Interview: Women of BOOM! – Jasmine Amiri

Jasmine AmiriIt’s the fourth week of our “Women of BOOM!” feature, spotlighting the many kick-ass women that work at BOOM!, Archaia and KaBOOM! We’re focusing on everyone, editors, designers, writers, artists, you name it! We’re making sure to include the hard-working folks whose contributions are often overlooked in the process.

BOOM! (and KaBOOM! and Archaia) has given us unprecedented access and the chance to ask questions to their staff, and creative teams, to find out why the publisher is so successful in hiring women and their experiences in the comic industry as women.

Up this week is Assistant Editor Jasmine Amiri.

Graphic Policy: How did you get involved in the comic book industry?

Jasmine Amiri: It kind of happened organically. I went to school for film and realized half way through that the film industry would have sucked my soul dry. Comics was something that I had always flirted with, but never thought I would pursue, like a pipe dream of sorts. I applied for my college internship at BOOM! not thinking anything would really happen. Well, something happened. I landed the internship and quickly realized that the comics industry was a special place where creativity could thrive and there was no room for jaded, vacant personalities and people were actually happy. I saw myself being happy in comics. It was exactly what I’d been looking for my whole life.

GP: Did you read comics growing up? Do you read them now?

JA: It was a bit harder for me to get ahold of comics growing up since there wasn’t a local comic book store in my home town. I’d have to wait for trades or for a weekend when my parents needed to drive into the city. Once I got to college, there was a comic book store across the street.  I started to get back into reading them and basically went nuts from there. I was reading literally everything I could get my hands on and it’s been history since then.

GP: How did you come to work with BOOM!/Archaia?

JA: I started off as an intern. As my internship was about to end, the folks at BOOM! asked me if I could stay on as a temp to cover for one of the operations staff members who was going on maternity leave for a month.  Towards the end of the temp job, I approached Bryce Carlson about possibilities of getting into editorial. At the time, they had just hired someone and had no available positions, but he knew of other positions in the accounting/operations area. I agreed as long as there was room to eventually move into my dream editorial job. From there, I worked for a year in Operations under Phil Barbaro (who is
the raddest boss ever), and I was actually pretty good at it. After a year, a position opened in editorial and I approached Matt Gagnon about it. He was sort of caught off guard, but the great thing about Matt is that he honestly looks out for his employees and if you approach him about something you’re serious about, he’ll take it seriously as well. A month later, Matt pulled me into his office and offered me a position as an assistant editor. Here’s the catch—the operations team had offered me a management role at the same time as well.  I chose to stick to my guns and start from the bottom in editorial and it’s been a Cinderella dream come true.

GP: For people who want to pursue a career in what you do, what advice would you give them?

JA: Never give up. Never surrender.

GP: Do you think women have a more difficult time breaking in and making it in the comic industry, if so why? And if yes, how do you think that can be overcome?

JA: All of my experiences with breaking in and making it in this industry have been with BOOM! Studios, which is the least sexist environment I’ve ever been in professionally. So, from what I’ve experienced, it’s been about the same to break in as a woman. The only advice I’d give is this: if you feel that your sex is a factor AT ALL in a company’s decision making, you should get the hell out of there. Fast. No one needs that drama and your talent will be better appreciated in an environment where you don’t have to constantly prove that you’re capable because of such a minor factor.

GP: We notice that when it comes to women in the comic industry, BOOM!/Archaia has a lot of diversity present. Why do you think have they succeeded when so many other publishers struggle with this?

JA: I can’t speak for other publishers, but I can speak for what I’ve experienced here at BOOM! The people in decision making positions at this company don’t look at you as a woman or a man. It’s just not a factor. The only thing that matters here is being good at your job. It’s clear in every facet of their management. I can go into Bryce’s office and talk about baseball or punk rock or whatever and he’ll treat me like he would any dude. I mean, Ross and I used to literally check in with each other every day to compare quest notes in Skyrim. I’ve been in work environments where people would be shocked if I name dropped Half Life 2 which is just plain ridiculous. It’s just not a thing in the BOOM! world.

GP: We’ve heard horror stories concerning women in the industry, have you ever seen or been discriminated/harassed and if so, how did you handle it?

JA: Unfortunately, this is something that is a reality. I’ve been at the booth selling comics and people will walk up assuming I don’t know basic comic industry terms like “CGC.” And being hit on is sometimes a problem at cons. It happens. People forget that it’s supposed to be a professional environment and look at it more like a big party. There’s a line between having a good time, and being a super creep. When I politely decline your offer to buy me a drink, please be a gentleman. Do not continue to push the drink on me seven more times.

That being said, I’ve heard of similar things happening to guys at the company and the roles being reversed. So, I’m not entirely sure if it’s a sex issue so much as it’s the environment a convention can create.

GP: What advice do you have for women looking to break into the comic book industry?

JA: The same advice I’d give to anyone looking to break into the industry. Become great at what you do, get out there, and flaunt it. Also, get down with your bad self.