Hero Spy: The comics that you create tend to be ahead of their time. In the comic industry that can be a death sentence. What advice can you impart to all the independent creators out there struggling to be heard?
Jimmie Robinson: Tough call. Look, I’ll be bloody honest here, I don’t think failure is a bad thing in comics. There’s nothing wrong with having a string of duds. It means you’re trying and you’re learning. I’m always growing up in public. If I waited until I had everything right I’d still be waiting. So if a person has an original idea and it looks like a tough sell to the market then my advice is to do it anyway. We need diversity in comics not a line of bestsellers. Creators also need to come to reality. Just one idea might not work, and it certainly won’t pay your rent. It’s hard to be heard in today’s market. You have print media, and online as well. Both have their own pitfalls. Online is great because the low overhead, however the landscape is vast, and it’s very easy to get lost in the data stream. The print world is insular and has its own rules. But the best path, in my opinion, is *both*. Nobody can kick back on just one idea, and one path in the comic industry.
But still…. take that original idea to market anyway you can. Because it’s not just the comic market looking, but also Hollywood and other digital entertainment. If you have an idea *published* you’ll be in better standing than just another guy with just another idea. Ideas are cheap. Execution is hard.
HS: You have worked in the mainstream as well as the independent sides of comics. Do you prefer one over the other?
JR: Nah, I don’t. They’re different beasts and I appreciate that. With Image Comic I’m all over the place because with Bomb Queen I’m completely hands on. People don’t realize how much I put into that book at every phase. But I can do that because the entire production is on my art table, or computer. Not so with the big guys like Marvel. I had to be a team player, and I didn’t own any of the characters. I worked with two talented editors who had the Marvel Universe down to a science, so when I stepped off the line they guided me back. Some folks would rebel against that. If given the chance to put their pen on Wolverine some would tweak him right out of character. So I appreciated the ‘Marvel way’. Keep in mind, I was entry-level with them, too. So I was in no position to make demands. I have other ideas I’m pitching to them, but they pretty much come to you, not the other way around… well, unless you’re a ‘name’ talent. I’m not at that level, hah!
HS: I read your infamous “You are not helping comics” essay. I liked it, I don’t agree with every point, but I do understand where you are coming from. I have two questions about the essay:
A. What prompted you to write it?
B. How has the comic book community reacted since you threw it out
JR: Hah! Yeah, that was a wild moment, wasn’t it? But I always take the long view with the Internet and I knew it would only be a flash in the pan before the next new chew toy came online. In a way I playing the troll and baiting the flames. What prompted me to write it? CBR contacted me and asked if I’d write something for them, since my Marvel work was coming out. I thought about it. Checked out their section on CBR, saw what others were writing and figured not to walk lock-step. It was theater. Plain and simple. Bomb Queen pulls no punches so I stepped into her shoes and tossed it out there. As the saying goes there’s no such thing as “bad news” if you are the news that people talk about. But even with that I knew it wouldn’t last long. So I figured, why not? Plus, it was one of those things that needs to be said every now and then. You want respect, earn it. People read comics and hide it away in their closets. Meanwhile the film industry and toy companies are making millions… billions in the mass market and world-wide sells. I just didn’t understand why folks should bend over for the media’s view that comic readers are all nerds living in their mother’s basement. Buying the books is fine, and I know everyone does their part in their own way to support the industry. That’s all I was saying. I just put it in a package to draw people in. And if they needed me for target practice that was okay. As long as people were indeed talking.
Has there been any fall out? No. This is the internet. Even Bendis’ claim to break it in half came up short. I’m an old fart, in my 40s. I was there when the Internet was created. It wasn’t a new toy for me, and I knew I’d be just another spoke on the wheel spinning around with the rest. Meanwhile, Bomb Queen continued to sell my Marvel stuff came out and I my get-out-of-comics-free card is still in my pocket.
HS: Do you have anything new coming out that you would like to plug?
JR: I’m one of the contributors to the upcoming Tori Amos anthology coming from Image next month. I was invited to that and it was quite fun. Albeit, I only did 5 pages – but then that was standard for just about everyone. That has led me to another music-based anthology, also by Image, but I can’t talk too much about that one.
Beyond that, just more Bomb Queen. I’m clocking 20 issues of the vthing now, more trades, more upcoming specials. However, Image is offering me the opportunity to do other things. And I seriously want to jump back into my all-ages comic work. But I do so much on the Queen that it’s hard to pull together more than one book at a time. You look at folks like Robert Kirkman, B. C. More and others and they’ve got books left and right. I’m tempted to write and leave the art to others, but I’m not there just yet. Plus, I love to draw. I’m still so very behind on the skills.
HS: Do you still do your lettering by hand?
JR: That’s one skill I wish I had down better. I started Bomb Queen vol. 1 (4 issues) hand lettered. I sucked. haha! I had been out of comics for about 4 or 5 years. And in the 1990s I hand-lettered everything. I thought I could just get back on the horse and that would be it. No such deal. However, I LOVE hand lettering. There’s something mystical about it. The method, the single-pointed meditation, the feeling of a complete original page of art. But no, nowadays all my lettering is done on computer. And even that I’m still learning, too. I go into a comic store and unlike other people who just pick up a book and read it, I handle it like a secret decoder ring. I check the paper stock, the print saturation, the lettering, the word balloons, the binder trim and stitching. I’m amazed at all the different ways it’s done.
HS: The film industry seems to be buying up every comic property they can get their hands on. What are the chances that we will be seeing a “Bomb Queen” movie in the future?
JR: Well, I used to say unlikely, because Hollywood loves their heroic side. Bomb Queen is such downer. However, you look at WANTED, which was about super villains and you have to wonder…. maybe Bomb Queen could get on the screen. However, just as Mark Millar, I’d have to change major portions of the story / concept to fit the screen and make it profitable for the studio. At best, Bomb Queen could be like Tina Turner in BEYOND THUNDERDOME. In other words, make the movie about a hero guy who has to go through her city to rescue someone. That way Hollywood gets what they want and so do I. But so far, nobody has knocked on my door – beyond a few reps for TV studios. I’m not holding my breath, Haha!
HS: There are so many really fantastic independent books out there, but they seem to be buried under some of the worst comics I have ever read. What have you done to at least try to ensure that your comics stand out from the crowd?
JR: Well, my books have been different for me with every new series. I tend to create ideas for books when I see a *lack* of something on the shelf. If there’s not enough romance books, I’ll lean that way. If I don’t see enough all-ages titles I’ll try it myself, if I don’t see any villain books I make something like Bomb Queen. So I tend to fill niche holes. That’s how I like to think of it. Thus, my work has a chance of standing out, because you’re right, there’s a lot of stuff out there and competition is hard. Especially in the print world and more so when you’re just another superhero indy book.
HS: Do you have any art training, a school you attended?
JR: Yes, and no. Most folks who attend formal art training do so in their latter academic years, I was reverse. I was in an art school for elementary and middle school called, Mosswood, and Renaissance, respectively. It was a fun deal and I learned *very* early on how to get my chops in. But my latter years didn’t have any art training – except for an extended stint in community college with life drawing classes. I got married early, and didn’t pursue comics until my daughter was about ten years old – because I knew the time it takes away at the art table. Thus, I got into comics late. It’s funny you ask that now, because there’s an informal reunion of my old art school coming up.
HS: Do you do commission work, that is if you have a break in your schedule?
JR: Hmm… not had this question before. Leave it to HeroSpy, haha! Sadly no, and you know…. I should. In today’s economy everyone should be doing everything and anything to get some money in pocket. ebay, commissions, conventions, whatever. But I’ve been pretty dumb about it and kept my nose to the Bomb Queen grindstone. Not saying that’s the wise thing to do, just saying that’s been my mode lately. My schedule does own me right now. I have stuff listed out clear into 2010.
HS: I have just one more question for you.What would you say is your favorite fast food joint?
JR: Jack-in-the-Box. But I haven’t had anything ‘fast’ for months. Money is tight and well… obviously, at my age I need to quit. I’ve gained so much weight in the last two years it’s not even funny. But Jack-in-the- Box was (is) my fav. I used to skateboard quite heavily and ‘Jack’ was one of my fav grab-n-go when I was skating the streets of Oakland / Berkeley California.
Please visit Jimmie’s site: www.jimmykitty.com