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  1. #1
    Astonishing Member kjn's Avatar
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    Default Does DC hobble its female writers?

    DC doesn't have a great history with female representation among its creators, which is something it shares with a lot of the comics industry. That's something well known.

    But I've recently started to wonder if DC's publishing side is setting up female creators to fail. Note that this is not probably a conscious decision, but rather the result of many small cuts or already established networks; not any cases of harassment but rather unthinking and ingrained sexism. The reason I started thinking about this is that some late runs by great female writers have produced lackluster results:

    G Willow Wilson, one of the absolute top writers in the industry (Ms Marvel, and nominated for both Eisner and Hugos) became the lead writer for Wonder Woman. But her run was marred by a chaotic art situation and art that undercut the narrative. Then the latter parts of the run had very poor pacing, largely I believe by the need to suddenly push in Cheetah and Lex Luthor under YotV in the narrative.

    Jody Houser, who seriously impressed me with Mother Panic, is right now on Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. She has done a marvelous job of showing them caring for each other, but she was given the leftovers of Heroes in Crisis, together with tying in with YotV. From a narrative-thematic view, she was given a shit sandwich, and the result has been a road trip story without narrative or moral substance. All the while Poison Ivy might be the character in DC who is most relevant to current world events and zeitgeist.

    I also can't shake the feeling that Mairghread Scott—who managed to show that she could write a mature Babs-as-Batgirl with a healthy outlook on her time as Oracle—quit writing Batgirl because evil!Oracle was coming.

    What I think we get here is that great female writers might get gigs at DC, but they don't get the creative freedom and environment to shine. Instead they have to write to specifications created by other, more "centrally located" writers and editors at DC.
    «Speaking generally, it is because of the desire of the tragic poets for the marvellous that so varied and inconsistent an account of Medea has been given out» (Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History [4.56.1])

  2. #2
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    I don't think that is really different for male writers, with exception of maybe a hand full big name writers.

    Most of them have to somehow deal with big events influencing their books.

    The only way around that for the smaller writers is to write book that either out of continuity or is in an very obscure part of the DCU that isn't really connected with the rest of it. But those books usually don't sell much.

    Btw. I'm not sure if Eisner and Hugo nominations are really good indicator for quality...

  3. #3
    Astonishing Member kjn's Avatar
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    You are of course correct in that most writers can face similar situations. On the other hand, you don't get a writer like Wilson and have her write to specification. You give her as free hands as possible, because her experiences, outlook, and point of view is so very different. And it's also rather clear that all the big mover and shaker writers at DC—Bendis, King, Snyder, to some degree Tynion—are all middle-aged white dudes, just like most of the top publishing and editorial staff.

    I think the former Ink line shows what can happen when DC lets good or great female writers free to write as they want.

    You are of course correct in that award nominations can be a poor indicator of quality, though at least the Hugos (where I right now include the former Campbell, now Astounding Award, which is Not A Hugo but chosen by the same body and with the same mechanism as the Hugos) have a proven track record in the science fiction field. (Not that it's free of biases or blind spots, on the contrary.) But at least it's an indicator, and the Hugos manage a decent balance between popularity, commercial success, and quality.
    «Speaking generally, it is because of the desire of the tragic poets for the marvellous that so varied and inconsistent an account of Medea has been given out» (Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History [4.56.1])

  4. #4
    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ Godlike13's Avatar
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    I think readers have to take responsibility for this too. Female writers don't see the same support from the market as male writers do generally. Leaving them with less leverage, again generally.

    That being said i think there is clearly an old guard at DC that hobbles new and fresh writers in general. Im not sure how interested they are in it even. I think they understand its a necessity, yet at the same time they seem more then happy to put familiar dudes they are comfortable with on shit.
    Last edited by Godlike13; 01-09-2020 at 04:23 AM.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by kjn View Post
    You are of course correct in that most writers can face similar situations. On the other hand, you don't get a writer like Wilson and have her write to specification.
    But then you can't put her on an main continuity book. Year of the Villain is for example something everyone (I think even Bendis and King) has to some degree to deal with, only exceptions are Snyder and Tynion who are afaik behind it.

    I'm not following Wonder Woman, so I don't know if that was book was more influenced then others, but finding ways to deal with stuff like that is imo something a top writer must be able to do.

    Quote Originally Posted by kjn View Post
    You are of course correct in that award nominations can be a poor indicator of quality, though at least the Hugos (where I right now include the former Campbell, now Astounding Award, which is Not A Hugo but chosen by the same body and with the same mechanism as the Hugos) have a proven track record in the science fiction field. (Not that it's free of biases or blind spots, on the contrary.) But at least it's an indicator, and the Hugos manage a decent balance between popularity, commercial success, and quality.
    When I look what happend with this Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies thing it seems that the nomination process for the Hugos can be really easily influenced.

  6. #6
    Astonishing Member kjn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aahz View Post
    But then you can't put her on an main continuity book. Year of the Villain is for example something everyone (I think even Bendis and King) has to some degree to deal with, only exceptions are Snyder and Tynion who are afaik behind it.
    It's not like intra-book continuity is a big thing… And even if it was, you can give writers a decent chance to work out how they are to implement a given event in their own book.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aahz View Post
    When I look what happend with this Sad Puppies/Rabbit Puppies thing it seems that the nomination process for the Hugos can be really easily influenced.
    Having been rather close to the Hugo sausage factory (I'm personal friend with two past Hugo administrators (and I suspect one of them is slated to be the administrator for 2021), and helped staff the 2017 Worldcon), I'm not sure I agree with "easily influenced". It can be gamed, sure, but it required quite a bit of concerted effort and the reaction to said gaming was rather spectacular. Also, it is harder to game due to recent rule changes.

    So 2015, 2016, and to some degree 2014 are clear outliers on the Hugo quality spectrum, and were recognised as such by the Hugo electorate.
    «Speaking generally, it is because of the desire of the tragic poets for the marvellous that so varied and inconsistent an account of Medea has been given out» (Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History [4.56.1])

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by kjn View Post
    I think the former Ink line shows what can happen when DC lets good or great female writers free to write as they want.
    But the very nature of Zoom/Ink is what allows them to do that. It's outside of continuity. It's a clean slate. You can't do those books in an expanded universe as it will conflict with other characters in other books. There won't be that creative freedom there. And I say that as someone that adores the Zoom/Ink stuff.
    Last Read: Zatanna and the House of Secrets
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  8. #8
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    I feel like DC hobbles a lot of their writers, male or female.

  9. #9
    Astonishing Member Restingvoice's Avatar
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    Besides Ms. Marvel has Wilson write anything bigger, by big I mean line-wide world-building stuff?

    Because what I see from DC is they have this centralized hierarchy. Starting at the top, the line-wide worldbuilding stuff is prioritized, then the cash cow like Batman, then the others.

    So right now anything Snyder writes is prioritized since he's the current line-wide worldbuilder.
    Johns used to be that but he seems to lost a lot of clouts with Doomsday Clock being his last.
    Then Bendis, who's worldbuilding Superman, Young Justice, and Legion. He's given more leeways than most because he already has experience world-building and shaking things up in Marvel.
    After that, there's King, who also an Eisner writer, handling the Batman family and special events like Heroes in Crisis, but beyond that doesn't have much power and he doesn't have as much worldbuilding experience as Bendis.

    So what they maybe do is they want her Wonder Woman to succeed like Ms. Marvel and they trust her to do that, but since Wonder Woman is not historically a cash cow, they won't give her much to work if the characters or world she'll be working on is already handled by someone else DC already consider more important, for example, Donna is being used for The Infected, because Batman Who Laughs sells more than Wonder Woman, which is Snyder's project.

    Yes, Harley is popular, but not as much as Batman, especially in comics. So she's not prioritized compared to Snyder's stories, who has proven himself to be a best seller in almost everything he touches, not just Batman.

    So while DC appreciates good writers, they prioritize worldbuilder writer and cash cow characters more

  10. #10
    Incredible Member Ulysses's Avatar
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    Do not ascribe conspiracy where incompetence is as likely an explanation.
    “To the future or to the past. To a time when thought is free, when men are different from one another and do not live alone - to a time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone: from the age of uniformity, from the age of solitude, from the age of Big Brother, from the age of doublethink - greetings!" - Winston Smith

  11. #11
    Extraordinary Member SiegePerilous02's Avatar
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    In the case of Wilson, I'm not sure how much blame we can lay at editorial's feet when there are valid criticisms of her run's writing that have no obvious editorial interference. The art situation was bad, but a good writer can still write a compelling story even with mediocre art. Throughout the duration of the run, Diana was just weak willed and naval gazing, needing the intervention of Maggie, Aphrodite, Nubia, and Atlantidades on occasions to resolve conflicts when she didn't get to do much herself. We also have Grail somehow holding Hippolyta hostage, and several Amazons teaming up with Grail for seemingly no reason. Steve was a bore throughout the run, and I don't think writing Cheetah into the story should be that much of a hassle considering there were danglers from Rucka's run that could have been built on so it was natural to bring her in. YoTV doesn't really excuse the weird character choices like Cheetah and Cale working together before the remember they both hate each other.

    I have an easy time believing DC can foolishly hobble their new talent whether they mean to or not, and that it may be worse with female talent. But a writer can win awards and still not be a perfect fit for every character. I think Gail Simone inherited more of a mess with her WW run, but she was still able to write some pretty good and fun arcs. Her first year or so in particular is more impressive than Wilson's .

  12. #12
    Mighty Member My Two Cents's Avatar
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    I think DC and Marvel characters have different comic book genes.
    That is why some writers can thrive at Marvel and
    Fail at D C or the opposite
    And than there are the ones who good at both like
    Brubaker or DeMattis

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by SiegePerilous02 View Post
    I have an easy time believing DC can foolishly hobble their new talent whether they mean to or not, and that it may be worse with female talent. But a writer can win awards and still not be a perfect fit for every character. I think Gail Simone inherited more of a mess with her WW run, but she was still able to write some pretty good and fun arcs. Her first year or so in particular is more impressive than Wilson's .
    Is Willson still counting as New Tallent, I mean according to Wikipedia she is writing comics roughly as long as Scott Snyder.

    Quote Originally Posted by kjn View Post
    I think the former Ink line shows what can happen when DC lets good or great female writers free to write as they want.
    But you can't really compare Ink with the main continuity.
    Ink are YA Graphic Novels, that a different writing style and written for a completely different audience then the usual monthly comics. (And the writers they have hired are afaik mostly YA novelists and not comic book writers)
    Last edited by Aahz; 01-09-2020 at 12:01 PM.

  14. #14
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    I would say DC hobbles a lot of writers, there are just fewer women ones so we notice them more. (There are also many who have succeeded)

    I'm sure if Wilson wanted to pitch an original/or lesser used property where she could have more creative reign, they would seriously listen to her. Wonder Woman (for whatever reason) has given a lot of writers, both male and female lots of trouble.

    I like what's going on with Harley Quinn and Ivy right now for what it's worth.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aahz View Post
    Btw. I'm not sure if Eisner and Hugo nominations are really good indicator for quality...
    As confessed by the Eisner (or Hugo) website-it comes down to WHOEVER'S BOOK is getting buzz, sales or talked about are the ones that get nominations.

    The judges tend to be folks who are NOT employees of the major comic book companies or worked at them (Alex Simmons being the exception). They have other jobs like being educators in colleges.

    Pretty much it's like this-for books from Marvel or DC-HYPE versus reading the book gets the nominations. See Coates Black Panther.
    For books like LUmberjanes, Wicked & Divine & Bingo Love-someone READ it or it got enough reviews to get noticed.
    For most writers at both companies-it comes down to COMPANY ENVIRONMENT. What is allowed versus what is not. Who can I use and who can I NOT use.





    Besides Ms. Marvel has Wilson write anything bigger, by big I mean line-wide world-building stuff?
    I believe due to an ill child, she has to limit what she does in terms of writing. Which is why she only had Ms Marvel for so long. Getting her to do something the size of Doomsday Clock might interfere with her caring for that child.

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