Diversity Check2- Batgirl Featured

As promised, this is the second part of a four-part series on diversity in comics. In each part, I am quantifying and offering commentary on the diversity in lead characters at the Big Two (Marvel and DC). For the sake of streamlining, this article series focuses on solo titles only. Team titles are too volatile in terms of lineup and who is spotlighted versus who is sidelined. This is not to say that determining representative diversity on those titles is not important. The evaluation and discussion of such, though, would require a significant amount of attention and words. As a result, including team titles here would only serve to undermine the exploration of both topics.

As this is the second part, I will also compare this quarter — April through June — backwards against the first quarter of the year. By doing so, my hope is to track changes and trends over time. Ideally, an improvement in representation would be noted. However, there also is value in calling out a reduction in diversity, if it exists, because it may encourage more diversity in the future.

To quickly refresh, the categories of diversity I am specifically looking at are: racial identity, sexuality, and gender. I also have tabulated how many lead characters are straight, white, cisgender men. This last point was inspired by a faulty premise online that such heroes are being buried or ignored.

Diversity Check2- Batwoman
It’s cool that Batwoman’s costume is always color-coordinated to not clash with creepy, blood-dripping signs. (Courtesy of DC Comics)

Problems With Tabulation

I’ll begin by quoting myself from the previous quarter’s article. “First, there were a couple of characters for which I simply could find no evidence or declaration of sexuality. They’ve been coded as unknown. Also, if characters have only ever presented as straight or gay, I label them as such. As always, there is a possibility they are bi but have only had same-sex or opposite-sex relations.”

Additionally, characters with long assumed sexualities may change. For example, Iceman’s teen, displaced version identifies as gay. However, he was assumed straight initially, given that’s adult Iceman’s orientation. In such cases, I count the most recent stated sexuality.

Some characters have no human race. Snagglepuss and Lockjaw are animals or animal/human types. Sometimes, we also have aliens of skin color that do not occur in our world — blue, green, etc. I’ve noted creatures like Snagglepuss as the animals they resemble. In the case of unusually colored aliens, they are coded as “Alien” under race.

Non-human characters who can nonetheless “pass”for recognizable human races are coded as such. Think, for instance, of Thor Odinson. While he is a Norse god, he presents as a white man. Thus I count him as such.

Also in looking at race, it is important to note that Latinx is not technically a racial identity. That said, it is often coded as a racial identity on surveys. Therefore, I am following suit here. And, as I said last time, “Ms. Marvel is a Pakistani, also not a race. However, people in Pakistan have no definitive racial identity. Given that Ms. Marvel has never been specifically labeled as, say, Asian or Arabic, I have coded her simply as Pakistani. It is not ideal but it acknowledges that she is a person of color without making assumptions about her racial makeup.”

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Call for Feedback

As always, I recognize this is an imperfect system. However, I do believe it is the best approach to dealing with sci-fi and fantasy tropes. I am open to better ideas, however, so please do not hesitate to offer recommendations to me at timstevens@comicsverse.com.

Other areas where it may seem I am missing categories of inclusion are sexual and gender identities. This is not because I ignored them, however. Instead, it is because they were not present in the data set. For example, no Ace characters and aromantic characters led books from the Big Two during this quarter. Similarly, there were no trans, nonbinary, or gender queer lead characters presented.

Diversity Check2- Iron Man
“Sup?” said Iron Man. And I swooned. (Courtesy of Marvel Comics)

April

Marvel in April (percents in parentheses)

Total Issues for Month 35
Racial Identity White-27 (77.1) People of Color- 8 (22.9)

Black-4 (11.4), Latinx-1 (2.9), Asian-1 (2.9), Pakistani-1 (2.9), Dog-1 (2.9)

Sexuality Straight- 32 (91.4) Gay- 0 (0) Bi- 1 (2.9) Unknown- 2 (5.7)
Gender Men- 27 (77.1) Women-8 (22.9)
Straight White Cis Men 20 (57.1)

 

DC in April (percents in parentheses)

Total Issues for Month 38
Racial Identity White-34 (89.5) People of Color- 4 (10.5)

Black-3 (7.9), Cat-1 (2.6)

Sexuality Straight- 30 (78.9) Gay- 2 (5.3) Bi- 4 (10.5) Unknown- 2 (5.3)
Gender Men-26 (68.4) Women-12 (31.6)
Straight White Cis Men 22 (57.9)

 

Total in April (percents in parentheses)

Total Issues for Month 73
Racial Identity White-61 (83.6) People of Color- 12 (16.4)

Black-7 (9.6), Latinx-1 (1.4), Asian-1 (1.4), Pakistani-1 (1.4), Cat-1 (1.4), Dog-1 (1.4)

Sexuality Straight- 62 (84.9) Gay- 2 (2.7) Bi- 5 (6.9) Unknown- 4 (5.5)
Gender Men-53 (72.6) Women-20 (27.4)
Straight White Cis Men 42 (57.5)

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April Racial Identity Diversity Analysis

Marvel continues to lead in this category of diversity. While lagging behind the United States 2010 Census ratio – 72.4% white v 27.6% other races — the House of Ideas at least landed about 5% off. DC, on the other hand, was nearly 12.5% higher than Marvel in this category. This puts DC nearly 18% off the 2010 national ratio.

In unpacking the people of color category, I noticed something else. In addition to offering more lead heroes of color, Marvel offered a more diverse range of racial identities. DC derives 75% percent of their people of color from Black heroes and 25% from Snagglepuss, a cat man. Marvel, by contrast, has 50% Black heroes amongst their people of color characters. They also have Latinx, Asian, and Pakistani heroes as well as Lockjaw, a teleporting dog. It cannot be ignored, however, that they only offer one representative of each of these racial identities.

Cumulatively, the Big Two are offering over 11% less heroes of color, proportionally, than people of color in America.

Diversity Check2- Spider-Man
Miles is definitely about to scream, “KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!” (Courtesy of Marvel Comics)

April Sexual Identity Diversity Analysis

It is worth acknowledging the difficulty in getting accurate numbers regarding sexuality. As stated in the previous quarterly, any identity with a societal stigma will be under represented by self-report.

Additionally, demanding people define their sexuality in such stark terms skews self-report. The rate of women calling themselves straight drops from 93% to 80% when they are allowed to acknowledge that they mostly but not always feel straight. Interestingly, men only drop two percent — 95% to 93% — when given the same option.

Big Two superheroes rarely — if ever — explore their sexuality in such specific terms. As a result, the data is largely gathered by the stark option standard. Not ideal, but we can only reflect the data as it provided.

DC is considerably healthier than Marvel in terms of the percentage and range of sexual diversity it offers. They feature characters that identify as straight, gay, and bi as well as those without known or specified sexuality. Consequently, DC actually offers a higher rate of sexual diversity than reported by the general public.

Marvel, on the other hand, failed to feature one gay-identified character as a lead in a solo book during April. Only one character was explicitly identified as not straight. The other two reported “not straight” heroes had no known sexuality. Marvel also technically qualifies as scoring above the figure predicted by the survey ratio on sexuality. However, this mostly shows the flaws in only striving to match the reported ratio.

This also applies to the Big Two combined numbers. The combined figure is above the percentage reported in the general population but woefully small in terms of actual titles offered.

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April Gender Identity Diversity Analysis

To date, no national or international widespread survey has included efforts to track transgender, nonbinary, or gender queer individuals. As a result, the 2014 numbers — 51.4% female, 48.6% — are flawed. They are the best numbers at this time, though. Given this and for the sake of ease, I am rounding the numbers to 51% female and 49% male.

This is the one area were the Big Two — individually and together — are wildly off the national and international ratios.

By that standard, Marvel is a shocking 28% off in offering men versus women. DC offers a better ratio but their numbers are still around 19.5 percentage points higher than ratio. The combination of the two companies is therefore about 23.5 points off the United States ratio.

Diversity Check2- Batman
Batman, evidently, does not like the feel of red light on his chest. (Courtesy of DC Comics)

Straight, White, Cis Men in April

Cisgender, straight, white male heroes made up over half of all the solo titles offered in April. In fact, all three areas — Marvel, DC, and combined — offered 57-plus percent of straight, white, cis male, solo heroes. This is obviously a higher proportional rate of cisgender, straight, white men than present in the general population. In the world, one would expect to only encounter a white, straight, cis male under 35% of the time.

Worth Noting

Traditionally, Marvel offers more titles per month. They often do so by a fairly high measure. In April, however, they offered slightly fewer books and that trend extended to their solo books. Going forward, SPOILER ALERT, Marvel will return to offering more books over the course of the month. However, during this quarter they are much closer to DC in output than they were last quarter. As a result, the raw numbers are far more comparable than last quarter. In the past, Marvel’s raw numbers skewed their results in both positive and negative ways. This time out, the comparisons are lot easier to express as one-to-one.

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May

Marvel in May (percents in parentheses)

Total Issues for Month 35
Racial Identity White-26 (74.3) People of Color- 9 (25.7)

Black-4 (11.4), Asian-2 (2.9), Latinx-1 (2.9), Pakistani-1 (2.9), Dog-1 (2.9)

Sexuality Straight- 32 (91.4) Pan- 1 (2.9) Bi- 1 (2.9) Unknown- 1 (2.9)
Gender Men- 30 (85.7) Women-5 (14.3)
Straight White Cis Men 21 (60)

 

DC in May (percents in parentheses)

Total Issues for Month 33
Racial Identity White-29 (87.9) People of Color- 4 (12.1)

Black-3 (9.1), Cat-1 (3.0)

Sexuality Straight- 25 (75.8) Gay- 2 (6.1) Bi- 4 (12.1) Unknown- 2 (6.1)
Gender Men-23 (69.7) Women-10 (30.3)
Straight White Cis Men 17 (51.5)

 

Total in May (percents in parentheses)

Total Issues for Month 68
Racial Identity White-55 (80.9) People of Color- 13 (19.1)

Black-7 (10.3), Asian-2 (2.9), Latinx-1 (1.5), Pakistani-1 (1.5), A Cat-1 (1.5), Dog- 1 (1.5)

Sexuality Straight- 57 (83.8) Gay- 2 (2.9) Bi- 5 (7.4) Pan- 1 (1.47) Unknown- 3 (4.4)
Gender Men-53 (77.9) Women-15 (22.1)
Straight White Cis Men 38 (55.9)
Diversity Check2- Captain America
Captain America stood for hours in that pose so the sculptor could get it just right. He never complained once. (Courtesy of Marvel Comics)

May Racial Identity Diversity Analysis

Marvel held its number of books offered steady at 35 but published one more solo title featuring a hero of color. This put them only 2 percentage points over the 2010 Census ratio. Further good news is that the title they added featured an Asian character, a quite under-represented category of racial identity.

DC, on the other hand, reduced their output by five titles. The good news is that they all came out of the white side of the equation. The bad news is that they did not increase people of color lead characters at all. Therefore, once again, their racial diversity is owed entirely to Black heroes and a man-sized cat.

Nonetheless, May ends up more racially diverse by raw numbers and by percent. As a result, it pulls within single digits overall to the Census ratio of white people to people of color.

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May Sexual Identity Diversity Analysis

DC improves here as well due to their reduction in titles. Once more, the titles slashed came out of the majority side of the ratio. Thus, while not offering more gay, bi, Ace, etc. titles, they still posted an increase of 3 percentage points.

Marvel regrettably held steady at 91.4% straight solo heroes this month. They did, however, offer a pansexual hero, a first from either company this year — and, likely, longer.

The combined number of non-straight characters held at 11, but with fewer titles offered overall, the percentage rose. Again, all three categories were above the reported percentage of non-straight people in the United State. In practice, however, this amounted to only two gay titles released all month. With so few, the pressure for each character to be everything to everyone rises precipitously.

Diversity Check2- Silencer
For a character named Silencer, she sure seems to be drawing a lot of attention to herself. (Courtesy of DC Comics)

May Gender Identity Diversity Analysis

Somehow, Marvel got even worse in this area. Down to just five books featuring women leads, their percentage dropped by over eight percent. Thus, a number that ideally would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 51% is showing up in the teens instead. Given the ratio of male-to-female comic book fans, I can accept that more male heroes might be inevitable. But 72% more male heroes? That feels excessive.

DC cut men and women solo titles in their slight scale back. So while they are offering fewer woman solo books by number, their percentage still improved slightly. As a result, they performed over twice as strongly in this category as Marvel. Additionally, the company was “only” about 20 percentage points off ratio.

Unfortunately, gender diversity on a whole still dropped. Obviously, this can be owed to both companies’ reductions in books headed by a woman hero. That said, Marvel clearly bears the heavier burden. They offered more books overall but still decreased the number of women-led titles.

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Straight, White, Cis Men in May

Despite Marvel’s increase to 60% of titles headed by white, cis male heroes, this category actually improved overall. DC, propelled by a nine-title reduction in raw numbers, posted an over 27% swing. Alas, when the two companies’ scores were combined, however, the improvement was minimal.

Diversity Check2- Moon Girl
Moon Girl wants everyone vaping. RIP. THAT. COTTON! (Courtesy of Marvel Comics)

June

Marvel in June (percents in parentheses)

Total Issues for Month 42
Racial Identity White-33 (78.6) People of Color- 9 (21.4)

Black-6 (14.0), Latinx-1 (2.3), Asian-1 (2.3), Pakistani-1 (2.3)

Sexuality Straight- 35 (83.3) Pan- 1 (2.4) Bi- 2 (4.8) Unknown- 4 (9.5)
Gender Men- 33 (78.6) Women-9 (21.4)
Straight White Cis Men 28 (66.7)

 

DC in June (percents in parentheses)

Total Issues for Month 38
Racial Identity White-34 (89.5) People of Color- 4 (10.5)

Black- 3 (7.9) , Cat- 1 (2.6)

Sexuality Straight- 29 (82.4) Gay- 2 (5.3) Bi- 5 (13.2) Unknown- 2 (5.3)
Gender Men-27 (71.1) Women-11 (29.0)
Straight White Cis Men 21 (55.3)

 

Total in June (percents in parentheses)

Total Issues for Month 80
Racial Identity White-67 (83.8) People of Color- 13 (16.3)

Black-9 (11.3), Latinx-1 (1.3), Asian-1 (1.3), Pakistani-1 (1.3), Cat-1 (1.3)

Sexuality Straight- 64 (80) Gay- 2 (2.6) Bi- 7 (8.8) Unknown- 6 (7.5)

Pan 1- (1.3)

Gender Men-60 (75) Women-20 (25)
Straight White Cis Men 49 (61.3)

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June Racial Identity Diversity Analysis

DC and Marvel both increased their output this month to 38 and 42 titles respectively. Unfortunately, neither increased the number of titles featuring people of color in the lead. Marvel did drop their dog title — Lockjaw — and added two new Black hero titles, an improvement in actual diversity. However, it cut one of their Asian lead titles — the Amadeus Cho-headed INCREDIBLE HULK book. Obviously, the addition of actual racial diversity is worth celebrating. Still, losing Cho’s book does reduce representation by half.

As a result, the combined percentage of white characters hit a double digit difference compared to Census data. This is the only time that happened this quarter. Anything positive about that, though, is eliminated by the knowledge that it has been trending in this direction all quarter.

Diversity Check2- Superman
Superman saves, I don’t know, a World War II vet from a dinosaur, I guess. Look, Superman can do a lot of things you and I can’t, ok? (Courtesy of DC Comics)

June Sexual Identity Diversity Analysis

As with racial identity, both Marvel and DC increased their number of titles on both sides of the equation this month. DC added two more straight-led books and one bisexual lead. Marvel, by contrast, added more non-straight books than straight ones. However, in taking a closer look at the offerings, we see that increase in sexual identity diversity is misleading. The reality is Marvel only added one more title with a bisexual lead. The other three new titles have unknown or unidentified sexualities. For the entire quarter, Marvel never offered a single solo title with a gay-identified lead character.

Non-straight titles improved overall in terms of raw numbers and percent this month. Again, however, the biggest boost comes from lead characters whose sexuality remained unstated.

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June Gender Identity Diversity Analysis

Neither company offered a double-digit amount of woman-led solo titles this month. Marvel, however, did slightly increase their number while DC reduced theirs. As a result, Marvel’s amount of woman-led titles improved by around seven percent. Meanwhile, DC’s fell by nearly the same percent. Nonetheless, DC still maintained a higher percentage of women solo books in June.

Marvel’s increased offerings, however, did successfully increase the combined percentage of women-led titles. The difference, however, is only 3 percent. That’s woefully small considering the gap we discussed in May.

Diversity Check2- Lando
It looks awfully warm for a cape on that planet. Then again, I bet Lando’s so cool he doesn’t even feel heat. (Courtesy of Marvel Comics)

Straight, White, Cis Men in June

After a slight dip last month, the combined percentage of straight, white, cis-men titles jumped to the highest level. Marvel improved percentage-wise in comparison to last month. Still, however, the company lags behind in both raw numbers and percentage of overall output. This is even after DC increased their number of straight, white, cis men heroes as well.

Frustratingly, Marvel actually offered more titles that featured a straight, white, cis male lead in June than May. It just happens that Marvel added more titles overall. Thus, the increase in raw numbers was somewhat obscured by the decreased in percent.

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Quarter Overall

Marvel in the 2nd Quarter (percents in parentheses)

Total Issues for Month 112
Racial Identity White-86 (76.8) People of Color- 26 (23.2)

Black-14 (12.5), Latinx-3 (2.7), Asian-4 (3.6),        Pakistani-3 (2.7), Dog 2 (1.8)

Sexuality Straight- 97 (86.6) Gay- 0 (0) Bi- 4 (3.6) Unknown- 9 (8)

Pan 2 (1.8)

Gender Men- 90 (80.4) Women-22 (19.6)
Straight White Cis Men 69 (61.6)

 

DC in the 2nd Quarter (percents in parentheses)

Total Issues for Month 109
Racial Identity White- 97 (89.0) People of Color- 12 (11.0)

Black- 9 (8.3), Cat- 3 (2.8)

Sexuality Straight- 84 (77.1) Gay- 6 (5.5) Bi- 13 (11.9) Unknown- 6 (5.5)
Gender Men- 76 (69.7) Women- 33 (30.3)
Straight White Cis Men 60 (55.0)

 

Total in the 2nd Quarter (percents in parentheses)

Total Issues for Month 221
Racial Identity White-183 (82.8) People of Color- 38 (17.2)

Black-23 (10.4), Latinx-3 (1.4), Asian-4 (1.8),        Pakistani-2 (.9), Cat-3 (1.4), Dog-2 (.9)

Sexuality Straight- 181 (81.9) Gay- 6 (2.7) Bi- 17 (7.7) Unknown- 15 (6.8)

Pan- 2 (.9)

Gender Men- 166 (75.1) Women- 55 (24.9)
Straight White Cis Men 129 (58.4)
Diversity Check2- Nightwing
Nightwing appears to be fighting one of the skulls from Namor’s armor. Now, see kids, that’s what we call an inside joke. Read all my stuff and join the club! (Courtesy of DC Comics)

Quarterly Conclusion: Racial Identity Diversity

The diversity picture for April through June is, alas, not wildly encouraging. Over the course of three months, improvements were few and often tempered by other aspects of the category. For example, if you look at racial identity diversity, DC Comics offered a stable number of titles month to month. As their overall number of titles only slightly increased, the percentage also stayed relatively consistent . However, they never offered a character of color who wasn’t a Black hero or a cat-person. Marvel, again, had an uptick in diversity in the final month in this category. However, it did so with more Black heroes, but fewer racial identities being represented overall.

The diversity of people of color continues to be a weak spot for both companies. For the entire quarter, DC never offered a title with a Latinx, Asian, or Arabic lead. Marvel had a bigger spread of leads but only minimally and still failed to offer an Arabic lead.

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Quarterly Conclusion: Sexual Identity Diversity

Marvel consistently outperformed DC in the area of racial diversity both month to month and overall in the quarter. DC, though, offered considerable more diversity when it comes to sexual identity and gender identity.

Sexual identity diversity cumulatively improved every month over the course of quarter. Marvel also improved May to June after staying the same April to May. However, as noted other places, Marvel did so without ever offering a book with a gay or lesbian lead. DC, on the other hand, grew less diverse in terms of sexuality every month of the quarter. In the first two months of the quarter, DC was over 12% and over 15.5% better on sexual identity diversity. In June, however, that difference shrunk to less than a percentage point.

Diversity Check2- Spidey
It took HOURS to get the people arranged just right to make that shadow. HOURS!!!! (Courtesy of Marvel Comics)

Quarterly Conclusion: Racial Identity Diversity

Gender, by contrast, grew worse in May and then improved in June in terms of percentage. In terms of raw numbers, it actually got worse in the final month. DC was the same in April and May, and then got worse in terms of percentage. Raw number-wise, DC also had their worse month in June. Marvel had a notable decrease in diversity percentage between April and May. In June, they increased their gender identity diversity but still were less diverse than where they started the month. Like DC, June was Marvel’s worst month on raw numbers with them growing worse each month of the quarter.

Quarterly Conclusion: Straight, White, Cis Men

Once again, the theory that comics do not showcase straight, white, cisgender male heroes anymore is easily refuted. Comics feature plenty of heroes that check all these proverbial boxes. In fact, the Big Two’s offerings do so a disproportionate amount of the time. About 20 percentage points higher than one would encounter in the real world it seems.

Perhaps this reflects the population of fans as well. The classic image of a comic fan, after all, is a white, straight, cis man. I have my doubts, though. That’s especially as the diversity of the general population grows. Even if true, I maintain a diverse product with appeal to others beyond the hardcore fan base would be advantageous. It is healthy for art to reflect and celebrate diversity. Long-term, it is also just smart business to grow your prospective client base. The idea being pushed by the anti-diversity crowd that the bottom line would not benefit over time is silly.

The general downward trajectory of diversity is disappointing. That we are seeing it in the raw numbers and the percentages in each cateogry is disconcerting.

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First Quarter vs. Second Quarter

Marvel in the 1st Quarter (percents in parentheses)

Total Issues for Quarter 125
Racial Identity White-88 (70.4) People of Color- 37 (29.6)

Black-16 (12.8), Biracial-6 (4.8), Latinx-6 (4.8), Asian-3 (2.4), Pakistani-3 (2.4), Other (A Dog)- 2 (1.6), Unknown- 1 (.8)

Sexuality Straight- 109 (87.2) Gay- 6 (4.8) Bi- 5 (4) Unknown- 5 (4)
Gender Men- 86 (68.8) Women-39 (31.2)
Straight White Cis Men 57 (45.6)

 

DC in the 1st Quarter (percents in parentheses)

Total Issues for Month 105
Racial Identity White-88 (83.8) People of Color- 17 (16.2)

Black-8 (7.6), Latinx-4 (3.8),

Other (A Cat, A Plant Creature)-4 (3.8), Asian- 1 (1)

Sexuality Straight- 85 (81) Gay- 6 (7.1) Bi- 10 (9.5) Unknown- 4 (3.8)
Gender Men-79 (75.2) Women-26 (24.8)
Straight White Cis Men 56 (53.3)

 

Total in the 1st Quarter (percents in parentheses)

Total Issues for Month 230
Racial Identity White-176 (76.5) People of Color- 54 (21.6)

Black-24 (10.4), Biracial-6 (2.6), Latinx-10 (5.3), Other (A Cat, A Dog, A Swamp Creature)-6 (2.6), Asian-4 (1.7), Pakistani-3 (1.3), Unknown- 1 (.4)

Sexuality Straight- 194 (84.3) Gay- 12 (5.2) Bi- 15 (6.5) Unknown- 9 (3.9)
Gender Men-165 (71.7) Women-65 (28.3)
Straight White Cis Men 113 (49.1)
Diversity Check2- Shade the Changing Woman
When is a changing woman not a changing woman? When she’s also partially a pillow. I think? I feel like this is a bad riddle. (Courtesy of DC Comics)

First Quarter versus Second Quarter: Racial Identity Diversity

In considering Marvel, it is immediately noticeable that they offered fewer books this quarter than last. This trend actually started with a large culling of books at the end of the first quarter. If May and June’s numbers continue, they’ll be trending back upward. However, it is simply too early to tell.

Despite the fall in titles, Marvel experienced a minimal reduction in books with white solo heroes — two. This accounts for Marvel’s higher raw number of white character-led titles and the overall percentage decrease in racial diversity.

The amount of titles DC offered rose slightly. However, the pattern reflected DC’s last quarter. Month to month, they showed slight rises and falls but no sustained trajectory in either direction. DC’s small increase in the second quarter unfortunately did not translate into an increase in racial diversity. Instead, it actually dropped by over five percentage points and five titles.

It follows then that racial diversity overall fell by 16 titles and over six percent.

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First Quarter versus Second Quarter: Sexual Identity Diversity

There was some good news for Marvel here this quarter. Despite the reduction in titles, they only register a less than 1% loss of sexual identity diversity. Additionally, they increased books with a pansexual lead from zero to two. However, their gay- and-lesbian led books dropped from 6 books last quarter to zero in this one.

DC reduced the number of straight leads by 1 over the quarter, while increasing the non-straight lead offerings by five. This included three more titles featuring bisexual leads. In an era where bi erasure has become an increasingly important issue in sexual identity discussions, this is quite interesting. For whatever reason, bisexuality fared the best of all non-straight identifiers this quarter.

Fueled by the five new titles, sexual identity diversity increased by about four percent. The number of gay leads stayed consistent at six books. The increase in titles, however, undermined this consistency. DC suffered a 1.5% proportional decrease that was only offset by the already noted increase in bi leads.

Overall, sexual diversity did increase from the first to second quarter. Unfortunately, this is, at best, a hollow victory. For one, Marvel took some disappointing steps backwards. In addition, a big cause for the overall increase was books with characters with unstated sexualities. No character should be required to have a stated sexuality, of course. In calculating the diversity of sexual identity, though, getting a boost from characters with no presentation at all feels cheap. Going forward, I am considering tweaking my formula. I will still report the number of characters with undeclared sexual identities. I am considering, however, discontinuing the inclusion of them in the raw or percent calculations of diversity.

Diversity Check2- Awesome Hulk
Amadeus Cho rushes out of the second quarter screaming and kicking up his heels. (Courtesy of Marvel Comics)

Quarter 1 versus Quarter 2: Gender Identity Diversity

This is the most discouraging category for Marvel. After having a higher level of gender diversity than DC last quarter, Marvel’s dipped below DC. Moreover, it was less diverse in the second quarter on both a raw number and percentage basis. Despite offering three fewer books over the month overall, Marvel managed to add four more books with male leads. This caused the company’s gender identity diversity to drop by over 11.5%.

DC, on the other hand, offered seven more solo books with woman leads. As a result, their gender identity diversity jumped up 5.5%. This means after lagging behind Marvel by nearly 6.5% in this category last quarter, they leapfrogged over their competition. At the end of the month, they were offering a higher rate of gender diversity, by over 10.5%. This constituted  a nearly 17-point shift.

Overall, men gained one book between months and women lost 10. This caused a 4.4% reduction in gender identity diversity in total between the quarters.

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Quarter 1 versus Quarter 2: The Cisgender, Straight, White Male Hero Question

Marvel offered 12 more books featuring a lead who checked all these boxes. This means they proportionally offered 16% more straight, white, cis men solo hero books in the second quarter. DC did not have nearly as big a raw number or percentage shift. Nevertheless, they did head in the same direction with four more titles and a 1.7% increase. Taken in total, fans had 9.3% fewer books without a cisgender straight white male lead to choose.

Overall, it is dispiriting to see nearly universal reductions with few bright spots. Marvel’s sales have reportedly improved this quarter. Still, if they are only doing so by running back to a regressive, limited population, this improvement may prove short-lived. Increasing diversity and courting new fans would seem to the be the smarter long-term strategy. Of course, many also consider it a bigger roll of the dice. Additionally, there are very loud opponents of diversity online that can be difficult to ignore.

On the other hand, the sales jump and the drop in diversity might be correlational but not causational. It is something that will hopefully be easier to see when we have next quarter’s data to consider.

The Ever-Shifting Goalposts of Calling SJW

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