A World of Hardcore Lady Types: Janelle Asselin and Lumberjanes

It’s an odd but fortunate state for us here at the Recorder when we discover something we think is important to write about, only to find that in the time between getting the article idea and writing the article that its importance has grown.

A lesson I’ve learned in my four years in the comics world is that there is a multitude of people whose names never appear in large print on the covers of monthlies or graphic novels, but who command respect and are universally loved, people who have thousands of Twitter followers and hold court at hotel bars and after-parties at every convention. Two years ago in New York, I was very humbled to have what so far has been my only meeting with one of these people, Janelle Asselin (@gimpnelly).

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New York Comic-Con and Comics From Beyond New York

Last weekend, for the third year in a row, I settled down in my friends Adam and Lexie’s guest room and took in New York Comic-Con at the Javits Convention Center on 34th Street. I learned a lot of things this trip, including that NYCC is rapidly turning into the junior SDCC, which is both excellent (more fans and exposure) and lame (nobody can move, and the amount of harassment and unwanted attention regarding female guests has gone up). That half of the people I know now can and will get sick before and during the con as opposed to after. That walking the entire floor in one day will make you feel drunk despite not having had a drop stronger than coffee, but a bowl of real ramen will awaken the soul. That every kind of pizza you can get there is fantastic. That people love to cosplay as Hunter S. Thompson now.

That I don’t know quite as much about the 1970s as I think I do…so next time I audition for Millionaire it’s going to be the general program, and believe me I will because I don’t like to lose. That when a restaurant abbreviates “Angel Hair Pasta with Turkey Meatballs” to “Angel Meat” on the receipt, it’s too darn funny. That the Carlton Hotel’s martini (Beefeater with three olives) and 14 year-old single malt Oban are pure ambrosia. (J., back me up on this.)That my friends, old and new, from New York artists in gentrified neighborhoods to number-one New York Times bestsellers, just keep getting more awesome. That I am more lucky than ever to have Kate Kasenow as my artistic partner. And that there are few honors more great, more soul-stirring, more convincing that you found your true vocation, than when a book you wrote is singled out as a book teachers should introduce to their classes—as I found out from someone who attended the Teaching the Graphic Novel panel.

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Lucy Knisley’s “Relish” and Andrew Rostan’s “Apologia Pro Vita Sua”

Some of you who have read my work here may wonder why I chose the graphic novel as my preferred form of literary expression as opposed to the classic prose novel, more Recorder-type essays, dramas of stage and screen, or sundry others. I will admit that comics present some surface challenges, especially for those who write but do not draw: the necessity of working on a combined schedule with a partner and fulfilling their expectations as much as yours, the need for conciseness and absolute control over your expression, and so on. However, the rewards of comics writing surpass all the potential drawbacks, at least in the opinion of one who likes collaboration and craves a way to structure and rein in an unbridled imagination.

But an even more specific answer came to me during a conversation on a train.

At the end of May, Lisa Huberman came to Chicago for a visit. Lisa has been one of my best friends for twelve years and is a remarkably gifted writer herself. (She was just published in The Dramatist.) We were taking the Red Line up north and in between the rattle of the wheels I was describing the latest developments with my books when she asked during a natural pause in the telling the question which inspired this piece: “Why comics? What makes comics different and appealing?”

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