Since Janelle Asselin’s announcement earlier this month that she was stepping down as Senior Editor of Comics Alliance to make Rosy Press her main focus, Women Write About Comics were eager to talk to her about her career in comics, Fresh Romance, and, of course, cats!
How did you get your start in the comics industry? Was it something you had always wanted to do?
It actually took a while for me to figure out what I wanted to do. I feel like there’s a lot of pressure when you’re in high school and going into college to know what you want to do for The Rest Of Your Life. It doesn’t help that usually when you’re that age, you think you know everything about everything. So when I first went to college as a naive 17-year-old, I thought I had it all worked out–I was going to be a Journalism major and then I could work for a newspaper while I wrote fiction on the side. I didn’t do well in college at first, which I try to be really honest about because it’s not fair for kids to think that everyone goes to college and excels. I’d built up this idea in my head that I was smarter than everyone so college would be easy. I partied a lot and eventually dropped out in part because I was depressed. It was after that that I picked up comics again for the first time since I was 11.
At first, comics were just a great escape for me–I got back into the X-Men and Spider-Man and started picking up manga for the first time. I went to cosmetology school for a while because I thought that was what I wanted to do with my life. And that was horrible (for me, not for everyone), so I left that and started planning my return to a traditional university to study English Language and Literature.
It was as I was planning on going back to school that a friend gave me a novel where the lead is an editor in New York and I was blown away–I’d never really thought about editing as a profession, you know? And it was only a matter of weeks between “I could be an editor!” and “COMIC BOOKS HAVE EDITORS!” From there, I basically decided to do whatever I had to in order to break into comics. I went back to college, I worked in a comic shop, I wrote reviews for Newsarama… I took every opportunity to learn more about the industry. I even met the editor in charge of my favorite comics, Mike Marts, at a convention, and he was amazingly nice in giving me advice about how to become an editor. A few years later, I decided to move to New York to try to break in with Marvel or DC, and that editor was at DC. He hired me to be his assistant editor and the rest is history.
And now you’ve gone on to work in publishing with creating Rosy Press. Did you always intend to work in publishing or was that transition a more spontaneous choice?
Well, as soon as I started working as an editor, I felt like I’d found my calling. There’s always a worry when you get a job you’ve wanted for years that you’ll get there and either be terrible at it or you’ll hate it. Instead, I adored it. I still adore it. But I’ve always been very ambitious and impatient, so I basically immediately started thinking about the steps beyond being an assistant editor. That’s why I started my Masters in Publishing in January 2010, right after I finished my undergrad degree (and while I was an assistant editor at DC). I got laughed at by some people because they felt it was unnecessary, but I wanted to understand not just comics, but publishing in general. I wanted to know how other publishers operated beyond comics, because I felt that was important to growing the comics industry. While was getting my grad degree, I realized that a lot of what I was writing about for school and thinking about in regards to comics wouldn’t be possible in the regime of comics publishers that already existed. That degree also helped me to make the jump from associate editor at DC to magazine editor at Disney despite only a few years of experience as an editor and no experience in a traditional publishing environment. The move to Disney was very calculated as a way for me to learn even more about the world beyond comics–but by the time I started at Disney in the fall of 2011, I knew that my end goal was starting my own comics publishing company. I’ve worked on the plan ever since.
That’s awesome! It must have been very rewarding to see such a great response to Fresh Romance when you launched it via Kickstarter.
It was unbelievable. I was terrified to go live with the Kickstarter–I basically published the campaign, tweeted it out, and ran in to shout at my husband “IT’S LIVE AND NO ONE WILL DONATE ANY MONEY AHHHHHHH” Instead, of course, people were amazingly supportive and wonderful.
In the third issue of Fresh Romance, you talk about pets and your love of your cats. Are we going to see any cat romance in the future?
Hahaha–maybe! I’m open to cat-related pitches! I’ve always wanted to find a way to combine my loves of cats and comics.
And issue four dropped not that long ago–yesterday, right? And it was the first time things got a little steamy. What made you decide to gear Fresh Romance towards a more adult crowd instead of keeping it, say, PG-13?
Yes, #4 came out yesterday, and at long last we got some nudity! Haha.
I read a lot of romance novels, and one of the things that appeals to me about them is the way they show sex as part of love and romance. I didn’t want to do romance comics if they were going to be just like the ones from the 50s and 60s, as I didn’t think a modern audience would be all that interested. At the same time, I didn’t want to do full-on erotica, as I think stuff like Smut Peddler already does that really well. I felt like going with a 17+ audience let each creator do what they wanted in terms of sex. Some of our writers want their stories to culminate in a romantic kiss and others want to show a full sex scene. 17+ versus PG-13 means that we can do that without any real restraints, while also not dealing with the stigma that stuff for Mature Readers sometimes gets.
I think that’s terrific! Is there anything else that Rosy Press has in store for us in the future?
Lots of things!
Most of our current stories are wrapping up either their first arc or their entire story in issues 5 and 6, which means we have a bunch of new stuff coming up! I showed a sneak peek yesterday of the story that Marguerite Bennett is writing and Trungles is drawing–it’s a sort of twist on the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, but sassy and sexy as to be expected from the creative team. That story starts in issue 6 and I’m often drooling over the art as it comes in. In issue 7 we have the story from Jen Van Meter, Kyle Latino, and Marissa Louise starting, and it’s just so darn cute. It’s about a D&D group where one of the members is in love with the DM of the game. I’m not a tabletop RPGer, but I absolutely adore the way they’re telling the story. The romance is played out both in the game world and in real life, which adds heightened romance AND twists on gender expectations too. And our other new story that starts in issue 7 is a silent love story at a carnival by Marcy Cook and Maya Kern that is sweet and fun and bouncy in a way I really, really enjoy.
Finally, what advice would you give to anyone looking to come into the comics industry as an editor?
The main advice I’d give is to be sure you want to be an editor. If you want to be a comics writer or artist or letterer or colorist, concentrate on that. Being an editor isn’t a back door to the thing you really want to do–if you try to go about it that way, you don’t necessarily have a better chance of breaking in AND you risk alienating the creators you work with as an editor. But being an editor is awesome–it takes a combination of an analytical, businesslike mind and a creative mind to really do the job well, because you have to balance things like getting people paid and keeping things on schedule with giving story and art notes. It’s perfect for someone like me who loves books and comics but doesn’t necessarily want to be the one executing the ideas.