Today’s Minx Update

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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 (link no longer available):

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.

Minx logo

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.

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