the year since, we’ve seen a surge of female fans with their now accounting for 47.19% compared to the men who now account for 52.81%. This is close to the changes we’ve also seen for the general comic population.

facebook gender 10.20.14Below is the trend line which looks at the age and gender of the individuals together.

facebook gender age 10.20.14

Below is the raw data for The Walking Dead fans. The population has shifted slightly older compared to last year, but not by much.

facebook gender age raw 10.20.14Relationship Status

The stats for relationships has expanded greatly since last year, with many more options, so it’s hard to compare the two statistics.

facebook relationship 10.20.14And for those that like pie charts.

facebook relationship pie chart 10.20.14Education

Like relationships, education has changed a lot since last year, so we can’t really compare this year’s stats to last year’s.

facebook education 10.20.14Gender Interest

Gender interest too has changed since last year. But generally those interested in the same sex for men and women has dipped from last year.

facebook gender interest 10.20.14But how does the fandom compare to itself based on how it’s being consumed? For The Beat, I compared how The Walking Dead stacked up in comics, television, games, and books. I return to see how the gender breaks down for each.

Interesting enough, the comic fandom has dropped since last year with video games and television both seeing an increase in overall fans. Both television and comics see women make major gains, while video games continue to be the domain of men who increased percentage wise. Books remain almost exactly the same when it comes to gender compared to last year.

twd media 10.20.14

And that wraps up the latest edition of the Facebook Fandom Spotlight.

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