I’ve long been a fan of alternative comics, and comicbook shops. Back in the 90’s, I was reading Alison Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch Out For, which I liked for the strong characters and humor. Later, when I discovered Paige Braddock’s Jane’s World on GoComics, I was happy to run through the archives to discover an all-new set of strong characters, but with more slap-stick gags. Both are good strips. Paige has also drawn The Martian Confederacy, with Jason McNamara as writer, and the children’s book series Stinky Cecil. I’m pleased to present Paige today.
BC: Who are you?
PB: This is a very existential question… I’m a southerner, a cartoonist, a lover of vintage Mustangs, and a snack food aficionado.
BC: What personal details do you think are relevant to readers to know about you?
PB: I spend my days working as Creative Director at Charles Schulz’s studio. I spend nights and weekends working on Jane’s World. I co-created a science fiction graphic novel titled, The Martian Confederacy. I also write prose novels under a pen name, Missouri Vaun. That was my great-grandmother’s name. I even have her old typewriter circa 1920.
BC: How did you get your start as…?
PB: Let’s pick cartoonist since this is mostly about Jane’s World. I started drawing comics when I was in second grade and never looked back. I love comics. And I love drawing with ink. There’s nothing more pure to me than black ink on white paper. It just makes me feel good.
BC: What do you think your biggest breaks were?
PB: In high school I met Dave Graue, who at the time was writing and drawing Alley Oop. He invited me to come by his studio. He gave me my first nib pen, ink, a t-square… he basically gave me a crash course in how to create professional comics. My next big break came in college when I was introduced to Sarah Gillespie, Charles Schulz’s comic editor at United Media. She gave me some great feedback that I don’t think I fully understood until I was older.
BC: What led up to your starting Jane’s World, Martian Confederacy and Stinky Cecil?
PB: I started Jane’s World back in 1995 when cartoonists were first beginning to post online. The concept started as just something I was doing to entertain myself, but then the characters sort of took on a life of their own. The Martian Confederacy was just a germ of an idea, but I didn’t think I could write it myself. Then I met Jason McNamara, the funniest person I know. He took that germ of an idea, “rednecks on the red planet,” and turned it into something real. Stinky Cecil started as a web comic. I was basically writing the comic because I worry about how climate change is effecting amphibians. Then an editor, Andrea Colvin, discovered the web comic and we turned it into a book. The whole process was very organic.
BC: Which of your works are you most happy with, or proud of?
PB: I probably have the most history with Jane’s World, but it’d be hard to pick a favorite. I like them all for different reasons.
BC: Can you talk a bit more about Jane’s World?
PB: Jane’s World originally started as a single panel comic back in 1991, when I was working at the Chicago Tribune. But I prefer character-driven stories as opposed to gag a day writing. My friend, Hilary Price is very good at gag a day writing. Me, not so much.
BC: Is there anything you would change if you started Jane’s World over again?
PB: If I went back to do JW again I might not choose a black turtleneck. I did it simply for contrast so that the main character would stand out, but that’s limiting and I’ve been slowly changing her clothing over the years. I realized after I started printing the books that Mike Jantze, who does The Norm, also had his character in a black turtleneck. Probably for the same visual reason I chose to do that.
BC: On GoComics, in the comments for Martian Chronicles there always seemed to be push-back from the readers. Do you see reactions like those from other forums?
PB: You’d have to give me a specific comment. I have to admit that I only occasionally read comments online. People say things without a filter sometimes and those comments can get in your head and mess you up… or sort of stall your creative process. I know some creators have turned off comments but I don’t want to do that because I feel that a big part of online content is the community that happens around that content. The creator doesn’t necessarily have to be part of that and sometimes it’s better if they aren’t. I do sort of wish that some readers of comics who post comments… and this goes for everything on social media and online… I wish they’d realize how vulnerable a creator is when they make art or write stories and then put that creation out there to the world. There’s a person on the other side of that creative project. Sometimes they aren’t famous or successful and a mean comment… a thoughtless criticism… can, if they are insecure or just getting started… that kind of negative comment can keep them from creating and improving.
BC: Has Jane’s World changed over the years? Is there anything you wish you could go back and change now? Which characters do you identify with the most? And why break the 4th wall so often?
PB: Jane is more “out” now than she was in the beginning. That may have more to do with me moving to the west coast than anything else. I definitely censored my work more when I was living in the Deep South. I probably identify with Jane the most, although every now and then Ethan voices what I think. And as for breaking the 4th wall… I’ve done it a few times so that I can respond to reader feedback in a funny way, but those days might be over. I might not do that so often moving forward. Last year I wrote a prose novel based on Jane’s World (Jane’s World and the case of the mail order bride). That was a very interesting process because I got to dive more deeply into the internal world of the characters. As I’m working on the comic strip again now I think my writing in the comic is going to be better because of what I learned during the novel writing process.
BC: How has the reception been for Stinky Cecil?
PB: Kids seem to love it when I do readings and I’ve heard from a few teachers and librarians… but it’s been hard to get a feel for how the books are doing in the market. There’s a lag time of several months between sales and royalty statements.
BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of white paper?
PB: Panels first… then text… then VERY loose pencils. I like to mostly draw with the ink so that it has a freshness to it. I don’t want the inking to look as if I’m tracing something.
BC: If your strip had a soundtrack, what would it be?
PB: Indie folk.
BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers?
PB: Love Terry Moore as a person and an artist (I think his wife, Robyn is okay with this). Loved, loved, loved Darwyn Cooke’s work. I bought pretty much everything he did. And Cul de Sac by Richard Thompson. He was a comic genius. A couple of my new favorites are Giant Days and Lumberjanes, both from BOOM.
BC: Could you talk more about Richard Thompson? Cul de Sac seems to be very polarizing, either people love it or hate it. What’s your opinion on this, and what draws you into that strip?
PB: I work with a guy who doesn’t like it at all. And I’ve asked him about it. He just doesn’t get it. He doesn’t think it’s funny. Whereas I think Cul de Sac is the funniest thing I’ve ever read. Maybe his (Richard’s) humor is odd. His humor is definitely specific to a particular suburban experience… maybe that’s what doesn’t resonate with some people. What I love about it is how he writes Alice (this little girl). Pure genius. She’s the glue that holds it all together. If you don’t “get” Alice then you probably aren’t going to like the strip.
BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
PB: Not regularly… but when I do, I go look for Rhymes with Orange by Hilary Price, and Bloom County which recently relaunched on Facebook. Also, Reza Farazmand, Poorly Drawn Lines is HILARIOUS.
BC: What do you look for when you read someone else’s strips?
PB:A nice balance between art and writing. I’m not one of those cartoonists who can read a comic that’s badly drawn or vice versa.
BC: What do you think makes for a good comic?
PB: Writing and drawing something real.
BC: Do you use Patreon or Kickstarter?
PB: I’ve participated in anthologies that used Kickstarter. I think that’s a good thing because the site helps fund indie books that might never make it through traditional, mainstream publishing.
BC: Do you have any projects coming up?
PB: I’m currently working on a graphic memoir. It’s been fun, but heart wrenching at the same time. I was a young gay kid in 1970 living near Birmingham, Alabama. There was a lot going on that I didn’t understand.
PB: Also, a new Jane’s World story begins online in early December.
BC: Appearances scheduled for conventions?
PB: Lumacon in Petaluma, California in January. This is a great, kid-focused con. A really fun show. I’ll be there with Stinky Cecil and his pals.
(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright Paige Braddock © 2016.)
(This interview is the copyright © of Curtis H. Hoffmann 2016. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the permission of the author.)
Poll: Have you read Stinky Cecil? Or, have your children?