[edit: Heidi is picking up the same trend.]
The urge to armchair-quarterback is irresistable here, and I know it’s presumptuous and annoying, but I just want to point out:
EVERY discussion I have EVER seen of ANY Minx title contains some variation of the phrase “I know they’re not aimed at me, but…”
Yes, that is partially a consequence of my choice of reading material. But it’s not just that nobody on my RSS feed is a 13-year-old girl. It’s that nobody on my RSS feed appears to know any 13-year-old girls, or if so it never occurred to talk to them about Minx (no guestblogs? no focus groups?). And I worry that the same is true for DC. I’ve never worked there; I’ve had a total of one brief conversation with Shelly Bond at MoCCA last year, and I’m sure everyone involved had the very best of intentions. I understand why they dropped a quarter-mil to partner with Alloy, which was an admission that they were entering uncharted territory but a declaration that they were serious about it.
But this is getting jumbled up. Basically there are a few separate categories that we should be careful not to confuse:
- Content. Were the books good? Also, was there anybody who read them and thought “yes. this book is for me”? How widespread was the reaction that I’ve seen in a few places, that most of the books felt condescending and idealized an urbane hipster girl to whom readers couldn’t relate (as counterexample or point of contrast, I suggest Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, a charming book about impossibly hip urban teens that seems to have been fairly successful and is about to get a $9m movie, not to mention Gossip Girl etc)? Alternatively, was Bond’s determined mandate to stick to realistic fiction over fantasy misguided (as I heard one 18ish girl politely tell her at MoCCA)? Perhaps a more fantastical teen-girl line would have been able to snag more of the existing manga audience (who would probably be less interested in Fruits Basket if nobody turned into animals) in addition to the millions of readers who, it turns out, are very interested in sexy teenage vampire makeouts. Minx deliberately positioned itself as an “alternative to manga,” and moreover an “alternative” to basically every kind of existing product, which essentially meant it needed to build an audience from scratch.
- Marketing. Here Tom is exactly right — no amount of marketing can ever be enough, and comics people tend to treat it as a magic bullet. Spending an unprecedented sum on “the country’s largest provider of nontraditional media and marketing services” sounds like a respectable effort to me. By its nature, outside marketing isn’t going to be perceptible to most of the comics community, so this may have been invisible to most commentators. The novelty of the whole program certainly attracted plenty of discussion within the community anyway…
- Logistics. The early analysis that I’ve seen suggests that this was a key problem: convincing the big chains to stock confidently and shelve appropriately. It may well come down to having the books shelved in one section vs. another, and communicating effectively with the chains to make the best decisions there (Kurt Hassler, anybody?). It was already unclear to what extent direct-market stores were expected to support Minx, since it was explicitly aimed at the demographic least likely to visit a comic shop; if the Minx line really was ghettoized in bookstores among the Green Lantern TPBs or among the Naruto tankoubon, then that’s just a recreation of the same problem: expecting your target audience to find you in a place they have no incentive to visit. If this chatter is true, it’s possible that The New York Four ended up selling to a bunch of preexisting Brian Wood fans. And that’s not what Minx was supposed to be about.
The most interesting next question: who’s buying Chiggers?