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Last night, Gail Simone (the comic book writer/creator) tweeted the following statements. “DC, we need more female creators, stat. Really. Let’s make this happen.” (In the reboot era, there will be two. Gail and… trying to find the other name. Sorry!) “We all still want comics to be a meritocracy. But there are more than two female creators who are qualified and talented.”

Not surprisingly, this became a hot button issue as male creators and just casual fans added in their two cents. Some people who worked accepting submissions at DC and Image commented that only about 5-10% of the submissions were from women.

Which led me to tweet a bit, wondering about statistics. Usually with a pool of individuals, if you start weeding out the less talented, the percentage of the demographics should feasibly be the same. So it does seem a little odd that in all the books released by DC for the reboot, that only two women are involved creatively.

Bradley Timm (@DoctorFlux) and I started to talk. He wondered if it wasn’t a conspiracy, or if there just isn’t a general interest by women to write superhero books- if they’d rather write indies, pointing out that of the comic reading women he knew, that’s what they preferred to read.

So I looked back on my own pull list over the years. And admittedly, it’s a bit lacking in the capes department. I’ve tended to buy books that reflect what I write- supernatural books, indies, and the most mainstream books I own runs from are NextWAVE, Tales of the Unexpected and JSA. Considering that the Tales of the Unexpected run involves pirates and a Nazi Gorilla, I think that’s still not very mainstream.

Yet, I’m a huge fan of the DC trinity. I have seen every single episode of every Batman animated series (as well as the Superman adventures). I keep up with what’s going on – I just haven’t bought the issues. Why? There’s a lot going on. Both in the books and in my life- at the time I was buying Tales of the Unexpected, I was well, expecting my first son. Which meant I had to cut back a lot once he was born. Having bought the odd collection from webcomics in the time between, I’m easing back into it with the DC reboot.

Would I want to write comic books? Um, yeah. But I admit that my voice isn’t geared towards capes. Well, not unless I’d get to write something either like Tales of the Unexpected/Doctor 13, NextWAVE or Runaways. Okay, Runaways is a bit more mainstream, isn’t it?

I know a lot of women who write. And a lot who read comic books. For some, those categories overlap- and it’s true. I haven’t heard aspirations of writing books. Usually they just buy whatever Gail Simone or Amanda Conners’ are currently writing and talk about how great they are. Which they are. Now, I know there are more women who have created for DC and who write for comics currently still- they just aren’t on the books for the reboot.

So why? Is it a lack of passion? Is it weeded out of us as kids when we’re told to watch Disney movies instead? I bring that up because I know that I’d mentioned wanting to write James Bond novels when I was 14 and was told that nobody would buy a spy book written by a woman. So I wrote a spy novella my junior year and proved – that I wrote like a 16 year old girl who didn’t quite understand what she needed to to write something better. I wasn’t deterred and when I revisited the story years later, realized that it wasn’t that I was a bad writer. I just wasn’t ready for that genre. Now

Digression aside, though, I can see that in the 90s there probably weren’t a lot of people suggesting that girls think about writing mainstream comics. Which would mean that the women who might be sending in submissions for stories might not have been mentored the way that some of the male creators have been. It’s true- you find a lot of female artists in the indie category, and most of them have distinctive voices that don’t fit a typical superhero story. Nearly all the female artists and writers I follow list Disney and anime as the thing that inspired them.

Is it just a perfect storm of circumstances that are keeping women out of mainstream comics? It seems like it’s all part of the larger cycle of issues with Girls and Comics. Publishers complain that women just aren’t buying comics, but they don’t try to nurture all ages books or girl-centric books that would lure in all ages of female readers. And of the girls who read comics, if they’re mostly reading indy books- that’s probably what they’re going to want to write. So unless something changes, it doesn’t seem like the number of women who want to write superheroes are going to increase.

I really would like to hear your thoughts on this. Obviously, this isn’t something that I have the answer for- but something that I really think we should consider more. The more and more I think about it, the more I see the problem as two sides of the same coin. You won’t get more female creators in mainstream comics without having more female readers.

Originally published at American Whitney. You can comment here or there.

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For any of these pictures, click on them and you can see them full-sized.

I’ve tweeted about the DC Reboot, which for those non-comic types was the recent announcement that DC will be restarting all of its major series numerically and content-wise. Origin stories, and chances for fresh starts for characters.

I will say this here, I think this is a great idea. The problem with having extremely long continuities is that it makes it hard for new fans to step in- which is what the comics industry is in dire need of. Also, I do like the idea that you can get it digitally on release day. The only way for the comics industry to stay relevant is to keep adapting with new technology.

I was unsure of a couple things when they announced the reboot and the first few titles. And yesterday, I saw something that made me down right furious.

Read the rest of this entry » )

Originally published at American Whitney. You can comment here or there.

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I wanted to write a long post about how the comics industry fails women as an audience. But then I realized that I don’t have a lot of the scans I’d saved over the years anymore. (Yes, this is the short version)

The big part of why a lot of girls (and for this, I do mean girls 8-17) don’t get into reading comic books is because most of the series are marketed towards men. Batman and Superman are cool, but Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Batgirl and Lois Lane are relatable.

Kate Beaton illustrates the impossible pose often seen in comics

But look at any comic book cover, and if there’s a woman on it, she’s likely to be scantily clad, contorted in a way to show off all her assets (see the image at right for an example). I’m not saying that female superheroes can’t be sexy- but at the same time, upskirt shots of Supergirl and exposed cleavage down to a belly button probably aren’t going to make teenage girls comfortable with even buying the issue. And forget convincing a mom that it’s okay.

Then once a girl/woman has started reading a mainstream comic series, it’s sort of easy to fall out of love with them. Either the female characters start to do all the cliche “girl” things (like being more concerned about their appearance than what they’re there for- which I seem to recall happening in a Supergirl book not all that long ago) or they’re engaging, entertaining… and get killed off/tortured/raped simply to further a male character’s plot. Yes, that happens. It’s been dubbed Women in Refrigerators syndrome after the ’94 Green Lantern story in which Kyle Rayner returned home to find his girlfriend dead and yes, stuffed in a refrigerator. (Admittedly, in an RPG game of mine, I pulled one stunt which was WiR-esque and I’ve regretted it for years. I really wish I hadn’t been talked into it.)

Yes, a lot of women and girls read manga. They tend to read a lot of indie comics as well. And why? Not necessarily because some of them are love and romance- it’s because the characters presented in them, male and female, are usually well written and seem like real people. You don’t have to worry about whether or not Character A is suddenly going to seem as though they’ve been lobotomized and drool over a boy, when it’s unlike anything they’ve done before.

Dean Trippe posted a pitch he’d put together for a YA illustrated novel for DC, titled Lois Lane: Girl Reporter. Knowing his writing, it would have been clever, smart, and great. On Twitter, someone complimented him on his work and said they hoped it would help others do female characters justice. He said, “i’ll tell you my secret to writing female heroes as well as the dudes: i just use female pronouns. :P ” If you have a few minutes, take a look at what DC wasn’t interested in. And then be a little sadder because LL:GR doesn’t exist beyond that pitch.

But the fact that DC wasn’t interested in it? Shows me that they really aren’t interested in having girls (again, actual girls this time) start reading comics. So please, comics community at large- stop writing women as plucky heroines or mere love interests. Just write them as characters that happen to be women. Give them things to do, people to save, and yes… it’s okay to let them get hurt, but don’t make it just to solve a problem you had with someone else’s storyline. But don’t treat them like the mandatory T&A for a cover.

Oh, and learn the difference between skimpy and sexy. Women don’t have to be dressed like strippers to be sexy. Wonder Woman’s original outfit? Sexy. Witchblade? Skanky, and uncomfortable. Poor Sara Pezzani must have gone broke from losing her clothes all the time.

So what do you think, internet? Am I totally off base in thinking that this is what’s keeping girls and women from being a bigger demo in comics?

(Also, Kate Beaton’s website may be found here: Hark, a vagrant. Her hilarious drawing was posted to Twitter, which is a must-follow if you remotely are a fan of her art)

Originally published at American Whitney. You can comment here or there.

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July 2011

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