Women In Comics Statistics: Introduction and Explanation

Women account for half of all human beings on the planet, but in terms of making comic books they are seriously under-represented.  This shouldn’t be a shocking piece of information to anyone… we all know that comics are a male-dominated industry.  But we know this anecdotally, not with solid numbers behind it or breakdowns of what women are doing where.  Thus, this women in comics statistics project.

Comic books come out every Wednesday, and for all of 2011 I will examine the comics released each week by the industry’s two biggest companies, Marvel and DC Comics, and chart the credits along gender lines.  Each issue will be analyzed in terms of the total number of people working on the book, and then further broken down into the following categories:

  • Cover
  • Writer
  • Penciller
  • Inker
  • Colourist
  • Letterer
  • Editor
  • Assistant Editor

So here’s how it’s going to work: For each week, I’ll get the list of comics released by Diamond Distribution from Previews (and probably check it against Midtown’s list, just to be thorough), and make a list for each company of all the new issues they release.  I’m not going to look at trades or reprints or original graphic novels… just the regular floppies.  I’ll get the credits from the Grand Comics Database, or elsewhere if the credits aren’t posted, and start counting names.  .  Then I’ll make some nice charts for the week, and put up separate posts for Marvel and DC.  Maybe at the end of each month and/or quarter I’ll put up a cumulative thing… we’ll see. 

Here are a ton of notes on how this is all going to work and why I’m doing things how I’m doing them:

Why Marvel and DC:  Ideally, I’d look at every comic from every company, but a) that’s a TON of comics, and b) full credits are really hard to find for smaller companies (but if you are a non-Marvel or non-DC company that would like to send me all their credits pages each week, I would gladly chart them up!!).  Plus, together Marvel and DC account for nearly 70% of the comics sold in a given month, along with well over 80% of the top 300 comics sold.  So yes, there’s going to be a mainstream, superhero bias to these stats… but the vast majority of the comic books people are buying will be accounted for.

And By Marvel And DC You Mean…: I mean their main books, and all their subsidiaries, so Vertigo, Johnny DC, and leftover Wildstorm books at DC, and Icon and the few kid’s books at Marvel.

Cover” Is Vague: Technically, covers involve a penciller, inker, and colourist, which are three different gigs, but the cover is only one page so I merged it into one category… a cover accounting for 30% of the stats seemed silly.  So if someone has a cover credit for any of those jobs, they get counted under “Cover”.  Numerically, “Cover” should be the biggest category each week, especially with variants.

How Do You Know They’re A Man/Women: Most names I know, or they are obvious… someone named Robert is probably a boy, and someone named Veronica is probably a girl.  But if they are ambiguous, I google… usually I can find the person pretty easily.  Comicvine is rather helpful that way.  Thus, I now know that Cris Peter, the colourist on Casanaova, is a woman, while Marvel editor Jody LeHeup is a man.  If I can’t find them, I go to a baby naming site (they’re impressively thorough) and type in their first name, and go with whatever that site says, but that rarely comes up.

Why Those Categories: They are the categories that most consistently appear in the credits.  I’ve left out editors-in-chiefs and other names that appear on every issue, because that’s just redundant.  We don’t need to know that Joe Quesada or Dan DiDio are listed in every issue.  Jobs that only appear occasionally I’ve not counted, as they are very sporadic (and I have no idea how one “executive produces” a comic book, Marvel people).  So yeah, these are the most common credit categories.

When Will The Posts Go Up: Probably two weeks or so after the books are released, to allow for the contributors at the GCD to update all the books with the data I need.

Where Are The Spreadsheets: I’m not going to post the entire spreadsheet each week, but if you’d like to see all the raw numbers, email me at timhanley01@gmail.com and I’ll send them to you.

Hey, Thanks For The Spreadsheets, But The Numbers Don’t Add Up: Yeah, they won’t in a lot of cases… let me explain why with an example.  There are four different people who worked on Sweet Tooth #17, and so for the first count I would mark that there were four men and zero women.  However, Jeff Lemire writes, pencils, inks, and does the cover for the series, so on a categorical basis it’s going to add up to a lot more.  The second part of the data is solely concerned with who is doing what job, so Jeff Lemire gets counted in four different categories, where in the first part of the data he was only counted once.  Basically, the first bit is done by person, and the second bit is done by job

This Is A Really Long Post: I know… I just wanted to say everything about this project in one post so I didn’t have to repeat myself every week about how it works.  I can now just link to here!

So there you have it.  I think this will be very interesting… I’m not trying to call out publishers, or suggest they go start hiring women just to look better or anything.  I’m just trying to provide numbers for something that we all know is anecdotally true.  Frankly, comic books have been aimed at males for decades now, and most of the people working on them today were the boys to which they were marketed.  The industry hasn’t created an environment where one should expect a fair number of female creators… it’s very much a boy’s club.  And gender isn’t the only divide; it’s very much a white boy’s club too.  But charts are fun, and I am curious as to what the current status of women in comic book industry actually is, not just anecdotally.  Ultimately, perhaps seeing how the data breaks down will lead us to think about why the numbers are the way they are.


Published by Tim Hanley

Tim Hanley is a comic book historian and the author of Wonder Woman Unbound, Investigating Lois Lane, The Many Lives of Catwoman, and Betty and Veronica: The Leading Ladies of Riverdale.

3 thoughts on “Women In Comics Statistics: Introduction and Explanation

  1. Really? What are you trying to do, get women to 50%? Will that be adequate? Or would you like 56%, or maybe 60%? How about we start with some indication of how many women are PURSUING a career in comics vs how many men are doing so? If for some reason 50% of the female population is trying to pursue a career in comics and is being evilly thwarted, then maybe you have a point. But let’s say only 20% as many women as men are interested in a comics career, then maybe your little project is quite nutty. How about establishing a baseline first before you go off on a rant about how evil and male-dominated the comics industry is.

  2. Great project Tim! I’ve checked your data 2014 to 2017. I am currently doing a research on Female Comic Fandom and Readership. At first, I thought it will be fairly easy to do. But, I quickly realized that I underestimated it!! The subject is very complex. It bring also a lot of controversy and resistance as well. I sincerely appreciate your hard work to provide us with some data on the topic of female representation in comic publishers, thank you!!

    1. Thanks so much! I’m glad the stats were useful for you. Let me know if I can help you out in any way with your project. I’m always glad to share everything I’ve got for research!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: