Yesterday was International Women’s Day, a fantastic day devoted to celebrating and highlighting women around the world. IWD is a great time to pick up new comic books created by and/or about women. It is also an important time to reflect on the contributions of women to this industry, and the continued obstacles they face. Publishing companies must be held responsible for what they produce. As customers, we must be responsible in what we buy. In service of that, here is was the state of women’s representation in comics for 2016. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t great.
We took the 500 best-selling comics (106 unique titles) of 2016, sourced from Comichron, and then marked if they had a woman either as the writer or the artist. The result is disheartening to say the very least. Women were on the creative teams of:
- 17% of titles
- 11% of comics
- 11% of DC comics
- 8% of Marvel comics
- 28% of Image comics
- 43% of combined Boom, IDW, Archie, and Dark Horse comics
Teams without a woman sold an average of 82,896 copies. Teams with a woman sold on average a full 6,591 issues less.
This is a not-astonishing but very disheartening disparity. As a result, 2016 gets an F score for gender balance. You failed 2016 (surprise).
Let’s start with some limitations on this data. First, it was pulled from Comichron, which gathers estimates from Diamond Comic Distributor’s end of month reports. This does not take into account digital sales, or actual sales to consumers: this is just what Diamond is sending to shops. Also, anyone who isn’t listed as a main artist or writer was not considered in the team. This is not a remark on the contribution of colorists, inkers, letters, or editors to the final product; they are integral and should be celebrated and analyzed. But, there was time limitations, so we stuck with main writer and author.
What it all means
So what does this all mean? To make it clear right out of the gate: the wrong interpretation is “books sell less when women are on them, because women are on them.” No. Wrong. Go home. However, some reasons seem more likely than others. First, there’s just less of them. It’s nigh impossible to have parity with all-men teams if the number of women creators isn’t even close. Additionally, of the 53 comics issues created with women, 9 did not feature a woman. This suggests that women are more likely to be put on books about women, which are notoriously less advertised and supported by their publishers and shops. They are also purchased less by consumers. Which brings us back to you.
What can you do
You should do this every day, not just IWD:
- The almighty dollar: spend it on books written by and about women. These are businesses first and foremost, and they respond to where dollars are being spent.
- Ask for recommendations from your friends, local shop owners, the Internet, Monkeys Fighting Robots, me, and we will give them to you.
- Speak out. Tweet or Facebook or email your publishers, and demand that they hire more women. Ask your shop to order more books written by or about women.
- Read them, and then recommend or give them to your friends! That’s how you grow a base of support.
- Listen. Listen to when women speak out about this problem. Listen to creators who discuss the problems within the industry. Listen to the fans who beg for their beloved franchises to be better. Listen.
Do you have a favorite book created by or about women? Let us know in the comments!