Gendercrunching September 2013 – The Impact Of Dial E

Tim Hanley writes;

It was a month of very minor changes overall for the Big Two publishers, with DC down and Marvel up only 0.1% each, with Marvel yet again posting the higher percentage of female creators. We also take a look at DC’s Villains Month and how one outlier can make big waves.

DC COMICS

It was an unusual month for DC Comics, but even some oddly inflated numbers couldn’t increase their overall percentage. In September 2013, DC put out 76 books featuring 655 credited creators, 585 men and 80 women. Here are their stats:

g1 DC was down only 0.1% overall, an insignificant amount. Cover artists were down by nearly 5 points, with writers falling 2.5 points, editors down more than 2, and a small loss for colorists. Assistant editors were up 4 points, and there were big jumps for pencillers and inkers, though we’ll discuss how those numbers are deceptive momentarily. Overall, the numbers this month should have been a lot worse for DC but some quirks of the stats kept them to just a small loss overall.

Compared To A Year Ago: DC was at 10% last September, so they’re up 2% since then.

MARVEL COMICS

Marvel ticked up slightly, with several changes across the categories resulting in little net difference. In September 2013, Marvel released 64 comics with 556 credited creators, 477 men and 79 women. Let’s look at the numbers:

g2A gain is always nice, but 0.1% is pretty negligible. Writers and colorists both fell a couple of percentage points, while cover artists were up nearly 2% and there were actually female pencillers and inkers at Marvel this month, albeit in very small numbers. A small gain for editors was offset by a bigger fall for assistant editors, but ultimately the change in gains outweighed the change in losses and Marvel remained pretty stable.

Compared To A Year Ago: September 2012 was when Marvel jumped to a new high for their overall percentage, so these comparisons are going to get tougher from here on. Last year, Marvel was at 14.1%, so they’re only up 0.1% a year later.

VILLAINS MONTH AND OUTLIERS

The solicits for Villains Month looked pretty dismal for female creators, with only a handful of women writing books and no women whatsoever doing any kind of art. Yet, when you look up at DC’s numbers, their art totals for pencillers and inkers were in the range of 10% each, record highs for the always miniscule (at both publishers) art categories. So what happened? One book, Justice League #23.3 – Dial E,skewed the numbers.

Dial E had 21 different artists across its pages, and 10 of these 21 artists were women. This is, of course, fantastic. Carla Berrocal, Carmen Carnero, Michelle Farran, Emi Lenox, Sloane Leong, Tula Lotay, Emma Rios, Annie Wu, Kelsey Wroten, and Mary Zarcone all had a page. I guess when it’s the book’s final issue, they’re allowed to let women draw for a change. Regardless, it’s great to see so many talented women showcased in this issue.

However, it threw our numbers for a bit of a loop. The methodology for this project is to count every single creator credited in a book, regardless of how much they actually do. It’s worked well so far, even with odd sized-books like double issues or anthologies; each individual artist usually gets to draw a complete story or at least a decent number of pages. But one page for each artist made Dial E a serious outlier, particularly in a month that was conspicuously low on female creators elsewhere.

No methodology is perfect, and it’s silly to change course now after nearly three years. We’ve looked at different methodologies in the past, and I think the way we do it here captures the most accurate snapshot of gender for Big Two creators. The numbers listed above will stand. Nonetheless, to understand Villains Month in the context of DC’s last two big event Septembers, we need to dig a little deeper.

In the following chart, you can see the totals for female creators in the Villains month titles, all of them versus all of them minus Dial E. Obviously, Dial E had a big effect:

g3A lot of categories stayed roughly the same, but the art numbers were much, much higher with Dial E in the mix. Dial E featured several female colorists as well, skewing those numbers a tad too. The book had so many female creators that they added an extra 2.1% to the overall total. This is a pretty big impact for just one book.

SIDENOTE: It’s sad that I only need a chart that goes up to 24% to show all of the percentages for female creators on the Villains Month books. That is weak.

Dial E is such an unprecedented outlier that I’m going to take it out of the equation for comparisons to DC’s past September stunts. It skews the data too much for there to be an accurate comparison. Bizarrely, the art categories actually turned out better than the past two Septembers, even with Dial E out of the picture:

g4Outside of all of the women in Dial E, Justice League of America #7.1 – Deadshot featured art by Carmen Carnero (she also had a page in Dial E), and the presence of this one female artist gave this September a higher percentage of female pencillers and inkers than there were the past two years.

Writers did much better as well, with the 4 women writing books for Villains Month topping last year’s 3 and the previous year’s 2. I assume there’ll be 5 female writers for whatever event DC is lining up for September 2014.

Colorists were down considerably, though, and there were no female cover artists or letterers at all. Editorial was more troublesome. While editors were up very slightly from last year, assistant editors were down more than 14%, a substantial drop.

All together, taking Dial E out of the equation, Villain Months had the lowest overall percentage of female creators for the three months examined, and by a considerable margin. Even if you threw Dial E back into the mix, things would be barely better than last year’s #0 issues at a paltry 8.1%.

While it’s wonderful to see so many female artists in Dial E, DC has yet again done a poor job of showcasing female talent across their other 51 titles during a big event. Less than half of the books featured any female creators at all, even in editorial. For some reason, in the one month of the year when DC knows they are going to sell the most comics, they hide as many female creators as they can. Or, in the case of Villains Month, put them all into just one book. It’s a bizarre practice, and a perpetual missed opportunity for DC.

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 Circumstancesand follow him on Twitter@timhanley01.

About Rich Johnston

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