Last night, Gail Simone (the comic book writer/creator) tweeted the following statements. “DC, we need more female creators, stat. Really. Let’s make this happen.” (In the reboot era, there will be two. Gail and… trying to find the other name. Sorry!) “We all still want comics to be a meritocracy. But there are more than two female creators who are qualified and talented.”
Not surprisingly, this became a hot button issue as male creators and just casual fans added in their two cents. Some people who worked accepting submissions at DC and Image commented that only about 5-10% of the submissions were from women.
Which led me to tweet a bit, wondering about statistics. Usually with a pool of individuals, if you start weeding out the less talented, the percentage of the demographics should feasibly be the same. So it does seem a little odd that in all the books released by DC for the reboot, that only two women are involved creatively.
Bradley Timm (@DoctorFlux) and I started to talk. He wondered if it wasn’t a conspiracy, or if there just isn’t a general interest by women to write superhero books- if they’d rather write indies, pointing out that of the comic reading women he knew, that’s what they preferred to read.
So I looked back on my own pull list over the years. And admittedly, it’s a bit lacking in the capes department. I’ve tended to buy books that reflect what I write- supernatural books, indies, and the most mainstream books I own runs from are NextWAVE, Tales of the Unexpected and JSA. Considering that the Tales of the Unexpected run involves pirates and a Nazi Gorilla, I think that’s still not very mainstream.
Yet, I’m a huge fan of the DC trinity. I have seen every single episode of every Batman animated series (as well as the Superman adventures). I keep up with what’s going on – I just haven’t bought the issues. Why? There’s a lot going on. Both in the books and in my life- at the time I was buying Tales of the Unexpected, I was well, expecting my first son. Which meant I had to cut back a lot once he was born. Having bought the odd collection from webcomics in the time between, I’m easing back into it with the DC reboot.
Would I want to write comic books? Um, yeah. But I admit that my voice isn’t geared towards capes. Well, not unless I’d get to write something either like Tales of the Unexpected/Doctor 13, NextWAVE or Runaways. Okay, Runaways is a bit more mainstream, isn’t it?
I know a lot of women who write. And a lot who read comic books. For some, those categories overlap- and it’s true. I haven’t heard aspirations of writing books. Usually they just buy whatever Gail Simone or Amanda Conners’ are currently writing and talk about how great they are. Which they are. Now, I know there are more women who have created for DC and who write for comics currently still- they just aren’t on the books for the reboot.
So why? Is it a lack of passion? Is it weeded out of us as kids when we’re told to watch Disney movies instead? I bring that up because I know that I’d mentioned wanting to write James Bond novels when I was 14 and was told that nobody would buy a spy book written by a woman. So I wrote a spy novella my junior year and proved – that I wrote like a 16 year old girl who didn’t quite understand what she needed to to write something better. I wasn’t deterred and when I revisited the story years later, realized that it wasn’t that I was a bad writer. I just wasn’t ready for that genre. Now
Digression aside, though, I can see that in the 90s there probably weren’t a lot of people suggesting that girls think about writing mainstream comics. Which would mean that the women who might be sending in submissions for stories might not have been mentored the way that some of the male creators have been. It’s true- you find a lot of female artists in the indie category, and most of them have distinctive voices that don’t fit a typical superhero story. Nearly all the female artists and writers I follow list Disney and anime as the thing that inspired them.
Is it just a perfect storm of circumstances that are keeping women out of mainstream comics? It seems like it’s all part of the larger cycle of issues with Girls and Comics. Publishers complain that women just aren’t buying comics, but they don’t try to nurture all ages books or girl-centric books that would lure in all ages of female readers. And of the girls who read comics, if they’re mostly reading indy books- that’s probably what they’re going to want to write. So unless something changes, it doesn’t seem like the number of women who want to write superheroes are going to increase.
I really would like to hear your thoughts on this. Obviously, this isn’t something that I have the answer for- but something that I really think we should consider more. The more and more I think about it, the more I see the problem as two sides of the same coin. You won’t get more female creators in mainstream comics without having more female readers.