Jim Rugg is one of our favorite creators on the planet, period. The release of his book, Afrodisiac (in partnership with Brian Maruca), was a profound early moment in our show’s history. Not only did we love the book — in fact, it remains one of the best comic works I’ve ever read — but our support of the work genuinely helped raise the awareness and sales of the masterpiece. Jim’s creativity and love for different mediums makes him an artist that always surprises, even his most ardent fans. In recent years, although Jim has done lots of interesting projects, the lion’s share of his creative focus has been expanding on the adventures of Street Angel. This month, Jim and Brian are releasing a Street Angel: After School Kung Fu Special through Image; so we sat down to chat with Jim and talk about the project and everything else going on in his life.
Jim, it’s great to talk to you again, how have you been?
I’ve been great and I’m glad to speak with you too.
Later this month (April 26th) Image is releasing Street Angel: After School Kung Fu Special by yourself and Brian Maruca. Long-time fans of your work know all about Jesse Sanchez, but for new readers, what can you tell us about the character and the new release?
Street Angel is the deadliest girl alive. She’s the alter-ego of Jesse Sanchez, like Batman is to Bruce Wayne. Different people have very different ideas about Street Angel. She’s saved the world several times, but no one would look at Jesse Sanchez and think she could save the world. Sanchez is a teenage homeless orphan ninja on skateboard. She’s trouble, especially if you’re a bad guy. She’s sort of like Wolverine, if Wolverine never lost a fight.
Street Angel: After School Kung Fu Special is basically a day at school for Jesse Sanchez.
People always ask why she goes to school. For lunch. Food is hard for her to come by, so when she goes to school, it is mostly for lunch. She has some friends there too. Mostly kids that she’s helped at some point or other.
At school, she has a tough reputation. Sometimes a tough kid will take a shot at her, like gunslingers in Hollywood’s Old West. It’s an easy way for an aspiring ninja to earn their stripes and that’s what we see in After School Kung Fu Special. Jacob, the Ninja Kid, challenges her to a fight. On top of that drama, there’s a school dance coming up – a very socially awkward experience for most middle-schoolers. Street Angel is not immune to this angst and finds her friends pressuring her to go.
I’ve always found your eclectic approach to art refreshing at a time when so many creators in comics become known for one style or one type of storytelling. How would you define your approach to creating art? What’s the driving force?
I want to make the best comics I can make. That drives everything. This means looking at everything and seeing what I can use to tell my stories in a more effective, compelling way. Because comics are so visual, you can see me experimenting and incorporating new influences.
Picture books, phone comics, and video have been a big influence on me over the last several years.
My approach is that everything should work individually and that all the parts should add up to a greater whole. For example, I want each panel to stand on its own but also to work with all of the other panels, the page composition, etc. I also want the story to work without art and the art to work without words. That idea goes back to my childhood. I used to read submission guides and how-to-make comics stuff and they always said that the story should be clear without having to read the text. That idea has always stuck with me. The most important thing is the storytelling.
The other thing is, I love to draw and make images. That includes working with different materials to see what I can do. I like trying new processes, styles, and ideas.
I do see that in your work, and yet I feel like that kind of holistic planning is much harder to execute than it is to explain. In terms of your own enjoyment of comics from others, do you naturally seek out that kind of creative storytelling?
I agree with you about that kind of holistic planning is hard to execute. And there are so many reasons for that. Collaboration, deadlines, financial limitations, skill sets…there are a lot of things that can derail that kind of holistic success.
I don’t hold comics up to that. I like so many characteristics of comics that I’m happy to have a comic book that is fun to look at, or has a character I enjoy or a storyline or tone or coloring that I like. If it all comes together, awesome. But it’s pretty awesome even if it’s just beautiful or funny or different. So there are a lot of ways a comic can fall short of perfect, but there are also lots of ways that a comic can excite me. It would be really boring if they were all the same, even if they were of a consistent high quality.
We share an appreciation for the works of Tom Scioli, Ben Marra and Alexis Zhiritt. What other creators should I (selfishly) and our readers (selflessly) be gaining exposure to?
Warwick Johnson-Cadwell is one of my favorites and he’s currently drawing a book called Helena Crash. It is written by frequent Zhiritt collaborator – Fabian Rangel, Jr.
Alex Delaney is doing some hardcore genre work in line with VHS trash cinema of the 80s. If you like Marra, he’s worth a look.
Phenomenal, thanks for the recommendations. I love Tamaki’s work, and am quite familiar with Rangel’s stuff, too. But the rest are new to me.
Now that you’ve revisited Jesse’s world, is there any chance we’ll see more Afrodisiac in the future? [Please? Pretty please?]
That’s so funny. When we did Afrodisiac, people used to ask about more Street Angel! Ha ha. We have ideas for more Afrodisiac but nothing is on the schedule.
Well, I can dare to dream. What other projects are you working on?
I post the latest Street Angel comics at patreon.com/streetangel. I also post Street Angel comics on Twitter @jimrugg, Instagram @jimruggart, Tapastic, and LINE webtoon. So most of my time is devoted to making Street Angel comics.
I might do more wrestling stuff for WWE (I did a cover for a Wrestlemania comic). I’m working on my first skateboard design. I designed a Street Angel T-shirt for the Toonseum in Pittsburgh. I did a short comic biography about Hall of Fame skater Cindy Whitehead for Femme Magnifique. I’ve done a cover for the All Time Comics’ Crime Destroyer and the back cover of Bullwhip.
I’m training for my first marathon and I make journal comics about the training – which you see on my social media listed above.
Your first marathon? Good luck. That’s on my bucket list, as well, but admittedly it seems a daunting task. Are you using a “system” like Hal Higdon or are you taking a more organic route?
I am using a training system that I found online. I don’t know if it has a name. There are so many training schedules. The one I chose is considered conservative. It has some variety like hills, intervals, fartleks, and tempo runs. So far, so good.
It was on my bucket list and last year I ran over 1,000 miles without injury. So I figured it wouldn’t get any easier as I age. I also thought it would help me mentally and emotionally this spring during the book’s ramp up and release. Running helps me stay sane.
We usually catch up with each other at Heroes Con, what other conventions are you planning on attending this year?
- April 9 – PIX Pittsburgh Indy Comix Expo
- April 29 – Local Heroes in Norfolk, VA (Street Angel pizza party/book release – I can’t wait to see this store! I love comic shops and I’ve heard this one is fantastic)
- June 16-18 – HeroesCon in Charlotte
- June 24-25 – ALA in Chicago
- Sept 16-17 – SPX in Bethesda, MD
I expect to add more dates and will of course post them and promote them as that happens.
The commission you did for me of Afrodisiac vs Moby Dick is among my all-time favorites, are you still doing commission work? If so, how should art collectors get in touch with you to discuss acquiring some of your artistic brilliance?
That Afrodisiac vs Moby Dick commission is one of my favorites, too! I still do commissions, when I have time. I usually announce when I’m taking commissions so follow me on: Twitter @jimrugg, Instagram @jimruggart, email me: email@example.com. I’ll probably do some before HeroesCon.
Great, thanks so much Jim. Congratulations on another great comic, we’ll do our best to make sure the 11 O’Clock Comics audience shows it some love!
Thanks again Jason, see you at Heroes.