CMX demise draws ire — UPDATED WITH MORE IRE

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201005200210 CMX demise draws ire    UPDATED WITH MORE IREThe 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.


Robin Brenner:

…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!)


Eva Volin:

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!

Comments

  1. Wow, I barely read manga at all (I know, I know… I’m working on it. I like Pluto so far) and this post has still bummed me out, as I can only imagine how I’d feel if I was reading even one of those now-discontinued series translations. Lots of disappointing moves from DC lately.

  2. Kate Fitzsimons says:

    Shallowly, my personal complaint is… they were SO CLOSE to finishing the original 1970’s run of From Eroica With Love! SO CLOSE. The next volume would have been the first of the final three-part storyline, The Emperor Waltz.

    And somehow, I doubt any other American publisher will pick it up. Damn.

  3. The comment from David Welsh about Dianne Nelson feels to me to be best explanation for this (and other recent changes) at DC.

    So what have seen so far…
    CMX closed
    Zuda put on hiatus
    Comics raised to $3.99
    Several DC animation projects cancelled.

    All that feels like the type of stuff you do when you are trying to work within a reduced budget.

    Except we are missing layoffs, so maybe it is just a refocusing of priorities. I guess time will tell.

  4. Karen says:

    I found this quote so comforting: ” 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.”

    This has been my own personal stumbling block in expanding my own superhero reading. It’s a little like the art world in the 1960s and 1970s: so full of work that was basically inside or self-referential jokes that only an art historian or long-time collector could truly appreciate it.

    I just don’t know how publishers expect to broaden their audience if they won’t publish stories that can satisfyingly be read by non-insiders.

  5. KentL says:

    “DC seems to have little interest in cultivating a wider audience”

    DC seems to have little interest in cultivating ANY audience at this point.

    “Zuda put on hiatus”

    Not really. They’re dumping the competition aspect and relaunching.

    “Comics raised to $3.99″

    Anyone who thought this wouldn’t happen is kidding themselves, and I doubt it has anything to do with Nelson being in charge now.

    “Several DC animation projects cancelled.”

    Which ones did they cancel?

  6. Joe Lawler says:

    They seemed to have canceled the Green Lantern and Wonder Woman follow ups, and focusing on more Batman, Superman and Justice League.

  7. Allie says:

    I must say, I share Kate’s particular disappointment over the cancellation of Eroica – which was already being released at a snail’s pace, but which was so close to being completed.

    I been a big manga reader in years, but one thing I particularly liked about CMX was their occasional willingness to bring out classic titles that were previously largely ignored by the American market. I enjoyed what little I read of The Swan, as well as Eroica. As American manga publishers scramble to downsize and restructure themselves around a shrunken market, I expect that those fun older titles will go by the wayside entirely.

  8. “They seemed to have canceled the Green Lantern and Wonder Woman follow ups, and focusing on more Batman, Superman and Justice League.”

    Right! I’d forgotten about those. I’m not sure how well these movies have done, but I’m not terribly surprised that they aren’t doing more movies that don’t have Batman, Superman, or the Justice League in them.

  9. And… it looks like DC is missing the Kid’s comics train which is picking up steam.

    Imagine “Vertigo for Kids” (No… not “That Cute Little Hellraiser, Johnny Constantine”… I’m talking about great graphic novels, apart from Warner/DC license, separate from Johnny DC, published by DC, but independent, and geared towards kids.

    Otherwise, the big boys at Random House and Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins and Macmillan and Scholastic will over-run that market segment. They know how to market books to kids and libraries. They are the Northern Snakehead Fish to the big fish in a small pond that is DC Comics. What happens when that snakehead crawls into the small pond of comics publishers?

    The big question: Does DC need to succeed in every segment of the industry? Or can it follow Marvel’s strategy, and just concentrate on a few market segments like Superheroes and Literary GNs? Does it matter if DC ignores girls and kids if there are so many other companies publishing wonderful graphic novels for kids?

    There is stuff from DC I can hand my nieces and nephews (*LOVED* the eighth-grade Supergirl!!) but there’s lots of other stuff from other publishers.

  10. Rich Johnson says:

    I want to respond to what Eva said about t the ALA trade shows. Shortly after I left DC they stopped exhibiting at the library shows and now their books are at the Random House booth. So you can look there for them. I do think it was important for them to have a booth there. DC was the first comic book company who exhibited at ALA. I truly believe our being there helped establish graphic novels in the library market. And god bless the librarians who supported us and kept our booth crazy busy. So busy that one year, very early on maybe our second ALA, I overheard our booth neighbor on his phone. He was with a microfiche company – this was in the day before they had a graphic novel pavilion and our booth was against the wall in the back of the hall somewhere – and he said “No we’re not busy we’re next to DC Comics.”
    As for the staff you mentioned I want to give out the names of my former staff over the years who did an amazing job at the library shows. They are Andy Lis, Brett Shanahan, Alicia Wilson and Jenna Sices. Amazing people who did an incredible job of promoting and selling graphic novels and I will be forever in their debt.

  11. So should CMX’s closing be laid at the door of the new boss in town?

  12. P.S. I realize that the sales and other factors that contributed to its demise would’ve been going on for months before, but sometimes the incoming boss shoots down everything that seems marginal and that he/she didn’t have a hand in making.

  13. Fact of the matter is, CMX wasn’t selling enough, period. If you liked their titles, fine, but not enough other people did.

  14. Gail Simone says:

    “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!)”

    Amen.

    I can barely represent MYSELF most days, but I will say that there are a lot of really talented females working in comics right now. I keep hoping for a revolution!

  15. KentL says:

    “Imagine “Vertigo for Kids””

    That would be great. I just started reading the first volume of The Unwritten. My son would love it! Of course, as soon as I hit the first f-bomb, I realized that Vertigo and its creators can’t do a mature, intelligent series without resorting to coarse language, uber-violence, or nudity. Doesn’t bother me as an adult (I’m certainly no angel when it comes to language), but it isn’t something I’m passing on to my tween.

  16. >>>“Imagine “Vertigo for Kids””

    Sure. And Mamet for Kids. And Penthouse for Kids. And The Wire for kids.

    Vertigo had published a few kid friendly things, mostly by Jill Thompson (Little Endless and Dead Boy Detectives) but rejiggering a line whose name is synonymous with ADULT, MATURE comics and Grant Morrison/Alan Moore is not really a very smart branding move. Why not just create a NEW line of kids comics that has the same dedication to creativity and innovation that Vertigo has? Occidental kids comics will are to the teens what manga was to the aughts…MARK MY WORDS!

  17. Callie Nicole Ray says:

    Question: With DC shutting down CMX, what of the future for the English-translated Shin Chan manga series?

  18. Heidi… I don’t mean VERTIGO as in “content” but VERTIGO as in “business model”. Creator owned titles, outside of the current juvenile licensed properties that we see at Johnny DC. Something like “My Faith in Frankie” or “Leave It To Chance”…

    Basically what you said… innovative comics for kids, published by DC, but separate from the corporate-owned properties.

    But heck, why not Mamet for kids? “Pet the Dog” perhaps? “The Babysitter Rings Twice”?

    Every time DC tries to create an imprint out of whole cloth, it fails… Impact, Paradox, Matrix/Helix, Piranha, Minx, CMX… Instead, DC needs to do the stealth method… create a backlist, consolidate that backlist into the foundation of an imprint, and build on that foundation. Vertigo Crime is an example of that. Vertigo is an example of that (Swamp Thing, Sandman, Hellblazer).

    Kids comics are currently where manga was in 2000. There’s a critical mass of titles, some getting award consideration. Once a kid’s GN charts on the juvie bestseller lists, that’s when the war is ended. The kids read the stuff. The Librarians buy the titles. The teachers use it to help reluctant readers. All we need are parents (and that’s not that difficult… lot of geek dads and moms out there) and something to hit the media between the eyes.

    We need a Pokemon for kids comics.

  19. Argh, I have a longtime pal with a GREAT kids’ comics idea, I wish he would get it out already. (If you’re reading this J, doo eet!)

    Gail: there’s talk of revolution?? I’m so there. I’ll make pie.

    Many excellent points made in the article above. But to hear two of my own ‘plaints – about stories that NON comics readers could pick up & understand, & how comics that I read when I was little seemed way more girl/woman friendly than many mainstream titles now – yeah.

    Just ditto that & square it please. I was sad when Minx went. Now this. It just seems backwards. Oo, lookie, we’ve nurtured as teeeeny, tiiiny market with some women readers & maybe some young ppl..now, we will squash it like a bug. In a way it feels worse than if Minx hadn’t happened (yeah sorry to derail, I know this is about CMX, but there’s crossover) at all, because there’s proof that for a brief moment, DC reached out to new, not-already-readin’ comics, readers.

    Instead, you know, let’s suck the absolute marrow dry of the few readers that we got our hooks in back when we let comics relax a little & be more fun, having some play in our mythology.

    OK, I need to sleep before I literally go out onto my lawn to shoo some kids off of it.

  20. Jeannette J says:

    My daughter and I are following (and buying!) 3 current manga series publish by CMX. Two of the series are by the same author, one of them is already finished in Japan. It is a sad day for me to have these sweet comics go away. There are quite a few adults out here reading manga — not DC comics! I can only hope someone else picks these series up and finished them!

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