Erika Rothberg, M.A. ’16 holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California and an M.A. in English (Literature Emphasis) from Loyola Marymount University. While at LMU, Erika taught courses in rhetorical arts, and served as the co-instructor for courses on comics studies and punk feminism. Her major research emphases were comics studies, gothic studies, and critical theory. She has been working at DC Comics in Collected Editions since 2016—first as an Assistant Editor, and currently as an Associate Editor. She has edited over 250 comic books in that time, including New York Times #9 bestseller (Graphic Novels list) Batman: Damned. She would love to return to school and earn her Ph.D., as she misses teaching at the college level.
Q: What brought you to LMU?
A: I was really interested in coming to LMU because of the emphasis on diverse research and student teaching. I’ve always dreamed of being a professor (something that I hope to go back to in the next few years) so the possibility of teaching was a huge draw for me. I was a Teaching Fellow both years, and was named Lead TF my second year, and I absolutely loved it. LMU did not restrict where I wanted to go within my studies, and I am very grateful to have found a program that allowed me to break the mold instead of stay inside it.
Q: What were the academic highlights, achieved both within and outside of the university, of your time at LMU? Conferences, publications, awards?
A: I spoke at the Comics Arts Conference at WonderCon twice while earning my M.A., and the International Gothic Association Conference in my second year. Those are both huge conferences in my fields, as I am a Comics Studies and Gothic Studies scholar, so I was thrilled to be able to speak at both of those while still earning my M.A. I was published in LMU’s literary journal Criterion, and shortly after I graduated, I was published in a textbook called Critical Insights Film: Alfred Hitchcock Edition. LMU gave me a wonderful head start on publishing & conference work, as we had to practice writing abstracts for everything we turned in, for the most part—and that’s exactly what you have to do when you actually start publishing in the real world, of course. Your CV is so very reliant upon how well you can synthesize your intended argument into 500 words or less, and LMU really made sure we knew how to do that before leaving the program.
Q: What do you do in your current role?
A: I am an Associate Editor at DC Comics. I work in Collected Editions, so I am the person who rolls together all the monthly/biweekly/quarterly, etc. periodical comic books and publishes them as a trade (hard or softcover book.) My department is also responsible for the restoration of Golden, Silver, and Bronze Age comics, so my role is a mix of traditional editorial work with art historian work. I work with old files and supervise the way they are published today; it’s my responsibility to make sure the restoration is accurate technically as well as historically. For example, when I work on archival comics, I have to study the color values on the old books by reading dot size under a magnifying lens called a loupe. It’s my job to make sure that our recolor and production artists are using color values that the printers of each era were capable of producing. It takes a strong eye and a lot of training to learn how to do that—it’s for sure one of the coolest things I do at DC! Also, I get to correct Batman’s grammar here and there—how cool is that? I’m responsible for confirming that everything is printed correctly and free of errors, so it’s a lot of extremely detail-oriented work. Being a professor (read: grading a ton of student papers!) was great training for catching all sorts of errors in the publishing world. My trusty red pen still gets a good workout in that way.
Q: What does your creative writing process and/or research process look like?
A: I’ll be honest, it’s so much harder now that I’m not attached to a university. You lose a lot of your resources when you’re an independent scholar. I’ve recently started speaking at academic conferences again after a brief hiatus (took a few years to really focus on building my career at DC) so that’s been very satisfying, but also a bit trickier. Harder to access secondary sources outside of school—JSTOR’s 6-item monthly max can be a killer. But I’ve learned to work around that. My process isn’t really unique—the basic “get an idea->read everything peripheral to that idea humanly possible->write your ass off” model.
Q: What authors inspire your work? What is a favorite book of yours?
A: Obviously, you can’t be a gothic studies scholar without loving Edgar Allan Poe. He’ll always have the top spot in my heart; “The Cask of Amontillado” is my favorite story ever. I adore Russian literature (which is why I decided to get my B.A. in Comp Lit) and Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky is my all-time favorite book. Watchmen by Moore, Gibbons, and Higgins is my favorite graphic novel (it’s an obvious choice, but just so, so good!) I’m also a huge fan of the works of Flannery O’Connor, Stephen King, Joe Hill, Herman Melville, and William Shakespeare. I founded a true crime book club in 2017 (shout out, LA Murderino Book Club!) so I read a lot in that field as well.
Q: What are your future academic or professional plans?
A: Ph.D. application season just ended, so I’m waiting to hear if I got in anywhere—terrifying waiting game at the moment. I absolutely love what I do but I miss teaching tremendously. My heart is in academia. If I don’t get into my top choice (University of Florida’s fantastic English Ph.D. program, within their Comics and Visual Rhetoric track), I’ll work on perfecting a new writing sample before trying again next year. And I’m always trying to add more publications and conferences to my CV—I have a goal of one publication acceptance and one major conference per year. Last year I spoke at PAMLA on the Melville panel, and this year I spoke at MLA on a La Llorona panel, so I’m rounding out my experiences and learning a ton by getting into some sub-fields of cultural studies that I hadn’t explored before now.
Q: What is your dream job?
A: This is such a tough one because I have a dream job! Working at DC Comics is just wild—I have been reading comics since elementary school, and I used to use Watchmen when I taught RhetArts at LMU. The fact that I’m now making the comics that will someday be used in classrooms like my own is so strange to think about. But honestly teaching is my real dream job. I would love to teach comics & gothic studies. I love comics studies because it’s the marriage of art and literature, which are my two biggest passions. Working in comics is the most fun job ever and the coolest thing I’ve done to date, but teaching at the university level is where my heart is.
Q: What advice do you have for students interested in LMU’s English Graduate program?
A: Absolutely reach out to the professors you want to work with beforehand and get a feel for the kind of work they do at LMU. The most important thing for grad school success is a good fit within the program. If you’re interested in doing community work, and possibly teaching, come visit the school and learn about those aspects of the program. It’s got some interesting components that are not like most other graduate programs so visiting the campus and getting to see the work the department is doing would be super helpful. I’m so glad I chose LMU!