For the big two publishers of superhero/cape comics who may or may not care about female readers as an important demographic there has been a LOT of activity around publishers on titles with female creators and characters recently. A lot.
Each of the publishers had a watershed moment in the past year where they were called out by fans and media (and NOT just me your “suffering suffragette” or “whining bitch” depending on which sites you read).
DC, of course, reached its low moment when SDCC 2011 went “off message”for DC Comics and instead of a promofest on their new 52 it became a PR fiasco where the lack of female creators in the new 52 and the treatment of female characters became the story. That ended with Jim Lee and Dan Didio issuing a statement that "We hear you."
Marvel reached its low moment earlier this year when it cancelled its last two female led titles. Disney’s boy brand had hit some bumpy moments in the past, but the wave bye bye to X-23 and Ghost Rider (boobs and hair edition) set off debate about why Marvel just couldn’t keep a female led book in print. On the upside, however, Marvel was noted as doing much better than DC in the whole female creator thing where apparently their management did not have to ask audience members at a con, “who should we be hiring?” when discussing female comic creators.
But each of the publishers has been issuing announcement after announcement that point to some efforts to focus more on female led books and/or creators. So let’s look at the this in detail as the big two and the battle for dominance.
(The pink gloves to signify lady stuff. As if you didn’t get that, you smarties.)
First up a look a lady-led books!
In this corner, a sprightly 76 old with the ability to two-step across the continent with one foot in NY and the other in LA. Known for their famous Trinity triple punch that makes them able to dominate merchandising dollars but seen as a one trick pony when it comes out of the ring and on the screen. A change of costume has given the old gal a new look but when the robe comes off what’s their power punch and fancy footwork look like?
A look at DC shows they published 8 female-led titles in August:
Voodoo, shown on lower left, has been cancelled, but in a nice “cut one off and another limb shall appear” way, it makes room for Amethyst or as it is known now Sword of Sorcery.
DC has also announced that in November it will begin publishing a floppy version of its Ame-Comi Girls. There will also be two one-shots out of National Comics, Looker and Rose and Thorn.
DC also has two mini’s, one current and one imminent, and the reason why these are of particular importance will become clear in my next section.
That’s a lot of comics with female characters. And some of them even have decent art where the character’s bodies actually bend and pose like real women!
And now on to the challenger:
In this corner a vigorous 51 one year old able to produce a flurry of punches like they do cross-overs and multiple versions of titles. Despite their relatively young age versus their competitor, this war horse has gone through multiple managers but their latest, a large pantsed mouse, seems to have found the secret sauce to keep them flying both in the ring and on the screen. Hope their corner crew isn’t as stingy with the water and vaseline between rounds as we’ve heard they are.
Marvel currently has one ongoing with a female lead:
But it has announced two others - Journey into Mystery will, beginning in November, star Lady Sif and the Red She Hulk will have title starting in October:
I’m sure Marvel might argue that its team books feature lots of female characters. X-Treme X-Men, for example, has Dazzler as team leader. A quick look at their solicitations for November shows covers for a few team books with female characters. And I’m sure that they will point out that their Hawkeye title features a female co-star. All good points. But DC also has a few team books with ladies including the new Team 7 and others that I can’t bear to mention. In the end it is all about the tale of the tape and that says when it comes to female led titles where the lead character or character is a lady, the champion is:
And now on to the next bout female creators. Will DC maintain its dominance? Or will Marvell two-step their way to a win?
Let’s start with the double-fisted daredevil DC:
DC has the following female creators working on full time books:
Nicola Scott, penciller Earth 2
Gail Simone, writer Batgirl
Ann Nocenti, writer Green Arrow and Catwoman
Christy Marx, writer Sword and Sorcery
For mini’s the company has Amanda Conner who is writing and pencilling and doing covers for Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre and Cat Staggs who is drawing Phantom Lady and doing covers for Smallville Season 11. And you have workhorse Adriana Melo who just drew the latest issue of Catwoman. And, of course, DC finally let a female artist on one of their top Batbooks as Becky Cloonan was brought on to spot Greg Capullo and draw Batman #12.
The good news? Since SDCC 2011 DC has brought on Marx and Nocenti as ongoing writers. That’s a big gain in writers. In interior artists they’ve announced Scott but lost Amy Reeder off of Batwoman and Jenny Frison off of covers for iVampire. But again this is better. Yay!
And on to the Mauling and Quick Moving Marvel!
Marvel has or has announced the following female creators on ongoing cape titles (given that I am not including Vertigo in DC’s count, I will not include titles such as Jane Austen in Marvel’s count). A review of recent solicitations shows up this line-up:
Sara Pichelli, artist Ultimate Spider-Man/Spider-Men
Kelly Sue DeConnick, writer, Captain Marvel and Avengers Assemble
Marjorie Liu, Writer, Astonishing X-Men
Kathryn Immonen, Journey into Mystery
Not currently on ongoing titles (although with Marvel on-goings and minis seem to blend given they a quick to hatchet books due to sales) but certainly worth mentioning is Stephanie Hans who did covers and drew interiors on Journey into Mystery. I wish she’d been named to the new team as that would have been one of the few double XX books in cape comics. However, Emma Rios who drew Doctor Strange: Season One mini is going to draw a few issues of Captain Marvel with her Osborn partner Kelly Sue DeConnick so there is your Double XX. (DC has also done that with Secret Six with Simone/Scott so it’s not like it’s impossible to have to two ladies on a cape book …)
Hmm, that seems to in number it looks like a tie between Marvel and DC. But let’s look at this a little closer, shall we? I think this more than just numbers.
How many female creators at DC and Marvel are on books that aren’t featuring female leads?
DC has two. Ann Nocenti on Green Arrow and Nicola Scott on Earth 2.
Marvel has, however, has three, Kelly Sue DeConnick on Avengers Assemble, Majorie Liu on Astonishing X-Men and Sara Pichelli on * Spider-Man/Men.
Why is that important? Because female creators should be considered for all books no just those with female leads. I was dumbfounded when there were lists of writers floating around the net asking who should be follow Grant Morrison on Action Comics that had one or no female creators. Superman was written for years by Louise Simonson. Gail Simone has already written Action. But it seems for some folks the default on male led books is, well, males. That’s why I was thrilled to see Becky Cloonan break the bat-ceiling. And DC put Ann Nocenti, who wrote Daredevil at Marvel years ago, on Green Arrow.
So in the tale of the tape, with special tie-breaker judge’s consideration the winner in female creators on cape books is:
But I’d say the real winners are comic readers who are getting a more diverse set of titles and creators. And good creators too — not ones who can’t draw feet.
The good news is that DC is getting better at hiring female creators and Marvel has made another go at female led titles. The good news is that Captain Marvel is selling out and its first issue sold 40K plus issues. The good news is that female led titles are selling pretty well over at DC (even if their content has some folks side eying the books - you know what I’m talking about).
The bad news? Both companies don’t do a particularly good job at paying attention to female readers. But that’s been discussed many times. And there’s very little diversity within the ranks of female creators.
So yes, there’s still work to do. Just after SDCC the LA Times had a big article on women in comics. The good news. Women in comics, why we even talking about this anymore? Women in cape comics? Still working on it.
And the issue of pay and freelance gig. It’s still dicey. The folks at Lady Drawers have that story.
But for today take your victory laps DC and Marvel. I’m happy to see the healthy competition. But there always room for improvement.
But what do you think? Have things gotten better since last year? What still needs to be done in your mind?