Caught in a Fresh Romance: An Interview with Janelle Assellin

POMEmag recently flagged down comics editor and super-cool human being Janelle Asselin between the billion and a half conventions and events she’s attending to talk to her about some exciting upcoming projects. Janelle gave us the scoop about her romance comics magazine Fresh Romance, and the launch of her imprint Rosy Press. A former editor for DC and Disney, she currently writes for Comics Alliance – you might recognize her “Hire This Woman” column, which recognizes (and recommends) amazing female comics creators. Also, she’s a wonderful writer with a lot of perspective about the comics industry, so just go ahead and follow everything she does. #sheroes

I’m going to be up-front with you guys: I pledged to this Kickstarter and I really hope that all of you beautiful, lovely peeps will too. This project might be the most interesting thing to happen in comics in years. Fresh Romance is a monthly, anthology-style comics magazine crafted by an industry veteran with a focus on diverse creators and experiences, and with beautiful art and thoughtful stories about feelings. Essentially, this publication is pretty much a visual manifestation of everything I’ve ever wanted in comics. Like the Grinch, my heart grew three sizes when a link to the Fresh Romance Kickstarter crossed my Twitter feed. I am not transparent at all about this because I’m as anti-chill as it gets and I want you to feel the love radiating from my shoujo heart.

Fresh Romance’s Kickstarter ends on April 22 (so, just about two days from now!), so get your butts in gear and pledge while you still can. Don’t be like your pal CC, who will always regret missing the boat on helping to Kickstart Smutpeddler #1. Learn from me, sweet summer child, and fork over your cash before it’s too late and you miss out forever on funding a potentially historic piece of comics, dummy.

 fresh romance cover

Fresh Romance Issue 1 Cover by Kevin Wada


Just the Facts


Kickstarter Launched: March 23, 2015
Kickstarter Funded: March 26, 2015
Number of Backers: 1,195
Original Goal: $28,000
Current Donations (as of 4/20): $47,885


Noteworthy Pledge Rewards:

  • 3/6/12 month subscriptions to Fresh Romance
  • Kevin Wada prints
  • Babs Tarr prints
  • So many neat postcards
  • A portfolio review for your hot mess self
  • Getting the opportunity to read Fresh Romance!!!


Character designs by Sarah Winifred Searle

Getting Personal with Fresh Romance


Why now?

Janelle had envisioned this project for some time, especially in the past year. She wanted to start her own business and make Fresh Romance a possibility. After some market research, she saw that romance as a genre was doing really well and as a romance novel fan, it seemed like a great opportunity. Janelle pointed out that more and more interesting, diverse comics are emerging and succeeding right now, which seemed like a sign that this was the right time to get started.


What is the target readership for Fresh Romance?

The target is women ages 18 – 35, as some of the material may be too racy for readers younger than 18. As women in this age group are the fastest-growing demographic in comics, it seemed like a great opportunity to create content for this underserved readership.


How was the lineup of Fresh Romance launch titles decided? Were they chosen strategically (a regency story, a high school story, and a supernatural story) because of their popularity as romance subgenres, or did the artists themselves suggest those topics?

Janelle left the decision up to the creators. When deciding upon the look and feel for the magazine, Janelle drew upon her own personal aesthetic, preferring a natural, organic feeling, and vintage-styled artistic touches.

 rosy logoRosy Press logo


Why “Rosy Press”?

“Rosy” is a family name. Also, in Janelle’s words, “it has a good vintage and romantic feel that appeals to my aesthetic.” The logo above captures that look and feel.


What kinds of stories inspired the Fresh Romance project?

Janelle always loved romance stories as a younger reader, as well as stories aimed at girls and women like Anne of Green Gables. She also loves regency romance novels. She recently inherited a large stash of classic 60s romance comics and has been checking those out as well. A voracious reader, Janelle is rarely without a large reading list. One of her current reads is America’s Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines.

Janelle was influenced early on by the shoujo manga titles Nana and Hot Gimmick. Manga, or specifically, the business model behind the manga industry, was also a major influence in the development of Fresh Romance, especially the structure of monthly manga magazines. While Fresh Romance isn’t OEL (original English-language) manga and avoids overtly manga-influenced stylistic elements, Janelle acknowledged that there was a definite appeal to the ways that manga can appeal to a particular audience / demographic.


What are some challenges along the way towards setting up Rosy Press and the Fresh Romance Kickstarter?

Business administration hurdles were the trickiest, especially the legal ones. Challenges like hiring a lawyer specializing in creative rights, getting the right protections in place for creators, and filing for copyright all needed to be dealt with at the outset. Working with the graphic designer to get Rosy Press’s look and feel just right was another important step along the way. Also, keeping the project a secret until the Kickstarter’s launch was one of the most difficult tasks of all. All of the creators needed to sign NDAs to keep everything hush-hush. Janelle wanted the Kickstarter to come out of the gate running, and to make the process as seamless as possible.

Janelle wanted an expanded readership and paid close attention towards getting Fresh Romance in front of readers who may not know much about comics. Remember those underserved female readers we talked about earlier? There’s an atmosphere around comics that can make jumping in feel pretty daunting. Getting the books into these readers’ hands (especially the ones who don’t know they like comics yet) requires a lot of strategy and Janelle is exploring marketing venues that will help make that happen. Again, as women are the fastest-growing demographic in comics, a lot of women who already read romance comics might find Fresh Romance to be a natural fit.


 fresh romance 03

Character designs by Arielle Jovellanos

How will readers actually read Fresh Romance? Will the comics be up on the website behind a paywall, or will they be available through the ebook exclusively? Will Fresh Romance be available in print?

Fresh Romance will be available to subscribers as an ebook in a variety of formats (ePub, CBR, and PDF). Readers will get 30-40 pages per issue in the form of three comics stories, as well as an advice column. Fresh Romance is a monthly publication and issues will be available for $4.99 apiece. As the stories conclude, they will be available for purchase in their own separate, individual ebook. The magazine will be digital-exclusive for the time being.


Rosy Press has done quite a bit of work protecting the rights of its creators and making sure they are compensated to the fullest amount possible. These issues are pretty common complaints that creators have – how is Rosy Press looking out for creators, and why is it working so hard to put these processes in place?

As a well-seasoned veteran of the comics industry and a former editor with DC Comics, Janelle wanted to take extra steps to ensure that Rosy Press creators were treated fairly, and to make sure they were compensated well enough that they could be financially solvent while making comics for the magazine. She also mentioned that when she was at DC, she didn’t realize how well-compensated the creators she worked with were, in comparison to other creators across the industry. With each goal that the Fresh Romance Kickstarter meets, creators get an increase in pay by percentage. For every $10,000 donated above the goal, creators get a 15% page rate increase. If funding hits $48,000, creators will receive a 30% increase. [Editor’s note: with less than two days and $115 left to raise, this goal is totally attainable! Give them your money, you guys!]


Going forward, will Rosy Press solicit creators for Fresh Romance, or will the magazine have open submissions?

Fresh Romance submissions will open up in the future and will seek out samples or pitches from new creators. Information about submissions will be available on the website at a later time. Fresh Romance is an intersectional publication seeking diverse creators and different kinds of stories. Representation was a critical goal for Fresh Romance, and open submissions is one way to make sure that all kinds of stories are heard in this publication.

fresh romance 04Character designs by Sally Jane Thompson

Thanks to Janelle for sitting down with us! So go pledge to Fresh Romance right now. Help support innovative comics so that you’ll have more cool stuff to read. Trust me – you’ll be into it. Now go!

CC Calanthe

CC Calanthe

If you prick your finger and write “Cat Fancy” on your mirror during a harvest moon, CC will appear behind you and make you put human clothes on your pets. CC is Head Crone in Charge at POMEgranate Magazine, as well as the co-host of Moon Podcast Power MAKE UP!!
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