Gendercrunching February 2012 by Tim Hanley

Tim Hanley writes for Bleeding Cool;

 The Big Two tied this month, and at a decent number too, which gives us a unique opportunity to compare how DC and Marvel each arrived at the exact same overall total. We also take a look at sales by gender, but that discussion gets quickly sidelined by how few women there are in Diamond's Top 300 comic books.


After an off month in January, DC was back at their usual total. In February 2012, DC Comics put out 82 new comics with 662 credited creators, 589 men and 73 women. Here are their stats:

DC jumped 0.6% from last month, hitting their favourite total of 11%. There were slight changes across the board, with small losses on covers and letters and gains of less than one percent for writers, pencillers, and inkers. Both editorial categories were up less than half a percentage point as well. Only colourists had any big change, going up 2.6%. None of the changes were huge, but 6 of 8 categories had gains to ultimately increase their total from last month.

Compared To A Year Ago: In February 2011, DC was at 11%, so there was no change.


It's a second straight month of an overall gain at Marvel. In February 2012, Marvel released 83 new books featuring 708 credited creators, 630 men and 78 women. Let's look at their numbers:

Overall, Marvel rose 0.9% from last month, which is quite a leap. Everything rose or stayed the same except colourists, who slipped down 0.5%. The biggest gains were 2.1% for cover artists, 1.6% for pencillers, and 2.3% for assistant editors. Everything else was up slightly, and letterers stayed the same at zero. Reasonable gains across the board added up to a big overall jump for Marvel.

Compared To A Year Ago: Marvel was at 8.7% overall in February 2011, so their overall percentage of female creators has grown by 2.3% since last year.


We don't usually do this, but with the Big Two at the exact same overall percentage we can compare their stats by category to see how each publisher arrived at 11%. Here are their female creator percentages, side by side:


In the first five categories, Marvel had a pretty solid lead over DC, and trumped them in everything but letterers on the creative side of things. In editorial, DC edged out Marvel for full editors, and then flat out slaughtered them on assistant editors. What we've got is two very different paths to the same overall total. Marvel spreads it around more, while DC gets most of their total from editorial.

Now, is one path better than the other? I suppose that's up to you. On the one hand, people don't really buy comics for the assistant editors, so Marvel has more women in high profile spots. On the other hand, assistant editors are vitally important and DC's overall total is usually better. At the end of the day, ladies working in comics is great to see, wherever they may be working.


So I thought that looking at Diamond's sales for February in terms of female creators might offer us some valuable insights into our usual numbers. Maybe women sell way better than men and publishers are crazy not to hire them. Maybe women sell way lower and that's a reason why publishers don't hire many. So I ran all the numbers and calculated the totals and one thing became immediately clear: There aren't enough comic books with female creators to actually make this a particularly strong comparison in a general sense.

I tabulated the stats based on female writers and female pencillers (I was going to include inkers, but I figured pencillers had the most say in the look of the book). The methodology was easy peasy; just look up each of the 300 books, note if there's a female writer or penciller, repeat. Then I divided the books based on whether a female creator was present or not and ran the averages.

Of the 300 comic books listed in Diamond's Top 300 sellers for February 2012, only 21 featured a female writer and/or artist inside the book. Here are some percentages for you:

  • Books with a female writer and/or penciller, 21 of 300 = 7%
  • Books with ONLY a female writer and/or penciller (ie. no male co-writer and/or co-penciller), 15 of 300 = 5%
  • Books with a female penciller, 14 of 300 = 4.7%
  • Books with ONLY a female penciller, 10 of 300 = 3.3%
  • Books with a female writer, 9 of 300 = 3%
  • Books with ONLY a female writer, 5 of 300 = 1.7%

So that's not many at all.

In fact, of the 600 different spots available (300 for writer and 300 for pencillers) only 23 of them were filled by women (or 3.8%). These 23 spots featured 20 different female creators. Here's the list just for fun, since it won't take up much space: Amy Reeder, Becky Cloonan, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Carol Lay, Corinna Bechko, Elena Casagrande, Emauela Lupacchino, Gail Simone, Jan Duursema, Jen van Meter, Jessica Ruffner, Joelle Jones, Karen Traviss, Mary Trainor, Nicola Scott, Rebekah Isaacs, Robin Furth, Shelli Paroline, Stephanie Hans, and Vicki Scott.

With such a small sample size for female creators, we can't put a lot of stock in these numbers as broad comparisons, but they aren't entirely useless either. Let's see how the average sales numbers pan out, with a sizable grain of salt.

  • Books with no female creators = 20,346
  • Books with female writers and/or pencillers = 19,571
  • Difference = –775

This is a pretty small difference. Books without female creators sold a bit more on average in February, but negligibly so; the difference is less than 4%, which is pretty much nothing given our sample size issues.

  • Books with no female writers = 20,506
  • Books with female writers = 13,346
  • Difference = –7160

This difference is a lot bigger, but at the same time this is our smallest sample size for women at only 9 books. It's a walloping, to be sure, with a difference of about 35%, and it's fair to say that male writers sell more books than female writers. At the same time, though, this gulf could shrink down very easily with one or two female-written books with decent numbers, like Ann Nocenti's Green Arrow next month for example. So edge to the male writers, sure, but don't put a lot of stock in how big the divide is.

  • Books with no female pencillers = 20,191
  • Books with female pencillers = 22,340
  • Difference = +2149

Hey, the ladies had more on this one! Only slightly, but it's still fun. The difference amounts to about 10%, and just like we did with the writers we need to dial it back. Women artists have a slight edge in sales, but it's very slight. Now, unlike female writers, where going from 9 to 10 could hugely change their average, going from 286 to 287 men won't much change their total. However, women dropping from 14 to 13 or 12 could really swing the women's average, depending on which books were removed. Nicola Scott was the best-selling female artist in February, for example, and she won't be back in March, so this number could really drop.

Ultimately, while we've got a lovely sense of how things went for sales in February 2012, the small sample size makes it foolish to extrapolate these numbers in a general sense. The differences could all change VERY easily, so this analysis is far more specific than universal. Overall, male creators sold a bit better than female creators in February, but not enough to provide any reasonable argument for a lack of female creators.


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.

About Rich Johnston

Head writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world. Living in London, father of two. Political cartoonist.

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