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As BF reported late last year, DC Comics is launching a new line of graphic novels intended for adolescent girls.  Under its new Minx imprint, DC becomes the first among the traditional US comics publishers to reach out specifically to a young female readership.  The first Minx title, scheduled for release in May, is The P.L.A.I.N. Janes by novelist Cecil Castellucci (Boy Proof, The Queen of Cool), art by Jim Rugg.  Despite a wrist broken in a hockey game, Castellucci sat down with Broken Frontier and shared some of her beguiling charm.  Oh, and a peek inside The P.L.A.I.N. Janes, too!

BROKEN FRONTIER:  Tell us what The P.L.A.I.N. Janes is about.

CECIL CASTELLUCCI:  It's about a girl named Jane who after a terrible incident involving a terrorist bombing, is moved from the city to a town because her parents are afraid and feel it will be safer there.  Having found a sketchbook at the scene, she decides to reinvent herself as an artist and in her new school, rather than try to be popular, goes straight to the most interesting girls in school - three other girls named Jane.

BF:  How do you approach representing the bodies of teenage girls?  Is everyone really attractive?  Or are they "plain"?  Is there a variety of looks?

CC:  For me it was very important that the girls were different looking and by no means perfect in a magazine kind of way.  The four Janes come in different sizes and shapes and looks.  Plain is such a weird thing, because what is plain?  It's totally subjective!  Beauty is within the eye of the beholder, and I am of the opinion that there is a rare beauty in everyone.   That said, Main Jane is average.  Theater Jane is a larger girl.  Polly "sporty" Jane is a beanpole with Frida Kahlo eyebrows.  Brain Jane covers her chest with books.

BF:  What about fashion?  I was an intentional outsider in high school, but even in my crowd of outsiders, we still had fashion trends.  Are your girls trend-setters?

CC:  I agree with you!  All groups have fashion trends.  All the Janes are in different groups, so they march to the beat of their own fashion drum and don't have, like, one group style.   They are more trend setters in their actions, not their clothing.  Like that art, sports, science and theater are cool.

BF:  Do you address questions of sexuality and intimacy?  If so, how?

CC:  Well, there is a gay character who is in the queer club at school.  Also, there are boys that the Janes have crushes on.  And there is some smooching.  But it's a pretty chaste book, if that's what you mean.

BF:  I guess several different generations of American teens have had to deal with fear, whether it be atomic bombs or terrorism, or other teens.  Do your characters feel that the threat of terrorism is imminent, or is it a kind of abstract fear?  Are they angry as well as afraid, and do they feel responsible for mounting a political response? 

CC:  Since Main Jane is dealing with the aftermath of being a victim of a terrorist attack, she absolutely feels the fear of it on a daily basis.  Her parents move her away from their home in Metro City out of fear and Main Jane changes who she is, fundamentally, because of her experience.  P.L.A.I.N. is a direct response to her trying to make something beautiful in an ugly world.

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BF:  Do you have teenaged relatives or friends who help you with the stories?

CC:  There are some teenagers that I know that I have called upon as like my Scooby squad with the young set.  Also, I am pretty young at heart.  I would call myself an Adultescent.

BF:  Can we look forward to more comic books from you, and other YA writers?

CC:  I absolutely want to write more comic books and Graphic Novels.  I love it!  And yes, I expect that a lot of YA authors will be writing in this form.  For example, Holly Black (Tithe, Spiderwick Chronicles) has a Graphic Novel called The Good Neighbors (Graphix /Scholastic) and Shannon Hale (The Princess Academy, The Goose Girl) has one upcoming called Rapunzel's Revenge (Bloomsbury) that I'm looking forward to reading.

BF:  Do you feel that you're offering guidance to your readers on how to handle life in a fearful nation?  If so, what kind of experience do you draw on?

CC:  I suppose what I am saying is that there is a rare beauty in the world, even if things are scary, and that you can make it and look out for it.  I don't know that that is guidance, per se, but I certainly think it is true.  I try to see the good in everyone and the good everywhere.  And I really mean that: everyone and everywhere.

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The P.L.A.I.N. Janes, written by Cecil Castellucci, art and cover by Jim Rugg, hits stores on May 16.

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