One of the comments I hear a great deal around the internet is that “girls just don’t like superheroes.” While it’s by no means the majority opinion, it’s something that I run into often enough that it becomes frustrating, especially when people — mostly men — tell me what I myself and other women may or may not like.
Which was part of the inspiration of my Open Letters to DC Comics, especially part three, which talked about how DC should reach out beyond its 18- to 34-year-old mostly white demographic in order to increase the odds of success for their big new digital push come September.
One of my favorite blogs right now is the DCWomenKickingAss tumblr. Not only because it has a female point of view but because it tends to have the most awesome DC news for both heroes and heroines, a constant stream of cool artwork, and great stuff like “Most Kick-Ass DC Heroine” and “Most Memorable Moment” contests.
The woman behind the blog is Sue, who’s also part of the 3 Chicks Review Comics podcast sponsored by the Comics Should be Good blog on ComicBookResources.com. For a sample of her work, check out this post “It’s Not About the Pants.“
GeekDad: Why did you start the site?
Sue: Part of it was to see if I could do a blog to sharpen my social media skills but the real impetus was Greg Rucka’s leaving DC Comics. I was concerned it would have an impact on the great female characters in DC. So I thought I would showcase them. There are lots of blogs focused on women and comics and others focused on the cheesecake aspects, but I wanted to show how “kick ass” the characters were. It started off with just images but I started adding in commentary, reviews and special series like “the Kick Ass alphabet” and the Most Memorable Moments.
GeekDad: What do you think DC does right with its female and minority characters?
Sue: To their credit, they recognize that female characters can carry a book. Birds of Prey, Batgirl and Catwoman and Supergirl have a few volumes that ran for awhile. They also deserve a lot of credit for a book like Manhunter, which was given a three different chances. I think they recognize quality and in that case really went out of their way to keep it going. And DC has found and nurtured good writers who write complex female characters. Greg Rucka, Gail Simone, Bryan Q. Miller all did terrific work ongoing books.
What do they do right with minorities?
They’ve tried? They need to do more but at least they’ve made an effort. And it looks like they are making a concerted effort with the DCnU [DC new Universe aka the reboot with new #1 issues in September] with male men of color.
DC also deserves to be commended for the work they have done with lesbians. I still can’t believe that Detective Comics, one of their two premiere iconic books, had two out lesbians, Batwoman and the Question, as the leads for an arc. To date their work with gays hasn’t been nearly as impressive. I hope that changes.
GeekDad: Where do they go wrong?
Sue: You know this is going to be a lot longer answer, right? And that I am going to have a separate section for Wonder Woman?
If I had to pick the most obvious thing they do wrong is they let artists go crazy with the sexualized poses and ridiculous body shapes. Not all women have huge boobs. Most women do not stand so you can see both their ass and their boobs. No matter how great the writing is on a book, I still wince, as do many other readers both male and female, when they see that kind of art in a book. And speaking of the writing, while DC had some great writers, Greg Rucka, Gail Simone, and Bryan Q. Miller (I’ll add Justin Gray/Jimmy Palmiotti on the list as well) who created and wrote complex female characters, the fact I can name them all on one hand is an issue. And the fact that two of them are now gone and the other had both the books that she writes with strong complex female characters canceled or rebooted into another entity, is also an issue.
With Wonder Woman? I honestly don’t think anyone in management at DC loves Wonder Woman. I don’t think they hate her. I don’t think they don’t like her, I just don’t think she has someone with power who evangelizes her the way Geoff Johns does the Flash and Green Lantern.
As a result the character gets futzed with constantly. As I’ve said before the only thing wrong with Wonder Woman is that they keep trying to fix her. I think they are up to the seventh writer in 6 years (Rucka, [Allan] Heinberg, [Jodi] Picoult, Simone, JMS [J. Michael Straczynski], [Phil] Hester, [Brian] Azzarello). That’s ridiculous. And that’s also three different versions of the character. They rebooted with Heinberg. Reboot with JMS and are rebooting again with Azzarello. I hope this is the last time because it is hard to create momentum and an audience for a character this way. If I could wish anything for Wonder Woman if would be for a top DC creator or editor to wake up and be besotted with her, understand her and be given free reign to make her the success I think she can be.
As far as minorities go I think they have a few problems.
First their top teams need to stop being so white and straight. Did you look at that line-up for the new JLA? They have 2.5 people of color – Element Woman, Cyborg and half of Firestorm. How can they look at that and say, “Hey that looks right!” The best way to get people to know get hooked on a character is to put them into a popular team book. Once they develop an audience then spin them out. That’s why it’s vital for diverse characters be on these teams.
A good example of this was Jaime Reyes, the new Blue Beetle who is Mexican American. Kudos to DC for creating him and giving him his own book a few years back. But they gave him the name of a popular character who had been recently killed off. That’s going to bother some readers. And they they launched him in the middle of big cross-over. The character didn’t get a chance to develop with the audience. And while it was a great book, it failed.
I am thrilled they are now taking a much smarter approach. He’s got a following now because of being put on Justice League: Generation Lost (and the Batman Brave and the Bold TV show) as well as the hardcore fans from the first run. Another good example of this was Batwoman. It was very smart to have her appear in Detective first rather than her own book. It gave her an opportunity to become familiar to a core audience. Sad that its taken so long to get the book launched following her successful run. But much of that just couldn’t be avoided. DC needs to bring diversity into its best books with the biggest audiences.
GeekDad: How do you think they could reach these readers, particularly digitally? Do you think they’re doing what they need to do to make the reboot/digital launch a success? Do you worry about the fate of books like Mister Terrific, Batwoman, Static Shock and the new Birds of Prey?