In April DC announced that they would be distributing a free 121 page guide to their Graphic Novels. The guide will included DC’s backlist and will be distributed to fans, shop owners and libraries. Here’s a look at the cover via Publishers Weekly.
I got an early look last week and its an impressive piece. The upfront part has 25 “essential” graphic novels and there are a few surprises on the list. The guide is broken down into groupings - Vertigo gets it own list, MAD does and even All-Ages. There’s a long reading list in the back that includes the chronological reader for each title within its subgroup.
In other words this is going to be popular. And used to make a lot of buying decisions. And that’s why I was both surprised and saddened by the character sections. Here’s the characters who get their own multi page spreads on their backlists:
But what about Wonder Woman? You know - member of the Trinity? The top female superhero?
Well, despite this guide being 121 pages and despite Green Arrow getting a two page spread via Bleeding Cool, this is what Wonder Woman got:
A two-page spread called “Women of DC” that also includes Batwoman, Batgirl, Catwoman and Huntress. The intro verbiage name checks the male superheroes as “icons” and then describes the women as just as powerful. They are called “dangerous” as well and the section picture is the cover of Batgirl Annual where Batgirl and Batwoman are fighting.
And the backlist recommendations were in the spread were puzzling The first volume of Wonder Woman from the new 52 (which I love) and then two volumes of the JMS reboot. It’s not like there aren’t more titles - Wonder Woman does get her own section in the back that has five titles. The exact number that Green Arrow has in his two page spread.
As you can imagine as someone who pretty much devotes a lot of time to promoting the female superheroes of DC Comics, this was a bit of kick in the ass.
How hard would it be in a 121 page guide to give Wonder Woman her own section? Why jam her in with the other female characters? Why couldn’t Wonder Woman get the same real estate in the guide than say, MAD Magazine?
But the real reason I’m upset is this guide is going to be used by stores and libraries to order books. So if Wonder Woman and the other ladies of the DCU downplayed the orders of the backlist will be impacted. I have visited many libraries and when I check out their Graphic Novel sections (usually in the Teen rooms) the number of books with female heroes is usually very small.
This guide isn’t going to improve that.
Getting people into female heroes and getting female readers isn’t going to get better when the female characters are marginalized and awkwardly bundled together. Catwoman and Wonder Woman don’t have anything in common except their gender no matter if the “dangerous” is dropped into a description.
It’s a cliche but it’s true - actions speak louder than words. A publisher can say it cares about its female heroes but if it doesn’t expend the level of promotion on them they way they do male characters the words don’t matter.
*sigh* So the female characters got lumped into one spread with a short summary, even major characters like Catwoman and Wonder Woman, while the major male characters each got their own spread. This seems like part of how “people aren’t interested in female heroes” can become a self-fulfilling prophecy where they get promoted less, and the results of the difference in promotion leads to less sales, and justification for less promotion.