[As comics continue to grow they continue to attract not just new creators and readers, but new people behind the scenes who are bringing in much needed fresh ideas. I met Jessi Reid at this years San Diego Comic-Con where she had just taken over marketing for Top Cow. Soon after she moved on to Studio 407, a multicultural comics company that is expanding its publishing, where’s she’s just been named Marketing Manager. I was intrigued by how much experience Reid has accumulated in just a few years in comics and thought it would be instructive to get the insights of a relatively new face in the game. It took quite a while to put this interview together on my end, and Reid’s patience in helping me get it finished tells me we’ll be hearing a lot more from her.]
The Beat: Jessi, you’ve already done a lot in a relatively short time in comics. Can you give us a little bit of your background?
Jessi Reid: I’ve always loved comics- I’ve been a Batman fan since as long as I can remember. I don’t even have a copy of my first comic (an issue about Batgirl) because I read it so much as a little girl and it fell apart! Back in 2009, I drove to Heroescon by myself and met friends who honestly changed my life. I remember meeting Danielle Corsetto (of Girls With Slingshots fame), having a four hour lunch with her and leaving inspired to really be apart of the Comics community. Danielle offered me a position to move to West Virginia to work for her and I jumped at the chance! I went to so many conventions that year and made so many friends and well really, the rest is history.
The Beat: Studio 407 is just beginning to get its name out there (which will be up to you — no pressure!) Can you give us a nutshell idea of what kinds of comics it puts out?
Reid: Studio 407 blends Eastern manga and Western comics together creatively and has no problem reaching into all genres, which leads to some pretty dynamic choices. We have an array of titles reaching out to all-ages, superhero, sci-fi/fantasy and horror!
Our graphic novel out now, HAVOC BRIGADE, is set in future Europe during a war that has been ended by these mecha-suits called Havocs. The Havocs are retired by the government but the former commander isn’t too keen on this, takes down the squad and starts a war! The only person who can stop him is the lone survivor which means he has to go head to head with his mentor! If you like Mobile Suit Gundam-like war thrillers, you’re gonna love this!
The Beat: What’s the difference in working for an established, dare I say, legendary studio like Top Cow to going to an upstart like Studio 407?
Reid: Working for Top Cow, a company with twenty years of history under its belt, taught me what it really meant to “work in comics.” It isn’t all fun and conventions. Fortunately I had a great mentor, Filip Sablik, who really helped guide me from a clunky intern to a polished pro. That being said, Top Cow has built a demographic in its 20 years, where Studio 407 is new enough to open its arms to all kinds of comic fans and figure out what works for us. I’m able to market our titles in the way, as a woman, I’d want them marketed towards me, and I think that’s important.
The Beat: It sounds like you’re already a veteran road warrior. What are the things you learned never to be without on the con circuit?
Reid: I think the most valuable aspect that I bring to a convention is Patience. No matter what, something is not going to go the way you want it to at a convention—be it a missing banner, large crowds blocking the exit when you’re about to faint from not eating and long, long hours. At a convention the only thing you can control is how you react to problems that arise. So Patience and also, Emergen-c, helps.
The Beat: I’m intrigued by your transition working for a web cartoonist to more company oriented material. Do they have very different fanbases? Is there a general difference in how to market to them?
Reid: I don’t feel like “comics” and “webcomics” are separate entities thee way a lot of my colleagues in the industry view it. A lot of my friends who run successful webcomics are able to make a comfortable living off of it. The model of putting your works online for free to gain a following and then have them support you does work, and I was living proof—working and making a salary off of it. As far as marketing, I know Danielle’s wonderful personality is her brand and it works well for her.
The Beat: You mentioned marketing to women and getting into comics through Batgirl. Do you think that comics are doing a good job of marketing to female readers right now?
Reid: Honestly? No. I think there’s still a ways to go when it comes to marketing to women. Then again, how can you market to a demographic you’ve proven time and time again to not really care about? This is my opinion but I definitely get the feeling that with the Comics Industry, they are making comics for men, with women reading them being a far afterthought.
The Beat: You recently went to MorrisonCon which had some lofty goals going in but really does seem to have been a very moving event for those who attended. What was your own experience?
Reid: It felt like a nerd summer camp. It didn’t matter if you were a professional or fan, you could walk up to a stranger and make a fast friend out of them. The feeling I felt during MorrisonCon is one that I haven’t felt since my very first convention. Even with the panels—out of the 11 years I’ve been attending conventions, I’ve never been very interested in going to panels, but the ones I saw at MorrisonCon were engaging and fun.
The Beat: Could you understand what Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely were saying?
Reid: Funny you should ask. On Sunday I actually volunteered my convention expertise to help out the MorrisonCon staffers, which meant getting to sit next to Grant and Frank during the signings! They are both such nice, very humble guys. I could tell they both felt so touched by what their fans were saying to them. It was kind of magical!
The Beat: Besides Studio 407, what other comics are you reading now?
Reid: This is going to sound terrible, but I’ve been so busy with my job plus I recently moved that I haven’t had the time to collect or read! I’m not well versed with Marvel so a friend of mine got me to read The Dark Phoenix Saga and I totally loved it. However, when I go back to my LCS, I will be picking up the issues of Saga, The Rocketeer, Mind MGNT, and The Massive that I’ve missed. I love what Image has been putting out this year so I’ll be picking up Not My Bag next week for sure. If there’s anything anyone would want to suggest that I read I’m “@jessiawesome” on twitter!
The Beat: What’s your dream comics project?
Reid: Being that I’m in the Comics Industry is a dream already! I think I’d like to get my hands into editorial one day. I have an anthology idea that I’ve been mulling over now for a few years. There are so many ideas that I have in my head that its hard to pick just one! For right now, I’m just happy to apply my marketing skills over at 407.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.