Sunday, July 31, 2011

Women in Comics

Comics fan Elliott Brown recently posted a short article on criticizing DC Comics for putting its "New 52" universe-wide reboot almost exclusively in the hands of male writers and artists:

The number of women working for DC has been hovering around 10% for years -- similar to their adversary company, Marvel. But this September, DC will be rebooting its universe and giving its characters (and creative teams) an overhaul. Many of the characters that will be erased are female, which in and of itself is a tragedy, but in addition to that, what few female creators DC has employed will also be cut from the team. Only 2 out of 100-odd people DC employs as ongoing creators will be women: Gail Simone, who will be writing Batgirl, and Amy Reeder, who will be doing pencils on Batwoman.

That tally immediately made me wonder exactly how many women were currently writing or drawing for Marvel, and on which titles.

(I don't shun DC or anything --- I love, or am interested in, quite a few things they've done, especially under their "mature" label, Vertigo. And they've given us that classic of modern comics, Watchmen! But most of the comics I own are Marvel --- I'm an X-Men fan, and the X-Men have been around a lot longer, and racked up a lot more back issues, than most of what else I read.)

Anyway, Marvel isn't having any similar across-the-board relaunch, so it's going to be a bit harder to track down all of their series that are still going concerns.

Here's a list of recently- and soon-to-be-released titles featuring women writers and/or artists:

That's thirteen titles out of 250 putting out new issues in July and August; what's more, only about half of them appear to have women artists involved in whole projects rather than just coming in to do a cover, or to pencil one or two issues in the regular artist's absence.

(Just doing covers, or hopping from series to series doing single issues here and there, isn't a bad thing --- some artists might even prefer it. For instance, Jelena Kevic Djurdjevic seems to specialize in covers. I just bemoan the fact that so few women are involved long-term because that means their creative visions are less likely to make a lasting impact on a series, or to shape the way characters and events develop.)


Unknown said...

It's not just that women are being marginalized on the "New 52" in general, but that new voices in general are absent. For all the hype and controversy surrounding the relaunch, almost all of the creators on board have been working at DC for many years. Most of the big books retain the same creative teams, and any new teams are simply reshufflings of people established on DC's payroll-- their superhero line is staffed by an old boy's club, so they don't seem poised to take chances on new talent period, much less female talent.

Also, while Gail Simone will be writing Batgirl, I'm curious what you think about the regression of Barbara Gordon back to a seeming able-bodied crimefighter role.

Lindsay said...

Hi, NTB!

I really don't know much of anything about the DCU, since the DC stuff I read (example: Vertigo's "Y: The Last Man") tends to be set in other, completely separate, universes.

Really, your post on the subject was the first I'd seen about Barbara Gordon, and how her character has evolved. I do tend to agree with you that magicking her back to able-bodied status does seem like it would obliterate that evolution.

I guess that's sort of what they want --- a completely new start for all these characters --- but her evolution into Oracle sounds like it was really cool and interesting and worth continuing. I liked what you wrote about Barbara's limitations making her fairly unique among superheroes with disabilities (most of whom, like you say, are blind people who have some sort of "second sight" that enables them to move and fight like sighted people --- Daredevil comes to mind, and Destiny, whose precognition tells her exactly where her foes are and what they're going to do, or whose disabilities are otherwise negated by their superpowers).

A character to consider by analogy might be Professor X --- I know way more about him than I do about Oracle --- who is also paraplegic and, while he has superpowers, they don't help him at all physically. He's a supergenius and a telepath, but he still has to deal with his impaired mobility. Except when the writers decide they're going to magically restore his power to walk, which they do semi-regularly. Like Jean Grey's yo-yoing between dead and alive, Professor X might be walking or might be in his chair at any given point in the series. And I feel like this takes away from the depth, and emotional weight, of the character. Maybe if it only happened once, and was only short-term, so that Professor X would have had to come to terms with any unrealistic expectations he'd been holding onto of a miracle cure --- that would be a compelling storyline, just like the first couple times Jean Grey "died", and Scott Summers's grief/survivor's guilt/lingering sense of inadequacy were compelling, but he gets "cured" and then re-injured so many times it just feels cheap. AND it means he gets to keep thinking his ambulatory self is his "real" self, and his paralysis is just a temporary inconvenience. From what I've seen, the Batgirl-into-Oracle storyline was the polar opposite of that, and I think that permanence makes for a stronger, more affecting story. Plus, it's nice for disabled readers to have heroic characters who face the same challenges they do.