It appears that DC is recognizing its growing audience of female fans with its new June 2015 titles, and nobody could be happier to see it than Tim Hanley — particularly when he sees the number of female creators behind the comics.
Hanley, who writes about comics on his Straightened Circumstances blog, has been questioning for years now the underrepresentation of women among comic creators. He tracks the number of women working in comics with statistics he publishes under the header "Gendercrunching" — an ongoing blog subject that drew a lot of attention in 2011, when Hanley blasted DC for its lack of female talent in its New 52 reboot.
Hanley's statistics became so high profile in the summer of 2011 that they were frequently cited by other bloggers — and at comic conventions across the country — prompting DC Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee to (uncharacteristically) publicly address the negative fan reaction, promising that they "aim" to improve their numbers.
Now that DC has announced a slew of new titles for June 2015 — involving what seems to be a significant number of female creators — we approached Hanley to do some new "gendercrunching" for Newsarama, comparing the talent behind DC's June line to the publisher's September 2011 comics.
"Well, there's a lot more women involved [in the June line]," Hanley said. "There were only two female creators when the New 52 was launched, and that's grown to 13 in June.
"There are single comics that have as many women as the entire New 52 did in it's first month — both Black Canary and Starfire have two women working on each of them."
Hanley said one of the most noticeable changes in the gender make-up of DC freelancers is the addition of female artists. "The New 52 slowly got a bit better [with its number of female creators], largely through female writers and cover artists, but there were entire months without a single female interior artist anywhere at DC — including Vertigo and elsewhere. "In June, there will be at least five women drawing superhero books, along with some at Vertigo and elsewhere too," he said. Hanley said the growth in female comic creators at DC is part of a trend he's seeing in much of the industry — particularly at DC. Their addition of female freelancers didn't come suddenly, but has grown over the last few years since they drew public criticism in 2011.
"After the New 52 began, DC's female representation improved slightly but quickly stagnated, then recently the numbers started to improve again," he said. "Last June, the entirety of DC Comics' solicited output — cover artists, writers, and interior artists for the New 52 and beyond, including Vertigo — had 12 different female creators. That jumped to 21 in December, DC's highest total yet, then 28 in January, 30 in February, and 32 in April. They've been besting themselves for a while now. Currently, we know about 13 female creators who are scheduled for June in a limited range of books and categories, and DC will probably top 30 again when the full solicits come out.
Overall, when compared to other comic publishers, DC is about "middle of the pack" on the creative side of things, he said. "My last 'Gendercrunching' column was for November's comics, and DC had 12.1 percent female writers and 6.6 percent female pencillers. Both of these numbers topped Marvel handily, as well as smaller publishers like IDW, Dark Horse, Archie, and Avatar.
"However, Image had 12.5 percent female writers and 13.7 percent female pencillers, Dynamite was at 14.2 percent and 11.5 percent respectively, and Boom! is blowing everyone away with 26.4 percent female writers and 30.9 percent female pencillers," Hanley added. "So DC is doing OK and improving on the creative side of things, but other publishers are doing better. And at a higher rate as well; for example, Dynamite quintupled it's percentage of female writers over the past six months. Also, DC lags behind overall because of it's weak editorial numbers."
Hanley admitted that those low editorial numbers at DC might be influenced by the publisher's planned move to Burbank, so the official solicitations for June should improve DC's number of female editors as they shift staff. "There's been a massive drop in terms of women in editorial at DC over the past year," he said. "Their numbers are at their lowest level in years, by far, and it will be interesting to see whether the move to Burbank brings some new names on the editorial side of things."
The importance of Hanely's data has been questioned by many comics industry pundits — including an analysis in 2011 here on Newsarama — but his numbers clearly show a shift over time toward more female creators at both DC and Marvel.
He also defends his "gendercrunching" by stating that diversity is good in any creative field. "Without it, you get a homogeneous product, like the initial New 52, rather than the varied tones and styles we're seeing in these June titles," he said.
"New, diverse voices means new kinds of stories means a new potential audience, and that's good for everyone," Hanley said. "Furthermore, the number of female comics fans has grown exponentially over the past decade, and superhero comics have been slow to address this change. Opening a DC book and seeing all male creators in the credits over and over tells a female reader, 'These books are not for you,' while having female creators involved sends a much better message.
"DC is wise to learn from the success of books like Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel, as well as their own successes like Harley Quinn and Batgirl, and expand their line accordingly."