Way back in July 2011, after the mess that was DC’s discussion of female characters and creators at that year’s Comic-Con, co-publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio released a joint statement promising that DC would do better on both fronts. The New 52 was about to debut with only 2 female creators in the mix, and preview pages were showing female characters in all sorts of objectified ways and sexy scenarios. It wasn’t a good scene, some fans got vocal about it, and DC promised to do better. And then they didn’t, really. Female creator numbers improved marginally, but the books stayed about the same and nothing really changed substantially for a couple of years. So that promise from July 2011 was, basically, a bunch of crap. They said all the right things, and then did very little about it.
Now Jim Lee and Dan DiDio are saying the right things again, but I’m feeling much more optimistic about where DC is heading. This is largely because we know where DC is heading: In June, they’re debuting 24 new series that feature many female creators and characters, and are diversifying their lineup generally in terms of style and tone. Here are a few highlights from their discussion about the new line-up, courtesy of Comic Book Resources.
Jim Lee acknowledged the rise in female readership in this discussion of DC’s audience:
I think a big part of the June launch was really a recognition that the audience has changed. It’s more fragmented than it was before. The original direct market was perceived as a monolithic fanbase. You see a lot more women that are into comics, at comic book shops and conventions. Our own studies have shown there’s a lot more people that are looking for a lot more flavors and diversity in our line than we’re currently doing.
Lee later trotted out the usual line about the publisher wanting to tell the best stories, which has often been used to dismiss focusing on a more representative creator base. The story is key, not who’s telling it! But while Lee said, “You want to have diversity, but you don’t want it to be prescriptive”, he then added:
I think it’s as diverse a group of creators, characters, stories and approaches to storytelling that I’ve seen in the history of DC, at least in my years that I’ve been here.
Dan DiDio then explained how DC is looking to the future after the early days of the New 52 got away from them:
When we launched, it was so pressed up against this hard-driving continuity for so long, people had a hard time recalibrating and rethinking how to approach our characters. So they started to fall back into old habits, and looking in the past, of where they were going to get their ideas from. Now I can tell you that we’ve changed it. We’re actually looking to the future for where our ideas are.
I think this “old habits” comment applies to the creators they hired as well, which were a lot of the same old in the early days on the New 52. Many of the creators at the helm of June’s mini-relaunch are relatively new faces, bringing bold new ideas to their books.
So now, three and a half years later, DC’s co-publishers are saying the right things about their changing audience and diverse creators, and this time they’re backing it up. I think this bodes well for the future of DC Comics. They’ve steadily grown their ranks of female creators and improved the depiction of their female characters. While there’s still a lot of work to be done, DC finally appears to understand that the game has changed and that they need to adapt accordingly. Time will tell if it sticks, but they’re moving in a positive direction.