I first met Jim Rugg because Shelly Bond handed me every issue of Street Angel. I fell in love with his art on the spot. We met officially, for the first time, on the telephone, when we were discussing the look of the Janes for our OGN The PLAIN Janes.
He’s a great artist, a hoot to hang out with, and is pretty much one of the nicest, most down to earth, realest guys I’ve ever met. I am glad to count him amongst my friends.
Presenting: Jim Rugg!!!!
CC: First, let me tell you how excited I am that our book came out this week! Why don’t you introduce yourself to everyone and give us a little Jim 411. Who are you?
RUGG: I’m the co-creator of Street Angel, Afrodisiac, and the PLAIN Janes. I’m also the current inker of American Virgin from DC/Vertigo. I started out making mini-comics and zines, then contributing to anthologies, and eventually landed my own comic book series with Slave Labor Graphics, that was Street Angel. I went to school for graphic design (which was my day job for 7 years until this past February). Now I freelance full-time, mostly comics but a little illustration and design. I have three pet cats. I’m married and live near Pittsburgh.
CC: You are very well known for the amazing Street Angel. Can you tell me a little bit about that project?
RUGG: Street Angel is a 13-year-old, homeless girl. She’s a badass kung fu fighter and an excellent skateboarder. She lives in a rundown neighborhood and must deal with the constant threat of ninja gangs, mad scientists, hunger pain, etc. It’s currently on hold because there are too few hours in a day, but sooner or later Brian Maruca (the co-creator/co-writer) and I will return to chronicle her adventures. We’ve written a few more stories, it’s just a matter of finding the time to draw them. We like the character a lot. She started out as a parody of the sexy superheroines of Marvel/DC/Image/etc., but long before we actually made issue one, a lot of that parody fell away, leaving behind Jesse Sanchez – a great asskicker but an awkward teenager.
CC: OK. Now on to the Janes. How did you get involved with me and the girls?
RUGG: Shelly Bond liked Street Angel, so we talked about working on something together. A few months passed and she emailed me with some job possibilities, including the PLAIN Janes.
CC: What did you think when you got the pitch?
RUGG: I read the pitch, and it was okay. I’m not a fan of pitches. I don’t think they adequately describe a thing. I guess you could say I hate pitches. They are almost useless in terms of their descriptive ability. So I went out and bought Boyproof to get a better idea of your writing. Boyproof was fantastic. When I read that, I wanted to work with you. And I liked the name PLAIN Janes a lot. I guess I also liked the idea of a big cast of characters, like the X-men.
CC: I don’t like pitches either, they are very awkward to write. It was very hard to write the pitch for Plain Janes. Let’s talk about the Janes and how they looked. I know it was a very fun process for me to see the girls. What was the process of character development like?
RUGG: It was interesting. Trying to make each Jane instantly recognizable and unique was a great challenge. I wanted to keep each design simple. I’m a fan of old comic strips, and admire their economy when it comes to drawing. So I tried to keep that in mind with the Jane designs. Shelly told me that a character should be recognizable in silhouette, something I hadn’t thought of at the time, but applied to the designs as soon as she said it. Getting feedback from you and Shelly was exciting too. Looking back, it’s amazing how quickly they came together.
CC: It’s true! They did come together kind of quickly. Alright, I know I’ve loved collaborating with you. What’s that process like for you, working with a writer? (especially a newbie like me)
RUGG: I wouldn’t know you were new by your scripts. If anything, you probably bring a fresh perspective to the scripts. Sometimes I get your scripts and read through them, and think, this can’t be done. But when I sit down to draw thumbnails, most of it works out. And then I’ll be very pleasantly surprised. I think people who make comics, especially Marvel/DC comics figure out certain storytelling tricks they like and then use those tricks over and over. Perhaps there’s a greater emphasis on plot and character and less attention paid to formal experimentation. I think that your inexperience writing comics scripts means that you try different things and that you haven’t yet settled into a set of ideas or restrict yourself in what you can and can’t write in a script. Your problem solving strategies are probably different than a writer who specializes in comic book scripts. So the process has been very good, very exciting. I find myself challenged by your scripts (although to be honest, I think I’d be challenged by anyone’s scripts). You’re probably more forgiving of my shortcomings than an experienced comic writer would be.
CC: And you’re probably more forgiving of my shortcomings! Thanks! Lately, you’ve been inking American Virgin. What’s that like?
RUGG: It’s pretty good. Becky Cloonan is amazing, and it’s great to work with her, but I find myself thinking about how I could never do what she does. It can be quite intimidating. But hopefully some of her skill will rub off on me. I think our work together has improved since the first couple of issues. Hopefully we’ll be able to work together for a while, I admire her drawing a lot.
CC: What else do you have coming up?
RUGG: I’m not sure what I can say about upcoming stuff. A lot of what I’m working on hasn’t been announced yet. I just did a short story for the next issue of Meathaus, it features the Afrodisiac (my story, not the whole book) and it’s full-color. I have another Afrodisiac story I’m working on for another anthology (deadlines permitting). I’m doing a short story for Marvel that I’m very excited about. I’m working on a graphic novel for DC. At this very moment, I’m halfway through a short comic strip about Grandmaster Caz and Afrika Bambaataa for VH1.
CC: Cool. Sounds like you are way busy! But wait, as a Fables fan, I gotta know about doing that questions thing for Fables.
RUGG: When I got the book, I flipped to David Lapham’s story, cause I like his work a lot, and he had a panel that featured the same setting as my story and his shot was framed so much better than mine. Live and learn. I’m happy to be a in a book with some of those other cartoonists, and to be in Fables is pretty cool.
CC: So, partner, if you and I ever got to do a book two with the Janes, is there anything you’d like to see happen? Any questions you want answered? Any thoughts?
RUGG: I would like to learn more about Cindy. I already know more about her from the extra background material you gave me regarding her character in book one. I like her a lot. I love the way you write antagonists. I just read Beige (subtle plug, wink-wink), and the character of Lake and her relationship with the protagonist is just so refreshing. I like Cindy as a character, and I would like to see her relationship with the Janes explored a bit more.
I’m also curious to see the Janes as a tighter group. My experience with high school is like a zombie story. You gravitate towards a group of peers with survival as the main goal. You’re forced to be with these people everyday for years. It’s not the same as friends you have after school. And I think a lot of the people I thought of as friends in high school, were more like acquaintances. I think the Janes are kind of like that. They are friends because they sat at the outcast table, not because they have lots of common interests and personalities that mesh well. I mean, they might, but I don’t think that’s what brought them together. The more time they spend together, the more we can see their personalities assert themselves. Group dynamics interest me, so I’ll be curious to see how they interact with each other after they’ve spent a little more time together.
I’m curious about the terrorist angle. Is it a radical Islamic group? How does that affect Jane’s world? Especially compared to her life in the city, where diversity is probably greater than a small town.
CC: Those are great points! I’ll scribble them down for future reference. And thanks for saying such nice things.
Hey. Did you do any art pranks when you were in High School?
RUGG: Just mean caricatures of teachers.
CC: What kind of kid were you then?
RUGG: Depressed, angry, typical. I didn’t make any kind of art then. I would draw to amuse myself, but I didn’t focus on making comics, and I think I could have benefited from that kind of creative purpose.
CC: I used to dress up like I was going to cocktail parties. OK. Confess: Which Superhero would like to draw?
RUGG: The Punisher. I have two Punisher stories I want to do SO BADLY!!!
CC: Cool! And last but not least, who’s your fave Jane.
RUGG: …they’re all my favorite.
CC: OK I know that’s not fair. So tell me this. Tell me something you like about each of the characters?
RUGG: Main Jane – her fashion and her positive but still teenage attitude
Theatre Jane – her dramatic gestures and heavier body
Polly Jane – her lanky body and light eyes
Brain Jayne – her glasses (I HATE drawing glasses, but I like how they look)
If you are in the Pittsburgh area, Jim will be signing this week
May 19, 3-5 pm
New Dimension Comics in Cranberry
20550 Route 19 – Piazza Plaza
Cranberry Twp, PA 16066
May 26, 3-5 pm
New Dimension Comics in Century III
Century III Mall
3075 Clairton Rd. #940
West Mifflin, PA 15213
If you are in the Los Angeles area, I will be signing this upcoming week
Saturday, May 19, 5 p.m.
BOOK (S) LAUNCH!!!!Come help me celebrate the launch of Beige and The Plain Janes!!!
1818 N. Vermont
Los Angeles, Ca
Thursday, May 24, 7 p.m.
First ever Comic Book Store appearance!!!
The Secret Headquarters
3817 w Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA
Wednesday, May 30, 4-7 p.m.
Signing! Fun! Neat!
333 East 17th Street, Ste. 19
Costa Mesa, CA
Come and say hello to us!