Where Romance and Comics Meet

Reader Interview!

[fa icon="calendar"] Oct 4, 2017 12:49:33 PM / by Suzanne Krohn

A couple of weeks ago, I (Suzanne) shared a post at Heroes & Heartbreakers on romance novels for comic readers. Turns out, one of Love in Panels' readers is also a reader of H&H AND works at a comic book shop! I'm always eager to find more people who enjoy romance, comics, and romance comics, and to learn how their reading preferences developed and how they continue to evolve. I reached out, and Liz graciously agreed to answer some questions for me/you. Fair warning - recommendations ahead!
 
If you'd like to talk to us about your reading habits, your work, or your art, send me an email at suzanne@loveinpanels.com. I'd love to hear from you!
 
1) Tell us a little about yourself. You work in a comic shop and like to read romance novels. How did you get into these two (fantastic) genres?

I think I've actually been a romance reader for pretty much my entire life, even when I hadn't realized it yet. My mom named me after Elizabeth Bennet, introduced me to the BBC Pride & Prejudice at an absurdly young age, and bought me a slightly abridged version of the book for young readers when I was in third grade. Like, I never even had a chance.

Throughout my teenage years, I read A TON of romcom and fantasy YA novels, and then when I felt I'd kind of "graduated" from that, I didn't really know what to do with myself. I tried reading a bunch of literary fiction and it kind of worked, but I needed something fun, too! That's when I found Scott Pilgrim, and it really delivered. It was fun and energetic and nerdy, and it's elastic, cartoon-y art style gave it a layer of physical humor that I'd never experienced before. I also loved the melding of a video game aesthetic into the narrative and art. It just felt very different from anything else I'd ever read. And of course, I was totally rooting for Scott and Ramona! I was pretty enchanted, and the format really clicked for me at that point.

In a weird way, I think as I got more and more into comics, I also got more and more into romance novels. With comics, there's so much variety. Like, no two comics hit you in exactly the same way, but there is a through line in terms of format, and to me, romance novels are a bit similar. Every romance novel has a HEA (or should!), but no two HEAs make you feel the same way. I think part of what's so fun about romance novels and comics is that there's so much variation within the structure so you really get to see how each creator is working within that format and the choices they're making.

 
2) Since we launched this site, we have our own thoughts on this, but we want to hear from you: what do you like about romance comics vs. romance novels?
This is something I think about a lot, but I'm not sure I've pinned it down yet. Part of the reason romance novels are so engaging is that you're usually in at least one of the character's heads, and you get to experience the progression of a relationship with them, you get a front row seat as their feelings develop or change. With romance comics, there's generally a bit more distance. There's just not enough room for long descriptions and internal monologues. Because of that, there has to be a special alchemy between the writer, artist, and reader for it to really work, and when it does, it's really exciting and it makes me, at least, feel very invested in the relationship. 
I think, though, romance comics, at least in terms of ongoing titles, are pretty hard to find because their plots have to at least have the potential to last for a long time, if not infinitely, and romances generally have a pretty defined ending point. It's a bit easier with graphic novels but still HEAs are slightly uncommon. So, I gravitate toward mostly sci-fi and fantasy titles, partly because I find that they more often have satisfying romantic subplots than things like superhero comics (everyone should read the Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente with art by Annie Wu immediately! It's fantastic, and it pretty much perfectly addresses the ways in which romance in superhero comics, historically, hasn't been handled super well.).
 
3) We're reading a lot of indie comics and self-pubbed novels these days. Have your reading habits changed in the last few years? As a shop employee, has your store been bringing in titles from indies and/or Kickstarters?
My reading habits have definitely changed. I read mostly ebooks now because a lot of what I read isn't sold in print. It's also easier and cheaper most of the time. I do really prefer to read physical copies when it comes to comics, though. Practically speaking, it's just harder to read comics online unless they're actually webcomics and formatted as such. But I do make exceptions for independent and self-pubbed comics.
However, the store I work at is really, really good about carrying indie comics and zines. That's part of what drew me to this particular store in the first place. They really care about building a diverse and well-curated collection that promotes new artists and writers. But, I think it's hard sometimes for our store to bring in stuff from Kickstarter and things like that just because of the way that the ordering is done. It's really difficult for a small store to commit to buying more than one copy of a book if none of our subscribers know about it and there are no preorders. We're definitely encouraged to keeping an eye on new creators and new stuff coming out, though, because we like to promote new creators as much as possible.
 
4) Favorite comics? Romance novels? 
Choosing my favorite comics of all time is too hard so some that I love at the moment are: (obviously) Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, Henchgirl by Kristen Gudsnuk (I can't stop recommending it to people.),Shade the Changing Girl by Cecil Castellucci and Marley Zarcone (although all the Young Animal titles are absolutely worth reading.), and Giant Days by John Allison. What all of these have in common is that they all have some romantic storylines or elements to storylines, but it's not their primary focus (except maybe Saga, but I would argue that it's overall not really about romantic love).  Also, I almost forgot about Check Please! by Ngozi Ukazu, which is insane because it's just about the best romantic comic ever, right? (Love in Panels says RIGHT)
 
Other than Pride & Prejudice (and everything else by Jane Austen), my favorite romance novels are mostly historicals (surprise, surprise). I love pretty much anything by Sarah MacLean, but especially Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake. I am obsessed with The Luckiest Lady in London by Sherry Thomas because I love that both protagonists are kind of awful in a way that makes them perfect for each other. Also, Devil's Cub by Georgette Heyer. I also can't get enough of the Kresley Cole's Immortals after Dark series, but especially Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night because Bowen and Mariketa are the BEST. And, I'm not sure it exactly counts as a romance, but I love The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin and think it has a wonderful romance in it.
 
 
5) What are you reading now or excited to start?
I just started reading Moonstruck by Grace Ellis and Shae Beagle! It's definitely romantic and so, so sweet. Also, Hi-Fi Fight Club by Carly Usdin and Irene Flores is really fun. I just read Jane by Aline Brosh McKenna and Ramon Perez, which is a modern retelling of Jane Eyre. The art is stunning, and Jane Eyre is another of my favorite novels. 
 
The first issue of Rainbow Rowell and Kris Anka's new Runaways series came out a couple weeks ago, and I can't wait to read more of that. I'm really excited for No. 1 with a Bullet by Jacob Semahn and Jorge Corona. It's not at all a romance, but I got to read the first two issues, and it's really great so far. It's about a social media scandal and the resulting internet harassment that turns into IRL harassment. It also has really great back matter, including interviews with people that have actually been victims of online harassment.
 
Thanks for all the recommendations, Liz!
Readers, I'd like to apologize for the impact this post may have had on your wallet. (Sorrynotsorry?) My women's comic group (The League of Extraordinary Gentlewomen) is discussing Hi-Fi Fight Club this month, and I'm super excited for the conversation. If you want a chance at the first two issues of Moonstruck, enter our 2017 Comics Giveaway

Topics: interview