An Interview with Janine Janssen, creator of Atlas and Les Normaux
When did you start making webcomics?
Well December 2013 is when I started posting Atlas, which is my first actual webcomic. I don’t really like to see that as my “start” though. It wasn’t even my first attempt. I’ve been writing and drawing little stories since I was little. When I was 14 I actually began to plan a story more seriously with a friend. I never took comics that serious when I was younger, I read Tintin, Asterix and Oblelix, Suske and Wiske and all that stuff like any other Dutch kid. I liked them a lot but that was it. (I actually wanted to become a animator.) Then I joined Deviantart 2 years later in 2011 and discovered these webcomics; Lackadaisy, the Meek and Warrior U. That’s when I saw that it could be possible for anyone to get out there and I wanted to try it too.
What I personally love about your comics is the fact that there is so much diversity and representation, but what about your comics do you think has helped them develop such an enthusiastic fanbase?
I think a big part of is that indeed, but I don’t stop there. I don’t make characters to just serve as representation. I make them to move the story forward. They are not just “the gay guy” or “the black girl”, they are people with stories that also go beyond their race, gender or orientation but of course I don’t dismiss it. It’s important to clearly show what they are and how it shaped them to be the person they are currently; that’s what good representation is to me and I think a lot of media is still missing that.
Since I joined Tapastic I got a boost in creativity which is also a thing I think. I don’t like making comics that are too much like each other in both art style and story which I think may also be a appeal.
I get compliments on how positive my work is most of the time. Which is a big thing for me. There’s already enough drama in the world.
Would you be interested in publishing a traditional monthly comic, or is there something about webcomics that makes it the perfect format for you?
Hmmmm. I’d like to publish something traditional. Maybe not monthly but short stories would be really cool. But there’s just something about webcomics that I absolutely adore. I post something and I will almost immediately get feedback. Webcomics are so much more interactive in a way wich I really like and they help me reach a broader audience.I think a printed version of my comics would be really cool though.
Your art style seemed to change over the course of Atlas Book Two, was that a conscious decision or something that just happened organically?
Mostly conscious I think. I was unsatisfied with the style I was using so I decided to try something new. As you can see I still haven’t quite figured it out yet. I’m very much a perfectionist… and very indecisive. (Going through one of those experimental phases again) It will probably take a while for me to get Atlas back up and running again but I hope it will be worth the wait.
In terms of your comic ‘Les Normaux’, what is it about slice-of-life stories that you think people are attracted to?
I think there’s a certain simplicity to these kind of stories that people like a lot. They are not too hard to read, short, often relatable and usually don’t have too much drama. I personally don’t like being difficult haha.
You have a new project called ‘150 Days’, can you give us a sense of what it’s going to me about? Do you have a launch date in mind?
It will take place along the silk road of the 9th century. A young man from Chinese royalty (Siyu) get’s lost in the deserts of Arabia when this mysterious guy (Mirza) finds him and takes him to his tribe. They agree to take Siyu back home to China but as they grow closer along the way letting go of each other get’s a lot harder.
I have been pretty quiet about it lately because I’ve been busy with school so I don’t have a lot of the story yet. I can tell you I will try to make it a “silent” comic with no dialogue and little to no other text at all. It’s a short story (around 15 chapters probably) I want to work on during summer so I hope to have it all out in August.
How do you go about worldbuilding these fantastic settings?
My comics’ settings are always based in reality somehow. Les Normaux has Paris, 150 days will have “The Silk Road” and Atlas’ world is mostly based on the continents. I don’t know how to explain the fantasy elements, it kind of just happens? I guess this is where my interest for history and geography shows haha.
If given the chance, would you ever do anything like a Kickstarter anthology?
I don’t know if I’d like to do a anthology per se since like I said before my stories are all so different from each other. I’d love to kickstart something though. I’m starting to experiment with shorter stories so who knows! It might be something cool to do once I’m done with college!
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Sooo many things! I love music, places in the world, fashion, PEOPLE. I love looking at people (not in a creepy way) and researching their cultures. My friends inspire me too. They have taught me so many things. Especially Al (who is also my editor) helps me out a lot whether it be art, story or typos.
And finally, where can we find you online?
*All artwork used with permission from the artist.