Here's the good news: According to some recent research by FiveThirtyEight.com, the website that applies data to just about everything -- most notably, US elections -- the ratio of female to male characters in mainstream superhero comics is improving, and more LGBT characters are showing up in Marvel and DC's pages.

That said, the numbers still aren't great. "Female characters make up only 30.9 percent of the DC universe and 30.6 percent of the Marvel universe," the site's report states. In a world where women are 51 percent of all people, that's not so representative.

Also of interest: Female comic characters tend to be neutral or good far more than they're evil. "Bad-aligned men alone outnumbered all women combined," the report states.

Of course, none of that happens in a vacuum. Marvel and DC have a particular audience they're trying to maintain. In an interview with the site, Thor writer Jason Aaron said:

Over time, we started to appeal to the same, dwindling fans. I don’t say that derisively, because I’m at the heart of that dwindling group of fans, and always have been.

It's not hard to figure out that Aaron is talking about white men, the demographic group that dominates the creative side of comics, too. We've done some of our own number-crunching on this front at ComicsAlliance; our Harvey-Renee Index noted just how often white men are over-represented compared to the wider populace, even in contemporary team books.

The FiveThirtyEight report states that it's nearly impossible to figure out the demographics of comic book buyers, because they mostly shop at independently owned comic shops. That said, the audience that attends comic conventions is almost equally split between men and women.

That seems to be the key takeaway: There is an audience for comics -- if comic book publishers would appeal to them.

Of course -- and this is something that extra-comics media, researches and seemingly most of the non-comics-reading public does not take into account -- not all comics are published by Marvel and DC, and not all comics are about superheroes. If FiveThirtyEight expanded its study to include other publishers and other types of work, the research would certainly paint a different picture.