Tween scene

There’s some good reading on comics for tweens floating around this morning. First is an interview at Comic Book Resources with Jim Rugg, who will be providing the art for Cecil Castelluci’s Plain Janes for DC’s Minx line.

Rugg provides an interesting look into his creative process, how his approach to Plain Janes differed from his work on the much-loved Street Angel (Slave Labor Graphics), and the impossibility of pleasing all the people all the time:

“In order to maintain the commitment necessary to produce a comic, I need a high level of enthusiasm for the material. I’m not trying to make work for some future audience, I’m trying to make a page or scene or story that appeals to me. I value clarity when I’m designing a page or sequence but to imagine what other people want is impossible because every single person wants something different.”

I think the please-yourself approach tends to result in the best comics (and any creative work, really). It can also result in some pretty terrible ones, depending on who exactly is at the helm, but even then I’d rather see something awful that comes from a specific, personal place than a comic by committee.

That brings me to the one point of the interview that made me shake my head a bit. I think Rugg has some generally good points about brand names being less meaningful in the long run than the quality of the product they represent, but this argument struck me as kind of circular:

“The only way a name matters is if it’s something atrocious, something hard to remember or pronounce – Minx is fine, and just in case it does matter, DC commissioned focus groups in order to test various names. Minx won. So assuming that the name of an imprint/company does matter, I will defer to the teenage girls in the focus group rather than my opinion or the opinion of other adults.”

Oh, well, if the focus group liked it… It’s probably just a personal aversion, but focus-group endorsement actually makes me less enthusiastic about a marketing choice, even though I know a lot of my beloved manga lives or dies on audience feedback. But I’m a geezer. And probably kind of a hypocrite.

(For supplemental reading, check out Jennifer de Guzman’s inaugural column at Comic World News, where she talks about the migration of talent from smaller publishers like Slave Labor to Minx.)

Elsewhere, conversation continues on the great Archie experiment. Johanna Draper Carlson has been doing a fine job of tracking reaction and developments, and ICv2 has a column from comics retailer Steve Bennett on the subject. Bennett makes the (to me) reasonable argument that presenting different versions of iconic characters for specific audiences is a good thing:

“Meaning, this isn’t an either or situation, you can have classic and post-modern versions of characters existing side by side with each other. DC is already selectively practicing this. To appeal to the mainstream super-hero reader there’s the Trial of Shazam Captain Marvel and for everyone else there’s Jeff Smith’s upcoming rendition of the classic incarnation. It’ll probably come as no surprise that I prefer the utter wish fulfillment of the original, but until a lot more kids start coming into Dark Star I can’t ignore the way copies of Trial of Shazam has been flying off our shelves.”