By Tim Hanley
It's a record setting month here at "Gendercrunching", with both DC and Marvel posting strong numbers that added up to the best combined overall percentage of female creators we've seen from the Big Two in a regular month. We also take a look at what's so special about these totals, and whether it's sustainable.
After a disappointing start in June, DC's recent relaunch stats grew impressively over the next two months to relatively high totals in August. In August 2015, DC Comics put out 70 new comics featuring 584 credited creators, 490 men and 94 women. Here are their stats:
An overall percentage of female creators of 16.1% is fantastic for a month without any special events or promotions. Moreover, it's a jump of 2.1% from July, which is a considerable increase. Across the board, cover artists, pencillers, inkers, letterers, and assistant editors all rose by several percentage points. Writers, colorists, and editors fell, but only by slight amounts. The gains outweighed the losses by a fair margin, and the net result was a big overall increase.
Compared To A Year Ago: In August 2014, DC had only 9.5% female creators overall as they prepared to enter their disastrous autumn. They're up 6.6% since then, an increase of more than two thirds.
Secret Wars seems to have been good for female creators at Marvel, and the August numbers are the best yet as the event rages on. In August 2015, Marvel released 70 new books with 588 credited creators, 489 men and 99 women. Let's look at the numbers:
Marvel is up 2.3% from July, putting them ahead of DC for the highest overall percentage of female creators this month. Almost every category was up by several percentage points except for editors, which ticked down just slightly, and cover artists, which stayed the same. Oh, and letterers remained at 0% for the 56th straight month; imagine how well Marvel would be doing with some female letterers in the mix too. Ultimately, the numerous gains trumped one minor loss, and Marvel surged ahead to a very strong overall total.
Compared To A Year Ago: In August 2014, Marvel was at 9.8% female creators overall, which led into a terrible autumn for them as well. A year later, they're up 7%!
DIGGING INTO THE DATA
Usually we look at another set of data after we check in with DC and Marvel; we visit other publishers, check in on female characters, or look at our accumulated data in new and fun ways. This month, though, we're going to dig into how we got to this month's totals for DC and Marvel. It's a big month for both publishers; this is the best the Big Two have ever done cumulatively, aside from months aided by special events. For example, while DC hit the mid-20% range during Convergence, they did so largely because Marie Javins and Brittany Holzherr edited every single book; there have been special circumstances that momentarily inflated the data.
But August was a normal month for both publishers. DC was in the third month of their mini-relaunch, while Marvel was in the middle of Secret Wars which, though it involves a lot of new series, has a lot of the usual names attached to the books at all levels of production. Yet they're both in the 16% range overall, relatively huge totals for both publishers.
To understand how we got here, we need to go back. When we began this project in 2011, DC was the picture of consistency. They'd have roughly 11% female creators overall every month, with little change. Marvel, on the other hand, was all over the map. Some months it would be only 8%, other months they'd be up into the teens. While DC continued to chug along evenly, things picked up at Marvel in 2013, and they were regularly in the 14% range. Then, in 2014, both publishers dropped hard.
There had been encouraging signs at the Big Two before that; in 2011, the number of women writing and drawing their comics was paltry, and editorial accounted for the vast majority of their overall total. Then these interior numbers began to grow, very slowly but it was growth nonetheless. There used to be months with NO female pencillers and inkers at DC or Marvel, then the numbers became a bit higher and more consistent. But in 2014, there was a mass exodus of female editors and assistant editors over the course of the years and this bastion of female representation quickly dissipated as the departing women were often replaced by men. The overall totals dropped, with both publishers in single digits.
However, the interior numbers kept increasing. Again, very slowly. But soon female writers were regularly in the 10% range, and cover and interior artists crept up bit by bit. It wasn't enough to pull the overall percentage of female creators up terribly high, but things began to return to past norms eventually. And now, female editors are back! Both publishers have seen huge gains in women in their editorial ranks over the past several months, and the reason that DC and Marvel had such strong numbers in August is because they have good representation across the board. Not a single category was under 10% at DC, and the same was true at Marvel apart from letterers (Marvel has a bizarre aversion to hiring female letterers). They've slowly built up their numbers for women writing and drawing the books while editorial faltered, and now that editorial is solid again, we're seeing record highs.
Record highs relative to past performance, of course. Compared to other publishers, DC and Marvel's August numbers are fairly average. Several publishers are now hitting the mid-teens with ease, Dynamite topped 20% last time we popped in, and Boom! has had over 30% female creators overall for years. The Big Two's numbers aren't great so much as they are less bad than they've been, and are now bordering on almost decent. It's 2015, and there are scads of amazing women working in comics; 16% isn't cause for a parade or anything.
Still, it's significant growth for DC and Marvel, and this growth deserves acknowledgement. Does this mean that "Gendercrunching" is over and we can ride off into the sunset knowing a lot more women are making comics at the Big Two? Of course not. It's one month. And, SPOILER ALERT, I've done most of the September numbers already. One publisher actually does a bit better, but one's going to take a tumble. While a good month is nice to see, consistency will be the real sign that things have changed. We've seen big numbers before; after Marvel strung together a few months of 14% female creators overall, they plummeted down to 9% soon after. What these August numbers are is a great starting point. If the Big Two can keep things up, and continue to grow from here, that will be progress worth celebrating. If they can't, we'll be back to the same old. Here's hoping for the former.
To learn more about this statistics project and its methodology click here, and to see the previous stats click here. You can visit Tim at Straitened Circumstances and follow him on Twitter @timhanley01. His book Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World's Most Famous Heroine is available now.