Sex, Race, and Sexual Orientation in the Justice League (Part 1 of the Six Month Superhero Census)

Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, CyborgAs you know, a couple of weeks ago I presented “A Superhero Census: Sex, Race, and Sexual Orientation in the X-Men, Avengers, and Justice League” at Dragon*Con as part of the 5th Annual Comics & Popular Arts Conference.

Now that the lecture is over, I’d like to share my quantitative six months results, starting with the Justice League! The following demographics have been gathered from all the Justice League comic books released from January through June 2012. This includes not only Justice League but also Justice League International and Justice League Dark. The census is ongoing, but the full 2012 results will obviously not be ready until early 2013.

The real world data has been gathered from the U.S. 2010 Census Data and “How Many People are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender?” by Gary J. Gates.

Superhero Census: Sex, Race, and Sexual Orientation in Justice League

Click to enlarge

There are a couple of things I’d like to point out before I go any further. The results for race have been slightly skewed by the addition of a N/A category. I’ve added this category to account for characters whose race is not found in the real world (green skinned aliens, robots, etc).

Also, the percentage of LGB members only reflects characters who self-identify as lesbian, gay, or transgender. Even though Wonder Woman comics have at times contained lesbian undertones, I have not counted her as LGB because the New 52 Wonder Woman has not openly self-identified as such.

Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lanter, Aquaman, Flash, Cyborg

The Justice League’s Sex Composition

The most staggering result to me is how horribly under-represented women are. I know that the New 52 didn’t do women any favors and the Justice League isn’t exactly known for its diversity, but it’s still rather shocking to see. Rebooting a team and only allowing women to make up 25.9% of it when they actually make up 50.8% of the population is ludicrous. No wonder the New 52’s readership is overwhelming male.

The Justice League’s LGB Members

It’s kind of hard to have positive representations of LGB people when they aren’t represented at all.

The Justice League’s Race Composition

Green Lantern from the animated Justice League series

Previously, I’ve argued that the “new” Justice League is really just the old Justice League plus a black guy. I have no problem with Cyborg being on the team but the whole things reeks of tokenism. Hell, Guy Gardner is on Justice League International but John Stewart is nowhere in sight!

While I stand by what I said, I was very surprised that 14.8% of the Justice League is black compared to 12.6% that make up the U.S. population. I’m not saying that we’re “there,” but I’m happy to at least see black superheroes being presented.

I was also surprised to see that the team’s Asian heroes actually make up a higher percent of the team than Asian people do the U.S.

Unfortunately, white, black, and Asian are the only three real world races represented on the team. Despite the fact that Hispanic and Latino people make up a whooping 16.3% of the population, the Justice League doesn’t have a single Hispanic or Latino member. In fact, the team is actually whiter than the U.S. population (74.1% compared to the 63.7%).

Conclusion

Boster Gold, Green Lantern, Batman, Fire, Ice, Rocket Red, Vixen, August General in Iron, Godiva

The Justice League International

I wasn’t really following Justice League Dark or Justice League International before I started my census, so I was more than a little disappointed when I started reading to find out just how not diverse they are. Surely, I thought Justice League International would be a little less white and a little more diverse.

There were a few areas that surprised me, but for the most part the Justice Leagues’ demographics are about that I though they would be. They’re roughly 75% male, 75% white, and 100% straight.

[Edit: Part 2 of the six month superhero census has now been published. Check it out for the Avengers’ demographics.]

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2 Responses to “Sex, Race, and Sexual Orientation in the Justice League (Part 1 of the Six Month Superhero Census)”


  1. 1 Bryce Whitman November 13, 2012 at 4:25 am

    I appreciate your article a lot–it’s important to show a truly diverse range of heroes while avoiding the perception of being patronizing or tokenistic. I just wanted to mention that Vibe, who’s coming back in the New 52 JL of America, is Hispanic, so there has been at least one Latino member that I know of. With that said, how could comics like JLA better represent other ethnic groups, women, and the LGBT community than they do now?

    • 2 Daniel Amrhein November 13, 2012 at 5:25 pm

      I’m looking forward to JLA. The new team’s roaster is much more diverse than the team’s current incarnations.

      Your question is a good (and complex) one. As my article points out, the first step to better represent people of color, women, and LGBT individuals is by representing them in the first place. Many classic superheroes were created during a much more racist, misogynistic, and homophobic time and as a result both DC and Marvel have universes largely populated by straight white guys. It’s important for comic creators to be mindful of this when creating new characters and when choosing their story’s cast.

      As you said, the next step is to avoid depicting them in a patronizing or tokenistic way. The vast majority of comic writer and illustrators are straight white men (a lack of diversity among creators is another part of the problem). These guys need to be extra careful with their minority and female characters because they (through no fault of their own) haven’t had the same life experiences as members of these groups. That’s why creators (even those with the best intentions) can so easily make their minority and female characters into stereotypes.

      Research can help. It would be ridiculous to assume that a writer could write a character from another culture without doing at least a nominal amount of research on that culture. The same goes for writers who want to write a character of another race, sex, or sexual orientation. For example, Joss Whedon’s ability to write strong female characters stems from both his interactions with strong women (he largely credits his mom) and his study of feminism. If Whedon never met any strong women or studied feminism then he never would have developed his ability to depict strong women in his works.


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