The steps they need to make to appeal to women are really quite simple. They:
- Need to value their female characters equally to their male characters.
- They need to stop erasing, swapping out, and wholly repurposing women characters in ways that gut their importance to female readers, and for developments that are conceptually regressive for their characters.
- They need to give female characters their own narratives and not reduce their importance to how they can service a man’s narrative.
- They need to be given real character development and not reduce them into offensive stereotypes that reinforce sexism.
- They need to stop relying on shock value to sell a story, which often subjects women characters to the tiresome women in refrigerators trope.
- They need to hire more female creators (including queer women and women of colour) to help bring diverse experience and perspective into the narratives of their very diverse characters.
- They need to write stories for women without catering to the white, heterosexual, cismale demographic in the form of presenting these characters as ‘living’ blow-up sex dolls that they want to wank themselves happy to.
- They need to market and promote their characters both inside and outside of comic book community.
- They need to give their women characters more exposure in other media so that more women can become aware of their existence. More specifically, they need to be given their own television shows, films, and videos games in which they are the protagonists.
- Offer free comics with the purchase of a comic book movie featuring these characters, which is something Marvel is already doing. (And it’s WORKING in their case).
When DC Comics does all—and I mean ALL—of the above, they will expand their female readership by the volumes. As soon as they show a stronger commitment for female inclusivity and actively change the ‘boys only club’ culture that surrounds them, they will see more positive female reception of their product.
Using myself as an example, the one thing DC Comics did that got me to read their comics again was the return of Earth-2, and especially the return of the Helena Wayne Huntress, whom I love to bits. The reinstating of the Earth-2 Huntress and Power Girl friendship is what sold me on trying the New 52, because I’ve been wanting to read newer stories with these two women since the Justice Society Annual of 2008.
Should Earth-2 had stayed true to the original concept of being the decades old Justice Society Earth that had different generations of superheroes, it’s own version of the Trinity that was older, retired, and married with children, and had both a new generation of Justice Society members (Kendra Saunders, Queen Marella, Khalid Ben-Hassin, Kara Zor-L, Helena Wayne, Lyta Trevor, etc) as well as Infinity Inc (Hector Hall, Jenny-Lynn Hayden, Todd Rice, Beth Chapel, etc) I think Earth-2 as a franchise would be selling tonnes better than what it’s selling now. They didn’t need to scrap the older Justice Society team in order to have new members. They could have literally had both!
I know I would have definitely bought and promoted more Earth-2 books if that had been the case, and if there was actual world-building as opposed to world-destroying. There was a lot the original Earth-2 already had going for it that would have appealed to women:
- A married Batman and Catwoman with an adult daughter who is continuing her parents’ legacy as the Huntress? Sold.
- A married Superman and Lois Lane who are also parent figures to an adult Power Girl, Earth-2’s newest Kryptonian protector? Sold.
- A married Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor with an adult daughter who continues her mother’s work as Fury? Sold.
- An all female second generation Trinity who are the legitimate successors to the first Trinity and are the most prominent heroes of Earth-2? Sold.
- A new generation Justice Society team comprised of younger and older superheroes? Sold.
- The emergence of new superheroes (both in the Justice Society and Infinity Inc) who are people of colour and LGBTQ? Sold.
More than anything, Earth-2 was wasted potential in the New 52. Instead of building on the already established mythos of this world while continuing to make improvements and introducing more diverse characters, we got an Earth-2 that was destroyed by Apokolips, gave us Thomas Wayne as Batman’s successor instead of Helena, lots of fridged iconic women for shock value, and a largely male-centred narrative with a side of women. As such, not a whole lot of women are reading any of the Earth-2 books, including the one book that was fronted by two women.