There Are Actually LESS Female Characters In The DC Relaunch Than There Are Now

Reading the DC panel reports from ComicCon this weekend, I was disheartened by the responses to questions about women in comics, both in terms of creators and characters.  The questions were either dismissed (snidely, it seemed) or got a joke in response… they really weren’t taken seriously at all.  Several comics news sites have recaps of these panels, and I recommend the ones at DC Women Kicking Ass.  Sue had a rundown of female related questions, and then today she had an interview with the now-famed Batgirl who asked several of those questions.

Regular readers will know that I keep stats about women in comics, here weekly and monthly at Bleeding CoolI tallied up the numbers for the female creators in the DC relaunch when the solicits were announced, but the questions concerning female characters got me thinking.  DC has been all about proclaiming that the new DC, or the DCnU, will appeal to a wide array of readers, and that DC has more iconic female characters than anyone else (so said Geoff Johns this weekend).  So, as I often do when wondering about something, I decided to look at the numbers and built a chart to see how the DCnU compared to DC’s current line.

The DC relaunch has 52 new books starting in September, so I looked at the three months before that (it seemed a reasonable, if somewhat arbitrary, length of time) and took note of any regular DC series (ie. no Vertigo, no kid’s books, no video game/licensed properties, and no mini-series).  This added up to 36 regular, ongoing series.  I then added up who was starring in all 88 of these series, turned that into a percentage, and the result is this chart:

I’ll go through each category one by one.

ALL-MALE COMICS

This is pretty self-explanatory, really.  If a comic starred only dudes, like a solo book such as Batman  or Superman, or a team book like Batman and Robin or Men of War, it was counted as an all-male book.  And by “starring”, I mean that they were the primary character(s) in the book, often signified by their name being in the title.  The numbers I got were:

DCNow: 21 of 36 books, 58.3%

DCnU: 30 of 52 books, 57.7%

The percentage of all-male books drops a smidge with the DCnU, but it’s a miniscule smidge.  The difference is pretty much negligible, and I’d call the totals about even.  So the relaunch maintains the current level of male starring books.

ALL-FEMALE COMICS

This is similarly self-explanatory.  Books starring only ladies, like Wonder Woman or Birds of Prey, were counted as all-female books.  Here are the numbers:

DCNow: 7 of 36 books, 19.4%

DCnU: 7 of 52 books, 13.5%

While the number remained the same at 7 for each, the relaunch takes a big dip in terms of the percentage.  There are about a THIRD LESS books with all-female leads in the DCnU compared to the current status quo.  I was surprised, and rather bummed out, by this decline.  Sure, the number is the same, but men got 9 more books in the DCnU so maintaining at 7 for female characters hardly seems fair. 

FEMALES IN GROUP COMICS

This is where it got tricky (and time-consuming).  It’s pretty easy to tell whether the star of a book is a man or a woman, but a team is a whole other matter entirely.  Instead of counting titles, here I shifted to counting characters.

For DCNow, a lot of the teams were poorly defined.  Remember how comics used to have pictures/lists of all the characters in a team on a page somewhere?  I heartily endorse bringing those back.  Especially for teams like the Justice Society and Legion of Super Heroes… those are some huge groups.  So what I did was look at the last few issues of each series, and list all of the characters that appeared.  If they were in a majority of the issues, they were counted as starring in that book.

For DCnU, all I had to go on was the September and October covers and solicits.  From that information I think I got a pretty good sense of each team, though there may be a few surprises once the books come out.  Neither of these methodologies are quite exact but at least they are both flawed, putting DCNow and the DCnU on a similarly rough footing.  Feel free to take these numbers with more of a grain of salt:

DCNow: 26 women of 75 characters, 34.7%

DCnU: 29 women of 85 characters, 34.1%

The number of female characters on team/mixed books drops slightly with the DCnU but, just like the all-male books, the difference is so negligible that we have to call it a draw.  There is no real difference in terms of the makeup of lead female characters on team books before and after the relaunch.

SIDENOTE: If you are interested in the number of characters in the all-male and all female books as well, the numbers are as follows: For DCNow, there are 26 males starring in all-male books (some counted multiple times, obviously), and 12 females in their books.  Together, the percentages of the non-team/mixed books are 68.4% male and 31.6% female.  For the DCnU, the numbers are 35 male characters and 10 female, for percentages of 77.8% and 22.2%.  So, notably worse for the ladies.  EVERYTHING added together, ie. every character starring in every book, equals 75 men and 38 women at 33.6% female characters for DCNow, and 91 men and 39 women at 30% female characters for DCnU.  Anyway you slice it, there are less women after the relaunch.

Overall, the DC relaunch is going to result in less lead female characters compared to DC’s current line.  Male-starring books and female characters in team books will maintain the status quo, while female-starring books will drop by a significant amount.  This is not good.  The relaunch is DC putting all of their eggs in one basket, their big argument for why they are awesome and we all should get their books.  According to its architects, the relaunch is the essence of everything iconic and great about DC, the core – nay, the heart – of their universe, boiled down into these 52 new series.  And this essence, this heart, means less female characters.

At a panel this weekend, Dan Didio said the following:

I’d like to match up female leads in our books up against any other company out there… I think we have the best percentage out there.

He’s right.  I don’t even need to run the numbers to tell you that DC would beat Marvel for female leads… I see all of these books every single week, and DC would win handily.  However, come September, DC is going to have a worse percentage of female leads than they did the month before.  This isn’t about DC in the context of the industry as a whole… this is about DC against itself, and it’s getting worse.  It’s worse for female creators, and it’s worse for female characters.  And worst of all, no one in charge at DC seems to care.

PLEASE NOTE: I made a few remarks about my methodology above, but various other factors and decisions determined how books were counted.  If you have any questions about the numbers or how a particular book was categorized/counted, please email me and I’d be glad to fill you in.

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17 Responses to “There Are Actually LESS Female Characters In The DC Relaunch Than There Are Now”

  1. Sean Blakey Says:

    Didio’s “any other company out there” invites a wider comparison than just Marvel. Any idea how Dark Horse compares with this methodology? Are there any companies that you have been tracking beyond the top 2?

    • Tim Hanley Says:

      I’m not sure how Dark Horse characters compare… all of the Dark Horse characters and comics I recognize looking at their titles (I tallied the female creators at Dark Horse in June, and have a list of their titles) are male for the most part (Hellboy, the Goon, Conan, Usagi Yojimbo, etc.), but I have no numbers for you. Just based on general comic book knowledge, I would argue that DC has a stable of female characters that rivals or bests any other publisher out there… they’re just not using them very well. But again, no numbers on female characters for other companies.

  2. Matthew Lane Says:

    Okay, the nonsense of gender based Quotas aside, your methodology is sloppy & your research level is wrong.

    You can’t possibly run the numbers, until you have the numbers & you can’t possibly have the data till the end of october at the very earliest.

    For instance, did you count the new Etrigan book as a solo title about a male character, because according to the creator its an almost completely female based group piece. What about the Huntress series that launches in October, did you count that? What about Green Lantern: The New Guardians? We still have no idea whose going to be in that (even with the second issue coverpage). How about Static? How about the Red Lantern book (issue 2 has a solo image of a woman on it)?

    Frankly mate, you’ve jumped the gun & shown that you are less interested in the numbers & more interested in this bullshit gender politics game. Quotas are not a sing of inclusivity & it seems like you’ve made a major mistake: Never mistake absense for exclusion.

    • Matthew Lane Says:

      sorry, no i’m wrong. Your methodolgy is still sloppy, but its other people misrepresenting your data. Congrats, you are now being used as a feminist data point… You should be so happy.

      • Tim Hanley Says:

        Parts of my metholodology are, admittedly, a smidge sloppy… I’m doing the best I can with the information I have.

        As for the books you mentioned, I’ll run through them just for fun… Demon Knights was 3 men and 4 women as best I could tell, Huntress is mini-series so it wasn’t counted (neither were the other October minis), Green Lantern: New Guardians looked to be 5 men and 2 women from the covers, Static is a male hero with his name as the title so that was counted as a male-starring book, and finally Red Lanterns was 7 men and 2 women based on the cover (and my research about who those weird looking ones were).

        Anyway, yeah, I am happy to be a feminist data point… it’s cool :)

  3. Puckett Says:

    As one comment, if DC ran a picture and list of the members of the Legion Of Super-Heroes, the issue would have to be a 22-page fold-out with no dialogue. Jim Valentino did a great spoof of the Legion Of Super-Heroes roll call in Normalman.

    And, purely for the record, I think your methodology was sufficient, considering the project, and it gives us reasonable numbers to work with.

    Frankly, I don’t see anything wrong with being a feminist data point either, as long as you aren’t a predator or something similar. Pointing out inequality isn’t the sole responsibility of feminism, it’s the responsibility of anyone who thinks things need to change and become more fair.

    • Tim Hanley Says:

      True… that would be quite a list! But a rundown of the core characters for the issue would be appreciated. The Legion books were actually pretty good, though… they had captions for all of the major characters, which made figuring out who appeared regularly a lot easier.

      Yeah, I am glad to be a feminist data point, and I hope these numbers will be of use to people irked with the status quo. I love DC and their characters like crazy, but I think the lack of women in the relaunch is bad for the company.

      • Puckett Says:

        Identifying the members in the issue would be AWESOME. Remember when comics brought people up to speed in one paragraph at the beginning of the book and that was all you needed to know? Wasn’t that a great time?

  4. My Sad Realization About the Comics Industry » Just Giblets Says:

    […] But let me get to the point of this article, and the realization that I have finally admitted to myself about the comics industry. For some background, here are some good articles about the situation that we suddenly find ourselves in. I first learned about the SDCC here: http://dcwomenkickingass.tumblr.com/post/7985599811/panels. Then the intelligent and highly enteraining DC Women Kicking Ass Tumblr Blog followed up with http://dcwomenkickingass.tumblr.com/post/8130151171/bgsdccinterview. Tonight I read a couple more articles, that led to more background. Graeme Macmillan wrote for Newsarama this article, http://blog.newsarama.com/2011/07/29/the-dcu-relaunch-tough-on-female-creators-tough-on-female-characters/, which referred to Laura Hudson’s article here, http://www.comicsalliance.com/2011/07/28/dc-dan-didio-female-creators/, and Tim Hanley’s article here: http://thanley.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/there-are-actually-less-female-characters-in-the-dc-relaunch…. […]

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  7. dunwich Says:

    I almost want to give DC a pass just for putting pants back on wonder woman again. I also disagree that DC beats marvel in terms of the female to male ratio. In terms of solo titles yeah DC wins But the teams are usually loaded especially X-men.Plus the women in marvel seem to always be the ones holding all the teams together.

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    […] relaunch (which is a whole other article that has been written many times by much smarter writers than me), there are a lot of interesting books coming out this month. Blue Beetle is getting an ongoing, […]

  9. Anonymous Says:

    It’s “fewer”, not “less”.

    There Are Actually FEWER Female Characters In The DC Relaunch Than There Are Now

    • Tim Hanley Says:

      I know… my bad. It’s been driving me nuts since I first posted it… it got linked a bunch of places, so I couldn’t really go change the title. But yeah, it irks me too :)

  10. DC Comics Fans: Where'd All the Women Go? | Die-Screaming Says:

    […] strong lineup of female characters.  To that point, Straitened Circumstance’s Tim Hanley made this counter-point…. “He’s right.  I don’t even need to run the numbers to tell you that DC would […]

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