To most people, Jamal Igle is a gifted artist, a born storyteller, and an endlessly gracious presence online. To me, he's simply the one who got away.
I've been a fan of Jamal's for ages. Many artists draw with talent, many artists draw with craft. Jamal has those things in huge supply, but what sets him apart is that he draws with heart. Few superhero artists draw emotion so convincingly, with such aching expertise, as Jamal.
When he draws a beautiful woman, she is a character, she catches the eye as a lovely human being, not as a collection of porny cliches. When he draws heroism, it's one of those perfect combinations of artist and subject, that perfect note struck by just the right player.
Yes, I'm a fan.
When I returned for my sadly (for me) truncated second "Birds of Prey" run, mostly due to a series of circumstances beyond anyone's control, we found ourselves having to use a series of fill-in artists, and the rotation was enough to make your head spin and kill a lot of the book's significant momentum. We tried several different, and very wonderful, artists. But either the fit was wrong, or they ran into personal difficulties that could not be avoided. It was disheartening, and I admit, I felt very down.
Until someone suggested that Jamal might be available. And that was all I could think about...Jamal, on "Birds of Prey?" Are you KIDDING me?
To say I was ecstatic is underselling. Jamal was so enthused, had so many ideas -- and he whipped out a mind-blowingly gorgeous set of character sketches of all the characters that just were so stunningly perfect, I could barely stand to look at them.
As often happens, for reasons too odd to repeat, it didn't work out. Jamal kindly gave me the entire portfolio of sketches, and when I want to bum myself out, I look at his version of Black Canary, his Lady Blackhawk, his Dove, his Huntress.
The one that got away.
Suffice it to say, I've been waiting for Jamal's next big project, the book that really shows the world who he is, and what he can do. And as selfish as I might be, I am delighted that he chose to do something wholly original, something creator-owned.
And perhaps most wonderfully, something for everyone, all ages. "Molly Danger" is a superhero book for those who might want to see something charming in that genre. A book a dad could read with his daughter, or a mother to her son.
If you follow Jamal online or meet him in person, you know what a big heart he has, and how he feels about family. He wants to make a book a family could enjoy. And man, do I want to see him make that book, as well.
So here we are, a few questions for Jamal Igle, on his latest and maybe greatest adventure. And by the way, there are only four days left on his Kickstarter, just four days left to fund this wonderful volume. Pledges end on Friday, August 31! Please, go take a look.
Here we go!
Gail Simone: Okay, I know you've spoken about this before, but my understanding is that you were inspired to make this book at least partially by a hero of mine, Dr. Seuss. I am a big fan of his dramatic structure, beyond all his more obvious gifts as a writer, and as someone who understood how to write for all ages like few others. Can you elaborate on how this happened a little?
Jamal Igle:: Well I have to back track a little, for the sake of context. Before I was a full time professional, I used to jokingly say I couldn't leave DC Comics before I got to draw Superman. A few years ago I finally got the opportunity to work on the Superman books, and ultimately drew the last Pre-New 52 issue of "Superman." So when my contract came up and I didn't renew it, I felt like I had come full circle. I did exactly what I set out to do, and I'm still drawing a version of Superman in "Smallville Season 11." The problem was, it also left me feeling a little lost, I guess. It wasn't lack of work, because I've been busy -- it was the lack of a goal to shoot for. I was left with this bit of emptiness inside of me and I kept thinking, "What do I do? Do I just keep working on other peoples stuff like some sort of art shark, moving to just stay alive?"
I was really confused, to be honest.
It was around that time I started getting contacted by several writers about doing projects with them and trying to get funding on Kickstarter. That led to me thinking about doing my own project and leaning heavily towards "Molly Danger," something that I had developed years ago and reworked a while back as a pitch but never got any traction on. I still wasn't entirely sure if this was something I should pursue. I've done creator owned projects before and had been very gun shy about doing another. I kept going back and forth about it.
Then one night , I'm putting Catie, my now four year old daughter to bed. Karine usually does it, but she had to work late that night. I'm looking around the bookcase, because we constantly buy new books for her to read and she especially loves Dr. Seuss. I noticed there was something new on the shelf and pulled out a copy of "Oh, The Places You'll Go." Now, part of the fun of being a parent, as you know, is rediscovering the stuff that's still around from your childhood. Suddenly, I was face to face with this book that I'd never read or didn't remember reading. So I sat down on Catie's bed and began to read it to her. I flipped through the pages and realized that, in a way, he was talking about me, or people like me. How you'll go through bad patches but if you don't give up and keep going forward, you'll never know where the road will lead.
That was really the point that I decided to go into this full bore.
As I've said before, the thing I love about this is the heart, Jamal. I'm probably among the worst to discuss this since I write a lot of violent stuff, but I love that you are making a book, a superhero book, that a dad could share with his daughter. Those are very rare and precious. How has being a dad influenced Molly's story?
Catie loves superheroes, I know that's probably due to my influence, but she does. She loves the superhero concept as much as four year old can, I guess. I've shown her old episodes of "Wonder Woman," or she's watched "Young Justice" or "Thundercats" with me. She loves "Ben 10" as well. The thing is, she's not alone. There are a lot of little girls who love superheroes just as much as little boys. The problem isn't violence, it's presentation and context for the violence. I've always guided my work, particularly with female characters, with a modicum of respect, and the problem I kept running into is, I felt uncomfortable handing my daughter a Wonder Woman comic book. This has nothing to do with quality, either, but for a younger reader, it's a bit too much bloodshed to handle and as a parent too much to have to explain.
I decided that with "Molly," my approach was going tobe all ages, but all ages in the way an old Warner Bros. cartoon or Pixar movie was written. I was particularly motivated by Ron Marz, who showed me Andrew Stanton's TED talk on storytelling. I wanted to write a book similar to the way the comics I fell in love with were written, something that an adult could enjoy on one level while kids could read on another level.
I totally get that. I have thousands and thousands of comics, and when I give away books to trick or treaters on Halloween, I have to dig and dig to find appropriate comics. Tell us a little bit about why Molly is special, what motivates her.
Molly is a good girl, She's genuine in the fact that her motives are pure. She's not syrupy sweet or anything like that, but she is a kind and generous soul. She enjoys being Molly Danger, but the problem for her is that's really all she knows. She's a "princess in an ivory tower" in many ways. Her handlers make sure of that. She's spent her life looking at merchandise of herself and photos of herself in action plastered on the news. She lives in a museum dedicated to her adventures, and the city has come to rely on the money it makes from tourism. She feels the responsibility of not only protecting Coopersville from the Supermechs, but to maintain the quality of life the city has become accustomed to. It does weigh on her a bit, particularly since she doesn't have a normal life or normal friends. That's where her good nature comes in, I guess. Most people would probably crack from the pressure, yet Molly maintains her composure.
She does have a bit of a rebellious streak in her though, and that's really the fun part to explore.
All the best girl heroes have that! Why do you think comics with a lighter tone are so hard to find in superheroes?
Well, with the bigger companies in the United States, in order to maintain sales, they've made a calculation. The calculation being that it's easier to court the already existing comics market, readers who are over the age of 16 with a disposable income. The problem is, those readers expect a more adult fare. They're adults and they want comics, particularly the superhero comics they read as a kid, to mature along with them.
And there lies a big part of the problem -- they started reading comic books as kids, just like I did.
When I was a kid, I used to read Claremont's X-men, "Alien Legion," "Superman," "Action Comics," "Batman," etc. Some of those books had some heavy themes, war, violence, crime, sex (particularly The Hellfire Club), yet as a kid, I didn't see it the way I see it now. When I was a kid, the way comics were handled visually and contextually were different. You could have adult themes like homelessness, alcoholism/drug abuse or murder, yet the way it was presented made it less jarring than it's usually done now.
There also seems to be this disconnect from some publishers as to what kids want to read because they don't want to a make the effort to court younger readers. Comic books are expensive to produce, and if they're not going to see sort sort of immediate rate of return, a lot of producers are like, "Why bother -- kids don't read" Which is crap, frankly. I speak at a lot of schools, and kids love comic books. There aren't a lot of comics for them, especially ones geared to young girls in the US market. You see it overseas, particularly in manga, but you don't have a female "Ben 10" right now.
There are a lot of women and girls who want a hero they can embrace, parents want a book they can read to their kids comfortably and kids need those "gateway comics" like the ones we had. I'm hoping Molly can fill that void.
I couldn't agree more. It's a definite gap in comics, something that exists, but is rare. So, what would you like to see happen with Molly in the future, after this book is a big success?
Everything. I would love to see Molly on bookshelves around the world, in cartoons, movies, on t-shirts, as a line of toys. I think Molly has a ton of potential and really want to see her take off as a character. I've got big dreams again.
Me, again. Big dreams are the best dreams. We have just four days to help Jamal make this book, this beautiful little confection, a book we can give to kids (and adults!) that we love.
Thanks, Jamal, for sharing your dream!
The Kickstarter campaign for Jamal Igle's "Molly Danger" is running through August 31.