The Women at DC Comics kurfuffle: a note from over here

by Diane Duane

I’ve loved comics all my life.

I don’t even remember when the first one fell into my world, or what it was: comics simply seem to have been around me from the beginning. I do remember that the first ones I really loved were the Superman and Superboy comics, especially when that strand of the mythos started sloshing over into the Legion of Super-Heroes. After that, along came the Justice League, and of course Wonder Woman, and eventually Green Lantern (it was always Hal Jordan for me: I like John Stewart well enough, but you can take Guy Gardner and stuff him somewhere… well, somewhere anatomically difficult except perhaps for Mogo: Gardner has never struck me as real GL material). And then came the Metal Men. And on and on. (As I look into it a bit further, taking down The DC Comics Encyclopedia to check some things, there seem to be very few corners of the Silver Age DC Universe that I’m unfamiliar with: the breadth of my reading kind of surprises me, at this end of time. When the heck did I get my homework done in elementary school? [And middle school, and college, and nursing school…?]  But ah, for the characters of yesteryear. Pause for a brief nostalgia attack…)

…Ahem. Anyway, I came a little late to the Marvel party: this time I’m pretty sure I started out with The Mighty Thor, since I had a very early penchant for Norse mythology. (I do remember being very impressed with their take on Sif, who was not prepared to just sit around being golden-haired as in the source material.) I fell deeply in love with Stan Lee’s work, and that naturally led in turn to Spidey, and elsewhere into the Marvel universe … then back again to DC and New Gods, and the dreadful and paradoxically dignified evil of Darkseid (who remains a great favorite of mine in sort of the same way that I’m very fond of King Gorice in The Worm Ouroboros: the irredeemable bad guy who’s having a dark kind of fun being that way. …Immediate rephrase: Darkseid would never have Fun. He would however permit himself to experience Amusement. Very dark amusement, of course, shading right down into the infrared.).

It should be made clear here that back then — say between ages six and eighteen or so — I was way less concerned then about any possible question of female roles or female writers in comics than I was about the adventure, as suburban Long Island was pretty short of adventure to my way of thinking. What was important then was that there should be stories, stories that engaged and entertained me. Those comics were a lifeline, somewhere to be when  my native world was annoying or dull. Without Metropolis or Gotham or Oa or Paradise Island (this was before Themyscira…), life would have sometimes been intolerable. I didn’t care whether the stories came from women, men, or people from elsewhere in Space Sector 2814, just so they kept coming and were worth reading.

I went onward into college and then into psych nursing, and my friends teased me about my comics collection… but at the same time, at science fiction conventions in NY, I started to run into people who were as enthusiastic about them as I was, and my comics reading broadened out still more. And then, after the move to California, after my first novel came out, after a bunch more conventions, after getting into animation writing, after meeting a whole bunch of comics writers along the way and becoming friendly with some of them, suddenly an astonishing thing happened, something that would have knocked the eight-or-twelve-or-fifteen-or-eighteen-year-old-comics-fan me right down flat with amazement: I got to write comics myself.

They were split pretty evenly between DC and Eclipse. At DC they were almost all Star Trek — a pair of books here, a miniseries there, the occasional special thing — but there were occasional forays elsewhere (I still really wish that the Green Lantern Corps book hadn’t been axed just after I sold Bob Greenberger this script). The Eclipse work was for The Dreamery, where I did the “Tales of Prince Ivan the Not-So-Experienced” (SHAMELESS PLUG: coming later this year in a collection with the newly written addition, “Prince Ivan and the Bachelor Parties of Doom”). I enjoyed doing all of those so much. And even when I’m not doing comics, I’m writing about reading them (“In the Company of Heroes” over here is about how important they can be to have in your life) or otherwise having fun with them: one character in the Young Wizards books is an inveterate X-Men reader: another young wizard’s sister, unable to cope just yet with the issue of his wizardry, has (to his continuing great frustration) made up her mind that he’s actually a mutant. So it goes, for my “real world” is their “real world”, and my real world always has comics in it.

So you’ll understand that when the issue of Women in Comics comes up on the Intarwebz, I cock an ear from this side of the Atlantic to see what’s going on. And this last week or so the noise level has jumped a few notches, off the back of the news that DC — my first favorite and still so — DC appears suddenly to be somewhat in Woman Deficit on the creative side.

There has correctly been reaction to this, sometimes quite understandably enthusiastic, especially as regards recent events at SDCC and how they were brought to a head. I feel the need here — strictly from the former-psych-professional standpoint — to point out that in the hothouse atmosphere of an SDCC, people sometimes find it hard to react optimally all the time, either on panels or elsewhere.  I do have to say, though, that if there’s a hot-button issue with the comics readership at large — and with those who would like to be comics readership, if the industry leaders will show clearer signs that they know they’re living in a universe they cannot reboot, one with its own imperatives — then this is it... and  this question above all is one that, under the circumstances, the DC creative management should have been better prepared for.

Now, though, DC (in corporate mode) has finally issued a statement about what’s going on. I can’t help but think the reaction would have been way more useful if it had come sooner. But whatever:  here it is, and it indicates that they’ve realized they can’t afford to alienate either the vocal minority who will correctly keep pressing for action on this issue, or the quiet majority who are waiting for some sign that comics are willing to be more inclusive to creative talent who who actually own the equipment that fills out some of the more iconic superhero uniforms in the DC Universe.

Now, as the saying goes:  deeds before words. I  for one am inclined to sit back for a little bit and see how this matter unfolds.  DC has said they’re doing something about this: let’s see what exactly they do. If they’re as good as their word, then there’s a project or two on this side of things that it’d be fun to talk to them about… and I’d be more than willing to join some of my very oldest friends once more in setting out to make some comics. Hopefully, great ones.

Which, at the bottom of it, is theoretically what this is all about….

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