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Fresh Romance Launches as a Webcomic!

fresh-romanceEmet Comics LOVE webcomics! The company has launched a new website with the goal of bringing you new, exciting, and diverse webcomic content. In January 2016 they launched their first webcomic, Finding Molly: An Adventure in Catsitting. You can read their latest webcomic, Zanaon their website or on Webtoons! At the end of November, the publisher announced it had acquired Rosy Press and would now be publishing Fresh Romance.

So, are there plans for a Fresh Romance webcomic?

Fresh Romance will be an ongoing webcomic, meaning they plan to keep it going FOREVER! Their vision for Fresh Romance is that it will be a mix of original content that they create and redistributed content from beloved creators around the world. They want the Fresh Romance tumblr to showcase the best of romance comics. And the aim is to offer inclusive and diverse stories that delight new and existing “Fresh Romance” readers!

fresh-romanceWhat will happen to the single issues of Fresh Romance?

The publisher is moving away from single issues to bring content you love both on the web and in printed volumes. This way, fans can read free webcomics online and they can focus on creating and delivering the stories you love.

For those who have purchased a 1-year subscription, they will receive a free digital version of Fresh Romance Volume 2 once it is complete!

Already existing stories from Fresh Romance Volume 1 released as a webcomic will introduce new readers to the Fresh Romance library and help build the audience later resulting in better sales down the road.

And volume 2 is coming! Emet Comics will be picking up right where Rosy Press and the creators left off and will be spending the coming year developing and completing new Fresh Romance stories!

We’ve got more details coming in an interview with Emet Comics publisher Maytal Gilboa.

Emet Comics Takes on Fresh Romance

fresh-romanceIn October we brought the unfortunate news that Rosy Press would be closing indefinitely which means no more Fresh Romance, a fresh and groundbreaking comic anthology. Not only was I bummed about the news, but I was also hopeful some publisher would be smart enough to pick up the ball and run with it. And that looks like it’s going to be the case.

Out of the blue, Emet Comics emailed supporters of Fresh Romance with the news they’d be taking over the comic series.

Emet Comics Publisher Maytal Gilboa wrote:

Dear Fresh Romance readers,

For many of you, this may be the first time you’re receiving an email from me. I’m Maytal Gilboa, the Publisher at Emet Comics, a Los Angeles based comic book company focused on bringing more diversity to comics, film, and TV. Like Janelle and Rosy Press, we opened our doors two years ago and have been working to empower women and minorities by giving them a place to tell their stories.

When Rosy Press announced that it was closing its doors, we thought we might be able to help. As fans of the series and what it represents, we were sad at the prospect of Fresh Romance being cancelled. With Janelle’s blessing, we’ll begin working on volume 2 of Fresh Romance in 2017. We hope to bring you a bunch of great new stories and to continue some you already know and love. We’re incredibly excited about the talented creators that will be bringing those comics to life.

As we make this transition, here are a few things you can do immediately to help us improve your Fresh Romance experience.

  1. Download all your comics. We will be taking down the Rosy Press site, so please make sure to download any comic books you may have stored on the site this week.
  2. Add Emet Comics to your social media feed. If you’ve been relying on Rosy Press or Fresh Romance social media accounts for news and information, please switch over to Emet Comics accounts. Starting next week, all news will be shared through the Emet Comics Facebook pageTwitter account, and website.
  3. Let us know if we owe you something. If you are owed anything from us, let us know. Email office@emetcomics.com and we will resolve the issue as soon as possible.
  4. Resubmit your submissions. If you have submitted your own Fresh Romance ideas and projects to Janelle in the past, please resubmit them to office@emetcomics.com, making sure to include the full names of each member of your creative team, your phone number, and the scope of the story. Over the coming weeks, we will be evaluating submissions for Fresh Romance Volume 2.

In the coming days, we will be releasing more news about the future of Fresh Romance. In the meantime, I have enclosed a free PDF of our title, [removed because it was a free thing for email subscribers], for you to enjoy.

If for some reason, you do not wish to receive emails from us, don’t fret! Just click the unsubscribe button below.

To everyone else – Welcome to our family! We hope you’ll support our mission to bring you and the rest of the world more diverse and inclusive comics! We’re excited for this new chapter at Emet.

If you need to get in touch with us for any reason, please email us at office@emetcomics.com.

Sincerely,

Maytal Gilboa
Publisher, Emet Comics

And with that, a little squee was let out. It’s unclear exactly what this will mean for what has already published, but it’s great to see a publisher step up and run with what is a unique comic story collection. We’ve reached out to Emet Comics for further details.

Rosy Press is Closing Indefinitely

fresh-romance-vol-1-exclIn a post on Patreon, Janelle Asselin, founder of Rosy Press announced that she was closing the comics publisher “indefinitely.” It’s best to read what she says in her own words as to the reasons why.

The publisher burst onto the comics scene with a Kickstarter that raised over $50,000 from close to 1,500 backers. The digital comics have been collected in a print copy that debuted this year and is being published by Oni Press.

The comics released featured an impressive amount of talent including Kate Leth, Arielle Jovellanos, Amanda Scurti, Sarah Vaughn, Sarah Winifred Searle, Sarah Kuhn, Sally Jane Thompson, Savanna Ganucheau, Marguerite Bennett, Marcy Cook, Maya Kern, Jen Van Meter, Kyle Latino, Marissa Louise, Spike Trotman, and so many more. It filled the wide gap of romance comics that isn’t currently being filled by any major publisher. Not to mention it’s openness and championing of LGBTQ+ stories.

When it comes to what that means for what’s still waiting to be published, Asselin wrote:

Rosy Press is going to be shuttered indefinitely, with further conversations to be had with individual creative teams about what this means for their stories. I’ll do my best to make sure those stories all see the light of day, because I strongly believe in the creators I’ve worked with and I strongly believe in the work they’ve done. This is a personal decision, absolutely, but it’s also a financial one. The truth is that it’s become impossible to move forward with Rosy Press financially with digital sales where they are. I could do another Kickstarter to try to sustain a few more months at least, but my health couldn’t withstand the stress of that on top of trying to pay my personal bills with a full-time job. The print edition did great, and Oni will continue to offer it. 

She is still working on delivering Kickstarter awards a process so many describe as draining.

It’s an absolute loss as the company had been nominated for numerous awards in the short time it has existed. I know I’m bummed about it and wish Asselin the best in her next endeavours.

Preview: Fresh Romance Vol. 1

FRESH ROMANCE VOL. 1

(W) Kate Leth, Sarah Vaughn, Sarah Kuhn, Marguerite Bennett, Kieron Gillen
(A/C) Arielle Jovellanos with Amanda Scurti, Sarah Winifred Searle, Sally Jane Thompson with Savanna Ganucheau, Trungles, Christine Norrie
(CA) Marguerite Sauvage (Retail cover), Babs Tarr (Oni Press Exclusive variant)
AGE RANGE: 18 and up
GENRE: Romance
PRICE: $24.99
224 PAGES

The critically-acclaimed anthology Fresh Romance is finally available in print! Have you been wondering what the fuss is all about? Fresh Romance is an exciting collection of romance comics from some of comics’ most talented creators, including Kate Leth, Arielle Jovellanos, Sarah Vaughn, Sarah Winifred Searle, Sarah Kuhn, Marguerite Bennett, and Trungles. From unhappy historical marriages to covert teenage romances, there’s something for everyone in Fresh Romance.

FRESHRV1-MARKETING_Preview-1

Brett’s Best Comics of 2015

It’s the first day of a new year and so that means I’m posting my “best of” listing of the top comic books for 2015. Generally these are comic books that came out in 2015, though some are from earlier times and I got around to reading them, or limited series that continued. Keep in mind, this is what I have read (and does not reflect what other contributors to this site might think). If it’s not on here, I just might not have read it.

This was a particularly tough year of choices with some categories easily having their own top ten or twenty-five. Check out below what made the cut!

Best Super Hero Comic – Captain Canuck

Captain.Canuck 1 cover2015 continued the diversification of the comic industry and we saw an explosion of new comic characters and series that looked a lot more like us, the readers. But, for all of that, many of those series brought with them over the top violence or were aimed at specific audiences. That’s why Chapter House Comics‘ relaunch of Captain Canuck was such a fresh series and hero in 2015.

The comic series and character seem to embody Canadian ideals well and the series is a perfect example of a superhero series that can be enjoyed by both adults and kids alike.

Within its pages, there’s action and fighting, but what’s shown isn’t over the top, taking on a more PG/PG-13 tone compared to a lot of what else is out there. The series also celebrates the diversity that is Canada with characters from numerous backgrounds, including First Nations, and regularly uses French (without translation) to great affect. Plus that design is badass.

Each issue also gives you two-for-one, with a back-up story of equally high quality and fun. A retro tale of a Captain Canuck of the past, I’ve enjoyed these stories so much, I’m hoping Chapter House spins them out in to their own sister series or a regular anthology.

This is a series where the hero is one who not only wants to stop the bad guy, but also won’t put innocents at risk and go out of his way to protect them. Add on to the fact that he’s surrounded by a diverse cast, with actual depth, and we have a comic that can be enjoyed by all. This is a series to watch in 2016.

Runners Up:

  • COPRA – There’s some arguments to be made that Michel Fiffe‘s indie series about a group of raftag characters should be the top pick, and there was long thought about if it should, it’s that good. Out of all of the series I read this year, this is one that delivered with every single issue. This is a comic that shows that superheroes aren’t the domain of just two companies anymore.
  • Midnighter – Writer Steve Orlando‘s series has gotten me interested in a character I seriously had little interest in before. He’s take a one note character and added tons of depth showing that superheroes can be more than just punching.
  • The Omega Men – Writer Tom King took this ragtag group of characters and has given us a maxiseries that explores revolution/terrorism in so many ways. This is one to read once collected if you haven’t started yet.
  • Plutona – Is it a superhero comic? So far I’d say yes. Jeff Lemire is a master writer and Emi Lenox‘s art is fantastic. This is basically Stand By Me with superheroes and it’s a series that I want to see what happens next. With just a few issues so far, it has completely sucked me in.

 

Best Non-Super Hero Comic – Southern Bastards

southern bastardsWelcome to Craw County, Alabama, home of Boss BBQ, the state champion Runnin’ Rebs football team…and more bastards than you’ve ever seen.

Jason Aaron and Jason Latour have created a Southern gothic noir series that once you think you’ve got it down, pulls the rug right out from under you.

This series was my top pick last year, and it has continued to show with each issue why it deserves to continue to be so praised. Each volume has given us a new twist and new perspective on the greater world they’ve put together and Aaron and Latour aren’t afraid to bring the violence and make us wince.

It’s a brilliant exploration of the Southern community, especially its focus on sports and football. This is one of my first reads with each issue that comes out, and I have never known where it was going next. An original in every way.

Runners Ups:

  • Archie – I care about an Archie comic!? Archie took a gutsy chance and reworked their entire line. While it has failed with two other relaunches this year, this series (as well as Jughead) has been a standout for it’s new take on the classic character.
  • Bitch Planet- The series continues to explore tough topics and continues to entertain while doing so. This is a comic with a message, and it pulls it off with every single issue.
  • Descender- Jeff Lemire makes it on the list again, but this time with art by Dustin Nguyen. This sci-fi series is so hard to describe revolving around an android that looks like a little boy. Every issue is a treat to read, and Nguyen’s art helps with beautiful visuals.
  • Fresh Romance – Romance comics are dead! Who’d read them?! Well Janelle Asselin (a some times contributor to this site) proved folks wrong Kickstarting this line of comics that’s a romance anthology. Every issue has delivered with fantastic stories and extras like advice columns. Expect this series to be copied (poorly) in 2016.

 

Best Limited Series or One Shot – Secret Wars: Secret Love

secret wars secret love 1 coverMarvel’s Secret Wars as a whole was an event that started off strong and then sputtered along the way. However it did give us at least one highlight, and that’s Secret Wars: Secret Love.

Four stories that vary in tone and look, this comic is a spotlight on so many creators that should have been at the forefront of the All-New, All-Different Marvel.

Secret Wars: Secret Love was so good, with so many varied talented creators, it was a reminder how much Marvel dropped the ball with its relaunch just a few months. Whitley not on a Misty Knight series? Cmon! Michel Fiffe not being given something! Marguerite Bennet, Katie Cook, Felipe Smith, Gurihiru, Kris Anka, this comic was filled with folks who are comic stars. This is the type of creative line-up I’d be building a line around.

It was just a one shot, but when I was done it was clear I want more of this!

Runners Up:

  • The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage – Valiant cranked out so many good series this year, their miniseries especially were good. This one took on the new Doctor Mirage in a series that had her going to the other side and exploring her own past. This was a miniseries that in a short time gave us lots of depth, entertained, looked so good, and did it all in a short period of time.
  • Justice League: Darkseid War: Green Lantern – DC Comics released a series of one-shots for “Darkseid War,” and one stood above all others. The comics were supposed to explore what happens when regular humans get godlike powers, and this one did an amazing job as Hal Jordan was presented withed difficult choices. A great read all on its own.
  • Lady Killer – A suburban housewife is actually a contract killer. The comics was entertaining with a kick-ass female lead. The miniseries was fantastic playing with so many stereotypes and genres. This is Mrs. Smith, without the Mr.
  • The Paybacks – Mixing superheroes and comedy this miniseries has delivered. This comic has gotten me to laugh with every single issue and one of the downer moments of the year was the fact this wasn’t an ongoing series.

 

Best Graphic Novel/Trade Paperback – Mike’s Place

MikesPlace-300RGB

There was one graphic novel that haunted me for a good chunk of 2015, and that’d be Mike’s Place: A True Story of Love, Blues, and Terror in Tel Aviv.

Written by Jack Baxter and Joshua Faudem, Mike’s Place is a graphic novel spun out of their experience that you can see in the documentary Blues by the Beach. What was supposed to be a movie celebrating Israeli life, and the peace found between Israelis, Palestinians, folks of all different backgrounds, who come together in a bar, instead it captures tragedy, and perseverance.

The graphic novel grips and effects you at a personal level. Part of that is due to the fact it’s both tragic and uplifting. The lead up, and post event accounting of what happened shows strength in tragedy, it’s a mesmerizing, and in ways uplifting, story.

Beautifully haunting, Mike’s Place is a graphic novel that sticks with you for days and weeks.

Runners Up:

  • The Arab of the Future – A biography of Riad Sattouf’s life as he navigates between Libya, France, and Syria. The graphic novel originally came out in French in 2014 and was released in English in 2015. The graphic novel is absolutely fascinating, and makes Sattouf’s life entertaining.
  • The Fall of the House of West – The latest entry in Paul Pope‘s Battling Boy line of comics, this has the early years of the West family and everything from its pint sized hero to pint sized format is a win. This is fun pulp comics.
  • March: Book Two – The second volume of Congressman Lewis‘ biography recounting his life in the Civil Rights movement. Much like the first, the second volume will be taught in classes for decades to come.
  • The SculptorScott McCloud‘s latest graphic novel has its fans and haters. The graphic novel follows an artist who makes a deal with death and has a finite time to live. The story is haunting and one that’ll have you debating with your book club.

 

Best New Series – Monstress

Monstress01_Cover

Monstress kicked off with a triple-sized first issue (60 pages!), and even when you got to that last page, it didn’t feel like enough. The series is a magical world (pun intended) that mixes so many genres that there’s a little something for so many. Fantasy, steampunk, Kaiju, anime, it’s all here mixed together in an amazing combination that seamlessly flows together.

I think what’s more impressive is the inclusion of political and societal commentary within, and doing so in a way that doesn’t come of as preachy, and is almost not noticeable. The story at it’s core is about a woman, a minority, fighting against the oppressive majority. Choices to have what seems like a matriarchal society changes that context into something more than a woman fighting the patriarchy which the series could have easily been (and it still would have been great I’m sure). Instead it gives us women who are good, evil, and somewhere in between painting a broad swath that can be debated for hours on end. It’s this type of layering of ideas, themes, and concepts that has created one of the richest debuts of the year.

In two issues Monstress feels like a thought out world with a history that goes back decades. Battles are referenced, events mentioned, it all feels like its been thought out and meticulously put together. Add on top of that women (well character really) of all types, shapes, sizes, skin color, and you have what is a diverse, in many ways, debut. All of that together creates the best debut of the year.

 

Best Single Issue – Batman #44

Batman #44 CoverBatman has gone through a fascinating shift this year as Bruce Wayne lost his memory and James Gordon stepped in as the iconic hero in a new mechanized suit that’s more anime fighting robot than the great detective we’ve known.

The series has also brought us a new villain in Mr. Bloom who is a great addition to Batman’s rogues and feels like a worthy adversary.

Through all of that, this comic, which focuses on Bruce Wayne’s Batman, is the best single issue of the year of any comic as it shows us something we’ve never seen before in comics, a Batman who actually focuses on the interplay between institutional racism and economic injustice.

Titled “A Simple Case,” the issue was written by regular series writer Scott Snyder who was joined by Brian Azzarello, we find out the issues Batman faces here are anything but simple and more complicated than any villain he’s faced.

For an issue we see how superhero comics can address actual social and economic issues we face today such as gentrification, institutional racism and bank’s disinvestment in communities. But, more importantly, addressing those issues and entertain at the same time.

Add on top of that the usual beautiful art, this time by Jock, and you have a comic you can read on its own, and the best single issue this year.

 

Best Event of the Year – Book of Death

BOD_TPB_COVER_GILLWho has the best superhero universe out there today? That’s not the big two, the answer actually is Valiant who continued in 2015 to show off quality comics filled with quality writing and art.

Not only does the publisher put out great comics every month, but they also have figured out how to weave in major events in to their universe and make it new reader friendly.

Book of Death saw the Eternal Warrior with the newest Geomancer from the future on the run trying to both dodge and take on a great evil pursuing them. Along with the main series, we got a glimpse in to Valiant’s future along with the end of many of its heroes.

The battles felt epic, the use of characters were great, the story progressed at a nice pace with each issue being vital. Add on top a series of one-shots all of which were at least good, and you have the making of an epic tale.

But, what’s even more impressive is the fact that Valiant has figured out the outro in many ways with their events leading in to natural changes for their line of comics and characters.

They’ve consistently put out quality, and continue to do so with their events. I usually shudder when I hear some major comic event is coming, but with Valiant, I look forward to it in anticipation.

Runners Up:

  • Darkseid War – A good event should be epic, and DC’s storyline event currently running through Justice League qualifies. The story has been building for some time, but the Anti-Monitor has arrived to battle Darkseid, and many of the issues have left us with imagery that feels massive in scale. Hopefully the second half delivers as much as the first.
  • Secret Wars – So much good, and so much bad here. Delays and the second half that hasn’t quite delivered as much as the first has tarnished what started off as Marvel’s best event in some time. Still, there’s absolutely this world changing event hasn’t been absolutely huge touching every corner of the Marvel Universe. With one issue to go, the series isn’t perfect, but it does deliver a game changing event.
  • Transformers: Combiner Wars – This was a story that hit so much nostalgia, but what I think as really impressive was the synergy across platforms. Comics, toys, video games, they were all in sync and it all worked together very well.
  • The Valiant – Did you read about Book of Death above? Everything there can be applied here in what is the prequel that eventually led in to Book of Death.

 

Best Genre of the Year – Indie Comics/Small Publishers

Is it a “genre”? We can argue about that, but lets face it, 2015 was a year we saw major creators continue to shrug off the big two, instead launching creator owned series at other publishers, digitally or through Kickstarter. We saw more comics, in more varieties, on more subjects and more ways to consume them, than any time before. It really wasn’t the year of the Big Two, this was a year that we as consumers could continue to find something that would fit our varied tastes.

With more channels for distribution and more ways to produce comics, we’re in a golden age where the old ways of publishing no longer hold back the creativity that abounds.

We named Indie Comics “it” in 2013 and 2014, and nothing changed in 2015. There’s a massive opening for someone to step in and be a mainstream breakout, maybe 2016 will be the year we see it.

 

Best Surprise of the Year – DC Comics

dc-logo-252x3002015 was a year that it was cool to shit on DC Comics. But, for the bad, their best is some of the best. Batman, Batgirl, The Omega Men, Justice League, Midnighter, Prez, Bizarro, Doctor Fate, We Are Robin, Grayson, Black Canary, Constantine the Hellblazer, Cyborg, DC Comics Bombshells, Martian Manhunter, and lots more hit the shelves each week and show off the new quality of a publisher that has been in second place for so long. Add on top of that a resurgence and reinvigoration of Vertigo.

After sputtering for some time, the company shook up their line of comics with Convergence which saw the recreation of the multiverse and opened up the possibilities to tell stories out of continuity and with numerous versions of classic characters.

The company also decided to expand of the success they saw with Gotham Academy and Batgirl, trying new things with new series many receiving critical praise though middling sales.

The company continued to expand upon its digital first program, and has begun to look towards expanding its market with its DC Super Hero Girls line. 2016 sees the real launch of their new movie universe after dominating on television.

The company has really turned the ship around and 2015 was a stellar year that you can see them right the ship while continuing to be faced with criticism from armchair experts.

The dots are all there, now we’ll see if the company has the vision to connect them all.

 

Biggest Disappointment of the Year – Kickstarter

KickstarterLast year’s disappointment continued to be so, as projects were delayed, vapor ware, or not as advertised. Also add in issues on the creator end of folks pledging high amounts and then disputing the charges, at times getting the goods. Add in the platform’s unwillingness to step in to deal with either situation and you get a tech company showing off it’s greed. What was once the toast of the town has shown its cracks which will only get worse.

The crowdfunding platform became a way for creators to raise funds for projects, only to get picked up by publishers, at times delaying projects and leaving bad tastes in the mouths of fans. If all creators were held to the standards of some of the best users of the system, there’d be no issue, but over 90% of the projects I’ve pledged to have been delayed or non-existent only creating angry backers and fans.

These issues have lead this site to rethink what we promote and how we do so, no longer choosing comics to promote, as we feel some responsibility for things gone wrong and your dollars being held hostage.

Kickstarter continues to be tone-deaf, and it’s only a matter of time before someone stands up and challenges the platform with a system that’s fair to creators, and protects those who pledge.

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

 

Publisher of the Year – None of the Above

This one I’ve thought about the most out of all of the categories on the list. I keep going back and forth between Image, BOOM! Studios, Valiant, Action Lab, IDW, First Second, and so many more. For each strength one brings to the table, they also have major weaknesses. Whether it’s a focus on a genre, pigeonholing themselves with adults, failure in digital, a mix of quality of comics, none of them are at least good everywhere. But, the comic industry has really grown in 2015 with no one breaking out as THE publisher to rival the big two. Partially that’s because so many have stood out with some of what they’ve done.

Both DC and Marvel have stumbled in 2015 (though DC has shown improvement in many ways, see above), and it’s everyone else that has stepped up in an attempt to fill the gap left by the big two.

Image has become of the home of amazing indie comics by big name creators, but they generally lack a kids line that gets the next generation of readers. BOOM! has had a great mix of comics, but they’re missing that ongoing series that goes on for 30 to 50 issues. Valiant is quality all around and have tried some interesting market tactics, but you have to like superhero comics, Action Lab is a solid up and comer with good consistent releases. IDW has shown its possible to do great licensed comics, while First Second has fantastic graphic novels of all sorts. The year also saw newcomers like 451 Media, Aftershock, and Double Take, but each are having issues getting the word out.

Out of all of that, where’s the standout above everyone else? They’re all good in their own ways, but each have some flaws, with some of those flaws being pretty big. After a lot of deliberation, I couldn’t decide on one, so I chose none.

Much like I said about DC, each publisher is close to going huge, it’s just taking someone to connect those dots. Or maybe no one will, and it’ll be up to the individual creators to fill up the gap.

Janelle Asselin Chats Fresh Romance, With Cover Reveals and a Preview of Issue 4

Fresh Romance #4 Cover

Fresh Romance #4 Cover

Comics have been getting a dose of fresh romance courtesy of Rosy Press run by Janelle Asselin. Coming off a successful Kickstarter campaign, Asselin and Rosy Press has published four issues of the romance anthology Fresh Romance so far with the fifth right around the corner. You can pick up the first four issues right now.

We also have a preview of some of each of the stories from the fourth issue and a reveal to the cover of issue six by the talented Janet Lee!

We got a chance to ask her questions about where her new venture came from, advice she’d give to women breaking into the industry, and opening up the doors toe comics with the romance genre.

Graphic Policy: Where did the concept for Rosy Press and Fresh Romance come from?

Janelle Asselin: Really, it all goes back to my desire to run my own comics company and put my money where my mouth was in terms of how to get women reading comics. It’s not just that I’m a control freak, I swear—it’s that I want to work outside of the existing structures that comics has relied on for so long.

A coworker who was a few levels above me in terms of title at DC used to say to me “when YOU run this place, don’t do this and this thing that our bosses are doing right now.” And I’d laugh and be like oh right like I could ever be EIC of DC—it was a whole bit we did. But it was through those jokes that I realized I didn’t WANT to run DC. Even if I had spent 20 or so years of my life trying to move up the corporate chain at DC and got to a place where I was Editor in Chief or Executive Editor – what then? Unless there was a massive sea change, I’d still have to work within the same broken systems that I disliked and knew weren’t working. My dad has owned his own business for over 40 years—first as a contractor and then doing antique restoration and sales with my mom. I grew up seeing the challenges and rewards of owning your own business. I think maybe that got under my skin more than I really knew until a few years ago. I knew then that working for other people was just a step along the way to learn everything I could.

From there, I spent a few years thinking about what kind of comics I wanted to make. I like a wide variety of genres in entertainment and I knew I wanted to make comics that I thought were exciting and fun. I also knew I wanted to focus on making comics for women. Given how expensive print is, it was a pretty easy decision to start as a digital-only publisher. And then it all just came together as Fresh Romance.

GP: Romance comics have a long history, but generally fell out of vogue. What got your interest in that particular genre?

JA: About a decade ago, I stopped reading American comics for a few years because I just wasn’t enjoying the same-old super hero stuff I’d always read and I felt bewildered by indie comics. Manga, though, had a lot to offer me. The manga community I found online was welcoming. I worked at a comic shop for a while and was able to read a ton of manga that came highly recommended. The main genre of manga that appealed to me was shoujo—I loved that there was a kind of comic out there that was made for girls and women and was not embarrassed to be girly or feminine or romantic.

It wasn’t until I started researching my grad thesis on selling comics to women, though, that I really understood the role of romance in American comics. I was fascinated by this genre that was basically lost and ignored for decades. I started reading up about romance comics from an historical perspective and also talking to friends who were passionate about the old romance comics. I will never be an expert on American romance comics by any means, but I am fascinated by them.

GP: Are there any particular series of the past you’ve enjoyed?

JA: Since I’m still exploring American romance comics (and most of the ones I’ve enjoyed have been because of the ridiculousness), I’ll have to go with a manga. While not technically a romance, I adore Nana always and forever. In a way, it’s about the various romances of the two main characters, but also their love for each other. It’s mature and smart and beautiful… and sadly trailed off into very little resolution for readers.

Fresh Romance #5 Cover

Fresh Romance #5 Cover

GP: The “romance genre” is huge in the book world, not so much in comics. Why do you think there’s such a disparity between the two when it comes to that?

JA: Well, for so long women haven’t felt welcome in comics, and women are the primary demographic of romance novels. I find it interesting that many people who want to defend objectification and sexism in super hero comics point to romance novels as the other side of the coin. Putting aside some of the most glaring errors in that false equivalency, I think the important distinction in terms of publishing is that while romance is huge in novels, it is not *the* leading kind of novel. When you speak with someone who doesn’t really read novels, do they immediately assume you’re talking about romance novels? Of course not—the prose publishing world is diverse in genre to the point that there’s no one obvious genre in the lead above all others. It makes prose more welcoming, in my opinion. Now switch that around—if you’re speaking with someone who doesn’t really read comics, do they immediately assume you’re talking about super hero comics?

That’s one of the reasons comics needs the super hero genre to be more welcoming to non-comics readers—if we’re ever going to fix the public perception of the comics medium, we need to throw the doors wide open to everyone. And that includes the front doors of super hero comics. Women don’t look at novels and think “oh, this isn’t for me” based on a few covers. But our culture in America has taught people that they can do that with comics. This is why people are critical of super hero comics but generally leave publishers like Zenescope alone—very few of the folks on the side of diversifying comics want there to be any censorship. They just want the primary genre associated with comics, super heroes, to seem welcoming to all.

Part of the reason I wanted to focus solely on romance as a genre is that I wanted to open another door into comics. It may not be the front door and it may not be easily found by everyone. But if I can get a handful of people per year to give comics a try for the first time, I’ll be happy. And I think romance builds an easy bridge between something women already enjoy and something comics can do really well. A person who already reads romance novels but has never tried comics might be more willing when they hear about romance comics—rather than a genre they’re less interested in.

GP: You’ve mentioned your aim is for a “diverse readership.” What types of things have you focused on to make that happen?

JA: The biggest part of attracting a diverse readership, in my mind, is hiring diverse creators and featuring diverse characters. Just by hiring people who are not all the same, I’ve been pitched a lot of creative and fun stories that often happen to feature protagonists that aren’t straight and/or white. There’s nothing wrong with heterosexual love stories between two white people (see: “Ruined”), but that’s not the end-all, be-all of romance in the real world. I never told any of the creators that I wanted to see a certain kind of love story from them beyond a sub-genre suggestion or two, but all of them have pitched stories that are diverse.

For instance, I asked Marcy Cook to pitch me and she offered up a lot of different pitches that were all really great. The one that called to me was a sweet, silent story about a couple at a carnival where they chase a balloon. It seemed cute and fun and different from the other stories I’d commissioned. In the pitch she mentioned that the guy would be in the wheelchair but not with a broken leg – just in a long-term wheelchair. I loved that aspect. But what she didn’t bring up until I got the script from her was that his girlfriend was a trans woman of color. The story isn’t about her being trans or him being in a wheelchair, it’s about their romance. But just by representing people that aren’t the “default,” we open up the comics to a broader readership. It’s important to see yourself in your comics, and everyone deserves that opportunity.

GP: You’ve currently focused on just a digital experience so far. Might we see print down the road?

JA: We might! Stay tuned.

GP: What advantages do you think digital has that have helped you kick off this venture?

JA: It’s far, far more affordable than print. I was able to ask for a smaller amount of money via Kickstarter but still pay the creators a fairly reasonable page rate. It also allowed me to have a little more control over the distribution. As a small publisher, Diamond would be daunting for me to work with, and getting comic shops to carry our stuff as a brand new publisher would’ve been a difficult proposition. Instead, I was able to sell through my own site where all of the money from every sale goes to Rosy Press AND through ComiXology Submit where they gave us lots of support in terms of promotions and whatnot. We also were able to focus on a faster cycle because we didn’t have to worry about printing and shipping and all that.

GP: You launched this with a Kickstarter campaign. What lessons did you learn through that, and in general what have you learned you might not have known before your launch?

JA: Running a Kickstarter campaign is a *lot* of work. I thought I knew how much work it would be, but I wasn’t really prepared. I spent a lot of my prep time working on putting together the teams and getting them working, but I also should’ve spent those months putting together the Kickstarter campaign. The week before we launched the campaign was incredibly hectic, but that could’ve been avoided at least a little! But I will say that having a specific goal and having folks be a part of our success through Kickstarter meant a lot of great exposure for the project that we wouldn’t have gotten without Kickstarter. Our backers are part of the team and we couldn’t have done it without them. That’s not just lip service, either, it’s the truth. I had some money squirreled away to get Rosy Press started, but not nearly as much as the Kickstarter brought in.

I also learned that it can be hard to keep people engaged in your project after the Kickstarter ends. You can’t just coast on Kickstarter success—you have to deliver a quality project. Otherwise, what’s the point? Sure, you made money, but if you’re trying to produce something creative, it had better be something you’d be proud of. Otherwise, all the Kickstarters in the world won’t save you.

GP: What advice would you give women wanting to break into comics or those interested in creating a comic of a genre that might not be currently focused on?

JA: For women wanting to break into comics, I’d say: do it! Study your craft, whether that’s writing, drawing, lettering, coloring, editing, etc., and work hard to get good at it. The way things are in the industry now is that you don’t have to wait for anyone’s permission to make comics. You can do a webcomic or a Kickstarter or an anthology. Build up your profile with smaller projects before you start going for the dream projects. Be responsible and reliable so that people who hire you or publish you want to do so again.

In terms of creating a comic of a genre that isn’t mainstream in comics right now, thankfully the industry is broadening and it may be more possible than you think. It won’t be the easiest thing in the world, but the people reading comics today are interested in reading a wider variety of books than you’d expect.

GP: Any future plans for Rosy Press you might be able to hint at?

JA: SO MANY. First, this week we’ll be tabling for the first time at Long Beach Comic-Con as well as having the first ever Rosy Press panel. We’re also going to start selling art prints, postcards, and greeting cards through our website. And October is going to be huge for us. It marks the first complete story we’ll be selling, with The Ruby Equation going on sale as an ebook early in the month. We also have a panel at NYCC and will be tabling at MICExpo in Cambridge, MA—and Rosy Press creators will be at both events to sign stuff and do sketches and hang out. We’ll be announcing some new creative teams and maaaaaybe even some new projects. PLUS we’ll be doing merch giveaways and offering coupons and free comics at both conventions.

Then I nap for a week before making sure we continue to put out comics!

GP: Thanks so much!

A preview of what you can expect in issue four!

“Ruby Equation”

“Ruined”

“School Spirit”

Check out this Janet Lee cover for Fresh Romance #6!

FR 6 cover low res

Preview: Fresh Romance #1

Fresh Romance #1

Story: Kate Leth, Sarah Vaughn, Sarah Kuhn
Art: Arielle Scurti, Sarah Winifred, Sally Jane Thompson

Issue 1 of FRESH ROMANCE includes three 10-page comics stories (a high school romance, a Regency romance, and a paranormal coffee shop romance), as well as a relationship advice column by a quartet of divorced writers and behind-the-scenes art coverage.

About the stories:

“School Spirit” is a lighthearted take on classic high school romances with two queer women in the lead. Because Malie and Justine want to keep their romance a secret, they pretend to be competing over the same guy, Miles, but Miles also has a secret.

Created by: Kate Leth Arielle Jovellanos Amanda Scurti Taylor Esposito

“Ruined” is a classic Regency romance, with lots of attention to period details. Catherine and Andrew are getting married – but neither one of them is happy about it.

Created by: Sarah Vaughn Sarah Winifred Searle Ryan Ferrier

“The Ruby Equation” is a story about love in a coffee shop – where barista Ruby is on a mission to help people find love so she doesn’t have to deal with people anymore.

Created by: Sarah Kuhn Sally Jane Thompson Savanna Ganucheau Steve Wand

fresh_romance_1_cover

Review: Fresh Romance #1

fresh_romance_1_coverAfter a high-profile Kickstarter campaign Rosy Press‘ first release, Fresh Romance #1, has hit the web featuring three stories from writers Kate Leth, Sarah Vaughn, and Sarah Kuhn and artists Arielle Scurti, Sarah Winifred, and Sally Jane Thompson.

“School Spirit” is a lighthearted take on classic high school romances with two queer women in the lead. Because Malie and Justine want to keep their romance a secret, they pretend to be competing over the same guy, Miles, but Miles also has a secret.

“Ruined” is a classic Regency romance, with lots of attention to period details. Catherine and Andrew are getting married – but neither one of them is happy about it.

“The Ruby Equation” is a story about love in a coffee shop – where barista Ruby is on a mission to help people find love so she doesn’t have to deal with people anymore.

Harkening back to classic romance comics, with a modern twist, each story is entertaining in their own way. Each story is a fun read, perfect for the summer months. Paired with fantastic art, these are comics that you stare at the page spending as much time reading as you do looking at the visuals in front of you. You never know the quality you’re going to get with a Kickstarter project (though the talent here gave a good indication), but this is top-notch material that any smart publisher would be gobbling up, and Rosy Press did. The fact that it turned around so quickly after the close of the fundraising period also speaks to the professionalism, and quality of the project. It was clearly planned and executed with love…. it is a romance anthology after all.

The only problem I had was, it was too short! I actually wanted more of each story, and they could easily have stood on their own for a completely entertaining issue. It’s a good sign when you want to read more, right?

The industry has been shifting away from spandex and capes for some time, and indie, web, and digital comics have been leading that charge. Rosy Press’ Fresh Romance #1 is the latest example that there truly is something (and someone) for everyone when it comes to comics (and life). A fantastic addition that revitalizes a genre in comics often overlooked, or dismissed. The quality brings the issue, and genre to life.

Story: Kate Leth, Sarah Vaughn, Sarah Kuhn Art: Arielle Scurti, Sarah Winifred, Sally Jane Thompson
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Rosy Press provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

 

Fresh Romance Announces New Creative Teams, Stories, and two new Kickstarter Stretch Goals

Fresh RomanceRosy Press publisher Janelle Asselin has announced the new creative teams and stories for upcoming issues of Fresh Romance, the digital romance comics magazine that is currently being funded via a now-live Kickstarter campaign. Upcoming stories will include:

  • A sexy and surprising fantasy tale written by Marguerite Bennett.
  • The first ever collaboration of writer Marcy Cook and Maya Kern, in which a couple wins, then loses, a heart-shaped helium balloon which they follow through the fair.
  • A romantic comedy about one woman’s deep, abiding love… for a Game Master by Jen Van Meter and Kyle Latino with Marissa Louise.
  • A fantasy story from the publisher of the Smut Peddler anthology, Spike Trotman, about a woman in a tower who romanticizes a man she sees from above everyday.

Asselin’s new imprint Rosy Press will debut Fresh Romance in May 2015. The first issue of the monthly anthology features sundry stories ranging from a clandestine, queer high school love affair to an impeccably researched and illustrated Regency-era romance.

Rosy Press has also announced two significant, newsworthy stretch goals:

  • A Kevin Wada cover for issue 5, plus a digital wallpaper pack of all the covers for all backers will be added if the Kickstarter campaign raises $42,500.
  • A 10-page comic written by bestselling writer Gail Simone and illustrated by Rafaela Herrera will be available exclusively for all backers who are one-year subscribers, if the Kickstarter campaign raises $47,500.

Aimed at attracting a diverse readership, Fresh Romance content will be available in a variety of digital formats: via ComiXology or as a PDF, CBR, or ePub file, and will always be DRM-free.

Rosy Press Promises Romance is Coming with Fresh Romance

Fresh RomanceFrom around 1947 to 1977, you could find regular romance comics alongside the spandex superheroes that packed shelves. Post Comics Code, implemented in 1954, the genre died a slow death due to self-censorship, but modern comics is all about diversity in topics, those depicted in the pages, and those behind the scenes. It was nice to wake up to news of the new publisher Rosy Press, launched by former DC Comics editor and Senior Editor of Comics Alliance Janelle Asselin.

The new imprint will kick off with Fresh Romance, a new digital romance comic magazine that’ll begin in May 2015. The series is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds. The first issue of the monthly anthology features sundry stories ranging from a clandestine, queer high school love affair to an impeccably researched and illustrated Regency-era romance. In addition to three forward-looking romances, each issue of Fresh Romance delivers a relationship advice column by a quartet of divorced writers, behind-the-scenes art coverage, and a fashion report.

In a release Asselin said:

Rosy Press specializes in publishing romantic fiction and nonfiction aimed at attracting a diverse readership. Fresh Romance forges a new future for romance comics with modern characters, stories and a wide array of genres.

Fresh Romance’s inaugural stories include:

  • A twist on the iconic high school love story by Kate Leth, Arielle Jovellanos, and colorist Amanda Scurti, in which a queer couple keep their relationship under wraps by pretending to compete for the same, equally secretive guy.
  • A Regency-era romance by Sarah Vaughn and Sarah Winifred Searle about a couple headed to the altar despite a mutual lack of enthusiasm for their marriage. (Spoiler: period costumes and culture are consummately researched.)
  • An otherworldly tale by novelist Sarah Kuh, who has a three-book prose book deal with DAW Books and who is penning her first comic with Sally Jane Thompson and colorist Savanna Ganucheau, in which a cynical, supernatural barista is trapped in this world… until she helps enough lonely souls find love.
  • The first cover from Kevin Wada, a former fashion illustrator, who uses his hallmark watercolors to depict Leth and Jovellanos’ high school heroines.

Rewards available exclusively through the Fresh Romance Kickstarter campaign support three-month, six-month, and ongoing subscriptions, including the opportunity to be drawn into a story, an original comic to propose marriage to your loved one, and one-of-a-kind prints and commissions, including: Five commissions by Chris Burnham; a Gene Ha sketch commission; a Dustin Nguyen-drawn original page from the Stephanie Brown Batgirl series; a commission of Harley Quinn by DC and Marvel artist Carmen Carnero; and an original page from the Stephanie Brown Batgirl series drawn by Pere Perez.

The comics will be available in a variety of digital formats including comiXology, PDF, CBR, or ePub, and will be DRM-free.