Marvel Editors Discuss Women in Comics and the Lack of Female-Led Titles [Interview]
By Laura Hudson
Both Marvel and DC Comics have been at the center of concerns and controversies recently regarding women in comics, both in terms of the way they are represented on the page and in the offices of the Big Two comics publishers. While DC Comics has quite a few ongoing titles devoted to female characters (Batgirl, Batwoman, Birds of Prey, Catwoman Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Voodoo), there are very few women actually involved in creating them, an issue that has infused criticism of the company’s relaunch since the beginning, and was recently compounded by the recent news that writer Gail Simone is leaving Firestorm.
Marvel Comics, meanwhile, seems to have the opposite problem; with the recent cancellation of X-23, there are no female-led ongoings in the Marvel Universe (with the possible exception of the 12-issue miniseriesThe Fearless) but significantly more women working in creative and editorial roles. The two companies illustrate two different but interrelated problems: the lack of women playing major roles in the comics, and the lack of women playing major roles in creating them. While neither situation is ideal, what are the implications of both problems, and which has a bigger impact on the comics that are created or the audience they reach?
ComicsAlliance reached out to both Marvel and DC Comics, and while DC declined to discuss the issue, Marvel gave us access to both Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso and Editor Jeanine Schaefer, who also worked as the lead editor for Marvel’s Girl Comics anthology and oversaw the Women of Marvel initiative. They spoke frankly about the reasons behind the lack of female-led titles, what it means, and what they want for the future of women at Marvel.
ComicsAlliance: Is the current lack of solo titles for female characters purely based on the performance of previous and current titles, or are other factors in play? What do you think is the significance of this absence, and how did it come about?
Jeanine Schaefer: Sales. It’s slightly more complicated than that, but in the end it all comes down to sales and perceived interest. Now more than ever, we’re in a time where people who buy super hero comics are sticking with things that, in their eyes, “count.” And that means the “big books”: Avengers, Cap, Spidey and X-Men, for example. Many of the smaller titles are suffering because of that, not just the ones starring women. It just stands out more when it’s a female-lead book because there aren’t enough of them.
Axel Alonso: Yes, the current market is very difficult. We’ve seen a lot of our mid-list titles take a dip: Daken, X-23 and Black Panther have all been casualties. Is it the last we’ve seen of these characters? Absolutely not. Could we see them anchor new series in the near-future? Of course. It all depends on timing and execution.
Read much more from this interview exclusively at ComicsAlliance.