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MAKE COMICS: MINX: Comics Keep Spinning

 I am bummed to see how depressed younger female comics creators, some of them good friends, are about the shuttering of the Minx line. For the creators on the line, this just blows. On the other hand, line closing are a fact of publishing life. One of the Minx creators, Brian Wood, and I were publishing through the previous incarnation of Jim Valentino's Image Shadowline when Jim decided to call it quits. Luckily, we and the other creators who wanted to be there, had a place at Image Central.

It was scary though, it felt a little like "maybe this indy graphic novel thing isn't going to work out." But I knew I always had the web to get my work seen. I also had ten years' experience at the time (1998), and saw the market for manga growing, and more girls than ever were reading comics and showing up at conventions.  That ten years of change gave me confidence that girl's comics and graphic novel had momentum that wouldn't be lost with the closing of one comics line, and it wasn't.

The world is stupid that way. It just keeps on spinning. 

When Penthouse Comix failed, I remember Heidi MacDonald worrying about the future of comics if porn by popular comics creators like Adam Hughes couldn't make money. What Heidi didn't know when she said that is that Penthouse had huge overhead (because of legendarily high page rates), and the stories in Penthouse Comix were decidedly unerotic. The point that you buy porn to get porn was completely missed. But not knowing that, yeah, you could worry that comics are screwed (haha) because you can't move even the easiest (haha)-to-sell stuff.

I can see it now: "Lea Hernandez equates Minx with Penthouse" or "Lea Hernandez compares and contrasts porn with girl's comics." Have fun!

Which brings us to Minx. Penthouse proved that you can screw up (haha) a no-brainer. Shelley Bond said she saw girls reading manga in a bookstore and wanted that audience.
That would've been the time to do something like I pitched to Paul Levitz (which piqued his interest enough for him to have me contact Dan DiDio and Shelley Bond at different times): manga-influenced superheroine books. A Batgirl book where she is searching for her long-lost brother Tony. (Yes, Barbara Gordon has a Secret Agent Man brother.) Wonder Woman. Black Canary. Zatanna. Supergirl. Amethyst. Harley and Ivy. Importantly, make these books that didn't just take the names of the characters and run with them, but do books that were grounded in what the existing fans of those books like, with an appeal to draw in new female readers. 
(I worked this idea out after Dan DiDio said he wanted a Batgirl title that led back to the main DC line. With this, the readers that wanted to stay where they started, wherever that was, won.)
Or, if not a reimaging of DC's best superheroines, tap into what was attracting that audience of manga-reading girls: mystery, romance, adventure. Fantastic settings. Give the girls More Like That, right?

Anyway, girls are reading manga, we want a girl audience, so we make manga. No-brainer, right?

Right. And Minx was entirely unlike that. 

Back to the younger creators disheartened by the Minx fail: I understand. The DC girls' comic that came out when I was eighteen was Amethyst. Did I ever love this book, and it wasn't the winged you-knee-korn. It had great art by  Ernie Colon. The setting was expansive and imaginative. The bad guy was really bad. There were genuine stakes, and there was romance. (In fact, the perfect sort of book for a DC girl's line.)
Then Amethyst crossed over with Superman, and within a year of its launch. I was sick. I knew it the odds were aginst Amethyst being or staying the creator's vision since they didn't own it, but I didn't expect the sign that DC had given up on it to come so soon. 

Then there was DC's mid-90's girl's imprint, and I can't even remember the name of that one. When that line was canned, there was no image-friendly internet, and no big-box bookstore market. The difference was that that time, I was mad. DC was pissing in the pool: they put out a girl's line, not a very good one, and tried to sell it in a market where only the most die-hard girl readers would find it. I was sick all over again, but it was because this time, I knew this was going to be seen as "proof" girls didn't read comics, and it was.
Between those 90's girl's line and Minx, DC started and shitcanned another "girl's line" within a year. I can't remember the name of that line, either. (I could look it up, yes, but let's take my inability to remember the name as a demonstration of its memorableness.) Another no-brainer: more girls in comics, in comics stores, and in comics shows than ever, audience right there, and they still blew it. I recall the content of the line well enough to say it was because the line was Default Mode Boy: DC was trying to hedge their bets, and wouldn't go all-out girl. They wanted to make sure they could get guy readers if girls couldn't find the books or rejected them when they did. Functionally, DC tried to launch an all-new capes line. There's a winner's game.

Now we are to Minx, DC's fourth big push to sell comics to girls, in the best time in modern comics history to do so, and it still didn't work. It didn't work for so many reasons, all of which are well-outlined at tiredfairy 's LJ and Johanna's Comics Worth Reading. I have the benefit of history, but TiredFairy has the benefit of working on the line, so she has the inside goods. Johanna also has insider's insight, as an observer and one-time DC employee.

Here's the point of yet another history lesson from the Diva: the failure of Minx isn't going to kill girl's comics. The biggest dent here is in the pockets and careers of the creators. Some of them invested a great deal of time and didn't get a book at all. At least one was told to stop working on a book in progress. Others will not see their finished work published. (Ritual blah-de-blah here about the vagaries of not owning one's work, and the Minx creators didn't. One hopes the rumored rights reversions actually happen, unlike at TPop.) 
The Minx creators will pick up and go on, or they won't.
With a healthy online women's comic culture and other publishers with graphic novel lines (who seem committed to giving their lines longer than eighteen months to grow), the genie is out of the bottle.
(And peeing in the pool now is like, to borrow a joke, piddling under the cement turtle in the kiddie end.)

DC/Minx is not the beginning and end of hope for girl's comics, my young friends. The people who make comics for girls, the girls who make comics are. As I said to Rachel Dukes at deviantART: 

"...creators like you, who are out there every day with sleeves rolled up, working as entreprenuers, are the real deal. YOU are what inspires the next generation. YOU are fantastic and inspiring. You make ME want to work harder."
Make comics. That's your no-brainer.


Sep. 26th, 2008 03:20 pm (UTC)
Not at ALL boring. Thanks for posting!


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