Comics Q&A with Jim Rugg

1.  The 5th volume in your series of over-sized Street Angel graphic novels hits this week. What can you tell us about Street Angel vs. Ninjatech, and how would you describe it to new readers?

RUGG:  Street Angel is a skateboarding ninja. She’s the deadliest girl alive. One night, while saving the world, she gets hit with an experimental poisonous ninja dart. It’s rough, but she survives. When she learns the dart came from Ninjatech, a local ninja weapon-maker, she declares war. But how do you fight a building? Lucky coincidence, it’s bring-your-daughter-to-work day at Ninjatech. PowerPoint meeting and ninja fighting fun ensues.

It’s the perfect Street Angel book for a new reader. Each Street Angel book is made to stand on its own. Street Angel books are complete stories and can be read in any order. It’s rated T for teen, but it’s probably appropriate for 10-100 year olds.

2.  What’s your creative process like and what tools do you like to use?

RUGG:  My creative process is ANYTHING GOES! For Street Angel vs Ninjatech, I drew it all in pen-and-ink on standard sized Bristol board. Very traditional. Tools include sable hair brushes (Raphael 8404 and 8408, size 2), pen nibs (SL Zebra nib, similar to a Hunt 102), and rapidographs.

I co-write Street Angel with Brian Maruca. We work via email, shared docs, phone calls, and in-person meetings. We shape the story into a prose short story. When we’re happy with it, I’ll break it into a comic script – page, panel, descriptions, dialogue, narration, sound effects. We pass that back and forth to make sure it works. Then I draw it. I usually work on 2 pages – a print spread – at a time. I draw rough layouts/breakdowns, then loosely pencil the pages, letter, ink, scan, and color it. Then I start on the next 2 page spread.

But each Street Angel book has been different. I’ve drawn some in pencil with a lightbox, where I’m drawing and revising several drafts for each page. I completely drew, colored, and lettered Street Angel’s Dog (the Image Comics FREE Comic Book Day issue) using Procreate on my iPad. So my process and tools vary.

3.  How has your past experience as a graphic designer informed your work, if it all?

RUGG:  It’s huge. One thing is with lettering. Design is the other visual art that uses text and image. So a lot of my interest and ideas about composition and storytelling start with design principals. Design encompasses so much – color, communication, audience, storytelling, lettering, composition. I also worked as a print designer for almost a decade. That has helped me understand and control the entire production process with my comics. I’m responsible for the story, the art, the printing/production details – I see all of those elements as part of the process, the object, and the storytelling. Working in production helped me understand how to make my own books. It’s something I cherish and is really a happy accident.

4.  Who or what has influenced your work the most?

RUGG:  People. I considered technology, but it’s people. I had some great teachers. And I’ve gotten tons of valuable info from other artists, comic shop owners, friends. The other runner-up is comics. I love movies and tv and books and podcasts, but all of those combined pale in comparison to how much energy and time I’ve spent with comics.

Some of my favorite cartoonists over the years were Frank Miller, Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, Erik Larsen, David Lapham, Mike Mignola, Dan Clowes, Julie Doucet, John P., the Hernandez bros, Jack Kirby, Chris Ware, Fort Thunder, Hellen Jo, Eleanor Davis, Jamie Hewlett…I know I’m leaving lots of favorites off the list.

 5.  Do you have any advice for aspiring artists/cartoonists?

RUGG:  Work on your business. If you get your business right, you can make anything. It’s vital to creative freedom in my opinion. And there’s more ways than ever to reach an audience. It’s not easy but people are finding creative ways to do it. If you want to do this professionally, study how others do it. Adapt that knowledge to suit your own goals. Maybe take a class or two. It’s possible to make a living as an artist, but it does not happen by luck or accident. It’s not based solely on artistic talent – that’s a damaging myth. I clung to that belief for a long time but I’ve never found an example of a financially successful artist who does not fall into other categories like hard-working, disciplined, visionary, and professionally sound.

6.  I heard you have a new podcast coming out with fellow cartoonist Ed Piskor called Cartoonist Kayfabe.  What’s that about?

RUGG:  It’s a YouTube show (and there is an audio podcast version)! Each week, we go through an issue of Wizard magazine, page-by-glorious-page! Wizard magazine was a comics magazine that started in 1991. Comics were selling at record numbers due to a speculator bubble. Image Comics started! Dozens of other publishers and superheroes sprung up! The internet happened! Then the speculator bubble burst and almost destroyed comics! Marvel went bankrupt! The 90s are an incredible decade for comics and Ed and I were totally plugged into that era. So we’re going to go through that time period with Wizard as our timeline.

7.  So, what else are you working on next?

RUGG:  I’m drawing a new PLAIN Janes graphic novel. It’s a followup and conclusion to the young adult graphic novel series I started with Cecil Castellucci. We’re doing a new volume that covers senior year for the Janes and then we’re releasing it in one giant, 500 page epic volume! I’ve been thinking of it like a manga book! That will be out in late 2019.

Cartoonist Kayfabe just released its first weekly episode:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCU0v4IGzj2wK-PmjASkK2Rg

And I opened a t-shirt shop:  https://shop.spreadshirt.com/jimruggart/

Jim Rugg’s website:  jimrugg.com

And lots of cool, exclusive Jim Rugg material on patreon.com/streetangel/overview

Thanks for playing along, Jim!

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Categories: Comics, Interviews

Author:Andy Yates

Andy is a freelance illustrator, and animator. He writes about comics at comicstavern.com. See his work at plumdill.tumblr.com.

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