It’s sad, but not totally surprising.
Over at Comic Book Resources they’re reporting that the DC imprint of graphic novels for girls, Minx, is no more. From the announced launch the element that struck me oddest was DC. I think DC comics and I don’t immediately think “girls” or “graphic novels” really, I think Batman. I think Superman. I think of a publisher that made their name as the chief competitor to Marvel for the better part of half a century. Guy stuff.
Also, anytime you start a subdivision aimed at a specific core market you’re acknowledging (a) that you have been neglecting that market, which connotes a sort of guilt, and (b) you’re attempting to correct the problem through a form of market segregation. DC started Minx because the noted there were a lot of teen girls reading manga. Imagine if they took similar steps back in the 60s by starting an imprint of comics aimed at black children by giving them their own imprint, a sort of separate but equal for the comic book world.
The problem is that what girls — or any consumer for that matter — wants isn’t their own culturally specific art, media, or entertainment as determined by a single entity, what they want is true integration across the board. If the observation is that girls are reading more manga the conclusion isn’t that they want their own comics brand but they want comics with female characters in them. DC sort of got that part right. Castellucci’s Janes books, Good As Lily, The Re-Gifters, all of them featuring female characters. If that was all it took wouldn’t everyone be beating down the door for that untapped market?
Recently I caught a talk given by J.J. Abrams, one of the creators of the TV show Lost, talking about what he calls the mystery box. It’s about wanting to know what’s inside that drives dramas, their secret heart, what makes them tick. During the talk he shows a clip from Jaws. I’m not going to recount the whole thing here, so if you want the full experience jump over here and give it a look and then come back. The thing he identifies though, what he says the film is about, it isn’t what we think of with Jaws. It isn’t the shark, it isn’t the totentanz for three men in a boat, it’s about one man in personal crisis, a crisis of the heart. This is the core of the film and the essential secret, the mystery within the box, because without this the film is dead.
I’ve always sort of known this about Jaws, but what I realized while listening to Abrams is that when some cultural phenomenon like Jaws — or a graphic novel like Watchmen, or a TV show like Lost, or the Harry Potter books — garners attention what follows is the parade of imitators desperately hoping to cash in through imitation. But what they see, what they copy, isn’t what makes the original resonate with people. What is copied is the artifice, the exterior, and not the core or the mystery. Sequels to Jaws weren’t about a man in crisis, they were about the shock of the shark, and as such became pale (and laughable) imitators. The core of the Harry Potter books is no different than a Cinderella story with a bit more Grimm added to it, but the immitators only saw wizards and magic and dragons that adorned the outside of it.
Back to Minx. DC saw girls reading manga and said “hey, we can do that!” But what they created were comics, not manga. The stories were more decidedly Western when perhaps it was a Japanese cultural perspective that was the draw. DC/Minx saw the shark, they never tapped the mystery box, at least that’s my take on it. But get this explanation:
Multiple sources close to the situation agree Bond and DC aren’t to blame for MINX’s cancellation, and that this development should be seen as a depressing indication that a market for alternative young adult comics does not exist in the capacity to support an initiative of this kind, if at all.
Are they kidding? Yeah, well, we saw that girls liked comics so we started an imprint just for them, but no one really bought them and so we have to conclude the market really isn’t there. No, Minx, from my perspective the alternative young adult comic market does exist, you just didn’t really bother to understand what that market wanted.
You want to know what I think is the most telling part of the news release?
Nevertheless, CBR News was told that Random House, DC’s book trade distributor, has not been able to successfully place MINX titles in the coveted young adult sections of bookstores like Barnes & Noble.
That’s the killer. Barnes and Noble decided the books should be buried among the bound collections of guys with tights and the girls don’t like going there. I worked there, I know. Reason? That aisle is full of grown men leering through the manga and teen boys acting like jerkworms arguing over alternate Batman universes. Everyone knows that what B&N says, goes. And if Minx was even going to have a chance at the market they knew they needed better placement than Fanboy Alley. I bet a face-out in YA of Minx titles might have told a different story then the one we’re hearing about now.
So long, Minx.