Now, these days, we tend to assume that everyone is working with the best of intentions, and that lack of representation must be a sin of omission, not commission. These days, that’s usually true, but the habits and attitude that perpetuate those omissions grew from a foundation of explicit policy. An early version of DC’s Editorial Policy Code, implemented shortly after the creation of the Comics Code Authority, leaves little room for debate: “The inclusion of females in stories is specifically discouraged. Women, when used in plot structure, should be secondary in importance.”
Before you dismiss that as a relic of a bygone era, remember that superhero comics are almost ritualistic in their invocation of and adherence to tradition. Death is never permanent, and each world-shattering change gradually fades back to a good old status quo. Newer versions of heroes—chief among them women and heroes of color—are retconned to make way for the return of their original white, male namesakes, or killed off to provide motivation to the same. While DC may no longer officially mandate that female characters be secondary, Gail Simone’s now-legendary Women in Refrigerators project makes it grimly clear that the policy has persisted in spirit if not letter.