Last year, Fresh Romance — the fantastic collection of romance anthology stories from Rosy Press editor Janelle Asselin — made headlines when it debuted with a Kickstarter that immediately broke records, earning more than $53,000 and garnering critical acclaim. With a few convention-related excepts, the comic had only been available digitally — but that’s all about to change.
Asselin has teamed with publisher Oni Press to put the comic in the hands of readers, and has launched another Kickstarter campaign that is currently in progress. The goal of $39,000 will fund a deluxe edition of Fresh Romance and EW can exclusively reveal that if Rosy Press and Oni meet their goal, the print edition will also feature an exclusive short story written by Kieron Gillen (Wicked + The Divine, Young Avengers, Phonogram) with art by Christine Norrie (Breaking Up, Cheat, Hopeless Savages).
Gillen and Norrie spoke to EW about the story they’re cultivating for Fresh Romance, and why readers will absolutely want to get their hands on it.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Can you tease what your short story will be about and how you came up with the idea?
KIERON GILLEN: Janelle asked me if I had any ideas for a short romance story. To be honest, I’d been looking at what all the Rosy Press teams had been doing enviously, so I was yelping. However, I didn’t actually have a romance short. So I did what every professional writer does: ignore the problem and hope it solves itself. One morning it did. I had been thinking about Kate Leth’s criticism of my books in that there’s simply not enough kissing, so I was playing with the concept of kisses and what they mean, and thinking about doing something with a story about a lifetime just told in kisses. That felt like a cute idea, but a little too cold and formalist. It’s not a romance comic – it’s a formalist comic which uses romance to show off. However, lying in bed one morning, I found myself thinking about part of that idea. Specifically, about kisses reaching across time. Within a few seconds I made the leap to someone who had precognisant powers based around kissing – someone who kisses and gets glimpses of the future. Immediately, it was a story. I mailed Janelle on a Friday, she said great. I approached Christine on a Saturday. She said “LET’S DO IT!”. I wrote it on a Monday. Trust your subconscious. It knows things you don’t. By definition, in fact.
CHRISTINE NORRIE: It’s true. And true there’s just never enough kissing! I was very pleased that Kieron had reached out to me to do this, I’m so happy to tell a short about what it does and doesn’t mean when you’re in it with someone, throughout various points of life.
What has the experience been like collaborating together on this project and this story?
GILLEN: Frankly — and this is embarrassing considering she’s going to read this — Christine’s work on Hopeless Savages is one of the reasons I’m in comics today. Seeing a book like that existing was a reason why I thought comics may be a place for me. That’s not even touching on that my long-term partner in crime Jamie McKelvie got his first break in comics working as Christine’s assistant. There’s a chance I wouldn’t even be doing comics if it wasn’t for her. So to work with her on a story is absolutely a ludicrous thrill. It’s like I get to jam with one of my favourite bands. I’m a giggling buffoon over this.
NORRIE: Well, that was incredibly crazy sweet to read. I can’t believe it and will just take it as the nonsense of an insane writer. Jamie is a good guy and over the years we’ve all gotten together and I’ve always liked our conversations. Long rambling talks and even via email it’s the same, so I wasn’t worried. I’d jumped aboard immediately upon reading the basic concept, which was a series of mad sentences… and connected instantly when I read the script. Kieron’s a gracious open collaborator and it’s been a pleasure to interpret his ideas.
Why are you most excited to share your talents with Fresh Romance?
GILLEN: I’ve touched on this above — mainly, in pure-Romance comics are relatively rare to originate in the English-speaking comics world. There’s an alternate history of Jamie and me where we were born in the 1950s, and all we did was romance comics. Jamie would be an astounding romance cartoonist. I loved the idea of playing with that other world, if only for a story. Also, A Change to Awaken Hunger.
NORRIE: I’ve been on a long romantic journey, my heart has been broken many times, and I’m constantly amazed that I get through these adventures. It informs me as an artist and my current work reflects it. I think there’s a lot of heroic stories to tell within romance, whether it’s an absurdist comedy about dating, a brave drama of being with or without someone, or the horror of trying again in a relationship. It’s such a fundamental part of our experience here and also have I mentioned how thrilled I am about the kissing? I really like kissing.
What’s one thing readers are going to love about this story that will be exclusive to the Fresh Romance print edition and nowhere else?
GILLEN: I just want us to make a little magical thought to linger with people. Kisses are powerful, but we can get used to them. I wanted to do something to make a kiss feel fresh and new.
NORRIE: Meaningful, tender…and lingers.