Hey, Internet. How’s your week been? Mine’s been kind of crazy. You see, I dressed up as Batgirl and went to a small event called the San Diego ComicCon. I asked a few questions, and the internet kind of exploded after that. The news sites reported on my questions and the responses they got. I was bewildered to find myself an overnight sensation.
The problem was, the accounts of my experiences at Comic Con left out a lot of detail and portrayed things in a way that I thought was unfair to both myself and DC. I don’t blame the reporters: they had deadlines to meet and an hour-long panel to talk about, my participation in which was comparatively short. My interview with DCWKA was done, in part, to clarify the situation. The interview got a HUGE response. There are over 1500 notes on it and almost 400 comments as of this writing. I’m honored to have had the opportunity to address the world (or at least a small, geeky part of it) and clarify my views. I think there is still more to be said.
There are two main issues I brought up at the panels: the lack of female creators and the lack of female characters. I’d like to start by talking about female creators in comics. I’ll be addressing female characters in a separate post.
I went to a total of seven panels over the course of the weekend, six of which were DC Comics panels. Except for the Batman panel and the last 52 panel, the panels were comprised entirely of men. At the very first panel I attended on the first day, one of the first questioners (not me) asked about female creators. He got a very strong response from Dan DiDio. I’m sure everyone’s heard the clip by now, but if you haven’t, it’s linked to from the original interview.
The vehemence in this response, and the tension that I felt from the panel, startled me. It wasn’t as if DiDio had been asked this question a hundred times that weekend. It was the first such question, and the questioner was savaged. DiDio didn’t want to answer questions about female creators, and he dodged it, as I learned was his default with questions he didn’t want to answer. When I decided to ask a question about female creators two days later, I was bracing myself for a similar response, and I was determined not to let myself be either bullied or sidetracked. I asked him, “Are you committed to hiring more women?”
In retrospect, perhaps what I should have asked was, “Are you committed to hiring more women who are qualified?” No one wants to see quotas instituted, or inferior artists or writers being hired over more qualified counterparts. If nine men and one woman apply for a job and the man gets it, that’s not sexism; that’s the law of averages. And DC’s not the only comic company that a talented woman might approach. Check out this article. I recommend reading all of it, but this portion is of particular interest:
“THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A BETTER TIME TO BE A WOMAN IN COMICS.
Yep, you read that right. Companies WANT to work with women. We offer a different perspective than the norm, a breath of fresh air, and let’s face it, we stand out from the usual crowd. We pique the interest of that elusive female demographic. I know editors at both the Big Two who expressly seek out emerging female talent. Which brings us back to the topic at hand: Not surprisingly, Marvel and DC aren’t the only companies who want to work with these creators! What many of the people who are up in arms over the 12-1% shift in female talent at DC aren’t considering is that much of the talent they’re looking for are gainfully employed elsewhere. It could be timing, it could be personal preference on the creator’s part, or it could be that the titles remaining to be filled weren’t quite right for the style of any of the female creators on these lists. I certainly wouldn’t want to see any company fill a position with a token female just to fill a perceived quota if they weren’t the best person for that project. How would that make that person feel, in turn? Pretty damned crappy, I’d suspect.
The fact of the matter is that there just aren’t that many of us yet, and the odds of a certain number of us being available to work on a certain event with a certain company at the same time are not so good. I know the numbers will keep growing as it becomes more acceptable and celebrated for girls and women to enjoy comics.”
This echoes what Gail Simone told me, which I mentioned in the interview: She said DC did approach women to work on The New 52, but many turned them down. The scheduling was difficult, and I’ve heard that the deadlines were ‘brutal’. Qualified creators of both genders turned them down for this reason and many others.
So is that it? There just aren’t that many female artists out there yet, and the ones that are just weren’t available this time around?
Maybe. But if that’s the case - if the comic companies are as desperate to hire more women as stated above - why was DC so hostile to questions about female creators?
Because I’ve also heard from a great many women who want to work for DC, starting right after the panel where I asked that question. A woman came up to me and told me that she’d worked for DC in the past and that she wanted to again, but that she felt that her gender was a handicap. She was there at ComicCon specifically trying to get in touch with the right people. Obviously, that’s just one person’s experiences, but after my interview was published, I heard from many other women at all levels expressing the same concerns.
My thoughts are somewhat echoed in the excellent article I found here. This quote from the end is most on point::
Occam’s Razor. Maybe DC is struggling to find women creators who can write their books, in an attempt to broaden their audience, but no one has shown up yet.
Or maybe DC doesn’t think women are good at writing and drawing superheroes. I can tell you for a fact that when I worked there (1999-2002), there were several editors who felt this way. I know because they told me, clearly and to my face.
That was nearly a decade ago, and perhaps the corporate culture has changed entirely since then. Perhaps this idea has been eradicated from the halls, banned from the watercooler and held up to scorn.
Or maybe it still lingers in closets and dark corners.
To be honest, I don’t know which it is.
If DC truly wants to hire more women (and assuming their corporate culture isn’t actively misogynist) then they need to change the image that theirs is a company that is hostile to female creators. They need to make an effort to reach out to women, not just at the highest levels, but at all levels. They need to come out and state, publicly and repeatedly, that they are searching for fantastic female writers and artists, and that anyone who applies to them will be given fair and equal consideration. And then they need to put their money where their mouth is, because after my experiences at ComicCon, I didn’t believe that…and I’m still not sure I do.
I’d like to leave you with a quote by Dan Harmon talking about employing women in television writing. This quote was brought to my attention by one of the people who responded to my interview.
“[Women writers on television] are harder to find. It’s definitely not because women ain’t funny, because I’m finding the opposite. It’s because there’s fewer of them. The statistical probability of picking up a shitty script, it’s compounded for women. There’s the same percentage of genius happening in both genders, but there’s less women writing scripts and out there looking for the job. So you dig a little extra-hard, and you end up with a staff that took a few extra meetings and a few extra shitty scripts to read. Now you have a staff that is just as good as the staff you would have had, but happens to be half women. And it seems like the greatest thing in the world, because the world is half women.”
Dig a little extra-hard, DC. We’re here. We have the talent. We have the drive. And we want to work for you.
Edit: I was on the verge of posting this article when my Twitter feed lit up with this news!
…I also have been told that certain female-focussed projects previously mothballed have now been revived and a number of female creators contacted as a direct result of the events at the panels of San Diego Comic Con…
Way to go, DC. Thank you for hearing me and every other person that’s spoken out about this. I’ll be watching the upcoming line-up with eagerness and interest. Time put my money where my mouth is!
Later Edit: I have been asked by ComicsBulletin.com to write a regular column for them. If you’re interested, you can find it here: http://www.comicsbulletin.com/wheel/archive.htm