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Why are women in comics so rare?

The Geek Out blog over on CNN takes up the topic on the rarity of women in the comics business.

There are less women self-publishing or working on independent comics, which makes it harder for DC or Marvel to find female creators that can deliver quality work in a decent time frame. Asselin said having those creators reach out to editors is rare.

“In my time as an editor, I’ve been contacted by exactly one woman looking for work. I hired her, because she was good and I happened to have a spot to see what she could do. But if I hadn’t known of her, would I have gone looking for a woman, or hired one of the men I know that can do her job?” Asselin said.

The article covers the topic pretty well. I think it will be another 5-10 years before we see the ranks get to the 50/50 stage of male vs. female, but with the rise of webcomics and self publishing, there are more women getting into comics.

Community Comments

#1 Jules Rivera
October/26/2011
@ 8:56 am

I’d like to know where CNN gets the information that “there are less women self-publishing or working on independent comics.” I suppose my experience is merely anecdotal, but from what I’ve seen, that’s actually not true. In the webcomics world, where I live, the split is about 50/50. Many of those webcomics do print runs, hence, many women do self publish. Perhaps the problem lies in self promotion. Most of us are too busy working on comics to crow to the media about what we do.

I can’t speak for most women, but I have my reasons for not wanting to submit work to “The Big Two.” A lot of those reasons have to do with working for folks (not naming names) who make highly questionable editorial decisions and for a lot less pay than what I’m making now. I already have a stressful job. What’s the point to doing that? Street cred? Street cred doesn’t lower my blood pressure or put food on my table.

The industry needs to grow, no doubt. However, the big two seem bent on not changing their direction, or worse, regressing to times better left in the past (COUGH-THE 90’S-COUGH). Unless some radical changes come from the top, Big Two will never change, so how can we grow the industry in such a stubborn, regressive environment?

#2 Jim Lavery
October/26/2011
@ 9:28 am

It’s a well known fact that women are a minority, making up only a small percentage of the population.

#3 Matt Bors
October/26/2011
@ 10:06 am

I don’t know if you can say there are that many less for the under 30 demographic. There are a ton of great lady cartoonists–so much so that I don’t see them as being thought of as women cartoonists, just cartoonists, which is how it should be.

As an editor at Cartoon Movement I’ve had zero trouble finding numerous female cartoonists and writers to work with.

#4 Gerry Mooney
October/26/2011
@ 10:06 am

Maybe it’s because female creators aren’t as invested in the whole superhero paradigm. I mean, grown men dressing in tights and masks to beat up bad guys? I don’t think women are so interested in that narrow, narrow definition that has been foisted on us by the comics industry. Besides, it’s been done, done, done to death.
Commercial comics used to include funny animals, romance, war, cowboys, Herbie (Herbie!)…
If the comics industry could break free of their superhero fixation (as if), the range and types of creators wanting to work in the field might change for the better.

#5 Terry LaBan
October/26/2011
@ 10:18 am

Anyone who’s been to a mainstream comic convention knows why there aren’t more women in the business–the entire art form is geared to meatheaded guys who stopped maturing emotionally at 14. However, at SPX this year, it looked to me like at least half the attendees and exhibitors were women. Which I thought was incredible.

#6 donna lewis
October/26/2011
@ 10:40 am

I am lobbying my congressional representative to pass legislation requiring affirmative action for women in all fields related to humor. Let me know if you want to sign my petition. Or, if you’re a woman who doesn’t know how to reach out, just send me an empty email and I’ll get a man to reach out for you.

#7 Kat Ruhl
October/26/2011
@ 12:34 pm

There are tos of women creating comics. TONS. Women are telling their own stories and are speedily taking over in independent comics. Most of the new bright stars of comics are young women, who ever wrote this article needs to check their facts and do more research. Scott McCloud talked about the rising numbers of women in comics not long ago (but don’t ask me to try and find it, haha) so this is even more ridiculous to me.

I read comics all the time, both web comics and print comics and over half of what I read is by women, not because I seek out stuff by fellow ladies but because the stuff they’re creating is awesome and hugely varied in stories and in art styles.

Add to that the fact that I’m currently working on three comics myself (two are collaborations mind) and that all my female friends at least dabble in making comics and all I can do is scoff at this nonsense.

#8 Gerry Mooney
October/26/2011
@ 1:05 pm

Now now, you gals should stop worrying your pretty little heads and…STOP! PUT DOWN THAT PEN!….AAAAaaaaaggh!

#9 Dave Stephens
October/26/2011
@ 1:52 pm

What percentage is “TONS”?

5%?

10%

20%?

In Marvel or DC, I think it’s less than 5%.

In the comics page of newspapers and magazines, I think it’s around 10%

In web-only comics, I’d hazard a guess of 25%, maybe 30%, but I suppose the figure might be higher if only the top 500 web comics are included, I dunno… Certainly there are quite a few bright and talented stars who are female, at least I know I admire and follow a bunch of amazing women cartoonists and their work is something like 20% of the web comics I look forward to every day…

#10 B Birdashaw
October/26/2011
@ 3:09 pm

The article seems a little skewed. It’s discussing the big comic book producers, but doesn’t mention independent comics, or even those who work for news papers or in web comics. I believe about 40-50% of the comics I read are done by women, and I don’t think about the sex of the author when I’m reading a comic. I’m thinking about the content.

#11 donna lewis
October/26/2011
@ 3:31 pm

I think about the sex the author is having when I read a comic.

#12 Kat Ruhl
October/26/2011
@ 3:53 pm

Statistically speaking the gender ratio in comics is slowly reaching 50/50 (I think it’s something like 30-35 right now which compared to even a few years ago is tons) and it’s believed by a a decent number of people in the comic industry (not the DC Marvel industry but the industry as an actual whole) that in the next few years women will have broken that and that the scales will start tipping toward the majority being women.

The main reason for the current gap between genders is the large amount of people employed by the superhero giants are generally men. Many of them are not all that talented though, you only have to flip through a few of the big trades to see the skills in story telling and art are all over the board with them. To focus only on the superhero industry is silly since they constantly drive away new blood. Add on top of that the fact that there are usually at least three different artists (penciler, inker, colorist) on a super hero comic vs a single creator on most independent stuff and you have another reason for the number gaps.

There are a lot of young women just starting to realize they can tell stories through comics which is going to tip the scales pretty soon. The ‘boy’s club’ stigma is still fairly strong at comic shops but it’s lessening at conventions and among creators.

#13 Kat Ruhl
October/26/2011
@ 3:56 pm

Oh, I think it should also be noted this ‘rarity’ of women in comics is more then likely restrictive to the US industry and not the world comics industry. I would imagine the world ratios are vastly different.

#14 Nancy Roy
October/27/2011
@ 8:16 am

Even for humor strips, the percentage of syndicated women cartoonists is less than 5% apparently. Even on comic sherpa – we women are a minority. i would definitely like to see more women cartooning!
P.S. Donna – I will sign your petition :)

#15 Tiki Carol Leach
October/27/2011
@ 8:42 am

CNN scrapping the barrow bottom for human interest story’s.
If it were FOX the headline would have read WOMEN TAKING OVER COMICS !

#16 Mike Peterson
October/28/2011
@ 3:53 am

Maybe they want to work for people who know the difference between “less” and “fewer.”

That aside, the definition of “self-publishing” here seems a bit slippery. My experience is that there are quite a few women who self-publish, if you count running a successful blog as self-publishing.

The comic book people may just not know where to look.

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