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The diversity of the new DC Universe has been the subject of a lot of conversations since the New 52 was first announced. DC made diversity a component of its marketing for the new series, and whenever the question comes up, it’s something the company claims to realize is important. Take for instance Dan DiDio’s interview with The Washington Post, where DC’s co-publisher said, “One of the things we looked at was that we wanted the DC Universe to be reflective of our reading audience, and by doing so it was important for us to look at characters like Batwing. We wanted to have a strong black character.” Or his and Jim Lee’s “We Hear You” post, where they wrote, “We’ve heard from fans about a need for more women writers, artists and characters. We want you to know … that we hear you and take your concerns very seriously.”
That post is important because it’s a reminder that this is something they’re still struggling with. While DC certainly has had issues around diversity and sensitivity in the past, I’m willing to take at face value their claims that they’re working to correct it. Lee and DiDio wrote, “We’re committed to telling diverse stories with a diverse point of view. We want these adventures to resonate in the real world, reflecting the experiences of our diverse readership. Can we improve on that? We always can — and aim to.”
How are they doing so far? Now that the first month of the New 52 has come to a close, Siskoid’s Blog of Geekery has done the math and — while there are some caveats and judgment calls involved — it’s pretty bad. Just maybe not that bad, especially in the numbers for racial diversity. Siskoid’s numbers reveal that just 26 percent of the “characters with an important or recurring role” are non-white, but that’s only 10 percent below the percentage of non-white citizens of the United States, according to the last census. There’s certainly room for improvement, but it’s not entirely bleak (said the white guy). It gets worse, though, when you see that 21 percent of the new books have “no non-white characters whatsoever.”
The numbers around gender are even more imbalanced. Only 36 percent of DC’s “characters with an important or recurring role” are female, which is pitiful considering that the female population of the U.S. is slightly more than 50 percent. DC still has a ton of work to do in this area.
And even if it gets those percentages up, that’s not the entire story. As Siskoid’s comment section points out, numbers aren’t as important as story. As we’re well aware, just because a comic has a woman as an important character (or is even named after her) doesn’t mean that it portrays her in a positive way. Something DC needs to keep in mind as it continues pursuing a balanced line is that it needs more books like Wonder Woman and Batwoman, and less like Catwoman and Voodoo.