Comic Book Resources is reporting that DC is shuttering their Minx line of graphic novels aimed at teen girls, and people are already using this as a reason to question the viability of the category as a whole.
Some creators have been told their books will be published, but at least one completed project is biting the dust. Minx debuted to a fair amount of controversy: some people hated the name, while others were troubled by the lack of female creators. The quality of the initial offerings varied widely, but it looks like the fundamental problem was getting the books into bookstores:
Developed over several years and backed with the full financial support of DC Comics parent Warner Bros., the MINX line and its many titles are generally well reviewed, and the imprint’s ambitious goal was met with optimism and support from direct market retailers. Nevertheless, CBR News was told that Random House, DC’s book trade distributor, has not been able to successfully place MINX titles in the coveted young adult sections of bookstores like Barnes & Noble.
Multiple sources close to the situation agree Bond and DC aren’t to blame for MINX’s cancellation, and that this development should be seen as a depressing indication that a market for alternative young adult comics does not exist in the capacity to support an initiative of this kind, if at all.
First of all, if you’re trying to reach teen girls, the direct market probably isn’t your best bet. Secondly, it would be interesting to know how much marketing effort DC invested outside the comics community. I saw a lot of interviews with creators and reviews of the books on the comics blogs, but the point of a line like this should be to draw in new readers. I often see Minx books in the teen section of Barnes & Noble, but they are shelved spine out, never on a special display.
At The Comics Reporter, Tom Spurgeon sees the problem as wider than just marketing.
My hunch is that a bigger set of factors could have been what I would call structural: how/if to sell these books through Direct Market accounts, how to pay people for the investment of time in the projects necessary to make the books, where to shelve them in bookstores, how to keep them a vital concern within the corporate structure and competing interests of DC’s overall culture.
And then the scary question becomes, if DC couldn’t do it, can anyone?
So canceling Minx now not only ends what must have been a very decent gig for a lot of people, not only suspends what was one of the few corporate comics opportunities that didn’t involve drawing/writing superheroes at funerals or vampires turning on their own or whatever, and pulls the plug on what might have been some decent books as the line settled in, it also stands as a vote of no-confidence from one of comics’ biggest entities in doing comics their way for that market.
It might also have an impact on the potential for those kinds of books becoming a category along with scattered efforts at other companies like Skim and Chiggers, although one imagines a negative appraisal of the potential for a thriving category was part of the decision to pull the plug.
Tom also hints that DC parent Time Warner is more interested in the grittier properties, such as Dark Knight, perhaps because they show more crossover potential.
At Occasional Superheroine, Valerie D’Orazio touches on the marketing problem but also ascribes the failure of Minx to DC’s corporate inability to deal with female characters and readers. She winds up with some creative ways to off the Minx heroines.
So, readers, here’s your question for today: Is it possible to create and successfully market graphic novels for teen girls? If so, what did DC do wrong, and what are other people doing right? If not, why not? I look forward to hearing your opinions.