Gendercrunching: Why Do So Few Women Create for DC and Marvel?

Bleeding Cool just came out with September’s gendercrunching statistics, which reveal the changes in female creators for Marvel and DC.  The numbers are sadly low. Imagine if only 2.4% (the percentage of female writers for DC in September) of women were professors, or politicians, or college students…. It’s quite disheartening to see such few women represented on the creative side of these top comic publishers.

I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity to write a paper about women in the comic industry (particularly DC and Marvel) for my business ethics class. My paper explores the idea that perhaps these top comic publishers are implicitly discriminating against women by underrepresenting (and misrepresenting) women in their comic books. It seems to be a vicious cycle.

My solution? Write more (realistic) women in comics. And when I say realistic, I don’t mean don’t write about women superheroes (or in my case, cyborgs). Just don’t write about women with double D cups wearing skin tight suits. Just write about superheroes who happen to also be women. I see every-day women kicking-ass all the time (just witnessed a friend acquiring her first job with a fortune 500 company), and I want to see these women represented in superhero comic books. Is that too much to ask?

Read a Comic Book, Seriously, It Might Change How You Write

Have you ever heard anyone say, “I hate novels! I’d never read one.” Probably not because the term “novel” is an umbrella term, clumping together Agatha Christie mysteries with Ender’s Game science fiction with Jodi Picoult “chick lit.” But I’ve bet you’ve heard this phrase before, “I hate comic books! I’d never read one.”
 Marvel superhero comic books, Vertigo Fable tales based on myth and fairy tale, and Japanese manga romance are all comic books. Doesn’t this leave the smart reader wondering, isn’t the term “comic book” like “novel” just as all encompassing? We don’t condemn the medium of novels because we don’t like “chick lit,” one of the many genres a novel can take. But, we see it all the time, comic books are often condemned in just this way, and by condemning them, we’re denying ourselves the pleasures of both reading and writing in this unique form.
Perhaps because of the stigma against comic books, I’d lived eighteen years without ever reading one. I grew up surrounded by books. My dad would read Nancy Drew novels to my sisters and I before we went to bed, I devoured The Lord of the Rings trilogy in a single week when I was in middle school, and I reluctantly read Thomas Hardy and Milton in my college literature classes. But not once did I read a comic book. By seventh grade, I was dead set on following my dream of becoming a novelist. I had been writing since first grade when my mom bought me a journal with kittens on the front, yet by college I felt something was missing. I loved to write, to create ideas and bring them to life, creating something out of nothing. But I wasn’t reading very much anymore. And reading for school doesn’t count, because, honestly, I never finished Tess of the d’Urbervilles, or The Jungle, or All Quite on the Western Front, or The Canterbury Tales
And then one summer I fell in love with the Iron Man movie, and the can of worms was opened. The new movies based on comic books metaphorically snatched the James Joyce novel from my reluctant fingers, and Shazam! replaced it with Origins, my first ever comic book. Comic books were a form of reading (and writing) I’d never experienced before. The visuals combined with words, an emphasis on characterization and plot, not on elevated language or fancy metaphor. Comic books contained the best elements of a novel, and, I’d argue, could represent the human condition as well as The Great Gatsby, all while visually involving the reader, pulling her along on a more compelling adventure. I decided to write a graphic novel for my senior thesis this coming year. I’ll take the traditional novel I’d been struggling to write for nearly three years, and write it as a graphic novel script. Just a month ago, I pulled up a blank Word document and began writing my novel as a graphic novel for the first time. I couldn’t believe how rapidly my thoughts propelled themselves onto the screen. I was writing more than I’d written in months, and I was enjoying it!  I’d found my new form, shook loose my musty old views of what writing should be, and took a step closer to finding myself as a writer.  I wish someone had told me earlier that it was ok to read comics, and perfectly acceptably awesome to write them

I’d like to challenge anyone who hasn’t read a comic book yet to do so. Try to push aside the prejudices you perhaps have against comic books. Remember, you’d never say “I hate novels!” Right? So don’t clump all comic books together. Explore the different genres within the graphic writing medium and you might (probably) find a new favorite way to read.