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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Plain Janes Have Left The Building

Virgin won't be the last one to fall in this period of economic slowdown/clusterfuck. I expect more sudden axes to fall -- not out of any insider info, but based on that same ghoulish intuition.
-- OS post, 9/2/08

Minx, the line of manga-sized graphic novels for girls, is no more.

As of early this year, I really couldn't see DC's Minx line going any further. It wasn't for lack of quality. It wasn't for lack of promotional dollars on DC's part -- they did co-sponsor Friends of Lulu's Lulu Awards again this year on Minx's behalf. Further, they gave away promo copies of all their new releases at MoCCA Art Fest this year. But Minx had the same vulture standing over it that I've seen time and time again -- that I saw with Virgin, that I saw with CrossGen, that I've seen with countless imprints and publishers that didn't quite know how to precisely target and capture its niche audience -- or even really knew who that audience was.

Theoretically, Minx was a line of manga-sized books for teenage girls. Most of the titles were pretty decent reads for the stated audience; a few, like the otherwise excellent Waterbaby, were masterfully executed but way too adult.

Were the Minx books "comics" or "books?" Where were they to be racked at the comic shop, and where were they to be racked in the book store? As of two weeks ago, I saw Minx titles kept in the "teen novel" section of Barnes and Noble -- some distance, perhaps a whole floor or two, away from the graphic novel section. Would there be that crossover readership from the teen novel crowd? Would they open up that copy of Re-Gifters and be like "hey, cool" or would they be turned off?

Really -- I think some of it is that when DC set out to create "a line for girls" -- they looked, despite themselves, despite great rosters of talented people, more towards "Archie" than "Harry Potter" or "Heroes." I think they should have done more sci-fi and adventure books, or at least blend more of those elements in some of the line (Kimmie 66 was one -- but you wouldn't know it by the cover). The girls at the conventions that I have talked to for the last two years -- most never heard of Minx. When I asked them what they were reading, all the genres they mentioned were sci-fi, fantasy, and horror.

Then there was the tacit lack of any of the titles of under the Minx imprint being springboards for movies, TV, or other media. This has been the big song-and-dance DC -- and so many other companies -- have been using for a while now: "we'll develop it for film!" "We're the IP farm of Time Warner!" And yet -- where is the Plain Janes movie?

And some of it is that this economy stinks and that any line or imprint or publisher that is not drawing a true income beyond some pipe dreams and 5-year-plans is most likely going to get axed. Hate to say it, it sounds cold, it's what's gonna happen, and it ain't over.

But lastly, a female-oriented line of books could never succeed at DC because when it comes to females, they just don't fucking get it. They don't. They have such a shitty legacy when it comes to this subject, so much choking vile karma, that the attempts they make to "balance the scales," as it were, seemed token.

The Minx line launched on the same week Goodbye To Comics hit the Internet. Publicity for their line of "girl power" books was overshadowed by a rogue ex-employee with horror stories of sexual harassment. You can't make that up, you can't plan it (I sure as hell didn't), it's just so telling and so true.

I suggest DC "off" all the main characters from the line in a bunch of ingenious ways (just like in their mainstream superhero books)

The Plain Janes: A crazy serial killer stalks Main Jane and stuffs her in a refrigerator.

The Re-Gifters: Dixie is forced to eat Adam's eyeball.

Emiko Superstar: Emiko runs afoul of a local gangster and is tortured to death with a power drill.

As Good As Lily: Grace gets her heart stolen -- literally (chuckle!).

Confessions of A Blabbermouth: Tasha is mauled by the dog next door and is in an induced coma at the hospital.

Kimmie66: Kade is shot in the spine by an anarchist and is paralyzed, forced to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair.

The New York Four: Riley gets impaled -- and not in good way!

Burnout: Ironically, Danni herself is set on fire after being killed by a bitter feminist who shrunk to microscopic size and left footprints on her brain.

So let's do it -- let's have that Minx 80-Page Giant and tie up all those loose ends!

13 comments:

  1. I thought Castelucci's work was only "meh" and that interviews with her felt like she was slumming it. That didn't help, on my end.

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  2. I picked up the Minx books at Mocca, and I enjoyed them, even though, as a guy, I guess I wasn't the target audience. I'm sorry to see Minx go.

    Peter

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  3. Well that's...:/

    I agree whole-heartedly with your assessment of the situation, Val, I just wish it weren't so. I wonder what is the chance of some of the Minx titles crossing to Vertigo? I really wanted to see more of The New York Four and the Plain Janes, though the former has a much better place than the latter (but then again, My Faith In Frankie was a Vertigo book)

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  4. Well, at first I thought of Minx as nothing more than a cynical ploy. I don't like "corporate authorship/work for hire" deals. But then they put out some quality titles. Re-Gifters was one of last year's pleasant surprises. Also, Skim author Mariko Tamaki was supposed to have a book out from that imprint.

    What's going to happen to that? I hope she finds another publisher... one that lets her keep the rights and ownership of the material the way book publishing is supposed to be. I was really looking forward to it, dammit!

    But creator's rights issues aside, I did come around to belief in the necessity of imprints like this, books that feature something other than muscle-fest slapfights in tights for people who want to read novelistic comic stories heavy on characterization. Books for all-ages.

    Sigh. So disheartening.

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  5. haha! i know it's ironic/satirical but your Minx Characters Die Anthology idea is still funny, even though i'm sad about the line getting axed (no Water Baby 2!). what about Water Baby, though? how would Brody and Louisa bite it?? you left them out!

    anyway, thanks again for being so into Water Baby and mentioning it again here, i appreciate it. :)

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  6. I think one thing we can add to the Minx line's problems was its very narrow social focus. Most of the books seemed to ceneter on (and cater to) artsy-progressive, Boho culture alterna-misfits that a fraction of female consumers would connect with, yet so many more wouldn't. Here, let's look at descriptions of several MINX titles:

    Burnout:"...family secrets and the politics of ecoterrorism set against the lush backdrop of the Pacific Northwest."

    Emiko Superstar"Watch Emi go from dull, suburban babysitter to eclectic urban art star compliments of one crazy summer!"

    The Plain Janes:"When a transfer student named Jane is forced to move from the cool confines of Metro City to Suburbia, she thinks her life is overBut there in the lunch room at the reject table she finds her tribe: three other girls named Jane. Main Jane encourages them to form a secret art gang and paint the town P.L.A.I.N. — People Loving Art In Neighborhoods. But can art attacks really save the hell that is high school?"

    Janes in Love:"P.L.A.I.N. – People Loving Art In Neighborhoods – goes global when the art gang procures a spot in the Metro City Museum of Modern Art Contest."

    Re-Gifters:"Meet Jen Dik Seong — or "Dixie" as she's known to her friends. Korean American, dirt poor, and living on the ragged edge of LA's Koreatown

    Water Baby:"Surfer Girl Brody just got her leg bitten off by a shark. Jake, her shark of an ex-boyfriend, is back and when it comes to Brody's couch, he's not budging. It's up to Brody and her BFF Louisa to embark on the roadtrip from hell, narrowly escaping weird hitchhikers and shark-infested nightmares, to get Jake out of their lives forever. This time it's personal!"

    Kimmie66:"Telly Kade is pretty much your typical 23rd century teen. She's got impossible hair, misfit friends, a big sloppy brother...and a pair of VR goggles that lets her live among the vampires..."

    The New York Four:"Riley is about to find out what an adventure — and a mystery — living in New York City can be. The ultimate insider's guide to NYC is seen through the eyes of Brooklyn-born Riley. Raised by stuffy, literati parents, Riley's a shy, straight-A student who convinces three other NYU brainiacs to join a research group for fast cash."

    I know it may be shocking to the birkenstock mocca-sippers, RAD surfer GRRRRLs, and art crowd progressives, but there's a whole world of young women out there who weren't included in the MINX tagline of "Your Life, Your Books". I'm not necessarily suggesting that MINX should have included a line of books aimed at the cheerleader crowd, but at the same time, I think most objective people can look at the MINX line and realize just how narrow it's social spectrum was.

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  7. I posted a similar comment to this at Comics Worth Reading but... I was an inventory manager at a Borders when this rolled out. I read all about it before hand and was able to get some ARC copies. I was excited. 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.)

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  8. I really enjoy these books, and they are some of the few comic or comic-related books I can get my wife to read.

    Sad to see them go.

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  9. Is sad but I'm not surprissed. Appart from the fans of each individual artist, the ones who would have buy this tittles didn't knew they existed, the ones who knew weren't interested or were already disgusted by the first stream of bad publicity this line got before it was started. In my opinion is sad because while the line wasn't perfect it was giving a little more variety at Dc titles. Also Ross Campell and many of the other artist are awesome and they really deserved a line that could sell.
    And from the Minx die... I think the most sad thing is that I can identify each and every tittle you are satirizing... didn't actually buy most though.

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  10. I really think you nailed one of the more core issues in the lack of "genre" books like fantasy and horror in the line. In fact, I believe there was even some dismissal of that in the early press, as though "genre" books like that were to be avoided. Which I think was seriously overlooking what the market indicates.

    It's too bad, though. If they'd had more time they might have come around to that...or other strategies that might have worked.

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  11. Boo.

    I really liked Plain Janes and Waterbaby.

    I like Alexa D's idea. Maybe some of these titles will find life elsewhere.

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  12. Hum.

    Too bad, I liked some of the line's books.

    I get the references in all of the suggested death story lines except this one:
    "forced to eat Adam's eyeball"
    What's that referring to if it's referring to anything?

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  13. I'm not a young girl anymore, (just recently graduated from college) but I LOVE shojo (girl) manga and I do have many teenage anime/manga fangirls as friends. So i kinda have an idea of what appeals to most young girls who buy mangas and YA novels every month.

    At the last anime convention I went to, there was a booth that sold mangas and comic books. The seller handed me a free Preview Book of the Minx line. Of all the Minx books previewed there, the only one I was immediately taken with was Token by Alisa Kwitney and Joelle Jones.

    What kept my attention was the girl Shira's cute funny grandmother and a cool father. IE. she had a supporting cast that was not only entertaining, but also relatable. Shira was also rather pretty, (even if she wasn't as pretty as the other barbie look-alike girls) but awkward in her own skin. (What teenage girl is comfortable in their own skin when puberty hits them hard? I certainly wasn't!) I found her story to be very charming and I look forward to it being released in November.

    The other Minx series were too real-world/serious/bohemian/depressing to me. Token at first glance was cute and funny. So I read it first. I'm sad to find it may get interrupted though...

    My friend who also loves shojo manga and (unlike me) loves fantasy/romance YA novels didn't like any of the books offered in the Minx line.

    "They're not pretty, and the pages are too busy and the artwork too sharp and too harsh to look at. [in comparison to shojo manga] There's no fantasy stories here...Don't they know that girls like fantasy and high school highjinks type stories? Pretty boys! young girls LOVE pretty boys! You could have a book with no girls, and just a bunch of pretty boys and girls would still buy it! Drama and angst is fine too, but only as long as the artwork is detailed and pretty."

    There ya have it, a shojo manga/YA novel reader's first impression of the Minx line.

    It might come off as pretty shallow, but hey...it's what sells, and I believe it sells because it's plain escapism and wish fulfillment at work here.

    Guys like superhero stories because in a way they fulfill their fantasy of being an attractive strong hero. Girls like pretty heroines/protagonists with fancy/fantastical/pretty settings and attractive supporting cast/love interest for the same reason.

    I agree, why couldn't they have done a fantasy type story?

    Hello, Duh! What book was the nation's top bestseller all summer long?

    Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series. (It's even getting a movie for crying out loud...)

    The Minx stories are interesting, (I could see myself reading them in regular novel format) but I'm not surprised it didn't attract the young girls who spend lots of money each month at the bookstore.

    Packaging and marketing is a problem, I'm sure...

    But I get the feeling that not many girls at the anime con were impressed by the Minx previews...

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