Our new home

We have exciting news: As of today, this site will no longer be updated… because we’re moving onto the School Library Journal website. The content of the new Good Comics For Kids will stay the same—reviews, interviews, linkblogging, and noisy roundtable discussions—but we’ll have a spiffy new home and hopefully we’ll be bringing in some new readers. We’ll miss Dan Hess‘s excellent banner art, but he has thoughtfully drawn chibi representations of all the bloggers that are already the envy of everyone we know. We’re kicking off the new site with a short Hello World post, followed by Robin Brenner’s interview with Willow Dawson, the artist for No Girls Allowed: Tales of Daring Women Dressed as Men for Love, Freedom and Adventure. So reset your RSS feeds and bookmarks, and get ready for a good time!

All Ages Comics ^^ 9/24/08

It’s the end of another month, but there’s no shortage of titles this week. Bongo gets an early start on Halloween with a new Treehouse of Horror, featuring a story penned by the creator of 30 Days of Night. Staying in the holiday spirit is also the second volume of Vampress Girls, an interesting take on vampires and the battle between good and evil. It’s actually looks intriguing, though may be a little old for this list. Dark Horse has tie-ins ready for the new Star Wars TV series, and debuts the first one this week.

[Read more →]

That touch of Minx

Contrary to what the New York Times wants you to think, John McCain is suspending his campaign so he and Sarah Palin can catch up on all the blog analysis of the failure of Minx Comics. Here’s your briefing book; follow the links for… even more links.

David Welsh at Precocious Curmudgeon:

My strongest impression of the Minx books I’ve read (all of the books in the first wave and some of the subsequent ones) is that they felt incomplete, that they were at least two rigorous edits away from being a finished piece of entertainment. Whether DC was assuming lower standards among the books’ target demographic or not, I have no idea, but all of the marketing in the world really shouldn’t excuse generally mediocre product

Anna at Tangognat:

It didn’t seem like there was much in the way of marketing for the line, and I’m not surprised that it is folding. In some ways it seemed like a halfhearted attempt to capture the YA book market, without actually investing in the types of stories that teen girls would want to read.

Dirk Deppey at Journalista:

No, I think the bigger problem is that building a line — indeed, an entire category — of books for the bookstore markets requires a great deal of patience and endurance, and there’s very little evidence that DC Comics has ever demonstrated these qualities in their publishing efforts.

Christopher Butcher at Comics212:

Most importantly, I don’t think the rise or fall of this line says anything at all about the validity of “comics for girls” or any variation thereof… There are still plenty of excellent graphic novels for the YA market, and for girls in particular, out on the stands. I also think that there’s a market for more, and that every publisher looking to enter the market can learn from the successes and failures of MINX to create something that will ultimately succeed.

KadyMae in her LJ:

Hot tip: Teenaged girls with crappy lives don’t want to read books about other teenaged girls with crappy lives who go to school where everybody else shits on them too and there’s nothing they can do about it. They want to escape from their crappy lives for a few hours into a world where they are important and have power and do meaningful things and have adventures. (Oh, and a little m/m ho-yay never hurts.)

She also notes, “We sold the Minx books to *some* of the Manga readers, but mostly we sold them to people in their 20s who liked slice of life alt/indy comics anyway.”

Kevin Church at Beaucoup Kevin:

I honestly think it was marketing. I saw no posters or copies of the Minx books outside of the direct market – something I was looking for at local and chain bookstores following the announcement that Cecil Castellucci was involved and googling her name because it sounded sort of familiar. The initial New York Times Article mentioned that there was a “significant” marketing budget in place with Alloy Marketing + Media handing the campaign, but I never saw where it was being spent.

Hope Larson at I was fakin’:

Minx could have been good, and important. I really believe that, and I’m sorry to see them go, but most of the books they published are not very good. They have suspect artwork and dull, predictable plots, and would probably seem pandering to anyone over the age of 12. They’re safe. To quote some ad copy from the back of Marjorie Dean, College Junior, a girls’ series published in the ’20s: “These are clean, wholesome stories that will be of great interest to all girls of high school age.” I don’t think kids in the ’20s believed that, and neither would kids today. (Although, haha, their parents might.)

Lea Hernandez at Dangerous Beauty:

Shelley Bond said she saw girls reading manga in a bookstore and wanted that audience.

Yay!

That would’ve been the time to do something like I pitched to Paul Levitz (which piqued his interest enough for him to have me contact Dan DiDio and Shelley Bond at different times): manga-influenced superheroine books. A Batgirl book where she is searching for her long-lost brother Tony. (Yes, Barbara Gordon has a Secret Agent Man brother.) Wonder Woman. Black Canary. Zatanna. Supergirl. Amethyst. Harley and Ivy. Importantly, make these books that didn’t just take the names of the characters and run with them, but do books that were grounded in what the existing fans of those books like, with an appeal to draw in new female readers.

(Click for interesting history lesson about failed lines and DC and girls.)

Johanna Draper Carlson at Comics Worth Reading (1):

I’ve previously speculated that the books were selling better in the established comic direct market than bookstores, which wasn’t the goal for the line, although it plays to DC’s strengths and comfort levels.

But then, the line was formed out of jealousy. Shelly Bond, the editor behind the imprint, said she “pitched this line as an alternative to manga, but also as an alternative to traditional fiction” — in other words, why aren’t these kids buying OUR comics? Which is typical DC thinking.

Too much of the promotion revolved around what the books weren’t, instead of what they were.

Johanna Draper Carlson at Comics Worth Reading (2)

And more at…

Mariah Huehner at tired fairy Mariah was involved with the Minx launch and has an excellent discussion of the marketing and gender issues.

Becky Cloonan at Ink and Thunder. A thoughtful post by an experienced comics creator.

Brian Wood’s LJ gives a firsthand account from a Minx creator.

Katherine Farmar at Whereof One Can Speak, who compares the American and Japanese comics marketing models.

Heidi MacDonald at The Beat (1)
Heidi MacDonald at The Beat (2)
Heidi MacDonald at The Beat (3)
This last post has lots of links to other discussions. I hope you weren’t planning on doing anything else today. Also, read the comments on all three of Heidi’s posts as they are fascinating freewheeling discussions.

Linkfest: Interviews, reviews, and the end of an era

Newsarama seems to have a lot of interesting items this week. Zack Smith talks to Frank Cammuso about Knights of the Lunch Table, and Rik Offenberger interviews Paul Castiglia about Mecha Manga Bible Heroes, which is exactly what the title implies—the story of David and Goliath as interpreted by giant robots.

The Kids Love Comics group will be out in force at the Baltimore Comic-Con this weekend. Plus surprise guests! Check the list at the link to see who will be there—lots of talent in that group. And if you can’t make it there, maybe you can be at the Poughkeepsie Public Library on Oct. 3 to see Mail Order Ninja creator Josh Elder do his thing.

Ypulse writer Alli has some thoughts on graphic novels:

I think it’s ironic that at my school we are hearing some concerns about some of the graphic novels on our shelves. Specifically the questions are around age-appropriateness and balanced reading. The fact is that some boys just want to read graphic novels and what teachers refer to as “fun stuff.” As a result they’re not getting enough text to read, in their opinion– not enough old fashioned, straight forward reading. This is the essential issue isn’t it? It just doesn’t look or feel like serious reading. What to do?

She is also looking for suggestions for graphic novels for grades three, four, and five, so if you have any ideas, bring ‘em on.

Folks tell me that Misako Takashima (a.k.a. Misako Rocks!) had a great launch party for her new series, Detective Jermain, last week. If you missed that, but you’re heading to New York Anime Fest, you’re in luck, as Misako will be holding a panel and book signing there.

Here’s some sad news: the mom-and-kids team of Tracy, Shelby, and Susan, who ably review all ages titles for Newsarama and at their own site, are with his six-year-old son, and they both enjoyed it.”>ending their run. As a reviewer, I have some sympathy for the kids, who want to be able to just enjoy their comics and not think about reviewing them, but I will miss their insights.

At Manga Xanadu, Lori Henderson defends comics against Diane Ravitch’s charge that “they are not good ‘tools’ for teaching reading.”

Brian Cronin has a brief profile of Raina Telgemeier (The Babysitters Club), including some samples of her work, at Comics Should Be Good.

I’m Learning to Share provides a generous helping of stories and covers from the vintage kids’ comic Mr. and Mrs. J. Evil Scientist.

Newsarama has a preview of the Princess Bride comic, which seems to have been created solely to promote the Princess Bride game.

Blog@Newsarama’s Michael May read vol. 1 of Flight Explorer with his six-year-old son, and they both enjoyed it.

Reviews:
Chris Mautner on The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby (Panels and Pixels)
Conor Carton on Castle Waiting (Comics Village)
John Mitchell on J. Edgar Hoover: A Graphic Biography (Shuffleboil)
Ed Sizemore on Knights of the Lunch Table: The Dodgeball Chronicles (Comics Worth Reading)
Greg McElhatton on Mo and Jo: Fighting Together Forever (Read About Comics)
Charles Tan on One Piece, vol. 1 (Comics Village)
Dave Ferraro on Prince of Persia (Comics And More)

DC drops Minx

Comic Book Resources is reporting that DC is shuttering their Minx line of graphic novels aimed at teen girls, and people are already using this as a reason to question the viability of the category as a whole.

Some creators have been told their books will be published, but at least one completed project is biting the dust. Minx debuted to a fair amount of controversy: some people hated the name, while others were troubled by the lack of female creators. The quality of the initial offerings varied widely, but it looks like the fundamental problem was getting the books into bookstores:

Developed over several years and backed with the full financial support of DC Comics parent Warner Bros., the MINX line and its many titles are generally well reviewed, and the imprint’s ambitious goal was met with optimism and support from direct market retailers. Nevertheless, CBR News was told that Random House, DC’s book trade distributor, has not been able to successfully place MINX titles in the coveted young adult sections of bookstores like Barnes & Noble.

Multiple sources close to the situation agree Bond and DC aren’t to blame for MINX’s cancellation, and that this development should be seen as a depressing indication that a market for alternative young adult comics does not exist in the capacity to support an initiative of this kind, if at all.

First of all, if you’re trying to reach teen girls, the direct market probably isn’t your best bet. Secondly, it would be interesting to know how much marketing effort DC invested outside the comics community. I saw a lot of interviews with creators and reviews of the books on the comics blogs, but the point of a line like this should be to draw in new readers. I often see Minx books in the teen section of Barnes & Noble, but they are shelved spine out, never on a special display.

At The Comics Reporter, Tom Spurgeon sees the problem as wider than just marketing.

My hunch is that a bigger set of factors could have been what I would call structural: how/if to sell these books through Direct Market accounts, how to pay people for the investment of time in the projects necessary to make the books, where to shelve them in bookstores, how to keep them a vital concern within the corporate structure and competing interests of DC’s overall culture.

And then the scary question becomes, if DC couldn’t do it, can anyone?

So canceling Minx now not only ends what must have been a very decent gig for a lot of people, not only suspends what was one of the few corporate comics opportunities that didn’t involve drawing/writing superheroes at funerals or vampires turning on their own or whatever, and pulls the plug on what might have been some decent books as the line settled in, it also stands as a vote of no-confidence from one of comics’ biggest entities in doing comics their way for that market.

It might also have an impact on the potential for those kinds of books becoming a category along with scattered efforts at other companies like Skim and Chiggers, although one imagines a negative appraisal of the potential for a thriving category was part of the decision to pull the plug.

Tom also hints that DC parent Time Warner is more interested in the grittier properties, such as Dark Knight, perhaps because they show more crossover potential.

At Occasional Superheroine, Valerie D’Orazio touches on the marketing problem but also ascribes the failure of Minx to DC’s corporate inability to deal with female characters and readers. She winds up with some creative ways to off the Minx heroines.

So, readers, here’s your question for today: Is it possible to create and successfully market graphic novels for teen girls? If so, what did DC do wrong, and what are other people doing right? If not, why not? I look forward to hearing your opinions.

All Ages Comics ^^ 9/17/08

Traditional comic companies Marvel and DC dominate the list this week with not so traditional titles.  DC’s Billy Batson and Tiny Titans, are like training wheels to get kids started on their books.  Marvel’s Power Pack is sort of the same, with the Power Pack interacting with all of Marvel’s big names, like a tour of the Marvel Universe.  The series also mirrors the MU by having the Power Pack also face some of the same menaces as in the Mainline books.  It is an interesting strategy, and will be even more interesting if it translates into sales for the Teen and Older Teen books.

[Read more →]

Vidia and the Fairy Crown

Disney Fairies: Vidia and the Fairy Crown
By Haruhi Kato
Tokyopop, 208 pp. $9.99
ISBN 978-1-4278-1503-3
Recommended for ages 7-10

With loose ties to Peter Pan and Never land, this manga is part of the Disney Fairies franchise. It seems to me, that this manga is an adaptation of the series put out by Random House. Tinker Bell features prominently in some of the other Disney Fairies stories, but only gets a mention here.

The story starts with the bubbling excitement of all the fairies of Pixie Hollow, who are eager to attend Queen Clarion’s Arrival Day Bash. But on the eve of the big day, the Queen’s crown goes missing and all fingers are pointing to Vidia, the ‘rough around the edges’ fairy, who earlier that day cavalierly threatened to snatch the crown off the Queen’s head during the party. But if Vidia is found guilty she will be banished from Pixie Hollow forever. Prilla is the only one who believes in Vidia and together they investigate the disappearance of the crown in hopes of clearing Vidia’s name.

[Read more →]

All Ages Comics ^^ 9/10/08

There’s an interesting collection of books coming out this weeks for kids.  Little kids will like the Let’s Find Pokemon.  Tweens will like High School Musical the Graphic Novel, Disney’s newest franchise-in-the-making.  There’s also a new Warriors series, centering on Tigerstar of the Shadow Clan and Sasha.  Graphix, the GN division of Scholastic has a new fantasy series that’s worth checking out.  But avoid the Bratz Super Bratz at all costs.  Bratz with super powers is just wrong

[Read more →]

Detective Jermain launches with NYC party

The first volume of Misako Takashima’s three-volume high school mystery, Detective Jermain, is due out on Tuesday, and she’s celebrating with a book party from 4 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 18, at the 96th Street Library in New York. According to Misako, “There will be my little gallery, Japanese snacks, Japanese music, a raffle and my book signing!” Everyone is invited, so if you’re in the area, stop by and congratulate Misako on her newest book.

We interviewed Misako a few months ago about Detective Jermain, her other graphic novel Rock and Roll Love, and her work developing a Japanese character for Archie comics. And if you can’t be in New York next week, check out this video of Misako demonstrating how to draw DJ.

All Ages Comics ^^ 9/4/08

Because comics are “not good tools for teaching reading”, there are not one but two Phonics Comics out this week.  Comics made for early and developing readers in three increasingly difficult levels.  N-Guard and Dreamland Chronicles could never engage kids enough to make them think while they are reading.  And heaven forbid the kids enjoy the stories they are reading like Pinky and Stinky and Pokemon.  But what do I know? I’m just a Mom with two daughters who started out reading comics and have developed a love for all books.

[Read more →]