Dissertation Proposal

Outline/Rationale for proposed dissertation topic:

In recent years increasing numbers of young girls have started becoming interested in reading comics, mainly due to an influx of Japanese imports. But at large the industry has been slow to meet their needs, if interested in trying at all. Girls’ comics were once a thriving market in Britain, between the 50s and 70s numerous different titles were available for teenage and preteen girls including Girl, Bunty, Jackie and Misty. In 50s America Katie Keene’s Hit Parade was the girls’ comic of choice.

Many superhero comics aimed at a male audience, which, with their cat-suit clad, impossibly proportioned vixens, are the constant subject of feminist criticism- continue to alienate girls from the comics medium.

With more girls picking up comics today- what is it that the comics industry needs to provide to keep them reading? And what are the responsibilities of creators in terms of story content and providing positive role models?

To define the term “positive” in my question I am using this set of theories and ideals:

  • Strong role models
  • Diversity of characters and their social backgrounds
  • Inclusion of male characters besides being love interests
  • Incorporated learning
  • Emotional involvement
  • Well composed story telling
  • Genuine conflict

Research Objectives:

In my dissertation I intend to explore why there are so few young girls’ comics available in today’s libraries, news agents and comics shops.

I plan to investigate the history of girls’ comics in Britain and their gradual phasing out from their traditional home in girls’ magazines. Is there any prospect that this tradition could be revived?

I aim to assess past and present girl’s comics (see both bibliographies) based on these critical theories:

  • Feminism and Gender Roles
  • Importance of Female Creators
  • Sexuality and Romance
  • Censorship and Parenting
  • The Role of the Family
  • Historical Context
  • Class Issues
  • Consumerism

I will examine the reasons publishers and creators have for ignoring this demographic to see if they stand up to scrutiny and consider its recent efforts to become more girl-friendly.

Research Methodology

In order to gain a greater understanding of this topic I will talk to creators looking to achieve a young female readership to find out their views on what makes a good comic for girls and compare this to the views of actual girls in my chosen age range of 8 to 12. Is there agreement between the general views of these groups?

Resources, e.g. galleries, museums to be visited, journals, articles etc

Self-conducted Interviews

Rachel Nabors

Megan Gredis

Trina Robbins

Local Young Person’s Librarian

Girls in the 8-12 age range, both readers and non-readers of comics.

Relevant Websites





First Bibliography (sources, articles, books, journals looked at so far for the proposal)


Manga: Sixty Years of Japanese Comics, Paul Gravett, Laurence King Publishing Ltd, 1st edition, 2004

Reinventing Comics, Scott McCloud, Perennial, 1st edition, 2000

An Introduction to Theories of Popular Culture, Dominic Strinati, Taylor & Francis, 2004

Gender and Social Psychology, Vivien Burr, Routledge, 1998

Comics Anthologies

The Best of Jackie, Nina Myskow, Prion Books and DC Thompson, 1st edition, 2005

Sexy Chix, Diana Schutz and various, Dark Horse Books, 1st edition, 2006

Remembered Reading: Memory, Comics and Post-war Constructions of British Girlhood. Some initial thoughts. Dr. Mel Gibson, 2000 http://www.shef.ac.uk/content/1/c6/05/05/23/mel_gibson.pdf
Jackie Magazine: Romantic Individualism and the Teenage Girl, Angela McRobbie, 1977 http://www.gold.ac.uk/media/jackie-magazine.pdf

Second Bibliography (sources, articles, books, journals identified but yet to be read)

Books and Research Texts
From Girls to Grrlz : A History of Women’s Comics from Teens to Zines” and

“A Century of Women Cartoonists” Trina Robbins, Kitchen Sink, 1992

Wonder Women; Feminisms and Superheroes, Lilli Robinson

Comics and Sequential Art, Will Eisner, Poorhouse Press, 1985

A History of Underground Comics, Mark Estren, Straight Arrow Press, 1987

Mo-Bot High, Neil Cameron, The DFC Library, 2010
W.I.T.C.H The Power of Friendship, Elisabetta Gnone, 2001

Go Girl, Trina Robbins, 2006
The Best of “Girl” Annual, 1952-59, Denis Gifford

Children’s Books

Illustrated Classics for Girls, Usborne Publishing, 2008
Lola Rose, Jacqueline Wilson, Corgi, 2003

This entry was published on January 23, 2011 at 10:09 pm. It’s filed under Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “Dissertation Proposal

  1. thom brooks on said:

    I am finding this really interesting and I have been looking into the role of female cartton characters myself for a class I teach. I am mainly looking at gender roles and race in comics but I like your in depth approach.

    Do you have your finished dissertation? I would love to reqad it if I may.

    Any help and also pointers to certain comics would be great.

    RegarDs Thom Brooks

    • I’m haven’t finished the dissertation yet as we were required to have the outline drawn up in our second year, but the final writing isn’t due until our third. I plan to post it on this blog when it is complete.

      I’m interested to know what sort of class you teach; is it comics related or are you looking to incorporate comics into another subject?

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