Why Women Don’t Work at Marvel

Gail Simone, at her message board, responds to the question of why not many women submit to Marvel, seeking work there:

I like Marvel. I have a lot of friends at Marvel. But there is definitely a Howard Stern/partytime/fratboy/strip club element.

Again, I like Marvel. But when I was there, it was INEVITABLE that every female who left or was let go would be referred to as a ‘crazy bitch’ at some point. I don’t blame any one person for it, but it is something that could bite them in the ass if they’re not careful.

And on the flipside, big kudos to editors like Mike Marts who could NOT have been more gracious and welcoming. And Joe Quesada has been nothing but nice to me as well. It’s not the individuals, it’s just sort of an institutionalized faux ‘badboys’ environment, to my mind.

As a final cavaet, let me add that it’s been some years since I was there and it all may have changed since then.

Later in the thread, an aspiring woman writer says that it’s not a good economic decision. With limited time and energy, she’d rather dedicate her efforts to a different field, one where she doesn’t have to fight an offensive atmosphere, can more easily get work, and oh, yeah, make more money.

That bit about how the men talk about the women behind their back, how it’s always made out to be the woman’s fault, fits in with my experience at DC. (Again, that was several years ago now.)

I think the guys who work in superhero comics, because they were fans first, are used to feeling picked on, so when they get the chance to blame someone else, they take it. It’s never their fault. They run the clubhouse, so they think they always make the right decisions and obviously deserve their positions. (That also explains the defensiveness to fan feedback you often see.)

24 Responses to “Why Women Don’t Work at Marvel”

  1. Lea Says:

    I’m glad Gail’s adding her voice to this, but it’s also what I and many other women have been saying since January.

  2. gail Says:

    I’ve said this before, Lea.

    There’s more than one bandwagon.


  3. Craig Says:

    That’s a very valid point you make, Johanna. Bang on. I really can’t add to it. I’m so happy to not be working in a comic store anymore. As a gay man, there’s only so much gentle deflection and attempts at civilized arguements you can manage before wanting to punch a couple heads in. So, instead, I walked away and let the snake eat its own tail.

    Gail, keep making great comics. Your presence inspires more than you could know. You’re like the uber rock chick inspiring girls to pick up a guitar. Your comics are damn fun.

  4. Gail Says:

    Thank you, Craig, you just made my day. :)


  5. Dan Says:

    See, here’s the thing. Every time I’ve spoken to Gail and Devin Grayson… (and actually Lea does this as well) at convention, they are extremely gracious when I’ve asked how they deal with the “frat boy” mentality of most fans and creators. It wasn’t until I got to speak with Colleen Doran for about an hour that I realised as someone who doesn’t have to make his living in this industry I don’t have to put up with it at all. My own “zero tolerance policy if you will.”

    It is absolutely inexcuseable that this industry should be so bad that any creator be they gay or straight, male or female, should ever feel that it’s “not a good economic decision” to work in comics. Grrrrrrrr…. reading stuff like this just makes me want to go down to my lcs and start beating fanboys with their own Jim Balent posters. If the comics industry continues to alienate over half of its potential fan and creator base, I predict that it will eventually take up residence in some remote mountainous area and start eating random groups of lost tourists.

  6. Gail Says:

    It’s kind of important here to make a distinction…the fact is, DC has not only been nothing but INCREDIBLY gracious to me, but having spoken with Dan about this often, they’re headed in a direction of open-ness that I agree with whole-heartedly.

    I think it’s just as wrong to paint all publishers with the same brush as it is to pretend that sexism no longer exists in the industry.


  7. Johanna Says:

    I agree, Gail, but I had my own share of sexist experiences when I worked at DC. I see the core problem as endemic to the superhero-based industry, with degree of problem varying somewhat based on who’s in power when.

  8. Lisa Lopacinski Says:

    As a woman comic book retailer I know that men dominate the industry, both in terms of tallent and as consumers. But thanks to women like Gail and Johanna, we have made some inroads.

    I was a stock broker a few years ago, so I was prepared to work in a male dominated industry thanks to that. Sounds like male stock brokers and male comic book creators like those at Marvel are not that different. They both have a deep-rooted “boy’s club” mentality that is hard to completely get rid of. Any woman who comes around threatens their sense of security and machismo. Now, this isn’t all stock brokers or comic book guys, but it seems like, in any industry that’s been largely a men’s playground for years can be generally unwelcoming to us ladies. And until more women become end-product consumers, it will be tough to crack that nut (no pun intended). One of my goals is to get more women to read comics, as well as to get more PEOPLE to read non-superhero comics. Hopefully as diversity increases, it will become easier for women to get involved in creating comics for a living.

  9. eddie Says:

    Did it ever occur to either of you that you may just be unpleasant, obnoxious, and generally just bad employees?

  10. Johanna Says:

    No, not when I got excellent performance reviews from both my boss there and everywhere else I’ve worked.

    Fanboys always want to blame the victims, because they hate thinking about sexism, because it may cause them discomfort about their own attitudes and behavior.

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  13. Brian Says:

    I would more than welcome strong female talent to my company espescially for their fresh perspective and the possibility to increase female readership.

  14. Hsifeng Says:

    That reminds me of this interview with Marguerite Abouet about her latest book, and women and comics, on France 24’s Culture magazine. The whole video is in English, and Genie Godula interviews Abouet in the 2nd and 4th parts of the video. OTOH, if you don’t want to know what happens in Aya book 4 until after you read Aya book 3 (already released in French and the English translation’s due in June 2009) then skip it because the interview includes a big spoiler.

  15. jaci Says:

    Honestly Gail, it doesn’t matter where you work. I was a software eingineer at Motorola for 4 years and it was the same damn thing; whether they’re computer nerds or comic nerds, guys can’t handle it when women know as much (or more) than they do in their little niche… ESPECIALLY if you’re 5′ 10″, blonde and athletic…

  16. Comic Fan Says:

    Dear posters:

    First, I want to say thanks to Gail and you all for opening a thread like this.
    It is very refreshing for a long time comic book fan to get the female perspective on the industry. I have been a collector for over 25 years.
    Some of the comments here are very justified, and understandable.

    There were some things that I didn’t agree with that were written after Gails post.

    ” an aspiring woman writer says that it’s not a good economic decision. With limited time and energy, she’d rather dedicate her efforts to a different field”

    I am a guy,that would like to get into the field too. It is the economic aspect of it, that has prevented me from doing so. IF I do anything with Comics, there is no expectation of making a living from it, it is only for Love. Self publising perhaps.

    “she doesn’t have to fight an offensive atmosphere, can more easily get work”

    “That bit about how the men talk about the women behind their back, how it’s always made out to be the woman’s fault”

    I think that this type of situation can be found in all types of workplaces, not just comics. As for talking about people behind their back, women do this to, to men and worst…to their own gender.

    “I think the guys who work in superhero comics, because they were fans first, are used to feeling picked on, so when they get the chance to blame someone else, they take it. It’s never their fault.”

    Not every fan of superhero comments has that experience. Why is it assumed that someone who likes Superhero comics is only a Nerd. If one is athletic, like sports and music, and comics, does that make one a nerd as well? That is a stereotype.

    If the Comic industry seems like a boys club, it is because women are generally interested in the type of subjects that are written. This has been changing the last few years–Thank god! It is a good thing because it is allowing Comics to grow and explore other avenues.
    Comics have always been about escapism, which is why it has never been taken as seriously as Film. It has only been in the last 30 years that people have taken it more seriously as a literary art form.
    So much of this escapism has contributed to that relaxed “Boys club”, that has been decribed. Men don’t take themselves that seriously in general. We are always mocking each other. Women are not like this.
    On a person note, I have worked in an environment where the women outnumbered me, ten to one. And even though, we were friendly and their were no issues, I felt like an outsider. Just because they had their own group, which excluded Men.
    I don’t think this is a purposely made thing. I believe there are just some issues Women don’t prefer discussing with a man present. Mind you not all women are like this, just so you don’t think I am generalizing.

    I will be the first to admit, I am really ashamed of some of the behaviour that men have done in the Comic industry and fandom. It gives us normal comic fans a bad reputation. Which sometimes makes me not want to discuss this with people who are non-fans.

    For that to change, Women who want to be a part of this, just have to stick with it. It is going to take a long time for people to change, perceptions to change, and for the work environment to be more friendly for Women.
    And just maybe, The Comicbook industry and its fans will no longer be viewed as that adolescent boys club. It will finally have respect.

    Comic Fan

  17. Comic Fan Says:

    sorry, want to make a small correction here to the post above.
    the sentence is supposed to read:

    “If the Comic industry seems like a boys club, it is because women are generally not interested in the type of subjects that are written”

    Thank you
    Comic fan

  18. Comic god Says:

    Hi everybody im new to this blogging thing i would like to say i am a MEGA or UBER comic fan. I find that women really shed light on the whole comic book world and i prefer to see whole lot of GAIL so keep doing what you are doing and dont let anybody tell you any different.

  19. CeeNoob Says:

    I’m a girl! I’m not a geek (I don’t think I am) and I applied to be an intern at Marvel. I hope I get it for the summer.

  20. Johanna Says:

    Congratulations and good luck1

  21. Damien Says:

    Just as an aside, I work for the State and I call Marvel pretty regularly to try and place clients in jobs there…I have yet to talk to a male staffer. Maybe there’s an exception for the Human Rescources department…

  22. Sam Says:

    Bit sexist really, even for you own gender. I’ve heard of several female writers, there was one who wrote a Venom/Spider-Man story years ago and another who worked as part of an old saga for one of the heroes, might’ve been X-Men.

  23. Johanna Says:

    I think you’re proving the point — you can’t cite a name, one you remember from “years ago” and another you can’t remember what they did. If there were plenty of women working at and for Marvel, you wouldn’t have to pause to think of a name. They’d be immediately recognizable.

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