For the last few years, DC Comics has seemed to be smack in the middle of a big nostalgia trip to the 90s, and not the kind that involves pogs, Pokémon and Power Rangers. Despite decades of success with adult-quality but kid-friendly fare on television, the company that owns Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the rest of the Justice League has been doubling down on the bleakness, violence and gratuitous female thong-shots that defined the worst of 90s comics.
  The overhaul of their entire line as the “New 52,” launched in September 2011, put far more emphasis on catering to the old straight white male market than expanding their audience. Ever since then, the company has been mired in a series of tone-deaf fumbles. There was the gross over-sexualization of Catwoman, Starfire and Harley Quinn, all of whom had been popular with women readers. There was the restoration of former Batgirl Barbara Gordon’s ability to walk, despite her role as one of the only significantly disabled superheroes in a major comic. And there was the editorial cancellation of lesbian Batwoman’s marriage, which led to the creative team leaving the book.

  But they’ve been taking baby steps toward improving, and lately the promising news has outpaced the disappointing news. They recently announced that Comics Alliance Editor-in-Chief Andy Khouri would be joining DC as an editor. Comics Alliance, a comics news blog, has frequently called DC out on their missteps, and bringing Khouri on board shows an awareness that those criticisms were warranted. They’ve also hired editor Rebecca Taylor from BOOM! imprint Archaia Entertainment.

  And the improvements aren’t all behind the scenes in Editorial. Writers Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti have been doing great things with Harley Quinn lately, and they’ll be joined by artist Emanuela Lupacchino on a Starfire solo book. Starfire was a very popular character with girls as part of the 00s Teen Titans cartoon, but the New 52 approach to her in Red Hood and the Outlaws — barely clothed and regularly engaging in meaningless sex — alienated many would-be readers. Starfire, an alien with strong emotions and no real filter for them, is a character who can too easily teeter from a relationship-positive, sex-positive woman to a teenage boy’s exhibitionist dream, but the new creative team shows a determination to keep her on the right side of things. Even her new costume is a good blend of her Teen Titans cartoon look and an admission of the fact that this version of the character is an adult who sees the need for clothing as a strange but necessary element of her adopted culture.

  That’s not to say they’re 100 percent on-point yet. A set of newly-revealed covers for a Joker-themed event included a Batgirl cover that some find upsetting. Every cover for the event involves the Joker in some way, but the Batgirl cover is a callback to the 1988 Batman story The Killing Joke — the story where Barbara was shot in the spine by the Joker and lost the use of her legs. While the story of how Barbara dealt with her newfound disability and remained a vital part of the superhero community was an important one, The Killing Joke itself used her injury for little more than shock value, and the new cover’s dark, threatening tone is at odds with the Batgirl series’ overall bright, empowering one.

  All these editorial and creative changes show that DC Comics wants to improve. With an increasingly diverse audience for comic books, no major publisher can survive by catering only to a shrinking group of straight white adult men. And with promising steps like these, the real winners will be the readers.