Published Jul 20, 2007What do these things have in common: a brash Korean girl trying to preserve her culture in melting pot L.A., a well-read, party-hopping, goth gal from Londons upper echelons, and a fiercely artistic teenager suffocating in suburbia? Hopefully, the word "minx does not immediately spring to mind, but this could soon change with the new DC Comics-published Minx series, geared toward adolescent girls. Though DC is best known for stringing along pre-pubescent boys on hyper-masculine tales of heroism, the comic company is making a conspicuous effort to draw women into its fold. The three Minx books released so far The Plain Janes, Re-Gifters, and Clubbing discuss a wealth of interesting topics that happen to be girl-friendly too.
With surprisingly hip politics, topical subject matter and a unique emphasis on creativity, The Plain Janes launched Minx with a jumpstart. Living deep in the mundane heart of suburban America, the central character, Jane, isnt a typical apathetic smart-ass. Rather, she is relentlessly optimistic and rounds up her friends conveniently all named Jane to purge the dull surroundings through "art attacks, the hit-and-run infusion of artwork into a streetscape. While these atypical topics take the spotlight, Plain Janes author Cecil Castellucci (who roamed the Canadian music landscape in the 90s as Nerdy Girl) retains the turbulent high school experience as the comics backdrop. "Just because the characters are learning about the redemptive power of art doesn't mean they aren't wrapped up in their own social struggles, she relates by email. "That's one of the great things about growing up; you have these enormous philosophical ideas coming at you, and also, you want to be kind of cool.
Each of the Janes favours a particular creative niche Brain Jayne, Theatre Jane and Sport Jane. Just as the gang work together to incorporate art into their suburban landscape, the girls also find individual ways to express creativity through everyday activities, such as homework or school sports. "In my opinion, things like science are artistic, according to Castellucci. "Math. Cooking. Driving. Everything. The point is to express creativity in life and that's what makes life fun. Living creatively is both fun and difficult to do.
For the second Minx novel, Re-Gifters, author Mike Carey chose a more aggressive outlet for the main character, Dixie. Her family prides itself on her skill in the Korean martial art hapkido, but Dixie also has love problems caused by her fiery moods. "A lot of my female protagonists have volatile tempers, says Carey. "I seem to find that kind of personality very easy to empathise with. It would be a little spooky and maybe a little unconvincing if she was capable of perfect emotional control at that age. It's almost the most forgivable sin for a teenager.
As well as adopting the Seinfeld-coined phrase for the title, Re-Gifters drops pop culture references like Avril Lavigne and Kristin Kreuk into the already heady mix of hormones and hapkido. "Kids are more deeply immersed in pop culture than most mature adults are, Carey says. "I felt [the references] added something in terms of establishing our characters or some of our characters as being plugged into their world in certain recognisable ways.
Online girl-centric comic blogs have criticised the high amount of male writers and illustrators working on the series, but Carey believes he has a good grasp on teenage thoughts and problems. "I have a daughter who's 15, so my model was right there in front of me. We talk a lot. She might go into a surly, withdrawn phase at any moment, and if she does then I'll have to watch nature documentaries for my inspiration instead.
The most recent addition to the Minx series shifts gears once more, into action-packed, murder mystery territory. Clubbing focuses on the Nancy Drew-like Lottie, but writer Andi Watson updates that familiar sleuth by endowing the character with all the necessary teenage amenities, like an endless iPod library and a fascination with eBay. "Lotties much more of a fashion victim than any other character I've written before, so writing her was a challenge; keeping [her interest in] fashion while making sure she was rounded out, not just a figure to poke fun at, Watson explains. With a few more books slated for release during the summer as well as an upcoming Plain Janes sequel, the Minx series may correct the long-distorted gender representation in mainstream comics. Its diverse set of female characters at least stand a greater chance of appealing to the young, impressionable girl whos happened upon comics for the first time. And it perhaps might even divert the gaze of a few teenage boys to a more realistic perspective.