Who reads comics? The standard response - indeed, stereotype - perpetuated by TV shows including the likes of The Big Bang Theory is this:
Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons - a fat, white, straight male nerd.
Stereotype it may be, but is it true? To some extent, yes. A poll conducted by DC Comics into who bought comics in US comic book stores found that only 7% of purchasers were women. And a lot of women don’t feel especially welcomed by the average comic book store.
But that's all changing. Go to the average comic-con in the US and you will see people like this, for example:
Yes, people who don’t fit the standard stereotype at all.
In part (but certainly not wholly) that’s because of online. No longer do you need to set aside an annexe of a house to collect comic books; no longer do you need to even step foot in a comic book store if you don’t want to. You can order graphic novels via Amazon or simply read them digitally on your tablet (or phone if you really just hate having perfect vision) using Comixology and other comic book readers.
So who reads digital comics? Increasingly, the answer is this:
Comixology’s sales figures indicate that as many as 20% of digital comic readers are young women, particularly outside the US. How about the remaining 80%, though?
You might think it's just young men, who are part of the digital generation who shun dead trees. But you’d be wrong. Or at least DC thinks you’re wrong, because although it’s been happy to push digital comic versions of younger-skewing TV shows The Flash, Arrow and Smallville, as well as tie-ins with cartoons such as Batman Beyond 2.0, it’s also seeing a good deal of success with Scooby Doo crossovers as well as Batman ’66 - a series based on the Adam West Batman of the mid-60s.
Batman ’66 is already a best-seller and doing well in both print and digital, which is where it started as an ‘enhanced’ comic - that is one that had animations as well as standard comic panes.
Now, you might think that Batman 66 is an exception, because you could stick a Bat on anything from Fairy Liquid through to piles cream and Batfans would still buy it; more so, the original show is still wildly popular among the general populace and is a real pop culture icon.
Except this weekend, DC announced another title in the same vein: Wonder Wonder ’77.
Based on the 1970s TV series starring Lynda Carter, Wonder Woman ’77 will be a digital-first title debuting in December. Now Wonder Woman has obviously been doing very well of late in the nu52 universe. Pre-nu52, there was one Wonder Woman title, Wonder Woman, and she’d occasionally pop up in Justice League or some other titles. But now, as well as Wonder Woman, we have Superman/Wonder Woman, the digital-only Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman and Wonder Woman ’77. That’s four concurrent Wonder Woman titles - more than there’s ever been before at any point in her 73-year history.
Clearly, she’s doing something right. But the question is: who will buy this new, digital-first title?
Undoubtedly, Lynda Carter is the platonic ideal of Wonder Woman as far as many fans are concerned, and there are aspects of the show that still define most people’s idea of who Wonder Woman is and the wonders she can do.
But largely, we’re talking about a show that never really entered the popular psyche and never got the re-runs in quite the same way as Batman. More so, it just wasn’t very good - try rewatching them, I dare you, because while the first season set during World War II is just about bearable, the latter two seasons are really hard going. Anyone coming to them fresh now is unlikely to be converted into an ardent fan by watching them.
On the other hand, I’ve got them all on DVD and iTunes, largely because I watched them all when I was a kid back in the 70s. So while I imagine there’ll be regular Wonder Woman fans giddy for any new Wonder Woman who’ll buy Wonder Woman '77, particularly those who hate the nu52, I doubt anyone young who is uncommitted would flock to this in the same way they might to Batman ‘66.
And I don’t think DC thinks so, either. I think it's after a new group altogether from all the previous groups we've looked at - an older group that normally wouldn't enter a comic shop but who are now enabled by digital technology to read comics, particularly those based on shows they watched when they were kids.
Yes, DC is after the Silver Surfers. How ironic.
I’ll be buying it, of course. Will you?