Gendercrunching by Tim Hanley
DC and Marvel posted notable losses in their overall totals of female creators in April, leaving both publishers well off of the high points they reached in 2016. We also begin our biannual visits to smaller direct market publishers, with stops at Image, Dark Horse, and IDW.
DC’s overall percentage of female creators declined yet again, marking the sixth straight month of losses for the publisher. In April 2017, DC put out 75 new comic books with 692 credited creators, 593 men and 99 women. Here are their stats:
DC’s overall total fell 1.7%, a fairly significant loss given that the numbers were only in the teens to begin with. Only two categories posted gains, and small ones at that, with female letterers and colorists both rising 2 points each. Everything else was down; there were minor losses for female cover artists, writers, pencillers, and inkers, while women in the editorial ranks took a sizeable tumble with female editors down more than 5 points and female assistant editors down over 7 points. Those big drops were the key factor here, and the overall percentage slipped down accordingly.
The Past Year at DC: It’s a woeful chart this month, with DC’s past highs slipping further and further into the past as the numbers just keep on dropping:
Losses for six straight months is a rough enough situation, but this decline has also brought DC’s female creator representation to its lowest level in the past year, by a fair margin.
Last month, we thought that women at Marvel might have been on the way up, but April’s numbers suggest that this is not the case. In April 2017, Marvel released 81 new comics from 762 credited creators, 634 men and 128 women. Let’s look at the numbers:
Just like their distinguished competition, Marvel’s overall percentage of female creators fell 1.7% in April, a big loss that’s nonetheless in keeping with Marvel’s chaotic run over the past several months. The publisher was all over the map by category; female cover artists fell nearly 5 points, pencillers and inkers were both down a couple of points, and editors dropped a tiny amount. But female writers rose a smidge, colorists went up 6 points, and assistant editors jumped up a couple of points too. Female letterers remained at 0% yet again, for the bazillionth straight month. The losses for female cover artists were a big factor this month; Marvel loves it’s variant covers, so that category counts for an awful lot. A significant drop there usually means a drop overall, and here we are.
The Past Year at Marvel: There are a lot of ups and downs here, so much so that it’s hard to get a clear read on any kind of trajectory at Marvel:
Marvel varies considerably from month to month, but sorting through all of the noise it looks like the publisher is hovering around a consistent level of about 17% female creators. The female creator numbers aren’t growing or decreasing in any real way, long term. They’re holding steady right now as a whole, just jumping around a lot on a month to month basis.
TOURING THE DIRECT MARKET, PART 1
Twice a year, we like to take a spin around other direct market publishers to see how female creator representation is doing across the board. We choose the publishers based on the sales numbers, using unit share as our guide. DC and Marvel are always the top two, and this month we’ll look at the next three bestselling publishers: Image, Dark Horse, and IDW. We’ll visit the next four bestselling publishers next month, which will be Dynamite, Boom, Titan, and Valiant. By the end of the tour, we’ll have covered about 94% of all of the comics sold in the direct market each month. Let’s start with Image:
Image can be a frustrating visit sometimes. As much as they market themselves as the anti-Big Two, their numbers are never very different than DC or Marvel’s when it comes to female creators. In April 2017, Image put out 54 new comic books by 251 credited creators, 210 men and 41 women. Here are their stats:
Image’s overall percentage of female creators has fallen 2.6% since we visited them last August, leaving them with an overall total well in the range of what we’re used to seeing from DC and Marvel. Now, I should point out the usual caveat about Image’s numbers: About a third of their books don’t have editors, and only five of them have assistant editors, so the lack of a strong editorial section makes it difficult to directly compare their overall total to DC and Marvel. They can be compared by category, however, and Image doesn’t come out looking at all progressive in that regard when it comes to female creator representation; DC and/or Marvel top them in every category. Nearly all of their numbers are slightly down from their October levels as well, with only female colorists posting a gain with a whopping 1 point rise. So April was a disappointing month across the board for women at Image.
DARK HORSE COMICS
When we visited Dark Horse last October, they’d taken a bit of a tumble in terms of their overall percentage of female creators, but they gained a big chunk of it back in April. In April 2017, Dark Horse released 20 new comics with 145 credited creators, 117 men and 28 women. Let’s look at their numbers:
Dark Horse’s overall percentage of female creators is up 1.8% since October, a solid gain that lands them at the head of the pack among the five publishers we looked at this month. The bulk of that gain was in editorial; female editors doubled their percentage, while assistant editors jumped nearly 20 points. Female writers, colorists, and letterers saw small gains as well, though there were massive losses in the art categories. Female pencillers and inkers both fell by about two thirds, dropping 14 points from their stellar showing in October. Female representation has grown at Dark Horse overall, but the art nosedive is stark.
IDW was on the downswing as well in April, giving us 4 out of 5 publishers whose overall percentage of female creators has dropped since we last visited them. In April 2017, IDW put out 40 new comic books featuring 303 credited creators, 254 men and 49 women. Here are their charts:
IDW’s overall percentage of female creators fell 2.4%, another sizeable drop. These publishers aren’t just dipping slightly, they’re all taking a noticeable step down! April was actually decent for IDW in certain categories, with female pencillers, inkers, and editors all up several points from their October totals. Female colorists and letterers slipped down slightly, but the biggest drop was for female cover artists, who fell more than 5 points. Much like Marvel, IDW loves their variant covers, and a big loss there made it hard for the other gains to overcome. All told, the losses won out and IDW’s overall total slipped down considerably.
So that wasn’t the cheeriest month of stats we’ve ever done. Everyone we visited was firmly in the high teens, which is decent relative to past performances a couple of years back, but so many of them being so far down from their previous highs is an unfortunate trend. We know that there are lots of female creators out there doing great work, and that each of these publishers have hired them in higher numbers than they are currently, so there’s really no good reason for female representation to be dropping at so many publishers.
To learn more about the Gendercrunching 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 books Wonder Woman Unbound and Investigating Lois Lane are available now, and his new book, The Many Lives of Catwoman: The Felonious History of a Feline Fatale, comes out July 1st.