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 Cool. I 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.
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.
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.