In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Behind each scene goes hours of preparation. Hush Comics’ weekly article “Respect My Craft” will dive into the history of these comic book and pop culture greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of the nerd world, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.
Click on the link to take you to all of our Denver Comic Con 2014 “Respect My Craft” articles
Name: Janelle Asselin
Notable Work: Helped relaunch DC Comics’ New52 as editor, weekly columnist for ComicsAlliance.com
“If you really want to “get me” and prove that sexual harassment doesn’t exist in comics, I don’t know, maybe it’s better for you to answer honestly about how you haven’t been sexually harassed. Because certainly sending me rape threats proves my point, not yours.” – Janelle Asselin
“What do you do with a BA in English?” Well if you’re Janelle Asselin, whatever the hell you want.
Like a lot of us 80’s babies, Janelle was first inspired to get into comics by the 90’s X-Men cartoon. Also, she loved going to Pizza Hut because they gave out X-Men Adventures comic books with their kids meals. Outside of that, she read a lot of X-Men and Spider-Man – and declared that Daredevil: Echo (story of a misguided deaf, Native American girl nicknamed for her ability to “echo” fighting styles – pretty badass) changed her life, but stopped reading comic books until she ended up dating somebody in college who was a huge nerd and re-introduced her to the comic book world.
To get her foot in the door, she attended cons, and gathered the courage to talk to people in the industry. One of her contacts, DC Comics’ Mike Kants was her network into the industry, as she packed her bags and moved to NYC to pursue a career in the industry. Previously, she had held editing position at Newsarama.com and the now-defunct Fangoria Graphix, as well as contributed to weekly reviews for Shotgun Reviews. Asselin started out as an editor for DC Comics, where she worked on books like Gotham City Sirens, Red Robin, Batman and Robin, and Birds of Prey, which transitioned into the New52 run, as well as other launch titles, such as: the aforementioned Birds of Prey, Detective Comics, Batwoman, and Savage Hawkman. By the time she left the company in 2011, she was credited for editing over 300 issues – many of which had a direct effect on our love for the industry.
While working at DC, she wrote her thesis, “How Can the Comic Book Industry Increase Sales Among Women? An Analysis of Factors Affecting Female Consumers” for her Masters in Publishing at Pace University. The study pointed out that DC is falling behind by ignoring the fastest growing demographic in comics (17-33 year-old women). It includes a pretty solid model that companies can follow to reach a largely untapped demographic (aside form, you know, the moral victory of becoming a more diverse company).
After finishing said thesis in 2011, Janelle left DC in 2011 to work for Disney Publishing Worldwide to serve as editor, and occasional writer, for publications ranging from Marvel to Mickey. When the division down-sized in 2013, Janelle moved to freelance work. Since then, Janelle has been writing for ComicsAlliance.com, which features two recurring articles: “Hire This Woman” gives exposure to women working in the industry that has the scales of gender equality tipped heavily out of their favor. She also writes “Best Sequential Art Ever (This Week),” which is a showcase of sorts for exceptional art, and the panels that string it together. Janelle also writes for Bitch magazine, writing the hilarious and aggressive piece, “Don’t Be A Dick,” taking aim at underlining issues in the industry – ranging from pet peeves to bigotry.
If you can’t tell by now, Janelle is a fervent, unapologetic feminist. She has been fighting for quality throughout her entire career, but perhaps one of her most progressive actions in her career came from a simple comic book cover critique. The review itself was harsh, but deservedly so. She tears apart the new book for looking like too much of the same thing – ridiculously-sized breasts on teenagers, subconsciously snubbing minority characters and general technical issues like signature placement and poses. However, when the net got ahold of the article, it turned into a violent “femi-nazi” shit-storm. Retorts from series’ artist, Brett Booth (who didn’t even draw the damn cover), and plenty of cyber-assholes poured in like oil on top of fire, culminating in several rape threats. Instead of retreating, Asselin used the threats, which were ironically contributing responses to an online sexual harassment survey, as a platform to reveal the ugly side of what females in this industry endure, fans and creators, just to be part of it.
It made people realize that feminism in comic books was no hidden agenda, no war against DC Comics by a disgruntled employee, and certainly not some chick who didn’t know what she was talking about. “Among other jobs I’ve held in comics, I worked for years in the Batman office at DC and worked with a lot of top-tier comics talent. In addition to years of experience actually editing comics, I also have a Masters of Science in Publishing. My entire career, particularly the last 5 years, has been based around the study of broadening comics readership to wider, more diverse demographics and I am damn well qualified to critique the cover of a comic book.” And judging by the way Marvel has embraced industry minority (gender and ethnicity) characters, it’s revealed a big reason that DC (sans-Batman) is falling behind Marvel in sales consistently. Women in the industry are gradually finding a voice, and it’s because gals like Janelle Asselin are willing to step up and let it be heard.
Join us tomorrow as we continue our countdown to Denver Comic Con with the fifth Doctor in a long line of Whos, Peter Davison.