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Fanboy Comics Interviews Jules Rivera (‘Valkyrie Squadron,’ ‘Misfortune High’)

The following is an interview with writer/illustrator Jules Rivera, creator of the comics Valkyrie Squadron and Misfortune High. In this interview, Fanboy Comics Contributor Madeleine Holly-Rosing chats with Rivera about what it takes to be a successful indie creator, her approach to coloring comics, the ups and downs of running a Kickstarter campaign, and more!


I’m not even sure where Jules Rivera and I met, but I think it was on Twitter. (This seems to be a recurring theme with the people I’ve met lately.) We eventually met for lunch the first time with Roxy Polk, and we’ve tried to get together when we could. She was a great help to me at Comikaze Expo two years ago, when I was really sick which means she’s a truly awesome person. Did I mention she’s also a terrific writer and artist?  Jules has an online comic, Valkyrie Squadron, and a graphic novel, Misfortune High, and also works as a freelance illustrator and storyboard artist.

Fanboy Comics Contributor Madeleine Holly-Rosing: I know you write and draw Valkyrie Squadron and Misfortune High, but I have to admit my favorite is Misfortune High.  I love the fish-out-water premise and the fact that the characters are more representative of the world we live in. What are your favorite characters and why?

Jules Rivera: It's so hard to pick favorite characters.  They're all like my children, you know?  Biscuit is very fun to riff on and put through the wringers.  He's such an outlandish, self-centered dork, so there isn't too much I can do to him that isn't funny; however, if I had to share an absolute favorite character in Misfortune High, it would Johnny Cuervo.  Johnny is very personal for me, as he's born of the stew of my own bad teenage memories. He also resonates so well with audiences because of that.  I'm sure there are a lot of us who've felt like freaks in school and felt like we didn't belong or were misunderstood.  But, I think what's really great about Johnny is that I've gotten away with doing all that in a Latino character. (Har.)

MHR: You are a self-proclaimed “color-freak.” I see you tend to use very bright and bold coloring. What inspires your choice of color palette? Character? Mood? All of the above? 

JR: Certain characters will always have certain color palettes following them; however, I believe the mood of the story really drives the color schemes.  Although, in the past, what drove the colors was whatever lighting scenarios I had set up, which often included fluorescent, loud colors.  I've learned to rein in some of my crazier impulses, but I still have a fondness for the bright colors.
MHR: You have one of the best-drawn kissing scenes I’ve ever seen in Valkyrie Squadron. It’s such a simple panel, but you can feel the romance just ooze off the page. What do you do technically and emotionally to make that happen?
JR: Wow. Nobody's ever asked me about that.  Ha, kissing scenes are hard as hell.  They're about the hardest thing you can do.  You have to land character anatomy and posing, but you also have to land good character acting.  When drawing two characters in a romantic embrace, I recommend the following: Draw one character in their position, then the other.  Visual intimacy is like a dance where one character leads and another follows. Draw your lead character, then draw your following character reacting to the lead's body language.  Then, add lots of shoujo bubbles and liberal amounts of magenta. 

I think we've talked about how I like loud colors, haven't we?

MHR: We see each other at a lot of cons. I’ve noticed that usually we’re at opposite ends of the aisle and almost everyone in between are . . . ahem . . . white males. Many are some of my biggest supporters, and I’ve learn a lot from them, but I know many artists/writers from more diverse backgrounds who I don’t see at the cons. Why do you think that is? And, what do you think we can do to encourage more diversity in the comics business?

JR: I'm not sure what keeps some writers and artists away from cons.  Table cost can be a pain, but I suspect it's just a lack of confidence.  Some people don't believe they're good enough to showcase their work, but they can have their epiphany otherwise.  Back in 2006, I had my moment when I was talking to a local artist at Megacon. He had a lot of his artwork at his table, and I had been doing my webcomics for a little while.  I finally found myself asking out loud, "Shouldn't I be on your side of the table?"  That was the start of my con career.

Some people need to be encouraged.  How do I plan to encourage others? Honestly? Show up. Be there.  Be loud.  I'm loud. Very loud.
MHR: Sadly, I was unable to go to your panel at SDCC last year on “Superheroines: Power, Responsibility, and Representation.” Could you touch on the main points it covered and how you think superheroines should be defined?

JR: Superheroines just need to represented as three-dimensional characters.  They can be strong.  They can be weak.  They can be smart.  They can be ditzy.  They can be flawed, and that's okay, as long as they're treated like people and not sexy, sexy lamps.
MHR: We are both Kickstarter veterans.  What would be your advice for someone considering running a Kickstarter/crowdfunding campaign, and what was your biggest head-banging moment?

JR: My advice?  Do your homework.  Research everything you can about Kickstarter.  Any time I see a creator putting out an article about their Kickstarter experience, I read it.  I like to research other Kickstarter projects to check out good ideas, as well as check out the bad ideas.  Homework, homework, homework.  And, get good at Excel.  You'd be surprised how much number crunching and progress tracking you're going to do.

My biggest head banging moment was naming my second Kickstarter Misfortune High Book 2.  That damnable digit ruined a lot of chances of getting new readers to jump onto the series, even though it was totally a tier to get Book 1.  You notice how the new Marvel movie sequels don't have numbers on them? Like Captain America: Winter Soldier or Avengers: Age of Ultron?  Yeah.  That's why they do it.
MHR: What do you consider to be the pros and cons of being an indie comic creator?

JR:I guess a pro of being an indie creator is not really having to answer to handlers or higher ups.  You can creatively do whatever you want without fear of recourse.  The downside is that you have to do EVERYTHING.  It gets old having to create and market and ship and shill your own books.  Sometimes, you just want to hand off your stack to someone else and take the afternoon off.  But, you can't, you know?  You've just got to roll that boulder uphill.
MHR: I see on your blog that you’ve done a lot of soul searching this past year.  What are your goals for the coming year, and where do you see yourself five or ten years from now?

JR:  It wasn't soul searching.  It was surviving.  I got hit with a very nasty professional and personal disaster last year that sent me in a tail spin and on an emergency move across the country.  I'm still recovering from it, but I'm grateful I've at least stabilized.  Anyway, my goal for this coming year is the reboot of Valkyrie Squadron, with newer, better art and story worthy of the high concept of "ladies with space lasers." In five or ten years from now, I see myself working freelance and still creating great stories.  In a perfect world, I would like to live off the stories I create, kind of like Faith Erin Hicks, but with way more insane coloring.
MHR: Last question . . . if you were stranded on a deserted island, which comic books/graphic novels would you want with you?

JR: Oh, man, there are some good ones I'd take with me. Let's see . . . I would need my entire Sailor Moon graphic novel collection, Magic Knight Rayearth, ReMIND, Y the Last Man (but then I'd totally cry and have to put it away), Amanda Conner's TPB of Power Girl, and lately, Sunstone

What? I'm stranded on a desert island!  That means I'd be lonely (and sorely in need of painting practice).

Last modified on Friday, 27 February 2015 16:23

Madeleine Holly-Rosing is the writer/creator of the Steampunk webcomic Boston Metaphysical Society and its companion novellas. Please visit the website to learn more.  

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