Wednesday, September 20, 2017

An SPX Interview with Jeremy Whitley

Whitley at Big Planet Comics in 2012
by Mike Rhode

Jeremy Whitley has been writing his comic book Princeless for a few years now, and along the way, it's picked up Eisner and Glyph Awards. I personally enjoy it very much, although it's not aimed at me as you can see from Wikipedia's description: "Princeless tells the story of Princess Adrienne, a strong-minded, brave, and intelligent black princess who questions and challenges expectations and stereotypes associated with princesses. From a young age, Adrienne resents any limitations placed on her as a princess and struggles against them in order to define her own role. On her 16th birthday she is tricked into imprisonment in a tower, as is the expected fate of any princess in the land. Instead of waiting for a prince to rescue her, Adrienne escapes from her tower with the aid of her guardian dragon, trades her dress and crown for armor and sword and sets out to rescue her six sisters from their own prisons." I had the first trade collection from when he signed it at Big Planet Comics Vienna a few years back, but just bought another complete set so I can read it from the beginning.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

I am a comic book writer.  I am the writer/creator of "Princeless" and its sister book "Raven: The Pirate Princess".  I also write for Marvel's "The Unstoppable Wasp" and "Hulk Vs Thor: Champions of the Universe" as well as IDW's "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" and it's many offshoots.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

Well, as a writer I generally start in a notebook or if I don't have one on me, by making notes in my phone.  Slowly those ideas grow and connect into something a little more substantive and I start script writing on my computer.  Sometimes I have to go back to the notebook to hash some things out, but I try to do everything I'm going to need to save on my computer, because it's much easier to keep track of and move around.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

1984, Southern California

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

I went to college for English and Creative Writing.  I never had any training or education that formally related to comics.  All of that I picked up from reading comics and scripts, as well as the occasional  book on how to write comics.

Who are your influences?

Kelly Sue Deconnick, Matt Fraction, Gail Simone, Brian K Vaughn

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

I would have started writing comics sooner.  I had a period of a couple of years after college where I basically sat on my hands and waited for something to come to me.  I feel like that's lost time.

What work are you best-known for?

Probably "Princeless" as it's a creator owned property that myself and my illustrators brought up from nothing.  "Unstoppable Wasp" probably had a wider distribution though, because it's a Marvel comic.

What work are you most proud of?

Princeless. I've been working on it for six years now and it's like a child to me.  Every time I get some hyperventilating little girl run up to my table to tell me it's her first or favorite comic, it does my heart good.

How did you end up writing for Marvel?

Persistence.  I emailed a lot of editors and sent them pdfs of or links to comics I had been working on.  I listened to suggestions they had and kept working on other books while I was waiting for opportunities to become available.  Once I had one, I got stories turned in in a timely fashion and was receptive to any suggestions editors gave me.

How has the experience been?

Overwhelmingly positive.  Everybody I've worked with at Marvel has been wonderful and there's a real sense they want you to succeed.  We don't always agree about every turn a story should take, but they're always respectful of my ideas and happy to talk things out.

Do you have a future project for them?

Well, right now I'm working on Hulk Vs Thor: Champions of the Universe, which is a six-issue mini-series which just released its second issue today.  After that, there's nothing I can announce, but we're always talking about ideas for future books.

What would you like to do or work on in the future?

Well, there's always more Princeless and Raven coming and right now I'm hard at work on Vampirella at IDW.  Beyond that, I'd love more chances to work with both Marvel and Dynamite.  I'd really love to work on a book with Misty Knight over at Marvel.  And there are a number of characters over at DC I'd love to get my hands on.  I've also got several creator owned projects in the works, so I guess the answer is everything.  I hope to work on everything.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

Edit.  I got back and look at what I've got already.  I find that often if I have writer's block on a story that the problem is that I've already messed up.  A character is doing something out of character or has made a misstep in the plotting.  Sometimes you can find what you did wrong and the story just opens up in front of you.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

Just saying "diversity" is a cliche, but it's a true one.  Diversity of characters and creators, diversity of experience on and behind the page. diversity in genre and tone, diversity in format and experience.  I think comics is at a very similar point to where the book market was only a few years ago.  It's a question of finding the new inroads without necessarily closing off the existing ones.  Comics has had a boom recently and we're in a natural period of contracting, but it's not going away.  Libraries and schools are really starting to get a feel for how valuable comics and graphic novels can be for them and I think they're going to be a lot more of the future market for comics.

How was your SPX experience? How often have you attended it?

SPX was fantastic as always.  I love SPX and try to come every year.  Last year was the first year in a while I've missed and being back this year was a rejuvenating experience. It always gives me an insight into what comics could be like and makes me wish it was like that all the time.

Do you have a website or blog?

I do, but it's fairly useless at the moment.  It's but my twitter @jrome58 and my tumblr are much more informative. 

What's your favorite thing about DC? 

It used to be the monuments and those are still great, but the older I get, the more I have to say "the food". The food in DC is amazing.

Least favorite?

Is it ever not muggy in DC?  I mean, I live in the south so I'm equated with humidity, but it seems like it's always muggy in the summer and icy in the winter.  A dry and temperate day or two would be nice.

What monument or museum do you like?

I like the FDR monument.  I'm a sucker for a water feature on a monument to begin with, but the feeling of peace and calm in that monument really appeals to me.  Not to mention I love that ol' progressive dude.

How about a favorite local restaurant?

Oh!  Now that's hard.  I've been to a half dozen restaurants in Chinatown alone that I would easily put into my all time top 20.  Overall, though, I think I have to go with Busboys and Poets.  The combination of art, literature, and atmosphere with great food is my ideal. Who can pass up a restaurant with a book shop?

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