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7678 400x600 More MinxWell 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.

9578 400x600 More MinxAfter 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:

Comics should be good

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…


A poster on Whitechapel:

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.


10012 400x600 More MinxA male commenter at The Comics Reporter:

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.

faithhickszombiescalling More MinxMinx’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:
Cecil Castellucci:

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.


Ross Campbell

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.

Comments

  1. I’m actually a former retailer now. But yeah, I was rooting for the line. I liked what I read. I’m a grown-ass-man so it was not for me but I still liked them. More than that, as a retailer (at the time) and a comics fan I had been working “in the trenches” for several years trying to cross promote good comics and get them into the hands of people that might like them. I thought the Minx books were good comics. Not great. But pretty good. I thought it could have worked but to break that market it takes time. It takes several volumes in a series and it takes a few years of word of mouth. You can’t buy that. Even Harry Potter was not Harry Potter overnight.

  2. joenfuture says:

    “Despite Smith’s it stretches creduility that that Random House wouldn’t make that phone call.”

    >>

    Really, Heidi? That wouldn’t surprise me at all.

  3. Matt D says:

    I’ll be honest. I’m a 20 something guy and I didn’t read any of these. But I wouldn’t have been against reading some of them if I had time to kill. I think a lot of people are fans of the MEDIUM of comics and not necessarily one genre or another. In the end of the day there’s a Mike Carey or Brian Wood or Andi Watson comic and if those are writers someone likes, they’ll probably check out the work, regardless of what it is.

    I know something like.. Adventures of Sharkboy and Lava Girl isn’t meant for me but I really like Robert Rodriguez as a Director and I’m curious to how he’d handle certain challenges associated with the form. If he decided to tackle Mean Girls 2 or something, I’d probably watch that too with that same mindset. I’d be more curious about the storytelling methods than the story itself, but still… there you go.

    Lots of people, especially, I bet, male bloggers in 2008, read comics because they enjoy the medium and the craftmanship involved more so than any particular emotional investment in plot and characters.

  4. > The idea of adult men liking
    > the same things as teenage
    > girls is a vaguely disturbing one.

    If it’s a good story, I don’t find it at all disturbing. (I enjoyed the Minx GNs.) Teenage boys like lots of stuff, and it certainly doesn’t make it off limits to adult women. “Genre” is now more about marketing than anything else, and that’s a little sad. I can read FROM HELL, PERSEPOLIS, WALKING DEAD, ALL STAR SUPERMAN, and PLAIN JANES, all for different reasons. Certainly, a young girl can enjoy a little variety as well.

  5. I also like Raina Telgemeier’s BABYSITTERS CLUB. Yeah, I’ll admit it. :)

  6. I’d still really like to know the thoughts of the target audience, teenage girls. One of the main things hampering the line was trying to tap into the manga reading girls by giving them books that were nothing like manga.
    There were so very many things wrong with MINX, but that was the start, right there.

  7. “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.”

    I don’t understand why this would be disturbing. A good story trancends age groups. BONE is read by millions of children worldwide, does that mean anyone over 13 shouldn’t enjoy it? I picked up “New York 4″ because I’m a big fan of Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly’s, and I liked it enough.

  8. “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.”

    I don’t understand why this would be disturbing. A good story trancends age groups. BONE is read by millions of children worldwide, does that mean anyone over 13 shouldn’t enjoy it? I picked up “New York 4″ because I’m a big fan of Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly’s, and I liked it enough.

  9. Isn’t this the second female-targeted DC line in five-six years that has been scuppered? I can’t even remember the name of the last one, save that it tended towards capes.

  10. For the record, I’m a 34 year old male and I also enjoy reading the Archie digest titles. (Not as much as Comics Worth Reading but I read my share.) I’m also the father of two girls and I just want the world to have good comics for girls. More than that, I just want the world to have good comics and for good cartoonists to catch the occasional paycheck. I thought the Minx books were pretty good and I hope the creators caught a few checks before the plug was pulled.

  11. Nora Rocket says:

    Great breakdown, Heidi – puts my prior emerging thoughts on the matter into better perspective. I’ll be chewing on this for a while, especially as I have three just-bought Minx books on my coffee table from last weekend.

  12. The Beat says:

    Matt and David, perhaps my comment was clumsily phrased, but I reiterate my question: do you read Gossip Girls or Twilight?

    Do you watch HANNAH MONTANA? for PLEASURE? And not because your kid does?

    We’re talking about things that are HUUUUUUUUUGE with a certain population segment. And according to everyone in Hollywood, anything that is even vaguely woman friendly is so anathema to boys taht it must be imediately eradicated.

    Or to put iit another way, did you see and the SEX AND THE CITY movie? How much money would it take you to go see it?

    Of course there are wonderful “four quadrant” books, movies tv shows and comics that EVERYONE likes, like Harry Potter and Bone and Nascar and so on. If Minx books were aiming for that, they were an even bigger fail than before.

  13. Matt D says:

    Like I said, I would have probably seen Sex and the City if Rodriguez was directing it. I couldn’t imagine him directing it though. It’s too far outside of what he normally does.

    For an industry that seems so repressively stuck on one genre, it’s sort of amazing that Brian Wood can write both Northlanders and New York Four, actually. Well, I guess there’s some past tense involved there.

    All I’m saying is that comics are a medium where people (especially those blogging on the net and viewing this site) tend to follow creators more than mediums or anything else. A big chunk of the male section of the Minx audience were reading these in spite of the subject material and proposed audience, not because of it. Which makes it a little less “vaguely disturbing” I think.

    Let’s say Raymond Chandler had written Twilight somewhere between Long Goodbye and Playback. If he did, I probably would have read it, even though it’s not something I would have picked up if someone else had written it.

  14. Matt D says:

    Sorry, that should read “more than genres” not “more than mediums.”

  15. Well, I’m a guy and I watched and enjoyed the entire run of Sex and the City, and just finished watching the frankly charming and wonderful live-action version of Nodame Cantabile. But then, my DVD collection includes both Pushing Daisies and Blackhawk Down, so maybe I’m eclectic.

    I wanted to second Lea’s remark:

    “I’d still really like to know the thoughts of the target audience, teenage girls. One of the main things hampering the line was trying to tap into the manga reading girls by giving them books that were nothing like manga.
    There were so very many things wrong with MINX, but that was the start, right there. ”

    This is kind of what I was getting at before. It’s not like the art style needed to be “manga” (and, indeed, there are marked differences in art styles used within manga and manhwa, and readers seem to be fine with that), but the stories in manga are, as a rule, much more broadly engaging than the Minx material was. Again, this is why if I had to push a line at that same market, I’d recruit Chynna first — she understands the sensibility. You end up caring about the ‘soap opera’ in her work, in the same way that you care about Chiaki and Nodame in Nodame Cantabile.

    My lineup would start with Chynna and Andi Watson (yes, I know he’s a guy) and go from there. Blue Monday and Skeleton Key seem like superior fits to the market versus what I read from the Minx line.

    (Incidentally, I’ve also watched and enjoyed some Hannah Montana in my time, although my girlfriend thinks that comes from my predilection for bad TV, so it’s hard to say if that counts or not.)

  16. Here are the current categories for Minx books at your friendly neighborhood Barnes & Noble. Not written in stone, especially those titles which have not yet been published.

    Plain Janes, Kimmie66, Water Baby, Good as Lily, Re-Gifters, Confessions of a Blabbermouth, Clubbing are categorized as Teen Manga.

    Emiko Superstar, Token, are located in Teen Fiction.

    Burnout is found in Teen Series (the category of which Teen Manga is part).

    New York Four, Janes in Love are Graphic Novels/DC.

    Insta-Life, All Nighter are general Graphic Novels.

    Plain Janes was merchandized near Teen Manga on an endcap. It did not sell spectacularly. This may be why some later titles are in the Graphic Novel section, to see if the category affects sales.

    As I said earlier, there are ways around what the computer says. B&N has a very powerful system, allowing booksellers to track merchandised displays, no matter where they are located. Even in traditional bookstores, there should be a new title shelf or table. (After a book stops selling on the New Release wall/bay/shelf, we return the excess copies, and shelve the remainder in the actual category.)

    Question: If a librarian wished to create a Teen Comics section, which titles or series or imprints would be shelved there? Is it possible to create a robust Teen Manga section in B&N, just as they created a similar section in the Children’s department? Or should it just disappear, with titles shelved in kids and titles shelved with the manga?

  17. Or to put iit another way, did you see and the SEX AND THE CITY movie? How much money would it take you to go see it?

    I’m in Alex’s boat. Saw the entire series and enjoyed it. Haven’t seen the movie yet for reasons of time, but if you want to pay me, I’ll make the time.

  18. But I suck at html italics.

  19. The Beat says:

    My Godlike mod powers have restored things to their previous state.

  20. You guys are jumping on the wrong part of Heidi’s post. The problem is not that grown men were reading these books. The problem is that girls weren’t.

  21. P.S. For those not familiar with the Upper West Side neighborhood of Lincoln Center, there are TWO public high schools located two blocks away. One is Laguardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts (a specialized high school), the other is Martin Luther King Jr. High School.

    Teens hang out in the manga section. That store moves a lot of graphic novels. (Last year, there were at least five graphic novels which sold over 100 copies.) Plain Janes was on display on the aisle of Teens, which leads into the Children’s department. And it did not sell. (Sold cases of Bone, Pokemon, Wimpy Kid in Juvie…)

    Unfortunately, I’m not at that store anymore, so I can’t analyze the Teen Manga sales against Juvie and adult manga and the rest of Teen.

  22. Robert Faires says:

    Seems like I’m the first person here (or on any of the other MINX threads I’ve seen today) who actually can report what a member of the target audience for MINX thought of the books.

    My daughter is 15 and has read about half the MINX books, and she liked them all, loved most. When I saw JANES IN LOVE at our local comics shop last week, I got it for her. She read it once that night and re-read it pretty much the first thing the next day, and she’s probably read it a couple times more since. Now, she does that with a lot of her reading material — seems like every few months, she’ll re-read all the BATMAN ADVENTURES or JUSTICE LEAGUE ADVENTURES books she enjoyed when she was younger — but the point is, the line clicked with her. Yes, it was a niche line that may have been telling a narrowly focused range of stories, but it was a narrow range that interested her and complemented the various other kinds of stories she currently enjoys in the comics realm. So, it’s an anecdotal case, but here’s at least one instance in which you can say MINX connected with the audience it was aiming for.

    Of course, I guess I have to offer the caveat that my daughter has what may be unusually broad tastes as a teen reader of comics. In addition to MINX books, she currently follows about a half-dozen manga series, RUNAWAYS, ALL-STAR SUPERMAN, Gail Simone’s run on WONDER WOMAN, Paul Dini’s run on DETECTIVE, the Papercutz HARDY BOYS and NANCY DREW graphic novels, Jim Shooter’s run on LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, TRINITY, Archie digests, TINY TITANS, CASTLE WAITING, and old issues of the CrossGen books RUSE and MERIDIAN. And she loves digging through my old Silver Age DCs.

    I take full blame for this state of affairs.

  23. phunengames says:

    I was not a Minx reader, but I am sad to see it go. To me Minx was an avenue to bring in a readership that was not a traditionally open to reading comics. It is sad to see something like that go. I am gathering two things from posts I have seen on the pulling of Minx:

    1. DC and the talent on the Minx books made a strong commitment to this. It just did not work out. That has to hurt.

    2. If DC gave everything, to some of the people ripping DC for Minx’s cancellation, they wanted for a project they wanted and it failed it would still be DC’s fault. If DC gave them everything and the project succeed, they would say it was a success in spite of DC’s meddling.

  24. I’m disappointed that Minx is going away. I had planned to buy some of those books for my niece when I felt the material was appropriate for her.

    Problems with Minx:

    When I was recently looking up information online about the age-appropriateness of the Minx line, I couldn’t find an age range. That’s the most basic content advisory out there, and Minx seemed to be avoiding it. This was very frustrating, so I stopped looking online and started looking for other widely known kid-friendly books (such as Bone).

    I decided to look in the stores for Minx books (Barnes and Noble, Books A Million, etc), but they were incredibly difficult to find if the stores had them at all. Between two different stores, I found one copy of Confessions of a Blabbermouth and one copy of Clubbing, but surprisingly I had no trouble spotting Yaoi from an aisle away….available for browsing through and not wrapped up like Playboy magazine and Heavy Metal. After checking the books out (the Minx books, no the Yaoi), I decided they’re not what I was looking for at this time and bought something else for her.

    It’s hard to ignore 3 rows of Naruto, but if you only have one or two copies of a Minx book crammed between those major manga works, they’re easily overlooked. This is similar to the shelving issues mentioned above. These books needed to stand out on their own somewhere for a long time before they could be shelved normally around other more popular titles.

    DC is giving up too soon. Whether it’s because they really feel they missed their mark with the line or because they just wanted to prove to themselves and the blogosphere that these types of comics wouldn’t sell so that they can be left alone to produce what they know and not have to answer questions about why they’re not targeting a younger or female audience anymore. Now they have an easy glib soundbite-style answer that can be passed around like a virus and save them a lot of time and effort. Either way, I don’t think DC understands certain growning trends in the book business. At least they tried, though.

    Hopefully the unreleased books will find a home… Oni is a good place.

  25. Hey Heidi. Twilight? It’s on my to-read list. My students love it. Hannah Montana? Nope. Sex & The City? I’m a fan. (I’d pay $10 for a ticket.) Obviously, all of this is anecdotal. I agree: They were trying to reach young teenage girls, and instead, they have me defending them. However, there aren’t *that* many teenage girls blogging about books and comics anyways. If so, they’re on MySpace, and I don’t remember Minx have any presence on MySpace. (?) So patrolling the internet for teen girl opinions about Minx would be a lost cause. I agree with Shannon: “It takes several volumes in a series and it takes a few years of word of mouth. You can’t buy that. Even Harry Potter was not Harry Potter overnight.”

  26. coconaut says:

    I find this sad because I felt that Minx was just starting to hit it’s stride. Teenage girls take a while to warm up to things actively marketed to them, fearing that it will be condesending. And for a while there Minx couldn’t seem to figure out the age of their market either (originally, it was 8-13, then 13-17?). But the last few releases have been stellar and have sold to actual teen (14-ish) girls in our store. And yes, I liked them too, and I’m a woman in my 20’s.

  27. This thread is dangerously close to a “comic readers enjoy YA writing” discussion.

    The shelving question is interesting and similar to a conversation I recently had with a friend who just had a (prose) book come out. The topic is politics (making fun of the extremes of both parties), its shelved in humor as the default (“political science-idiologies” or something like that is the secondary classification), but he’s been booked on “serious” partisan talk shows for promo’s. And there’s been a little disconnect all around in terms of being promoted both for how he’s shelved and for the content. Of course, my friend’s adjusting and going after some less ideology-oriented venues. I’m not sure that there was a period of re-adjustment here and it seems a bit premature to pronounce judgement before the Seventeen promotion is over (assuming the Seventeen readers can figure out where the books are).

  28. Mark Coale says:

    “This thread is dangerously close to a “comic readers enjoy YA writing” discussion.”

    From which direction? Creepy pedos or arrested development?

  29. Alas! A couple of those Minx books were really fun. I gave the Plain Janes book to a 13-year-old friend’s daughter & she loved it to pieces. She liked “The Re-Gifters” even more. I thought they was a little predictable, but I’m about to turn 38 – & like Heidi, wasn’t exactly reading “Sweet Valley High” when in high school. (Mighta read a Judy Blume book or two, though.)

    What’s saddest to me isn’t that the line didn’t work, but how little time it was given to work. 2 years seems like a blink of an eye if you’re trying to do something as revolutionary as putting comics into the hands of teen girls. Admittedly, I’ve no idea how much effort was put into nurturing Minx, but DC has the resources to have stuck this out a little longer; tried harder to find the right sections of bookstores; tried different types of marketing & online presence. Even the website looks attractive but mature:

    http://www.dccomics.com/minx/

    Where’s the bright color? Moving bits? Attractive flutter that would catch younger girl’s eye? As for a Minx MySpace presence, it’s taken by another comic book series called Minx, by Andrea Grant, which has zero to do w/ the DC/Minx line. As much as I hate MySpace, there’s no denying that a teen-friendly business – or one that wants to be – has gotta be hitting people up with online bulletins relentlessly. They shoulda had MySpace profiles for the main heroines of the books as well.

    Ugh. Well, that stinks. Good-bye Minx.

  30. Brian says:

    I’m a twenty something guy who read and enjoyed Minx… I also work at a public library with a fairly large graphic novel collection. I was talking to a teenage girl the other day who was a huge manga fan, she was showing me all the titles that she liked and she pointed out to me that she had read at least the first volume of every series… but when I suggested she try some of the other titles we had such as Camelot High, Plain Janes or Re-Gifters… she wasn’t very interested.

    I plan on talking to more of the teens who use the section, but I have a suspicion that they just aren’t that interested in North American graphic novels or OEM or whatever you want to call them….

    Maybe I need to work on my book talk skills or something…

  31. “Matt and David, perhaps my comment was clumsily phrased, but I reiterate my question: do you read Gossip Girls or Twilight?

    Do you watch HANNAH MONTANA? for PLEASURE? And not because your kid does?

    We’re talking about things that are HUUUUUUUUUGE with a certain population segment. And according to everyone in Hollywood, anything that is even vaguely woman friendly is so anathema to boys taht it must be imediately eradicated.

    Or to put iit another way, did you see and the SEX AND THE CITY movie? How much money would it take you to go see it?

    Of course there are wonderful “four quadrant” books, movies tv shows and comics that EVERYONE likes, like Harry Potter and Bone and Nascar and so on. If Minx books were aiming for that, they were an even bigger fail than before.”

    I did try Twilight based on the urging of a (female) friend. I disliked it, but not necessarily because of its target audience. If Neil Gaiman wrote a story with the same basic plot, I am pretty positive I would have liked it. If something can only be enjoyed by one group, I don’t consider it quality material. I bought “New York Four” because I didn’t believe that creators like Brian Wood or Ryan Kelly would have narrowed themselves to one demographic.

  32. That’s sad.
    The Minx books were being reprinted here in Malaysia and sold at a much more affordable price too.

    -Chee

  33. I just stopped by my local Barnes & Noble, & Borders as well, to see where Minx books were shelved. @ B & N, they were in a section called Teen Manga. Which, BTW, was on a separate floor from graphic novels & other manga. @ Borders, they were shelved with the graphics novels, & as such, their petite size made them almost disappear on the shelf next to regular-sized & oversized graphic novels.

    If my (admittedly brief!) once-over of local stores is any indication, nobody knew what the books were, exactly, & therefore they didn’t know where to put ‘em. Manga they are not, & any girl lovin’ manga (I adored Mai the Psychic Girl when I was in high school) might be put off by finding them there. I asked the manager at B & N about it, & she said where books were shelved was decided by the publisher.

    I’m sorry I won’t shut up about this. It just seemed to me there was real potential there.

  34. I agree with Leigh that the main issue with the cancellation is that the books did not get into the hands of the intended audience, but since I have absolutely zero factual evidence to support any kind of theory as to why that was, I’m going to jump on the “whether men can enjoy writing centered around teenage girls” because, well…just because I wanna.

    Heidi, I think that comparing the Minx line to something like Hanna Montana or even Gossip Girl is an apples and oranges type of thing. Hanna Montana is a cornball show created purely to sell product to pre-teen girls by way of lowest common denominator pandering. Gossip Girl is a slightly more sophisticated enterprise, but the books have still earned a lot of their popularity by trafficking in what are viewed as traditional “girly” areas of interest like fashion and soap opera-style romance. Say what you will about the quality of the Minx books in a general sense, but none of them ever tried to capture their market by grafting plotlines involving how awesome some shoes are or two-dimensional characterization revolving around if that hunky guy looked my way or not.

    If anything, Minx strived to be centered on story first and market considerations second, which is a pretty great thing about how comic publishers approach a lot of their product in general. Given that, I think there are plenty of comparisons that you can make to similar media that is made firstly to appeal to teenage girls but has also been enjoyed by a wide range of other folks, including grown men. Mean Girls comes to mind, as does Veronica Mars. To reverse the situation, I wouldn’t find it odd for a grown woman to like Rushmore or The Perks of Being A Wallflower or for someone who is straight to enjoy a book like Boy Meets Boy. Mostly it comes down to whether or not those kinds of stories come across your reading desk/TV set and whether or not they leave a strong impression. Like a lot of the men commenting here, I read PLAIN Janes as a matter of professional curiosity and liked it, and so I read a few more Minx titles after it (of course, it didn’t hurt that DC sent free copies of every new Minx book to Wizard).

    But even beyond that, I enjoy YA fiction for both young men and women in general, and I don’t think that’s any weirder than someone who’s way into legal potboilers or playing Call of Duty. They’re entertaining reads in general — often really funny and with situations and characters that are easily relatable to anyone who was ever a teenager. And the best YA lit goes way beyond being just an entertaining distraction. I’d put any of M.T. Anderson’s recent novels up against just about any novel in any genre. Those are some well written books.

    Plus, for what it’s worth, I know plenty of guys who watch Sex & the City and like it. They may not love it like a lot of the women who made it a huge success, but then again, my mom and I watched Entourage together for the first time last night, and even though she wasn’t super into it, she laughed when Johnny Drama threw up on that birthday cake.

    Plus plus, there is a strong cabal of guys in the comics world who love the Gossip Girl TV show that includes me, Ben Morse, Mel Caylo and Arune Singh, and I think we’re about to count Sean T. Collins in our number as well.

  35. Joe S. Walker says:

    Perhaps male bloggers in general gave the venture a respectful treatment which its target audience didn’t think it deserved.

  36. The intended market:
    a) likes reading REAL manga FROM Japan, done by Japanese creators.
    b) sees manga non-Japanese manga as “fake” (sadly, with some justification, though not in all cases).
    c) reads actual teen prose novels and won’t cross over in huge numbers to a comic book “just because”.
    d) is already reading Seventeen where there are articles about make-up, fashion, romance advice, etc….
    e) is extremely savvy and discerning of products that actually appeal to them.

    Unless you show that your alternative product is superior to, or comparable with that of Kodansha or Seventeen’s you’re toast.
    Simple as that.

    I wrote a similar piece to this on my reply to the Tokyopop OEL thing.

    You know why girls like the original Japanese manga?
    The meticulous details the artists put into the comics themselves. You have to know your hemlines, skirt lenths and cuts, jewelry, eyelash makeup… You are competing against artists who are not only artists. they are also highly knowledgable or may even possess DEGREES in fashion trends and product design.
    This isn’t a weekend hobby for those people. It’s not fun and games. They take this as seriously as a doctor sees his practice.

    Over here, I lament at the abysmally low standards of what we consider today’s “comic book professionals”.
    While we do have plenty of talented individuals, it seems nowadays that any monkey with Photoshop knowledge and a few thousand dollars to burn on print on demand can be a “pro” over here.
    Those comics industry over there has a system and a level of standards that I don’t see mirrored in the industry here.

    Every little detail down to the print in the dress, the manicured fingernails, gestures… you cannot fake that stuff.
    You’re up against a culture of artists who can draw anything from a lawnmower complete with all the rivets and fixtures to a well-proportioned Orangutan.
    This is an industry that succeeds well in making and marketing comics about firemen, athletes, cooks and doctors.
    If a soda can is in the shot, it’s REAL soda can complete with brand name, TM and all the ingredients and nutritional information.
    The doctor stories… well researched with REAL medical terms and procedures (not to mention real hospital equipment).

    Customers are extremely savvy about this.
    They can smell if it isn’t right.
    It’s not enough your characters wear jeans. It’s got to be… is it jeans from the 80’s or today?
    Is the girl calling on a fashionable NOKIA or just a squiggly box in her hands?
    If you’re in Russia, what kind of trees would you draw there?

    The proper images evoke emotions and response. If they aren’t there…
    well, the experience isn’t complete.

    You have got to be on that level or surpass it, that’s the bottom line.

    I am sure given the right opportunity, the girls’ market will eventually grow. But it cannot be forced or it cannot happen overnight. (Japanese have had a head start of about 40 years on girls’ manga)
    It’s not enough to hire writers from other fields and write comics. You have to know comic book storytelling inside out.

    We can start by growing the talent. But will they stick around to learn enough or will they move to other lines of entertainment? That’s the long term question.

  37. Ben Morse says:

    I don’t have anywhere near the informed and intelligent type of response that Kiel gave, but I do have to back him up that I not only like Gossip Girl, but plenty of other stuff seemingly targeted at girls, YA or otherwise, and I like to think this isn’t disturbing, vaguely or otherwise.

  38. For the life of me, I can’t spot the aesthetic difference between Hannah Montana, Gossip Girl and Sex In The City. I’d assumed it was the penis thing, but apparently there is a more subtle distinction.

  39. Sonic2nd says:

    As a young woman I never had any interested in the Minx titles. Here’s why:
    1. I saw a Minx display in a comic book store that had the titles arranged so that you can see the covers facing outward. None of the covers looked appealing enough to warrant any interest in them.

    2. When the Minx line started there weren’t any women working on the titles.

    3. I was very unhappy with DC when Spoiler (A long running female character from the Robin comic.) was killed, discarded & forgetten about during that whole terrible War Games arc. That said to me as a reader that DC didn’t care or respect my gender one bit.

  40. As a man with money in his budget for comics, I think I’m free to buy pantyhose if I want to. Yes, we are not the target audience, the 20-45 male, but as long as money’s in the cash register, who gives a toss?

    I do enjoy some “girl stuff,” such as the more girly genres of anime and some CW dramas past and present, but the majority of the entertainment I’m into is “guy stuff.”

    MINX RIP. I hope that DC puts out a better effort in the future.

  41. The skinny spines do make the books hard to pick out in graphic novels and even with the manga but I think the books were formated exactly right for the YA section. However, even in the YA section, these things don’t usually stand out until you have about three volumes of the series on the shelf. This is also just a matter of how book retail works. You have one title in a series, big deal. Join the other 70,000 titles we have in the store. But volume three or four show up and hey, we’ve got enough books for a display. Enough books for face-outs. Enough books for endcaps. Of course Naruto sells well. Bookstores want their customers to feel like they stock everything. Naruto has 20 plus volumes, you can display the crap out of that stuff. Same with Gossip Girl, Harry Potter, Lemmony Snickett, Junnie B Jones, Captain Underpants etc. etc. I know I keep blabbing on and on but I guess my point is that DC did not have realistic expectations based on how YA series books have had success in the past or, simply put, they gave up too early. And of course having a lot of volumes is not everything. A bad book won’t be a hit no matter how many volumes you have but these books were pretty good.

  42. I’d be extra-horrified at DC’s lack of commitment to the Minx line if the reason my project wasn’t picked up was that they were already planning to disband Minx. I started working with Shelly on the pitch just as The Plain Janes was released (in the summer of 2007), so right when Minx started out. My pitch was supposed to be for the third year of Minx (2009).

    As I look at the line, I probably wasn’t right for it as a creator, so while I was at first really disappointed that nothing came of the pitch, it worked out okay in the end. Still trying to get rid of that student loan, though! It haunts me.

    Like many, I’m very sad to see the line go. I think it had a lot of potential. I think better covers could have really helped the books, personally…

  43. Steven R. Stahl says:

    Reading comics and viewing videos intended for teenage girls raise fewer questions about sexuality, IMO, than the actions do about the psychology of reading. I doubt that those readers would pick up a “Traveling Pants” paperback by Brashares, a “Princess Diaries” book by Cabot, or any of the other thousands of prose fiction books for girls out there, because the content isn’t visual. They’re valuing the format over the content, and acting like someone who’ll watch whatever is on TV at any given moment because he wants the visual stimulation, or needs the distraction. Reading prose and getting into the story, conversely, requires concentration.

    I suspect that a significant number of comics readers tolerate out-and-out junk in the material they buy because it’s visually diverting, and even a few enjoyable panels amidst the muck can justify the price and time, whereas trying to make it through an incompetently written prose story would make such a reader stop within a few minutes, if he ever started.

    SRS

  44. One piece of news missing from the press release:
    Clubbing In Tokyo was written by Andi Watson, inked by Josh howard but DRAWN by Grazia Lobaccaro (seen on Silent Dance by Slave Labor).

    I think it’s sad the line got canceled so early, really… a lot of effort went into production (I was not personally involved but saw it happen) and it’s just bad to see it go like this.

  45. Kat Kan says:

    Y’all haven’t been talking to too many librarians. At a library listserv, quite a few librarians posted that the Minx titles were indeed popular with the teens, that the books were circulating (i.e. checked out) all the time. The library market takes time to grow; the bureaucracy in some systems doesn’t allow for “impulse buying” of popular titles. By giving the line less than 2 years to prove itself, DC shows its lack of understanding of one of the major components of the market for this line of books. Quite a lot of the libraries out here can’t purchase books that don’t have at least one positive review in the library media – that means comics blogs don’t count. Reviews have to appear in Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, VOYA, School Library Journal, Library Media Connections, Teacher Librarian, and other such library media. As much as I personally value the comics blogs, they’re not official. And getting reviews into library media takes time. Now, we did do our part – Booklist has reviewed a number of the Minx titles, as has VOYA and School Library Journal. But it all takes time. And DC didn’t give Minx enough of it.

  46. Poison Ivy says:

    May I talk about reverse prejudice for a sec? I don’t buy books about girls and women that are written and drawn by men. Cecil may be a woman, but a girl looking for a girl’s book (you’ve got how many seconds to hook a reader with your cover art and copy?) is not likely to know this. And that is enough reason to pass it by. Good as Lily, another excellent story, again has two male names on the cover. Duh.

    Rod, I think you have the right idea. Although the art was interesting in the two Minx titles I read, it wasn’t pretty. So it would not appeal to the manga audience that is used to beautiful, meticulously detailed artwork. I also noted that there was a comical aspect to the Hamm artwork–grotesqueness especially in the male characters who might be presumed to be attractive to a female reader but were not drawn as attractive, and a deliberate awkwardness to the Rugg artwork as well despite a smooth ink line. So on strictly visual terms, these Minx books did not deliver the subtext of sexual beauty that manga artwork does. (I could go on, and will on my own blog at a later date.)

    But Minx could have made it on its own terms, given less ambitious sales expectations. Sincere writing, which it had, always finds an audience. It might not be a huge audience, though, and comics are mass products as books often are not. And it takes time to find the readers and for the readers to be willing to try what for them would be a new medium. As others have pointed out, to hook the teenage crowd, you have to hang around for a while. Too bad they pulled the plug so soon.

  47. My 12 year old daughter loved “The Plain Janes.” But she got it from the library.

  48. Sorry about that.
    I wonder how much marketing budget they usually spend. The comic book market is small and narrow, though, so $125,000 seems to be quite small amount of money. Do publishers advertise their books to unspecified mass, not to genre fans?

  49. “My 12 year old daughter loved “The Plain Janes.”

    This is what I keep hearing, and it completely misses the point.

    It sounds like the books were popular among 11 and 12 year olds but not among 15 and 16 year olds they were intended for, and so instead of shifting their focus, DC scrapped the entire project.

    This makes the whole shelving issue even more complicated, too. Because the teen manga section at B&N veers younger than the teen fiction section. There is a bigger crossover between Young Readers and Teen Manga, and Teen Fiction and Adult Graphic Novels, than there is between Teen Fiction and Teen Manga – at least at B&N anyway.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] on the death of MINX Published September 25, 2008 comics , dc , minx [edit: Heidi is picking up the same trend.] [...]

  2. [...] Mulling over the imprint-formerly-known-as-Minx, I think back to another line of paperback-sized, bookshelf-format comics: the Acclaim Young Readers line. [...]

  3. [...] Heidi MacDonald at The Beat (1) Heidi MacDonald at The Beat (2) Heidi MacDonald at The Beat (3) This last post has lots of links to other discussions. I hope you weren’t planning on doing anything else today. Also, read the comments on all three of Heidi’s posts as they are fascinating freewheeling discussions. [...]

  4. [...] But that said, DC really were behind this line and these books. Yesterday Heidi had “I know from many conversations that the Minx line wasn’t very popular with the rank and file of DC,” and that’s my experience as well, but so what? Everyone at DC in the sales department was (in my observation) entirely professional in my dealings with them in regards to the Minx line. They pushed the books like they should; they gave the Direct Market a really, really great ordering incentive on the books, offering full returnability on unsold copies… They got behind each release every week in the same way they did with everything else, and the worst thing I ever heard someone from DC say about the books is “They’re not really my thing…” which is actually kind of refreshing to hear, coming from a twenty- or thirty-something man. AND they were quick to follow-up with “But I’ve read them and I some of them are strong, I think there’s an audience,” because in the end they’re sales reps and that’s their job, to sell stuff. I never felt, as a retailer or as a book-industry observer, that the publisher wasn’t 100% behind these books. [...]

  5. [...] Do these same readers [adult males who have commented on the end of the Minx line] check out GOSSIP GIRLS and TWILIGHT? OrNANA or SHOJO BEAT or HONEY AND CLOVER? The idea of adult men liking the same things as teenage girls is a vaguely disturbing one. [...]

  6. [...] Publishers Weekly The Beat [...]

  7. [...] The Minx line of graphic novels recently ceased publication. Heidi MacDonald has an excellent comprehensive post about the end, here. I’m not going to replicate that. I am interested in something slightly different — did DC, in fact, publish what they meant to? Did they publish “smart, original stories about real girls in the real world … resulting in unexpected adventures”? I own and have read all the Minx titles. And I think the answer is yes, DC did publish exactly what they said they would. [...]

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