Gendercrunching January by Tim Hanley: Female Characters At Marvel

Gendercrunching January 2012

January wasn’t particularly great for either publisher, with both DC and Marvel just barely reaching double digits for female creators. DC won this race to the bottom by a small margin, continuing to squash Marvel’s recent upstart aim for the top spot. Also, we take a look at female characters on Marvel covers.

DC COMICS

It was a bit of a step down for DC this month, which is surprising for a publisher that’s usually so consistent. In January 2012, DC Comics put out 80 new comics featuring 642 credited creators, 575 men and 67 women. Here are their numbers:

 

That’s a drop of 0.7% overall, which isn’t catastrophic by any means but is certainly uncharacteristic for DC. By category, writers, colourists, and assistant editors were down a percentage point or so each, while cover artists stayed exactly the same and letterers and assistant editors rose slightly. Also, we’ve gone from no pencillers and inkers in December to a whopping 1% and 0.9% in January. All of the changes were slight, but the end result was a net loss.

Compared To A Year Ago: Last January, DC was at 11.1% overall, so they’re down 0.7% annually as well.

MARVEL COMICS

Marvel did slightly better than December and crawled back into double digits, but still lost to DC. In January 2012, Marvel released 76 new comics with 643 credited creators, 578 men and 65 women. Their stats look like this:

Jumping 0.3% overall isn’t particularly huge, but it gets Marvel back into double digits at least. Cover artists, pencillers, and inkers were all up by a bit, and colorists rose 2% while editors were up an impressive 4.4%. However, writers fell 3.2% and assistant editors dropped a whopping 6.9%. Letterers remained steady at 0%. There were a few big swings, and ultimately it gained Marvel a few tenths of a percent overall.

Compared To A Year Ago: In January 2011, Marvel had 8.6% female creators overall, so they’re up 1.5% from a year ago.

FEMALE CHARACTERS AT MARVEL

Two months ago we looked at female characters at DC, and found that DC’s female representation was pretty low compared to previous years. Now it’s Part 2 of our character stats, and we turn to Marvel.

The methodology is the same as before: Count up the people on Marvel’s cover by gender, run the percentages, and average them out. Easy peasy. Now, I’m using November 2011 as a base again, partly for consistency because that’s what we used with DC, and partly because I started this back when I was doing the November column and had a bunch of work done before I realized that I’m longwinded and would need to split up DC and Marvel into two columns. So if you’re looking for January numbers, they’re not here, but we’ve got a bunch of other months.

These are the number for characters by gender on Marvel comics this past autumn:

First off, it should be pointed out that Marvel’s autumnal high (25.1%) is lower than DC’s autumnal low (25.8%), so good work DC!! In fact, Marvel’s autumnal high is lower than DC’s low for every November from 2006 to 2011 as well. DC definitely has an edge when it comes to female characters.

But back to Marvel. We’ve got the same situation as we did with DC’s first chart. It’s very consistent, and very boring. There’s only 1.4% difference between Marvel’s high and low, which isn’t a lot. But luckily for us, this boring consistency is handy. Because the numbers are so stable, we can go back in time and look at specific months from past years as indicative of the months around it, and see what sort of trends come up. We’ll use Novembers, of course.

So let’s jump in the way back machine, and see how things looked:

On the one hand, Marvel is currently well below their past highs. 2006 and 2007 were much better years, especially 2006, and Marvel’s modern stats look not so great in comparison. As usual, while we might expect more women or some general historical growth on account of what seems to be a growing number of female readers, we don’t get that at all.

However, the numbers are trending up. Marvel hit a low in 2009, and jumped substantially in 2010 and then a bit more in 2011. It’s still below their high, but it looks to be moving in the right direction at least. Who knows how long this trend will last; Marvel did recently cancel X-23 and their female Ghost Rider book, leaving them no solo female books. But Captain Marvel is coming, so maybe she’s a harbinger of things to come. Anyway, as of November 2011 they were trending upwards.

Also, while DC beats Marvel pretty soundly in terms of percentage of female characters, Marvel’s covers are a bit less questionable. We saw some pretty sexual, dare I say skanky, DC covers in November, but these are the three worst offenders I could find at Marvel:

Valkyrie in a bullet bra but generally clothed, some sort of Atlantean (I’m guessing) in a bathing suit with a bit of cleavage and a lot of leg, and Storm’s tummy while she makes out with Cyclops. These really aren’t bad at all. In the wider spectrum of comic book covers available these days, these covers might even be considered tasteful. Although Marvel doesn’t have a ton of women on their covers, those that are there tend to be fairly well clothed and rarely posed in any sort of sexual, exploitive way. If you’re looking for quality over quantity, Marvel might be the better bet.

Overall, Marvel is trending upwards with female characters and their covers are a bit classier, but they’re still below their previous highs and are currently digging themselves out of a very deep hole in terms of female representation. They’re also regularly below the percentages of female characters on DC covers. Two months ago, I characterized DC’s covers as sending a message to female readers that “These books are not for you.” That’s not quite what Marvel’s covers say. Instead, Marvel’s message is: “If you’re looking for female heroes, your options are very limited.” Statistically, their numbers are low, and more anecdotally female characters don’t seem to play a huge role in the wider machinations of the Marvel universe. As always, it’s very much a man’s world.

NOTES:

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

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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