Tim Hanley runs Straightened Circumstances, a blog about writing, comics, and Wonder Woman; but since January he has also been keeping statistical tabs on the gender ratios of the creative teams behind each and every monthly issue put out by Marvel and DC Comics, on a weekly basis. His results put into stark relief the lack of gender representation in the industry, where a week with 13% women creators is above average for DC, and 9% is about average for Marvel. But yesterday, Hanley turned the statistical analysis to the number of female characters there are in the current DC line of titles, and how many there will be after their relaunch.
He may even have been motivated to do so by the statements of DC editors at San Diego Comic Con, like Geoff Johns, who when asked about the presence of female characters in the DCnU, responded that DC has more iconic female characters than their competitors and that fans should check out their preview book and count them. So Hanley did.
And the results aren’t promising:
Overall, the DC relaunch is going to result in less lead female characters compared to DC’s current line. Male-starring books and female characters in team books will maintain the status quo, while female-starring books will drop by a significant amount. This is not good. The relaunch is DC putting all of their eggs in one basket, their big argument for why they are awesome and we all should get their books. According to its architects, the relaunch is the essence of everything iconic and great about DC, the core – nay, the heart – of their universe, boiled down into these 52 new series. And this essence, this heart, means less female characters…
I don’t even need to run the numbers to tell you that DC would beat Marvel for female leads… I see all of these books every single week, and DC would win handily. However, come September, DC is going to have a worse percentage of female leads than they did the month before. This isn’t about DC in the context of the industry as a whole… this is about DC against itself, and it’s getting worse. It’s worse for female creators, and it’s worse for female characters. And worst of all, no one in charge at DC seems to care.
(For Hanley’s whole post and more on his methodology, go here.)
After reducing the number of regular women creators from 12% of their lineup to 1% (i.e., two) and then spending the weekend of San Diego Comic Con steadily giving more hostile and dismissive answers to fans asking about the state of female creators and characters at DC; severely underestimating the status of Barbara Gordon as a hero and source of representation for disabled readers; and reducing Lois Lane to an uncharacteristic non-investigatory desk job at the Daily Planet and intentionally making her a prop to make Clark Kent sad about not having a girlfriend rather than a character in her own right; DC has a lot of catching up to do.
You may be the kind of person whose long relationship with reading mainstream American comics has reduced you to utter cynicism (tell me about it), but if you’re not, one of the best methods of recourse I’ve heard proposed is not to take your complaints to DC, whose editors have made their opinions pretty clear in the last week. Instead, complain to DC’s parent company, Time Warner, who know that in the mainstream you can’t get away with openly deriding fans with legitimate questions about representation. A general petition for the hiring of more female creators can be found here, along with a really fabulous reading list of women comic creators. And if you’d like to root for Barbara Gordon, go no further than Eric Glover’s own organized petition.
Ultimately, it’s likely that voting with our wallets is also the best solution, and for geeks, the hardest. Despite how much I love the character, I’m taking Catwoman off my pull list after the creators behind the series keep talking about how she’s a dirty girl and “addicted to Batman,” and just might add Demon Knights in its place after Paul Cornell was nice enough to go out of his way to make a case for it to a concerned fan.