By creating quality comics of powerful female superheroes, the comic book world is opening up to a new audience of women and girls as well as giving already hooked fans more of the powerful women they’ve come to know and love.
DC Comics, another major player in comics, has also joined the trend of bringing female characters to the forefront. It has “Wonder Woman” flying solo in a self-titled series, as well as “Supergirl” and even Batman characters like “Batgirl,” “Catwoman” and “Harley Quinn.”
The above (from the Huffington Post) is a sign of why good PR is important, and why DC really, really needs to step up on the issue of diversity in superhero comics.
In a story using the new Thor as a hook, DC merits a “has also joined the trend of bringing female characters to the forefront,” instead of the more accurate “DC led the trend, with seven ongoing titles out of its 2011 relaunch featuring female solo leads at a time when Marvel only had two ongoing female solo leads,” with DC’s number not dropping below seven since then while Marvel managed to reach a point later that year where it has zero ongoing series featuring female leads.
The HuffPo piece (and this Daily Beast piece from the weekend) point out not just how well the Marvel Hype Machine works these days in framing the narrative but almost more importantly just how badly DC does the same thing (It also points out how eagerly journalists for major news outlets eat up talking points instead of going out and researching things sometimes, but that’s neither here nor there).
In all of the news about the replacement Captain America, it’s surprising that no-one — myself included — brought up that DC has had a black Superman for the last few months in Earth-2 (or longer, if you want to look at Grant Morrison’s continued use of the Superman from Earth-23). With all the push about diversity in Marvel, no-one pointed out that the publisher doesn’t have a solo gay lead, whereas DC’s been putting Batwoman out there for the last three years (Not to mention Green Lantern in Earth-2 or Constantine, who’s bi, I think? He was in Hellblazer, but who can tell in the New 52?).
These are all alternate talking points that DC could (should?) be pushing out there in order to point out that, really, it’s not got a “crisis” or playing catch-up; it’s been there for some time, but not making the same kind of look at us look at us we have friends who aren’t white straight males noises as Marvel whenever it makes these decisions. But, instead, they just sit back and… I don’t know. Hope that someone notices?
(All of which shouldn’t be taken as a “Marvel, you are terrible,” or whatever — it’s not, and its PR machine is very good at what it does — but as a “DC, at this point, you’re practically causing your own bad press.”)
This relates to the essay I posted yesterday. Personally, I’m happy to praise Marvel for what they’re doing - I think even if the metrics haven’t been in their favour, the execution has often been a lot better, but that’s partly because they seem to have the kind of set-up right now that encourages more creative looseness, and ‘diverse’ books will flourish in those circumstances.
But it is worth remembering that the metrics really haven’t been in their favour - Bleeding Cool ran its creator stats again today, and DC has apparently employed more women creators than Marvel for the sixth straight month. So Graeme’s point is very important - this is partly the story of Marvel doing (some) good stuff and knowing how to talk about it, and DC simply not being able to handle the PR or marketing side remotely as credibly.
It’s always good to be wary of talking too much about the marketing, though - marketing is interesting and effective but concentrate on it too much and you start erasing the feelings and agency of creators and buyers alike. I think both companies - all comics companies, the industry is less of a two-horse town nowadays - aren’t really leading any trends, they’re working out how to react to genuine movements in “geek culture” and pop culture and fandom that have been building for years but have come to a head now geek culture is so mainstream and visible.
Part of that is working out how much to embrace and nurture a new audience which instinct and some metrics and many success stories suggests is out there, but which is some way off being a dominant commercial factor. That’s an enormously hard business decision especially in an industry like comics, where “this will bring in new readers” has been the false grail SO often over the last 20-30 years. Marvel in the Jemas era had a TON of lets-get-the-kids-in, lets-appeal-to-manga-readers initiatives, and you ended up with things like that Emma Frost teen romance comic with soft porn cover art, so again, I’d rather they try than not but the execution really does matter…
(This has more than filled your mandatory daily allowance of two white dudes discussing diversity in comics, I fear…)