DC Gives Batgirl the Cold Shoulder

I still have a few Comic-Con panel write-ups to finish, but in the meantime I’d like to point out some interesting coverage from others about what happened at the DC Comics panels.  I read comics occasionally, but I don’t consider myself a fanatic.  I am, however, a longtime fan of Wonder Woman and have blogged about the seeming inability of Hollywood to create a respectable television or movie treatment for her character. 

More importantly, I’ve been very interested in the developments surrounding the impending DC reboot for two reasons.  First, I’ve always felt that reboots are fans – mostly men – trying to make their favorite story or superhero “better.” With the state of the Star Wars Expanded Universe we’re seeing the reboot rally call being raised more these days, and for that reason I think what happens with DC will set the tone for other franchises like Star Wars.  Second, the DC reboot is starting to look more and more like a contraction from diversity right when women are proving to be valuable and loyal consumers.  Sadly, my gut instinct that this whole DC debacle is basically a couple of fanboys remaking the DC universe into their own male-dominated playground, back to the way it used to be, is growing stronger.

On the Comics Alliance website, Laura Hudson wrote a great opinion piece on a fan question posed to DC co-publisher Dan DiDio and his answer.

“Why did you go from 12% in women [creators] to 1% on your creative teams?”

To which DiDio replied in a startlingly aggressive tone, “What do those numbers mean to you? What do they mean to you? Who should we be hiring? Tell me right now. Who should we be hiring right now? Tell me.”

I think Laura does a really nice job of explaining the failings of that answer (beyond that it’s repetitive and a non-answer in the form of a question), but here’s one thing in particular that caught my eye.

While these individual efforts to better understand and represent the human condition are pretty essential both on a creative and socially responsible level, if you have a staff whose makeup is totally disproportionate to its characters, this kind of imbalance is going to have consequences, both in subtle terms of aesthetics and characterization, and more dramatic terms of straight up exploitation and stereotyping. It’s worth saying again: Women are half of the world, and a significant percentage of the DC Comics character stable, and yet only 1% of their creators.

Additionally, the website DC Women Kicking Ass provided a recounting of various reports coming out of Comic-Con about the woman dressed in the Batgirl costume who took these questions of creative equality straight to the DC bigwigs at their panels. On July 27th, they posted a lengthy interview with Batgirl about her experiences.

DCWKA: Did you have concerns about DC and female characters/creators before the reboot?

I did. Comics have some of the most visible imbalance between males and females in popular media. I cut my teeth on Sailor Moon fandom a long time ago, and I missed the sheer variety of interesting women when I started reading comics. DC has some great female characters, but it doesn’t have nearly enough of them. However, most of the questions I asked at the panels came directly from my experiences at SDCC. It was something I was vaguely aware of, and it wasn’t until I was smacked in the face with the profound dearth of female creators that I decided to ask about them.

For those who would like to hand-wave away women who say they aren’t treated fairly, I can’t find a better example than this one female fan’s experience to prove that this kind of thing very much still happens.  At the same time, the Batgirl Who Asked The Important Questions At Comic-Con noted several instances where she received a positive reception from some comic book creators who she thinks merit our support in light of their reactions and responses.

You have to wonder when a major franchise goes against all business logic and dismisses nearly half its customer base out of hand – Are these publishers truly existing in reality? Or are they just trying to create one where they can rule the world?

Update: Late last night DC Entertainment started doing some damage control. Responses came from Courtney Simmons, Senior Vice President for Publicity, and also Jim Lee and Dan DiDio, Co-Publishers.  They can be found in the comments section of the Comics Alliance post that I linked to above.



Tricia Barr took her understanding of brand management and marketing, mixed it with a love of genre storytelling, and added a dash of social media flare to create FANgirl Blog, where she discusses Star Wars, fandom, and the intersection of women within Star Wars fandom. She is co-author of Ultimate Star Wars and Star Wars Visual Encyclopedia from DK Publishing, a featured writer for Star Wars Insider magazine with numerous articles on the Hero's Journey. Her FANgirl opinions can be heard on the podcasts Hyperspace Theories and Fangirls Going Rogue. Tricia Barr's novel, Wynde, won the 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Ebook. She was also part of Silence in the Library's successful all-female creator science fiction and fantasy anthology Athena's Daughters, which is available now. For excerpts and tales of her adventures in creating a fictional universe, hop over to TriciaBarr.com.

7 thoughts on “DC Gives Batgirl the Cold Shoulder

  • July 30, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    This episode leaves me (almost) speechless. I am slightly encouraged that DC is at least trying to do damage control. That means they have some level of awareness of just what a mess was created in a matter of minutes at ComicCon. Unfortunately, public relations damage control will not necessarily result in any change in a philosophy that seems to have been internalized within the management ranks at DC. The truly ridiculous thing is that such limited thinking – whether it is pervasive at the company yet, or not – is mostly detrimental to DC and its market potential. I don’t know of many companies that can afford to contain revenue in the current economy yet that will surely be the result of such flippant treatment of potential customers.

    I am very sorry that “Batgirl” Kyrax2 had to endure that but at the same time I applaud her courage and self-assurance in standing up to the idiotic commentary from DC management. Bravo, girl, BRAVO!

    As for Mr. DiDio and others at DC: haven’t you heard? Women are the biggest, hottest market in all of geekdom right now. If you don’t want us there are plenty of other Comic-Anime-SciFi-Fantasy-Gaming publishers who will gladly take our money. Best of luck!

  • August 1, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    Is that you, BatgirltoOracle? :-)

    But DiDio’s tone and comment are of a piece with his tenure as EIC (I recall his attitude towards both the Steph Memorial and firing Chuck Dixon…right after he brought both Stephanie and Cassandra back…) The problem I see is that EIC seem to live for this kind of rudeness to fans (see also: Joe Quesada).

    It seems odd that all this should be happening now…it almost seems like a larger, widespread, spilling-into-real-life version of RaceFail…does that make it GenderFail?

    • August 1, 2011 at 8:41 pm

      Well that’s interesting to know. I have no historical perspective like I do of Star Wars fandom. Thanks for filling in that piece of information.

      It’s just such a bizarre business attitude. But I don’t think this is always about making the most successful comics but rather “their” comics.

  • August 2, 2011 at 10:57 pm

    Tricia, I have to say that I’ve just discovered your blog, read several posts, and I’m impressed. I’m really glad I found my way here!

    I personally think we’ll start seeing a change in the “fanboy” only club. I remember wanting a Batman toy when I was younger (it was a bridge that the Batmobile would drive over and the bridge would collapse leaving Batman in peril). I wanted it so badly! I loved Wonder Woman. And Superman was da Bomb! :) As more of us fangirls grow up and influence our own children and they in turn their’s, fangirls will rise stronger. We need more people like Colleen Doran to keep working with DC (and I hope she is part of that 1%). I’d be interested to know what the ratio of female to male illustrators was at ComicCon – are there getting to be more female artists in the artists’ alley?

    What do you think the biggest problem is facing fangirls? Lack of good stories that women can get into? Lack of relationships between the characters that women can get into? Or something else?

    • August 3, 2011 at 8:05 am

      What do you think the biggest problem is facing fangirls? Lack of good stories that women can get into? Lack of relationships between the characters that women can get into? Or something else?

      Biggest problems – women getting equivalent portrayals as heroes and villians. Female characters often aren’t relatable, accessible and act like men without boobs. Then other times we see relationships stifled between characters in order to make the character more “heroic.” There are so many things that I’ve wrote about on this subject. More to come.

      • August 4, 2011 at 3:40 pm

        Thanks, Tricia. That’s a great reply. Definitely have left me with some things to consider.

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