C2E2 2017: Joëlle Jones Talks About Her Creative Process, Housewife Assassins, & That Moment from Supergirl: Being Super
My first interview at the 2017 edition of C2E2 was with the talented writer/artist Joëlle Jones. I first fell in love with her gorgeous lines, macabre sense of humor, and impeccable style in the 2015-2016 Dark Horse Comics miniseries Lady Killer that she co-wrote with current Vertigo editor Jamie S. Rich and illustrated herself. Lady Killer is about a seemingly stereotypical 1960s housewife named Josie Schuller, who raises her two kids and makes dinner for her husband, but is secretly an assassin. She was also the artist on the lovely slice of life graphic novel 12 Reasons Why I Love Her from Oni Press and a Mockingbird one-shot from Marvel Comics.
I got to chat with Jones about her work on Lady Killer and its sequel as well as her heartbreaking work on the DC Comics series Supergirl: Being Super, a modern retelling of Supergirl’s origin story, while she worked on a beautiful Catwoman commission. Read until the end for a cameo from another famous pop culture assassin.
Graphic Policy: One of the first things that attracted me to Lady Killer were the styles that the characters were wearing, especially Josie. I was wondering what some of your style inspirations were for the series.
Joëlle Jones: I always try to look at the old Sears catalogues. There’s a lot of people who can them in, but mostly, I use the old sewing patterns.
GP: I think I remember seeing some of those at my grandma’s house. I really like the way you draw Josie’s kids in Lady Killer? Did you have any particular influences, like newspaper comics etc.
JJ: It was old Valentine’s Day cards from the 1950s that Pete Hawley did. They’re so cartoon-y, and they make me giggle. I just wanted to do an homage to him.
GP: In Lady Killer 2, Josie is doing some sketchy things, like killing everyone and even teaming up with Nazis. Was there any particular things you added to your writing and art to keep her sympathetic in spite of doing all these deplorable things?
JJ: I wasn’t consciously trying to make people sympathetic to her. Hopefully, part of it is that I love [Josie], and I hope that’s enough to get across. Lady Killer is a kind of book that I would do no matter if people read it or not. I try to entertain myself and get me laughing or interested, and luckily it’s worked out that it’s successful.
GP: I was so glad when Lady Killer got a sequel. What were some of your favorite assassination scenes to draw in the either the first Lady Killer or the sequel?
JJ: I always like what I most recently did, but some of the scenes stand out over time. Like when she killed the stripper and strangles her. I wanted to draw that scene just so I could do the nipple tassels twirling around. The only purpose for that [splash page] was me wanting to draw that.
GP: The old school pasties. Very nice. So, in Lady Killer 2, the Schuller family moves from the Pacific Northwest to Florida so how did the shift in setting influence your work on the series?
JJ: I wanted to put them in a whole new place and shake everything up. I wanted to make them uncomfortable. The first series I kind of wrote with training wheels because Jamie [Rich] was there to help me. For the second series, I really wanted to do it on my own. I wanted to break away from what I did in the first series and put myself in that uncomfortable position. I did the same thing with the [Schuller] family to cover up the jitters.
GP: What have been some of the challenges of working with a co-writer to doing everything but the colors by yourself?
JJ: It’s actually been really freeing. I don’t like to sit down and write scripts. I start in with the art, and my scripts look like a mix between doodles and words. It was so much easier to not have to explain to anybody what I wanted to do. I just wanted to jump write in and do it.
GP: So when do you add the dialogue?
JJ: I add the dialogue at the very last minute when the art’s all finished.
GP: What can readers expect from the big finale in the upcoming Lady Killer 2 #5?
JJ: I don’t know. I haven’t written it yet. I do know where I wanna go and hopefully everyone will like it. Obviously, there’s gonna be a lot of blood. You can expect gore.
GP: That’s one of thing I love about the series: the over the top violence and black comedy. Like 60s housewife sitcom with a little Tarantino on top.
One of my favorite moments in Lady Killer 2 was when you added a little flashback with Josie’s mother-in-law and set her up as a “lady killer” of the past. If you theoretically could do a spinoff of Lady Killer, what era would you set it in and why?
JJ: That’s my favorite too! Maybe it’s because of all the movies I’ve been watched, but I would really like to do a Great Depression/Dust Bowl one. That’s what I’m into now, but it could change tomorrow and be the disco 1970s.
GP: That would be so awesome with the big afros and everything. Another series of yours that I’m a big fan of is Supergirl: Being Super. In issue 2, Supergirl’s best friend dies. It made me cry on my lunch break at work. How did you get in an emotional state to draw something so powerful?
JJ: Yeah, it’s heartbreaking. It’s all down to the way that Mariko [Tamaki] wrote it. The script is powerful on its own. It didn’t take much to get me there. She sent me the script, and I opened it up and started crying alone in my studio. It was so sad.
GP: It’s so unexpected because it was previously such a lighthearted book.
JJ: I had no idea that was going to happen.
GP: What is the difference in your creative process between Lady Killer and doing everything versus Supergirl: Being Super where you worked with inker, Sandu Florea? Do you draw differently?
JJ: I do a little bit. Sandu inked the first issue, and I took over on the inks for issues two through 4. It’s work as usual, I guess. I’ve been working off other people’s scripts for ten years so it’s back to the normal collaboration with someone else. It’s nice to get my foot off the gas for a while.
GP: My favorite character in Supergirl: Being Super is definitely Dolly. I love that girl. How did you come up with the design for her?
JJ: Mariko had an idea going in, and then we collaborated after a few sketches. I love drawing her clothes the best. She wears basically what I wanna wear all the time. She’s so fun to draw.
GP: She’s so comfortable in her own skin and is definitely style goals.
I have one last “just for fun” question. Who would win in a fight between John Wick and Josie, and why?
JJ: That’s tricky because Josie won’t use guns. Let’s say it’s hand to hand fighting. Josie’s got it. If he sneaks up on her, she’ll probably go down.
Joelle Jones is currently the artist on Supergirl: Being Super from DC Comics and the writer and artist on Lady Killer 2 from Dark Horse Comics.