Before I get too far into this, I’ll give you the loglines: #1 DC’s new girl-focused MINX imprint could just possibly be the most important launch ever by Marvel or DC. #2 I’d read books by any of the announced creators, and no matter what happens, readers are the winners, in the end.
But there’s also the girl creator thing, so we’ll get back to that.
First, #1. Minx is a momentous undertaking by DC because they have set aside a quarter of a mil buckaroos to market a new line of graphic novels. $250,000 is small in the larger scheme, but far from chump change in the historically parsimonious comics field, and by teaming with Alloy Marketing, DC has proven they’re serious. No one has EVER done anything like this in mainstream comics before. Marvel doesn’t have two pennies to rub together towards outside marketing, and according to Paul Levitz this is their biggest outside marketing expenditure in 30 years.
It’s also something of a tacit admission that traditional comics marketing doesn’t reach the outside world in a targeted, modern way. In the real world, marketing isn’t sending out press releases, it’s partnering, pacting, blasting, placing and so on. To recap from the PW story on Minx, here’s some of Alloy’s plan for the line:
In May, DC will run a two-page advertorial in the Alloy-owned Delia’s mail-order clothing catalogue, which is shipped to roughly 900,000 young women. Alloy will also be sending out e-mail blasts about the series through its collection of Web sites (which include prom.com and delias.com) and, in September, distributing nearly 100,000 textbook covers featuring Minx titles to schools.
The move is a major sign of the new era of comics/graphic novels, and an acknowledgment that the audience outside the direct market is bigger than the one in. It’s also a reflection of DC’s place in the bookstore world — although perennials Alan Moore and Frank Miller sell like hotcakes in bookstores, and recent successes like PRIDE OF BAGHDAD have made a mark, DC’s bread and butter superhero titles sell moderately to poorly, compared to DC’s position in the comics market. New lines with new audiences are what builds the bottom line in the era of the long tail.
The groundbreaking Minx marketing plan is more than likely also a reflection of DC’s new blood in marketing — constant personnel changes in the book sales and marketing department from Stephanie Fierman to Rich Johnson to new hire Sue Pohja have left DC without a recent “big move” in bookstores, similar to the whole OYL thing in comics shops. Minx is that move.
Will it work? That should be one of the big questions of ’07. As great as the books may be, there have always been great comics and girls who read comics — Minx’s true innovation is the marketing side.
And now, as for the other matter.
I’ll admit right out of the gate that I’m iffy on the name “Minx.” In a world where hard-drinking, poonani-flashing celebutantes are the role models of the day, I’d prefer something a little more proactive. However, I haven’t seen the marketing reports, so it’s quite possible that in a world where hard-drinking, poonani-flashing celebutantes are the role models, a word with ancient connotations of saucy, sexual availability is just what your average high school girl is looking for.
As for the line-up, I’ll read anything by Derek Kirk Kim or Jim Rugg. The content isn’t the issue here. Let’s take a look one more time.
THE PLAIN JANES — Cecil Castellucci & Jim Rugg
RE-GIFTERS — Mike Carey, Sonny Liew & Marc Hempel
CLUBBING — Andi Watson & Josh Howard
GOOD AS LILY — Derek Kirk Kim & Jesse Hamm
CONFESSIONS OF A BLABBERMOUTH — Mike Carey, Louise Carey, Aaron Alexovich
WATER BABY — Ross Campbell
KIMMIE66 — Aaron Alexovich
As you’ll note, in a line which is being aggressively marketed to teenaged girls, the initial launch includes two female creators, one of them, apparently a teenaged girl. (Louise Carey is Mike Carey’s daughter.) Neither is known for their comics work, it would be safe to say.
Is this wrong? Well, that’s a strong word. Is it odd? I think that’s closer to the mark.
A few years ago I was interviewing Gilbert Hernandez and asked him why he told so many stories through the viewpoint of young girls. I’m paraphrasing his answer somewhat, but he said that Dan Clowes had nailed it: there are many things that coming from the mouth of a middle-aged male author would sound bitchy and whiny, whereas a teenaged girl can get away with anything. It has indeed been my observation that not only Los Bros and Dan Clowes but many, many male creators love nothing more than taking on the snarky yet inexperienced voice of a young girl.
In many ways, Minx has been one of the worst kept secrets in comics, since editor Shelly Bond has been working on it for over two years. I’ve alluded to it many times here, and it seems like every creator under the sun has been approached about it at one time or another, including many female creators, who either declined to pitch, or had their pitches rejected. It is my understanding that more female creators are on tap, but I couldn’t tell you who they are or whether they come from outside comics or are related to male comics creators.
The dearth of female creators in a line aimed at female readers has been argued endlessly over the past few days on message boards. There have been a number of fairly dumbass knee-jerk reactions, such as “They should get Colleen Doran and Jill Thompson!”
#1, Doran and Thompson are quite busy with their own book projects (Thompson has her own book deal at Harper Collins). #2, It shows how limited the thinking on women in comics in when the same name are brought up over and over and over. There is, in case you didn’t notice, a whole new generation out there.
The another, more intelligent reaction has been from established male creators either already working on Minx books, or else, one hazards a guess, hopeful of working on one. Brian Wood has a fairly typical response at the V.
I also think its naive to assume that Shelly and Karen just didn’t bother to ask any of the people listed, or any other women. I think it’s more logical to assume they DID, and for whatever reason it didn’t work out (I’ve heard of several such cases of this, female creators I know pitching for Minx or turning down offers to work on Minx books). So, they’re left with the options of looking to more male writers for the first few books, or just not having Minx at all.
So what happened to those women who pitched at Minx? Will they be in the next wave? Or they weren’t good enough? Or they weren’t what the editor was looking for?
As much as I love and respect Colleen and Jill, it frustrates me that “women in comics” seems to begin and end with them and Gail Simone, to a large part of the comics community. There is a bigger than ever contingent of women entering the field, and their work is wider and vaster than you ever would have imagined.
When Tokyopop started it’s line of OEL manga, aimed at girls, they somehow managed to dredge up Svetlana Chmakova, Rivkah, Christy Lijewski, Becky Cloonan, Melissa DeJesus, M. Alice LeGrow, Alex DeCampi, Jen Lee Quick, Joanna Estep, Bettina Kurkoski, Amy Reeder Hadley, Queenie Chan, and probably some other people I am forgetting. I wouldn’t say that they have all created comics classics, but they haven’t embarrassed themselves, either, and if Minx books sell as well as DRAMACON, DC will be fairly happy.
I don’t even have room to mention all the women doing webcomics who have made a mark, but off the top of my head I can think of Shaenon Garrity, Dylan Meconis, Sarah Ellerton, Debbie Huey, Vera Brosgal, Jenn Manley Lee, Clio Chang, Ursula Husted, Spike, Dorothy Gambrel, etc etc etc etc. Not all of them are necessarily potential graphic novelists, but you get the idea.
As traditional book publishers like Scholastic and Harper Collins have gotten into the graphic novel game, they have turned to a great many female creators: Thompson, Raina Telgemeier, Hope Larson, Chynna Clugston, Christine Norrie, Tintin Pantoja. Alison Bechdel, a 20-year-comics vet pretty much ignored by the “mainstream” of comics, quietly turned out THE graphic novel of the year.
I don’t know WHO the next female creators will be at Minx — people like to hide their accomplishments from people like me — but it’s more than likely they will be worthy of the standards set by Andi Watson and Derek Kirk Kim.
Now, one more thing before I go back to the impersonal “we.” Many readers, mostly male, have said that this not-enough-women-thing is silly, there should be no gender quotas, blah blah blah. It’s easy to say there should be no quotas when you’re on the winning side, but that isn’t even the issue. The issue, at the end of the day, as it was in the beginning, is, will this line be a success?
Once again, Mike Carey, Ross Campbell, are all strong creators, and the announced books sound delightful. But just for the sake of comparison, I took a look at some of the other things that Alloy markets to the teen girl audience. On their book list, I found the following authors:
Cecily von Ziegesar
Melissa de la Cruz
Jodi Lynn Anderson
If you look at this page of librarian recommendations of books for readers who like GOSSIP GIRLS, all of the authors have female names except for one with an ambiguous initial. There could be male authors masquerading as girls (a common occurrence in the romance novel field) but that does sound kind of…icky.
Looked at in the wider picture, the Minx line is truly a strike for innovation. Carey, Watson, Kirk, et al are really pioneers: it isn’t easy for male authors to make it in the highly competitive YA girl field.
Let’s all wish them luck.