Andi Watson’s 15 Love to Finally Be Published, Eight Years Later

Imagine my surprise to see this press release from Marvel last week:

15 Love cover

This July, get ready to say game, set, match for 15 Love #1 (of 3) — a never-before-seen, giant-size story from acclaimed writer Andi Watson (Skeleton Key, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and artist Tommy Ohtsuka! Mill Collins is about to learn that life is anything but a piece of cake when the length of your high school career depends on the strength of your serve! But when Mill’s slipping grades threaten to steal away her scholarship from the exclusive Wayde Tennis Academy, she’ll have to look for help from the most unlikely coach to climb her way back up the bracket and into the record books!

I remember when 15 Love was first announced, back in 2003 as part of then-Marvel president Bill Jemas’ Tsunami line, a set of books intended to attract female manga readers by putting out comics with more emphasis on character relationships than heroics.

I didn’t realize then, but I know now, that the lead is named “Mill” because she was intended to be an update of long-running Marvel character Millie the Model, as Heidi MacDonald reported back then:

President Bill Jemas mentioned that Marvel wants to reach 15-year-old girls with its publishing program and that the way to do this is women’s tennis. Rather than create a brand new player from the ground up, Marvel reached into its archives, Jemas explained. “We found Millie the Model, a character which probably no one here has heard of,” he said, referring to the investors and analysts who were on the line for the call.

Millie is one of Marvel’s most successful comic characters, with a comic running from the 1940s to the 1970s. Tennis is quite a departure from modeling as a career, but a more active, less appearance-focused girl character is a plus. If this is a result of Disney saying “hey, more comics for girls”, good for them. Or maybe it’s just a matter of “what do you mean, you paid for this and never published it?” Either way, I’m curious to finally see this teen tennis romance story.

The cover, shown here, is by Sho Murase, who illustrated some of the Nancy Drew graphic novel adaptations. I’m not sure how attractive that navel-bearing shot will be to the female audience, although it is an improvement over the original, termed a “jailbait photo” by some others who remember the original plans. Here are some of the interior pages, where everyone looks angry to indicate determination. (Click to enlarge.)

15 Love preview page15 Love preview page15 Love preview page15 Love preview page

Ah, an upskirt shot. Was that necessary? Sports comics are quite successful around the world, except in the U.S., so this is facing an uphill battle — maybe the panty shot fanservice is a way of hedging bets and attracting male readers. Let’s hope that it doesn’t turn off more people than it attracts.

Back in the day, speculation had it that Tsunami failed because the readers they were targeting didn’t shop in comic stores, but in bookstores, so serialization was pointless, since the digest format was what they cared about. These issues will be 56 pages at $5 each — more of a substantial reading experience, but still periodical comic-based. Still, Marvel has a more established collection program now, and I’m sure the real sales will come once the book is out. Issue #1 will be on sale in either June or July. (The press release mentions both.)

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9 Responses to “Andi Watson’s 15 Love to Finally Be Published, Eight Years Later”

  1. Charles Knight Says:

    “so this is facing an uphill battle — maybe the panty shot fanservice is a way of hedging bets and attracting male readers. Let’s hope that it doesn’t turn off more people than it attracts.”

    They could be having full-blown sex on the cover and this is still going to die a terrible death. Even if you got the average direct market reader to overlook that it’s a) about tennis and b) about tennis and c) there are no superheroes in it and d) did I mention it’s about tennis – it’s being launched in a two month window where Marvel and DC are flooding the market with a glut of one-shots, “important” comics. If this sells 7000 copies in the DM I’ll be amazed.

  2. Greg McElhatton Says:

    “Here are some of the interior pages, where everyone looks angry to indicate determination.”

    Having sat second row for matches on some of the smaller courts of the US Open, trust me, that is EXACTLY what they all look like. All that’s missing is the loud grunt/shout from the ladies as they hit the ball.

  3. Grant Says:

    Seems those “Atlas” girls do have a hard time getting reinvented. I remember when marvel did The Cat(aka Tigra) to revive the “Greer” character and then revived Patsy Walker for Hellcat (the recent trade that revived her was pretty cool but didn’t sell very good) And I thought reviving Night Nurse for that Doctor Strange story a few years ago was a neat concept but we don’t see much of her either these days.

  4. Johanna Says:

    Thanks, guys, Grant for informing me, Greg for educating me, and Charles for making me laugh. Grant, I liked the Night Nurse miniseries too. I wish we could get more of that character.

  5. Paul O'Brien Says:

    This, I suspect, is being published in the same spirit as the FROM THE MARVEL VAULT one-shots from the last two months – we’ve already paid for it, we’re printing to order so the downside is minimal, what the hell. I don’t think anyone really expects it to succeed, they just figure they might as well try and recoup some of the outlay.

    I don’t quite understand the logic of making her a notional update of Millie the Model. It was never going to boost sales, and it would seem to obstruct any attempt to licence the characters separately – not that there was ever much chance of that, admittedly.

  6. Grant Says:

    @ Paul

    “I don’t quite understand the logic of making her a notional update of Millie the Model. It was never going to boost sales,”

    Perhaps they were just covering their bases and felt they might draw in older customers based on whatever nostalgia value the original Millie might have.

    I know most of the Masterworks, Essentials and Archive purchases I make are roughly 20 to 40% nostalgia driven. And I know I’m not the only one.

    That sort of sentiment won’t keep a series afloat by any means (see Agents of Atlas) but a small audience is better than nothing I guess.

  7. The Gosh! Authority 07/06/11 » Gosh! London – Comics as Culture Says:

    [...] is out and previewed here, and if you think it sounds familiar it probably does: the series was announced eight long years ago. There’s a preview of Samurai’s Blood #1 (of 6) by Owen Wiseman, Nam Kim, Matthew Dalton, and [...]

  8. michael ryan Says:

    this was a good comic

  9. Gene Says:

    This was a well written comic with exciting colors and art and a subject dear to my own heart. I liked the characters and the appreciate the risk Marvel took publishing this one! My comic shop sold out of issue 1 the first day and ordered more just to sell out. Anyone who writes a Buffy script has my attention, thanks Andi! One issue: get the scoring and tennis terminology right. A quick call to a local tennis pro who could give the script a once over for any glaring errors in the basic tennis language would help make this good story even better. Especially unfortunate was the fact that a set cannot end with the score 6-5 as you must win by 2 games. Second, in tennis, like boxing, the contest is call a “match” not a “game” and the coach in the story would not call it that. Otherwise, excellent work and keep the tennis stories coming, PLEASE!

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