Our second graduate of DC’s Talent Development Workshop (after Vita Ayala), Joëlle Jones likely came to most fans’ attention with the release of Dark Horse’s Lady Killer — but by then, she’d already been laying the foundation for a successful art career. Since Lady Killer (and its sequel), Jones’ work has graced comic book pages at Marvel and DC, as well as being the basis for a line of DC Collectibles “Cover Girls” statues. Last year, she made the leap from Batman artist to both illustrating and writing Catwoman.
First, the particulars…
Your specialties (artist/writer/letterer/inker/etc.): Artist/Writer
Your home base: Portland, OR, and Los Angeles, CA
Current project: Catwoman (DC)
Kevin Sharp, Fanbase Press Contributor: I lead off with the big question: Why comics? What attracts you to making comics specifically over other art forms?
Joëlle Jones: I just like how individual it is. How small. I can do it all by myself without much interference.
KS: At what age, or roughly when, did reading comics first become an important part of your life?
JJ: Probably when I was around eight, or a little bit after. My brother and his friend would bring comics home, and when they weren’t looking, I would steal them and read them.
KS: Do you have a specific memory of when a comic put the “I want to try doing that” bug in your head?
JJ: I was obsessed with the artwork before I even started reading them. I would pore over the art, and just really enjoyed the storytelling and “acting” in all the comics I saw. I was really taken with a lot of the high-stakes, Punisher kind of stuff I saw — it really made me want to jump in and do it, too.
KS: What’s the first piece of “real” art you remember creating? Something that felt like a serious project for you at the time — whatever age that was.
JJ: I started making my own comics in, I think, junior high or high school — it was a cheesy vampire comic. Now, I look back and cringe at it, but I took it very seriously at the time.
KS: Can you tell us a little about your current workspace or studio setup?
JJ: It’s a bedroom in my apartment that I’ve turned into a studio. Kind of a walk-in closet where all my stuff is. It’s a mess that most days feels like a little spider hole of papers and empty coffee cups.
KS: Getting into your routine… What’s your stance on music, or any other background noise while you’re working?
JJ: I listen to a lot of music when I write. When I draw, I love to listen to audio books — I go through two or three a week. I find it really relaxing, something for me to get into while I’m drawing.
KS: Lady Killer has been mentioned a few times (in a good way!) in these interviews. Do you have enough hindsight to look back at the memories the book brings up for you… or is it still too close?
JJ: I still feel pretty close to it. I’m working on the next volume — I haven’t had any time to draw it, but I’ve been working on the writing. So, yeah, I still feel too close to be able to look back with any perspective.
KS: As someone who started out as an artist and transitioned to writing — with a co-writer and then solo — what was that challenge like? Have you been learning on the fly?
JJ: It’s all been learning on the job. I feel like I stumble and fall and learn from it, what works and what doesn’t. I have no writing background whatsoever, so it’s just been kinda “jump into the pool and see if I can float.”
KS: Since you currently write and draw a monthly series, what’s your creation process for an issue? I assume you have the stories outlined ahead of time…
JJ: Yeah, I try to outline as far ahead as I can. Those outlines are really loose, so I’ll take it scene by scene and have an idea of what I want to do in that scene.
KS: And what about that initial step that happens when you sit down to actually begin the physical pages?
JJ: Then, it comes down to the visuals. So, if it’s two talking heads, what would make it more interesting? As opposed to just being on a rooftop, what if they’re in a really interesting location — like a World’s Fair or something like that. Something that would visually grab me and keep me interested.
KS: Looking back over your comics career, what’s a specific moment of professional pride or joy that stands out to you?
JJ: When Lady Killer came out, and I found out that people were actually reading it. There wasn’t one incident, but the culmination of things that happened after I put it out. People’s reception to it. Cosplay all of a sudden. People were asking me questions about characters I thought I only cared about. And that continues to happen with Catwoman now; I’m immensely proud of that, and somewhat flummoxed by it.
KS: Can you give us one word that sums up an important trait for being successful in this business? This word might also apply to life in general…
JJ: Passion. I think you really have to be passionate about comics in order to stick with it, because it’s a lot of thankless hours in the dark. Alone.
KS: What’s a comic or graphic novel by someone else that you look at as an example of the craft at its highest form?
JJ: It may seem cliché, but every time I revisit Will Eisner’s work, that’s one of the best examples. Each individual character is as big as the main character. The acting, the moods, the turns of the story… it’s probably, to me, the best example of comic book storytelling.
KS: Finally, would you like to give a shout-out to your current project?
JJ: I’m still plugging away at Catwoman. I’m excited to be back drawing it, and I can’t wait for it to come out. [Issue #16 arrives in October.]