My impression on the issue of gender balance within comics is that there has been a long period of time that comics, the cartoons, and toys affiliated with them, are a boys market. This assumption and subsequent results, can be traced back to 1954.
In 1954, the Comics Magazine Association of America formed the Comics Code Authority (Nyberg, 1998). Many of the rules set by the CCA centered around dictating what material may affect a boys opinions on sexuality, also known as “Seduction of the Innocent”. They objected to “immoral” content such as scantily clad women in jungle comics and the glorification of villains in crime comics. The Catholic Church’s National Office of Decent Literature added comics to the materials it evaluated. Amazingly, it wasn’t until 2010 that the three big comic book companies began to break from the code, starting with Bongo Comics, then DC and Archie Comics in 2011. It’s almost unbelievable that the three major companies adhered to policies that were so antiquated and hardly reflect the views of many Americans for many years now.
In addition, the DC Comics 75th Anniversary logo featured 4 male characters (Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, and the Flash) and no female one, despite Wonder Woman being part of the Top 3. Green Lantern and the Flash characters were introduced in 1940, meaning they were only 70 years old on the 75th anniversary. Further proof is evidenced by DC Comics main promotions of the 75th anniversary heroes, none of which are female. I believe the reason there’s a larger amount of male characters is due to the face that many of these characters were established in those older days of CCA oversight.
While I understand the argument and consider myself a strong supporter of equal right, I also have a long-standing history of working in marketing and advertising. Looking at the gender bias portrayed in comics through that lens, I don’t see it as a problem in the slightest, but if anyone actually wanted female characters more prominently in comics they’d buy comics those comics rather then Batman…the industry puts out what people are paying for, simple as that.
Print media in general is in steep decline with the advent of digital tech and the internet. Less and less people — kids and adults alike — are getting into comics because of this shift. In my opinion, the vast majority of comic lovers that are still keeping the industry afloat are male and tend to want what they relate to. Females are welcome to have their share of the comic market, be it the majority or the minority, but trying to influence comic content and production based on gender may be advocating a political agenda. Unless more women (and men) buy comics or support the growing web-comics with strong female characters, I don’t see a major shift happening.
I do not think that comics should have an obligation to gender equality. Comics are stories being told by creative writers. It’s an artwork and we really shouldn’t tell them how to create it. Or should we? I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to tell me how to write if they found my writing unbalanced. A critique is one thing, but trying to influence an artist is another. I also found the image below interesting as a part of the DC Comics 75th anniversary advertising. Sadly, I count only 4 female characters in this image.