Outside Looking In: Wonder Woman and the Politics of Who Gets Hired
With mere minutes on the official countdown clock to the DC: Rebirth livestream, writer Marguerite Bennett tweeted an announcement, but it wasn't exactly the announcement we were anticipating from her today:
Good for Bennett, that she's launching a Patreon. It's a great way to stay funded as a creator of any kind these days. I use one myself, to help fund my podcast. But when I saw her tweet, I immediately said to my co-workers "Bennett's not going to be announced as the writer of Wonder Woman."
That's been the rumor for weeks now. She's been making a name for herself writing DC Bombshells at DC and Angela: Queen of Hel at Marvel, among other books. With the Marvel book ending, her name started circulating on the internet rumor mill as a likely choice for the Wonder Woman relaunch due to come as a part of DC: Rebirth. It was an exciting idea for Wonder Woman's future. Bennett's books are full of fun new ideas, queer characters, and women kicking lots of ass, all of which seem like things Wonder Woman needs.
But Bennett's Patreon page paints a different picture of her year:
I recently lost a major project shortly after a rather expensive surgery, and as I struggle to rebuild my 2016, I was hoping to be able to interact directly with you all, without a publisher, and share some art, writing, behind the scenes stories, how-to's, journal entries, nonfiction, analysis, and anything else that isn't exactly in the superheroes-and-insect-lesbians forte of my mainstream publications.
Please don't misunderstand; the "lost a major project" is clearly a reference to the recently canceled Angela, and doesn't imply that she was ever expecting to write Wonder Woman.
An hour later, Greg Rucka was announced as the new Wonder Woman writer. The way artist Liam Sharp talked about having already received scripts, it sounds like that's been the plan for a while. And Rucka writes a great Wonder Woman, and left the book all those years ago with a sense of many stories still untold.
But as Geoff Johns introduced Rucka as one of his best friends, it was hard not to think about the Old Boys' Club that is comics. Whether Bennett was considered for the job or not, it's inescapable that mainstream comics would rather give a job to a middle-aged man who had an acclaimed run on the same character years ago, rather than a young woman who might bring something entirely new and unexpected to the book.
Throughout the livestream, Johns, Jim Lee, and Dan DiDio talked continually about what great old friends they were with many of the creators. Hiring people you know personally is never the path to diverse and interesting hires. It leads to a lot of mostly white men, as a general rule, which is what we got with DC: Rebirth. There are exceptions of course, like the exciting choice of Hope Larson on Batgirl, or Gene Luen Yang on New Super-Man.
But from Rucka to Dan Jurgens on Superman, to Johns and Lee themselves, down to the baffling continuation of Scott Lobdell's Red Hood, it seems that the same old crowd continues to rule mainstream comics, while the most exciting new voices remain at the margins, seeking alternate sources of funding while they wait outside the doors.