Tag Archive for ross campbell

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.

Book of the Month: Hopeless Savages Greatest Hits


Hopeless Savages
Greatest Hits

Buy at Amazon.com

Jen Van Meter‘s Hopeless Savages follows former punk rockers Dirk Hopeless and Nikki Savage and their four kids through all kinds of adventures — from the everyday to the exotic. With art by a revolving selection of Oni Press favorites — Andi Watson, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Ross Campbell, Chynna Clugston and Christine Norrie and more — it’s constantly fun and surprising.

In all honesty, I’d forgotten about Hopeless Savages until I saw Oni Press was releasing this collection (this is even despite owning a couple of the books). I don’t think I’m alone in that, sadly.

I do remember how fresh this felt when first came out. Maybe it’s just a matter of my perception, but I do feel like this was a predecessor for a lot of comics we’re seeing. That’s nothing but a good thing.

I’m happy to see this comic get its due and find a legion of new fans as well as get rediscovered by some of us old ones.

Review: Water Baby


Water Baby

Buy at tfaw.com!

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.