It’s easy to complain about things. It is much harder to identify potential solutions.
There are, as I see it, a few actions that DC could, and in my opinion should, take to address these concerns. Before it’s mentioned, asking Time Warner to remove DC executives from their positions is unrealistic and creates unnecessary ill will which in turn makes identifying and implementing solutions vastly more difficult and can create a poisoned environment which would be worse for everyone involved and affected.
The goal here is to create a win-win situation for Time Warner, Time Warner shareholders, DC, DC executives, women creators and comics fans. Any action which can hurt or harm one of those groups will create resistance and make a solution more difficult to identify and implement.
Taking all of that into account, I suggest the following:
- As executives of DC and representatives of Time Warner, Dan DiDio and Jim Lee should apologize for their comments at San Diego Comic Con, as well as for apparently treating a customer disrespectfully.
- DC executives should take a communications course to learn how to stay on message, and calmly and respectfully discuss difficult subjects with customers. Recent reports and audio files suggest that DC executives have been unable to communicate effectively with customers and have become angry and expressed that anger at consumers. That does not leave customers with a positive impression of DC or its parent company, Time Warner. While some comics fans have difficult personalities, reports from San Diego Comic Con indicate that DC executives responded with hostility to reasonable questions about the role of gender in staffing and content of books.
- Tom Spurgeon has suggested that comics companies should implement something like the NFL’s Rooney Rule. It is inevitable that some DCnU titles will be canceled, and due to various reasons, members of some creative teams will need to be replaced. As these events occur, DC should actively seek out and ask women creators to join these teams as artists, or ask them to pitch stories and arcs as writers. Why? Dan Harmon, creator of “Community,” explained it very well. However, this must be done as part of a transparent process in which a writer is either the only writer asked, or in which they are aware that other creators will also be pitching at the same time. Warren Ellis wrote about this concern just the other day; DC must not treat this as a process to generate story ideas which will then be given to other writers - such behavior will only alienate creators and discourage them from working with DC.
- As a short-term mitigation strategy, DC should immediately commit to giving female creators significantly more work in the form of one-shots, mini-series, tie-ins and other short-term projects to see how fans react to a particular creator’s work. DC cannot honestly claim that it hired the best talent available considering how many women who have won Eisners were excluded, but DC also can’t honestly argue that it hired only creators with proven track records, considering that some of the creators really don’t have much of a track record to speak of. One-shots, mini-series, etc. allow DC to test the waters with established characters and limited financial risk compared to launching a new series.
- Within a given time span - say, the next four years - DC should commit to ensuring that a given percentage (25% is a realistic target which is more than double the percentage of female creators before the DCnU) of its creators on on-going monthly series will be women. This is still woefully lower than the percentage of women in the population, but it’s a place to start.
- If retaining creators is part of the problem, DC should find out why creators leave, and do so in a way that allows creators to remain anonymous so they can provide honest feedback, knowing that potential future work from DC will not be affected due to their comments, whether complimentary, critical or both. Typically, a third party acts as an independent buffer in obtaining such feedback.
It’s important to note that I don’t want to see anyone lose their job over this. Threats and fear create resistance; they don’t lead to understanding.
It’s important to note that I don’t blame any of the creators involved with the DCnU for this - they’re just people trying to earn a paycheck and I’m sure at least some of them are incredibly excited that they’re getting a chance to write their favorite characters. I’d love to write Aquaman or Apollo and Midnighter some day (and don’t get me started about my love for Jenny Sparks) so I can understand that completely.
The focus here is identifying why so few female creators are involved in or part of the DCnU and what can be done to change that.