Tag Archive for minx

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.

Review: The New York Five

The New York Five

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I was prepared to write off all of the Minx line before I read The New York Four — finally, there was a book in this imprint I felt like teenage girls would actually want to read. Of course, ultimately, it didn’t matter since DC Comics dropped the Minx imprint.

But I was happy to see that The New York Five found a home in the Vertigo line. Sure, it was maybe a little outside of the typical Vertigo title — there isn’t an abundance of sex or violence here — but as far as comics that are for more than usual audiences, it fit right in.

I bought The New York Five happily. I want more comics like this, after all.

Well, maybe not exactly like this.

Picking up where The New York Four left off, our heroines Lona, Merissa, Ren and Riley are still dealing with the repercussions of their first semester, and they’re now all sharing an apartment. More or less. Lona is still coping with her new reality and who she is in New York; Merissa has family to deal with; Ren is a bit too much of a free spirit; and Riley is trying to make up with her estranged sister.

It’s a lot of drama and purposefully so. But I’d say it’s almost too much drama, especially once street kid Olive (the fifth in the New York “five”) is thrown into the mix. If you haven’t read the first book, you aren’t going to get to know these girls much at all — in writer Bryan Wood’s hands, they are broadly drawn character types. I wanted to get to know them, but that the whole point of this series was that the characters withdrew from each other, it was almost impossible to do so.

Ryan Kelly’s New York still feels like a real place, however, and his art gives these character life. They are still pouty lips and tousled hair, but their fashionable glamor is part of the reason why The New York Five works when it does — it feels aspirational. Even if you don’t want to be these characters, you easily admire them.

Still, whereas I enjoyed the intimate drama of The New York Four, The New York Five just seemed to pull in too many directions at once. I feel like it tried to be too big and lost sight of the power of just telling the stories of these four young women out on their own for the first time. Maybe if it had been five issues instead of four, I would’ve been happier with it.

But for all my complaints, I’d still pick up The New York Six if that ends up happening. Even if I wasn’t 100 percent sold on this one, I still want more like it to exist. I will still buy them. Clearly, for all my complaints about The New York Five, I’m still completely sold on it.

(This review is obviously based on the four issues of the limited series — you know, since the collected version isn’t out yet. You can still, more the likely, pick up the individual issues at better comic book stores. If you want it, I encourage you to do that, but I will happily take the few cents you would send my way with the pre-order of the collection.)

Do we care about Mary Jane?

Should we? These are honest questions.

I was never really a Spider-Man fan so I don’t know that much about Mary Jane. She has, however, always struck me as your basic pretty girl character — she only has a personality when it suits the comic. And as you know, she’s been ditched in favor of Gwen Stacy as the love interest in the upcoming reboot of the Spider-Man film franchise.

But that brings me to Mary Jane: Homecoming and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane: Sophomore Jinx. These, if Wikipedia is to be believed, are more or less part of the same series although they don’t feel all that connected to me, honestly (granted, though, these two parts aren’t directly continuous, so I have missed some things in between the two).

Mary Jane: Homecoming

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In Mary Jane: Homecoming, Mary Jane is dealing with her relationship with Harry Osbourn as well as Flash’s crush on her and troubles with her friend Liz. It’s all pretty typical high school stuff — Harry is aimlessly angry and he and Mary Jane just seem to be together because they are. Liz and MJ have a conflicted friendship — they like each other, sure, mostly because they’ve been friends forever, but they’re competitive with each other, too. Oh, and Spider-Man shows up and fights some bad guys a couple of times, but that’s pretty inconsequential (except MJ does feel a growing connection to him — and to Peter Parker).

In writer Sean McKeever‘s hands, the story’s twists have the right amount of drama without ever becoming over-the-top. These kids are just trying to figure themselves out as well as each other. The shifting alliances and confusing relationships feel natural. He has a wonderful grasp of how teenagers behave without being condescending. Takeshi Miyazawa‘s art is cute and soft and is just manga-like enough to make it distinctive from a superhero title. I love the eye for detail he has, from MJ and Liz’s updos for the homecoming dance to the emotional glances characters give each other.

Spider-Man Loves
Mary Jane:
Sophomore Jinx

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Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane: Sophomore Jinx feels a bit different. It has another creative team of Terry Moore and Craig Rousseau and everything feels a bit bigger — more drama, more action, more conflict. Here, MJ is just starting her sophomore year of high school (hence the title) and struggles to find her place after someone starts some cruel rumors about her.

I don’t think anyone would accuse Moore of not being able to write women well. Even when Strangers in Paradise began getting more and more convoluted, it was always clear his female characters were fully realized. He does less well with teenage girls, though. This isn’t particularly bad, but he doesn’t seem to quite grasp the intricacies of teenage relationships (and maybe I’m wrong, but I’m almost sure no teenager was appending “not” to the end of a sentence to make it a negative in 2008). Rousseau’s art is stylized and has an exaggerated, animated feel to it, but also comes across as a bit more generic. I don’t think he gets to shine here.

Neither of these books are bad. I liked Homecoming more than Sophomore Jinx, but I liked both. But I was left with one major question: Who was this title for?

Now, I ended up with them because I am interested in this sort of thing (you know, comics aimed at girls). Homecoming was a dollar at a comic con and a friend gave me Sophomore Jinx because he ended up with it and figured it had a better home with me.

But other than me, who was this intended for? I can’t really picture the audience for this title.

Mary Jane is presented as likeable, sweet and smart, but she’s also one of the popular kids. She has some problems at home, sure, but a lot of that just feels thrown in to keep her from seeming too perfect.

I can only use myself as an example, but as a teen — even as a preteen — I wouldn’t have been interested in Mary Jane. I was a misfit and I didn’t hang out with cheerleaders or football players. I wasn’t interested in reading about them. And I’d guess that a lot of teen girls that are into comics wouldn’t really either.

(I did see some girls excited by Archie comics, so maybe I’m wrong.)

While I was critical of a lot the Minx titles for feeling too young for their intended audience, they were mostly about girls I would’ve wanted to read about at that age. I could see a 12-year-old enjoying Homecoming that her loving father (or even older brother) bought for her, but I do think Sophomore Jinx, while still pretty innocent, is probably too old for her. I don’t think any older teen girls who like comics would’ve sought this out on their own. It’s possible I’m wrong there, though.

I think Marvel has done some interesting things aimed at women (even before last year’s push, and even when they’ve put stupid covers on them) but I’m not sure why they felt like Mary Jane needed to be its go-to teen girl character, other than the company thought she was (or would be) “popular” following the Spider-Man movies.

Which I guess means we can look forward to some comics starring Gwen Stacy.

Review: Water Baby

Water Baby

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I realize it’s a little moot to review Water Baby at this point, one of the titles in the defunct Minx line from DC Comics, but it’s still worthy of a discussion.

Out of the Minx titles, I wasn’t particularly interested in Ross Campbell‘s Water Baby at first. I passed up picking up an advance copy at the MoCCA Art Festival last year. Then I started reading Campbell’s Wet Moon and I kicked myself. Campbell has an uncanny understanding of what it’s like to be a late adolescent teenage girl. I really have no idea how he’s been gifted with this knowledge, but I am in awe of it.

Water Baby follows surfer girl Brody, who has had her leg bit off by a shark. After the stunning and graphic initial sequence, the story picks up a year later when Brody’s ex-boyfriend Jake returns to her life. After some ups and downs, she drags him and her friend Louisa on a road trip to take Jake back to New York state.

The story ends a little abruptly, but I like where Campbell finishes things. Brody’s allowed to be a strong, young woman on her own. That seems like a rare thing in a lot of young adult literature.

Brody is surprisingly physical — I almost want to use the word “vulgar” here, but I think it implies the wrong things. She’s tattooed with a shaved head, bisexual (or at least, her sexuality is fluid). She doesn’t like to shower and she enjoys belching and picking her nose. Brody likes to control her physicality — even before she lost her leg to the shark — and I think that’s refreshing. She’s delightfully earthy, even if she’s sometimes off-putting. She doesn’t care much of what anyone thinks of her.

The sequences of her nightmares are amazing. Campbell renders them wordlessly and Brody sometimes morphs into a shark, or a shark morphs into a man. It’s a revealing insight to Brody, who, for all her matter-of-factness, is still haunted by her accident, but also seems to understand her own power.

I love the way Campbell draws women. He certainly has a fetishistic love for tattooed and pierced women, but his girls have curves and weight in the way real women do. He draws them in all shapes, sizes and colors, something that’s incredibly refreshing.

Water Baby is what I always wanted the Minx line to be — something that teenage girls could see themselves in. This title, along with The New York Four, shows what the line was capable of, even when I had problems with it. I’m still sad that the line wasn’t given enough of a chance to succeed.

Minx line canceled

It’s all over the Internet at this point, but The Beat links to a CBR report that DC is canceling the Minx books. No one is really too surprised and most people seem to be conflicted but sad about it. I know I am.

Dirk Deppey has an interesting analysis, and one I mostly agree with — DC wasn’t thinking long term. The Minx line is less than two years old and despite that deal with Alloy, was never really marketed to its target audience. I think it was just beginning to find its footing and its direction, but because it was underperforming, DC just scraps the whole thing.

I understand DC is a business and while I admire them for trying to get teenage girls as an audience, they obviously had no clue what they were doing. The books, for the most part, were good and not great and didn’t really appeal to the teenage girls reading Twilight or watching Gossip Girls.

In the end, it was a nice attempt but it was one that was pretty much created to fail.