I didn’t read or see any of the DC Minx titles, and I’m not the target demographic (young girls.) But it did seem to me when the titles came out that there should have been a market for them, what with the success of shojo and all. It even seemed like kind of a no brainer. And yet still…I wasn’t exactly surprised to hear they’d tanked. Reading through some of the blogosphere comment (helpfully linked to by Dirk, the most plausible/revealing explanation I found was spoken by Christopher Butcher, who said:
Put as politely and delicately as possible, to the best of my knowledge the vast majority of editorial staff, publishing staff, and creative staff, had little to no experience producing material for a Young Adult audience. I honestly don’t know what made them think that they could, actually. Everyone I’ve talked to in Children’s and Teen publishing has pointed out similar problems with the line, and all of it belies a real lack of understanding of how YA publishing works.
Combine this with Dirk’s point from a couple days ago (basically that DC spent too much money too fast on the series) and you have something of a conundrum. What, exactly was DC spending money on? And why wasn’t it on content?
Basically, it seems to me that there’s little to no excuse for a serious publisher with serious resources to go into a major venture without investing pretty heavily in creative people who know what the hell they’re doing. Yes, creating YA fiction may be difficult, as Christopher Butcher notes…but that’s why you hire people with a track record, yes? It looks like there were a few YA novelists in the mix, but Butcher says “the vast majority of editorial staff, publishing staff, and creative staff, had little to no experience producing material for a Young Adult audience.” Especially on the creative end (and given the quality problems many people have mentioned) that seems like malfeasance, doesn’t it?
Butcher also talks about how all the comics publishers are looking for the next big thing after shojo. Maybe I’m missing something, but…why does there have to be anything after shojo? Couldn’t shojo be what’s after shojo? And then, after that, more shojo? It’s not like there’s a lack of material, or quality, or enthusiasm.
So…I know zip about publishing, but if I were going to fail in a publishing gambit to reach out to teen girls, and I was DC comics, here’s what I might do. I’d start by getting in touch with Neil Gaiman, and begging him on my knees to consider either producing new material, or allowing us to adapt his novels. I’d do the same with Joss Whedon (though, of course, Buffy’s already optioned). I’d look around hard for people who drew in manga style; in fact, I’d let it be known that I was offering better contracts than Tokyopop for people with new manga-style series to pitch (not exactly a high bar). I’d sure as hell invest in goth, since that’s the only indigenous American genre that young girls give a damn about, as far as I can tell. I’d possibly even try to co-opt an ongoing venture like Courtney Crumrin if I could, and I’d look to pick off some Slave Labor artists too. I’d go out looking for other high profile adaptations; has Madeline L’Engle’s work been turned into comics, for example? Any of Judy Blume’s books? What about Patricia Wrede’s extremely good (and somewhat lower profile) Enchanted Forest series? In short, if I was going to waste my money, I’d want to waste it on series, creators, and styles with a successful track record.
Again, I didn’t read Minx, but when I heard the plot of the Plain Janes (vaguely rebellious alternagirls commit tepid pranks to show their independence), I thought, who the hell is going to buy this? What are they thinking? This line is doomed.
It seems to me that if the big two are ever going to reach out to new markets, they need to admit in a kind of catastrophic way that they don’t know what the fuck they’re doing, and then go and hire someone who does. And the chances of that happening are roughly the same as having a bunch of YA novels fly out of my butt.