Greg Rucka Says Wonder Woman Is Queer: Great! But Also Show It On The Page

September 29, 2016

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In an interview with Comicosity posted yesterday, current Wonder Woman writer Greg Rucka confirmed that Wonder Woman is queer. Not just some Amazons, not an alternate universe version of the character. The official comic book Wonder Woman, Diana herself, is canonically queer. It’s a significant moment. We’ve seen hints of this in the past, but for the writer of the comic to come out and say it specifically is a big deal, and an important step forward for representation in comics.

For Rucka, if Paradise Island is truly a paradise, the Amazons should be able to have “fulfilling romantic and sexual relationships,” and with an island full of women, clearly they are engaging in such relationships with each other. In terms of Wonder Woman herself, Rucka declared, “Now, are we saying Diana has been in love and had relationships with other women? As Nicola and I approach it, the answer is obviously yes.” Rucka points out that the Amazons wouldn’t call themselves lesbians or gay or bisexual; such relationships are just normal for them, and their society is not mired in the heteronormativity of the outside world so there’s no need to make that distinction. But, for all intents and purposes, Wonder Woman and the Amazons are queer.

Now, Wonder Woman’s been queer for 75 years, dating back to her very first appearance. Her creator, William Moulton Marston, imbued his comics with a sexual subtext. The chains and bondage games of his Amazons were a metaphor for loving submission to female rule, but there was a sexual component to that as well. For Marston, true submission and sexuality were intertwined, and the female superiority he espoused was rooted in the maternal and sexual power of women. So when the Amazons, including Wonder Woman, engaged in bondage games with each other, there was something else going on between the lines. It was the 1940s so Marston couldn’t be direct about it in any way, but his Wonder Woman was most definitely queer.

Various writers have imbued a certain degree of queerness in Wonder Woman and the Amazons ever since. Even Robert Kanigher, who wrote Wonder Woman for twenty years after Marston died, later stated that all of the Amazons were lesbians. But now, for the first time ever, the current writer of Wonder Woman has been able to confirm this queerness. It’s official, it’s out there, there are headlines everywhere talking about it today.

This is lovely, and I very much respect Rucka for making this a priority in his writing and publicly confirming that Wonder Woman is queer, but I think he should take it one step further. There are limits to authorial intent, and the glimpses of Diana’s relationships with other Amazons that we saw in Wonder Woman #2 were subtle hints at best. Saying that Wonder Woman is queer is great, but we need to see it clearly in the pages of her comic book.

Rucka does not seem to be in favour of such a blatant declaration, and he has reasonable cause for feeling this way. As he explains:

We’re talking about the “Northstar Problem.” The character has to stand up and say, “I’M GAY!” in all bold caps for it to be evident.

For my purposes, that’s bad writing. That’s a character stating something that’s not impacting the story. I get nothing for my narrative out of that in almost any case. When a character is being asked point blank, if it’s germane to the story, then you get the answer. But for me, and I think for Nicola as well, for any story we tell — be it Black Magick, be it Wonder Woman, be it a Batman story — we want to show you these characters and their lives, and what they are doing.

We want to show, not tell.

And I can understand that. But at the same time, all we’ve ever seen from Wonder Woman are straight relationships. Even now, with Rucka at the helm, Steve Trevor is again her primary romantic interest. To firmly establish that Wonder Woman is queer, we need to see it addressed specifically. They can even keep the Steve angle going while doing so. Bring in an ex-girlfriend and clearly state that she is an ex-girlfriend. Show Diana being attracted to a woman and be deliberate in doing so. Add another queer character to the book who can have a conversation with Diana and dig into the specifics of her sexual orientation. There’s lots of ways to do it. Also, you could just ditch Steve and give Wonder Woman a girlfriend; the dude’s had his shot, and I feel like Diana and Barbara Minerva might have some sparks between them.

The superhero genre is a conservative game. Change like this is hard, and the pushback is always enormous. Catwoman came out as bisexual a year or so ago, and then there was a creative change, her bisexuality wasn’t mentioned again, and she doesn’t have a book anymore. Or look at Harley Quinn; she’s currently engaged in a unique romantic relationship with Poison Ivy in the comics, but the Suicide Squad movie is now pushing her relationship with the Joker to the forefront of the public perception of the character. Making a character queer and keeping them that way is a difficult job, so the further it can be cemented in canon, the more sticking power it will have. Greg Rucka’s not going to be writing Wonder Woman forever, and it would be nice for whoever takes over to have a clear and specific example of Diana’s queerness that is official canon and woven into her story and history in a way that cannot be ignored.

Plus comics are so dang straight. There’s straight people everywhere, romancing it up. It’s assumed to be the norm, in comics and in society as a whole because ugh patriarchy and heteronormativity. To counter this dominance, and to show queer readers that they are represented in this comic book world, queerness needs to be unambiguous and unequivocal. When some gay or lesbian or bisexual teen picks up Wonder Woman, it would be nice for them not to have to read between the lines to find themselves reflected in her world. Make it clear, make it specific, and make it official. Saying she’s queer is a fantastic, groundbreaking first step. But the next step is just as important.

Wonder Woman #7 Review: The Fall of Urzkartaga

September 28, 2016

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The gods lie. Every divine system has a trickster deity, of course, for good or ill or sometimes both, a Loki or a Puck or an Anansi. But more than that, systems of gods are a reflection of the humans who created them, and thus they have the same foibles and flaws. They tend to use their followers as tools for their own gain and glory, capriciously abusing their powers to satisfy their momentary whims. Zeus took different forms to trick women and have sex with them. Yahweh sent lying spirits to his prophets to deceive the Israelites when he wanted to punish them. Ishtar promised men wealth and power only to bleed them dry and leave them broken. The gods are deceivers.

This is what “The Lies” seems to be exploring, though Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp are delving into these themes in a world in which the gods are quite literally real. For us, the vast majority of the deities out there are just stories; even religious people believe in their particular pantheon and think the rest aren’t real. In the world of Wonder Woman, there are actual gods, and they’re just as bad as our mythologies make them sound.

Let’s dig into Wonder Woman #7, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to reveal key plot points from this issue!

Look away if you haven’t read it yet!

So we’ve been assuming that “The Lies” are about Wonder Woman and her deities, and whatever power has compelled her to remember false Amazons and a false pantheon. But we’ve barely scratched the surface of those lies four issues into the arc; instead, we’re spending a lot of time with the Cheetah and her complex, abusive relationship with her patron deity Urzkartaga, and it turns out that Barbara Ann Minerva has been the victim of lies as well. She was told that the scores of girls delivered to Urzkartaga were there to worship him, and that he imparted some of his power to one of them. She became the Cheetah, the Protector who enacted his will throughout his realm.

But Urzkarataga’s worshippers weren’t powerless followers. They were his wardens. The women held all the power, and Urzkartaga deceived them by convincing them that they had none, and that only through him could one of them approach the divine. It was a ruse to hide his true weakness and immobilize a potential threat: The girls could destroy him if they worked together to do so. Which they did, at the end of the issue when Wonder Woman exposed the truth. Urzkartaga was vanquished and Barbara Ann Minerva was freed of her Cheetah persona.

In last month’s installment of “The Lies,” the Cheetah told Wonder Woman, “Your paradise was made by your gods. Perhaps they play games with you the same way Urzkartaga plays with me.” With Urzkartaga’s deception now exposed, there may be an additional layer to that sentiment: Perhaps Wonder Woman’s gods lied to her the same way Urzkartaga lied to the Cheetah. And it will be interesting to see which gods were involved. The Urzkartaga plot relied on reinforcing patriarchal authority, ensuring that men were in charge and that girls were seen as expendable so that his chief weakness could be contained. Depending on which gods have deceived Diana, we could be looking at another critique of patriarchy once she gets to the bottom of “The Lies.” Which would make sense, given that in her false world the Amazons had turned against each other, female deities persecuted them, and Athena, the goddess of wisdom, was nowhere to be seem. Retconning this as a nefarious patriarchal plot would be a fascinating reimaging of the largely disastrous New 52 era.

Now, the Urzkartaga reveal was interesting, and I’m curious to see how it plays out for Wonder Woman, but the journey to get here was very long. Even if there are parallels with Diana’s gods, this was a slow story that, while it’s had it’s cool moments, has been a bit underwhelming. I like the ideas behind it, and I’m all for the rehabilitation of the Cheetah. The execution thereof just hasn’t worked so well for me. It’s not been bad, but it’s not been particularly compelling or entertaining, especially compared to the amazing work we’ve seen in the “Year One” storyline.

The art hasn’t helped things either. When I reviewed last month’s outing, I was critical of Sharp’s work and said it felt a bit rushed and sloppy. All of those elements are even more pronounced this month. There are a couple of really lovely panels where he clearly took his time, but there are scores more where the inking feels slapped on and rough. Moreover, backgrounds are nearly nonexistent. They’re in a cave, so there’s not a lot of exciting stuff that can be done, but the roots and such that run behind them are pretty slapdash. Sharp’s skills lie in his lush, detailed renderings, and the timeline of a monthly schedule doesn’t seem to be allowing him to do dig into his artwork in this way. Laura Martin does what she can with the colors, but it’s always awkward to put smooth, blended coloring over blocky, rough artwork. It just looks incongruous. I think she singlehandedly salvaged a few backgrounds with some cool effects that broke up the perpetual brown of the cave, but the overall visual appeal of the issue is limited.

Ultimately, if the Urzkartaga reveal is foreshadowing for what Wonder Woman is facing with her own deities, that’s a clever touch. But the execution thereof has been somewhat lacking. The story is too drawn out, the art is flagging, and everything good about the book is getting a bit lost in how it’s been presented. There are two issues left in the arc, of course, and what comes next may well prove that every seemingly slow step along the way thus far has been a key moment for the larger story. That would be lovely. But while there are a lot of cool ideas in the mix here and some genuinely great moments, the pacing and deteriorating artwork of the first four issues are stopping “The Lies” from fully living up to the intriguing vision behind it.

Wonder Woman Comic Sales Stay Strong With Highest Sustained Run In 20 Years

September 27, 2016

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There have been several relaunches of Wonder Woman over the past few years, along with significant creative revamps that didn’t change the numbering, and each came with a sales bump. However, few of these sales bumps lasted for long. Generally speaking, every comic book series drifts down the chart each month without big events or creative changes to bump up sales, but Wonder Woman in particular has quickly slid back down do a midlist level after every bump. Until now. The numbers for the “Rebirth” relaunch are doing quite well, and mark Wonder Woman‘s best sales run over the course of the last 20 years (the timeframe for which we have sales data).

Here are the new Wonder Woman‘s numbers thus far, along with the book’s place on the charts:

  • Wonder Woman Rebirth #1 – 15) 94,458
  • Wonder Woman #1 – 9) 107,737
  • Wonder Woman #2 – 12) 103,759
  • Wonder Woman #3 – 21) 94,465
  • Wonder Woman #4 – 19) 85,329
  • Wonder Woman #5 – 29) 77,860

This is an extremely impressive run. The numbers are starting to decline, but that’s normal. What’s not normal is the slow rate of decline. Usually, the second issue drop off is massive; shops order lots of the first issue because a) they have a bunch of variant covers and whatnot, b) folks will be keen to check out a new series, and c) some collectors pick up every first issue in hopes they’ll be worth something some day. Then the second issue drops off huge, and things taper down until the book finds its level.

Wonder Woman #2 barely dropped at all, partly because retailers underestimated the appeal of Wonder Woman #1 (they ended up ordering another 11,870 copies of the book the next month) and perhaps also because of the series dual storyline. Wonder Woman #2 was essentially a #1 issue for the new “Year One” arc. Whatever the reason, the book saw a remarkably small second issue drop.

And while things have continued to drop from there, it’s still doing extremely well relative to past performance. With the New 52 relaunch, Wonder Woman #5 was down to 57,675 copies sold, so “Rebirth” is ahead by 20,000 copies. The 2006 relaunch from Allan Heinberg, Terry Dodson, and Rachel Dodson was a bit higher, with 64,410 copies sold for their Wonder Woman #5, but “Rebirth” is still well ahead AND that run’s #1 issue sold considerably higher, coming in at 132,586 issues sold. So by five issues in, it was down more than half. Now, the “Rebirth” Wonder Woman is down only about a quarter with five issues out.

On top of this stellar sustained print run, digital sales are higher than they’ve ever been. DC doesn’t release their digital numbers, but the print numbers are only part of the story. However well the book is doing in comic shops, there are even more sales elsewhere.

“Rebirth” is general has been great for DC, and it’ll be interesting to see how long it holds. Focusing on core characters and double shipping is a bold gambit that’s been paying off so far, and the gradual roll out has helped things. But there’s a new Marvel NOW! line coming this fall that’s aiming to bite into DC’s increased market share. The numbers may shift in the months to come.

But for now, Wonder Woman is doing spectacularly well. Greg Rucka, Nicola Scott, and Liam Sharp are crafting a book with a broad appeal, and the adventures of the Amazing Amazon are in more hands than they’ve been in over the last two decades. It’s nice to see Wonder Woman finally getting the attention she deserves.

Wonder Woman #7 Preview: “The Lies” Continue

September 26, 2016

We’ve got a new issue of Wonder Woman this week, and while I was skeptical of DC’s double shipping plan when it was first announced, it’s grown on me. It’s kind of fun to get a double shot of a good series each month or, in the case of Wonder Woman, one spectacular issue and one that’s fine. This week, we get the fine issue; Wonder Woman #7 continues “The Lies” by Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp. It’s been a bit of a slow burn, a Cheetah-centric story that has barely mentioned the titular lies at all. But things appear to be coming to a head now. Let’s take a peek at the issue, courtesy of Comicosity:

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So we’ve got Wonder Woman and Cheetah on the scene where Steve, his fellow soldiers, and the missing girls are being held. With the girls freed, I’m guessing the rest of the book will be a confrontation with the villain Cadulo and his evil deity benefactor, Urzkartaga. And then maybe “The Lies”? It’d be nice to get to them sooner than later, but it’ll depend how long it takes Wonder Woman and the Cheetah to defeat a warlord and a god. It shouldn’t be that hard, really.

Wonder Woman #7 will be available in comic shops and online this Wednesday! And keep your eyes peeled for the Jenny Frison variant cover because it’s super gorgeous. I mean, take a gander:

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The issue’s worth picking up for that story alone. I hope DC’s talking to Frison about maybe doing some interior stuff in Wonder Woman. Even just a short story would be fun. She’s just so good!

Wonder Woman Cake Wars Recap: Nicola Scott PLUS So Many Wonder Woman Cakes!

September 21, 2016

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On Monday night, the Food Network’s Cake Wars aired an episode that celebrated Wonder Woman’s 75th anniversary. I’m not familiar with the show, but Wonder Woman was involved so of course I had to watch it. It seemed fine as far as cooking competitions go; it’s no Great British Bake Off, and the host was no Mel and/or Sue. But it did have Wonder Woman artist Nicola Scott as a guest judge, which was super cool!

For the first round, four bakers were tasked with making a cake that a) celebrated an iconic element of the Wonder Woman mythos, and b) included flavours inspired by classic American dishes. The first cake up to be judged was from Eric Woller of Meme’s Street Bakery, who tried to create a transparent invisible jet circling Paradise Island (click the pictures to get a closer look at all of the cakes):

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The plane turned out more translucent than transparent, and the rest of the cake was a bit sloppy. The judges didn’t love his chicken and waffle inspired flavours either. I like the idea a lot, but the execution was a bit lacking.

Next up was Viki Kane from Just a Little Dessert, who made a s’more flavoured cake that showed a young girl seeing herself as Wonder Woman:

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The judges loved this one, both the design and the taste. They saluted her creativity as well as her crisp work with the Wonder Woman logo. I thought it looked very cool, though the judges thought that the rough sprinkle design was brilliant while I found it a bit messy. Still, killer idea well executed.

The third cake was from Tammy Tuttle of T-Tuttle Custom Cakes. She made a BLT cake (seriously) that incorporated various elements of Wonder Woman’s costume:

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The BLT flavour didn’t impress anyone, and the judges found the accessories to be a little bit thick and sloppily applied. It was a fun idea, but she ran into a time crunch because her cakes took a long time to cook. So it goes when you put chopped up tomato in a cake, I guess.

Finally, Christina Moda from Cakes a la Moda made an apple pie inspired cake that paid homage to Wonder Woman’s bullet deflecting basics:

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Her flavours didn’t wow the judges, and while they liked the idea of the design, they thought that the hands looked weirdly puffy and the other elements were a bit simple. I agree; it was a good concept, but the hands were the focal point and they just didn’t come together. In the end, the judges decided that Christina would be cut from the competition.

The remaining three bakers moved onto the final round, where they made ENORMOUS cakes with lavish decorations. These things were crazy. Viki was the first to present, and she achieved quite the architectural feat with her suspended upside down cake. The whole cake hung from a hook:

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Her malt chocolate flavours didn’t quite come through, but the judges were wowed by the sheer amount of detail she put into the cake, even though they didn’t quite see her concept of a villain flipping Wonder Woman’s celebratory cake upside and her fighting to turn it back. The important thing was that it looked super cool and it worked in so many Wonder Woman elements in a clean, well laid out manner.

Next up was Eric, who made a vanilla, raspberry, and blueberry celebration cake that aimed for a comic book feel:

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They all enjoyed the taste of the cake and they liked the idea and scope of the build, but were underwhelmed with the execution. The faces on both of his Wonder Women were all jacked up, everything was a little sloppy, and it had a bit of generic comic book feel instead of a look specific to Wonder Woman; Scott pointed out that you could sub in Batman for Wonder Woman and it might actually make more sense.

Finally, Tammy wanted to capture Wonder Woman’s empowering spirit with her chocolate cake with raspberry coconut frosting:

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The cake itself was a big hit, but the design got mixed reviews. The judges loved her figure work and how they represented different eras of Wonder Woman, but the huge gray background seemed a bit much to them. They wanted more color and pop instead of a massive mound of gray.

Overall, Tammy’s cake was my favourite. She made so many Wonder Women from so many different eras, in impressive detail! And I actually liked the gray. I thought the building was cool because it both represented the capitol building and the ancient architecture of Paradise Island, plus the muted colours allowed her Wonder Woman figures to really shine. But the judges disagreed with me and Viki took home the prize with her very creative and well constructed design.

Overall, it was an enjoyable program. I wanted to taste every single cake, Nicola Scott was a fun judge, and I got to see some rad cake designs. It’s always a good time when DC teams up with reality competition shows; the Ink Master and Face Off episodes they did a couple years back were a lot of fun. Maybe we’ll see even more Wonder Woman tie-ins on other shows before her 75th anniversary celebration is over!

Wonder Woman’s December 2016 Covers and Solicits

September 20, 2016

December looks to be another fairly low key month on the Wonder Woman front. The recent deluge of new Wonder Woman collections and reprints has dried up for the second straight month, but we’ve got a few fun single issues to dig into, as well as some rad action figures. Let’s take a look at where Wonder Woman will be in December 2016, starting with her own monthly series:

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WONDER WOMAN #12
Written by GREG RUCKA
Art and cover by NICOLA SCOTT
Variant cover by JENNY FRISON
“YEAR ONE” part five! The threat is named, and now Wonder Woman and her new allies must rise to meet the coming darkness.
On sale DECEMBER 14 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

WONDER WOMAN #13
Written by GREG RUCKA
Art by MATTHEW CLARK
Cover by LIAM SHARP
Variant cover by JENNY FRISON
“BETWEEN THE LIES AND THE TRUTH”! Following the conclusion of “The Lies,” Steve Trevor must grapple with revelations about not only Wonder Woman, but himself as well!
On sale DECEMBER 28 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Nicola Scott gets the cover here yet again, and I still don’t know why DC is refusing to put out two covers for their bi-monthly books. I like to see covers! They’re pretty and fun. At least we get a big reveal out of this one: The “threat” mentioned in the above solicit is clearly Ares, here drawn more in the style of George Perez than the New 52 incarnation who looked like Brian Azzarello. Ares has become a go-to character in Wonder Woman origin stories in the past couple of decades, and I’m curious to see what Rucka and Scott do with him.

Meanwhile, “The Lies” is wrapped up in the odd-numbered issues so we’ll get a special issue with guest artist Matthew Clark that’s focused on Steve Trevor. I don’t know that anyone was clamoring for a Steve Trevor special, but he’s been surprisingly likable and endearing in this run thus far so the issue could be a good time.

Onto Trinity #4:

TRINITY #4
Written by FRANCIS MANAPUL
Art and cover by CLAY MANN
Variant cover by BILL SIENKIEWICZ
“BETTER TOGETHER” part four! The trio’s tribulations have turned the Black Mercy’s gift into a world of nightmares that give birth to a horror that can only be called the White Mercy. And what scares Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman could destroy the world!
On sale DECEMBER 21 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

The cover in the solicits for this issue was the same cover we got last month, so either they’re swapping covers or this one isn’t done yet. Either way, I left it out. The Black Mercy storyline continues in December, and I’m curious to see how it goes. The first issue of the series debuts TOMORROW, which is exciting. My enthusiasm for the book is based solely on the gorgeous covers we’ve seen so far, so hopefully the story is fun too.

Wonder Woman’s also popping up in a holiday special:

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DC REBIRTH HOLIDAY SPECIAL #1
Written by PAUL DINI, JAMES TYNION IV, STEVE ORLANDO, VITA AYALA, CULLEN BUNN, TIM SEELEY, JAMES ASMUS, HEATH CORSON, K. PERKINS and others
Art by ROBBI RODRIGUEZ, GUSTAVO DUARTE and others
Cover by DUSTIN NGUYEN
DC’s biggest and brightest heroes celebrate the holidays in this new special! Don’t miss a Chanukah crisis for Batwoman, a Flash family Christmas, Wonder Woman interrupting John Constantine’s hellblazing pagan party and more—including the return of Detective Chimp! Today’s top talents bring you a very special holiday gift that’ll keep on giving through the New Year! And writer Paul Dini crafts a Harley holiday tale featuring DCU guests that bridges all the stories in the weirdest, wildest way.
ONE-SHOT • On sale DECEMBER 14 • 96 pg, FC, $9.99 US • RATED T

I like holiday specials, and a story where Wonder Woman interrupts John Constantine’s pagan party sounds like a hoot. The price is a little steep on this one, but there are some great writers and artists in the mix that might make this book worth checking out.

Finally, the December solicits feature a couple of Wonder Woman action figures that will hit stores in April 2017. We’ve got one based on that DC Comics Bombshells line that will be $28 US; it looks like a lot of fun:

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And another based on Ivan Reis’ design of Wonder Woman from his Justice League run for $45 US. Holy wow, that’s a lot:

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It’s a lovely figure, but already out of date what with the new “Rebirth” costume. Figures take a long time to make, and they change Wonder Woman’s costume every other week it seems. Still, it’s very cool, albeit mad pricey.

Look for all of these comics this December, and the action figures this April!

Women in Comics Statistics: DC and Marvel, July 2016 In Review

September 15, 2016

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My latest “Gendercrunching” column is up at Bleeding Cool, and DC’s overall percentage of female creator ticked up yet again as they bested a stagnant Marvel for the second straight month.

DC had 18.4% female creators, a gain of 0.9% that marked their fourth straight month of growth and took them to their highest total of the year. Marvel’s overall percentage of female creators rose only slightly, gaining 0.1% to hit 15.7%, a mid-level performance for the publisher that was several points down from their recent highs.

We also took a look at female characters in Big Two comics; DC had 34.1% female characters across their covers, their highest total in three years, while Marvel slipped down slightly to 30.2%, another mid-level performance. In terms of series headliners, male-led books took a tumble as team books surged for DC while Marvel’s numbers stayed about the same, with male-led books comprising roughly half of their line.

Head over to Bleeding Cool for the full numbers and all of the stats fun!


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