Boom! (Kids) Could Be Dynamite

You know what’s great? The kids line from Boom! Studios is great. Since last year they’ve been publishing a fleet of comic books based on various Disney and Disney-affiliated properties, and every book I’ve picked up under this line has been golden. The Muppet Show has somehow managed to take a variety show with puppets and translate it beautifully to the page, with all the heart and all the excruciating puns. The comics featuring the classic Disney characters (like Donald Duck and Friends, Mickey Mouse and Friends, and Uncle Scrooge) have brought translations of popular European tales to America for the first time in an accessible and affordable way. I haven’t read much of the Pixar-based comics like Cars, The Incredibles, and Toy Story, but what I’ve seen has looked great. And one issue in at the time of this writing, Darkwing Duck is already the best comic I’ve read all year.
But there’s one big problem with the Boom! Kids line: there’s not a single female protagonist in the bunch.
Boom is currently publishing 12 ongoing titles for kids, plus a string of four-issue Muppet parodies of famous stories (Muppet Robin Hood, Muppet Snow White, etc.), and a couple of completed Pixar minis (Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo). Of the 13, The Incredibles probably does the best on the female character front, with the kickass and competent Helen (Mrs. Incredible) starring in an upcoming arc (check out this gorgeous cover featuring her and Mirage! I am so getting this), and just generally being a prominent character in the series, as is her daughter Violet.
Beyond that, female characters tend to consist of The Girlfriend (Minnie Mouse, Daisy Duck) or That One Girl in the Cast (Miss Piggy, Jessie from Toy Story). Sometimes The Villain. Or The Daughter.
Never The Star.
This isn’t really surprising, given the franchises Boom is working with, all of which are boys’ clubs. Pixar has already taken heat for this; in 11 movies they haven’t had a single female protagonist, so how can a comic based on a Pixar movie provide one? The Duck and Mouse books are working from the 1950s tradition of Disney comics, where women exist only as girlfriends who will hector you into adventures and then require saving.
And the Muppets basically have Miss Piggy, who is a glorious character, but can’t represent the gender all on her lonesome. It seemed Boom! was balancing the gender ratio slightly when they introduced an adult Skeeter, Scooter’s twin sister from Muppet Babies, but she was written out again a few issues later. Meanwhile, the Muppet minis go through agonized contortions, trying to find enough female characters to make their parodies work, and settling for B-listers like Janice and Camilla the Chicken (or appalling new character ‘Spamela Hamderson,’ who plays Snow White to Piggy’s Evil Queen in the currently-running Muppet Snow White).
It doesn’t have to be this way. Jessie was marketed as if she was the third protagonist in Toy Story 3, when in fact she wound up being a damsel in distress who existed only to engineer conflict for Buzz. Why not rectify that by giving her an arc in the comic?
Or, hey, Minnie Mouse has been around for 82 years. I think she can carry her own comic book by now, especially considering the vast network of friends and relatives she has in the comic book universe. I’m awfully tired of seeing her as Mickey’s wilting flower. And while we’re at it, can we see less of Daisy the vain, selfish nag, and more of Daisy the plucky career woman from the otherwise-awful 90s cartoon Quack Pack? Mickey and Donald have always contained multitudes, to allow them to play whatever role necessary for the story; Minnie and Daisy can too.
But if none of those work, well, it’s not like Disney doesn’t have a wealth of properties designed with little girls in mind. There are the princesses, of course, and the Tinkerbell line; ordinary little girls like Alice and Lilo; live action properties like Wizards of Waverly Place and Hannah Montana. It’s a little past its prime, but Kim Possible would’ve made a wonderful comic book. Disney is not exactly starved for female protagonists, if you catch my drift.
Because here’s the thing: there are exactly as many little girls out there as there are little boys. Statistically, they read more, and they spend more (or their parents do). And they want to see themselves as main characters, too. So it’s not just right to include female protagonists, but it opens up a whole new potential stream of revenue. Sure, not a lot of little girls read comic books now. I bet a lot more would if they started seeing girls on the cover. (And hey, maybe a boy might read a comic about a girl! Just like girls read comics about boys all the damn time.)
I’ll say it again: Boom! Kids is great. I’ve enjoyed every single comic I’ve picked up from them. But I’d enjoy them a whole lot more if I knew Boom! was telling stories about both halves of the population.