2000AD publisher Rebellion is publishing a Scream! & Misty Hallowe’en Special in October featuring all-new stories based on characters from the hugely-successful girls comic Misty, the short-lived by fondly-remembered Scream! and the equally short-lived boys comic Thunder – but this great news (which we first reported here) is getting snarled up in controversy over its cover design.
Due for release in UK newsagents on 18th October 2017 with simultaneous digital release worldwide, wrapped in a smashing cover by Henry Flint, Pat Mills, co-creator of Misty, among others, has expressed reservations about the decision to make the Misty comic logo smaller than that of Scream.
“It’s fantastic – apart from Misty having a poor relation smaller logo,” he noted in a social media post last month, his partner Lisa raising similar concerns in the same thread.
“That’s a pity. I hope it doesn’t indicate that this is aimed primarily at blokes, the ‘I used to read my sister’s Misty‘ market. Or – worse – what blokes think a female market likes. That market has distinct, sometimes almost arcane rules of its own. Misty had a strong female identity which it would be a shame to lose.”
“It’s obvious from the two Misty collections so far that – whilst Rebellion are to be congratulated on reprinting Misty – they don’t fully understand the female market which is why I say there’s a strong blokey element,” Pat told downthetubes last mnth, “and this is born out by this Scream / Misty (in mini lettering) on the cover. If they don’t know what I mean on the Misty collection I’ll be very happy to explain it to them if they ask me. It’s only minor but important things which any female fans they consulted may not be aware of if they proof read the material. But they’ve never consulted me on this aspect.”
“I’m not patronising them,” he continues, “but there are lessons we learnt on girls comics that they seem blissfully unaware of. Having a line like ‘Girls will be ghouls’ for example. Ugh! That would never have been used on a girls comic in a million years. It’s a blokey line. ”
Responding to concerns, Rebellion’s Keith Richardson commented “Logos aside (at one stage we were just going to put out a Scream! special first), I think that we managed to get a good balance when it comes to the new strips. Some strong female creators have contributed some great stories so I don’t think that it is too blokey.”
In an interview for Hollywood Reporter, which also covers a lot of ground about British comics history, Keith explained the background to the special, which follows Rebellion’s acquisition of many old comic titles and characters from Egmont.
“It was always likely that after buying the old Egmont archive, that we would try and put some new material out,” he says. “We had already under license released a collection of Monster and a Misty book that included the stories ‘Moonchild’ and ‘Four Faces of Eve’. Both sold really well, so it was clear that there was still a lot of love for these old titles out there.
“I thought that Scream! would be the the perfect choice for a Halloween Special, and our publishing manager suggested that we add Misty to the mix. Hopefully the special will please older fans and also catch the eye of a younger demographic who enjoy it so much that they go out and buy the reprint collections — also available digitally, kids!”
Cover Debate on Millsverse
Over the weekend, the cover debate has pretty much exploded over on Pat’s own Facebook “Millsverse” page (here, read this first, and here, continuing debate in other forums) after Pat posted our own Ian Wheeler’s opinion piece supporting Pat’s view.
The discussion ranges over several issues, with some commenting purely on a design basis, others on Pat and Lisa’s feeling that Misty (and girls comics) are being sidelined, with others suggesting solutions to resolve matters – namely, a re-design of the cover so both comics get equal billing, or the elegant solution of a “flip” cover, with Scream! prominent on one and Misty on the other.
One British comics fan – David Hathaway-Price – even quickly created an “alternate” cover that gives both Scream! and Misty equal billing. The quickly-created mock-up prompted some commentators to suggest the comic titles have been billed in the wrong order, so that solution doesn’t seem to please everyone.
“As I understand it, the original intention was for the special to be Scream-themed only, with the decision later taken that some of Misty‘s stories might sit very nicely with the theme,” notes comics creator Jim Campbell in the first thread. “Henry drew the cover to the original brief and, due to nothing more than simple oversight, not enough room was left for both logos when the brief changed.
“However, there is nothing gender specific about title title Scream,” Jim continues.”I believe there’s more Scream-related material than Misty in there; and, crucially, the special is out for Halloween. Which would you give prominence on a comic due out for Halloween?”
“With respect, I think you’re missing the point,” Lisa Mills replied. “And none of what has been said so far, I hope, is a criticism of Henry’s superb cover.
“It’s not about being gender specific: women read Scream, men read Misty. It’s about respecting Misty the comic, as a title in its own right. The demise of British girls’ comics is well-documented, and rightly lamented. Publishers should take great care in what message they present to the public. I don’t believe the title size discrepancy was a deliberate or malicious decision, rather that it reflects the lack of care, the lack of thought, over what is, to a generation of women, a much loved, much missed, comic, that deserves equal billing, if it is to share a platform.”
A Matter of Marketing…?
I don’t want to repeat the every comment in the discussion – go and read the threads over on Facebook. As I noted above, there are several issues in play here: cover design, marketing but, most importantly for many, the whole debate over girls comics (and the very sad lack of them as remembered so fondly by many) on the British news stand.
Going back to Keith Richardson’s explanation for the Special’s release, which of course along the way also reinforces Rebellion’s ownership of the characters and titles, if the title is being aimed at a new market you can definitely see why, as Jim Campbell suggested, Rebellion went with Scream! first, especially given the planned Halloween release date. As another commentator, Paul Banville, notes new, younger readers might not have even heard of Scream! or Misty – so they won’t know about any perceived inequality.
“Misty isn’t subtitled ‘Spooky stories for girls,’ just as Scream! isn’t subtitled as being for boys,” he says of the cover.
“Or is the target audience largely people in their forties who may have fond memories of these comics?
“The cover stated that this comic contains All-New Stories so it isn’t a collection of reprints for readers from the 1980’s. For new readers it simply doesn’t make sense to have the two titles the same size. Once you do that, the cover’s impact is lessened… Personally, I would have gone with one title or the other and not had both.
“As neither comic has been published for over thirty years, either title would do… I doubt anyone aged about 11 has heard of them.”
— Or an Audience Missed?
On the surface, leading with Scream! to reach a new audience, particularly with an October launch, seems logical. It could be also be seen as a neutral title in view of its more modern association with modern horror films. But equally, the perception that this Special might be sidelining Misty could alienate both that comics’s original female fans – and miss the chance to grab many new female comic readers who may be unfamiliar with the the 1970s and 80s weekly comic.
I do feel Misty itself deserves more recognition as one of Britain’s most successful girls comics and I understand why Pat and and Lisa feel the title is being marginalised, and, currently, the cover design fails to satisfy, even if it ticks many boxes in terms of bringing some great new comic stories to, potentially, a new comics audience.
But by reducing Misty‘s prominence, does it tackle all the right boxes? If we’re talking new audiences, then what bigger new audience could you have than female comic readers?
Over on LicensingBiz, Omar Khan, licensing special projects manager at Forbidden Planet recently praised the BBC for casting a female actress to play the new Doctor in Doctor Who, and the feature is well worth reading, not simply because what’s said supports the casting but the simple truth, for publishers, that women as a market should not be sidelined.
“It’s a myth to think that sci-fi /fantasy/superhero brands are dominated by male consumers,” says Omar. “Female fans have always made up considerable portions of the overall demographic – and recently, there has been a surge in female characters being pushed to the forefront to meet fan demands for equal representation.
“Take the phenomenal success of Wonder Woman merchandise. Over 2017, products featuring her have performed exceptionally well, spiking around the release of the movie, with sales on our apparel and giftware lines up by over 300 per cent. Similarly, when the anarchic anti-heroine Harley Quinn was introduced to mainstream audiences in DC/Warner Bros.’ Suicide Squad, sales of merchandise focused around her went through the roof.
“But is that surprising, when 46 per cent of comic book readers are women and girls?”
I’m very aware that there are many comic readers out there who might simply dismiss this debate as a storm in a teacup. They shouldn’t. It’s shining a spotlight not only on a great new project from Rebellion but some huge possibilities with their back catalogue that should not and must not be overlooked – or marginalised.
I’m sure that however the new stories from Misty and Scream! are presented, there will be plenty of downthetubes readers who will buy this Special. Let’s hope, though, that every effort is made to encourage new readers and that a whole sector isn’t put off a purchase as Pat and Lisa fear.
Perhaps, then, a “flip cover” might be the best solution, although getting most WHSmith to rack it properly (and where they might position it) is of course a huge can of worms in itself.
Then again, there is another solution, first suggested by Darth Lebowski over on Twitter, which plays wonderfully, I think, on the origins of the Misty title in the first place…
• You can pre-order the Scream! Misty Hallowe’en Special through your local comic shop using the Diamond PREVIEWS code AUG171919. Online, stores such as Forbidden Planet will offer the title (using this link to search for it helps support downthetubes). The special will be on sale in UK newsagents and has a cover price of £3.99, with an on sale date of 18th October 2017 with simultaneous digital release worldwide, on shelves until 13th December. It will be on sale in US comic shops from 1st November.
Scream! & Misty Hallowe’en Special: The Stories
- Max the crazy computer makes a welcome return in “The Thirteenth Floor” by Guy Adams, John Stokes and Frazer Irving
- The fangs are out in “The Dracula File” by Grainne McEntee and Tristan Jones
- Weirdos, warriors and weasels plucked from the pages of various 70s and 80s British comics congregate in “Death-Man: The Gathering” by Henry Flint
- Kek-W and Simon Coleby collaborate on “Black Max” (actually a character who first appeared in another short-lived comic, Thunder), the German World War One fighter pilot that’s descended from a race of bat-people
- The high-rise horrors of Birdwood are back in “Return of the Sentinels” by Hannah Berry and Ben Willsher
- Fairies can be frightening in “Fate of the Fairy Hunter” by Alec Worley and DaNi
For ordering information (Previews code AUG171919) from your local comic shop, check out this page on the Diamond PREVIEWS web site.
• Buy Monster from amazon.co.uk (using this link helps support downthetubes, thank you)
• Buy Misty Volume One from amazon.co.uk (using this link helps support downthetubes, thank you)
• Buy Misty Volume Two – to be released November 2017 – from amazon.co.uk (using this link helps support downthetubes, thank you)
• Buy Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave!: 2000AD & Judge Dredd: The Secret History by Pat Mills (using this link helps support downthetubes, thank you)