Historically, U.S. comics have been geared towards boys, and until manga became popular, there were very few comics for girls—and even fewer good ones. The UK, on the other hand, had great girls’ comics in the 1960s and 70s—I grew up reading them—but those comics faded away, due more to neglect on the part of editors than a lack of popularity. Says who? Says writer Pat Mills, whose manly credentials are in good order (he was one of the creators of 2000AD and contributed to Judge Dredd) but whose first love is girls’ comics. Mills wrote for several girls’ titles in the 1970s, and he created one of the best-loved girls’ comics, Misty, which he originally conceived as a girl-freindly equivalent of 2000AD.
Mills recently talked to the Bring Back Bunty blog about his career in girls’ comics and his plans to resurrect the genre. Clearly, he gets it: Asked what comics have girl appeal, he responded
Girl as lead character. Although they may be unisex, there is an emphasis on the heroine. The objectives are different… a typical heroine wants to overcome obstacles to achieve some sport objective which provides some action. A typical hero for boys wants to kick ass and possibly destroy something! Okay, that’s superficial, but you get the idea. There are key differences as I found to my cost. Thus girls love mystery (what’s in the locked room?) boys don’t care.
Why can’t we have more of these? Mills says that girls’ comics outsold boys’ comics but were ultimately cut down by hostility from editors and creators; he contends that the desire to make “art house” comics rather than write good genre stories for mainstream comics doomed the category and left a gap in the market. The good news, though, is that Mills has been making pitches for a new girls’ comic, which will probably start out in digital format. If you’re not familiar with the richness of British comics, this article is a good starting point, and Mills, being a veteran, has some interesting insights into comics writing in general. As Bunty would say, jolly good show!
Ah, Minx, DC’s attempt to make comics for teenage girls. The failure of the whole enterprise lies in that very statement. Teen girls don’t like things made specifically for them. They don’t even think of themselves as “teen girls.” Catering to them is very, very tricky, because you can’t appear to be catering to them. Worse, adults who write and review books for teenagers have a hard time letting the characters do anything truly bad, but that’s exactly what teenagers want—and need—to read. If you give them an after school special, they’ll dump it and read something by Chuck Palahniuk instead.
The first round of Minx books all had a definite made-by-adults-for-teens vibe. The second season was much, much stronger, because the creators took more chances, and not coincidentally, more of the creators were women. There were books I actually wanted to read in that second season, and the two I did read, Token, by Alisa Kwitney and the incomparable Joelle Jones, and Burnout, by Rebecca Donner and Inaki Miranda, were quite good. Of course, that’s when DC killed the line.
So my ears pricked up when Deb Aoki Tweeted that Image has picked up two titles that were originally done for Minx: Poseurs, by Deborah Vankin and Rick May, and All Nighter, by David Hahn. Alas, Deb was underwhelmed by Poseurs: