Jazmin Truesdale has created a brazen breed of heroines in Aza Comics – a fantasy universe that treasures gender and ethnic diversity.
What inspired you to start Aza Comics, and how is it different to that of rivals on the market?
I grew up reading comic books. My father bought me my first comic when I was ten years old and my earliest memory of superheroes was watching Michael Keaton as Batman.
I become disillusioned with the direction of female superheroes and lack of true diversity in the industry. I started creating a fitness game for one of my other companies and realised I was making superheroes. As a long time fan of superheroes I did some research on the industry and realised there was a huge hole in the market concerning women.
Aza is different because I actually found out from women what they wanted in their superheroes. I took the time to ask what it was that was turning women away from the industry and created a company that focused on what interested them. I later discovered that men also were very interested in what I was doing as well.
As founder and a creative, what is a typical day for you?
My day typically starts off about five am and I write anywhere from about four to eight scenes a day. I handle all my emails and conference calls from noon until about 4pm. Then I spend about two hours working on strategies (marketing, financial, employee development).
I am very detail oriented, so I like to be involved in every aspect of my business. I am the head writer and editor for the company so I do all the book and character planning, as well as the majority of the writing.
My illustrator, Remero Colston, is excellent with bringing my characters to life and I trust him implicitly so I give him a lot of creative freedom. I talk to my marketing interns weekly and they handle a lot of the leg work for me when reaching out to press, creating social media content.
My team is now expanding to include more writers to introduce new book series, characters, as well as game development, so I supervise all of that as well.
I am constantly thinking about my next steps and how to take my company to the next level. What partnership do I need to develop? who can I add to my network? What’s the next merchandising plan? How can I reach more people?
How lucrative has the publishing industry been for you and what excites you most about what you do?
My company is only 6 months old but I would say that it’s proving lucrative. My sales have been increasing as more and more people discover my company. I’ve been catching the eye of really great companies for partnerships and I have amazing things planned for the next year so exposure is only getting better.
I love storytelling. I get to create awesome characters and twisted plots and really get to explore the future of what could be through science fiction. My heart actually starts racing when I imagine a new planet, or storyline, or great plot twist.
What have been the key challenges for your business and as a woman running your business?
As a woman sometimes I have to fight to be heard so I have to be assertive about what I want for my company. Fortunately, I was raised by very strong men and women so I’m not easily intimidated.
I have no problem walking away from a deal if I feel like the other company won’t be collaborative. It took a lot of hard work but I’m in a very fortunate position to be able to have control of my business and a strong network of people around me to be able to get anything done.
What do you identify as some of the prevalent issues that women in the comic industry face?
Being heard. My industry is predominantly run by men who feel like they know more about what women want then we do lol. I think the term is ‘mansplaining’. I never make the assumption to know what anyone wants which is why I spend so much time researching so that I can create the best product possible, as authentically as possible.
What are Aza’s biggest achievements to date?
I base my achievements on impact because that is the main reason why I created my company. When I get a call through Facebook from a teenage Native American girl crying because for the first time she sees a superhero who looks like her, to me that is an achievement.
My biggest achievement was going to a kids’ book festival and seeing first hand the excitement on little girls’ faces when viewing my characters for the first time.
Seeing their enthusiasm and how they immediately were able to find a character they could identify with told me I was on the right path and that all my hard work was worth it.
What is the greatest challenge and the greatest reward in being your own boss?
Greatest challenge is fighting the urge to procrastinate. There is no one telling me what to do so I have to find my motivation everyday and create my own system for being consistent. The greatest reward is that I get to do what I love every day and I get to determine the path of my success. Seeing my ideas come to life is one of the greatest experiences ever. I cried when I saw the first illustrations of my characters.
What are your priorities as a business leader?
Making sure that my products are of the best quality that they can be and unique. Making sure that my employees feel heard and that they have the freedom to grow creatively. I’m always encouraging them to learn new skills and further develop their talents because that will only make my company better.
How do you intend to ensure the business continues to thrive?
My background is in financial risk so I have a plan B to Z for absolutely everything that I do. I’m constantly coming up with new things to try in order make sure that I reach my goals. Giving up is never an option and if I fail, I simply re-strategise.