2% is not equality

The comic book blogosphere has been obsessed by one topic of conversation lately: the reboot of the DC Comics Universe that’s coming in September. All the forthcoming 52 titles will be reset to number 1, which (theoretically) will leave the creative teams free to forge new identities for the characters.

Information has been released to the fans about the forthcoming changes in a slow-drip fashion. It’s a cunning PR strategy to inflame interest and discussion about the direction DC is taking. They’ll also be offering digital downloads of the comics on the same day as the print release, which is a big indicator of where they think the market is going in the future.

Justice League DarkAt the moment I’m taking a wait-and-see approach because otherwise I’ll be judging the comic books on their covers – some have been intriguing while others are less so. The title that has most interested me so far is Justice League Dark, which will feature John Constantine, Deadman, Shade the Changing Man and Madame Xanadu and will be written by Peter Milligan and drawn by Mikel Janin.

DC has been touting the fact that it’s going for more diversity in its characters, but I’m not knocked-out with what I’ve seen so far – yet, it’s early days. I’ve been disappointed by what appears to be the disappearance of Oracle, but much has been said about that elsewhere.

What’s shocking is the lack of women creators on the titles. Bleeding Cool has done the gendercrunching on the numbers. There are 160 credited creators on the 52 titles, of which 157 are male and 3 are female.

The three is actually two. Gail Simone is the writer on two projects (she’s co-writing one of them) and Jenny Frison is doing one of the covers. No female artists are being employed for interior art. There might yet be women colourists and letterers, but usually those names are not featured on the covers of comic books.

Last night Gail Simone tweeted: “DC, we need more female creators, stat. Really. Let’s make this happen.” (Bleeding Cool has put her tweeted conversation online).

It’s good for Gail to go to bat for women in comics – especially as she’s working for DC. I found it interesting that some people took umbrage at her remark. As if her statement was a call for an easy ride for women. Women are not absent in the industry, but they are incredibly scarce in DC (and Marvel doesn’t fare much better most of the time).

The statistics are frankly embarrassing for any industry in the 21st century.

DC Relaunch Gender Breakdown Graph
Graph courtesy of Bleeding Cool

Over the years during my various discussions of bias and inequality in the creative fields I’ve noticed that everyone is happy to espouse the notion of equality, but once men think they might lose a job, or have their place given to a woman at an event, they start complaining about tokenism and ‘being PC’. They’ll argue that women just have to work hard like they did, and will imply that women must not be trying or are scarce on the ground.

Equality is not an easy concept to uphold when it could result in a playing field being leveled in a way that won’t suit the dominant players.

Recently Cord Jefferson, the Senior Editor at Good Media, posted a blog entry titled: “Why White Men Should Refuse to Be on Panels of All White Men

After watching this happen again and again, something occurred to me: Why don’t the white men who are asked to engage in this nonsense simply stop doing it? The boycott is a protest with a long history of success. If white, male elites started saying, “I will not participate in your panel, event, or article if it is all about white men,” chances are these panels and articles would quickly dry up—or become more diverse.

“I think it’s ridiculous that this kind of thing goes on in 2011,” says Wired magazine’s Spencer Ackerman, a white guy who’s often written about and asked to be on panels thanks to his vaunted national security reporting. “It’s especially bad when it happens in progressive media, which makes an effort—or at least pays lip service—to promote the idea that media diversity isn’t just an optional thing but a necessity.”

Asked what he thinks about a white-dude panel boycott, Ackerman said it makes sense. “It’s within our power and it’s up to us to say, ‘Why don’t you include my colleague who works on something similar, who has possibly more to say because they’re not listened to as frequently,’” he says. “And if we don’t do it, there’s no incentive for people organizing these things to think more critically about why it is they’re not including these diverse voices.”

As I pointed out before women require male allies to combat inequality in the workplace. Our voices are often dismissed or ignored – but as soon as men stand up for us they are given attention. It might be frustrating as all hell sometimes, but we need the support and welcome it.

Since the lone woman writer for DC’s relaunch has the guts to question DC’s employment policy I’m sure some of the 98.1% of the men will be lining up to support her any day now, right?


  • SteveM

    Cheers for this Maura, I wasn’t aware how extreme the bias was. These figures should’ve been shameful in the 80s/90s (how many women worked on Crisis?) but in the 2nd decade of this century? There’s obviously no dearth of talent out there as at least 40% of my RSS feed comes from female writers and/or artists.

  • SteveM

    oops, ^xxx was a placeholder for “I” as that key Is broken on thIs laptop and I’ve not fIxed It yet, please edIt or bounce back as you see fIt, d’oh!

    • Maura

      Okay, I edited that for you.

      I can’t imagine how DC thinks this situation is acceptable. It should have a serious re-evaluation of its hiring policies because there’s no way this can be a fair representation of the market today.

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