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24Jul/1131

Women in Comics: The New 52 and the Batgirl of San Diego

San Diego Comic Con was always going to be all about the DC reboot: Superman's new outfits; Barbara Gordon leaving her wheelchair; Wonder Woman's disappearing and reappearing legwear; that Harley Quinn outfit; the new 52. This was the time for DC to win over the fans, attract new readers, and leave us enthused and eager for what September will bring.

Instead, women who have attended the panels or listened to the podcasts have described the experience as uncomfortable at best, offensive at worst. When women pushed their questions about women in comics to the panel, the audience turned against them and the panel responses were flippant or off the mark. Two women have told me they feel like DC sees them as second class readers, and why would an unwanted reader possibly want to spend her money on those comics?

Some of the reporting has been sensationalist, and there were a lot of positive announcements from DC at SDCC too, but the overwhelming feeling for female fans is that this was a missed opportunity and a bit of a PR disaster. The most persistent woman, the Batgirl of San Diego, is meeting with Gail Simone later today.

San Diego Comic Con: The New 52

Typically, questions about women in comics from women in the audience were prefaced with the usual disclaimers - "I mean absolutely no malice", "I don't want this question to come across as confrontational" - in full knowledge of the likely reaction. That the rest of the audience booed and heckled these women is, sadly, no big surprise. You only need turn to any large online comics forum to see a slew of (mostly male but not all) comic fans condescendingly dismissing women's concerns about female diversity in comics. In a society where pop culture is very much dominated still by men, and the male gaze, it is very easy for our concerns to be brushed aside.

In comics, as with most popular media, women not being the stars, women not being half the cast, women not being as complicated characters, women not being about more than their body or outfit choices, women not being about perfectly round breasts and pert butts, women not being half of the talent behind the scenes: all this is seen as completely normal. The status quo. Why, the critics ask, can we not be content with what we have? Can we not be happy that we still have Wonder Woman regardless of her heaving bosoms and bare legs? Can we not be thankful that Gotham has a lesbian superhero (note the lack of plural, Montoya - where are you?), and that the JLA has one woman? Can we not appreciate that one woman is present in the 100 creators on the new 52?

Catwoman letting it all hang out

I look at the above art of Catwoman, and I say, no we damn well cannot. I am excited for the new 52; I am enthused. For the first time ever, this trade-waiter is going to be buying single issues. Some of my favourite comics come out of DC, and some of my favourite creators consistently bring great work from that publishing house. None of that means I will stop wishing for and wanting more women in my comic books. More strong female characters, front and centre. More women in the supporting cast of all shapes and sizes. More women behind the scenes, writing my heroes and bringing them to life.

Granted, this is not something that can be achieved over night. The New 52 is more than a continuity shuffle for the sake of fun, this is a gamble for a dying industry: an attempt to attract much needed new readers. The released images and soundbites have been attention grabbing and sensationalist. Women have been put back in outfits that catch the eye and erect the crotch; DC have already said their main target audience is the 18-34 males. The JLA has always been about fully clothed or armoured men with one woman having all her skin on display.

The pants blaster is a rare but effective weapon.

For those of us with an interest in women in comics, the main problem is how to attract more women to superhero comics, how to improve the portrayal of women in superhero comics, and how to get more women behind the creative process of superhero comics, without losing the current audience. All these issues are interlinked: a classic vicious cycle.

Women do not make up the majority of superhero comic buyers, we don't even make up half. The bored and annoyed reaction from the audience at the panel shows how little regard the average comic buyer has for the interests of women readers. For DC to suddenly change everything, there is a real danger that they could in fact lose readers in the short term. In the publishing industry, that's a complete no go. A long term goal of more diversity in comics has to be what we work towards. The number of women reading comics is increasing, but many women will not start picking up superhero comics as long as there are images like Harley on the cover. It's about as subtle as sticking a "no girls allowed" banner across the front.

About as subtle as a cover of CLiNT

Women do not make up half the population of the DC Universe. When the San Diego Batgirl asked about viewpoint characters, she was talking about characters that are the centre focus of the story, characters that a book is built around. Many women, from Mera to Lois Lane, are defined by their relationships with male heroes. Catwoman has gone from being an independent sexual woman to a "dirty" "chick" who steals things. A strong sexual woman becomes a festishised sexual object once more.

The sexualisation of women characters goes beyond the issue of costumes. Sure, we're never going to see Batman running around with his manly pecs peeking through strategic tears in his costume, nor is Superman's costume every going to change so drastically as to have a butt window, but more importantly the "ideal" nature of male superhero bodies will always focus on strength and fitness while the "ideal" nature of female superhero bodies will always focus on sexiness and vulnerability. A perfect reflection of most popular media and body portrayal: just look at how male tennis stars are talked about for their talent and skill, while the female players have their clothing choice and body shape discussed and dissected.

If superheroes represent the best that humanity can possibly be, then this is the one media that should be at the front of the current cultural revolution.

Starfire kicks some ass.

At one panel, a female questioner was demanded to answer who the women writers and artists were that DC wasn't hiring. It was said, to applause, that DC hire the best writers and artists they can, no doubt referencing the popular belief that female fans wish to see less talented women writers hired at the cost of more talented men. In actual fact, we want the same thing: for DC to truly hire the best writers and artists they can, to fully open their doors to pitches and submissions. It's no secret that DC are very narrow with their creator choices; the entirety of the new 52 was done without pitches.

With the new line, DC have dropped from having 12.5% of their creators being women, to only 1.9%. This isn't about artificial quotas or petulant foot stomping, this is about a drastic cut in the number of women behind DC characters and a worry of what this might mean for the future of DC comics.

No need for armour with the patented Breast Defence!

But are there women out there who want to write for DC? Most assuredly there are, but perhaps not in the numbers we would hope for. And why would there be? A great number of terrific women writers have absolutely no interest in writing superhero stories because of the incredible male focus they demand. Why have your words rendered into exposed flesh and heaving breasts, all most likely for a character that will spin on the spot for a male character's plot point? For DC, and superhero comics as a whole, to achieve a greater diversity behind the scenes, it first needs to show that diversity on the pages themselves.

Batwoman is a fantastic step in the right direction, and I'm eager to support that comic and see what happens. Sadly I will not be picking up Catwoman #1, despite her being my favourite character in any of the superhero universes. Batgirl #1 I am in two minds about, but I can at least understand the commercial reasons behind Babs being back in the suit. I'm excited to see Duane Swierczynski's take on Birds of Prey. From a non woman in comics point of view, I'm hugely enthusiastic about the new Action Comics and Animal Man. If I was able to do digital comics, I'd get far more. Despite appearances to the contrary, I am not a comic hating harpy, but a comic loving bibliophile that wants to get more people excited about sequential art and stories.

It's raining women - hallelujah!

Part of my job (the one that pays me!) is to recommend graphic novels to be sold, to entice new readers to the genre, and to talk up the medium as one that is great for all readers, new and old. The independent publishers and lines like Vertigo are often my friend when it comes to getting other women interested in the form, with superhero titles often being met by a rolling of the eyes after they realise the only female characters are those in skin tight latex, cleavage breaking lyrca, or chain mail bikinis. In other comics of course they are just missing entirely. The stories within are just as fantastic, but if the art actually repels the potential reader then it hardly matters.

When Grant Morrison asked whether more women wanted to write for DC, and told those interested to send their stuff in, it may have been more than simply defusing a heated confrontation. If DC are listening to fan feedback at SDCC, despite the weariness some have shown for these determined women questioners, and are truly wanting to diversify then perhaps the doors will be opened for new talent once more.

Um, I'm sure she must have underwear really. Err.

If DC are serious about wanting new readers, about wanting to diversify, then they have to show they are listening to their fans. Even just telling us you're taking our thoughts on board and are willing to think about it would be great. For female DC fans to come out of SDCC feeling that their contributions, their interest, their money even isn't wanted, is not what I hoped to see.

Why is it so important for DC in particular? Because of their great track record for having so many lead female characters. In the New 52 we have Wonder Woman, Batwoman, Batgirl, Birds of Prey, Catwoman, Voodoo and Supergirl, as well as lead women in many of the other titles. However, as I said in X-Women: First Class?, volume of women does not negate crap usage of them, or in this case, negate criticism of them.

Stunning.

Hackles down. Just take a minute or two to try and see things from a woman's perspective. Pick up a comic and read it, but flip the sexes in your mind. Read a Batman story where all the men are women and the women are men. Read Green Lantern but have all the males female and vice versa. It seems odd, does it not, to read a story where the vast majority of the cast are female?

Change is good, and with comics perhaps slow change is better. When an outcry arises from a character wearing jeans within a huge continuity shake up, it's best to tread gently! But the New 52 is a new opportunity, a time to try and attract those missing readers – men and women alike – to the ageing DC Universe, and to diversify the readers, and to diversify the creators, DC must first diversify its characters. Not just for women, but for everyone. This is a real chance for real change, to listen and experiment and be bold.

Batwoman Needs You!

And for fans of women in comics, for all fans, to get out there and buy Batwoman #1. And give it to all your friends too. Give them Batwoman Elegy also.

Go.

ETA: I've been asked a few times now who my suggestions for women writers and artists for DC and/or superhero comics would be. While I'd mostly like the doors to be opened to entirely new talent of all stripes, I'd also point to the huge number of women creating critically acclaimed comics for other publishers or with webcomics, and the various talented female authors who have expressed an interest in writing comics.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but some of the names I'd toss out there would be: Marjorie Liu, Pia Guerra, Alex de Campi, G Willow Wilson, Jen Van Meter, Kelly Sue De Connick, Katheryn Immogen, Cat Staggs, Jessica Abel, Hope Larson, Barbara Kessel, Wendy Pini, Phoebe Gloeckner, Lynda Barry, Janet Evanovich, Alexa Kitchen, Naomi Novik, Danielle Corsetto, Carly Monardo, Kate Beaton, Faith Erin Hicks, Meredith Gran, Lucy Knisley, Katie Cook, Erika Moen, Sarah Ellerton, Margaret Atwood, Ann Nocenti, Alison Bechdel, Lee Marrs, Louise Simonson, Posy Simmonds, Colleen Doran, Jill Thompson, Marjane Satrapi, Leah Moore, Devin Grayson, Lea Hernandex, Christina Weir... And of course Greg Rucka and Warren Ellis - honourary women!

I can go on!

 

Many thanks to Katrina Lehto for being my eyes and ears on the ground!

Sources: DC official artwork; DC Panel podcasts

Further reading:

Women in Comics: Regressive Storytelling and Iconic Characters
Catwoman: The Hyper-Sexualisation of a Sexual Woman
Women in Comics: An Overview
Women in Comics: Red Sonja and Power Girl - A New Hope?
Women in Comics: Women in Trousers
X-Women: First Class?

Comments (31) Trackbacks (6)
  1. From listening to the audio of some of the panels, I really got the impression that DiDio et al were frustrated and, yes, weary of hearing questions about female creators and characters. Did they respond well to the questions? Sometimes, I think they did. Sometimes, they flipped a lid and perhaps could’ve handled it better. I didn’t really feel like they were completely dismissing the concerns of female *and* male fans though.

    And yes, to be fair, many of the questions about diversity – gender, race etc – were asked by guys. After a call to hire more women (met with applause) one guy even questioned the 12% > 1% fact, which never got an answer from a frustrated-sounding DiDio – though he did say he’d love to hire Nicola Scott…

    Call me an optimist but I think they realise they’ve made a cock up. I expect to see a change in future titles/issues, at least in regards to creators.

    The problem with characters, well, let’s say I’m not holding my breath on that one.

    I’m slightly desensitised by years of anime and manga up-skirt fanservice, and still seeing a panel filled with nothing but a low-angle view straight up Black Canary’s butt crack makes me roll my eyes. So there’s no way I’d give a superhero comic to a woman who’s new to comics.

    • Yes, I think it was more weariness and perhaps confusion more than any active attempt to silence questions about women. It’s perhaps difficult to look beyond the volume of women characters, which yes DC does excel at, and look at how those characters are portrayed and how women readers feel about them.

      The issue of lack of female creators on the new line-up is something they really should have seen coming, and I share your optimism that this is something that will be addressed!

      I do think that slowly, very slowly, women character portrayal could change for the better.

    • Newly-infamous ‘Batgirl’ and I were talking about the audio recording last night, and how it doesn’t quite get the whole experience across. You had to see Didio standing on his toes, leaning over a podium from atop a raised stage, looming over a 4′ 10” woman. His body language was all about bullying and belittlement. When he decided things were done and she shouldn’t talk anymore, he rocked back from the podium and looked away. When responding to her questions, and, to be fair, to pretty much all the questions that didn’t start with “I love what you’re doing!” he alternated between looking bored and looking frustrated or even angry – especially on Sunday.

      A lot of guys in the audience were really great. Quite a few of them were jerks, though – and loudly so. The guy sitting in front of us on Sunday actually turned around, shaking and red with rage, and asked her how she could dare to pull a stunt like that while people with legitimate questions were waiting in line behind her. Things like that don’t quite come across in the audio.

  2. I just wanted to weigh in with a very quick point on this- I don’t think the problem is necessarily the lack of female creators (although I would be totally in favour of more women getting the chance to write comics for the big companies!), I think the issue is more that male creators aren’t writing female characters properly and with due care and attention given.

    Just for some personal context- myself and a friend are working on a ‘superhero’ project at the moment, and we’ve taken care to include an equal number of male and female superheroes (well, two blokes, two women and two which don’t exactly have a gender; one of them could be considered a trans superhero) as well as making sure that we treat the female superheroes in a respectful fashion; while we’ve only just started on the writing itself, I fully intend to cast both the female heroes as strong, independent bad-asses. Hell, one of them could probably beat up all the blokes on the team without breaking a sweat, and while wearing dirty cargo trousers and a very non-revealing jacket!

    Anyway, my point there is that we’re both male creators, and we’re making a conscious effort to write female characters who are not included purely to be used as scantily-clad victims of the male gaze. If we assume that male creators just can’t write convincing female characters *because* they’re men, isn’t that kinda sexist in itself? (Don’t get me wrong – I understand entirely why someone might come to that conclusion. Hell, there’s plenty of evidence for it, but I don’t think it’s necessarily as a result of the genitalia of the people writing comics.)

    The problem, then (at least in my view of it), is that male creators aren’t writing interesting, compelling female characters either because they’re part of a system which doesn’t consider that worthwhile and thinks it won’t bring in the dollahs, or because they’re stuck in a latter-day Frank Miller-esque mindset where women are included so that they can be ogled. Either way, I think more emphasis should be placed on pushing the existing male creators to re-think the way they portray women than in trying to inject female creators into the system in the hope that it’ll solve the problem; if male creators do begin to treat female characters in a nuanced, dynamic way and that is met with widespread acclaim, then I think it’ll be much easier for female creators to get into print without the impression of them being shoehorned in to meet some kind of diversity quota.

    • Absolutely. I think the two problems – the portrayal of female characters, and a lack of women creators behind superheroes – are quite distinct from each other, though there is of course some overlap. Diversity does breed diversity, and opening the doors to a wider talent pool – for both men and women – would see an increase in diversity on the page.

      But as I say, if comics want to attract female creators then they need to first make the comics palatable for women with talent. There are some female creators out there breaking down doors, but it does very much fall on the men’s shoulders too. Greg Rucka is one of the real heroes of women in comics, as is Warren Ellis. We need more guys to be as forward thinking as them (and yourself!) to solve both issues in time.

    • Well said. I’m very glad to hear that there are writers out there that still respect characters as characters, regardless of their gender. I do think women can be sexy and badass without being degraded. The thing is, when women are sexy, I think they own their sexiness. When I pick up many books, I feel like jolted out of the book due to the depiction of female sexuality in the scenes. I feel like I’m “seeing the writer” instead of the character. It’s a breach of the creative illusion.

  3. Great article. It’s an absolute disgrace. I can’t believe with this issue being discussed with such regularity (at least in the comics media that I read regularly, which may be skewed I admit) that DC weren’t aware that they were going to get slaughtered for this, and rightly so. Hopefully they will feel compelled to correct the oversight with the next round of creative team shifts. And the hostillity from the audience just makes me even sadder. The idea that DiDio can just make smug comments in response to a very important and reasonably worded question is one thing, but the way that he could safely rely on supportive noise from the gathered mob is just horrible.

    Deconnick and Liu have both said on their blogs that they were approached from DC about pitching on series, but were only given a couple of weeks to get their pitch in, which wasn’t feasible. Kelly Sue said that she then got given a second chance to pitch, but they went with someone else. So there was some sort of half-hearted effort from DC to do better than they did, but the points still stand. Just thought you might want to know.

    • I am really surprised that DC didn’t see it coming and have a “we’re working on it” type response at the ready, for PR reasons if nothing else!

      I’m really glad the women (and men) who pushed those questions kept the issue at the forefront of the discussions, and I really hope the DC team do listen if they really want to attract new readers and not just the ones groaning and booing.

      Yeah, I heard that DC did try two or three other women for the new 52, but agree that the points do still stand. I hope to see more women brought on board in the near future, and a wider search for talent in the long run.

      • I’m glad they didnt have a “working on it” stock answer ready – that would have seemed (about as) reasonable (as we can expect), and it would have been much harder to make the point that they really aren’t doing well at this AT ALL stand against people willing to apologise for them.

    • Kinda seems like you’re implying all the male creators had a lot more time and this was some conscious effort to only look like they were trying to hire females. Which is kinda conspiracy theory level BS that doesnt make sense since that was all done behind closed doors.

      In an industry with so many few female creators as it is, is it really so surprising that they just didn’t go with that many of them?

  4. It’s funny–I’ve been thinking about starting a list since I read Dan DiDio’s question, “Who should we have hired?” So I’m glad to see I’m not the only one. And I’m glad yours is public as well. I don’t know what’s worse, the idea that Dan DiDio is completely unaware of more female creators than he’s hired or that he is being mendacious and doesn’t care. More and more, I think Colin Smith at Too Busy Thinking About My Comics is right, and DC does have a strong, central vision for their comics and this is it. Regardless, I’ve been thinking of sending a list to DC to help them out.

  5. Well thought out summary of situation. You didn’t turn it into a he vs she ordeal, just flat out facts. I would love to see more women out there submitting porfolios and pitches. It Atlanta there’s a huge out pour of female artists just itching to get into the business, but that are sometimes sadly overlooked by the big two, but find their nitch in the indie scene. But when Morrison suggested that women submit something I hope this started a new wave of creators getting on board.

    I’m also glad to see somebody excited about the possibilities of the new universe. Cheers.

  6. Transmetropolitan. Preacher. Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, followed by Hellblazer. These were not risks? They didn’t challenge the preconceptions of teenage fanboys wedded to clunky narrative, cardboard cutout characterisation, and simplistic moralising politics? Yes, yes they did – and they were all roaring successes that helped breathe life into an, as you say, “dying industry”.

    If you to what you’ve done, you’ll get what you’ve got – doubling down on the pandering to what marketers think are the tastes of teenage boys will just mean the industry will keep on dying. It’s not just wrong, and boring, and out of touch – it’s *stupid*.

  7. Good article, it was depressing to hear the DC panels be so flippant about the lack of women creators on the DC podcasts, it seems that they were trying to brush off the questions as quick as they could. It seems bizarre that they can’t find regular work for the likes of Becky Cloonan or Jill Thompson. It’s also a bummer that great female characters such as Renee Montoya have been ‘disappeared’. DC has always claimed that they listen to what the fans want (although I don’t remember anyone asking for 52 new #1s) so maybe they will listen to what the questionnaires said. I wouldn’t hold my breath though.

  8. I have a couple things to say about this. First of all, I think an earlier poster is right that we do need more men writing women WELL in comics. For instance, giving Judd Winick Catwoman is an atrocity and Selina will be completely and utterly over sexed since that’s all Judd Winick can write. That’s made me skip Catwoman’s title. It’s also sad that titles like Zatanna’s own on-going has been so badly mishandled not just because of writers, but also because of the editors who don’t seem to know anything about the character EITHER. It’s so sad because Paul Dini LOVES Zatanna, he’s written her amazingly in the past, but the on-going has somehow lost Zatanna under her father’s shadow OR when Dini isn’t writing her, we get Zatanna the Teenage Brace face and Zee Kung Fu master.

    Second, DC did approach women writers, but they have stated the turn around times would have been impossible for them. Others, like Amanda Conner, are working on their own personal projects over DC. You can, of course, blame DC for that or see it as something that happens.

    Third, while I understand the desire to see more female writers and creators, etc. We have as of this moment, 3 gay characters appearing in the new DCU and it’s highly possible 2 of them might not be gay any longer. The number of gay male heroes actually USED in the DCU is unacceptable over the number of lesbians they have used over the last several years (with Batwoman, Renee, Scandal, Knockout, and Scandal’s stripper girlfriend vs. Obsidian as guard for the JSA and Pied Piper in limbo. Oh it’s also been implied that the Lightning Lass/Shrinking Violet relationship might be back as well. Forgot to mention that Gravity Kid and Power Boy of Legion have been hinted as in a relationship, but it seems.. complicated.). I am rather annoyed by the DCU’s lack of use for Pied Piper, who was one of the major characters in the series 52 and one of the few stories it seems most people loved, but he was thrown away.

    Also, Phil Jimenez, who was working on Legion of Super-Heroes, is no longer taking part in any of the new DCU. Yes, he is working on a nice Vertigo title and I’m happy for him, but he’s the only gay creator working at DC at the moment. Jim McCann and Eric Shanower have both been working with Marvel (I know Shanower is still working on the Wizard of Oz series).

    Fourth, I want to point out that while the DCU is trying for more diversity, notice how monochromatic the new line up is? With the exception of Blue Beetle, Katana (If that is Katana), Dawnstar, and August General in Iron, every one of the new characters thus far have been either white or African American. I’m not one to point out the lack of race in comics typically, but I would have loved to see the return of great characters like Cassandra Cain, Ryan Choi, Grace, Shiva, Chesire, and others.

  9. As long as we’re suggesting female creators, whatever happened to Ivory Madison after that cool Huntress mini she did a couple of years back?

  10. I was at one of the panels where the Batgirl of SD started off with “I do not mean to sound confrontational…” all while sounding, well, confrontational, in my opinion.

    She asked how many women in comics were in the center of the team books, why so few were there, because she wanted her daughter (standing right beside her) to have strong women roll models.

    I get that, I really do.

    And when she asked who are strong women roll models the crowd yelled back quite a few, and that’s when it started to turn a little ugly. The crowd initially was sympathetic to her concerns, but instead of being constructive her comments were simply criticizing with no real proper solution proposed and the crowd turned on her and the panel was a little flippant at such point.

    This is the same line that produced a woman (might have been the Superman Panel before the new JLA Panel) where a woman stated “What does a girl have to do to get a black chip?” referring to the limited Wayne Casino Black Poker Chips floating around the con that DC gave to great questionnaires or good lil’ gophers.

    Could the panel have reacted better? Sure. Could the question and concerns been proposed better? Absolutely. But also the history of the characters in question must also be recognized and allow for some things that realistically unable to change (ie Supergirl never becomes Super Woman).

    Also to Jason you may see Ryan Choi sooner rather than later. ;)

  11. I heard the frustration in Dan Didio’s voice when responding to the women diversity question. I don’t think he was being flippant but he didn’t take it well. After the fourth new 52 panel he was gonna blow a gaket if not for Gail Simone.
    The thing is it’s not as simple as hiring any women writers. First they have to be AVAILABLE. They actually have to want to write Super-Hero comics. Then the stories they pitch have to fit the publisher/editor’s vision of the character. I think DC is trying but the initial new52 rollout was kept tightly run so they may not have looked as hard the first go around.
    As for characters, I doubt that they’ll turn any gay character straight. In the past few years they’ve turned straight or those of undefined sexual nature gay. They won’t go back the other way. I understand Obsidian and Pied Piper being underused but you can’t blame that only on them being gay.

  12. Very glad to help and to continue helping as I can. There is an uphill thing going on here but I get the feeling that this was a good start. I wrote Diane Nelson a letter about what I saw and felt this weekend. Here’s hoping she takes it seriously.

  13. Agreed. The astonishing fundraising success of the “Womanthology” project at Kickstarter — to which, in full disclosure, I’m a pledger — shows there is a demand for well-done comics projects from female creators.

    Chynna Clugston Flores has been on staff at DC Comics as an editor but is winding that down … she was mainly working on the short-lived Minx line, though. I’d have loved to see her writing and/or drawing a humor-slanted book, but there doesn’t seem to be a market for that in the DCU old or new. Christina Weir (often seen co-writing with husband Nunzio Defilippis) is another who I’d love to see in there … maybe the two of them writing a Question comic, with Nunzio having a background writing Renee Montoya in the Bat-books’ “Officer Down” arc years ago.

  14. But I think a big part of it is a chicken-or-egg fight between “woman creators might prefer not to do superhero comics because they’re so male-focused” and “superhero comics are male-focused because there aren’t enough woman creators working on them or interested in working on them.” One feeds the other, I suspect.

  15. The way I see it is that the only language that exists to talk about these issues makes the conversation be about equality and diversity, and that’s fine for what it is, but it obfuscates the fact that the real problem is that if your writers can’t write a female character without making her act, and dress, like a whore then they are BAD WRITERS.

    It’s not like it’s any harder to write an interesting and realistic female character than it is a male character.

  16. People need to go and listen to the last few World Balloons podcasts.

    DC approached women writers and artists to be part of the relaunch, but with the schedule DC was working with for the relaunch; they couldn’t finish their current commitments.

  17. While I can’t endorse all of the names in your paragraph at the end: Jumping Isis on pogo stick, would I buy a Jessica Abel or Carla Speed MacNeil DCnU title in 52 nanoseconds. Erika Moen or Coleen Coover. Naomi Novick. I’m picky, but there are SO MANY great comics creators who are women.

  18. In an industry with so many few female creators as it is, is it really so surprising that they just didn’t go with that many of them?

    If you’re asking this question, then I don’t think you read this article very well.

  19. One thing that seems interesting is the fact that they didn’t really address the 12>1 change. If they reduced the number of women creators, then there’s Dan’s answer right there – hire them back. If the number changed because they’d added THAT many more males on top of the existing bullpen, then they need to look at what criteria they’re using to staff with. Are you telling me there are no talented and punctual female artists who wouldn’t have killed to work on Wonder Woman or Birds of Prey (because frankly, the WW art so far is harsh and static), who could have done at LEAST as good, if not better? And female writers? The realm of fan/amateur writers has always been predominately female – and in many cases, the only thing keeping them amateur is the fact that no one will hire them, because they’re women.

    The entire purpose of the relaunch is to reach out to new readers, and a big part of that is making the material more accessible to a broader range of readers. And as should be plain to most anyone who has been to a con, the largest breakthrough demographic are socially-able women (as opposed to the mired-in-geekdom women). You want a poster child – look at Kimberly Kane. Porn star, who does a webcast where she plays D&D with other porn stars. And she reads comics. About as far away from the classic fangirl as you’re going to get.

  20. Great article and responses. I usually don’t post on forums (I usually lurk).

    1. There have been great comics with female leads written well by male authors, such as Leave it to Chance. As a female reader, I look for good stories with strong and interesting female characters who make a big impact in their world. The gender of the author is secondary. I was initially turned away by comics in high school because of the way women heroes were illustrated- it was so embarrassing to be buying a book with overblown cleavage on the cover!.

    2. Part of why DC is appearing to do worse in this aspect is because of Marvel’s recent moves in recruiting female novelists to write, such as Marjorie Liu and Tamora Pierce (I loved White Tiger!). I follow a lot of author blogs- a good portion of fantasy/science fiction authors are very avid comic book fans- Ilona Andrews (husband/wife team lots of comics references in books), Jennifer Estep (wrote spoof comic book romances), Seanan McGuire (hilarious retired superhero Velveteen stories on her website). I don’t know if a successful novelist could always make the time to write comics but Marvel has shown it can be done. Perhaps they give more than a few weeks to make a pitch unlike what DC appears to have done. Independents also appear to make good comics attractive to female readers- I’ve been enjoying the Moon Called adaptation by Patricia Briggs- the artwork by Amelia Woo has been incredible and while keeping the main character sensual is not over-sexed.

  21. Don’t you SEE? Batwoman is there because she’s gay, and the men like that. It is very rare that men in comics are gay, but writers jump at the chance to make their female characters gay.

  22. if comics want to attract female creators then they need to first make the comics palatable for women with talent. There are some female creators out there breaking down doors, but it does very much fall on the men’s shoulders too. Greg Rucka is one of the real heroes of women in comics


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