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It was the shout heard ’round the world. In the opening minutes of DC’s very first daily “New 52″ panel at the San Diego Comic-Con last Thursday, when Co-Publisher Dan DiDio turned to the audience and asked what DC would have to do to change the minds of those skittish about the impending relaunch, one man yelled “Hire women!” The number of women creators working on the DC Universe, he added after audience applause, had dropped with the relaunch from 12% of the total to just 1% (i.e. Gail Simone, and Amy Reeder if you count the later Batwoman launch). DiDio’s response was to turn the question back on the questioner and ask him whom he thinks DC should hire. The move raised some eyebrows, to be sure, given that an audience member isn’t in the kind of position to assess all the professional comics talent available to be hired that the brass at a major publisher would be in. Still — and I’ll just quote myself here from another time this topic came up — “I think it behooves those of us who argue for the inclusion of non-white non-straight non-male people in a creative team or superhero team or panel or article or exhibit to have candidates ready to hand,” so turnabout is fair play, I suppose.
But when you actually hear the exchange, which you can do by clicking on this mp3 (right-click to save), things sure sound more heated than just a matter of tossing the question back to the audience. DiDio repeatedly asks the audience member what the statistics he cited mean to him, and his call for names of female creators DC should have hired sounds less like a request and more like a challenge, as he says “tell me right now” over the audience member’s seemingly struggling attempts to respond.
Now, DiDio is an ebullient panel presence who simply has a booming voice — witness his enthusiasm when another audience member suggests artist Nicola Scott as a potential woman creator: “You’re damn right we’d hire Nicola Scott!” — so some of this is just how he always sounds when commanding a room at a show. But it’s hard not to hear an edge to the way he says “Thank you, sir” to the questioner, and first-hand reports from the audience say the exchange was an awkward one. The audio adds a context to it that panel reports can’t convey.
I first heard the clip (after many, many reblogs) at Do You Fondue?, but its origin appears to be this lengthy DC Women Kicking Ass interview with Batgirl cosplayer Kyrax2 — an omnipresent figure at DC’s panels this year whose indefatigable focus on the number of women characters and creators at DC led to several uncomfortable moments with the panelists and audience members. “Batgirl” ended up interacting, on panels or in person, with a wide range of DC staff and talent, including DiDio, Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, Grant Morrison, Paul Cornell, and Gail Simone. Take her assessment of those interactions with the grains of salt necessary to season the recollections of a person with agenda when you read it, of course, but do read it. And for even fuller context, listen to the panels in their entirety at DC’s SDCC podcast site.
And while you’re at it, why not take a stab at answering DiDio’s question in the comments below. When it comes to women creators, who should DC be hiring?