About 10 years ago there was a TV advert for menâ€™s the deodorant Lynx that, in its own particular laddish fashion, presented a procession of beautiful â€œideal womenâ€ who could be persuaded to display counterintuitive attitudes when confronted by a man liberally doused in a cloud of the brandâ€™s macho, musky scent.
Thus we had a montage of women really not minding about being kept waiting in the rain, being completely forgiving about missed birthdays, appreciating the fact that their breasts had been scrutinised, and one who announced, with unalloyed delight: â€œThat is SO funny! I collect comic books too!â€
The implication was clear: like falling asleep after sex, comic books are supposedly a wholly male preserve.
Fast forward a decade, and how times have changed â€“ at least in terms of comics. So much so that, for one glorious moment this month, female comic readers tipped the balance and outnumbered males â€“ or so it seems.
Graphic Policy is a website that has run since 2008, initially looking at comics at the more political end of the spectrum and morphing over the years to encompass statistics and demographics about comic readers and sales.
Each month they publish a report that breaks down comic readers into gender, age, ethnicity etc, using a fairly complicated â€“ and admittedly not very scientific or comprehensive â€“ formula that takes as its baseline all the people in the US who list comics as a hobby or â€œlikeâ€ on their Facebook pages.
Perhaps not an exhaustive survey, but itâ€™s worth bearing in mind that, as the author of the report points out, the US Facebook â€œpopulationâ€ is pegged at some 36 million people â€“ so itâ€™s a fairly weighty control group from which to make an assessment.
And in the demographic report presented on 1 September, for the first time the gender split was in favour of women: 53% of Facebook users who â€œlikedâ€ comics, graphic novels and various other iterations of the term used for the statistics were female.
It was a brief moment, however, and was probably down to a Facebook glitch rather than a sudden swing. According to the reportâ€™s author, and Graphic Policy founder, Brett Schenker: â€œOn 11 September the data was checked again, and the stats have returned to where Iâ€™d expect. There are 42m likes for the terms, with men accounting for 23m (54.76%) and women for 18m (42.86%). We can chalk up the below to a glitch with Facebook reporting at the time of data gathering.â€
But still the statistics make for interesting reading, and even at almost 43%, the modern comic readership gender split is a far cry from Lynxâ€™s stereotype of 2005.
Much of the growth in female comic readers can be put down to the fact that there are far more women working in comics these days â€“ Gail Simone, Kelly Sue DeConnick, G Willow Wilson, Tula Lotay, Ming Doyle, to name a handful. And comic books from Marvel and DC featuring women characters are proliferating â€“ for instance, the all-female Avengers A-Force, Captain Marvel, Ms Marvel, Harley Quinn, Batgirl, Catwoman, Spider-Woman and the forthcoming Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat.
There is also the rise of digital comics, which can be bought from home without having to step foot across the threshold of the local comic shop. While the Androidâ€™s Dungeon stereotype of the foreboding comic shop from The Simpsons might well be dying out, thereâ€™s possibly still a perception that some comic shops are a male-dominated territory, coupled with the clinging dregs of the â€œfake geek girlâ€ row of a couple of years ago, when it was posited that some women only pretend to like comics and nerd-culture to impress men.
Which is pretty much where we came in, and which is an equally outmoded bag of nonsense. However the stats are arrived at, if comics readership is indeed getting on for a fairly equal gender split itâ€™s something â€“ like a bloke soaked in Lynx â€“ thatâ€™s not to be sniffed at.