When she left DC Comics in September of last year, Janelle Asselin was one of the few female editors at the company. Asselin, who worked on the Batman line, was an editor on Birds of Prey as well as an associate editor on Batwoman, Detective, Batman and few other books. During her time at DC Comics, Asselin began work on graduate thesis in publishing at Pace University. The topic was one that I have a lot of interest in — increasing the sales of comics among women. I follow Asselin on Twitter and kept tabs on her progress over several months. With the thesis finished, I set up some time to speak to her about her findings. The following is an interview with her about the findings of her thesis and thoughts about women in comics.
Janelle, you took on this thesis when you were an editor at DC Comics, which as you say in your piece, focuses on male readers. Tell me about how you came up with the topic.
I knew when I started my masters program that I wanted to do as much as I could to turn what was a generally focused publishing program into being comics related. I often used comic companies for assignments and things like that. So I knew that I wanted my thesis to be about comics from the very beginning. My thesis advisor had me come up with two possible topics, so I chose women and comics as one and copyright and comics as the other. Through the course of doing some basic research and talking through both topics with friends and family, it became clear that while both interested me, the topic of women and comics was the one I was really passionate about. I worry that a lot of times, commentary on the topic of women and comics veers into the negative, w
hich is so easily dismissed by people on the other side. I wanted to write something positive - something that admitted the problems in the industry (which are plentiful) but more importantly offered what I saw as solutions. And certainly being in the midst of the early days of planning the New 52 and watching, from the inside, as DC hatched marketing plans and all that as I came up with my topic was…influential.
That seems to imply you had some questions about how they were choosing their targets for the new 52. Were you surprised about the lack of targeting of female readers (i.e. the identification of the male 18-34 target)?
I wasn’t surprised, but it was hard to think - I’m working on a book like Birds of Prey which I’m OBVIOUSLY pushing to be aimed at women 18-34, and instead the whole part and parcel was aimed at one narrow demographic. I don’t think it’s a good idea to ignore a demographic that could be so valuable and which is largely so untapped at this point.