There’s this shirt my daughter loves to wear. I don’t know where it came from; I presume someone bought it with me in mind. For all I know, the comic book junk in my house has finally gotten so dense that it’s become sentient and started replicating itself in the drawers. Whatever its origin, this shirt is the first thing the kid asks about every morning. Luckily (?) we do more laundry than a hotel chain around here so she’s rarely without it.
On the shirt, it says “WATCH OUT, BOYS” as Batgirl, Wonder Woman, and Supergirl smile out at the viewer. Their faces seem to say, “Watch out boys: my phone number is coming your way! Rawr!” but my daughter interprets it as, “WATCH OUT STUPID BOYS, BECAUSE I AM COMING FOR YOU WITH MY KUNG FU TELEKENESIS,” and at this stage of the game that is A-OK with Daddy.
Having seen her share of Super Hero Squad and Lego Batman on the Wii, the girl has seen plenty of boy superheroes and is fascinated and enthralled by these ladies on her shirt. Every time she puts it on, I have to retell her the story of who they are. She can’t hear it enough. She is especially taken with Wonder Woman, although she can never remember her name. (“It’s a miracle that anyone remembers her name at this point,” I start to tell her every morning before realizing that I don’t want to explain the concept of intellectual property mismanagement to a four year old.)
Every time I tell her about the heroes on her shirt, I want to find the people who made it and ask, “So… what’s next, here, O Merlins of Marketing?” They made and sold a Wonder Woman/Batgirl/Supergirl shirt to fit a four year old (well, a six year old; she’s something of an Amazon herself) and now that they’ve successfully got her undivided attention, I have nothing to point it at.
Just from a bloodless capitalist perspective, they’re not just trying to sell the shirt, right? They’re trying to extend the brand and get the kid to buy a second thing. What is that thing? It doesn’t seem to be a comic book of any kind. Has the Supergirl toyline escaped my attention? Are there shoes?
What do you do with a little kid who loves super-ladies?
I’ve been enjoying the new Batgirl series more than I enjoyed the previous incarnation, although naturally it’ll be a while before my daughter gets a crack at it; it’s a bit more murder-y and “real life is full of horrific spinal injuries but they get better”-y than I think my particular four year old is ready to handle. I can’t help but laugh, though, when I think about the DC relaunch switching back to Barbara Gordon because “that’s the Batgirl everyone recognizes.” From where? My daughter’s t-shirt, that’s where. Just not anywhere else.
Oh, right right. That TV show that went off the air before your new target audience was born. When I talk to my teenaged nephews, all they ever talk about is, “Sure sure. Barbara Gordon. From those three episodes of that cartoon that was on channel 30 when I was learning to crawl.” Then I remind them she was established on TV in a show from a decade before I was born, and then they say “who cares about things you can remember, seventies relic?” and then they laugh and poke me with their parents’ Lawn Darts while I cry.
And I know you want to say Tiny Titans to me right now, but you’re barking up the wrong tree. The ladies on the shirt are most definitely not Tiny Titans. My daughter wants derring-do. Besides, every time I get it for her, she looks at the pages and says, “What is that, Daddy?” and I say, “Well, sweetie, that’s another DC continuity in-joke about a book from ten years ago,” and then she says, “Daddy, who is this supposed to be for?” and I say, “Sweetie, I have no goddamned idea.” (When I say “every time I get it for her,” I should mention that so far I have only done so in my imagination.)
It’s frustrating. This is yet another one of those times when I feel like I am taking someone by shoulders and saying, “I am trying to give you my money. Please, just take it,” and they’re going, “Sorry. We have nowhere to put it. Hey, does your daughter by any chance want to see Catwoman get boned?”
She does not, sirs. Not as such.
This little girl is on the hook, man. She’s not waiting for a romance comic or a manga or some diversification of the line. She doesn’t even need a new strong role model. She likes the ones you’ve got already. The pump is primed. She would love to read a Wonder Woman book, just not one where every woman who isn’t naked in the first issue is a whore that gets murdered.
There’s probably some storybook or pop-up book out there somewhere. If I’m lucky, Wonder Woman won’t just be one of eight characters in the book, the rest of whom are boys. If I’m really lucky, I’ll barely have to scour the internet for something that should be in a shop I visit every single week. While I’m looking, though, I leave you with this: comics are a medium like any other, one primarily read by adults. I’ve been coming here for more than half a decade now; I know how it works. I don’t think Catwoman should be made to ride a unicorn through the Gumdrop Forest of G Ratings. I’m not doing a follow-up to that Fox News DC story from last week. All I’m saying is that my daughter wants me to tell her a story about Batgirl, because that’s the only way she can get one. Leave as much money on the table as you want, but that’s what you’re doing.
Jim Mroczkowski realizes that his little girl is not representative of the entire population, but come on, that’s the entire population’s loss.