From Scary Godmothers to WWE superstars. Artist Jill Thompson talks about her wonderful world of comics
The brilliant Jill Thompson is a woman of many talents. Not only is she the writer and artist of the fantastically successful Scary Godmother and Beasts of Burden series from Dark Horse; she’s also the designer of ring outfits and T-shirts for WWE superstars like current WWE World Champion Daniel Bryan; And she’s the creator of her own iPad app JilliJill – which distributes her weird and wonderful comic stories to a new generation of tablet savvy fans. Curious how she manages to find time in the day, we caught up with Jill and asked her just what the future holds for comic creators like herself in this new digital world…
Are you a fan of digital comics and how do you see it affecting the way comics writers and artists distribute their work? Positively or negatively?
I am a fan of all comics. I want the reader to be able to read comics in whatever way they are most comfortable with. Digital is just the delivery system. I prefer paper comics and books because those are the kind I grew up with and the kind that I am used to designing for. I like designing pages with a bleed, or a gatefold for impact and other things that will be affected differently in a digital format. But my plan is to utilize both formats.
Do you yourself have an iPad or iPhone and read comics on them?
I’m typing this on my iPad…I do have some comics on it as well. Finals, Scary Godmother, Beasts of Burden, Spaceman, Wonder Woman.
I also have comics on the iPhone, but I find it’s too small for me to comfortably enjoy. I know how I design a page but to have comics previously published broken down panel to panel to view on a phone destroys the flow of how I intended the reader to experience the story. I hope at the very least, the reader who enjoys teeny comics on the phone, might then buy them in a larger format or go back and see the catalogue of work that came before it. But- if that’s the way they reeeaaaly want to see it? I’m glad they can get it exactly how they want it. I just want them to be able to purchase it.
A good comic page is designed to pace the reader and move their eye around the page in a controlled way. There is thought that goes into the lighting and placement of panels and the impact of a splash panel. There is a focal point to the panel and the page and they may be connected for a certain reason and just cutting up a comic so the narrative flows panel to panel could be destroying a greater design element.
You have to plan for the digital page the same way you have to plan for a printed page and if your comic might be seen on more than one digital platform you must take that into account when you are creating that as well. Its a whole new world. But is it a comics reading world? That’s good for me. The more you buy my comics the more i’ll be able to make them for you. Its all connected.
Your scary godmother books were recently collected together and released digitally by dark horse, how do you feel about them being available to a whole new audience?
I wanted them to reach a whole new audience. I wanted them re-collected in book form again to reach an audience that may have only seen them on cartoon network. There are 500 pages of story and sketchbook material that people may have not seen before! And if some people are only reading comics digitally? I want them to have my work there as well.
Are there any of your other works you would you like to see published digitally?
I have my own app for the iPad on iTunes, it is called JilliJill and it’s free. The first 19 page color story is Scary Godmother #0 and its 99 cents. I’m planning on putting more stories of all kinds up there. A place for Jill comics. Things that I will one day compile into a book. But for now, a place where people can aquire little stories of all kinds by me.
Have you tried painting digitally or do you prefer the feel of paper, paint and pencil? What do you think are the various pros and cons of each medium?
I’m way behind the times. It takes me a long time to learn things in Photoshop. I really only know how to scan things. I need a teacher. But in my defense, it takes me 8-14 hrs to draw and paint a page so it leaves me little time to learn. I would like to know, not to switch over to digital painting, but to mix my existing painting with other elements.Maybe someone patient will offer their expertise. But they have to be reeeeeeeaallly patient!
I know how to control watercolor and tell comics stories in the way I want to on paper. I like how it looks and I love to have a tangible product at the end of my day. I feel great satisfaction when I finally put down the paintbrush and there is a finished page on my drawing table. But I’m sure all artists in all mediums share that same satisfied finished feeling whether they are working digitally, or sculpting, cooking, knitting, woodworking writing, creating music,etc.
It’s how I am most comfortable creating. But I am not averse to learning new skills.
You’re a keen Tweeter, do you think social media like Twitter and Facebook is helping to spread the name of comics writers and artists and do you think it actually translates into more interest for your work?
I sure hope so! I enjoy having mental ‘twelepathy’ with thousands of people. As long as they are not bored by my silly ramblings, ha! It’s like you are all in my studio with me. When i used to share a studio space with Tony Akins he was my analog Twitter following of one. Only he was privvy to my outbursts of silly stuff or my drawings and things…Now i have all of you to share with!
I hope that if someone on Twitter likes a painting I post, of a page of comics or a T-shirt or something I say, they will take the time to track my books and comics down. It is the way I make a living and if you like it, I’d hope that you’d share my work with others. Or recommend a follow on Twitter so they could decide for themselves. I’m just being myself on Twitter so if you like me you might want more of me in book form!
You recently created quite a buzz for yourself by designing the ring jacket of WWE superstar Daniel Bryan and being mentioned by CM Punk a lot on Twitter, are you finding having a new batch of wrestling/comics fans as a result? Any more plans to create things for comic loving wrestlers or a wrestling based comics even?
To clarify, I’ve designed 4 sets of gear for Daniel Bryan that you have seen on tv as of now. The most recent one was the one that seemed to get alot of buzz. There are several more that you haven’t seen. It’s really exciting to see them all come to life. He looks great in them! I was flattered when he asked me to design stuff for him and I’m quite proud ofthe work I’ve done. I’m just happy that he likes them. The fact that other people really like them as well is icing on the cake.
If I have new fans via wrestling because of Daniel Bryan and CM Punk, I wecome them to my arty little world. If they are new to comics, I hope I can introduce them to some cool stuff!
I have a great comic story i want to tell that’s wrestling related. I just need to find time to schedule it into my other work. I’m only one woman and i’m doing all the jobs! But, i want to do all the jobs. Maybe that will be one of my JilliJill comics.
I’m designing more gear for Daniel Bryan based on his suggestions and i’m doing a tshirt design for Shane Helms.
I just recently illustrated a T-shirt for Fozzy, Chris Jericho’s band. You can find that at the official Fozzy website. And I drew the ‘Wrestling Stick Figure T-Shirt’ for Colt Cabana. You can find that at www.coltmerch.com. It’s very fun!
You’re one of the most high profile women comic artists right now, do you think there is a new generation of female talent coming through right now (such as sara pichelli on ultimate spider-man or amy reeder on batwoman) and and whose work do you currently admire the most?
There are a great many super talented women drawing comics right now! Probably too many for me to namecheck without forgetting people….So I’ll list a few off the top of my head this morning…. And hopefully there will be more new female readers and creators every year!
Sara Pichelli is amazing, yes. And, damn straight, Becky Cloonan is my favorite comic artist right now! She can illustrate sooooooo frikkin good! Her Conan is going to be amazing. I love her brushwork! Her work is lush and moody and dynamic and exciting! I hope everyone picks that up.
Amanda Conner kicks ass! She’s ‘the’ awesome. Nicola Scott, Amy Reeder, Erika Moen and Raina Telgemaier do some really great personal and biographical comics, Katy Cook, Spike, Stephanie Buscema, Svetlana Chmakova….So many different styles and genres, so many great story tellers. Because that’s what comics is all about, isnt it? The storytelling!
How great to see such diversity in artistic styles. The art and story should complement each other, combine to create a mood, a world where the reader gets lost. A world where the reader looks forward to getting lost! Not the same, old same old. And these women are bringing it! Lovely! Wonderful! Amazing! I love to see it!
I hope to add to it! I hope you all will join me!