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Earlier this week Gail Simone announced she was dismissed from the best-selling Batgirl title. That currently leaves two female writers at DC Comics - Ann Nocenti, who writes Catwoman and is assigned to the upcoming Katana, and Christy Marx, who is writing Sword of Sorcery.
Let me put that in to numbers - out of 52 monthly titles, 49 of them will not be written by women.
And if you take a look at the whole of last year for DC including “minis” that total female writers was not much better with a total of four women penning ongoing comics - Nocenti, Simone, Marx and if you add in minis, Amanda Conner. You can up the total a bit by adding in gaming titles such as Gears of War.
But what about 20 years ago? Surely there must be more women writing comics at DC now?
Great question. And now there’s a way to understand that. A person named Gorblax has compiled an exhaustive list of female writer and their projects at DC through the years at CBR and on their own Tumblr.
It is a fascinating read. Here’s a look at 1993. I’ve bolded the women who wrote runs on traditional superhero properties.
Bierbaum, Mary (The Heckler #5-6; Legion of Super-Heroes #39-50; Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #4; Legionnaires #1-9; Who’s Who in the DC Universe: Update 1993 #1-2)
Byam, Sarah (Black Canary #1-7, 9-12; Who’s Who in the DC Universe: Update 1993 #2)
Collins, Nancy A. (Swamp Thing #127-138; Swamp Thing Annual #7; “The Ghost In The Green”, Vertigo Jam)
Duane, Diane (Star Trek #52; “Spot’s Day”, Star Trek: The Next Generation Special #1)
Duffy, Jo (Catwoman #1-5)
Fryer, Kim (“On the Road”, Justice League Quarterly #12)
Hand, Elizabeth (New Teen Titans Annual #9)
Kwitney, Alisa (Vertigo Vision: Phantom Stranger)
Lee, Elaine (Ragman: Cry of the Dead #1-5)
Marrs, Lee (Zatanna #1-4)
Nocenti, Ann (Kid Eternity #1-8; “The Who Falls”, Vertigo Jam)
O’Neil, Marifran (“Martial Arts”, “Poster”, Superman & Batman Magazine #1-2
Pollack, Rachel (Doom Patrol #64-73; “Spooks Return Satisfied”, Vertigo Jam; Vertigo Visions: The Geek)
Simonson, Louise (“First Sighting – The Man of Steel”, The Adventures of Superman #500; The New Titans #94-96; Superman: The Man of Steel #19-28; Superman: The Man of Steel Annual #2)
In other words 19 years ago there were more female writers writing comics at DC Comics.
Now you could argue that the bulk of their work was minis vs. ongoings such as what Nocenti and Marx are working on. And that’s true. But it doesn’t change a basic fact - the sheer number of women who were getting paid to write superhero comics by DC was significantly higher almost two decades ago.
Two questions come to mind. The first is “who cares?” I think there’s been enough written about why diversity of POV and talent matters in popular culture to answer that question. So the other question is, “Why?”
Could it be because Jeanette Kahn was in charge? Was it because more women were suddenly interested in writing comics? All things to be considered.
But that’s speculation about the past. Let’s talk about today.
Around the DC launch there was a lot written about the dearth of female creators in the DC relaunch. That number, if you don’t recall, was exactly one. The same woman that was released of her duties by email this past week.
We do know that DC reached out to other female writers. Marjorie Liu admited she was approached by DC but based on this report in Wired and her Tweet this week she wasn’t interested but perhaps for reasons other than being “busy”.
“I’ve been silently, professionally irritated at DC for some time now but this with @GailSimone sealed the deal. Now I’m disgusted.”
Liu is currently writing Astonishing X-Men for Marvel. The other woman that DC approached, Kelly Sue DeConnick pitched for a title that was passed on. She is now on two ongoing titles at Marvel and the co-writer of a New York Times Best Selling Graphic Novel (as was Simone before she was e-canned.)
Both the remaining female writers at DC have long, impressive histories in comics. Nocenti was at Marvel as both a creator and editor. Marx also wrote at a Marvel imprint i addition to working in kid’s animation. But it’s important to note that both women worked with the current management at DC previously - Marx with Dan Didio at ABC and Nocenti with Bob Harras at Marvel. I’m thrilled to see that both were brought in and the game of “who you know” working for them as it did for male writers who brought into DC because of their connections to other writers. Because that network is clearly important.
Recently at NYCC Image held a panel featuring their female creators. It was interesting to hear that most of the women got their first gigs through knowing somebody already in the business. That’s first gigs by the way. All the women proved themselves once they got the chance. Having a good buddy in the business can only take you so far.
My question Is then is it fair to say that more women at the big two will lead to more women in the big two? I think so. I know that Gail Simone actively looked for female artists to bring into the DC fold. One artist recently posted her story of how Simone tried to get her at DC. I know of other stories as well.
So if we are seeing fewer women writing at DC, should we be concerned that it may lead to fewer and fewer women writing at DC?
I think its a fair possibility to consider. And not just from a networking perspective but from the fact that fact that it was a woman, Gail Simone, who helped reinforce the point to DC the concerning appearance of the 1/52 female writers ratio of the relaunch that, along with the PR nightmare of SDCC 2011, led to DC making a commitment to hire more women. Sometimes you need someone telling you something is amiss.
And again no one is talking about quotas. No one wants anyone hired “just because.” This is about creating better comics by bringing in fresh blood like a Scott Snyder, who hard to believe has been writing comics for under a half decade. Or like Gail Simone. Or Jeff Lemire. Or Marjorie Liu. People who haven’t been on the Marvel to DC treadmill since the 90s but instead bring a fresh voice and point of view.
Comics needs that. DC Comics needs that.
I’m not sure what the solution is. But you won’t see anyone trying to create a solution unless they perceive a problem.
I do. Others may not.
What do you think?