Propaganda – My Name is Jane
This is Propaganda, I’m Richard Bruton and this is what I’ve been reading lately:
The Plain Janes
Written by Cecil Castellucci
Art by Jim Rugg
This was the first book in DC’s new Minx line and if this is anything to judge the series by I think the whole thing should be a huge success. First impressions are great, since it looks and feels just like an Oni Press book with its digest size. The black and white, simple yet effectively expressive artwork is lovely and easy to browse through and the overall feeling of the book has a completely different style to it than the majority of DC’s output (of course, DC has tried all this before. Remember Piranha Press? Very worthy, but doomed to failure – something I really hope we’re not saying about Minx in a few years time).
Minx is DC’s outreach to new readers – particularly teens and more particularly teen girls. Whether they’ll put down the manga to pick up this remains to be seen, but speaking as someone completely off the demographic they’re trying to get I thought the book was really, really good.
The Plain Janes starts with our Main Jane in Metro City with friends, popularity, good hair and a very nice teenage life. But a bomb puts her in hospital, makes her parents fearful of living in the city and results in a move hundreds of miles away to the flatlands of American suburbia. Jane thinks her life just ended and just doesn’t feel like she fits in with her old crowd anymore, but she finds unlikely salvation sitting at the geek table in the lunchroom and all three of her newfound friends are called Jane.
(page from the Plain Janes, art by Jim Rugg, (C) DC)
Together the four Janes, guided by Main Jane, decide to form the PLAIN Janes. That’s P.L.A.I.N. Janes (People Loving Art In Neighbourhoods). The Plain Janes is their own secret club, with the Janes going out under cover of darkness to spread a little bit of art (and a little bit of life) through this tired little town. Their first act; pyramids made from rubble on a building site. (The Pyramids lasted thousands of years. Do You Think This Strip Mall Will? Art Saves. Think Big. Think P.L.A.I.N.) Following on from this the stunts get better and better; washing up liquid in the fountain, a mountain of cuddly toys outside the animal shelter, gift-wrapping street furniture, a gnome garden in the Police Department front lawn and hats and scarves over parking meters across the town for winter nights.
But eventually things get difficult, as this small town starts to feel threatened as the level of the Art Attacks escalates (with a definite emphasis on Attack in some people’s minds). The police get involved, questions are asked, curfews imposed, after school activities suspended, while a town’s youth is left wondering what all the fuss is about. By the time of the climax on New Year’s Eve the Plain Janes are planning to see in the New Year in a style that may just see them ending up in jail.
If some of this sounds familiar it’s because it is. Substitute loner boy for Main Jane and Radio for Art Attacks and you’re dangerously close to the plot of Pump up the Volume, a movie from 1990 starring a very young Christian Slater. But the movie had a certain style and a nice feel of teenage rebellion going for it and so does the Plain Janes, so we’ll forgive them the similarities; after all, there are only so many stories to go round. Where Plain Janes scores big is in its nicely realised characters. Okay, they may be nicely realised in a fairly stereotyped way, but that’s okay as well since debut writer Cecil Castellucci delivers a lovely story for her characters to play in.
(panel from DC’s Minx title the Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci, art by Jim Rugg, (C) DC)
Jim Rugg’s artwork is perfect for the piece as well. It’s nice, simple and uncluttered; something very important in digest books with less page space to mess around in. Each character is recognisable, distinct and each panel’s art works perfectly to guide you along the drama with practically perfect pacing.
Plain Janes is hugely enjoyable and lots of fun, and as an example of comics outreach I’m really hoping it’s working, because it’s finally nice to see DC looking beyond their current readership and trying to attract new readers. Cross your fingers and hope we’re talking about Minx as a great success in a few years and how good their first book, the delightful Plain Janes, was. Even better than that, go get your own copy now and share it about. You’re bound to know someone not reading comics in your life. This might convince them to give us a try.