Gendercrunching January 2017 – Counting Lead Female Characters At Marvel And DC

By Tim Hanley


It's a brand new year of stats here at "Gendercrunching," and both DC and Marvel began 2017 with an overall percentage of female creators below their December totals. We also take a look at female characters at the Big Two in our regular biannual feature!


DC isn't going off a cliff here, but January marks the publisher's third straight month of overall decline. In January 2017, DC Comics released 84 new comic books featuring 765 credited creators, 627 men and 138 women. Let's look at the numbers:


DC's overall percentage of female creators fell 0.6%, not a big tumble. By category, there were a lot of losses inside the books; female writers, pencillers, inkers, and colorists all dropped several percentage points from last month, with losses ranging from 2-7%. Female cover artists and letterers rose, however, as did editors; female assistant editors ticked down. With such steep declines in a few spots, DC's lucky to not be down further overall.

The Past Year at DC: While three months of drops isn't great, January's total still stands up well compared to previous months:


DC is getting further away from its October high, but July was the only month before then to have more women in the mix than DC does currently. Their slow drift down is still keeping them at a relatively high level.


After a solid rebound in December, Marvel's total dropped yet again this month. In January 2017, Marvel comics put out 92 new comics with 847 credited creators, 711 men and 136 women. Here are their stats:


Marvel's overall percentage of female creators fell 1.5%, a bit of a steep drop that nearly erased its December gain. By category, only female pencillers and inkers went up, and that was just by a percentage point or so. Everything else was down, apart from letterers who remained steady at 0%; most of the declines were minor, but female colorists took a big 7% tumble. All together, drops across the board dragged down Marvel's overall total in a weak start to 2017.

The Past Year at Marvel: There sure have been a lot more drops than gains over the last year, including this January:


Despite the drop, Marvel's 16.1% is fairly middle of the pack relative to the rest of their totals. They've been situated in this ballpark for a while now, relatively stable but below their recent highs. Perhaps the New Year will bring some change as it progresses.


It's January, so it's time for our biannual check-in on female characters at the Big Two when we see how representation for fictional women is going at DC and Marvel. The methodology here is pretty simple: We just count up everybody on the main cover by gender. Covers are not a perfect indicator of who's inside the comic books, of course, but they are certainly a reflection of the book's contents, tend to feature the major players, and are how a publisher markets their wares. There are a few side rules for the project, like anthropomorphic animals count but real ones don't (so Scooby Doo, yes; Krypto, no) and homogeneous crowd scenes get simplified (a group of male ninjas counts as one instead of, say, 14). After the characters on each cover are tabulated, the totals are turned into a percentage and all of the percentages are averaged together so that each issue carries the same amount of weight.

So let's dig into the numbers for female characters on DC and Marvel's covers in January 2017 by comparing them to past totals on this chart that goes all the way back to January 2014:


We've got a bit of a mixed bag with DC. Female character representation is down nearly 2% after DC set a new high last July. Now, this is a rough count and a change of a percentage point or so is basically negligible. Two points is about where it starts to be a clearer indicator of change, and we're right on that cusp here; I'm comfortable calling this total a slight step down for female character representation at DC. But at the same time, it's their second highest total since we started counting three years ago, which is a decent silver lining.

Things are much clearer with Marvel's numbers. Their female character representation shot up more than 5%, the biggest jump we've seen yet from either publisher along with the highest total. After a step down last July, Marvel's definitely got more female characters in the mix this month. Looking at how their books break down by lead character will shed some light on this gain.

The following chart looks at all of the different series published by Marvel and groups them by lead character(s) into male-led, female-led, and mixed/team books. This is for different series, not issues; if a series double ships, it's only counted once. Here are Marvel's numbers over the past few years:


As you can see, female-led books are up considerably, more than 6% since January. Mixed/team titles have increased as well, and both of these gains have come at the expense of male-led books, which fell nearly 9%. So it's not so surprising that Marvel's female character representation has grown; they're putting out more books with women in lead roles.

DC's series lead numbers are illuminating as well. Again, this is for different series; all of the "Rebirth" titles that ship twice a month are only counted once here (counting every issue gives us only slight differences in the totals). Let's take a look:


While DC's percentage of female-led series rose very slightly, mixed/teams books fell considerably and male-led books shot up 5%. That means there are more male characters headlining books at DC, and thus it makes sense that the publisher's female character representation has ticked down a bit. January also marks a record high for female-led books at DC, though Marvel blowing them out of the water in that regard deflates the fanfare considerably.

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 first book Wonder Woman Unbound is available now, and his new book Investigating Lois Lane: The Turbulent History of the Daily Planet's Ace Reporter was released in March 2016.

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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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