Where Do We Stand? Women in April’s Comics and Graphic Novel Sales

After March’s female-charged month, April falls flat on its face. It’s difficult to report on the loss of ground, so read on to find out what happened.

Star wars 4 civerApril was all about Marvel’s Stars Wars, DC’s Convergence and a squeak in by Batman #40 in the single issue comics. That’s four Stars Wars titles and five Convergence for those who want to know the math. The winner of this battle royale was Star Wars #4, nabbing the top spot as the best selling single issue of April. Last month’s best selling single title, Princess Leia, keeps a foothold in the top 10 coming at in the tenth spot with Princess Leia #3.

In grWalking Dead Vol. 23aphic novels and trades, Walking Dead Vol. 23 rises to the top. Not surprisingly due to the movie buzz, Avengers: Rage of Ultron follows behind at number two. Fan favorite The Lumberjanes Vol 1 also joins the list.

DC makes a strong recovery for titles in the top 10 for April. In March, Marvel ruled the list but April starts to level the playing field. Time will tell if Convergence will keep up the sales or if it will go the way the New 52.

When browsing their  local comic book shops, readers would have found that the top 10 single issues included only five issues with women on the covers. Of the five single issues, four were counted because they include at least one female character in a group shot. One had the back of a female character’s head in a group at the bottom, so technically I had to include it, but I don’t see it as an empowering endorsement for women. Only one issue in the top 10 singles, Princess Leia #3, featured a single female character on the cover. I understand the Convergence title is a collaborative team arc so group shots on the cover will happen, but I continue to question why the ratio of male-to-female characters on those covers need to be so high. Graphic novels and trades fare steadily this month with seven covers that include women, five of which include them as the featured characters on the covers.

Convergence cover group shot graph

I’m noticing another disturbing trend in the single issues. Like December, January, and March, none of the single issues for April included women creators. That means for three of the four months in 2015, none of the best selling single issue comics titles had female representation on the creative team. Let that sink in for a moment.

Women on creative teams single issue comics 2015

Trades and graphic novels give us four this month, including Marguerite Bennett for her work on Batman Vol. 6: The Graveyard Shift, Amanda Connor for Harley Quinn Vol.1: Hot in the City, Fiona Staples for Saga Vol. 4, and the amazing all women creative team of the Lumberjanes Vol.1, Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke Allen and Shannon Watters.

Roller Girl coverOn the NYT list, Raina Telgemeier is still holding strong. Proving that big name movies can draw fans who shop at comic shops and at bookstores, Avengers: Rage of Ultron hits four weeks on the NYT list for April.

As I was reviewing the paperback graphic books lists this month, I was struck by how many on the list were targeted to a middle school female audience. Raina Telgemeier’s books Smile, Sisters and Drama routinely topped the lists, followed by Cece Bell’s El Deafo. In April, we also saw the addition of Roller Girl, where the main character Astrid goes to derby camp before starting junior high. Moving in and out of the NYT list were comic titles with a younger female lead as well: Lumberjanes Vol. 1 and Ms. Marvel Vols. 1 and 2.

After last month’s high on female led titles, April feels like a let down. It’s hard giving super hero titles a chance when the lack of female representation in both the cover images and the creative teams is so low. Thankfully, the graphic novels and trades are still offering diversity that also sells well.

Each month, Diamond Comics Distributors releases data on the top selling products from single issue comics, to graphic novels and trade paperbacks, to toys. Their sales data represents items sold through comic book shops.

I also include information from the New York Times’ weekly bestsellers’ list for graphic books. Their list comprises sales data for items sold through venues other than comic book shops, like bookstores. As it’s weekly, it won’t be an exact picture of all the days in the month, but it’s a valuable way to see what fans who aren’t buying at comic shops are reading.

Brenda Noiseux

Brenda Noiseux

Community builder, artist, convention organizer, gamer, geek writer @womenoncomics, @Sidequest_BHP. Owner, Bittenby Studios