You Minx, you.

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lindsay paris britney 1 You Minx, you.
Before I get too far into this, I’ll give you the loglines: #1 DC’s new girl-focused MINX imprint could just possibly be the most important launch ever by Marvel or DC. #2 I’d read books by any of the announced creators, and no matter what happens, readers are the winners, in the end.

But there’s also the girl creator thing, so we’ll get back to that.

First, #1. Minx is a momentous undertaking by DC because they have set aside a quarter of a mil buckaroos to market a new line of graphic novels. $250,000 is small in the larger scheme, but far from chump change in the historically parsimonious comics field, and by teaming with Alloy Marketing, DC has proven they’re serious. No one has EVER done anything like this in mainstream comics before. Marvel doesn’t have two pennies to rub together towards outside marketing, and according to Paul Levitz this is their biggest outside marketing expenditure in 30 years.

It’s also something of a tacit admission that traditional comics marketing doesn’t reach the outside world in a targeted, modern way. In the real world, marketing isn’t sending out press releases, it’s partnering, pacting, blasting, placing and so on. To recap from the PW story on Minx, here’s some of Alloy’s plan for the line:

In May, DC will run a two-page advertorial in the Alloy-owned Delia’s mail-order clothing catalogue, which is shipped to roughly 900,000 young women. Alloy will also be sending out e-mail blasts about the series through its collection of Web sites (which include prom.com and delias.com) and, in September, distributing nearly 100,000 textbook covers featuring Minx titles to schools.


The move is a major sign of the new era of comics/graphic novels, and an acknowledgment that the audience outside the direct market is bigger than the one in. It’s also a reflection of DC’s place in the bookstore world — although perennials Alan Moore and Frank Miller sell like hotcakes in bookstores, and recent successes like PRIDE OF BAGHDAD have made a mark, DC’s bread and butter superhero titles sell moderately to poorly, compared to DC’s position in the comics market. New lines with new audiences are what builds the bottom line in the era of the long tail.

The groundbreaking Minx marketing plan is more than likely also a reflection of DC’s new blood in marketing — constant personnel changes in the book sales and marketing department from Stephanie Fierman to Rich Johnson to new hire Sue Pohja have left DC without a recent “big move” in bookstores, similar to the whole OYL thing in comics shops. Minx is that move.

Will it work? That should be one of the big questions of ’07. As great as the books may be, there have always been great comics and girls who read comics — Minx’s true innovation is the marketing side.

And now, as for the other matter.

I’ll admit right out of the gate that I’m iffy on the name “Minx.” In a world where hard-drinking, poonani-flashing celebutantes are the role models of the day, I’d prefer something a little more proactive. However, I haven’t seen the marketing reports, so it’s quite possible that in a world where hard-drinking, poonani-flashing celebutantes are the role models, a word with ancient connotations of saucy, sexual availability is just what your average high school girl is looking for.

As for the line-up, I’ll read anything by Derek Kirk Kim or Jim Rugg. The content isn’t the issue here. Let’s take a look one more time.

THE PLAIN JANES — Cecil Castellucci & Jim Rugg
RE-GIFTERS — Mike Carey, Sonny Liew & Marc Hempel
CLUBBING — Andi Watson & Josh Howard
GOOD AS LILY — Derek Kirk Kim & Jesse Hamm
CONFESSIONS OF A BLABBERMOUTH — Mike Carey, Louise Carey, Aaron Alexovich
WATER BABY — Ross Campbell
KIMMIE66 — Aaron Alexovich


As you’ll note, in a line which is being aggressively marketed to teenaged girls, the initial launch includes two female creators, one of them, apparently a teenaged girl. (Louise Carey is Mike Carey’s daughter.) Neither is known for their comics work, it would be safe to say.

Is this wrong? Well, that’s a strong word. Is it odd? I think that’s closer to the mark.

A few years ago I was interviewing Gilbert Hernandez and asked him why he told so many stories through the viewpoint of young girls. I’m paraphrasing his answer somewhat, but he said that Dan Clowes had nailed it: there are many things that coming from the mouth of a middle-aged male author would sound bitchy and whiny, whereas a teenaged girl can get away with anything. It has indeed been my observation that not only Los Bros and Dan Clowes but many, many male creators love nothing more than taking on the snarky yet inexperienced voice of a young girl.

In many ways, Minx has been one of the worst kept secrets in comics, since editor Shelly Bond has been working on it for over two years. I’ve alluded to it many times here, and it seems like every creator under the sun has been approached about it at one time or another, including many female creators, who either declined to pitch, or had their pitches rejected. It is my understanding that more female creators are on tap, but I couldn’t tell you who they are or whether they come from outside comics or are related to male comics creators.

The dearth of female creators in a line aimed at female readers has been argued endlessly over the past few days on message boards. There have been a number of fairly dumbass knee-jerk reactions, such as “They should get Colleen Doran and Jill Thompson!”

#1, Doran and Thompson are quite busy with their own book projects (Thompson has her own book deal at Harper Collins). #2, It shows how limited the thinking on women in comics in when the same name are brought up over and over and over. There is, in case you didn’t notice, a whole new generation out there.

The another, more intelligent reaction has been from established male creators either already working on Minx books, or else, one hazards a guess, hopeful of working on one. Brian Wood has a fairly typical response at the V.

I also think its naive to assume that Shelly and Karen just didn’t bother to ask any of the people listed, or any other women. I think it’s more logical to assume they DID, and for whatever reason it didn’t work out (I’ve heard of several such cases of this, female creators I know pitching for Minx or turning down offers to work on Minx books). So, they’re left with the options of looking to more male writers for the first few books, or just not having Minx at all.


So what happened to those women who pitched at Minx? Will they be in the next wave? Or they weren’t good enough? Or they weren’t what the editor was looking for?

As much as I love and respect Colleen and Jill, it frustrates me that “women in comics” seems to begin and end with them and Gail Simone, to a large part of the comics community. There is a bigger than ever contingent of women entering the field, and their work is wider and vaster than you ever would have imagined.

When Tokyopop started it’s line of OEL manga, aimed at girls, they somehow managed to dredge up Svetlana Chmakova, Rivkah, Christy Lijewski, Becky Cloonan, Melissa DeJesus, M. Alice LeGrow, Alex DeCampi, Jen Lee Quick, Joanna Estep, Bettina Kurkoski, Amy Reeder Hadley, Queenie Chan, and probably some other people I am forgetting. I wouldn’t say that they have all created comics classics, but they haven’t embarrassed themselves, either, and if Minx books sell as well as DRAMACON, DC will be fairly happy.

I don’t even have room to mention all the women doing webcomics who have made a mark, but off the top of my head I can think of Shaenon Garrity, Dylan Meconis, Sarah Ellerton, Debbie Huey, Vera Brosgal, Jenn Manley Lee, Clio Chang, Ursula Husted, Spike, Dorothy Gambrel, etc etc etc etc. Not all of them are necessarily potential graphic novelists, but you get the idea.

As traditional book publishers like Scholastic and Harper Collins have gotten into the graphic novel game, they have turned to a great many female creators: Thompson, Raina Telgemeier, Hope Larson, Chynna Clugston, Christine Norrie, Tintin Pantoja. Alison Bechdel, a 20-year-comics vet pretty much ignored by the “mainstream” of comics, quietly turned out THE graphic novel of the year.

I don’t know WHO the next female creators will be at Minx — people like to hide their accomplishments from people like me — but it’s more than likely they will be worthy of the standards set by Andi Watson and Derek Kirk Kim.

Now, one more thing before I go back to the impersonal “we.” Many readers, mostly male, have said that this not-enough-women-thing is silly, there should be no gender quotas, blah blah blah. It’s easy to say there should be no quotas when you’re on the winning side, but that isn’t even the issue. The issue, at the end of the day, as it was in the beginning, is, will this line be a success?

Once again, Mike Carey, Ross Campbell, are all strong creators, and the announced books sound delightful. But just for the sake of comparison, I took a look at some of the other things that Alloy markets to the teen girl audience. On their book list, I found the following authors:

Ann Brashares
Cecily von Ziegesar
Zoey Dean
Lisi Harrison
Melissa de la Cruz
J. Minter
Scott Westerfeld
Maureen Johnson
Jodi Lynn Anderson
Karen Lutz
Francine Pascal


If you look at this page of librarian recommendations of books for readers who like GOSSIP GIRLS, all of the authors have female names except for one with an ambiguous initial. There could be male authors masquerading as girls (a common occurrence in the romance novel field) but that does sound kind of…icky.

Looked at in the wider picture, the Minx line is truly a strike for innovation. Carey, Watson, Kirk, et al are really pioneers: it isn’t easy for male authors to make it in the highly competitive YA girl field.

Let’s all wish them luck.

Comments

  1. “I don’t even have room to mention all the women doing webcomics who have made a mark…”

    Five of those named were on GirlAMatic.com when it launched. I know, because I hired them. Additionally, Svetlana was on at launch, and Raina and Tintin came in the second wave. Even Hope was part of GAM for a few months.

    I didn’t have any trouble finding women, and I didn’t have $250,000. (what happened to the $150,000. number?) for marketing, either.

    As I said in another thread, I liked TinTin’s WW manga so much, I nutted it up and wrote to Paul Levitz at DC and made the case for a girl’s line (npot having any idea there was one in the works). I believe that much in getting comics to girls and women, and in having women making them, instead of the same old same old.

  2. Great report, Heidi.

    Next wave of female comix creators for the Minx line? Here are a couple of excellent choices to peruse from the roster of Act-i-vate:

    Nikki Cook’s SACK OF PUPPIES
    http://heartshapedkey.livejournal.com/255349.html

    Jennifer Tong’s ORIFICE
    http://jentong.com/orificepages.html

  3. ~chris says:

    My 15-year-old niece is already excited by four of the Minx books, so that’s a single data point indicating they’re on the right path. But she’s well aware of the comics world, loves many of the creators you mention, and cares little about the publisher name (well, she trusts Oni and SLG), so the data point is immaterial to the question of how many new readers will be reached.

    I’m excited about some of these books myself (particularly Alexovich’s and Campbell’s). I’m not fond of the “Minxâ€? name, but otherwise think this is a very good thing. I’ll reserve judgment on the initial lack of female creators… I’m skeptical by nature but it’s too soon to condemn.

    P.S. I believe you’re thinking of the wonderful Flight contributor Clio Chiang with an ‘i’ in her last name. :)

  4. ~chris says:

    “I’m skeptical by nature…â€?

    But then I’m a mere comics fan and haven’t seen as much comics industry crapola as Lea has.

    Looking forward to the new Rumble Girls! *love*

  5. Kat Kan says:

    As for the line’s name, if you’d read any of the books written by the female authors on that list of YA authors, the name fits the main characters of almost all those books. Trust me, I’ve been a YA librarian for a couple of decades. In fact, the series books by von Ziegesar and Zoey Dean (among others) have been featured on many a newscast and in newspaper columns that basically wrung their hands saying “oh what have our teen girls come to?” because of the brand-name dropping, the partying, the suggestive covers, and characters drinking, engaging in impulsive romantic relationships, and all that other “immoral” behavior. Seems to me most of the books in the Minx line will be much better in quality (at least in my estimation).

    Cecil Castellucci, who’s writing THE PLAIN JANES, is a YA author whose books I personally love, especially BOY PROOF. Go read it, you don’t have to be a teen to like it.

  6. The males writing females (or for females) distinction wouldn’t even be a headline if we were talking books and not comics, so when it comes to sales and marketing it’s way past time people stop thinking of any of these comics as “comics” but as comic BOOKS. That’s why Tokyopop was successful and that’s why Minx will be too. It really is only here in the comic industry where people are concerned about males writing females or males writing for females. (On the prose side of books of course, you have gender-switching examples such as: for both boy and girl readers the most famous author in the world is a woman who writes a story starring a boy wizard, one of the most popular detective series written for women stars a female protagonist in South Africa and is written by a man.) For prose books, readers in the regular book market don’t care about the author’s gender, and as a male writer with a mostly female audience I can say with certainty that they don’t care about a comic book author’s gender either.

    If the rest of these Minx books are as good as Aaron’s Kimmie66 then the line will do just fine. He let me read his script and see the art over a year ago and it’s an excellent science fiction story with beautiful art and ideas that have stuck in my head to this day. I’d read it if I were a 13 year old girl, boy, or hermaphrodite.

  7. Ven Lopez says:

    Just fresh from Johanna Draper Carlson’s blog, I see the same thing here as I see there. She had commented about how DC seems to think that “It doesn’t count unless WE do it.” To which I responded that I can say the same for the American comics industry.

    NO ONE has ever spent huge gobs of money on marketing comics before in mainstream comics? Not in American mainstream comics perhaps.

    The Philippine’s Mango Comics spent hundreds of thousands of pesos to market and publicize DARNA #1 in 2003. You saw print ads in major newspapers. You saw giant billboards along major highways. You had a grand launching at a large commercial center complete with bands, food, programs and related merchandise.

    Mango Comics is also responsible for MANGO JAM, probably one of the most popular comics titles in the country today. More popular than even the much publicized DARNA. It’s staff is composed of all women, and the creative teams of this anthology are all composed of women. It’s a title geared towards young female readers (and even older ones). It’s a title that has been published for close to 2 years now with much success.

    This is the Philippines, not the US, so of course this doesn’t count.

  8. How much did Tokyopop and Viz spend in book dumps at chain stores to establish themselves there, again?

    The fact that DC’s executives think they’re doing something unprecedented in their marketing is funny but beside the point: I’ve been waiting for DC* to pull heads from asses and step up to the plate like this for years, now, and they’re finally stepping up to the plate. Whatever deserving snark gets unload upon them, three cheers for this, at least.

    * Marvel have effectively written themselves out of the game in order to maintain a superhero licensing empire.

  9. “readers in the regular book market don’t care about the author’s gender”

    “Rowling’s full name is “Joanne Rowling”, not, as is often assumed, “Joanne Kathleen Rowling”. Before publishing her first volume, Bloomsbury feared that the target audience of young boys might be reluctant to buy books written by a female author. They requested that Rowling use two initials, rather than reveal her first name. ”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._K._Rowling

    I care if a book is good, yes. But I also seek out authors of my own gender because my experience has been that I’m more likely to get a voice that I can relate to. Not that Carl Hiassen, Bruce Coville and Chuck Palaniuk (some of my favorite male authors) aren’t grand, mind.

    Of course, some of my actively seeking females might be because a lot of the comics I encountered when I first started reading them regularly twenty-some years ago were written by men, and their idea of female characterization stunk.
    I’m probably not the first woman driven to other women by comics. Heh.

    You may not care about the gender of the authors you read, but consider that that’s not true for everyone.

  10. “You may not care about the gender of the authors you read, but consider that that’s not true for everyone.”

    I think that is an important question for Alloy, yeah. But that’s why Shelly sought out artists who are already reaching female audiences. Of course you can say “who better to reach a female audience than… y’know, FEMALES,” but it just happens that very few of the pitches Shelly got from women creators really wowed her. Nobody wanted it to be that way, but when you’ve got seven 100+ page books to roll out in one year, at some point you’ve got to pick the ones you love and get people started. I’m sure the male/female ratio will change once the line is established and they have more money to spend, if for no other reason than that everyone involved with MInx… wants it to change.

    It’ll also be easier to attract female talent now that the line is no longer a secret. It’s hard to pitch to a company you don’t know exists, y’know?

    But back to your point, I totally agree that if a teen girl wouldn’t even pick up a book with a boy’s name on the cover, it doesn’t matter how fantastic and relatable we make the innards. I don’t know how big a segment of the teen girl market that represents, but I kind of have to defer to the people who have spent the past two years doing research. A lot of people have a lot of problems with DC and with Allloy, but they certainly know more than I do.

    Oh, and about that Mango Jam thing… I’m sure that Karen knows they aren’t breaking any new ground from a worldwide perspective (you could probably come up with any number of examples from Japan or even Europe), but it IS kind of a big deal for the American comics scene. The rest of the world is way ahead of us in a lot of ways, but I think Minx is a good first step to evening that out.

    Not flawless, but good.

  11. You may not care about the gender of the authors you read, but consider that that’s not true for everyone.

    Nooooooo. I won’t and can’t. If there’s anything that makes me break my ad hominem rule, it’s that. If the reader cares more about the author’s gender than the story then the reader is a burden to the author. I’ve never, ever, ever read a book with the idea that “this speaks to me because I’m a man.” If there are readers who won’t buy ShutterBox because I am a man then I don’t want them reading my work anyway.

  12. Isn’t it kind of sexist to prefer books authors by one sex over another? Similar to saying I prefer reading Eco over Murakami because Eco’s white – like me? Just a thought :)

    Personally, if I can detect the author in a story, it diminishes the experience (unless we’re talking about an autobiographical work). For that reason, I not only don’t care about an author’s sex but also don’t care to know the author’s sex.

    While I understand what you’re saying Lea, I personally prefer reading books from a perspective that I do not share. I get enough of ME in my everyday life; so much so that I don’t feel the need to relate to authors’ personal experiences. In fact, it may be likely that authors that share similar lives and backgrounds to myself would more rarely have interesting things to say to me.

    p.s. for many years I thought Andi Watson was a girl (apologies to Mr. Watson)

  13. “I’m sure the male/female ratio will change once the line is established and they have more money to spend…”

    Aaron, if that’s the way it is, the Minx is no different than many other lines of comics, aimed at women or not.

    “It’s hard to pitch to a company you don’t know exists, y’know?”

    Maybe that was part of the problem, Aaron. Not that they didn’t know it didn’t exist, but that no one could say what was going to happen and when.
    But, wait…what happened to the “aggressive recruiting” of women we’ve seen mentioned elsewhere?

    Questions still not answered are HOW the people asked to pitch were asked, and who owns what’s created. I notice no one’s touched that second one so far.

  14. There’s one aspect of this announcement that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere: there’s that dispute between DC and indie publisher Andrea Grant over the “Minx” trademark, given the ’90’s Milligan/Sean Williams Vertigo series. Supposedly the matter was settled at the beginning of October, but one wonders whether DC just decided to bury Grant under better marketing rather than martyr her. Has any reaction been issued or solicited from her over the imprint?

    Non sequitur: Anything that puts Jim Rugg, Andi Watson and Derek Kirk Kim front and center to a broad audience is already head and shoulders above in my book.

  15. I don’t know about “aggressive recruiting.” The way I was recruited was that Shelly found my first book in a comic store, liked it, and asked if I had anything I’d like to pitch. I suspect everyone involved either has a similar story or they’d worked with Shelly before. If your work caught her eye (or Karen’s, I’d assume), you were asked for pitches.

    I asked this on the Engine the other day, and I’m still curious: What’s the counter-theory? That Shelly Bond and Karen Berger are actively attempting to exclude women from the line? I know for a fact that’s not true, and am honestly perplexed by the rage.

    And yeah, I own (or co-own) my books. If that’s supposed to be a secret or something, nobody told me.

    I have to admit, I don’t really understand your first point. I’m not trying to be smart or anything, but can you clarify? Are you saying that when publishers have more money to spend, the male/female ratio of creators always improves? That would be a good thing, wouldn’t it?

  16. brian spence says:

    Y’know one of the many great things about this site that I love? Under Heidi’s categories heading, she has a monkeys section. Only in the comics world.

  17. “I know for a fact that’s not true, and am honestly perplexed by the rage.”

    Sad to say, there are alot of bitter and sad people in the comic world…

    …which explains the photo that adorns this article??

  18. “and am honestly perplexed by the rage…”

    Rage? More like exasperation, which, as a fella, are unlikely to ever have to understand.
    Try seeing twenty years of this (“this” being “Wait your turn, girls” or “But we couldn’t FIND any girls”), or even try to imagine seeing twenty years of this very same thing, over and over, and you’ll begin to get your fingernails under a very tiny corner of it.

    Something I find funny is that when I and Joey Manley announced GirlAMatic.com, a webcomics site aimed at women and featuring mainly female creators, there was a great howling about us making a “ghetto” and that we didn’t NEED GAM, how we didn’t NEED to seek out female creators interested in creating for a female audience, as that was BAD.

    Some of the most notable howlers were Carol Lay, Megan Kelso and Ted Rall.

    I haven’t seen anyone yet say comics doesn’t NEED Minx, doesn’t NEED books aimed at girls, and that you guys (who, to understand Sonny Liew, didn’t know HOW your work would be marketed) are in a ghetto.

    What’s the diff? Has comics changed that much in just four years, or is it that’s it’s okay for MEN to create for women, that that’s not a ghetto, but women creating for women is?

    As to my first point, what I meant is there have been many, many new lines of comics that were promising bold new directions started since I first became a pro (some of them even supposedly for women/girls), and every time they launched with few or no women, and no titles for women. I was there in 1990 (1991?) when Heidi asked a Touchstone Comics rep where his women creators were and dismissed him when he pointed out they had a female colorist.

    The answer about where the women are is almost always answered with, “We’re doing this first, then we’ll try to find women/make books women/girls will want to read.”

    And, wek, I am neither sad nor bitter. I’m experienced and disgusted. Minx is yet another DC women’s line name that describes a girl sexually from a man’s point of view. (See “Femme Noir” and “Dangerous Curves.”)

  19. Rage? More like exasperation, which, as a fella, are unlikely to ever have to understand.

    Lea, you don’t know Aaron’s personal history and you don’t know his future. To even suggest that he or I or any other male creator has never felt a mountain of career exasperation for years on end, unrelenting, going nowhere and starving, simply because we are men, is sexist. Tavisha alone gets completely ignored as a female creator simply BECAUSE she works with a man. That’s a fact.

    Whatever problems you had launching GAM or problems you had with Carol Lay or Ted Rall have nothing to do with Minx, Shelly Bond, Aaron or the rest. They may be markers for times of deep frustration for you for a project you worked your ass off for, but it manifests as just displaced resentment when you hold it up as one of the reasons to be mad at Minx.

    Minx is simply a case where you have two female editors who hand-picked creators they liked for their line, a line that is marketed towards girls. That’s really as deep as the conspiracy goes.

    I swear, everyone in comics is suffering from some kind of post traumatic macho-comic stress syndrome, but they also all add to the problem by being convinced that their experiences are more genuine than everyone elses.

  20. Rikki, we are now at the hamster wheel portion of this discussion: it’s just going round and round and getting nowhere, especially when you say I’m suggesting men don’t experience career frustration and that I’m sexist.

    Holy cow.

  21. No, I said your comment was sexist, not you. Ad Hominen.

  22. My bad.

  23. Just a quick note on the Minx name rights situation. DC had more than just the Milligan series behind its rights; at some points, they picked up the registered trademark of a British publisher’s magazine Minx, which was aimed at girls.

    I’m not sure to what degree the lack of female creator names is going to be a hinderance on the books they have; I have trouble seeing new readers picking up a book and deciding not to buy it because there aren’t enough female names on other books in the series. (Besides, if I wasn’t a comics insider, I’d probably guess that “Andi”, with that spelling, was a girl. Then again, I’d guess that “Cecil” was a boy.)

    –Nat (boy)

  24. Thomas Gerhardt says:

    I’m going to cross-post something here I posted on Johanna’s “Comics worth Reading” blog, for it seems a lot of the debate is divided by gender lines, arguing from personal worldviews or good/bad experiences, and from a business point of view, I believe that to be rather myopic…

    The question is how willing the higher-ups at TW will be for how long. Or in other words: how long it will take to recoup the losses (and there will be losses for a while, it’s the nature of the beast).

    However, I do think that IF they fail, it won’t be because the books weren’t very good. If one looks at other failed lines at DC, they gave the market “Transmetropolitanâ€? (Helix) as well as “Road to Perditionâ€? and “A History of Violenceâ€?, both of which were rather successful as films later. I don’t doubt for a moment that the books will be at least adequate, if not good or even great.

    (except that the one-line for “Clubbingâ€? still bugs me. My apologies to Andi Watson for that. Perhaps the Paris Hilton phenomenon has finally gotten to me…)

    I try to argue as much from the basis of logic and experience as I can, for there is one thing that I DO know: personal taste means nothing on the market. I know that pisses a lot of editors (and MDs and CEOs) off, but it’s true (here goes my chance to EVER work with DC, but I really don’t care). Let me illuminate that by two examples.

    I’ve launched a kid’s magazine in Germany a few years back, called “Kids Zoneâ€?. Lot of work, lot of marketing money thrown at it (think millions). I did the positioning and the design on it. From a personal point of view, the design was horrid. Lots of little box-outs, big screaming headlines, it was chaos on the page – but it was based on the experiences with lots of kiddie focus panels, and IT WORKED. That is all the reason to do it this way, and it was very, very successful on the market. Whenever you do something that is targeting the biggest possible market, leave your feelings out of it.

    Counterpoint: I was involved with the German launch of Business 2.0 at its height in the US, and the company thought “Hey, this is a license to print moneyâ€? during the dot.com bubble. My MD loved the thing. If possible, he would have had sex with it. And on surface, it looked like a no-brainer. The US version sold over 200K and what was more important, it was HUGE. There were issues with 300 pages out there, 200 of which were highly paid ads.

    And, did I mention that my MD had a constant mental hard-on about the thing? Oh, I did? Okay.

    So there we were, with a budget that was in the mid-double digit millions per year, buying a high profile name as the EIC, getting big-budget editors and spending more millions on a big marketing campaign as we were ramping up for the launch.

    And that was the moment I got a target and audience analysis of the US mag on my desk. Nobody in the higher-ups had bothered to read all the way through it (as the summary stated: audience is highly affluent, works in the dot.com industry, can you smell the money?).

    I, however, read the entire thing, front to back. And I knew we were in trouble. Big trouble. For what the summary didn’t tell was that about 90 percent of all the US mag sales came from ONE location: Silicon Valley. 80 percent of all ad revenue came from the same location: Silicon Valley.

    In short, the B 2.0 audience was buying it AND placing the ads in it in order to show the OTHER companies in Silicon Valley that they were bigger, smarter and – most importantly – had more money than the other guy.

    It showed clearly that B 2.0 wasn’t the next evolutionary step in business magazines, it was a glorified trade paper that was irrelevant to anybody in the mass market.

    Needless to say, I went to the MD and said that Germany didn’t have an internet business hub like Silicon Valley and that a “positive, glamourisingâ€? editorial positioning of the people in the dot.com business would not fly with the potential target audience in this country. I did some statistical analysis and came up with a potential sale per issue of about 8,000 copies per month, just based on the potentials that were available. Not a number that justified the money that had already been thrown out of the window. It didn’t matter. The MD, with the backing of the UK main house, had already banked the entire existence of the company on that launch. And I was told to shut up.

    I did more than that. I quit. The numbers came in, and they were abysmal. For four months, less than 9,000 copies per issue. The company went down just as I had predicted.

    Analysis is what makes things work, not personal taste, not wishful thinking, not anything else.

    Now, if one takes a look at the YA market in the US and DC’s entering into it, one has to come to the conclusion that the rules of the game are very different. This is not the DM, where it is relatively easy to a)predict numbers and b) minimize exposure to risk.

    Also, DC is just a little fish in the sea there, competing with much bigger fish and people who have been at this game for a much longer period of time. So yes, while I personally dislike it (a lot) that they are teaming up with Alloy, it IS understandable from a business point of view. I personally would have recommended another packager, for the simple reason that there might be the potential of a PR disaster, considering the shady reputation that Alloy has. And I would want to minimize my risks, especially since other people can do just as effecient a job as Alloy.

    The other thing I would have recommended, and again, sorry ladies, not because I am such a fervent believer in woman’s right or because that is a topic dear to my heart, I would have tried to get an all-female line-up.

    I apologise if that sounds cold-hearted, but I am simply going with the analysis, and having an all-female line-up would have given me an advantage in the publicity arena, something that I could have pimped like crazy: From women for women, hooray! Get me Oprah on the phone, get me Lea Hernandez, get me Clio Chang, get me Queenie Chan, get me Rivkah, get me Colleen Doran, get me Tintin Pantoja, let’s put them all on the couch and talk about how to create a positive change, not just for an audience, but for an entire industry!

    And as opposed to the Opal girl, all THESE women don’t just belong to the potential audience, they all know how to WRITE themselves. Hell, from a marketing POV, I couldn’t ask for more. They’re AUTHENTIC and I have an immediate mental link between the writers and my potentials.

    With an all-female line-up, I can build stars. I cannot only put those women/girls on Oprah, I can place them on the Today Show, Good Morning America, The N, Lifetime, Oxygen… you name it.

    Now, let us briefly think about whether I could do this with Mike Carey or Andi Watson (or, for that matter, Aaron A.). No, I couldn’t. Not because they are bad writers, quite the contrary. But let’s just say I put Mike Carey in a chair and be interviewed, here are the questions he couldn’t possibly answer: How did it feel to grow up as girl in x circumstances and with y talent? How much of your personal experience went into the book? What is your advice to a teen girl out there, facing z challenge who wants to do what you do?

    He’s a very good writer, but I cannot use him in the public arena. His books will have to succeed or fail on their own merit, and that in an extremely over-crowded market.

    Now, just because she is so vocal (and we have butted heads at least once in a discussion) about things, Lea Hernandez could answer all of those questions with ease, she would come across as authentic and credible when talking about the problems being a girl (and then woman), and I have a person my potentials can IDENTIFY with, not just with her writing, but also with her personality.

    Somebody like her, I can turn into a star.

    The same with other, new female creators, be they already known or be they on things like DeviantArt. I can use them (yeah, sounds dirty, I know) in ways that will give my product an advantage over all the other products that are already established, for a line of comic books targeted at teen girls from the second-biggest publisher of comic books COMBINED with the potential of grooming female stars for the media arena, that is PR gold.

    Do I think women can write better books for women? No. I think that every writer is different, male or female, it doesn’t matter as long as the product (and it IS a product) that comes out clicks with the audience.

    But the free PR of such a move would have been something I cannot buy, not with 250k, not with a lot more. Yes, when it comes to business, I am a cold-hearted bastard.

    So, those are the issues where I think DC has gone wrong. Not enough analysis, too much gut feeling and personal taste.

  25. The Beat says:

    Thomas:

    Whooo-ah. Thanks for the repost. You nailed it on the Oprah thing. That is of course why Cecil is the lead creator in the line.

    When I worked at Disney we did tons of focus group testing, and the results were always as you said. I’m not saying focus groups are a GOOD thing, since they have watered down and blanderized much of our culture, but when a big conglomerate is trying to launch a new business, it can give them more than gut level response.

    A few people have or had guts that are usually right: Ted Turner, Walt Disney, Oprah. That’s why they have companies named after them.

    Word on the street is that DC has done some intense marketing research on the Minx line, so they may have more knowledge here than is immediately apparent.

  26. Hey Heidi –

    Focus groups are not necessarily a good or bad thing per se. They’re a tool, but in order to do them right (depending on your target), you need to have a very good understanding of behavioural analysis and also – when it comes to kids – an understanding of neurology.

    They younger a child is, the more fractal their way of absorbing information is. The brain hasn’t gotten as advanced as to prioritize information the right way. It has to do with the forming of neurological pathways, and hence they absorb bits and pieces, but almost like a multi-tasking computer.

    The abuse of Focus Groups in today’s corporate culture has more to do with the lazyness and sometimes insanity of those who order them. You CAN use them e.g. to see if you can nudge a group to where you want to go, and very often you can.

    However, you need as big a set of data of your potentials as you can possibly get before establishing a new brand or product, and Focus Groups are at the end of the line. If you screw up before, a Focus Group will get you totally skewed results.

    An aside here: one of the worst things for our cultural survival is the introduction of computer systems into early grades, for two things: computers give you instant gratification and the information on a computer (very often) is designed to be absorbed in bits and pieces. I recently read a study, I think it was the first of its kind, that seemed to indicate that teens who were exposed to computer learning very early are neurologically very differently wired than previous generations. The study made a direct link to the rise of ADD in today’s society. The teens studied (and again, there was a gender gap, guess who came out on top?) were simply incapable to study longer texts that were more abstract, but hell, could they play Counter Strike.

  27. Wow. Fantastic post, Thomas. It’s really nice to hear such a clear-headed analysis from a marketing perspective. (They could’ve been on Oprah? Seriously? Good lord…) I know you feel DC kind of dropped the ball in a couple different ways here, but do you have any advice for the future?

    And for what it’s worth, I know for a fact that a big part of the reason the line was in development for so very, very long was market research. I’ve never had my work “focus grouped” before, and that was a pretty odd experience. The girls were overwhelmingly positive though, so I’m not going to whine TOO much about it.

    (Oh, and the girls put “Minx” way ahead of any of the other 10-or-so suggested names. That I do kind of want to whine about, but… eh. It’s kind of growing on me.)

    It’s funny, a couple years ago I would’ve hurled broken bottles at anyone who suggested an artist or editor put marketing concerns ahead of their own personal taste and vision. And… I still kind of feel that way, but I’ve become enough of a realist to at least hide the bottles.

  28. Aaron – that the name Minx would test well doesn’t come as a surprise to me. I know there were many rantings about how it has a negative connotation, but here’s the thing: it is a slightly naughty word, but the potentials are very likely to get a slight thrill out of saying it, because they can use it – subconsciously, mostly – to have something of their own.

    As or personal taste being paramount, I will say another thing to piss off editors everywhere. (and there goes another chance LOL) If you are writing to please your editor, you are writing to a market of ONE. That’s not really a big market now, is it?

    When it comes to commercialism vs. integrity or lofty goals, the one allows for the other. Look at Conde Naste. Vanity Fair has never gotten and will never get them a decent profit. The mag is way too expensive to produce to get a profit. You know where they make their money that pays for Annie Leibowitz and cover shoots that cost in the range of 100k? Glamour. Yep. One of the most… mundane shopping/make-up tips/whatever magazines out there. They keep throwing money at Vanity Fair for one reason alone: corporate positioning. WITHOUT Vanity Fair, it would be difficult for them to get some of the celebs they want.

  29. Oh, and Aaron –

    for advice to DC: my daily rate on consulting is € 1,500. Yep, I am not cheap.

  30. Ha! I didn’t think you’d fall for that.

    But anyway, I don’t think I said artists should be writing for editors. I think artists should be writing things for, well, themselves (an even smaller demographic!). In other words, they should focus on characters and ideas they find personally interesting. If those ideas connect with a big audience, they get big success. If they connect with a small audience, they get small success. If it’s too insular to connect with anyone, well, at least they got to make some art, I guess. The point is, audiences can tell when they’re being pandered to.

    (That’s why I think Shelly and Karen’s approach was smart, by the way. They reached out to artists that had already been successful with female audiences and told them to do whatever they like (with editorial control, of course; it wasn’t chaos).

    But that’s a pretty typical artists’ “in a perfect world, I could do what I want” perspective, of course. Feel free to destroy me.

  31. Yep, I am not cheap.

    You just gave it all away for free on the Internet.

    I understand the concept of commercial pursuits making the money one can then use to pay for their own more personal works, the time I spent in animation (with Aaron) reminds me of that fact. But the Oprah thing sounds like building another Wal Mart in the desert (the kind that picks up stakes and moves on to another town after a slight profit is made). It may get the line a big initial boost, but it wouldn’t have long term staying power if the stories don’t generate a sincere word-of-mouth culture among readers. So it sounds like Shelly chose what would have the greatest potential for sincere word-of-mouth among girls and then, as Heidi said, added Cecil as the Oprah sitter. Making decisions that last a lifetime instead promoting a single fireworks show is not only more reasonable but more responsible to society as a whole (basically 15 minutes of fame vs. a lifetime).

  32. On their book list, I found the following authors:

    It should also be noted that Scott Westerfeld’s books are scifi rather than simply books about the everyday life of teen girls.

    If there are readers who won’t buy ShutterBox because I am a man then I don’t want them reading my work anyway.

    You, however, are not a teen girl looking to read something about being a teen girl. Saying that teen girls are less likely to pick up books about being a teen girl if they are not written by someone who has ever been a teen girl is not the same as saying that some people won’t read mysteries written by women. It’s more like someone saying they prefer mysteries written by people who have actual experience in law enforcement. I wouldn’t necessarily do the same, but then I don’t read mysteries anyway.

    I am, however, more cautious about scifi books written by male authors, having bought a lot of stuff that reeks of “boys club” over the years (and regretted it). It’s not that I think the guys aren’t as good or can’t write stuff I’ll relate to (have I mentioned how awesome Scott Westerfeld’s stuff is?) but that there’s a greater chance I won’t relate to it, so I’m more cautious and more likely to wait for reviews before I buy scifi written by men.

  33. Yay! Get me on a couch with Oprah!! I like the idea of that.

    I just wanted to say that it’s rare to see a perspective like Thomas Gerhardt’s… his article was very well written and very enlightening. Someone taking a realistic, purely-commercial approach to marketing comics to the “ordinary folks”, who from my experience tend to be people who don’t give a rat’s ass about comics lore/history. I guess it sounds awful to be talking about the “market potential” of an author rather than his/her work, but then the book industry has been doing this since forever. Having a good-looking, interesting author DOES seem to have a tendency to sell books. I guess what Thomas has said is just touching on the same marketing principles. Once upon a time, you sold books. These days, you sell the author, who if they have a great personality, sells their own books. *shrugs* To discount that factor just because you’re doing comics and not books is… odd. The image of the author is definately important in this Age of Personality we’re living in.

    I wish DC good luck. Regardless of the controversy surrounding the “Minx” line, I want to see it succeed. If it does, it will open alot of doors, and that can only mean positive things for the industry.

  34. When I got into comics it was to get as far away from the mainstream Oprah crowd as possible. I cannot relate to Opera as a male or female. The last thing I’d want is to be on her cheeseball show pandering to all the mundane soccer moms and mary-sue housewives. These are the people I cannot relate to and I’m most certain that I ,as an artist, couldn’t create anything they’d find appealing, nor would I care to. Female or otherwise. Not my scene. At all.
    Aside from my personal opinion, I’d be very surprised if Oprah’s producers would even find it logical and worth their ratings to even feature such low profile comic creators (no matter what their gender) as guests.

    Btw, Great report as always, Heidi ~ =^..^= ~ Tavi

  35. (That’s why I think Shelly and Karen’s approach was smart, by the way. They reached out to artists that had already been successful with female audiences and told them to do whatever they like (with editorial control, of course; it wasn’t chaos).

    This is the best I’ve read in the discussion after the article. The gender topic should be dropped, it is not relevant for the MINX book itself.
    Girls will like to read it,

    In comics, I feel is more important the story. Bring me an AUTHOR regardless the gender. If they have talent, it will show . They will show passion to tell their stories, gender is not the issue.
    I could bet the editors Shelly and Karen felt the same way.

    About titles, Aaron hit the spot, girls were offered ten or more options for a title, and they choose Minx- not for the sexual connotation, but surely becuse they found the word fun. I feel the same is when you mention “Bratz” – girls love them, despite many adults cringe and shudder and try to call the dolls insulting names.

    Maybe the current generation has less problems admiting they are feeling good for whom they are than our generations did. They take words we would not have liked in our times and make them theirs- with a fun twist- such is Minx.

    I like DC is trying this, hopefully more and more authors will join.
    As for female authors, the times have changed, TokyoPop has proved this – the issue of gender is being pushed aside in favor of talent – not labeled by your sex.
    Female or male, times now require you to go and pitch your works, over and over and stop using the gender banner as your war cry.

  36. Just a quick note on the Minx name rights situation. DC had more than just the Milligan series behind its rights; at some points, they picked up the registered trademark of a British publisher’s magazine Minx, which was aimed at girls.

    Thanks, Nat. I’m nevertheless still curious about what if any take Andrea Grant has on the matter, since there would seem to me to be even more of a potential for confusion now than before. As far as I know she’s not made any noise about changing the name of her book (though she HAS mentioned changing her hair color, which, as primary model for the eponymous, white-haired character, would make it seem as though she’s no longer going that route).

  37. Are we to understand from the photo at the top of the article that the next wave of names on the MINX lineup will be Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton?

  38. Paploo says:

    Hmmm……..
    http://www.amazon.com/Fashion-High-Graphic-Novel-Breaking/dp/0439748674/sr=1-4/qid=1165198687/ref=sr_1_4/102-1158864-3768148?ie=UTF8&s=books

    Scholastic didn’t seem to have trouble finding 2 female creators for their line of Teen graphic novels. Which launches in January 2007. Next month folks. Just thought I’d add that….

  39. Tag – It’s not very long, but somebody did think to ask: http://comicfoundry.blogspot.com/2006/11/andrea-grants-minx-on-dc-comics-minx.html

  40. Great article, Heidi. The marketing dollars for Minx is fascinating. I hope it pays off for them, because if it doesn’t, they’ll use it as justification to never try it again: “We did marketing once… uh… it doesn’t work.”

    It’s a shame they couldn’t get more women involved. I mean, they’ve got some talented people lined-up, but if you’re planning to target girls…?

  41. Paploo says:

    http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6339176.html It’s also worth noting that Simon&Schuster had no problem finding a female cartoonist for their Young Adult imprint. Hope Larson is creating not one, but TWO works for the publisher, starting with Chiggers, planned for a 2008 release. Hope’s LJ features assorted previews and such btw

    http://hopelarson.livejournal.com/113972.html

  42. Paploo says:

    http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6332851.html And neither could HarperCollins for that matter, who signed a 4-book deal for young readers with Jill Thompson quite awhile back.

  43. The Beat says:

    I forgot about Lauren Weinstein, as well.

  44. Paploo says:

    http://adistantsoil.com/blog/?p=902 And then there’s Colleen Doran’s How to Draw Shojo manga book coming from North Light Books, who also published Lea Hernandez’s Manga Secrets [which is well worth any fans time as it's not just draw pretty people, but MAKE COMICS with said people]. They didn’t have trouble finding female creators working in a style popular with female fans.

  45. Paploo says:

    http://www.girlstoriescomics.com/sample01.html I like this stuff quite a bit…. looks like her work will be coming out from Henry Holt quite soon http://www.girlstoriescomics.com/sample05.html

  46. Erik Scott says:

    It’s amazing to me in all this anger towards lack of female creators in the launch of this line that maybe, just maybe, the pitches that were received just weren’t interesting or at a certain quality level to be accepted.

    It also amazes me that people jump to conclusions, without any specific evidence either way, that certain creators were or weren’t approached and that maybe some of these creators didn’t want to submit a pitch to DC this go around for this line of books.

    I’ve yet to see substantiative list (and doubt I or we ever will offically) from DC of who was or was not solictied to put in pitches and who was either denied from DC’s side or who passed from the creator’s side.

    I find it hard to believe that a line that his being headed by two of the more prominent females in the major comic publishing industry are purposely leaving out female creators as some sort of continuation of industry misogyny.

    Couldn’t it just be that they’re printing the best pitches they got in accordance with whatever mission statement they have for this new imprint, regardless of gender?

    Or is everything suddenly atuomatically a conspiracy against some group of people?

  47. So, these focus groups I’ve been hearing so much about, do we know if they were actually comprised of the target demo? There are a lot of assumptions going around, but I’ve seen no hard data.

    Now many people were in these groups? 2? 20? 200?

    What were their genders? Male? Female? Both? If both, what was the percentage of the gender spread?

    How old were these people?

    Answers to these questions might go a long way to explaining some of what seems so inexplicable. And considering how heavily DC seems to be relying on the results from these focus groups, I think it’s not an unreasonable set of questions to ask.

  48. PS, Thomas Gerhardt is a man after my withered, black heart.

    That is all.

  49. Dr. Peter A. Maresco says:

    I am a marketing professor conducting research into product placement in comics. I am especially interested in the new Minx series with regard to the way in which it is scheduled to be marketed?

    Can you help me locate comics, Magna, etc. that contain consumer products embedded in their story lines?

    Thanks.

    Peter A. Maresco, Ph.D.
    The John F. (Jack) Welch College of Business
    Sacred Heart University
    Fairfield, CT 06825-1000

  50. Michiko says:

    Halo! Hot picture alert! If Paris Hilton is your fave, then I have a website for you to see. Who wants it?

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Minx Linx: It’s not really manga, but as it touches on some of the same issues we discuss, here’s a roundup of recent comments: At The Beat, Heidi has a lengthy meditation that covers a lot of the bases: Yes, it’s a step forward for DC; yes, it’s good that they are putting some serious marketing into it; yes, the name is rather unfortunate; and yes, it’s a bit odd that there are so few women creators. Tiredfairy, who worked on the line, is cautiously optimistic. Remix17 is offended. Lucy_anne has doubts and is hosting an open thread, so check it out. There’s lots more at When Fangirls Attack, which is where I got most of these links. [...]

  2. [...] Are we still talking about this Minx line of DC’s? Apparently we are. Heidi MacDonald chips in with her two cents, covering all the bases pretty well, but you’ll want to click the link and scroll down a ways for marketing consultant Thomas Gerhardt’s running commentary as well: [...]

  3. [...] Newsarama interview with Karen Berger David Welsh on reinventing the wheel Lengthy post at The Beat, with awesome comment thread [...]

  4. [...] Regardless of the controversy, the launch of Minx is a bold new move that everybody, in the long run, hopes will succeed. Heidi MacDonald at THE BEAT reported, “Minx is a momentous undertaking by DC because they have set aside a quarter of a mil buckaroos to market a new line of graphic novels. $250,000 is small in the larger scheme, but far from chump change in the historically parsimonious comics field, and by teaming with Alloy Marketing, DC has proven they’re serious. No one has EVER done anything like this in mainstream comics before. Marvel doesn’t have two pennies to rub together towards outside marketing, and according to Paul Levitz this is their biggest outside marketing expenditure in 30 years. It’s also something of a tacit admission that traditional comics marketing doesn’t reach the outside world in a targeted, modern way. In the real world, marketing isn’t sending out press releases, it’s partnering, pacting, blasting, placing and so on.” [...]

  5. [...] DC’s new Minx line is intended to target teenage or tween girls with Manga sized books NOT containing super heroes. (It’s okay if you’re not comfortable with the name ‘Minx’ some people weren’t)  In fact if you didn’t already know it, you might not realize at all that the books are owned by DC.  And that’s okay. [...]

  6. [...] But now, we’re almost at the situation where the question has turned into “what is the next opportunity out there?” You have this tremendous freedom of moment for creative people from other media to ours. You have people showing a willingness to sample comics about subject matter that would have been laughed out of the room a few years before. There’s an ability to promote and publicize those projects in ways that were unimaginable a couple of years ago, and giving you a chance to reach your audience. But still, I feel that the largest challenge is the challenge to the creative community – what do you do with this opportunity? What can you create? Is there the American humor strip that can have the power of an Asterix and simultaneously reflect the nature of popular culture, politics, and yet do it in a way that appeals to both adults and children and sells millions and millions of copies with each edition? [...]

  7. [...] I’ve been reading this amazingly thorough (maybe TOO thorough as I tend to skim) blog of the comics industry: Journalista!. Lots of great stuff, including comics-related events across the country — very many in NYC.Yesterday’s entry had a lot about comics created by women for women, inspired by DC Comic’s announcement of their Minx line. Talking about “men vs. women” in any creative field is a drag, but comics’ male-to-female ratio makes Fortune 500 CEOs seem practically co-ed, so I think it’s worth talking about. Heidi McDonald has a good essay about it, and she separately posts a hilarious pair of Wonder Woman drawings — one by a man, one by a woman. [...]

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