Let’s face it: The mere thought of comic book readers conjures up images of horny, pimply-faced teen-age boys

While that stereotype may not be fair any more, no one could be blamed for thinking it based on the messages the books are sending. Scantily clad female heroes and villains – often in provocative poses – spouting stilted dialogue.

But comics – and comic readers –  have changed.

Adults regularly plunk down up to $5 an issue, and more girls and women are reading about the exploits of everyone from Aquaman to Zatanna. Gone (hopefully forever) are the days of the annual Marvel Swimsuit issue. In its place, announced this week (on “The View,” of all places) is “A-Force, the new, all-female Avengers team.

The book, available in May, will unite such characters as She-Hulk, Dazzler and Medusa to fight the evils of the world. It’s particularly interesting because these characters haven’t interacted much in the past. As with all teams, this group will fight at least as many battles among its members as with bad guys like Hydra, AIM and the Serpent Society.

Disney Corporate Magic at Work?

We can argue about Marvel’s rationale for creating this team. The cynic in me says it’s an excuse for more titillation. Or perhaps it’s to show some repentance for comics’ long history of relegating women to the background.

Maybe it’s because princess-obsessed Disney is flexing its corporate muscle to make this lucrative franchise more accessible to girls and women. Honestly, I don’t care about the why. I just hope they knock it out of the park.

Let’s give Marvel some credit here. They have a number of female-led titles to begin with. The recent “X-Men” title was, for a while, all women. And, of course, the publisher stunned the comics world last year by handing Thor’s hammer, Mjoinir, to a woman.

“A-Force” should benefit considerably from the halo effect of Hollywood’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” sequel, which will come out around the same time. Marvel could have used this window to bring back the male Thor or return Steve Rogers’ youth to him. Instead they chose to launch a new female group. That’s gotta count for something.

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Tom Smithyman is a newspaperman turned marketing executive. A comic book enthusiast since the ’70s, he tries to keep up with these alternate realities while juggling a professional career, family, community theater roles and passion for travel. Connect with him on Twitter @tsmithymanandlinkedin.com/in/tomsmithyman/