Today’s Minx Update

I’m surprised, since I thought discussion might have died down by now, but people are still saying smart things about DC’s Minx line for teen girls.

ICv2 interviews head editor Karen Berger. Dirk Deppey insightfully describes it:

When the first question … might as well read, “So that opening quote in the New York Times that everyone laughed at: You aren’t really that dumb, are you?” you know it’s damage control. Still, it’s a good and informative conversation about DC Comics’ aims and strategy for the new teen-girls line of graphic novels, even if one question — Who owns the rights to the resulting works? — is still left unanswered.

And that’s a significant question, for several reasons: first, it might help explain why no female comic creators are working on the books, and second, DC has a checkered history in this field. Their long-ago first stab at a different imprint, Piranha, was marred by claims that it wasn’t possible for them to share ownership with creators (at a time when creators were beginning to look seriously at independent publishers because of that possibility). Yet DC’s reportedly more open than Marvel to creator participation deals these days, so if anyone’s going to make improvements, I’d expect it to be them.

Getting back to the ICv2 piece, Berger says, in response to the many people who pointed out that teen girls already read plenty of comics:

Of course, teenage girls are reading comics, they’re reading manga. What that quote really means is that the point for us is that it’s time for teenage girls to be reading DC comics and also to be reading comics that are published by an American publisher because there’s nobody in the States who is doing anything in full force. Scholastic has done a number of books for teenage girls, and small press and self-publishers have, but in terms of the major imprints, there’s no American publisher doing it, and that was really my point.

I didn’t realize Scholastic wasn’t considered a major publisher. I also didn’t realize that seven books in a year was considered “full force”. (Heck, First Second puts out almost twice that, and they’ve only been around a couple of years.) Lastly, am I the only one to whom that quote sounds a little jingoistic? Tokyopop is an American publisher, as is brought up in the interview, even if the majority of their work is translated from elsewhere and Berger immediately dismisses it as “in with the manga mold”.

The key part of that quote, I suspect, is “it’s time for teenage girls to be reading DC comics.” I know I’m biased, having once worked there, but this sounds like more of DC’s self-centeredness. “It doesn’t count unless WE do it.” kind of thinking. (I suddenly had this vision of DC as Microsoft, only less successful.) Which is disappointing, because it usually means that other people’s valuable examples and lessons will be ignored.

Berger then distinguishes her books by describing the layout as more traditional: “We’re doing a more straight-forward American grid style, four-to-six panels per page kind of thing.” Let’s hope the 13- to 18-year-olds they’re targeting find that refreshingly clear instead of boring. Let’s also hope that this wasn’t as much of a content dictate as one fears (“your art will look like this”), but more an attempt to distinguish their books.

If you stick around to the end, the message gets better. I can definitely agree with this, because it’s not marred by erroneous attempts at differentiation:

We have a great batch of writers and artists telling stories for a market that can only grow for us in comics. Again, thanks to manga, teenage girls have been introduced to our form. We’re hoping with Minx that we’ll be providing yet another place for teenage girls to read compelling stories.

Elsewhere, Steven Grant takes up the question of gender as it affects creators, and he makes this sad-but-true point:

women who last in editorial or creative capacities in comics for any length of time tend to either adopt the general attitudes of their male counterparts as a sort of natural camouflage, or they hold those viewpoints, basically, going in. Women who openly challenge the male perspective on what comics are supposed to be all about generally don’t last a long time

In other words, given the American corporate comic industry so far, any woman with the power to create projects of this sort is by definition non-representative.

And now, I begin hitting below the belt. The sensitive are advised to shield their eyes, because everyone’s favorite punching bag, James Meeley, is back in this comment thread. (Since removed. Apparently my responding to his words is too mean for him to suffer.)

Sure, it would have been nice to see more female creators working on the books, but then again, that’s not exactly a pool which is overflowing with talent and choices. Besides, any creator worth their salt should be able to write to the intended audince, no matter what gender the creator is. … Let’s see how this plays out first. It might even cause an increase in female creators who want to work in comics.

Yep, that’s right, he thinks DC didn’t hire any female creators because there aren’t very many good ones out there. But that’s ok, because DC’s effort may raise some who are acceptable in a generation or two. Just be patient, girls, as we’ve told you for years.


45 Responses to “Today’s Minx Update”

  1. Brian Wood Says:

    “DC has a checkered history in this field.”

    Piranha is before my time, but Vertigo seems to be doing quite well giving its creators full ownership on original works. And the two Paradox titles I have on my shelf are fully © their respective creators.

    -b

  2. Johanna Says:

    Are they TM their creators as well? I don’t want to split hairs — and I agree with your point that things are better now — but DC used to share intellectual property by allowing copyright ownership but keeping the trademark, which effectively didn’t make it easy for a creator to take a property elsewhere.

  3. Anun Says:

    It just seems at this point, DC is damned if they do, damned if they don’t. There are always things that could or should be done better, but don’t steps in the right direction count for anything anymore? Berger has quite the track record of starting things off with guys and then bringing in more women. Maybe at this point, that sort of conservatism is outdated, but by now, she’s managed to be pretty successful with her formula.

    This is a venture that I’m willing to play wait and see on. I can’t fault an attempt to make comics friendly for teen girls at all.

  4. Brian Wood Says:

    I don’t know in every case, but it’s not impossible to take properties elsewhere. Jamie Delano’s done it twice, with 2020 Visions and Outlaw Nation. I’m sure there are other examples.

    -bri

  5. Johanna Says:

    Anun, you’re right — but there’s a lot more to talk about when the topic is “how could things be better” than “let’s say that’s a great idea”. :)

    And there is an argument to be made that the effort should be evaluated in cultural context — and if that’s the case, then “they meant well” doesn’t go as far as it used to.

    I’ll say it again: I’m looking forward to seeing the books, because they’re by some of my favorite creators.

  6. Lyle Says:

    I guess, for me, the “how things could be better” discussion is compelling because so many of DC competitors are doing better… especially since some of the quotes in the NYT piece had a “We invented the internet!” (as David Welsh nicel puts it) tone about it.

  7. Alan Coil Says:

    Good to see Mr. Meeley back on the message boards. Hope he doesn’t mind my mentioning his name. :)

    One of the ways to get more female readers is to publish Romance comics. Once the teenagers see their mothers and aunts reading comics, they will soon start reading them, too.

    Anita Blake is pulling in a lot of NEW female readers in at my LCS. While Blake is not going to really be for teens, it will still start bringing teenaged girls to the comics shops, for the reason I stated above.

  8. Rachel N. Says:

    Berger then distinguishes her books by describing the layout as more traditional: “We’re doing a more straight-forward American grid style, four-to-six panels per page kind of thing.” Let’s hope the 13- to 18-year-olds they’re targeting find that refreshingly clear instead of boring.

    A lot of the teenagers I meet through gURL.com mention that they like the way Japanese comics are drawn and layed out. I feel that DC’s clinging to traditional layouts and art will probably turn off a lot of manga-loving teens rather than bring them into the fold.

    Also, I don’t like DC’s attitude toward the efforts of Scholastic. Outright disregarding the efforts of a major publisher? What’s up with that?

  9. MangaBlog » Blog Archive » Thursday evening catch-up Says:

    […] Your Minx Minute: ICv2 interviews Karen Berger, senior vice president of DC, about the new line of graphic novels aimed at girls. Johanna adds her take. […]

  10. Andre Says:

    I don’t really care for how dismissive Berger is of the manga industry, domestically produced manga style titles, and the work of smaller publishers who’ve devoted a lot of time to developing a market DC’s otherwise ignored . Heck, even Scholastic’s recent work….
    And I’m genuinely susprised she came out and basically said “We want them reading DC Comics”. Very open, revelaing conversation. I’m surprised she was as loose as she was, and I’m kind of disapppointed in some of her commentary.

  11. Thomas Gerhardt Says:

    Seven books a year?

    Amidst the flood of YA books already on the shelves? Against the flood of Manga already on the shelves?

    From a positioning point of view, and I am truly sorry to say this out loud, for it will step on some people’s feet that I otherwise do respect, that makes this line D.O.A.

    When I heard about the launch, I first thought ALL of the books mentioned were to be released within the first month, so you could place them prominently in the YA sections, on their own, with a special display.

    As for female creators, there are already a lot out there, and it shows already by how much DC has missed the boat that virtually all of the “New Girls Club” (Rivkah, Queenie Chan, Svetlana and others) WANT to do Manga.

    It’s not only that they seem to have missed the boat, they already missed the first generation of truly new creators and instead mostly go with the ones they are familiar with from the Vertigo angle.

    And I don’t quite understand the line of argumentation here, which in the interview sounds a lot like “It’s not MANGA, all right?” (now, try saying that like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop: Eeeets NOT A TUMOR!)

  12. Mickle Says:

    And I don’t quite understand the line of argumentation here, which in the interview sounds a lot like “It’s not MANGA, all right?”

    Especially since it’s so obviously meant to be shelved with the manga. Or maybe DC is more clueless than I thought, and they actually expect Minx to sell to a whole lot of Wonder Woman fans.

  13. Lisa Jonte Says:

    *groan* If I hear one more word about how Anita Blake is going to make comics appealing for da wimmins… I. WILL. VOMIT.

  14. Thomas Gerhardt Says:

    *gets a spit cup ready for Lisa*

  15. david brothers Says:

    And I’m genuinely susprised she came out and basically said “We want them reading DC Comics”. Very open, revelaing conversation. I’m surprised she was as loose as she was, and I’m kind of disapppointed in some of her commentary.

    See, but DC Comics is a company first and foremost. Creative endeavors only get published if they’re going to make DC a dollar. There is no reason for a DC rep to say “I want to see every company ever to flourish while our upcoming line for girls languishes.” That would be stupid.

    I don’t see why it’s so surprising or disappointing, really. People in management positions for comics publishers compliment other company’s titles only occasionally. Joe Q has been pretty good about shouting out good comics, but they’re almost invariably made by his friends. Cross Bronx by Oeming come to mind.

    For Berger to go on a website and say “Bone is really, really awesome and paved the way for us to do this” would be bad business, no matter how true it is. It isn’t a matter of DC not recognizing Jeff Smith’s skill (in this analogy), but of DC not wanting to give free pub to other companies.

    I don’t find it disappointing so much as… business as usual? Companies big up other companies only when it serves their purpose. In this case, pushing a new series of books into some much-contested shelf space, they have no reason to do so. They have to push themselves as It, the Big Thing, the Only Thing, the Thing You Want, the Thing You Need.

    I do understand where you’re coming from, though, and I do wish it could be different. My favorite part of most comics interviews are the “What books are you reading now?” bits. The interview currently up at newsarama with Cecil Castellucci has a candid answer to it and it’s a wonderful thing.

    Out of curiosity, does Scholastic have a line specifically targeted for teenaged girls or is it more of a YA line? The only book I read they put out is Bone.

    *groan* If I hear one more word about how Anita Blake is going to make comics appealing for da wimmins… I. WILL. VOMIT.

    What’s wrong with Anita Blake? I’ll admit that I know nothing about her, save that it’s a book about vampires and I am sick to the back teeth of vamps. If it’s bringing people into shops or bookstores and getting them to read, what’s the deal? More readers is usually a good thing, no matter their gateway drug.

  16. Andre Says:

    but why not bring up DC’s move into manga with CMX, and their publishing manga styled works that appealed to that market like the Death OGN’s and acquiring the super popular MegaTokyo for print? Why not say “Look! We’ve already been developing this mark!We am smart! Watch us be smarter! Smart Smart Smart!” while simultaneously pimping their back list. Why not cross market their existing titles that appeal to young girls. Why make it sound like all-manga and all-previous efforts were failures and big stupid heads? Instead, they just come across as insulting, stupid and disrespectful of the work they’ve already published and are currently publishing [does she want MegaTokyo to hop publishers?]

    Scholastic is a YA line, though about 1/2 of their line are directly targeted at girls, with titles like BabySitters Club [2 volumes out, more on the way] and Queen Bee [vol.2 coming soon]

  17. Johanna Says:

    Anita Blake, in terms of how I hear the books described, is softcore fanfic porn. Yes, that has an audience, but… Lisa might be feeling similar to how I used to when I told a retailer I read comics and he assumed it was either Sandman or Elfquest, neither of which I care for. Except with the additional ickiness of softcore fanfic porn.

    More on Scholastic targeting girls.

  18. James Moar Says:

    A lot of the teenagers I meet through gURL.com mention that they like the way Japanese comics are drawn and layed out. I feel that DC’s clinging to traditional layouts and art will probably turn off a lot of manga-loving teens rather than bring them into the fold.

    And shoujo and josei manga are, on average, even further from standard American layout than shounen and seinen are.

  19. Andre Says:

    But at the same time, Rumiko Takahashi’s work is pretty much exactly what classical layout styles are about. Versus, most US superhero comics. Mangastyle is a vague concept, and Berger misunderstands a lot of what the appeal is about…. her comments about wanting to appeal to manga readers, and her comments about manga make for odd reads.

  20. Lyle Says:

    RE: Romance comics, I’ve been longing for Vertigo to tackle the genre seriously (which would exclude that Heart Throbs miniseries). DC’s notable failure The Sinister House of Secret Love has a great so-bad-you-can’t-not-skim-through-it name and I figured “Dark Shadows and Passions smushed into the Vertigo Universe” was a high concept that could fit Vertigo while courting traditional and new audiences at the same time.

    For me, the surprising thing about Berger’s statement was that it required backing down on the “It time we got teen girls reading comics.” quote because it required acknowledging the competition — ‘Okay, yes, Tokyopop has already gotten teen girls reading comics… as has Viz… and Scholastic… fine, we want to accomplish what our competitors have already done.’

    Re: Anita Blake, From what little I understand, I do think those comics could bring in female readers since (as I understand) the books they’re based on have a devoted female fanbase. However, that potential shouldn’t be seen as “Between that, Sandman and Strangers in Paradise, we’ve finished making comics that women read.”

  21. Journalista » Blog Archive » Dec. 1, 2006: Night Nurse forever Says:

    […] “I know I’m biased, having once worked there, but this sounds like more of DC’s self-centeredness. ‘It doesn’t count unless WE do it.’ kind of thinking.” Johanna Draper Carlson continues her deconstruction of the recent surge in publicity for DC’s upcoming Minx line of teen-girlcentric graphic novels. For what it’s worth, back when I was managing editor of the Journal, I heard any number of hilarious anecdotes about how this weird-ass attitude on the part of DC and Vertigo editors and staff has warped their perceptions of the artform and industry around them. It’s very real — they really do think the comics world revolves around them, and many of DC Comics’ actions are far more comprehensible once you know this. […]

  22. Mickle Says:

    *groan* If I hear one more word about how Anita Blake is going to make comics appealing for da wimmins… I. WILL. VOMIT.

    heh.

    As much as I think Anita Blake comics are mostly a good thing, the idea that it’s going to make comics more appealing to women, as opposed to showing all the stupid people that still act as if women don’t already read comics, despite all kinds of contrary evidence, that yes, women do read comics – and many more will if you stop being so “boys club” about it – is just ……I don’t have words for it.

    david – the books themselves are widely (dis)regarded as Mary Sues, but they do, as Lyle says, have a devoted female fanbase. (Ahem, including me, although “devoted” is a bit strong.) So, of course, lots of stupid people are lumping them in the pile, with Sandman and Y: the Last Man, of “comics to include in articles about getting your girlfriend to read comics.”

  23. Thomas Gerhardt Says:

    For what it’s worth, back when I was managing editor of the Journal, I heard any number of hilarious anecdotes about how this weird-ass attitude on the part of DC and Vertigo editors and staff has warped their perceptions of the artform and industry around them. It’s very real — they really do think the comics world revolves around them, and many of DC Comics’ actions are far more comprehensible once you know this.

    No… really? Actually, this is not me being sarcastic and I have seen a particular brand of insularity while I worked at Future Publishing, where MDs made a point of pride to NEVER have read a competitor’s magazine (or, indeed market analysis of existing products… ask me about how that killed the German branch of Future at some point and I will tell you a story that will have you go “Nobody can be that stupid, right?”), but no… really?

    And while I think the inclusion/exclusion of female creators per se is an interesting topic in and by itself (apparently colored as much by personal beliefs as by personal experiences), my problems with the Minx “line” are not who is writing the books or what gender they have. I’m quite certain the books themselves will be good. Not groundbreaking, though, but from a business point of view, groundbreaking things hardly ever top a bestseller’s list.

    What I find puzzling is that it appears to be that DC apparently hasn’t done a lot of thinking when it comes to both market analysis, positioning and marketing itself, but rather seems to have adopted a “if we build it, they will come approach” without even considering the fact that this is NOT the Direct Market niche they are so comfy with.

    This is the mass market, and they will have to grab the attention of their target audience. This is not their usual warfare. Not: hey, if we can get a rape/cosmic event/ new costume/new character, then we might take market shares away from Marvel… this is an entirely different ballgame.

    A marketing budget of $ 250,000 sounds like a lot when you are dealing with the relatively small size of the DM, but it’s nothing when you are entering the mass market. 250k buys you not much in the real world of marketing and advertising.

    Add to that that they are talking 7 books a year, you cannot really establish a mass market brand, so it will be marketing one book after the other.

    Those are the things that puzzle me.

  24. lea Says:

    Thomas: the budget is actually $150,000. which I thought was pretty small for a line launch.
    However, it’s possible to generate buzz for very little or no money. I’ve done it.

  25. Thomas Gerhardt Says:

    Lea, according to Newsarama:

    The Times reported that the marketing budget will be $125,000, but Newsarama has since been informed that the budget will be $250,000.

    I’m just going on those numbers.

    And yes, it is possible to generate a lot of buzz with relatively little money. Again, one can refer back to Harry Potter. Despite the pipe dreams that marketing people tell to each other, the first three books actually were traded a lot on schoolgrounds before the big marketing push came along with the fourth book (and the movie rights etc.) The success came pretty much from the kids themselves.

    Still, that is one book (series) we are talking about, not a “line”. One of the books in the line might become incredibly successful, but that doesn’t mean the line will.

    Promoting and positioning an entire line on the mass market is a very different beast than promoting and positioning one work of art (or one product, if we still want to use the vocabulary of marketing).

    Within that framework, 250K is not terribly much.

    Now, if I were working in that TW building, first thing I’d have done after deciding one would want to launch a line like that, I’d walk those few blocks to the MTV Networks building and holler at Gabrielle Howard of The N. It targets the same market, and I’m sure one could get some kind of cross-promotion going on with them (they’re very nice, actually, and very open about new things).

    Sure, that might cause some friction with some higher-ups at TW, because MTV is the corporate enemy, but still…

  26. Ray Cornwall Says:

    I love how everyone is beating up on this initiative before the books are, y’know, actually out! Go Intarwub! (Of course, I’m going to do the same, so I’m just as guilty.)

    I asked my wife, a library branch manager with extensive training in readers’ advisory and an expert on the “chick lit” genre, if she’d consider reading a “chick lit” book written by a man. The answer was blunt: probably not.

    If DC had any sense, they would have marketed these as young-adult books instead of girl-targeted YA books. It’s a bit difficult to say a line’s aimed at girls where the pool seems to be mostly boys-only.

    By the way, why doesn’t James Meely’s comments surprise me? It’s how many people think. So few women creators in “mainstream” (aka superhero) comics MUST equal “wimmen have no talent”, right? Right? Ugh. Puke.

  27. Lisa Jonte Says:

    “… Anita Blake … the idea that it’s going to make comics more appealing to women, as opposed to showing all the stupid people that still act as if women don’t already read comics, despite all kinds of contrary evidence, that yes, women do read comics – and many more will if you stop being so “boys club” about it – is just ……I don’t have words for it.”

    Yeah, me neither. I was irritated by Ms. Hamilton’s rep (agent? manager?) who felt the need to proclaim that the AB books would sudddenly bring women everywhere into comics. Thanks a heap, Einstein, but we’re already here. That followed the assumption that once we weomon have those books, that that will be all it takes to create gender balance.

    I’m tired of the implication that ALL women have their noses pressed to the window of comcis and are just waiting for that one unifying champion to come and make the way safe for us to come in. After which, we will all bow down in thanks to these outsiders who came to our rescue. Then we will all braid each other’s hair.

    For my part, I’ve never said that there need to be more women in comics. Step away from the glare of the Big Two and there are a LOT of women making and reading comics. What kind of selective vision/hearing is making that so damned difficult to understand?

    Wow. It seems I really did have the words after all.

  28. Thomas Gerhardt Says:

    For what it’s worth. I bought Lea Hernandez’s books and like them a lot. I think Queenie Chan is probably the brightest new talent out there (she needs to get some fine-tuning, though). I am not even going to talk about Colleen Doran and Jill Thompson and… and… and…

    And the whole bunch of the New Girls Club:

    They liked Manga, they do Manga. And there, they have a much bigger chance with the audience.

  29. Thomas Gerhardt Says:

    For my part, I’ve never said that there need to be more women in comics. Step away from the glare of the Big Two and there are a LOT of women making and reading comics. What kind of selective vision/hearing is making that so damned difficult to understand?

    But Lisa, if it isn’t done by the Big Two, it simply doesn’t exist! Weren’t you listening? :)

    As for Miss Hamilton’s rep stating those things, oh well, that’s his job. That’s why nobody should listen to anything a publicist has to say (for they don’t say anything that doesn’t take away storage in your braint better utilised by storing other information)

  30. Tommy Raiko Says:

    A marketing budget of $ 250,000 sounds like a lot when you are dealing with the relatively small size of the DM, but it’s nothing when you are entering the mass market. 250k buys you not much in the real world of marketing and advertising.

    For what it’s worth, “mass market” is one of those phrases that gets tossed around a lot but which may mean different things to different people. In many ways, this exercise isn’t about DC entering some mysterious “mass market” as it is about getting exposed to other parts of the traditional book market in which DC has already entered.

    Yes, $250K isn’t a terribly huge amount compared to the marketing budget of, say, a major motion picture or a major music label release. But looking at the world of mainstream book publishing (which seems appropriate since these are, well, books) it may be worth recognizing that there are plenty of publishers who successfully publish plenty of books–plenty of lines of books, even–backed with marketing budgets much smaller that $250K.

    Will $250,000 buy everything? Of course not. But, spent right, it’ll buy a lot more than a lot of other books get. It ain’t an amount to sneeze at. If the figure is anywhere close to accurate, it represents a bigger expenditure than any comics publisher–that many publishers of any category!–would commit to. And while a healthy dose of realistic skepticism is always in order, to presume that this announced marketing budget is instrinsically insufficient, or is sure to be spent unwisely, crosses the border toward absurd cynicism.

  31. Thomas Gerhardt Says:

    Actually, Tommy, I am basing my reservations on over fifteen years of experience in the elusive mass market, with over 8 serving as a launch editor. So, yeah, I have a pretty good understanding on what 250K will buy you

  32. Tommy Raiko Says:

    Mr. Gerhardt:

    I’m certainly not doubting your years of experience; my apologies if I came off that way. I’m just saying that lots of publishers successfully publish lots of books directed at lots of different readers with marketing budgets far less than that which Minx has announced.

    That success may not be “mass market” depending on what your particular definition of “mass market” is, but it’s not impossible to think that Minx can claim a chunk of market share from the existing pool of YA readers (be they comics readers or not.)

    Anyway, my only real point is that if there are plenty of publishers that can successfully publish lines of books without the benefit of a $250,000 marketing budget, there’s no immediate reason to be so cynical as to assume or conclude that Minx will be unsuccessful with a $250,000 marketing budget.

    Of course, it all depends on what the publisher’s definition of “success” is, and that’s not likely to be anything any of us out here in internet land will be able to determine.

    Again, apologies for any offense that may have been inferred from my earlier post; there was none intended.

  33. Venancio Lopez Says:

    “It doesn’t count unless WE do it.”

    I think I can say the same for the American comics industry in general. While everyone there is still wailing over the fact that women can’t seem to get the breaks in comics, in countries like the Philippines, it’s OLD news. Just a rough estimate, but there is a 2:3 ratio of women working in comics locally to men. In fact, one of their most popular titles, Mango Jam is staffed and have create teams that are competely women. When all of the comics by that company have long been cancelled, Mango Jam is still going strong. But of course, since this is the Philippines, not the US, it doesn’t count.

  34. Alan Coil Says:

    James Meeley has deleted his comments.

  35. lea Says:

    Venancio, the reason why were talking about what’s going in the U.S. comics business is because we’re in the U.S.
    It’s great that things are closer to gender parity in the Phillippines and Japan, but that doesn’t help women wanting to be in print comics in the U.S., and the fact that our market is only just expanding again into places where women and girls want to and do shop. Pointing out that things are awesome in other countries has been used (though not by you) as an excuse for not including and being open to female creators in the U.S. market. Like so, “Hey, things are AWESOME in other countries! Quit bitching!”

    I resent the word “wailing.” and this isn’t even my blog. That’s an ill-considered word.

  36. Tintin Pantoja Says:

    the Mango Jam women need better publicity. In that recent spotlight on newsarama or the beat about philippine women creators, i heard nothing about mango.

  37. Thomas Gerhardt Says:

    Of course, it all depends on what the publisher’s definition of “success” is, and that’s not likely to be anything any of us out here in internet land will be able to determine.

    That is a valid point. 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 “Transmetropolitan” (Helix) as well as “Road to Perdition” and “A History of Violence”, 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 “Clubbing” 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. I’ve launched a kid’s magazine in Germany a few years back, called “Kids Zone”. 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 money” 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, glamourising” 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.

    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.

    By the by, I wasn’t offended. For all you knew, I could have been Dilbert27@aintitcool.com, right? (for those not privy to the joke, watch Studio 60).

  38. Thomas Gerhardt Says:

    Oh, something I forgot — 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. 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 possible 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.

  39. Johanna Says:

    Alan: Of course he did. He usually turns tail and runs when his ill-considered ramblings are spotlighted.

    Thomas: I feel like I’m getting a quick course in marketing! Thanks!

  40. Ali Kokmen Says:

    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.

    Just to re-nitpick here, but it seems pretty likely that Alloy’s packaging division isn’t involved with Minx, just its marketing/media services division.

    Of course, if one feels that the lapses of one division of a company should discourage one from working with other divisions of that company, that’s understandable. But it’s also understandable why people might not feel that way. After all, the fact that an imprint of HarperCollins just endured a public humiliation over the O.J. Simpson book probably won’t overmuch affect Tokyopop’s co-publishing and distribution deal with other parts of the HarperCollins company…

  41. Lea Says:

    Thomas, emailed you.

  42. Marvin Mann Says:

    I have to agree with Johanna, Thomas… this stuff is gold.

  43. Mickle Says:

    What I find puzzling is that it appears to be that DC apparently hasn’t done a lot of thinking when it comes to both market analysis, positioning and marketing itself, but rather seems to have adopted a “if we build it, they will come approach” without even considering the fact that this is NOT the Direct Market niche they are so comfy with.

    Thank you Thomas for saying was I was trying to say – only ten billion times better. And good point about the “stars” aspect of marketing opportunities missed by having pretty much no female creators.

    Now, if I were working in that TW building, first thing I’d have done after deciding one would want to launch a line like that, I’d walk those few blocks to the MTV Networks building and holler at Gabrielle Howard of The N.

    Oh, hell yes. Special Degrassi webisodes anyone?

    “Manny, why are you reading that junk? Feeling nostalgic for third grade – what with graduation fast approaching and all?”

    “For your information Emma, Lea Hernandez says that (comics are cool).”

    “Who is Lea Hernandez?”

    (Manny explains how cool Ms. Hernandez is)

    “Well, ok. Maybe it isn’t junk. But it isn’t the Media homework that’s due on Friday, either.”

    “Whatever. I’ve got an in with the teacher.”

    (Emma rolls her eyes)

    “Right, like Snake’s going to let you get out of homework just because he’s nice enough to let you bunk with me. More like ground you and make you do extra credit.

    (apologies to Ms. Hernandez for any unintended insult resulting from making her the feature of this special Degrassi webisode.

  44. Lea Says:

    Not at all offended, but VERY amused!

  45. Minx No More: DC Cancels Girls’ GN Line » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] then, the line was formed out of jealousy. Shelly Bond, the editor behind the imprint, said she “pitched this line as an alternative to […]




Categories:

Pages:



Meta:

Most Recent Posts: