Comic Fodder

DC Cancels Minx Line of Comics

When DC announced the "Minx" line of comics, I recall feeling the name was... a tad unusual.

The word means, according to the American Heritage Dictionary:

1. A girl or young woman who is considered pert, flirtatious, or impudent.

2. Obsolete A promiscuous woman.

Given DC's troubles with the female comic-reading public, why market a line of books to young women with ANY kind of sexual connotation in the title? But, I forget that I'm a 33-year old male who is in no way tapped into the world of teen entertainment such as "The Hills", "Gossip Girl" and the all-new "90210". But, it's also an indicator of DC possibly being too out of touch with this market to ever really reach the intended audience.

The audience for Minx was pretty clearly stated to be teenish-girls, the same ones I'd see camped out in the aisle at Barnes & Noble in the comics/ manga section, or who I'd see come into Atomic Comics in Phoenix and kind of ooh and ahhh over their manga selection and accessories. The numbers of these same readers were in something of a supply when I moved back to Austin, but despite a great selection of manga at Austin Books (I mean, I guess... I don't really know, but they have a large Manga section), the young women I saw were picking up a wide variety of comics and treating comics as a medium and not hanging out exclusively in the semi-trafficked manga section.

Honestly, I thought the best shot Minx had for picking up readership wasn't the Manga audience of 14 year-old readers, but the kids who were picking up Scott Pilgrim, some Sandman, maybe some of the Lenore-style comics. But even that didn't seem to be a great match.

I've sort of thought of thought of Manga readers as exactly that. They weren't going to cross over to other styles of storytelling because that's not what they came to the shop for (right or wrong, superhero comic fans get the same rap. As well as those who only read Marvel, etc...) And with Manga's wide selection, and multi-volume set-up (and very different sensibilities in everything from stylistic storytelling to portrayals of the discovery of romance), it didn't seem like a good fit for DC to poach an audience that was well served and seemed to pride itself on some sort of club-like outsider status.

And, DC already had CMX, so that didn't seem to be the intended audience.

Better columnists than myself have commented on how the distribution was odd in chain book stores, shoving the Minx books in with the non-specific "other" comics section at Borders and Barnes & Noble, winding up in the genre ghetto that has resulted in many-a-worn-looking and bent comic that never makes it off the shelf. But the section seemed sort of like a gesture more than a carefully managed area.

While stores like Austin Books had areas where they could place the Minx line, it also meant they had plenty of competition available in a competing format, and a DC imprint wasn't going to help sell those books anymore than any other distributor. Meanwhile, a lot of shops that line comics up by company and focus in superheroes weren't going to know what to do with the Minx line, other than stick it in their "other" section, along with the rest of the books the store staff wasn't going to read.

All of this, of course, sort of ignores two other factors: Marketing/ Advertising and Content

It's worth noting that one of the top sellers to young women and older girls these days is the "Twilight" series of novels about a 17 year old girl who meets the un-dead boy of her dreams. These books (without pictures) are selling in the millions.

So if the intended audience is a generation raised on anime and "Harry Potter", mixed with "The Hills" and "Gilmore Girls", mixed with "Buffy" and "Smallville", what was with the "indie cred" line up of artists and writers? The Minx line seemed more like a line of books focused pretty specifically at the art class/ drama club/ photojournalism girls of high school with a lack of fantasy elements (either wizards or being fabulously wealthy). And part of me wonders if it didn't wind up all looking kind of the same.

There's nothing wrong with the Minx approach, but it's going to narrow your audience. And that audience already has a lot of other options. The YA Indie-approach seems a tough sell when you're reaching an audience that can pretty readily handle the "adult" books out there, and, in fact, may want to do exactly that to prove their maturity.

Some marketing research to see how many of those people just now picking up Vol. 1 of Sandman are teen girls (or what TV shows, books, etc... sell to the same demographic) might tell them something about the likely success of stories based in a real world with the only fantasy elements being the validation of quirky individualism. That same research might have broken down, as well, whether teen girls are really just reading yaoi and romance comics, or if they're also picking up Tri-Gun and other supposedly male-centric titles (signs point to "yes").

Rather than hiring writers who they felt would "hip" them up, maybe DC could have been looking to copy and emulate what those kids were already consuming as mass media (yup, I said it). If the CMX line was serving the intended audience, then what was the point of Minx? Could it not have been to bring "Twilight" to comics?

(Late Edit: I just read Lea Hernandez's take on this, and I highly recommend it as a read.)

From a marketing perspective, it's a bit of a surprise that DC didn't seem to push each book as a series. Perhaps that was the intention (after all, there was a second Plain Janes book), but none of the books came with the built in, 15-volume set up that readers might have been familiar with from Manga. In fact, I'm still kind of wondering if the books wouldn't have done better with "Vol. 1" printed on the spine.

DC didn't have the advantage of simply bringing over proven material, and can't plan on a 15 volume series of material that may not sell well enough after volume 1 to warrant a second volume. It's a plainly different model. But, honestly, that's not really the audience's responsibility, and if the number of volumes in a series is a determining factor...

Marketing hipness to teens is always an elusive beast. So much depends on sleeper hits, the exact right combination of elements that seems to strike a chord, and word of mouth.

But it would be interesting to see how DC tried to sell the books. I don't read magazines aimed at the target audience, but my guess is that the Minx line didn't get much exposure in places where that untapped, unserved audience looks. An ad or two in SPIN might have had a huge effect. Or any number of other periodicals. Or, of course, the dreaded web-banner ads on non-WB sites. In fact, ANY advertising might have been a good idea.

Instead, DC seemed to employ the same failed tactics one sees with DC's mainline of books. Internal advertising, interviews on Newsarama, etc... aiming what advertising that did exist at the wrong audience.

Further, there was no understanding of selling Minx as a lifestyle brand, as kids have come to understand any product. Where were the purses with Minx pages printed on the side? T-shirts with a winky "Minx" logo printed across the chest? Belt buckles, buttons, patches, etc...? How can a teen outwardly wear their rebellion (as I assure you, they want to do) if its by reading a book in their bedroom or on the bus? Where was the opportunity for CosPlay and the other ways in which modern kids want to embrace their fictions? (Keep in mind, again, this is the generation of kids who were offered "Harry Potter summer camps"). I have a hard time believing nobody at DC/ WB didn't throw around the word "corporate synergy" at some point when launching Minx.

Rather than hope to gain traction as an object to be licensed, DC missed an opportunity to create a pre-packaged, post-Hannah Montana brand for older girls to pick up at Hot Topic.

In short, it seems DC had little idea of how to deal with their own product, and were too locked into a certain notion of what their potential audience wants to see. The marketing/ advertising efforts seemed perfunctory at best, and they were unwilling to give the books enough time to be discovered by the intended audience.

DC could have/ should have perhaps given the Minx line more of a chance for the intended audience to find them. And, they should have seriously considered simply shifting gears to a fantasy-themed line with better exposure.

If teen girls like sexy vampire boys (and it seems they do) perhaps that's a market that could have been better explored.

But, again, I'm a 33-year-old dude. These books were never aimed at me, so take all of this with a grain of salt.


Questions? Comments? Hate mail?

Come on, I can take it.

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Ryan is an Op/Ed columnist for Comic Fodder. He keeps his comics and himself in Austin, Texas where he manages the long running blog League of Melbotis.

He likes Superman.

You can reach Ryan (aka: The League) at theleague.cf@gmail.com