The news that DC was shutting down its CMX manga line drew a surprisingly caustic reaction across the web, as summed up by Johanna Draper Carlson. Now, we’re well aware that there is a very vocal bunch of online fans who love to bash DC no matter what they do — if someone at DC used a firehose to put out a fire, these fans would complain DC was wasting precious water. However these complaints were from manga commenters and librarians, a far less volcanic crowd. But they were near-universal in their disappointment that DC had shut down a line that seemed to be holding its own despite rarely getting any attention or promotion. Or as Simon Jones put it:
You know, I don’t recall any other event to have elicited so much blasphemous language from the collective manga blogosphere as CMX’s demise. Personally, I’m one who does little swearing in public or unfamiliar company, because I cherish the act. I want my curses not to be regarded as common vulgarity, but as sincere and succinct expressions of rage and disgust. I think that is true of most of these posters above as well. Perhaps this is one of those situations that warrants it.
The most serious and mournful complaining comes froma roundtable at School LIbrary Journal’s Good Comics for Kids blog where most commenters feel that by dropping CMX — which published mostly shojo manga – DC seems to have little interest in cultivating a wider audience, especially given the end of the Minx line a few years ago. Snow Wildsmith:
…I’m worried that the demise of CMX–which comes a year and a half after the end of DC Comic’s MINX imprint–means that DC is turning its back on girls. Or at least turning its back on girls who don’t read superhero comics. Frankly, even though I started reading comics by reading superhero titles, superhero comics today make me tired. It’s not that they aren’t well-written or nicely illustrated. It’s that I have to dig through too many years of backstory to figure out what’s going on in Batman or Superman or Wonder Woman’s world. On top of that, I don’t want to pay $3.99 for a single comic issue when I can pay between 10 and 13 dollars for a full manga volume. And speaking as a former librarian, I can say that I never had girls begging me for the latest Batman, but I still remember how excited one middle schooler was when she first checked out Apothecarius Argentum. It’s been said again and again, girls will read comics where they see themselves represented. But shutting down CMX is going to limit that representation. I think DC is making a big mistake.
…I fear that all this just confirms what I have known but hoped I was wrong about: girls never have been an audience that DC courted or considered seriously, and they aren’t going to be any time in the near future. I don’t care what Karen Berger said at the beginning of Minx: teenage girls are a tiny blip in what DC looks at when creating or promoting comics. I still enjoy what they do well for what they are: slick and occasionally compelling superhero tales. I’m just sad to have to accept that they are not, and never will be, aimed at me or the girls who enjoy superhero comics. We exist, and it feels terrible to be ignored or, as is often the case when I try to bring this problem up, tossed the Gail Simone bone and told that should be enough for me. (I have no quarrel with Gail Simone herself, just the fact that she’s considered enough representation for half the population. No one woman should shoulder that responsibility!)
You know what really chaps my hide? That just about the time Jim, Asako, and CMX began publishing really solid titles for tweens, DC got rid of their library marketing folks. DC used to have a booth at every American Library Association (ALA) convention, well stocked with sample titles and giveaways, and staffed by people who were enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and ready to recommend books for any age group and interest. And their booth was always, always busy.
And in other voices, hide chapping, David Welsh:
Among manga bloggers, myself included, it’s widely believed that the only times DC executives encounter the letters “CMX” in a row is when they get a particularly crappy tray of tiles during a game of Scrabble. Back in the days when Paul Levitz was in charge, you could make bank that he would barely mention DC’s manga imprint during his nine-part year-end interviews with ICv2. When they launched the Minx imprint, Karen Berger acted over and over again like DC was inventing comics for teen-aged girls, resolutely ignoring the manga market until enough people asked “What the hell is she talking about?” And even when forced to admit that there were all kinds of comics for teen-aged girls, she never noted the fact that her employer published some of them. When Diane Nelson took over for Levitz, it surprised absolutely no one that CMX was not among her talking points, probably because DC didn’t have the right to repackage CMX properties in other media, so who cares? We need a goddamn Green Lantern franchise with legs, and we need one now.
And so on and so forth. IN defense of DC, the manga category is obviously not a booming one anymore, and these books didn’t sell all that great — although they sold about the same in bookstores as some superhero books, according to Bookscan. Ay any rate, manga at DC was just never a good fit, and maybe it’s just time to accept that. And to find someone to finish up Emma.
YIKES, the hits just keep coming:
More Kai-Ming Cha, who blames the Tanjo Tenga backlash.
MORE round-up by Simon Jones.
EVEN MORE ROUND-UP By Deb Aoki:
I recall seeing the boxes and boxes of manga at Los Angeles comics shop Meltdown Comics that they were aching to sell at a $1 a book just to get them moving. A good chunk of those non-returnable books were older CMX Manga titles. Even if CMX was planning on putting out some promising titles in 2010, I’d imagine a lot of comic shop retailers were like Meltdown: a little burnt by their past experiences and a little less inclined to take a chance on titles they weren’t sure they could sell.
And of course, Chris Butcher administers the coup de grace:
CMX wasn’t, at its inception, a particularly well-run company. There are a lot of excuses out there, but bluntly DC didn’t know a thing about the manga market, and the person they hired to start the imprint wasn’t good at his job. DC offered a deep-discount offer to retailers to stock some of the initial titles, MADARA in particular, an older-Seinen action adventure title at the height of the shoujo boom. (Their sole shoujo title was from the 1970s.)
I can’t stress enough, their initial licenses were very strange and generally weak with no cohesion as a line. Sales tanked, comics retailers who were encouraged to buy BIG were left with unsold stock, and comics retailers have long and ’specific’ memories and if they’re ever burned by anything they never forget and hold a grudge indefinitely. (Except for superheroes of course; Marvel and DC are putting out lit cigarettes on the foreheads of comics retailers every month, and they keep coming back for more. But say something nasty about Carol Kalish in an obituary and I WILL NEVER BUY YOUR FUCKING BOOKS FOREVER I HATE YOU. Comics are kinda lame sometimes.)
Those with long memoies may remember the CMX launcher as Jake Tarbox , who had already run the failed manga line Raijin. Tarbox lasted about a year, run out of manga town on a rail after the Tenjo Tenge mess.
BTW, what a great news story from five years ago by Matt Brady You don’t see that kind of comics news story any more!
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.