Lady Killer is arriving on January 7th from Dark Horse and the first venture of artist Joëlle Jones of Oni Press’ Helheim into co-writing and drawing her own comic. Having seen the first issue, I can say that it will surprise and disturb you in ways you don’t see coming as you follow the astonishingly domestic life in the 1960’s of a young wife and mother who just happens to also have a secret life as an assassin.
Naturally, Jones’ aesthetics are going to come into play as she tackles the material and design elements of a picture perfect suburban life in the period, but her biggest TKOs are in those moments where her central character Josie Schuller flips into cold-blooded action and flips right back again into domestic responsibility, hardly ruffling a feather and maintaining a lady-like decorum.
Joëlle Jones talks with us here at Bleeding Cool about her new venture and the trials of life for a homemaker and assassin:
Hannah Means-Shannon: In some ways you couldn’t be further in subject matter moving from Helheim to Ladykiller, and yet we have a historical design element here and your female characters in Helheim were rather compelling and powerful. Is this a big jumping off point for you or do you see some continuity?
Joëlle Jones: I can see someone looking at the books I’m doing and perceive some sort of designed continuity or similarity but it’s only a coincidence. I’m certainly drawn to strong female characters and and I enjoy drawing fight scenes and battles but I’m not trying to create an over-all theme to my work. It’s just the order that my work is coming out at the moment. But are there similarities in the way I like to tell stories? Absolutely.
HMS: You clearly have a deep interest in the design and appearance of the 60’s—there’s an exuberance in your linework that drips with an appreciation of style. What is the attraction for you?
JJ: I’m so happy to know that my love of the content is coming through in the pages! I’ve been obsessed with mid century illustrators for a really long time and I just love the idea of working on something where I can spend a ton of time in that world.
HMS: Now, dealing with a female assassin in the 1960’s would be difficult enough, because of course you’ll come up against sexism, but here you run at it head-first by also giving Josie a husband, oppressive mother-in-law and kids. At one point in the first issue, she seems exasperated and the “perfect wife” routine breaks a little. Is she trying to be the perfect home-maker? What are her motivations?
JJ: Her motivation is pretty simple: keep herself and her family together. She’s not pretending to be a loving wife and mother, her family matters a great deal to her but being good at her job is just as important for her. The old trope is that she hates being the wife and loves being the killer. That’s not Josie. She loves both and that sometimes creates problems. What can I say, she’s good at compartmentalizing.
HMS: The way you handle violence in the first issue of the comic is with humor, but also, in the end, a kind of unflinching starkness. And that really stands up against the sweetness and light that people expect from Josie. Is that contrast the main goal? Or does it go further, perhaps undercutting American suburban life in the 1960’s?
JJ: It’s not the main point, no. But I do find it fun, particularly from point of view of visual storytelling. I think you can see it best in the series of fake ads that I did for the book. They advertise different ways to kill people using the murder weapon as the featured product. But maybe the real answer is that I like to mess up a perfectly serene setting by inking blood spatter all over it.
HMS: You’re co-writing Ladykiller as well. What are you inclined toward in terms of process? Having done the pin-ups first, it seems like you might be inclined toward visual impressions and then let the stories develop from those ideas. Can you give us some insights into how you developed the first issue into final form?
JJ: I came up with the idea for Lady Killer three years ago but my schedule never had any free time to work on it. So there was a sort of long incubation period. The ads came out of that waiting period because I wanted to do something on the project. When I finally scraped away some free time, the first thing I did was write out a rough script for issue one. Then I finally got to start drawing the thing! When the art was finalized, that’s when I brought Jamie [S. Rich] in. He gave the dialogue some pizzazz and sparkle and then we sent it off to Laura [Allred]. Laura went to town with the colors and I absolutely adore what she’s done!
My process for writing is pretty straightforward. I’ll have a rough plan already worked out, then I get a tuna sandwich and a redbull and start writing. I don’t really do anything visual till the script is finished.
P.S. I hope that by writing that last bit I’ll get a sweet endorsement deal from the people at redbull or chicken of the sea, I’ll let you know if anything happens.
HMS: For Jones, it all started with a series of pin-up poster advertizements that she did for fun, but it’s easy to see below how they quickly burgeoned into a narrative that could reconcile the elements of contrast between life-as-sold in the 60’s and life as it might have been for a trained killer with plenty of angst to let loose on the world. Here are those pin-ups, fit for a lovely calendar really, and welcome to the world of Lady Killer:
Lady Killer #1, arriving on January 7th from Dark Horse, reaches FOC today, Monday, December 1st. You can find it listed in Previews under the item code: NOV140021