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Monday, November 27, 2006

Graphic novels… now for girls!

posted by on November 27 at 12:02 PM

More news on the inevitable mainstreaming of comics: this weekend brought a story in the New York Times about DC Comics partnering with patented shitty-stuff-for-teens-promoter Alloy for the development and release of a line of graphic novels for teenage girls. This is a smart move for the publisher, since American teenagers are increasingly hot for manga (Japanese serial comic books that rake in $5 billion internationally every year) and the first “graphic novels for girls” are going to be less like traditional graphic novels (a somewhat-scorned artsy term usually applied to BIG IMPORTANT works like Art Spiegelman’s Maus) and more like manga and chick lit. The author of the first book released under the new DC Comics push previously penned works called “Boy Proof” and “The Queen of Cool”. And the page of the new novel previewed in the New York Times is downright insipid.


Look at those sharp-faced Mean Girl stereotypes! This isn’t surprising, but it’s disappointing. What I like about cartooning is there’s usually not a lot of money in it for anyone — the artist or the publisher — so the work is refreshingly weird. Comics have the ability to be unique and still be marketable, they routinely push the boundaries of art and narrative. But as the contrived panels above show, “girl comics” are the new ridiculous Superhero genre. Being creative is risky and books have such razor-thin profit margins that it makes financial sense to just copy the style of selling-like-hotcakes manga and chick lit. I just hope it doesn’t do harm to real girl comics and pulls more people into comic book stores where they may, eventually, wade through the glossy shlock to something actually worth reading.

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My first thought is, "my god, that looks like a Chick tract."

Posted by Orv | November 27, 2006 12:15 PM

I'm glad to see the artists have continued to render breasts and cleavage with enthusiastic detail. What would a comic book be without boobs?

Posted by Mattymatt | November 27, 2006 12:20 PM

If comics want to corner the girls market effectively, they will team up with LiveJournal, and find a way to present dialogs underneath entries as a series of panels depicting a story as opposed to a tepid "thread" format with uniform emoti-avatars.

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | November 27, 2006 12:28 PM

Phoebe Gloeckner wrote some of the best damn "girl's comics" I've ever seen. An endless epic of innocent curiosity being totally manipulated by fucked-up adults. Her stories blow your mind like a trainwreck does. You can't stand another second and you can't look away. I find it hard to believe that any of the new girl cartoonists can hold a candle to her work.

Posted by Gurldoggie | November 27, 2006 12:46 PM

I wish I could say I'm surprised, but I'm not.

Posted by Soupytwist | November 27, 2006 1:13 PM

I understand your hesitance at these, but to me they look totally great; they have the potential to be today's version of those dumb golden-age romance comics.

Posted by bacteriaburger | November 27, 2006 1:14 PM

No links to Strangers in Paradise? That's one of the more female-friendly comics on the market. I don't like it much now, but boy howdy did I love it when I was a little angsty teenager.

Harlequin Romance has been doing this for awhile, also. It's not going to change what the weirdo indie comix have going for them. If Daniel Clowes, etc, wanted to make money, they wouldn't have gone into cartooning. So the fact that some people are making money rendering crappy plot lines isn't going to ruin it for everyone else.

Posted by Davida | November 27, 2006 1:14 PM

DC's been trying to get into the manga game for a looong time, and has mostly been failing.
And a lot of the manga that Viz and TokyoPop do is just as bad as whatever DC will put out.
Also, the girls aren't going to comic shops to buy these comics, they're going to bookstores. Suburban Barnes and Nobles stock one shelf of graphic novels (both superhero and small press) and four to five of manga (mostly Japanese translations, but some American stuff, too).
And Jim Rugg, artist on the offending page, drew Street Angel (mentioned in the NYTimes article), which is a sweet comic. Ask for it at your local library.

Posted by brad | November 27, 2006 2:24 PM

Fantagraphics is celebrating 30 years of publishing! Damn! And they're opening a brand new Retail and Gallery Space down in Georgetown.

THE OPENING :This Sat, Dec. 2, 5-8 pm.
ADDRESS : 1201 S. Vale St.
(Airport Way S. at S. Vale St., half a block north of the 9-Pound Hammer)

Artist Ellen Forney will be doing a multimedia performance, plus there's a showcase of original artwork by Dan Clowes, R. Crumb, Joe Sacco, Chris Ware, JUST TO NAME A FEW....

Posted by KELLY O | November 27, 2006 2:41 PM

At least the style isn’t that grotesque Japanese huge-eyes, tiny-mouth, huge-tits-stuffed-into-a-schoolgirl/sailor-outfit crap. Anything’s better than that.

Posted by John | November 27, 2006 2:58 PM

Oh, the return of girl comics. It's not like this is some manner of innovation. Romance and drama comics were a staple until the industry as a whole flamed out post-Wertham. Superheroes survived really well, and now all manner of genres are coming back. Crime comics, horror comics, and even a teen girl romance comic book centered around Mary Jane Watson. I think it's a positive trend. Maybe then the New York Times, Salon, and every other fucking periodical that reviews books will quit treating graphic novels like some exotic beast and their reviews will seem less like they're slumming. Maybe they'll stop opening their reviews with, "I know I'm reviewing a comic book, but I want to assure you that I'm really a serious literary person, and not a retarded moron," implying that those of us who read super hero comic books are. Condescending bastards.

Posted by Gitai | November 27, 2006 8:57 PM

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