Janelle Asselin on Making a Modern Romance Anthology

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Fresh Romance Issue 1 Cover by Kevin Wada
Fresh Romance Issue 1 Cover by Kevin Wada

Romance comics were a massive part of the comics industry for decades, before mainstream interest shifted to superheroes. While romance never really went away, it did become marginalized. Now, editor Janelle Asselin is preparing to revitalize the genre through Fresh Romance, a monthly, digital romance comics anthology designed to showcase all types of relationships. In other words, it's a modern anthology for modern times. We spoke to Asselin about the creation of Fresh Romance and her publishing company Rosy Press.

Can you talk about the genesis of the project? Why did you decide to do it?

I’ve wanted to do this for years now — maybe not specifically romance comics, but certainly to have my own comics company and to publish accessible and interesting comics. Rosy Press and Fresh Romance happened because I wanted to offer something I didn’t see enough of in the comics industry. Starting with an ongoing anthology offered me a way to publish something regularly but also feature a wide variety of creators and stories.

You're working in two notoriously difficult subsections of comics here: romance comics and anthologies. Was this something you were aware of when you started?

I certainly knew that romance comics might be a hard sell, but I’ve done anthologies before when I was at DC and I generally feel that people enjoy them. It’s all about having the right mix of talent between up-and-coming folks and more well-known creators to draw in a lot of different eyes. It helps that this is not even close to my first comics project — I’ve been doing this for years and I know how to put a high-quality project together.

Character designs by Arielle Jovellanos
Character designs by Arielle Jovellanos

What goes into putting together an anthology? Especially one with such a specific angle?

The most challenging part is finding the talent and getting all the teams established and then letting them run with their stories. Plus, of course, keeping everyone on schedule. But I had to find people with the right sensibilities to tell a romance story. Not everyone is interested in or capable of doing romance right, and so a lot of my lead up time was working with the creators I was interested in. I think we ended up with a great mix of creators and stories, but balancing it was also part of the challenge. The draw of the anthology is that you can serve multiple audiences at once, but that means working on getting a variety of stories that are different but not too tonally jarring.

Were you looking at older romance anthologies for inspiration?

Classic romance comics usually had multiple stories in each issue, and that was certainly an inspiration, as were the manga magazines in Japan where stories are serialized before being collected. Really, Fresh Romance is a bit of a hybrid of the two.

Character designs by Sarah Winifred Searle
Character designs by Sarah Winifred Searle

It seems like you saw a hole in the genre and are looking to update it with a much more modern sensibility. Could you talk a little bit about that?

The hole I saw was really in the comics medium in America — there were barely any romance stories being told. Yet at one point the comics industry supported many romance comics all at once, and I think that could happen again. Still, it was important to me to not just rehash all the same romance tropes from the ’50s and ’60s and instead bring the romance genre in comics into the present.

Putting together an anthology is ambitious, but doing it monthly is even more ambitious. What's your goal with this project?

I mean, my goal is really to just keep doing Fresh Romance for as long as possible and continue putting out really fun, entertaining romance comics. The higher the Kickstarter goes, the easier that becomes.

    1. Lori Perkins on

      Would like to discuss working with you. Please email me lori@riverdaleavebooks.com

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