Wow, DC really can’t do something big without stirring up the storm can they?
With the relaunch announcements grabbing more headlines than the real news (that being the day and date digital releases) DC has managed to not see one issue coming. Or they see it, and just don’t care. Where all da wimmin at?
Gail Simone is writing 2 of the new monthly books and Jenny Frisson is doing a cover. Just one cover. There is more out there in the world than Rob Liefeld. Did we really need to bring him back? There was not ONE other woman out there that could write Hawk & Dove? This is a book that will more than likely, be on the short list for cancellation within 3 issues. Maybe that is why no one would touch it. There are, to my knowledge more female artists out there than writers, but I know there are more than just the wonderful Ms Simone! In the artist end of things I am even a bit more surprised. There are some real fan favorites (artists and writers) that have nothing on DC’s schedule in September. Amanda Conner, Katie Cook, Nicola Scott, Trina Robbins, Louise Simonson and the list goes on! True, some were probably offered something and were not interested for reasons of their own, but just Gail Simone and Jenny Frisson?
There was a point in the past I would have said that this was just the women complaining, then I grew up some and try to look at it intelligently. Or at least as intelligently as I am able. True, there are not all that many women in the field these days compared to the men, and a lot of that is a cultural issue. Women have not been mainstays of the industry in any point in its history. The days when a Dalia Messick could get work because she went by Dale are gone. The internet makes all of that kind of insulting tomfoolery transparent. There has always been a serious lack of women but I believe that it can never be truly equal. There just are not as many women as men interested. The reason for some of that has shifted. It used to be simple enough: girls didn’t read comics. That is no longer true. Many books, and not just the ones you would assume, have larger female readership. And it is not that women are not artists and writers. One look at the bookstores will tell you that. Now I wonder if it may not be the fact that there are other, more attractive mediums/markets to go into. There is a talent drain that has happened slowly over the years from comics in the traditional mainstream sense, to other medium peripheral to the traditional comic book. Web comics seem to have a much better ratio of men to women. A couple of the standouts here would be Danielle Corsetto (Girls With Slingshots) and Lora Innes (The Dreamer). In other media there is quite a draw also. Design, book illustration art of all kinds that would draw someone, not already interested in comics further away. In fact, I think it may be a safe bet that if someone, man or woman, is not a comic book fan to start with, they are not likely to enter the field professionally. As the medium slowly fades away (yes, it is slowly fading away) fewer young people are influenced by it and chose it as a career path. So there is that factor, but it does not explain this huge shift.
As I look at this more, I really do wonder if this isn’t something different. This level of exclusion is SO out of the norm, that I wonder if it might not be deliberate. This is not to say that I think Geoff Johns, Jim Lee and Dan Didio are sitting in the dark halls of the DC compound planning ways to exclude Ms Frisson et al, but there can be an institutional mindset that can be so much a part of the industry, that even the newer blood is not immune. It does not have to be a conscious choice to be something that is made to happen. The “old boys” network is not just for the long serving, and it need not be worked at. At some point, to reverse this trend, a deliberate choice to go the other way may be needed. No, not quotas or preferential hiring. The need for a meritocracy is still there. Bringing in female writer “X” just because the is female does not solve the problem. In fact, it will make it worse. Nevermind the inevitable male backlash, the issue here is that bad books by less than stellar talent, again male or female, will drive readers and other talent away.
What is needed, I think, is a concentrated search for new talent ALL the time. Just like any kind of marketing or recruiting, you tailor it to fit a demographic. Just like you want to sell a car to a thirty something male with no kids and a lot of disposable income, you can target any segment of the market you want. You can choose to bring in new talent in very much the same way. Even the days of the old Marvel Try out book are well past, and no longer likely to be of use. (Any one who thinks products are not marketed that specifically needs to wake the hell up! I knew an ad guy for a car manufacturer many years ago that was quite proud of a campagne he helped design that marketed one specific model of a car to gay men over 40. And it sold to that demo just as planned.)
I remember there was once a lot of talk about the big two recruiting in the art schools, but that never seemed to materialize. Now you get portfolio review at cons. The attitude that the talent will show up when needed does not bring the top talent, it brings in whatever comes through the door. Comic as an industry has always been more than willing to cannibalize itself. I think that comes from the trash product mentality from the earliest days of the medium, and it is unfortunately still with us.
Get it together DC. For that matter, the entire industry. While some publishers are better than others, and most are better than DC in this case, there is a long way to go. The diversity created by women and men sharing the creative duties can only help comics. This all just seems so short sighted…