Well it’s official, as DC’s release makes clear:
Minx will cease publication beginning January ’09. Minx was an experimental imprint for DC Comics and we are extremely proud of the books we published and the stories we told during the past two years. We thank all of the writers and artists who lent their talents to our endeavor and especially thank readers who came along for the ride. DC Comics remains committed to publishing diverse material for diverse audiences as we continue to welcome new readers.
Announced in November ’06, after years of development, the Minx line launched in Spring ’07 with THE PLAIN JANES by Cecil Castellucci; and Jim Rugg, RE-GIFTERS by Mike Carey, Sonny Liew and Marc Hempel, CLUBBING by Andi Watson and Josh Howard and CONFESSIONS OF A BLABBERMOUTH by Mike Carey, Louise Carey and Aaron Alexovich. Subsequent releases in ’07 included GOOD AS LILY by Derek Kirk Kim and Jesse Hamm, and KIMMIE66 by Aaron Alexovich. This year, after a long break in new titles, we saw BURNOUT by Rebecca Donner and Inaki Miranda, the sequel JANES IN LOVE by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg, WATER BABY by Ross Campbell and THE NEW YORK FOUR by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly.
Still upcoming are TOKEN by Alisa Kwitney and Joëlle Jones, and EMIKO SUPERSTAR by Mariko Tamaki and Steve Rolston.
Other announced books for ’09 include ALL NIGHTER by David Hahn, POSEUR by Deborah Vankin and Rick Mays and the sequel CLUBBING IN TOKYO by Watson and Grazia Lobaccaro. As of this writing, DC had no comment on the fate of these last three books.
After being launched with tremendous publicity, the line was also given a marketing budget of $125,000$250,000 to expose the books to the unfamiliar territory of teenage girls, in partnership with Alloy Media, a marketing firm. This included some events with Seventeen that are just breaking, even as the line has been cancelled:
Also this fall, with the help of SEVENTEEN magazine, MINX books will make appearances at two SEVENTEEN “Rock the Runway” Events going on at malls around the country, including: Lakeside Mall in Sterling Heights, Michigan on September 20th, 2008 and Neshaminy Mall in Bensalem, Pennsylvania on October 11th, 2008. Both events run from 2-4 pm.
Minx was also promoted as the back cover of Seventeen magazine. So clearly, some money was actually spent on the kind of marketing efforts that would attract attention to these books from the target audience.
Monday morning quarterback reports are springing up all over the web. Book retailer Shannon Smith has posted in many places with variations on the following:
As soon as the first boxes came in and I saw that the thin little books would be shelved in graphic novels I knew it was going to fail. The books are small YA format and are totally lost in the GN section. Plus, they just can’t compete with manga. I tired. I created endcaps for them but they were in the wrong part of the store. Could I have put them in YA? Sure. But it would have gone against the shelving code on the sticker and would have conflicted with the title look up computers so, no, not really an option. They might have had a chance if shelved with Gossip Girl and similar books in YA and that would not have taken marketing dollars. That would only have taken a phone call to Borders and N B&N to make happen. Just a call to say “hey, these books are YA so can you change your stickers to put this line of books in YA?”. It would not have taken a major marketing inititative on Random House’s part. Just a phone call. My advice to DC and all publishers is to vist a bookstore from time to time. Ask to talk to the shelvers. Ask to talk to the inventory managers. They know. They know where each book should be. They know which kinds of books the kids sitting on the floor in YA are reading and which kinds of books the kids sitting on the floor in manga are reading. Ask a bookseller. They won’t even charge you. (Yet.)
This interpretation falls in line with the “Random House” line of thinking — these books were YA titles, NOT Manga, and needed to be shelved in the YA section…but bookstores wouldn’t do it. Despite Smith’s it stretches creduility that that Random House wouldn’t make that phone call. But it still didn’t work for one reason or another.
Indeed, as I’ve speculated many times here, the Minx books seemed too be reaching an audience composed equally of male bloggers, and NOT teenage girls. Comments everywhere today back this up:
It is sad though. I enjoyed the two I’ve read and still plan on reading more. BTW I’m a 36 year old man so again not the target audience – but I don’t imagine the target audience are on this board…
I believe DC’s attempt to only market to women was a huge miscalculation on their part. I’m a thirty-something male and found most of the books they offered to be of interest.
He added, “I’m disappointed to see the line canceled. The books weren’t aimed at me, obviously. But as a fan of comics, I think it was exciting to have a line of books dedicated to young women. I hope the rest of the industry doesn’t see this as some sort of validation for the boys club sexist-bullshit-mentality that’s plagued mainstream comics for far too long.”
In all frankness, I find these comments baffling. Do these same readers check out GOSSIP GIRLS and TWILIGHT? Or NANA or SHOJO BEAT or HONEY AND CLOVER? The idea of adult men liking the same things as teenage girls is a vaguely disturbing one.
As a teenager, I disliked “YA problem books” — or whatever passed for them in my day, and read Conan, so I’m hardly the right person to describe what today’s teen girls like to read. I would hazard a guess, however, that material that finds an enthusiastic audience among men in their 30s is probably not the kind of thing that floats their boat.
Hope Larson muses on how Chiggers, her own middle-grade graphic novel about a summer coming of age, would have done at Minz, and her appraisal is pretty blunt:
Minx could have been good, and important. I really believe that, and I’m sorry to see them go, but most of the books they published are not very good. They have suspect artwork and dull, predictable plots, and would probably seem pandering to anyone over the age of 12. They’re safe. To quote some ad copy from the back of Marjorie Dean, College Junior, a girls’ series published in the ’20s: “These are clean, wholesome stories that will be of great interest to all girls of high school age.” I don’t think kids in the ’20s believed that, and neither would kids today. (Although, haha, their parents might.)
I hope the books written by Derek Kirk Kim, Cecil Castellucci, Brian Wood and Mariko Tamaki find continued life at DC or elsewhere, because they are the good ones. As for the rest, with some exceptions (hopefully including Ross Campbell’s Waterbaby, which I haven’t read yet) they’re no great loss.
It’s hard to imagine Larson at Minx: her dreamy fantasies are very different from the practical, world-solving outlook of the heroines of the Minx books I’ve read.
One of the biggest raps against Minx, at least from commentators, was the early lack of female creators. In my original post , I opined that Minx was groundbreaking, but not in the way that was expected — most YA books for girls are written by women. Having a line-up of male creators produce material for this audience was indeed bucking a trend.
Would Minx have done any better with more women creators? I have no idea. The line-up of creators on board is as solid as any line launch in recent history, and was taken from proven indie publishers like Slave Labor and Oni. Yet Slave Labor and Oni seem to have more success, with lesser marketing oomph. The female dearth was also a marketing problem: if the pixieish and universally endearing Cecil Castellucci hadn’t been around to represent the Minx line in its earliest days, DC would have had to rely on a lineup of male authors in their 30s and older — once again, not the usual spokesmodels for the female YA crowd.
Minx’s editorial mix definitely had a smallish range. Last year, I remember coming across Faith Erin Hicks’ ZOMBIES CALLING, a quick, brash fun book about some female college students fighting zombies, and wondering why THIS wasn’t being published as a Minx book. Well, it turns out, that Hicks almost had her shot, as she reports today in her LJ:
In 2007 I went to my very first comic book convention, where I bumped into Shelly Bond. Or rather, Dave Roman, at a table next to mine, pointed at her, said “that’s her” and over I went, literally bounding up in a fit of … uh, god knows, shouting “HI!” She’d picked up one of the previews I had for Zombies Calling (this was all before it’d been published) and seemed interested in my work. We had a nice meeting and over the next few months, worked on a pitch together for the Minx line. I was pretty thrilled by the whole thing (y’know, my very first convention and I met an editor from The Big Two who liked my work), and was really hopeful that I’d get the job. For one thing, the money was more than enough to pay off my student loan, something I was desperate for. Also, the job seemed to come with a good amount of exposure, and I wanted to take the next step in my career, and wasn’t sure how to do that. How do you work for bigger companies? How do you get your foot in that door? How do you get an agent? How do you make a living wage doing comics? It seemed like doing a Minx book would be a step in the right direction.
However, it wasn’t meant to be. Eventually my communication with Shelly dried up, and I took that as a sign that my pitch had not been what they were looking for, even though I never received an official rejection. I moved on to other things. Got an awesome new project, got an agent, went to San Diego and had fantastic things happen there, and in the meantime did another SLG book. Fortunately for me, because I’d spent time working on that Minx pitch (which had evolved quite a bit since I’d sent it off to DC), I (and my agent) had something in hand to show people at San Diego, and that ended up working out really well for me. So I’m grateful for that. I probably wouldn’t have had something ready to go if the Minx pitch hadn’t happened. It also showed me that just because one avenue of publishing dries up, it doesn’t necessarily mean that project is dead forever. It could find a new home. Maybe even a better one.
One would guess that the Minx line’s impending demise was the reason for the project being dropped.
Valerie ascribes some of Minx’s failure to DC’s inability to deal with comics for women in general: the institutional insensitivity card. While it’s obvious that DC hasn’t always had the best attitude towards female material or female employees, if there was one place that that wouldn’t matter it was the Vertigo office, where Karen Berger and her crew have the closest thing to a mandate at DC to produce more challenging material. That said, I know from many conversations that the Minx line wasn’t very popular with the rank and file of DC. Whether because these particular boys didn’t like icky girl stuff or another reason one can only speculate.
But perhaps that’s part of the reason for the line’s swift demise. And a year and a half is a pretty fast burnout, especially in the book market, where backlist is what matters.
So was it marketing? Content? Company indifference? Comicsgirl sums up all three:
Dirk Deppey has an interesting analysis, and one I mostly agree with — DC wasn’t thinking long term. The Minx line is less than two years old and despite that deal with Alloy, was never really marketed to its target audience. I think it was just beginning to find its footing and its direction, but because it was underperforming, DC just scraps the whole thing. I understand DC is a business and while I admire them for trying to get teenage girls as an audience, they obviously had no clue what they were doing. The books, for the most part, were good and not great and didn’t really appeal to the teenage girls reading Twilight or watching Gossip Girls.
Tom reads the tea leaves, and it is grim:
Canceling Minx now not only ends what must have been a very decent gig for a lot of people, not only suspends what was one of the few corporate comics opportunities that didn’t involve drawing/writing superheroes at funerals or vampires turning on their own or whatever, and pulls the plug on what might have been some halfway decent books as the line settled in, it also stands as a vote of no-confidence from one of comics’ biggest entities in doing comics their way for that market — or, really, any market not superheroes. It should also frankly cast doubt on DC’s commitment to such lines and ability to execute them, which is crazy considering the talent to which they have access and the general resources they have, but I’m not sure how else to put it. In a sense, you could argue that a near-penniless Fantagraphics put more institutional effort into and showed more patience in trying to get their failed Monster line over back in the early ’90s.
Other Minx creators are bittersweet:
For me, being a part of Minx was an amazing experience. I found a true calling writing comics and really feel that I met my tribe. Working with Shelly Bond and Karen Berger was incredible. They are inspirational ladies. And I cannot say enough good things about getting to work with Jim Rugg, ( [info]jimrugg ) who I think is one of the best people I’ve ever met. I am so glad to call him a friend and feel honored to have had him as my partner in The PLAIN Janes adventure. A shout out, too, to all of my fellow minxers, who are a super talented bunch. It was great meeting you all and I’m looking forward to picking up all your future books.
i haven’t heard any talk of a Water Baby sequel, so i don’t know if that’ll happen or if DC’s even interested. probably not. i wonder if DC got burned in some way by Water Baby’s initial horrendously negative reviews (even though the tide turned the other way and all the recent ones i’ve read were good), and a few people have said that Water Baby was perhaps too sexual or too adult for the line, so i wonder if that had even a small part to do with it. as much as i’d love to shoulder the entirety of the blame, i can’t imagine one pseudo-racy book doing in an entire line, heh.
While we all have our woulda shoulda couldas, Brian Wood posts on his LJ (and in a comment here at The Beat) an insightful summation of all:
I fear clicking around on the web to read the news and reactions to this. No doubt there will be plenty of armchair quarterbacking, people not only crying that they knew it was coming, or they predicted it, or that it’s some kind of triumph of their way of thinking over Shelly and DC’s… but also comments suggesting what Minx could have done differently in order to make it. Like they alone had the magic solution, the secret formula. I think I can say with utter certainty that anything that the collective “we” could think up, it occurred to DC first. They tried all they could, and it didn’t work. Again, this is bad for all of us. But they tried, we all tried. Minx represents not only a financial risk undertaken by DC, but the hard work and ideas and hopes of a lot of writers and artists and editors and people supporting us.
Today is Shelly Bond’s birthday, by the way.
Was there nothing then that could have made it work? The crowds of girls lined up to read their new manga each month makes the answer to that question more baffling than ever, and one suspects it will be long pondered.
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.