Monday, August 13, 2012

Fireside Chat with Jamal Igle

Pull up one of those easy chairs, dear reader, because today we're having a wonderful conversation with Jamal Igle.  He's taken some time out of his busy schedule to talk with The Weekly Crisis about his latest project, Molly Danger.  A true labour of love, Jamal has turned to Kickstarter to help Molly see the light of day.  I'd invite you to check out the project's page.  We'll be waiting on the other side of the cut, ready to talk more about Molly, creator-owned works, comics, and sundry other topics.

Jamal Igle is a 20+ comics veteran who has pretty much done it all.  Recently coming out of a DC-exclusive contract, you definitely know him for his awesome run on Supergirl along with Sterling Gates.  He's worked on plenty of other books, including Firestorm, Iron Fist and Wolverine, Venture, and many more.  Over the course of his varied career, Jamal has also done work for the European market and television animation, among other things.  He's currently completing work on Kiss for IDW and Smallville Season 11 for DC.

Grant McLaughlin: For those unfamiliar with the concept, could you briefly describe what Molly Danger is all about?

Jamal Igle: Molly Danger is the world’s most powerful 10 year old Superhero. The catch is, she’s been 10 years old for almost 20 years. The public and Molly herself believe she’s an immortal, superhumanly strong alien being form a planet called Gamma 7, a world on the edge of the Galactic rim. She protects her hometown form the Supermechs, a collection of cybernetically enhanced villians. She lives in her own Museum, lovingly referred to as the Mollydome. he’s respected and loved by everyone.

Unfortunately, Molly is a bird in a gilded cage. She doesn’t have any friends or family, she doesn’t have a secret identity or a life outside of being Molly. She’s kept sequestered from the public because she’s a target for her enemies and a danger to others because of her strength. She longs for a normal life.

GM: I must say, that sounds pretty danged interesting, so I must ask, why have you turned to Kickstarter for this project?

Igle: Molly Danger is a very important project for me, one that I’ve been molding in various forms for about a decade. It’s very important to me that I control Molly’s image and how she is used and I felt that this was the best way to maintain control of the property.

I came to Kickstarter because it’s an expensive endeavour to publish comics in general. The format I’ve chosen, even more so. I, like most people familiar with the site, have seen the bigger successes like Order of the Stick and Womanthology, of course. It’s the smaller projects that drew me to the site as well and the opportunity to get this idea out of my head and onto the printed page. Kickstarter has the most visibility of all the crowd funding sites I investigated - a very user-friendly interface as well.

GM: Makes sense to me. What is it about Molly Danger that excites you most? What is it about this project that inspires you to put your time and focus into it?

Igle: There’s actually a lot that excites me about the project, frankly. It’s a story that I think is, fun, and emotionally touching. The opportunity really is to draw on all of my strengths as a writer and an artist, designing weird villains and weapons. Then there are the quieter moments of character interplay that I love as well. Molly is a fully fleshed out person to me. She’s very dynamic.

GM: Why do you feel that the time to work on Molly Danger is now (both for yourself personally and in regards to the current comic book market)?

Igle: The current Superhero market has abandoned younger readers, particularly young girls. There’s no female equivalent to a character like Ben 10 right now, and I think Molly fills a gap. Girls like superheroes, they like action and adventure, but they also like character they can empathize with. You’re not getting that from Marvel or DC at the moment or most other mainstream comics publishers. You see more of it outside of the United States but even then a lot of times there’s a weird sexual blurring involved.

I decided that I need to create the type of character that I wanted my daughter to read. One that wasn’t caught in the trappings of the current trends of comics, where everything was dark and morose. It just so happened that I didn’t have to look far because I already created her.

GM: Speaking of, how did the idea for Molly Danger first come to mind? How has she changed since that initial brainwave?

Igle: On a car ride. My buddy Rich Maurizio and I were driving back from Pittsburgh Comic Con in 2001 and we talked about developing an animation pitch. The name came almost immediately. After a while we abandoned the animation idea and decided to do it as a comic book. I wrote a script and began penciling pages, but as it happens with a lot of side projects I became too busy to work on it. Every time I intended to get back to Molly something else always came up. The next thing I knew, 10 years had passed.

When we originally came up with the idea, it was much more of a “through the looking glass” concept, where Molly and her alter ego, Maggie, would switch realities randomly, and the reader would never know which reality was the real one. It’s a much simpler concept now.

GM: Quite the evolution there. What kind of character is Molly now? A seemingly invincible girl superhero who has been 10 years old for over 20 years sounds rather unique, to say the least.

Igle: She’s inherently a good person. She's bright and friendly. Even though she’s unhappy, she tries to see the positives of her life. That unhappiness isn’t unwarranted, and the trick for me is that no matter what trials she endures in the story, those core elements stay intact. She’s smart, mischievous at times, but while she’s got 20 years of life experience, she’s still emotionally a child. It’s a hard balance for her because, like kids do, she tries to act like an adult at times but the kid in her comes out as well.

GM: An important follow up question, what is Molly's favourite meal?

Igle: Tortellini with butter and cheddar cheese.

GM: You were far more prepared for that than I was expecting! Who are some of the other characters we'll meet over the course of the story?

Igle: There’s The Danger Action Response Team's (D.A.R.T.) Senior Commander, Jennifer Holder. Holder basically grew up in the ‘Dome from Technician to D.A.R.T. Command. It’s a weird relationship for them because Molly has watched Holder grow older, yet Holder has become the disciplinarian in the way they relate to each other.

I also introduce the Briggs family, a blended interracial family. Austin, who when we meet him is the story has been trying to join D.A.R.T. for a year. Austin’s a hot dog former police helicopter pilot, and is the stepfather to Brian, with whom he has a stressful relationship. Brian’s mother Donna, remarried Austin after her first husband's death. They don’t get along at all and don’t have anything in common. Brian’s also a huge Molly Danger fan. Austin wants to use his connection to Molly as a way to get closer to Brian.

We also have the Supermechs: Lil’ Cavey (A diminutive caveman complete with giant club and loincloth), Bonnie Double (A hideously ugly shapeshifter who believes she’s the most beautiful woman in the world), Two Fisted Tommy (a man with two giant metal fists and a grudge against Molly), Motor Ed (a Superfast gasoline fuelled engine of mean) and Medula (A disembodied brain in a cyborg body, who wants to free humanity from the fear of dying by killing them and downloading their consciousness’s into machines).

GM: Those all sound awesome. What kind of tone are you striving for in this book?

Igle: I see it as “All Ages” but I see all ages in the same terms as Pixar does. What I mean is while the subject matter can be serious, it’s handled in a way that parents won’t be too uncomfortable giving it to younger readers.

GM: What led you to partner with Action Lab Entertainment?

Igle: Action Lab is run by people I trust and I respect the hell out of. While they’re a small publisher, they’re quickly becoming a fantastic content provider. Between the work they’ve already done, the recognition they’ve already garnered, it was just a natural fit.

GM: The Kickstarter mentions that you've lined up inker Juan Castro and colourist Michael Watkins to work on Molly Danger. Why did you reach out to these creators to collaborate on the project?

Igle: Again, surround yourself with people you respect and know. I had Juan in mind originally for Molly and Mike volunteered as soon as I put up the first promotional image.

GM: You've worked on a few European comic books in the past. How did you initially get involved working on in the European market?

Igle: Writer Paul Benjamin was an editor at Humanoids publishing and Paul and I knew each other from his days at Platinum Studios (I almost ran him over with my car, but that’s another story for another day). I bumped in Paul at SDCC back in 2003 and he introduced me to Fabrice Geiger, the publisher. When Jay Faeber and I wrapped up Venture, Paul got in touch with me about “L’Armée Des Anges” (Army of Angels/Dominion). So I drew the first two books, pencils and inks, half of the second book while I was penciling my first issue of “Firestorm” for DC comics.

GM: And how has that previous work impacted your decision to produce Molly Danger in the 8.5 x 12 hardcover European format? And why four books?

Igle: I love the look and feel of Graphic Albums. My wife grew up in France and has a large collection of them, from Thorgal to Asterix. The collection has grown in the time we’ve been married. It’s a huge visual canvas to paly with, and there’s a collectability to them as well that you don’t have with Trade paperbacks. The Molly Danger story is a huge story with a defined beginning, middle and end and to be honest, this is just the origin. There’s so many more stories that can be told.

GM:You're asking for $45,000 in the Kickstarter. What will the money be used for?

Igle: Every dime is going into the book and the Kickstarter incentives, from paying creators and designers, to paying for the production and shipping of the book and all of the incentives. That’s two thirds of the money. The other third will cover federal and state taxes, fees to Kickstarter and

GM: What are some of the rewards your offering through the Kickstarter?

Igle: We have D.A.R.T. membership cards, t-shirts, posters, prints, a limited edition sketchbook, copies of the book, some of which includes black and white or color sketches by me in the cover, original artwork from the book and we have several unlocked incentives as well.

GM: What would you say your influences are for Molly Danger?

Igle: Everything, from the writers I’ve worked with like Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, Greg Rucka, Sterling Gates, James Robinson, Sean McKeever, Paul Dini and others. I’m influenced by old Warner bros. Cartoons, Brad Bird and Steven Spielberg, but mostly my daughter Catherine and My Nieces Vanessa, Dyeneisha and Valencia.

GM: That's quite the list! You're writing and pencilling Molly Danger. What is your writing process like when you're doing it for yourself? Do you compose complete scripts with in-depth panel layouts and descriptions or are you on the opposite end of the spectrum with more free form scripts?

Igle: No, I’m going full script on this. It’s just easier for me.

GM: Does writing for yourself differ from working from other creators' scripts?

Igle: Well, it doesn’t. I’m very good at compartmentalization so, writing for myself is the same as writing for another artist.

GM: What is an average work day for you?

Igle: I usually get up at 9, spend about 4 hours online doing Kickstarter stuff, then I jump over to the drawing board until 3, pick Catie up from Day Camp, come home and jump back on the board around 10 pm and working unto 4 am.

GM: Wow, that is one rather intense schedule you have there! Do you have any habits that you do while you work? Music that you listen to? Food you like to have around? Anything like that?

Igle: I spend a lot of time either half watching stuff on Netflix or listening to progressive political radio. I forget to eat occasionally but I don’t need a specific type of food.

GM: Fair enough! What do you find to be the most satisfying part of the creative process?

Igle: The problem solving. It’s a turn on, mentally speaking.

GM: Your schedule sounds pretty jam packed, but when you can find some time for it, what kind of things are your reading right now?

Igle: I just finished The Outfit by Darwin Cooke. That was fantastic.

GM: What else do you have in store for 2012 and beyond? Are there any other exciting projects that you have planned that we should be on the lookout for?

Igle: I have an issue of “Smallville” coming out for DC comics, some covers for IDW and some other publishers. I’ll aslo have an announcement about another project in September.

GM: I can't wait to hear what it is. The last thing I have is our Literary Rorschach Test. The way it works is that I'll give you ten words and your job is to respond with the first thing that pops in your head for each one. It can be a word or a full blown paragraph. It's up to you.

Comics  Superman
Youth  Difficult
Hero – My Mom
Alone  Tragic
Strength – Necessary
Time – Never Enough
Creator Owned – Awesome
Artist  –  Me
Deadline  –  Looming
The End  –  Never

GM: Thanks so much for taking the time, Jamal! It's much appreciated!

And to our readers at home, if Molly Danger sounds like it might be up your alley, head over to its Kickstarter page or the Molly Danger homepage to give it a closer look and some support!

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