Minxed messages

June 8, 2007

Blog@Newsarama’s Kevin Melrose links to an interesting, awkwardly titled piece in The Wall Street Journal about comics publishers’ attempts to attract female readers. Using manga as a starting point, writer Matt Phillips looks at DC’s Minx line and makes a conscientious effort to try and winnow out evidence of the trend at Marvel:

“Last year, Marvel launched its ‘Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter’ series of comic books, based on the swift-selling novels by Laurell K. Hamilton. The title character in the series tracks criminals through the sometimes-seedy vampire underground of St. Louis. The series has proven popular with women and brought a range of new shoppers into Carol & John’s Comic Book Shop in Cleveland, says co-owner John Dudas. ‘They came out of nowhere,’ Mr. Dudas says.”

I probably shouldn’t put too much weight on a sound byte, but “They came out of nowhere” strikes me as extremely telling. I’m guessing that the average comic shop was probably viewed by these customers as “nowhere” too, though, until they had a specific reason to brave its interior.

Speaking of potentially unhelpful sound bytes, take it away, Karen Berger:

“DC Comics has an existing manga imprint, called CMX, which is translated from Japanese. The new Minx series will mimic the general look and price-point of manga. But Ms. Berger stresses that the books are designed with American readers in mind. They read in the standard, left-to-right, manner. And they’re written in English, not translated.”

Maybe it’s just a clumsy paraphrasing of what Berger actually said, but plenty of American readers don’t really seem to demand that level of consideration. (Unless they bought those 9.2 million units of manga just to be polite.) And what was DC going to do? Make its creators work right to left? (Bonus points to Phillips for mentioning that DC already has a manga line, though.) It sometimes seems like Berger is trying to lure readers of manga by assuring them that the Minx books are nothing like manga. I could be misinterpreting her intention, though.

Speaking of Minx, the second part of Mariah Huehner’s look at the Minx line is up at Sequential Tart, which is interesting reading:

“What I care about are the creators who have worked damn hard to make these books and who have, to some extent, gotten a raw deal when it comes to the critiques. More people are focusing on who’s publishing this line than who is directly involved in making the actual books. To me, that’s more important.”

I don’t think that’s entirely true. Don’t get me wrong – I think there’s considerable talent involved in the Minx line and I’m interested in all of the books in the initial launch. I’ll probably read all of them, because I generally admire the creators involved and the books’ premises intrigue me.

That doesn’t prevent me from considering the marketing messages and strategies and considering Minx in context of DC’s core product line. There’s some genuine clumsiness in the way DC has discussed and positioned this initiative, and it’s fair to point that out, partially because it does a disservice to the creators involved and their work.