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The Witching Hour by Tania del Rio
Links My Deviant Art Site / My Poorly Drawn Life / SteelRiver Studio (my company) / lonewolfblacksheep (my fiance's site) / Archie Comics / TOKYOPOP / Marvel Comics / Buzzscope / Newsarama / The Pulse / Patrick Tierney's Music / Cute Overload! / Monster Guy Web Comic / Christy Lijewski's Blog / My Crafty Blog February 2010
 
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Fri, Sep. 26th, 2008 11:25 am
My Thoughts on Minx

Last night, at about 4am I woke up and wasn't able to get back to sleep. And for some reason I kept thinking about DC's Minx line and why it's failed and how much I dread the assumptions that people will make that comics for girls are destined to fail or, worse yet, that girls don't read comics - which I know is untrue, and many other people know is untrue. But the failure of such a promising line does cast a shadow on those arguments.

When I first heard about Minx, I was really excited to read the books and see what would come of the line. I ended up reading quite a few of the books and I guess I can agree with what's been said all around: a couple were really good, but most of them were just "ok". A couple didn't grab me at all. In some cases, the art was fantastic, but the stories weren't as strong. Or the stories were entertaining, but the art looked a little rough. But overall, I'm saddened to see such a noble effort fizzle so quickly and my heart does go out to the writers and artists involved.

I could comment on the books' presentation and cover design and placement in book stores, but I don't claim to be knowledgeable enough about marketing to make any assumptions on how these might have contributed to the poor sales.

I know manga has also been in decline in recent months, but girls are still reading it, and I still see them crowding the aisles of my local Borders. And, as I lay in bed with insomnia, I began forming another theory about why American comics geared directly at girls typically do not do as well consistently as manga has.

I feel that a lot of American comics for girls feel a need to "teach a lesson", or inject some sort of important learning experience or nuggets of advice for the young, female reader. And this is all well and good in theory, but at the same time, and I can speak for myself when I say that girls don't like to be talked down to, or preached to. Sometimes one just wants to read a comic for pure enjoyment and nothing else. This is why I mostly read "boy" comics growing up, because all the "girl" comics seemed to assume that I was simple-minded and that I needed to know the difference between right and wrong. Now, obviously, comics for girls have come a long way since then and there are so many more titles that girls - and boys -can enjoy that aren't condescending. But I feel that, even though it's not as obvious nowadays, comics for girls still feel a need to impart a lesson or message.

This brings me to think about manga. Doesn't it teach lessons too? Well sure. You'll see the common themes of the importance of friendship and reaching goals etc. But I think that the manga format manages to dilute the message and make it more digestible. Over a series of several 100-page volumes, a girl can learn her lesson, but because it's so spread out it doesn't feel as preachy. By contrast, American comics typically are shorter in length - whether it's a self-contained graphic novel (as in the Minx line), or a 32 page comic which offers even less space to tell a story. But the result is that the writer feels the need to cram their message in before the end of those 32-100 pages, and it comes off a little stronger than it would in a longer, serialized work. I can freely admit that I do the same thing with Sabrina. I always feel a need to make some kind of point with each issue. Maybe it's just a cultural thing, and Americans are more prone to wanting to inject some morality or lesson into our work because of our country's Christian roots, or the backlash against "immoral" comics that followed the Seduction of the Innocent. That may be a stretch, but hey - it's something to ponder!

But I can say that reading titles like Nana or Hot Gimmick - the characters are not perfect. They often make mistakes. And I feel like the Japanese attitude is "You know what? That's ok?". Because the Japanese do not have the same "rules" that many Americans have about what is appropriate for girls, I feel that manga writers do not really "judge" their own characters. They simply allow them to experience things. Maybe they'll change because of it, maybe not. Either way, it's ok.

I remember when I first read Hot Gimmick, the lead character Hatsumi drove me nuts because she was such a pushover! I kept reading and reading, fully expecting that somewhere along the way she would learn to stand up for herself and grow into a better person, because this is what I would expect from an American comic. But by the last page of the last book I realized that Hatsumi hadn't really changed at all. And at first I was really disappointed. But then I realized "well, maybe that's ok." Some people don't change. Some people don't necessarily learn from their experiences. Some people are content to let other people take charge. And it may not be what I prefer, but who am I to judge?

It's the same thing with the super-popular Twilight series. I read the books and I'll be in the minority when I say that I did not care for them- particularly the main character, Bella. I kept waiting and waiting for her to grow a spine and to stop being so co-dependent, but it never happened. And for me, this lack of growth in her character was a bitter disappointment. But again, just like in Hot Gimmick, I was forced to realize that, despite making choices that I felt were "wrong", Bella made the choice of what she wanted in life. And maybe that choice was little more than a Vampire boyfriend and baby, but it was still her choice. Some girls want to become career women, some want to grow up to become mothers. But again, who am I to judge? At the end of the day, I feel that Twilight doesn't really try to teach anything. It's just an entertaining love story and maybe that's why girls like it so much.

Bella may be chaste and naive, but the characters of Gossip Girl are the exact opposite -- yet the series is equally appealing to girls. Why? Because the characters are flawed, they drink and sleep around and sabotage each other, and the show (and books) make no apologies for that. It may be "Every Parent's Worst Nightmare", but it's pretty damn entertaining! And as horrible as it does sound, if one actually reads or watches the series, they do learn that the characters, flawed though they may be, also have the capacity to change, they have the capacity to forgive and care for each other, and to learn from their experiences. But it's not preachy because that's not the point. It's entertainment, pure and simple.

And I feel that many popular manga series for girls, such as Nana, are similar. They feature characters that are both lovable and flawed, who make mistakes, who sometimes act needy or selfish, who sometimes do the right thing, but sometimes don't. And it's not trying to force a lesson down readers' throats, it's just telling a story about life and relationships.

As a last example which also contrasts sharply with the previous ones - take Archie comics in general. They have a huge female readership and yes, they are skewed a little younger than the girls who are watching Gossip Girl or reading Nana. Archie has always been known to be "wholesome" -- so doesn't that contradict my claim that girls don't want to be lectured in their comics? Well, not exactly. Archie, as a company, has established that their characters will never smoke or drink or do drugs or ride in a car without a seatbelt, etc etc. But the stories each month are not about those things. You won't find a story called "Betty Buckles her Seat Belt!". The "rules" exist in the background, but once they are established, it frees the writers to just focus on telling short, funny stories intended to entertain. The point of a typical Archie story is to tell a joke and they're not nearly as preachy as you might expect them to be. There are, admittedly, the occasional stories where a deliberate point is made but Veronica will always be a spoiled rich girl. She may have individual stories where she realizes that her attitude can gets her into trouble, but next issue she'll go right back to being the same, spoiled rich girl. The characters are constant... they don't change. And some may say the characters never "grow" or "learn", but that's not really the point. It's all about fun and that's why so many kids grow up reading Archie comics.

Anyway! Sorry for the rambling post (It was 4am when I was thinking all of this), but in summation I just think girls want to be entertained. Pure and simple. Because we'll get our life lessons by experiencing life. But comics, sometimes, just need to be comics.

Current Mood: sick Fighting a Cold

13CommentReplyFlag

nervousystem
nervousystem
Darryl Ayo Brathwaite
Fri, Sep. 26th, 2008 07:01 pm (UTC)

Not too long ago, I was reading something about men's tendency to "teach" women. It seems to be a very subtle tendency, but troubling nonetheless.


ReplyThread
taniadelrio
taniadelrio
taniadelrio
Sun, Sep. 28th, 2008 07:54 pm (UTC)

Hmm, that would be troubling. But I do wonder if most artists/writers have a subconscious desire to teach their audience something, regardless of gender.


ReplyThread Parent
jonnerbloo
jonnerbloo
jonnerbloo
Sun, Sep. 28th, 2008 08:47 pm (UTC)

No one is totally free of their "inner editorialist."

In fact, those who proclaim the loudest that they have no message are often so deeply enthralled with their own personal inner code that they don't even realize it.

Only the so-called "Outsider Artist" (and they don't even call themselves that) don't spare a thought as to what they want or at least WISH an audience will get out of their work.


ReplyThread Parent
tiredfairy
tiredfairy
tiredfairy
Fri, Sep. 26th, 2008 07:41 pm (UTC)

You and Dave Roman have both touched on areas of this that most other people seem to have missed. Namely what it is that "girl" readers are looking, and why certain things are more popular.

And I agree wholeheartedly. When I was the age these books were being targeted at, I was reading a lot of fantasy that was of the YA kind (The Dark is Rising, The Secret of the Unicorn Queen)...or reading "up", things like Stephen King or Death: The High Cost of Living. I didn't go for the gossipy books, but I understand why they're appealing. Same thing with Twilight...I have the same issues with it that you do, but I completely understand why girls of a certain age are eating it up.

I think Minx missed out on a lot of that by not looking at different genre's or avoiding some. But anyone saying this is an indication that girls don't read comics or don't read isn't paying attention. They didn't read -these- comics...and for a lot of reasons.


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taniadelrio
taniadelrio
taniadelrio
Sun, Sep. 28th, 2008 07:56 pm (UTC)

"I think Minx missed out on a lot of that by not looking at different genre's or avoiding some"

-Good point! I agree.


ReplyThread Parent
sparkmatter
Crystal J.
Sat, Sep. 27th, 2008 01:57 am (UTC)

I had enjoyed most of the Minx line, but not all of it lived up to its promise. PLAIN Janes was ok I guess, Re-Gifters was mildly entertaining if nothing else. Clubbing started out decent enough but took such a total left turn at albuquerque near the end that the change in suspension of belief nearly made me soil my unmentionables.

I really enjoyed confessions of a blabbermouth because I could identify with some of the characters, and I think Good as Lily was my favorite.

Kimmie66 was just kinda, I dunno, just couldnt get into the whole future VR thing, it's been done to death and the ending was predictable. Burnout was fantastic IMO, tho it did seem a bit preachy near the end.I haven't yet read the new york four, but its sitting here on my desk for when I have some spare time...

...and then we come to Water Baby. I'm not sure what the writer and editors were thinking on this mess. It had some pretty good art, and an idea with lots of potential, but in the end it turned into a road trip movie where someone forgot to write an ending.

Seriously, a story is more than just a bunch of stuff that happens one after the other until you run out of pages. and um... wow, mature content alert here, I know the writer wanted to portray some more realistic people with faults and flaws, but man, WB was just pretty raunchy.

So they're real-ish people who do disgusting things like real-ish people, but they talk like my niece IM's! Seriously, does everyone say "heheh" before every sentence? At one point one of the characters literally says "OMG"! Have you ever heard anyone literally speak the acronym in real life?

I think what really brought the line crashing down was a lack of focus. I really don't think DC really knew what kind of audience it was going for other than the whole two X chromosomes thing. The demographics for those books were all over the map, and therefore there was no way they could have possibly solidified a consistent brand identity.

It also probably didn't help that only 2 (and a half at best) of the aforementioned book were actually written by women. Several of them seem to have had no female involvement of any kind. Now I know men can write female characters well, look at Sean McKeever and Terry Moore, but seriously, the ratio of men to women creative talent involved in a line of books made for young(?) female readers is just plain pathetic.

IMO those are the reason the line has failed, a lack of focus, vision, and proper talent scouting that probably sealed its fate before the first book hit the press.

Well, at least that's my 2 cents worth.


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taniadelrio
taniadelrio
taniadelrio
Sun, Sep. 28th, 2008 07:56 pm (UTC)

Thanks for sharing your thoughts - I think your reviews of the various titles was interesting to read.


ReplyThread Parent
solipherus
solipherus
Erica Currey
Tue, Oct. 7th, 2008 06:26 pm (UTC)

They did seem all over the map. We girls are more diverse than an all encompassing "girls line"... I really had high hopes for Minx though. I wanted it to do well on principle.

On a side note, my family, friends and I have been known to say "Oh Em Gee" in real life. (But usually with a tongue in cheek attitude)


ReplyThread Parent
ciaranbenson
ciaranbenson
ciaranbenson
Sat, Sep. 27th, 2008 02:55 am (UTC)

Thank you so much for writing this. Losing any kind of manga publisher always feels a little bit like some sort of "end of the world", but this really helped me get this back into perspective.

Girls do want to be entertained, and someone else will try again, and hopefully next time we'll see a more appropriate commercial response.

For now, another avenue for publishing manga bites the dust, and I think I feel better about it now having read your thoughts.

I hope your cold gets better ^_^


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taniadelrio
taniadelrio
taniadelrio
Sun, Sep. 28th, 2008 07:57 pm (UTC)

Thanks for your optimism! I didn't actually have that much "hope" when I wrote the entry, but you're right. Something else will come up, and eventually someone will get it right!


ReplyThread Parent
jonnerbloo
jonnerbloo
jonnerbloo
Sun, Sep. 28th, 2008 06:53 pm (UTC)

The thing about "Twilight" is, the girls who've embraced Bella aren't looking for a role model, they're looking for someone they can commiserate with.

Like you say, it's escapist fluff.

I recall that when Bill Willingham had Snow White marry Bigby in the series "Fables" in what was a very traditional, old-fashioned wedding ceremony, some in the blog-o-sphere took it as a sign that Willingham was against feminism and wanted all women to get married and "obey" men.

Willingham's rather sarcastic response was "Well, in future versions of the story we'll remove the panel where Snow White turns and states that all female readers are expected to do exactly as she's doing now."

Many times a story is just a story. It -can- mean more than it means on the surface, it can even be an intentional lesson or (more strongly) an allegory...but many times it's just meant to tell a story.

Personally, I prefer characters who do try to change, but it is just as realistic to have ones who never do.


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taniadelrio
taniadelrio
taniadelrio
Sun, Sep. 28th, 2008 07:59 pm (UTC)

Hehe, that's funny about Fables. You're right: just because a character acts a certain way doesn't mean the audience is expected to do the same. And like you said, Many times a story is just a story. I think it would be good if more people could remember that.


ReplyThread Parent
solipherus
solipherus
Erica Currey
Tue, Oct. 7th, 2008 07:00 pm (UTC)

You've got some really good points here.

Would it still have failed if the economy hadn't been failing? I'm beginning to wonder if it would have anyway. I really wanted Minx to succeed.

I didn't get my hands on too many of them, the only one I own is Clubbing - which was alright. Not stupendous. I kind of cringed at the current pop-culture tech device namedrops, seemed like words like "ipod" and "laptop" were thrown in out of nowhere just to try to be cool.

From what I've seen, I don't really see how they're different from plain old indie style comics. Clubbing should have fully embraced its goth tendancies, instead of kind of playing around with the warddrobe. And Ross Campbell admitted long ago that he didn't see how Water Baby would appeal to the wholesome moral-teaching parents of girls. He does his own thing and that's cool, he admits his work is not for everybody.

I really hope somebody tries again. There need to be girls comics. I really do want to see familiar things and places drawn into my comic pages, I get tired of looking at foreign school uniforms all the time. (I also would love to see more fantasy. I actually never read anything as a kid if it only had humans in it. Fantasy all the way for me.) You know... a couple of western anime styled tv shows did it right: Totally Spies! and Avatar, huge appeal to me. Apparently the makers of those shows know something that the comics publishers do not. Totally Spies is girly in all the right ways, and Avatar is just freaking good.

I think that the idea of an ordinary girl getting whisked away to a magical world would translate SO WELL into western comics. There are a lot of manga like this for a reason. Give us a chance to mentally escape this boring life!


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