The big publishing news this weekend was the announcement of DC Comics’ entry into the teen girl/not-quite-manga market with its new Minx line of graphic novels.
According to an article in Saturday’s New York Times — what happened to Monday’s edition being reserved for comics news? — the line will launch in May with six black-and-white books, all retailing for less than $10. The Minx books will be overseen Vertigo VP-Executive Editor Karen Berger and Senior Editor Shelly Bond.
Perhaps a little surprisingly, DC is preparing to put out money — $125,000, according to The Times; $250,000, according to Newsarama — next year to publicize the line, and has hired Alloy Marketing + Media, the company that promoted The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Gossip Girls (and “packaged” How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life, the novel by Harvard sophomore Kaavya Viswanathan that was pulled from stores last spring).
“In terms of consumer marketing, it’s got to be the largest thing we’ve done in at least three decades,” DC’s Paul Levitz told The Times. “It’s not large by the scale of consumer marketing and advertising as it’s done in America, but it’s a large-scale commitment, I think, for a publishing company in general.”
Although the Times story only mentions two of the line’s creators — novelist Cecil Castellucci (Boy Proof) and artist Jim Rugg (Street Angel), on The P.L.A.I.N. Janes – others include: Clubbing, by Andi Watson (Geisha, Love Fights) and Josh Howard (Dead@17); Good as Lily, by Derek Kirk Kim (Same Difference and Other Stories) and Jesse Hamm (Comics to Bore and Confuse You); and Re-Gifters, which reunites the My Faith in Frankie team of Mike Carey, Sonny Liew and Marc Hempel.
Online reaction to the line ranges from excited to skeptical to critical.
Blogger/reviewer Johanna Draper Carlson, who was quoted in The Times article, highlighted a few of her concerns at her blog. Among them, “Most of the creators involved are men”:
As I say in the article, I don’t think only women can write for women, but I think it helps provide an alternative perspective and a more true-to-life experience. The only female creator announced so far is a young-adult novelist, and this will be her first comic-writing experience.
Concerns about the lack of announced female creators — Castellucci is the only woman so far — are echoed in the comments thread, and elsewhere. When a commenter on Andi Watson’s Livejournal asks, “Where’s books by Gail Simone, Devin Grayson, Colleen Doran, Pia Guerra, Becky Cloonan, Jill Thompson and other artists/writers DC has worked with recently?,” Watson responds:
How do you know that those particular creators (several of whom are working on multiple books/projects) were asked but were too busy/weren’t interested (to be honest the page rate on a regular monthly book is better than on the MINX titles)/pitched but the project didn’t fit the tone of the line???
You’re making an awful lot of assumptions there.
Wouldn’t it be odd to say I should be writing Superman instead of Gail Simone because superheroes are for boys and I automatically know what boys want better than Gail Simone does because I’m a man ???
In the end it’s up to the editor to make a decision based on HER PERSONAL TASTE, the demands of the market,the tone of the line, and that those criteria will be paramount.
I’ve also pitched a couple of ideas for books after CLUBBING but they haven’t been picked up yet, that’s just the way it goes, the editor chooses the projects she likes best for a limited number of slots.
I’m not an apologist for the corporate culture at the Big Two or sexism within the industry but the idea that there’s sexism at work here rather than the taste of individual editors is flat out weird/wrong.
Others, like blogger/retailer Chris Butcher and blogger David Welsh, were a little put off by Berger’s quote, “It’s time we got teenage girls reading comics,” which seems to overlook the success of shojo manga, Disney’s W.I.T.C.H. books, Scholastic’s Graphix line and others.
Then there’s the matter of the name itself (“‘Vixen’ was taken,” Welsh writes with tongue in cheek): As Comic Foundry’s Tim Leong points out, the line’s name gives context to DC’s tussle earlier this year with creator Andrea Grant over the title of her comic, Minx. DC held the trademark from a 1998 Vertigo miniseries by Peter Milligan and Sean Phillips, but few could figure out why the publisher was bothering to defend it.
Leong reported in late September that DC and Grant had reached an agreement allowing her book to continue as Andrea Grant’s Minx.
(Watson notes an interesting coincidence: His book Geisha was initially pitched to Vertigo as Minx, but he was told another series with that title — Milligan and Phillips’ — already was in the works.)