Halloween bag stuffing is nigh and that means finding comic books that fit into my four basic categories: young boy, young girl, older boy and older girl. These roughly break on the double-digit mark (9 and under, 10 and above), but I can be swayed occasionally by my gut.
The goodies part of the goody bags is relatively easy. Identifying age and gender appropriate items falls easily into some basic generalizations about gender preferences and even more easily based on age. It’s not infallible, but most of the time, action figures lean more male and decorative or craft leans more female.
With comics, the going gets a bit tougher. Even age appropriate bears some struggle, since comics of today are more “mature” (i.e., violent) than in the past. What used to be more cartoon violence is much more vicious now, even in the so-called mainstream comics.
Fortunately, I have a trove of older comics within which I can fish around for young boy and girl books for them to look through and/or read (depending on their age).
The toughest group to build comic bags for are the older girls. Comics have traditionally been the bastion of adolescent boys. While the market readership has grown older (with a concurrent drop in the number of new readers), the market is still dominated by males.
Though I have an extensive selection of comics to choose from (back from the days when I used to buy and sell comics – which helped fund part of my college expenses), it’s still difficult to find enough quality books for girls.
In my sales experience (which was significant, though 30 years ago), most girls tired quickly of over-muscled men in spandex beating up monsters or each other (sometimes both in the same book). In general, they preferred a more “satisfying” read. In other words, something with a plot a little more complicated than, “There’s a bad guy…let’s thump him!”
While there are a few more strong female leads than in the era during which my back stock was built up, I have read enough varied comics over the years to at least offer up a more rewarding slice of reading material for the girls.
So, while I may salt an issue or two of something non-super heroic in the boys’ bags, the girls will likely see 70-80% of their selection being alternate titles (adaptations of books or movies, mature reader storylines and unique new characters).
I still give the girls a few muscled guys in spandex, but for the most part, I keep to my view (garnered from years of retailing comics) that what a girl wants is something cerebral, not steroidal.