Before we begin, I want to apologize for the delay. My computer decided to have a hiccup this weekend, and I decided it would be best to delay the release of this a few days to make sure everything is in order. It now is, and we can continue.
Last week, I released part one of my interview with Jimmie. You can read it here first to get caught up to speed.
Last week, I talked about Five Weapons, his work schedule, and we talked a bit about young adult comics in today’s market. This week, we talk a bit about his big hit, Bomb Queen, which was touched only slightly last week, how he broke in and more. I have to say, it’s quite a tale and I want to thank Jimmie for his time and effort. I encourage everyone to read this man, admire his art, and give his books a chance. He is a one in a million talent that deserves more recognition than he receives.
Onto the Interview:
Joshua Pantalleresco: Describe how you broke in to comics.
Jimmie Robinson: Self-publishing. I got in my early 30s. I started late. I was a single parent so I waited for my daughter to get old enough that I could get time at the art table. She was about 10 years-old when I really decided to get my feet wet. But as I said, I didn’t have a house style that the publishers would want. I was still learning the ropes.Fortunately, a few things happened at the right time for me. One was the Black & white indy comics boom of the 1980s. Suddenly it was cool to have an indy book with a low print run. People were buying comics for high prices under the perception that some lowly indy guy would be the next Todd MacFarlane. It was crazy. That got my mind in the right place. It made me believe that comics could accept my work. The other thing that happened was the creation of Image Comics. That also furthered my idea that comics can be more than Marvel and DC superheroes. Granted the very early Image comics looked a bit like the same stuff from the big company publishers, but it was unique just enough to make an impact for me. Likewise, they were doing it on their own — which was what I was trying to do.
But I was still a million miles from those guys, so I self-published my own book. I wrote it, penciled it, inked it, colored the covers, shot it on film, provided the local printers with the materials and did the press checks and bindery. I printed 200 copies of an official sized comic book. I wanted it to look just like any comic on the shelf. I didn’t want it to look like an underground self-published book. I wanted it to look like a company book. Of course it was pretty bad… but it existed. Then I called up the comic stores in my area and sold it by hand directly to retailers. Either they bought it outright or we agreed to a consignment based on what sold over a month. But it got to be too much and the retailers simply said that I should put it in Diamond. At that point I didn’t know what a “Diamond” was. So then I learned about distribution.
Diamond accepted my book. Well it was already done so I just sent them a copy. Since I printed all my comics ahead of time I had to ship the books to Diamond so they could then ship the books to the stores. It cost a small fortune. I did whatever promotion I could and wiggled my way into conventions and events. I self-published eight issues and a certain point the money just wasn’t coming in, so I decided to cease publication. I wrote a letter to the industry stating that I was getting out of the biz. Which when I think about it was pretty funny because I was a nobody. Who cared if I was leaving comics? This was back in the days when the Internet was just forming. AOL was still the king of the Internet at the time. However, in just 3 days I got several responses to my cancellation letter. One of the people that inquired was Jim Valentino, who at the time was the President of Image Comics. He simply asked if I was quitting then why don’t I come over to Image? He was putting together something called the “Non-Line” which were black & white books that had no connection to superheroes. He was expanding the medium for Image beyond superheroes. I jumped at the chance and in three days I was right back in comics. In three months I was on the cover of Diamond Previews. It was really strange.
I took it from there. Valentino and Image understood what I could do and they simple let me run with my books. They let me create what I wanted and they were open to my ideas. Not once did they suggest that I get someone else to help write or draw my books. Nowadays I do hire a colorist because I simply don’t have the time and often Paul Little comes up with better ideas than I do. However, to this day I still color the covers to all my books. I love coloring… I just don’t have the time.
JP: Talk to me was about Bomb Queen. What is it about?
JR: Bomb Queen was my fifth series creation at Image. I had done so many things with Image, however I never did a superhero book. So I started working on several ideas, but it was hard to come up with a compelling and unique superhero. However, I did come up with the villain. After a while I just tossed the hero and focused on the villain, which turned out to be Bomb Queen. Valentino saw some sketches and promo art I did for the concept and he liked it. I told him a brief idea what it was about and he liked it enough to let me run with it. It went through several development stages and I talked to a number of people about it. Some folks warned me against the idea. That there was no redeeming value in writing the villain’s side without some form of reveal or growth. But I wanted a different kind of villain. I was sick of goody-good villains, or misguided villains, or blackmailed villains. I wanted someone pure evil. Like The Joker in Batman. Nobody questions why The Joker is crazy. He just is. Likewise, nobody questions why the heroes do what they do, they just do it. So why can’t that be applied to a villain? However, the biggest thorn in my concept was that a villain can’t exist in a world that hates evil. That’s when I gave Bomb Queen her own city and society to support her, and that’s when the book went into social-political-satire.
Bomb Queen was very much a commentary about glamorizing the villain. We often root for the villain. Villains get to be cool and they get to dial it up to 11. So I went
crazy with the book and I simply flipped the standard superhero platform on its head. The bad guys always win, the good guys always lose and everyone in the city likes it that way. Ultimately I tied the entire evil-supporting city / society into a wider format. Basically it became a necessary evil in the comic universe. Bomb Queen and her city was where we wanted all the criminals to go to so the streets in the rest of America can be safer. it was a win-win.
Bomb Queen and her evil ways went almost 30 issues, 7 trades, and three one-shot specials. She’s still popular today when I go to comic conventions.
JP: Will there be any more sequels?
JR: Oh yes. I plan to get back to Bomb Queen later. The problem with doing all the work yourself is that it limits a person to just one book at a time. It really sucks. I see a lot of good writers doing several books, but when it comes to the artist… they tend to only work on just one book. The same applies to me. I would LOVE to do Bomb Queen and something else, but I don’t have the time. Also, since I tend to do everything, the book just won’t be the same if I turned the reins over to someone else. I have a LOT of ideas for a LOT of books, but I can only do so much at a time and I don’t want to be labeled as just the Bomb Queen Guy.
JP: What do you feel is the Jimmie Robinson style? You were mentioning house styles earlier, and I’m just curious how you see your work.
JR: Hah, yeah. I’ve done a number of things in a number of styles, but I guess I can say one of the consistent giveaways to my artwork is that it’s usually linear and lacks crosshatching and shading. In fact, as I get older I’m drawing less lines and I’m trying to convey movement in as few motions as possible. I’ve had some folks at conventions believe that my art is digital because of the clean lines. It’s a good thing I often take my original art with me to show folks that I indeed do draw that way. In a way I like to capture *moments* in time as opposed to a true storyboarding experience. I also think my style leans heavy on female characters. Five Weapons is my first male-driven title, other than that… all my books have female leads.
I also like to fit the style to the book. The graphic novel Avigon was influenced with a Shojou manga feel. Elongated limbs and necks with manga styled facial features. The girl-powered series Evil & Malice was drawn like an American Cartoon show. Bomb Queen leans on the traditional superhero platform, so I used more inks, more spot blacks and [I tried] some cross-hatching. Amanda & Gunn was inked like a Black& White indy book, so got to be a little loose on that one. Code Blue was a medical drama so I used water colors to create mood. Five Weapons is drawn in pencil and since it’s for all ages I keep it light and bouncy. Paul Little’s color really helps on this. We worked out a specific color palette / spectrum to stay in. This combined with my art creates a unique look. Likewise, I tell the story in all horizontal panels so it reads smoothly in both print and digital with less hopping around the page. I’ve done work in anthologies too, and often I’ll switch gears and styles to meet the theme. But, as I said, in 90% of all those constant style is linear — even if I dump a lot of details on the page.
JP: What is your favorite thing to draw?
JR: I have to admit I can get by and get away with murder drawing the female form. I’m not great at anatomy, but I can cheat in several ways to create a *passable* style. I do this easiest with women. Muscular men are harder for me. I lack the ability to draw that stylized muscle mass and flexibility. There are a lot of hard and fast rules about men. Break them and you end up with something not quite right. It’s okay to make a woman look handsome, but making a buff man look feminine doesn’t work as well, hahah!
Other than that, my favorite thing to draw is weird camera angles. That’s one of the ways I can cheat around things. Draw things in a perspective or dynamic way that isn’t so common and people will believe in it right way. It’s like how artists bend Spider-Man in all those gymnastic shapes. So the angles are fun. And trying to bring a focus to something in the panel with a unique angle is always my favorite thing because it’s part of the storytelling toolkit.
Jimmie Robinson’s website can be found at http://www.jimmykitty.com. His twitter handle is @jimmie_robinson.
As stated in Part one, feel free to Check out Five Weapons, currently out from Image Comics. Feel free to check out some of the other stories – especially Bomb Queen – to sample Jimmie’s incredible work. I feel very privileged to have had this opportunity. I want to thank Jimmie and thank you all for reading.