A Brief Complete History of Minx, DC’s Imprint for Girls
Minx was DC’s imprint aimed at teen girls, first announced in 2006. It ran for two years before being shuttered in fall 2008 due to distribution struggles (not reaching the bookstores they aimed for) and potentially, lack of interest. I thought I’d sum up its history and releases, now that it would have been old enough to have read itself.
DC was somewhat late to the party, since Scholastic had already launched Graphix and there were tons of girls reading manga, but they pitched it as something new they were breaking ground on. They also felt it worthwhile to sink $125,000 into working with a marketer (Alloy Marketing + Media, also a book packager) to launch the effort in bookstores.
The titles were as follows, all black and white, digest-sized, priced at $9.99. The first round, released across the summer of 2007, were (in order of release):
- The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
- Re-Gifters by Mike Carey, Sonny Liew and Marc Hempel
- Clubbing by Andi Watson and Josh Howard
- Good as Lily by Derek Kirk Kim and Jesse Hamm
- Confessions of a Blabbermouth by Mike Carey, Louise Carey, and Aaron Alexovich
- Kimmie66 by Aaron Alexovich
The second wave came out in summer 2008:
- Burnout by Rebecca Donner and Inaki Miranda
- Water Baby by Sophie (credited as Ross) Campbell
- The New York Four by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly
- Janes in Love (sequel to The Plain Janes) by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
- Emiko Superstar by Mariko Tamaki and Steve Rolston
- Token by Alisa Kwitney and Joelle Jones (the line’s first female artist, on their last book)
(I have a sampler for this wave that uses the tag lines: “Your life. Your books. How novel.” and “Designed exclusively for Generation Now.” which sounds to me like it fell through a time warp from the 60s.)
There was a much stronger creative lineup here, but by then, DC had already decided to move on. That is a remarkably short timeframe to give a major new publishing effort to catch on, but they may not have found the results to meet their expectations, compared to the costs.
Work on the line had been going on for a while by the time it became public, which may have driven away some creators who didn’t want to hang around over the 2-3 years it took to get the releases ready. Rates were reportedly low, as well. They also weren’t talking about rights, which meant someone might have been able to do better keeping their own work elsewhere.
Some books intended for the line later came out elsewhere, including
- The sequel The New York Five, which appeared from Vertigo and then was reprinted with The New York Four in 2014 by Dark Horse
- All Nighter by David Hahn, released as a five-issue miniseries from Image
- Poseurs by Deborah Vankin and Rick Mays
- Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks (not officially part of the line, but a rejected pitch for it)
Earlier this year, Little, Brown and Company released The PLAIN Janes, which collects the two earlier books with a new sequel (which is what made me think of doing this). There was also supposed to be a Clubbing in Tokyo that never appeared.
The url for the project, minxbooks.net, now redirects to the also-dead imprint of Vertigo, which is toplining the cancelled iZombie series.
The Minx effort was marred, in my opinion, by three things:
First, the obvious lack of female creative voices. The expectation of “own voices” wasn’t nearly as strong then as it is now, but it was still frequently discussed at the time as a lack. In the first wave, only YA novelist Cecil Castellucci was included. This is associated with a strong reliance on known names from the existing comic industry instead of finding new talent better able to connect with the new target audience. (Which may have been why the books seemed to sell better in traditional comic shops than the target bookstores.
There was a strong similarity in story structure. Most of the books had very similar plots, about a misfit young woman finding herself and her strength through a particular hobby or interest. There’s nothing wrong with formula, but these didn’t stand apart from that enough. Conversely (with the exception of the one sequel that was released), there was nothing to draw a reader from one book to another, at a time when manga was putting out long series.
Most off-putting to me was the editorial and marketing voice that gave off a “we deserve this” vibe. I may be speaking from my own experiences at DC, but I got the feeling that there was a certain perception that “those girls reading manga ought to be reading our comics instead.” Mainly because of quotes like this:
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.
They seemed to be aiming at the audience they already knew instead of really being interested in new markets. And so the new market was uninterested in them.
If headed up by someone outside of the comics brotherhood, DC could have ridden a coming wave of YA graphic novels that have been immensely successful in the years since this experiment. But it would have required valuing the audience and truly being willing to provide the stories they wanted to see.