Tag Archive for jim rugg

Near Miss: Minx

minxLast year, I read Peanut by Ayun Halliday and Paul Hoppe. The graphic novel is about a teenage girl, in attempt to make herself seem intriguing, fakes having a peanut allergy. It’s a lovely book that I feel deserved more attention.

But my one thought after reading it was “That could’ve been a Minx book.”

An imprint of DC, Minx launched in 2007 and was dead by 2008, but there were problems as soon as it was announced. The name Minx never bugged me — it was cute and just salacious enough — but the lack of female creators was an issue. Minx had too much to prove and had to do it too quickly.

But Minx ultimately faced a bigger problem than just skepticism: The books just weren’t very good.

The majority of the 12 titles follow this extremely set format: An introspective, outcast teenage girl flirts with danger and boys before learning some very important life lesson, delivered with some moralistic overtones. They play a bit too safely, shying away from any real issues. For a moment in Confessions of a Blabbermouth, there was an implication of possible sexual abuse before it was quickly resolved into a “twist” that had been obviously almost from the beginning. Emiko Superstar isn’t the worst of the bunch, but when compared to the devastating and beautiful Skim, also written by Mariko Tamaki, it feels obvious the Minx editors didn’t trust their audience’s ability to handle anything that could be perceived as “dark.”

If this was just one or two of the titles, it could be forgiven. But when faced with about seven titles that all share what is more or less the same character and the same plot dressed up in different ways, it begins to feel a bit paternalistic and tiresome.

Not every one is like this, though. Ross Campbell‘s Water Baby is refreshingly crude and physical and has teenagers that actually act and talk like teenagers. The New York Four, by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly, has its issues, but at least felt like something teenage girls would want to read. I don’t know where Aaron Alexovich‘s Kimmie66 was originally pitched to, but with its twisty sci-fi story about identity, it’s definitely the oddball of the bunch (and is perhaps the most interesting because of it).

But I think beyond issue of repetitive plot structure, what bothered me the most about the Minx books is that they’re all basically a waste of good talent.

The editors had a good eye at hiring creators who appealed to young women but then buried the exact things that made them appealing to that audience.

Jim Rugg is a phenomenal artist, and while his work on both of the Plain Janes books is attractive enough, it lacks the kinetic, playful energy of his Street Angel. Both Andi Watson and Derek Kirk Kim are poetic, thoughtful writers, but Clubbing and Good As Lily suffer from the lack of their art. For the most part, there’s very little chemistry between the writers and the artists. These books feel like work for hire and it shows.

Still, there’s a part of me that admires Minx not for what it ended up as, but for what it wanted to be. Minx was definitely an attempt to capture the young female readers of manga, but I think it provided a point of transition for publishers to realize this was an audience worth catering to. I can’t think of too many graphic novels aimed specifically at teenage girls before Minx. I can think of way too many that have come out since then.

I don’t think it’s quite right to say that Minx opened the door for those graphic novels. But, at the very least, I think Minx deserves some credit for making publishers realize that there was a door worth opening.

Near Miss is a semi-regular feature that will be appearing on Comicsgirl throughout 2013-2014. This project is sponsored by Big Planet Comics.

33 for 2013

This is my list of the 33 things that happened in the comics world in 2013 that made me happy. They’re in alphabetical order.

Blue is the Warmest Color

 

Small Press Expo 2011!

I don’t even know where to begin with Small Press Expo. I think I’m still recovering.

I love this show. I love the people. I love the exhibitors and I love the attendees. If people want to know why I love comics, I just need to point them to this show. I think they’d get it.

Everything is a blur at this point, honestly. I had fun on Friday night — although I was dragging on Saturday due to that.

It was amazingly packed all day Saturday from what I saw (yes, we’re expanding the hall next year) and everyone I talked to said their sales were great. I am absolutely thrilled that there was so much excitement over comics. I saw a lot of new faces in the exhibitors and new books from older ones. I loved it. The energy was so thrilling and everyone seemed to be having fun. And that’s exactly what I want this show to be like.

I had a busy couple of hours counting the Ignatz ballots (thank you to everyone who voted!), getting dinner and then getting everything ready. Due to last-minute issues, I really didn’t have time to get nervous. People did tell me they enjoyed the ceremony, which is what we set out to do. (While neither things were my fault, I offer many apologies for how hot it was in the White Flint Auditorium and how packed it was. I think next year, we’ll be back in Brookside.)

I absolutely want to thank Dustin Harbin for being an excellent and enthusiastic Ignatz host. He made my job easy and I deeply appreciate the work he put into hosting.

So then there were drink tickets and much fun. I don’t think I can really over-emphasize the social aspect of SPX. No, you don’t have to be a part of it — you can definitely just go to buy comics — but I’ve made so many friends at SPX and met so many amazing people who it’s what I look forward to the most. I’m going to quote our incredible volunteer coordinator, Michael Thomas, because he puts it best — “One of the things that makes SPX so special is thatit feel like family. There are no barriers between organizers, attendees and staff.” And for me, that’s really what this show is about.

I had a delightful time chatting with Nick Abadzis. It was good to see him and talk to him again.

Sunday, I finally got around to buying comics (I managed to get into the hall early, but it did quickly fill up). I’m not even sure what I bought but I’m looking forward to going through it.

I was feeling sore and kind of out of it — I was physically tired, certainly, but it was more mental exhaustion and relief (Jim Dougan made fun of me for how giggly I was at a certain point). Still, this weekend was a culmination of nearly 9 months of work for me (as well as the rest of the board!), as well as many hours devoted to it in the past several weeks. I think we all deserve to be exhausted.

It was an amazing weekend and I think I’ll be riding the high for a bit longer. Reviews of comics will be forthcoming (and reviews of all those other comics people have sent me recently). And then I suppose I will need to start thinking about next year.

Yes, seriously — people handed me submissions at the show. I’m glad they’re excited but I was happy I’d finally gotten all those comics out of my apartment. I suppose it never ends.

But I think I’m OK with that.

(I’m using the Jim Rugg program cover on this post because I failed to take any decent photos, but this is exactly what SPX is like. Much like I once again failed to go to any programming. Also, I got to see the original artwork of the cover and it was stunning. The detail was incredible.)

Party Crashers at Arlington Arts Center

We typically consume comic art pretty quickly. And that’s by design — comics are sequential so we’re meant to be always going forward to the next panel or the next page. Yes, we may linger over an individual image every so often but that’s more the exception than the rule.

While I do of course consider comic art to absolutely be art (to me, it’s not really something that’s up for debate), I think Arlington Arts Center’s Party Crashers will change a few minds who think otherwise. It is an extensive look at comics-as-art with a number of notable artists including Jim Rugg, Dash Shaw and Gabrielle Bell. The artists featured here cover a diverse number of styles, from the refined to the cartoony to the experimental. It’s a wonderful ambassador for what the medium of comics encompasses.

Seeing these images and pages out of context hanging on the gallery’s walls is a thrill. Instead of getting caught up in the story or sequential nature of the comics, I got to spend time taking in the images individual. It is, of course, always fun to see original drawings up close and getting a glimpse into the creative process.

Downstairs in the center’s Truland/Experimental Galleries is a selection of artists makings abstract comics. Now I’m still of the mind that I don’t really consider a lot of abstract comics to be “comics,” I do think these images work really well in a gallery setting and I love that they’re included here. I enjoyed Andrei Molotiu’s animated pieces quite a bit.

While you’re downstairs, be sure to check out the comics children who’ve taken classes at the art center have made. They’re awesome and while I wouldn’t say they’re my favorite part of the exhibit as a whole, I do think they point to an exciting future for comics.

The exhibit is up Jan. 16, and if it’s at all possible — like if you’re within a reasonable travel distance and have the time to do so — I think it’s absolutely worth seeing. I know that it happens, but I do think it’s a shame that this exhibit it up over the holidays since I think most of us are booked up through the end of the year.

A companion exhibit at Artisphere opens Dec. 11 and runs through Feb. 13, focusing on fine art inspired by comics. Right now, it feels pretty unlikely I’ll get over there before January, but we’ll see.

Image by Dash Shaw.

The Problem with Minx

(Also known as reviews of Emiko Superstar, Janes in Love and The New York Four.)

I read Emiko Superstar and Janes in Love back-to-back on the train returning home from MoCCA (which tells you how long I’ve had them — they were giving them out for free). I more recently read The New York Four.


Emiko Superstar

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Emiko Superstar, written by Mariko Tamaki with art by Steve Rolston, follows Emi, a slightly overweight and awkward half-Asian teenager in Canada as she finds herself drawn into an underground group of performance artists. I like Emi – I liked her geekier tendencies and her introspective nature. I didn’t exactly buy the whole performance artist scene – I didn’t believe that a guy who looked a lot like The Dude from The Big Lebowski would truly be able to get a group of young people to perform in a warehouse space, nor did I find Emi’s object of admiration, Poppy Galore, to really have that much going on. Her tentative, possible romance with Henry has a sweetness about it.

I did like the way everything unraveled, though, and how Emi realized everyone has secrets and can be surprising, including herself. Rolston’s art has a curvy softness about it that compliments the cuteness of the story well. But ultimately, I found Emiko Superstar to be fairly forgettable.


Janes In Love

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Janes in Love picks up where The Plain Janes left off, with the same creative team of novelists Cecil Castellucci and artist Jim Rugg. I think it’s basically pointless to read this if you haven’t read The Plain Janes first. To me, it was more of the same. The Janes are now dealing with the fallout after the bust-up of P.L.A.I.N. and find themselves drifting apart as boys enter the scene. The main Jane seeks a way to continue making public art while dealing with her mom’s reluctance to leave the house after a friend dies from an anthrax attack. I noticed a very subtle shift in Rugg’s art, emphasizing the various Janes’ ethnicities (I did a side-by-side comparison and the style isn’t that different, but it’s there). This one fell a little flat and felt a little unnecessary to me (I’ve read there will be a third one). Whereas the first book was about the girls’ self-discovery, they didn’t have enough to do in this one. The conclusion and reunification of the Janes came across as a little too neat for me.

And after I finished this one, I realized something about Minx: all the books have the same sorts of rhythm. They all emphasize some Big Important Life Lesson. They all share the same sort of pacing and the characters all have the same sort of epiphanies and self-discoveries. They all seem to learn that in the end, it’s best to be true to yourself.

I do think that’s an important message and one that teenage girls don’t hear enough, but the more I read of the Minx books, the more preachy they feel. Instead of being art or even entertainment first, they seem to be lessons in self-esteem. They seem to be more the sorts of books well-meaning adults and comic book bloggers (myself included) think teenagers should be reading. (I did a quick bit of research on some message boards where teenage girls hang out – I didn’t spend too long because I didn’t want to be creepy – and I didn’t find any mentions of any of the Minx books. I’m not sure if teenage girls are actually reading these.)

But I still keep picking them up. I keep giving them a chance.


The New York Four

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I was surprised to see that The New York Four comes closest to what I think Minx can be capable of. Coming from Vertigo veterans Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly, the story follows reclusive Riley as she reunites with her sister and tries to make friends during her first year of NYU. The New York setting feels like the real New York (I like Wood’s little asides in his NYC 101 lessons) and not just some “exotic” tacked on locale. This is the New York where people actually live. Riley is an interesting heroine and as it’s delightfulas she breaks out of her shell. The rest of the “New York Four” – Merissa, Lona and Ren – feel a little undeveloped but I get the feeling Wood and Kelly plan to continue this story. While I think Kelly draws the girls a little too sexy, with over-emphasized lips and prominent bustlines, his art has an attractive grittiness to it.

But while Riley has her share of disappointments and Big Life Lessons – and, of course, discovers it’s best to be herself – this book felt different. There was drama. There was anger and love. There was uncomfortable situations. There was, in other words, the sorts of things teenage girls encounter every day.

I know that Karen Berger said that Minx is “real stories about real girls in the real world,” but I can’t help but want it to be more like the manga series Nana. Granted, in its own way, Nana is about as far from reality as you can get, despite not being fantasy, but underneath its rock-star melodrama, it feels real. It’s heartfelt while still being escapist. I want to feel the same way after I’ve read a Minx title.