Joelle Jones & Jamie S. Rich on the Tireless and Always Together ‘Lady Killer’ [Interview]
Joëlle Jones and Jamie S. Rich are taking readers back to the mid-century lifestyle in their series Lady Killer, but with a twist. Loving, sweet, capable housewife Josie is actually also a ruthless, trained assassin.
Jones and Rich have crafted a complex, fascinating story with a particularly great lead character. The creators' attention to detail regarding the 1960s timeframe and the various gender roles and attitudes of the time give the comic a solid foundation --- which leads to some great friction in the heroine's work/life balance. Plus, she murders some people with grace and violence. ComicsAlliance talked to Rich and Jones about their inspirations, and their plans for the lethal Josie.
ComicsAlliance: Josie is a complex character who we already know is strong, vulnerable, feminine… what else should we know about Josie?
Jamie S. Rich: I see her as tireless, and always together. Her job isn't just being a killer, nor is it just being a homemaker, it's basically keeping this entire family together, organizing their activities, and managing her own duties. Really, she's one of the most capable people you'd be likely to meet. Honestly, I feel like we owe her an issue where she just kicks back and enjoys an afternoon cocktail. She doesn't get much time to breathe in this first go-around.
CA: Was there a particular inspiration for the character?
Joelle Jones: I would be hard pressed to pinpoint an exact inspiration for Josie. She's a little of this, a little of that, taken from all sorts of places, and she keeps changing.
CA: Did you mean for Josie’s husband to look like Roger in 101 Dalmatians?
JJ: Well it's not like I was trying to hide it! I kept going back and forth over his character design and it started looking more and more like a Milt Kahl character so I decided to go with it.
CA: The first two issues quickly emphasize the stress of Josie’s career and home life being in competition for her attention. What made you want to tell this kind of story?
JSR: For me, it just had the right kind of genre trappings. There's a bit of the amateur sleuth scenario to this. That sitcom idea of the snoop who keeps sneaking out because she thinks there is a killer next door. I like playing around with those old tropes. Ever since You Have Killed Me, really, I like to approach something like Lady Killer with the idea of, "How can I make this different? How can I make it me?" Or, in this case, "How can I make it us?" since we're working with Joëlle's vision. In a way, Josie is even kind of like a superhero. Secret identities, and all that.
CA: This is obviously a struggle women have been dealing with since they entered the workforce. Was there any particular research you did into the family dynamics of the 50s and 60s?
JSR: I know we looked at some of the commonalities and conditions of suburbia at the time, and what this relatively new concept of the suburbs meant to the American family. Once we had decided on Seattle as a location, we did look into what kind of neighborhoods they had at the time, particularly for someone like Gene who works in aeronautics. We compared that to a lot of the cliches you would see on old television shows and in movies, and then both imagined what dark secrets might be behind that image and also read up on problems that women faced at the time.
Betty Draper gets brought up a lot; she has come to embody that kind of character for modern audiences, but Matthew Weiner really gets her right. Once the kids are in school, there's not a lot for her do.
CA: The last time ComicsAlliance talked to you, you talked about your inspiration from vintage ads and vintage illustrators. What’s appealing to you about those styles?
JJ: The line work and gestures are lovely and in many cases a single image tells a multi-layered story. Also made me want to buy some vacuums.
CA: How much research have you both had to do to get the period details right?
JSR: I think the funniest ones I've had to do is trying to find an origin of a phrase. Like, in the first issue, when Peck tells Josie not to jerk him around, and so having to see if they even said that in 1962. I had similar problems on Madame Frankenstein. My approach is not to get too heavy with the period slang anyway, I don't want it to sound like I'm just mimicking old movies or whatever, but I'd rather get it right than have a character say a phrase that wouldn't make any sense for the time. You won't hear Josie call anything "tubular."
Joëlle goes pretty deep. She researches the cars, the clothes, basically seeks out things she wants to draw. Since she's going to have to look at it panel after panel.
CA: I noticed that the silhouettes that Josie wears are sleeker when she’s in her work sphere but more full and traditionally feminine when she’s at home --- is this a conscious choice?
JJ: Not really. I think in terms of dressing the characters I'm lucky to work in a time period where the rules for fashion are so clear. Day wear, evening wear, sports attire. Makes my job easier.
CA: What can we expect from the rest of Lady Killer?
JSR: I think the core story Joëlle has concocted ends up working really well in terms of being serialized comics. Each issue features a special story contained between those covers, and could quite possibly just be read on their own. But when you get to the end, you'll see how each chapter informs the story as a whole.
So as the series progresses, you'll see Josie get into spots of trouble, meet new characters, while also struggling with the cracks that we've started to show in her professional relationships. She's going to have some major hurdles to get over before the end of that fifth issue.