I just want to say that Paige Braddock is awesome. I met her at the Alternative Press Expo in April and she talked to Pink Raygun about her comic, Jane’s World, and how she’s growing and changing the comic. We also touched on the controversial “socks with sandals” debate. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Florida, where most people are pretty weird, but I never thought that socks with sandals was that bad. That’s what you did in the wintertime in the 1990s: threw on socks with your Birkenstocks. But, as usual, I digress. Enjoy our interview with Paige!
PRG: How did you start out with Jane’s World?
PB: It started as an online comic and then it transitioned to being syndicated online by United Media, but then after a couple of years, I found the linear strip to be limited so I started doing comic books. That was probably in 2001. That just allows you to do longer format stories, draw people from the waist down, things you don’t get to do in a comic strip.
PRG: Artistically, who has been influential for you?
PB: My work doesn’t look like these people’s, but the people that are contemporary that I like and read are Darwyn Cooke because of his drawing style, the framing, the action he puts in. I’m trying to improve how I pace the book and do the panel design and stuff like that, because when you do a comic strip there’s no room for background. That’s one of the things you don’t realize when you start expanding the art space you have to draw in: you have to start considering backgrounds. Also Terry Moore, who does Strangers in Paradise. Y: The Last Man. These are the ones that I look at before I start drawing. I start thumbing through.
PRG: You write and draw Jane’s World. When you’re working, do you work from a script?
PB: I do. I sort of write the whole book out. I’ve stopped doing short stories, like I was doing traditionally 24 page comics and about a year ago I stopped doing that. Now I’m doing like a 152 page story arc, so that I can pick up all these crazy loose ends I have and make them all come together. So, when I’m doing that, I write a script that’s sort of like a screenplay. I do find that once I get into it I wind up going back and doing some re-writes.
PRG: OK, so you have an idea for a plotline. Where do you take it from there?
PB: Sometimes the first idea you get, say it’s a level one idea, and it seems like it’s the predicable thing and so, I sit with it for awhile to see if I can put a different spin on it because I want the book to be a humor book. In order to be funny, it has to go to places people think it’s not gonna go. For example, I have this storyline coming up where there’s a love triangle between three of the characters and you think that this conversation between these two characters is gonna be about boundaries or relationships or how threesomes are a disaster or how it’s gonna ruin the friendship. You think that’s where it’s going, and it ends up with one of the characters giving the other a hard time because she’s wearing socks with sandals. It’s going down this track that you think you’ve been down before and it jumps. In the middle of the conversation, she goes “You’re not wearing that. It is such a mystery why you don’t have a girlfriend. Socks with sandals.”
PRG: Do generally have a moment of humor that you’re trying to build up to?
PB: Sort of, but you can’t be too self-aware about it. If you’re too self-conscious about it, then it seems like a set up. Like the socks and sandals thing, it sorta has to organically come up because that’s how real humor happens. You’re not trying to be funny, you just do something really stupid.
PRG: Is the socks and sandals example something that really happened?
PB: Yes, it is.
PRG: Since you’re pulling from your daily experiences for Jane’s World, do you find that you’re always on? That you’re always writing?
PB: It’s not always from daily experiences. I was just doing this story and remembered something that happened with a friend of mine in Atlanta who was giving me shit about wearing socks with sandals and it stuck with me. She’ll be so excited it actually made it into the book!
PRG: I read recently that you have a deal where Jane’s World is now being distributed at Borders and Barnes & Noble?
PB: Yeah, I went through Diamond’s book distribution.
PRG (John popped in here): I met you briefly at San Diego last year. Another artist, Allison Bechdel, had recommended your work, so I picked up a couple of your books and I really love the artwork. I’m not the target market for this at all, but I really enjoy it.
PB: I’ve found that the target market doesn’t actually read my books. If I could tap into my target market, I could really start making money. I’m getting this peripheral audience that I don’t even expect to get. But that’s good because it’s supposed to be a book for everybody, it just happens to be that some of the characters are gay, but it’s not politically gay. I always joke that there’s not that many gay female cartoonists, like Allison Bechdel is the smart one and I’m the slaptick one. I’m the sit-com and she’s the drama.
PRG: Before your deal with Diamond, you must have been doing a lot of self-distribution.
PB: I was with a few distributors that worked with Diamond and I was just wearing myself out trying to keep track of all that. So, that’s why I decided to go with Diamond. They service all of those smaller distributors and manage the returns and bill for the invoices. So, I just get a check every week and a little accounting of what books they’ve sold.
PRG: So you can focus on the writing and art, and the business pretty much takes care of itself?
PB: Almost takes care of itself. I feel like there is this whole audience of female readers who don’t come to comic conventions, who don’t go to comic shops, who I think would really like Jane’s World. And I don’t really know how to find them. I have a store set up on my website and I’ll get an order from a person buying one book, then within three or four days they’ll come back and buy every book I have. It’s usually women who do this and they’re usually out in someplace like Guthrie, Oklahoma or somewhere. So, then I’ll email and ask how they found Jane’s World, because that’s a great grassroots way to find that audience.
PRG: There are feminist bookstores as well. We have Antigone Books in Tucson and they focus like a laserbeam on women’s literature.
PB: There’s got to be a list somewhere. There’s an indie comics list out there, but there’s gotta be another list out there that would clue you in to woman friendly bookstores or women’s center bookstores.
As an aside: Pink Raygun is currently in the process of compiling just such a list.
PRG: Are you a self-taught artist?
PB: For the most part. I didn’t have any art until I went to college and they didn’t really teach art, they taught you the tools. Like I learned that there were more than #2 pencils. Actually, I got into a gallery show in high school with a drawing I did of my grandfather’s cow barn, basically with a #2 pencil out of his toolbox. Just like sitting in the pasture, this was rural South is what I’m saying. And I got third place and they said I would have won if I had used a pencil with a different lead weight and I was like “What does that mean?” If you never have any art exposure, you have no idea what tools are available to you.
I’ve been trying to improve my artwork and it’s sort of this tension between when I started on the web it was low resolution so the text was really large and the characters kind of simplistically drawn. Then when you go to books, that style doesn’t really work, so my characters are becoming more realistic looking and drawings are more detailed, but you can’t make that jarring transition overnight because people lose track.
See? I told you Paige rocks. You can learn more about Paige and read installments of Jane’s World at her website.