Ladies in the Comic Book World

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As an employee at a movie theater, I have grown to loathe movies based off comics. Now don’t go grabbing your pitchforks. I don’t mean that I dislike the movies, usually they’re pretty amazing. But that is just the problem. They always make the theater super crazy busy, which isn’t always the most fun for the employees at the theater.

I was scrolling through some articles on the New York Times site trying to find something that caught my eye and I ended up doing rage research on the new Justice League movie, since it is the most recent comic movie to plague the theater. (I’m getting to the point, I promise. Just bear with me through a little more exposition). Anyway, I dove down the rage induced rabbit hole and ended up on my new favorite site, ThePudding. (Thanks Stephanie). They have an article that by some miracle of the internet, I haven’t seen yet. (I spend way too much of my free time on this site. And you should too). The article looks at the gender ratio in comic books. (See, I told you I’d get there 😛 ).

They break down the comparison in a few ways. The first is by super powers and abilities. They note that “Percentages are determined only from characters with powers. In DC and Marvel, 62.4 percent of all male characters have powers, and 62.8 percent of female characters have powers.” They then took the difference, in proportion, of male and female characters that share the same ability.

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They break it down in the info graphic with the most dramatic differences at the top, so I’ve grabbed the top 3 comparisons. They note that the powers that are higher on the female side tend to be more gender stereotyped toward females. [Note strength vs. agility, pheromones, sonic scream, and prehensile hair]. We also see that the males sweep the objects section, most of which belong to superheroes that are rich and or very intelligent, i.e. male.  I also grabbed the ‘Mental Power’ section because it is was the only section to have only the females represented as the higher proportion. It also follows gendered stereotypes that women are stronger with their minds and men are stronger with their bodies.

I do not find any of this data very surprising, considering most of big super heroes (male and female) were invented in a different era. If we look at just the ones I included at the top, Wonder Woman debuted in ’41, Rouge in ’81, Catwoman in ’40, Raven in ’40, and Poison Ivy in ’66 (even though she technically isn’t a hero at her debut). Some of the really big female characters were invented during and immediately following the wave of WWII. However, the authors here do not put time into account when doing the analysis (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). However, I think it would be interesting to run the same analysis compared decade to decade and see if there is an increase in equality in these metrics, and maybe other metrics like percent of lines, bad-assery, and villain vs. superhero.

I think it would also be important to compare the women in comics from their debut to their current rendition. Comics go through many many retellings and reinventions of their stories, so it would be interesting to track a character like Wonder Woman from her first comic appearance all the way to the DC films released in the past two years. I think that movies like Wonder Woman and Justice League give the heroes a new light that takes them out of the poor stereotypes they may have been born in. Which is admittedly a good thing, a little silver lining, to the hoards of people lining up to get popcorn on a Friday night.



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