Welcome to Queer Fudanshi. Let’s Talk. Today, I’m honored to get to have a conversation and interview with SuBLime Manga’s Editor, Jennifer LeBlanc.
New to Monday Posts? Every Monday I pick a random topic to share and talk to you guys about. In addition, each topic can have a varying category.
There’s Story Times which are more personal anecdotes such as my trip to New York City to see a Got7 concert or my cruise to Bermuda. There are Ramble times where I discuss topics in a more casual fashion such as Why #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyFriend is Plausible, but not Possible, or How Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (AKA The Scorbus Play) Failed the LGBT Community. Lastly, there are Character Studies such as the ones I did for The Mindy Project and Ugly Betty where I discuss Queer characters from media with detail. Are they great representation? Are they not? And why.
So Let’s Get Talking.
Like I said, today I am honored to post my discussion with SuBLime Manga’s Editor Jennifer LeBlanc. If you guys do not know what SuBLime Manga is, then click this link to watch the Queer Fudanshi video where I fill you in on that topic. Once you’ve watched that, come on back to read up on my talk with Ms. LeBlanc.
Who is Jennifer LeBlanc?
First, who is Ms. LeBlanc? Well she may be the living embodiment of the fujoshi/fudanshi dream. After being a fan of yaoi manga, Jennifer LeBlanc started a blog titled the Yaoi Review in 2008. On that blog she reviewed yaoi manga such as Antique Bakery, Kirepapa, You’re My Love Prize in the View Finder, and more. Then, in 2010-2011 Jennifer LeBlanc came across the opportunity of a fujoshi’s lifetime. VIZ media posted a position for a yaoi editor. Ms. LeBlanc applied, and she won the job.
Ladies and Gentleman, I give you Ms. Jennifer LeBlanc.
Devin: Could you give your definition of what a yaoi/boys’ love manga is?
Jennifer LeBlanc: The most basic of definitions: Love stories about men written by and for women. Of course, anyone can read these stories. I’ve found the majority are straight women, but straight men and LGBTQ women and men also read them.
(For reference, there is a fun thread happening on mangago right now where fujoshi and fudanshi are sharing their ages, countries, sexualities and why they got into yaoi)
What first got you into the yaoi and boys’ love genre?
I was a fan of anime on Adult Swim (Inuyasha might have been my gateway drug), and I vaguely remember someone talking about anime porn existing, which I thought was hilarious and weird. I believe that led me to Google, which led me to YouTube, which led me to hentai videos, which led me to yaoi videos… This was all in one night, mind you. Anyway, I then found out about yaoi manga, and the rest, as they say, is history.
What are some changes you’ve seen in the genre and the fandom since that time?
By far the biggest change is the acceptance of OEL (original English language) yaoi. When I first got into the genre itself, there was a definite stigma against OEL yaoi that publishers like Yaoi Press and creators like Tina Anderson were trying to overcome. I think they helped pave the way for webcomic creators like Hamlet Machine and the Teahouse creators to be successful not only online but in print as well.
Now there are all kind of yaoi webcomics to be read, many with print versions. Alex Woolfson is a male creator that has had great success on Kickstarter with his story Artifice and his series The Young Protectors, although I would say his stories toe the line between yaoi and gay comics. Jo Chen is another English-language yaoi creator who has enjoyed huge success, which led to her In These Words series to be licensed by a Japanese publisher, and that is pretty amazing.
What are some of your favorite manga or mangaka?
When it comes to favorite manga, you’re asking me to pick my favorite child! My current obsession is Old Xian’s 19 Days. It’s a Chinese webcomic that I desperately hope to see in print (I already have her art book). Her art just makes me feel things. I don’t know how better to explain it. And of my own books that I’ve edited, Blue Morning by Shoko Hidaka is one that always makes me feel the deepest emotion. Although I like sexually explicit yaoi, good writing and art that give me a deep emotional response always seem to win out.
If you could have one of those manga turned into an anime or even just an OVA, which would you pick?
I found that you used to write a blog titled The Yaoi Review where you reviewed yaoi manga. Can you tell me the story behind why you created that site?
When I got into reading yaoi manga, I found I was frequently frustrated with what I was buying. I’m a big believer in supporting the creators and the publishers, so I didn’t rely on scanlations to help me in my selection. But because libraries tend not to carry yaoi due to its content, I had to rely on other people’s reviews of the books, which never told me what I wanted to know—what’s the sex like?! Out of pure frustration (pun intended), I created The Yaoi Review so I could write reviews that always addressed the sexual content in each book (Is there sex? How much? How explicit?). I also reported on any yaoi news I could find, and with time, the site became quite successful.
I’ve also read that some years later after creating the Yaoi Review you became Editor of SuBLime? What was that transition like to go from being a fan to being a working part of the genre (and at that, a leading force in it)?
It was definitely eye opening. I had been on the fan side of it for so long, dealing with what I like to call the “publishing wall of silence,” that I was determined to not let SuBLime frustrate its readers in the same manner. That meant I had to learn what things I could say, what things I couldn’t, how best to explain that to readers, and also how to convince my new employer to trust that I won’t say something dumb that would jeopardize relations with our Japanese publishing partners. I think we’ve found a great balance, and I hope fans feel we’re as transparent as we can be and that I do know what it’s like to be on the outside looking in, wondering what’s going on.
What are your hopes for SuBLime concerning its mission and goals within the genre and fandom?
I want SuBLime to continue publishing varied content so everyone can find something they enjoy. I want our quality to remain high, as I believe our readers have come to expect that from us and appreciate it. I want our content to remain accessible to everyone, especially in countries where it’s difficult to get. And more than anything, I want us to remain a community. I’m a fan and so are the two lovely ladies I report to. We’re not a big corporation. What our readers think of us and our content does matter, so never be afraid to contact us. I should be the one you end up talking to, and I don’t bite (regardless of what you’ve heard).
What are some actions that SuBLime has taken, since you’ve become the editor, toward those goals?
When I became editor for SuBLime, it didn’t actually exist yet, so I was lucky enough to be a big part of making it what it is (branding, website design, content, naming, etc.) Honestly, I think our proudest achievement was being able to sell our digital books as downloadable DRM-free PDFs (no restrictions, it’s yours forever, available anywhere). That I’m aware of, there weren’t any manga publishers doing that way back in 2010.
Can you give me a glimpse at some of your upcoming plans?
Nope. Ha ha ha! Transparency only goes so far. I can’t give away everything.
I heard that SuBLime went to the recent San Francisco Yaoi Con. What was that experience like?
SuBLime goes every year, and we’re always happy to be there. Even though our competitor runs the convention, they’ve always been very gracious with making sure we have a presence for the yaoi fans that attend. We host a panel for our readers that includes announcements as well as a fun game where I can give away yaoi books and merchandise. We also sell our books in the Dealers’ Room.
What do you think are some benefits of having events like Yaoi Con?
It’s a great place for female fans to enjoy yaoi without judgment. Same can be said for all fans, but I point out women specifically because we are often judged for our sexuality. Yaoi fans can get grief online (I see it myself), so this convention really is a safe space for us.
Finally, after all these years that you’ve committed to the genre I have to ask, was it worth it?
Absolutely! I’ve turned what was once a hobby into a career, and in the process I gained a great mentor who helped me do that by taking a chance on a manga blogger. Since my transition from fan to a member of the industry, I’ve continued my education in various ways so I can not only make SuBLime better but also expand my own career options…not that I’m going anywhere!
That is it for my interview with Jennifer LeBlanc, Editor of SuBLime Manga. If you guys are interested in hearing more about SuBLime, make sure to watch the QF video. In addition, check out their website where you can get the latest news directly from them. In addition, you can check out their store and consider buying a manga or two.
Again, I would like to thank Jennifer LeBlanc, SuBLime Manga, and VIZ media. Thank you for helping to make this interview a reality. I enjoyed the Q&A and I look forward to seeing where SuBLime goes from this point forward.
Did you enjoy my talk with Jennifer LeBlanc? Have you read a yaoi manga published by SuBLime? Are you interested in checking them out now that you’ve read this post? Make sure to let me know down in the comments below and lets’s get talking!