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DC Women Kicking Ass

Thoughts, pictures, reviews and other stuff about the women in comics who kick ass. This is a feminist site. Deal with it.
"... just a dreadful little site that just basically compiles lists." - poster/DC Comics forum
"... provides a much-needed voice that is not often heard on traditional comic sites." - Wired's Geek Dad
... she's pretty amazingly ignorant of comics outside of the Batverse and some recent Wonder Woman, and seems pretty clueless about the way the industry works. That and she doesn't write that well at all." anonymous poster, Dreamwidth
" ... a phenomenal blog that's always up to date with female superhero news ..."
(header art by Peter Nguyen)
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Jun 10 '11

A letter to Diane Nelson

Diane Nelson

President, DC Entertainment
Warner Bros.4000 Warner Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91522

Dear Diane,

Congratulations. You’ve just overseen the most massive updating of the DC Universe in a quarter century. I’m sure you’re aware of the coincidence that during the other major reboot a woman, Jenette Kahn, was also at the helm. The two of you have rewritten what is traditionally seen as a male medium.

You don’t know me but I run a blog called DC Women Kicking Ass. I began it last year when I became concerned that due to some editorial departures the many terrific female characters of DC might get short shift. You see I grew up reading DC Comics. To me Batgirl and Supergirl and Wonder Woman were far more interesting than Betty and Veronica. They were strong, they had powers. They got to do the stuff guys got to do. That was really important to me. I also grew up loving Lois Lane. Not because she Superman’s wife or girlfriend but because she was a woman who was really good at her job. That was important to me, as well. The fact I have my degree in journalism is, no doubt, partly due to Lois. And through the years there were other characters that I learned to love.

Over the past year I have written a lot about your content. Much of it I have liked; some it I certainly did not. But this week as the new DCU was unveiled I saw many things that  made me question whether the DCU is really a place for me anymore. I am not going to speak for all female comic readers, they can make up their own minds and write their own letters. But for me, someone who has read, watched and collected your content for more years than I want to count, I am not sure I still feel welcome. I’ve spent the last year promoting your books, your characters and your licensed items. Every day I get notes from both men and women asking me “I want to read more Wonder Woman what do you recommend?” or “I want to get in DC Comics, where should I start”. But right now? I don’t know if I am going to have much to recommend to them in September. Please hear me out.

You say that you want new readers. But after the announcements and reveals of the past week, I am really beginning to question if by that you really mean more male readers. Your track record on female characters and creators has always been mixed. I’d be surprised if you hadn’t heard that opinion before. But just a month ago I was happier than I’d been in awhile. There were a number of female led books, your key female team book had a new great artist, a female character, who was also the only female of color to ever headline a book at DC Comics. made a dramatic return. You had a great female creator coming on board Supergirl. You had just introduced a new character who was a woman of color in Teen Titans. Your major summer cross-over had two series that featured women. Not that there weren’t problems. There were. The covers to the Flashpoint issues had problems and your creative staff consisted of just one woman. That doesn’t send a very positive message.

Why am I concerned with the lack of female creators? I recently interviewed a former writer of DC Comics and I think she said something very important:

They weren’t looking to exclude women; they just didn’t think about it. It is a natural bias to connect with the character closest to you. At DC at that time, that was usually male writers and artists, so the male characters took prominence. Over the years, when fans who weren’t white males would say “Why don’t I see (me) in comics?” I’d say it was because THEY weren’t making them. The writer works out of his own ego first. The artist works out of his own mirror first, You can remember to work around that natural bias, but that’s where we all start.

A review of your newly announced books shows that currently there are exactly two female creators, Gail Simone and Amy Reeder. I find it hard to believe that you couldn’t find one book that wouldn’t be enhanced by the pencils of Nicola Scott. And not just because she is a woman but because she is a great artist.

But beyond the lack of female creators, this reboot or whatever you want to call it, seems to come at the expense of some of your best female characters and teams. I’ll say “seems” because I obviously don’t know everything. But that’s the way of comics, right? We are enticed to buy based on solicits. Is it not then fair for me to react to them? So what concerns me?

  • The dismantling of the best female team book in the history of superhero comics. Birds of Prey was the on-ramp for an incredible amount of female readers. The book is treasured because it was offered great story telling where women weren’t directed by men and frankly, obsessed, by men. The interactions between the core characters, Canary, Oracle, and Huntress, were smart and intelligent and enjoyed by readers of all genders. But in this reboot Oracle’s existence is questionable and two of her teammates, Huntress and Zinda (three if you count Renee Montoya) are missing. The book that is being solicited may be called Birds of Prey but I don’t understand why this is a new book with a new (male) writer.
  • The Batbooks, we are told by Scott Snyder, are going to stay very much the same. But I think that must mean for the male characters. Two days ago Dan DiDio stated on io9 that all the former Robins would get showcases. Yet with 51 of the books revealed it seems that’s not true. What is true is that all the male Robins have gotten books. Diane, for 5 years a very loud contingent of fans focused on the female Robin, Stephanie Brown to make sure she received the same legacy as the male Robins. Dan DiDio has written about and spoken about the efforts to get the Stephanie her place in the Bat-history. If there will indeed be no showcase book for Stephanie Brown, that one statement by Dan says more about why I feel uncomfortable and unhappy with this reboot than any other as it encapsulates an attitude towards female characters as “not counting” and that the attention given to them is truly just lip service.
  • This reboot also seems to be missing Cassandra Cain. For four years fans have asked DC to return Cass Cain to her rightful place as one of Bruce Wayne’s adopted children. And of last month it looked like that was true. But as the other Batkids got books, my wait for Cass’ seems to be in vain.
  • Huntress has been member of the Batfamily for more than 20 years. She’s played a crucial role in both the Batman books and Birds of Prey. I looked and looked for her to show up in one of the team books after she wasn’t in the Birds of Prey solicit. She wasn’t there. [note: DC has now announced a Huntress mini]
  • And finally Barbara Gordon. I love Barbara Gordon in both her Batgirl and Oracle identities. As I write this I sit next to a bookcase filled with Barbara as Batgirl figures and memorabilia. I don’t think I need to tell you the issues with having her as Batgirl rather than Oracle in these solicits. I understand that there are things to be revealed. I am heartened that a writer who loves the character is on the book. But I still find it uncomfortable that while there can be four former Robins in Gotham there can be only one true Batgirl. I hope there is a place for all of the Batgirls and Oracle. When you can reboot with all the Robins and with both a Batman Beyond and a one-true Batman, it would seem there should be.
  • I’m also sad to see that there is only parity in female led books. Zatanna and Power Girl leave and Catwoman and Voodoo replace them. And unsurprisingly, the ratio of men to women on all covers to date is high - not quite 2 to 1, but close.

  • So you don’t think I am entirely negative on your efforts let me say how pleased I am that you have made a commitment to diversity with books headlined by Mr. Terrific, Static, Jaime Reyes and Batwing. This was long in coming. Thank you.  But while I am thrilled to see these books, I am sad there aren’t more women of color in the new DCU. I’m very happy to see Vixen and who I think is Katana, but it is not to clear to me whether that is it.
  • I am concerned that beyond the rebooted Birds of Prey it seems the team books all have male leaders. I am concerned Justice League has one female member in the starting line-up. I am also concerned that Secret Six, which was the epitome of a male/female team and was the most LGBT friendly book in the DCU, seems to be replaced by a book that has Harley Quinn barely dressed on the cover.

Some of these issues and impressions may be changed by more information. I truly hope so. But I hope there are some tweaks done to correct some of things I’ve noted above. I’m sure whether I am a reader of your comics matters to you very little. But it matters to me. As I said, I have been hardcore DC fangirl for almost my entire life. No longer being a reader and vocal proponent of DC Comics seemed to be an unfathomable thing just a few weeks ago. But based on what I currently know, by the end of the year it is a very real possibility. And that fills me with sadness.


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