Minx, a line of graphic novels aimed at teenage girls and introduced with much fanfare and a large budget by DC Comics in 2006, has been canceled. Much discussion about DC’s decision to throw in the towel after the line has been out a bare two years has centered on Minx’s dearth of female creators, its unfortunate placement in bookstores, and its lack of the fantasy elements so beloved by teenage girls. And people are wondering why DC Comics pulled the plug so quickly, since it was trying to carve out a completely new niche for realistic girls’ comics and needed to build an audience. There is no already-established audience for realistic teenage girls’ comics. There is a huge established audience for manga, but Minx was not manga. Apparently, some people got confused. They thought that girls who like pretty art with beautiful young men who look like fashion models (manga) would want to read deliberately realistic, even exaggeratedly awkward art with ugly young men who look like they’ve never matched a tie to a suit (Minx). No.
Or at least, no to a huge immediate audience, and no to instant impact in the market. And now, by canceling the line, no to a chance to find that audience simply by being in the market long enough to earn a place.
It’s not easy to start a new anything. In fact, 99% of all new businesses fail, usually due to a combination of marketing mistakes, sheer bad luck, and undercapitalization. But DC Comics is one of the big two comic book companies, and it has plenty of capital, access to marketing intelligence, and the ability to hire dedicated and creative people. Still, Minx ended up being treated the way comic books have always been treated: a quick in and a quick out if the title doesn’t instantly sell big. There was no time allowed for a slow build. DC could have scaled down its ambitions and kept on printing these books, albeit in smaller quantities. It even could afford to let Minx run completely in the red for years as a vanity project, burnishing the DC Comics reputation as a publisher all the while, until the audience found it or a lucrative movie deal put it in the black. Many a book and magazine publisher does just that, including DC Comics itself, which continues to publish Wonder Woman because of the value of its licensing and Hollywood potential.
If a small press publisher had been producing the Minx books, you can bet that the publisher would have gotten a second job or mortgaged the house and kept on publishing them, possibly less often and only as money came in to justify another title. But large corporations don’t operate this way. Minx may be viewed as a balance sheet failure yet in reality it was a commitment failure at the highest decision-making levels. Even though DC got lots of good press for publishing them and the books themselves got fairly good reviews, only big sales would satisfy. Yet given time, the Minx books could have found a secure if small niche in the graphic novel world.
What the lack of success–and quick demise–of Minx tells us is that if you want to do something different, you have to plan to build your audience yourself. You’re not going to be able to just take over some other audience that happens to be the age and the gender you want. Nor is success likely to occur instantly. But must it involve a huge outlay of capital? Not necessarily. Many dedicated small presses have sprung up, both Internet and Print on Demand, headed by individuals with a personal passion for publishing. Like MyRomanceStory.com. Instead of waiting for the big two comic book companies to come around to the idea of publishing romance comics for adult women, we have done it ourselves.
So as painful as the cancellation of Minx is (think John Donne’s “any man’s death diminishes me”), all hope is not lost. We’re here. Others are out there. Sooner or later, it’s all going to come together in a big whoosh of success.