Tim Hanley writes for Bleeding Cool;
Marvel was down from their record-setting total last month, but still put in a strong showing to top a somewhat improved DC Comics. We also take a look at the Marvel NOW! #1 issues and see how they stack up against The New 52 #1 issues in terms of female characters.
After several months hovering around 10%, DC finally jumped up a bit. In October 2012, DC Comics put out 87 new comics featuring 736 credited creators, 656 men and 80 women. Here are their full stats:
DC was up 0.9% from September, a decent gain considering the slump they’ve been in. All of the creative categories were up as well, including increases of 2% or more for writers, pencillers, and inkers. Inkers nearly quadrupled last month’s miniscule total. Editorial was down slightly while assistant editors were up slightly, both by about the same amount. All together, moderate increases in nearly every category pulled DC out of their overall rut.
Compared to a Year Ago: DC was at 11.1% last October, so they’re down only a slight 0.2%.
It was unlikely that Marvel would top, or even match, their record setting September total, but they had a strong month nonetheless. In October 2012, Marvel released 79 new comics with 725 credited creators, 635 men and 90 women. Let’s look at the stats:
They’re down 1.7% from last month, which is a big drop. But again, last month smashed the record. By category, Marvel improved in a lot of areas. Writers and editors were up slightly, pencillers and inkers tripled their previous totals, and colorists rose a solid 3.6%. However, cover artists were down a bit and assistant editors fell nearly 10%. This drop in assistant editors brought them down overall, but it’s good to see more female creators getting work on the creative side.
Compared to a Year Ago: In October 2011, Marvel was at 11% female creators, so they’re up 1.4% from then.
MARVEL NOW! AND THE NEW 52 CHARACTERS BY GENDER
Marvel NOW! appears to be winding down its initial launches, so I thought it might be fun to compare all of the new Marvel NOW! #1s with all of the New 52 #1s from September 2011. I looked at Marvel NOW! in terms of female creators on my own site, and found that NONE of the new #1 issues featured a female creator in the solicits, which was a bummer. To be fair, some of the existing titles that were branded with the Marvel NOW! banner did feature female creators, but the new #1s, with the attention and big sales they entail, were all men.
I’ve noticed, though, that there did appear to be an increased focus on female characters. There were specific instances like the all-female Fearless Defenders, but just generally a lot of the team books seemed to prominently feature a lot of female members. So I set up a series of comparisons, first with all of the New 52 #1 issues, but then with some normal months to give us some contrast. I picked Marvel’s September 2012 output because it was the last month before Marvel NOW! began, and I picked August 2011 for DC for similar reasons.
The methodology was pretty simple: I looked at the covers for regular, ongoing series (27 Marvel NOW! titles, the New 52, 33 regular DC books, and 58 regular Marvel books) and counted up the characters on each cover. I counted only main characters, ie. heroes, sidekicks, villains, and regularly occurring now-powered associates. I didn’t count random folks standing around in the background, hordes of alien invaders, robots, or things of that nature. I then tabulated a percentage for every issue so each book would have equal weight. If I just added up the numbers straight, a book with 24 characters on the cover would have WAY more influence on the numbers than a book with 1. By converting everything to percentages and then averaging those percentages, each book had the same value.
So here are all the numbers, in festive colors:
First off, let’s look at Marvel NOW! vs. the DCnU relaunch. The differences are very slight, and the DCnU had 2.3% more female creators than Marvel NOW! However, this isn’t an exact science. Counting characters on the cover gives us a rough idea of the character breakdown, but we’re not using a huge sample size and thus these numbers aren’t as precise as what we’re used to. A difference of 2.3% isn’t really enough of a difference to conclusively say that the DCnU had more female characters than Marvel NOW! When they’re that close, the best we can say is that their totals were about the same.
As for Marvel NOW! vs. pre-Marvel NOW! comics, we’ve got a bigger gap. The Marvel NOW! total of female characters is actually 5.1% lower than those shown in covers of Marvel’s regular output the month before. This is a bigger difference, and I think it’s fair to suggest that there are fewer characters in the Marvel NOW! books than there were before. Which is disappointing. While things looked better with all the team books co-starring many female characters, there were also a lot of solo books starring male characters. All together, we’ve got slightly fewer female characters in Marvel books now.
But here’s the thinnest of silver linings: The DCnU had 9.6% fewer female characters than their regular output from the month before. So while Marvel NOW! is down, it didn’t fall as far as the DCnU did. Hooray? You didn’t do as badly as the other guys, because you were already doing worse than them beforehand. Good work team!!
So here’s what we learned about female characters at the Big Two:
- Marvel NOW! and the New 52 are about the same.
- Marvel NOW! is slightly down from their pre-Marvel NOW! numbers.
- Marvel NOW! isn’t down as much as the New 52 was down from their pre-New 52 numbers.
None of this is terribly encouraging. When the best thing you can say is that one company didn’t do quite as badly as the other, things aren’t great. I’ve made this argument about female creators before, and it applies to female characters as well: Women aren’t going to buy comics just because there’s a female creator/character involved, but when there are consistently very few female creators/characters they may very well get the message that comics aren’t meant for them. Both the New 52 an Marvel NOW! have been opportunities to reach new audiences, but the output has featured fewer women, real and fictional, at every level. Yes, there are books out there with female creators and characters, but there aren’t quite as many as there were before. Whenever the spotlight shines on all the fancy new #1 issues, it seems that the Big Two aren’t particularly keen to have ladies front and center.
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.