NYCC – Minx for teens
At the first-ever panel for DC’s Minx line, editor Shelly Bond (described by Marketing Director Gayley Carillo as "the mastermind" behind the imprint) talked about the inception of her quest to bring interesting modern stories to a whole new demographic.
About 3-4 years ago, Bond was in a bookstore and noticed a number of teenaged girls crowding around the manga section. That’s when she became determined to seek out creators from all different areas to write and draw "edgy, evocative and fearless" stories that would appeal specifically to today’s teen readers.
Part of that appeal, Minx hopes, will be inherent in the surface form of the imprint, like the trade dress and price point. Each book will be 176 pages, with color covers and interiors done in black and white and greytones. Each will feature a free preview of another book in the line. And each will cost under $10.
The writer and artist of the first book, The Plain Janes, were also on the panel.
It was a pleasant surprise to discover that writer Cecil Castellucci is female and that she exuded an excitement and outlook on life very evocative of a wide-eyed teenaged girl. Her enthusiasm about working on The Plain Janes, and how much she learned about writing for comics from her artist Jim Rugg, translates well into the work itself, a preview copy of which was made available to all panel attendees. The plot involves a city girl whose family has relocated to the suburbs, where she has to create a new circle of friends which she turns into a sort of Junior Guerrilla Girls. Very reminiscent of Raina Telgemeier’s Babysitters Club graphic novels, this story paces terrifically and held my interest throughout. If the other books in this line are as strong and engrossing, a lot of girls will be very happy indeed.
Bond and Carillo said they’re aiming the Minx imprint at a fairly wide young adult age range, from 12-18, and that the books’ creators have included enough complexity in the stories to appeal on different levels to different ages. Each story is infused with a gravitas that bears in mind their ideal readers, a sophisticated and smart teen audience.
Bond spoke briefly about other Minx books to debut this year, including Re-Gifters (written by Mike Carey with art by Sonny Liew and Marc Hempel — the team responsible for Vertigo’s quirky teen-appealing book My Faith in Frankie), about a Korean-American California girl who learns that "what goes around comes around;" Clubbing (written by Andi Watson with art by Josh Howard), about a London girl who conquers the love of a countryside village when she solves a murder mystery; and Good as Lily (written by Derek Kirk Kim with art by Jesse Hamm) that asks "What would you do if other versions of yourself at various different ages suddenly appeared?" and caused this writer to immediately chuck a similar storyline that’s been in the works for the past year.
The floor was then opened to questions, the first of which was a variation on the one many online have been asking for awhile. Our version goes, "If this is a line being aimed at girls, and many girls want to read books not only with strong female characters but specifically written (and drawn) by women, why aren’t there more women involved in the creation of the initial rollout stories?" This version — asked by a man — went something like, "You have some really great creators lined up with a lot of credibility and experience in writing stories that appeal to girls and feature strong female protagonists; is it difficult for these men to imagine how a young woman character would feel?"
Bond’s response: She reached out to lots of young adult fiction writers, as well as women from other creative areas (she didn’t say if "currently doing comics" was one of those areas) and "at the end of the day I bought the material that best suited this line," and she "didn’t want to create a gender bias" by focusing on whether creators were male or female. Thus, of course, creating a gender bias by not doing so in a situation where many might find it very appropriate. However, four new female novelists will be working on Minx books soon.
Bond and Carillo also fielded questions about their marketing strategy. They will be working with Alloy, a marketing firm (perhaps best known for being involved in the Kaavya Viswanathan scandal) which has access to millions of teen readers, as well as with Booksense to determine the best placement of the books in retail outlets. Their "sales force is working hard to strategize" on this point, Carillo assured. Despite the marketing-speak, it’s hoped that there is a strong plan in place to get the books in the hands of those most likely to appreciate them. And despite continued misgivings, I left the panel with a much more positive feeling about the imprint.