Women in Comics: Everything New is Old Again

1 Aug

Pioneer Gail Simone

The comic book industry has typically been viewed as a straight, white boys club, and for good reason. The bulk of the major characters are men as are the writers and artists. Sadly, this kind of tradition builds on itself as men write more men for boys and men and girls are left feeling the medium has nothing to offer them.

A significant exception to this rule is the amazing Gail Simone. A long-time comic writer and a major talent in the field, Simone came to prominence through her website Women In Refrigerators. Named for the rather gruesome fate of a minor female character in Green Lantern, the site accurately contends that female characters in comics are routinely treated to worse fates than their male counterparts. Bad things happen to everyone in comics (that’s part of the narrative tradition, after all), but the extent and permanence of damage done to female characters is very disproportionate. Simone has done her best to work against this, especially in the long-running, mostly-female title Birds of Prey.

DC Comics is relaunching all of its titles this fall, providing a great opportunity to bring in and emphasize more diverse talent and characters. Sadly, as Tim Hanley effectively enumerates, the new DC has even fewer female creators and characters. (Simone is one of only two women credited with books in the relaunch!) Pressed by the comic fan community over the weeks since the relaunch was announced, co-publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio offered a tepid “we’re going to do better, really” statement.

We’ll have exciting news about new projects with women creators in the coming months and will be making those announcements closer to publication. Many of the above creators will be working on new projects, as we continue to tell the ongoing adventures of our characters. We know there are dozens of other women creators and we welcome the opportunity to work with them.

That’s lovely, guys, but you couldn’t have made the effort during all the work that went into the relaunch? Comics are suffering a slowdown in readership and sales. A big reason DC has stated for the relaunch was a chance for new readers to come aboard and enjoy the stories. How many new female readers are going to be interested in stories where they are more marginalized than ever?

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