Paul Dini - Launching Dinitoons at Top Cow

Dini - Launching Dinitoons at Top Cow

Christmas is coming early for comics fans, as Paul Dini's Jingle Belle is returning to the comics page … courtesy of cow?

The new Jingle Belle one-shot is being put out by Top Cow Productions, and it signals the beginning of a new imprint hosting Jingle and other related characters all from the mind of writer Paul Dini. Dini is famed writer of both comics (Detective Comics, Madame Mirage) and animation (Justice League Unlimited, Tiny Toons), but the character of Jingle Belle has always been the closest to his heart. Originally created in 1999, Jingle Belle is the spoiled teen-age daughter of Santa Claus and has appeared in several miniseries and one-shots in the past nine years. And now she's back in a new one shot entitled Jingle Belle: Santa Claus vs. Frankenstein coming this fall.

This is the inaugural effort in the new 'Dinicartoons' imprint with Dini and Top Cow. For more, we talked to the writer by phone from his California home.

Newsarama: Paul, thanks for talking with us today. Can you tell us how Jingle Belle landed at Top Cow?

Paul Dini: Good to talk to you. I've been talking with Top Cow for awhile about doing more projects I had a really good experience with Madame Mirage, and I have a bunch of new ideas to explore in the Top Cow Brand. From Superhero/adventure to dark-themed books, but I also have a whole family of characters that are lighter – not necessarily "for children", but humorous. Things like Jingle Belle and Mutant, Texas.

So we created Dinicartoons, which would cover those characters as well as new ones.

NRAMA: Great – let's talk specifics, in leading up to the inaugural book here -- Jingle Belle; Santa Claus vs. Frankenstein.

PD: We all thought that we should do a holiday-themed book, and I thought doing that with Jingle Belle would be a perfect launch. She's well known to the fanbase, and people have asked "when is she coming back?" The answer I've always had for that question has been "whenever I have a story and a place to bring it". So I pitched the story to Top Cow and they decided to go with it.

NRAMA: According to the solicitations, this is a special "Halloween collides with Christmas" one-shot. What can you tell us about it?

PD: I was re-reading the original Frankenstein novel and it occurred to me that in the end, Frankenstein's Monster vanishes in the North Pole. With Santa Claus and Jingle living there, I thought that'd be a cool team-up there; putting Frankenstein's Monster at Santa's castle in the North Pole. Finding the Monster, thawing him out and put him in that location and see what happens.

Then I began to think of a way to get Jingle Belle involved, and it came pretty easy – she finds the monster and brings him home and finds him a job at Santa's caslte despite Santa's initial disagreements with it.

But with Frankenstein's Monster, nothing goes easy.

NRAMA: So he's got a job working for Santa… what is it?

PD: Yeah, he's sort of at loose ends. After Jingle digs him out, he has no place to be. His creator stitched things together, so he kind of acquired that skill and is put to work at Santa's. But his creations are really horrible looking and the elves are horrified by them. Jingle turns that around though and recommends that it would be good gifts for goth kids and those that like horror comics. He actually has quite the skill at doll-making, having observed his creator do it.

NRAMA: Let's talk about Jingle. She's has been one of the key works of your career, and as creator-owned it's probably one of the ones you hold dearest. What can you tell us about her creation and your wider Christmas appreciation?

PD: Just like any child who grew up in the 60s and 70s and beyond that, I was exposed to holidays specials and had fun looking forward to those each Christmas. That sort of colorful aura was very attractive to me and a lot of fun. The whole ramp-up throughout December to the holiday season was fun and provided a good backdrop for a lot of stories. But as kids get older, they sort of grow apart from . They'll say "yeah, you know I'll still open the presents" but the day itself has lots its meaning for them. I still enjoyed the sugar-coated nature of it all, but as I grew older I began to turn it on it's ear.

When I came up with Jingle Belle, it was about finding a way to express that. Also, it's a chance for me to comment on a type of relationship I've seen over the years: a famous father and well-known to kids around the world, but around the house he's just "plain ol' dad" and has the same problems any father has. Its what's goes on behind the scenes. Traditionally, Santa is never shown having kids but I'd thought I'd give him one – and as a spoiled brat.

NRAMA: The origin of Jingle. Let's talk art here -- you're working with artist Stephanie Gladden on this book, who you've done several Jingle Belle strips in the past with. How'd you come to work with her, and what does she add to Jingle Belle?

PD: Well, Stephanie was an artist I'd been aware of for a long time. She has a very chameleon-like talent ot draw the style of just about any cartoonist out there, while giving it her own special style of motion and animation. I'd known her from The Simpsons, and she did her own book called Hopster's Tracks that I loved the character designs for.

A lot of people will do the Disney-type stuff, but she was doing the Warner Bros. style – in terms fo faces and emotion. Not only do I love this, but if I could draw this well then this is the sort of drawing I'd love to do. It has such flow and a life to it. She also draws amazingly cute girls, and she's on my short list of people I want to work with – and I've been lucky enough to work with her several times at Dark Horse and elsewhere.

When I told her about this new Jingle Belle one-shot, she was all for it. Cute girls and monsters – a Universal monster at that, which she's a huge fan of. That fun monster look that started in the 60s and continued on to today. Not a gore fest, but still horrific at times.

NRAMA: Yes, I know what you mean. Let's talk about the imprint this book is launching on its shoulders – Dinicartoons. What's it about?

PD: Dinicartoons will be the home of Jingle Belle and her friends. A lot of the stuff I've done for other publishers will be reprinted as collections under this imprint. But I'm also creating a lot of new stuff, and even talked to J. Bone about doing another Mutant, Texas series or one-shot. I'm also creating new titles but we don't want to sound the trumpet before I've finished writing the first couple issues and they have a proper launch.

One of the books will be in a big fantasy world – that's one I've been working on for awhile. I'm also creating a new male superhero, and doing something very traditionally superhero-y and hard-edged while still being traditional. And then there's the wider stuff, which will be Jingle Belle and new characters coming up.

My wife and I are also doing animation on goanimate.com called Super Rica & Rashy, which is about a pair of sock monkeys that live in our house and torment us. You'll be seeing some stuff with Rashy in it soon.

I want to do an over-arching DVD cartoons title at some point, with multiple short stories in there. I'm very mucha fan of anthology books, but I want to do it from the Disney or Looney Tunes perspective where we focus on a few characters who each have their own segments. I can use Jingle Belle, Mutant, Texas characters, Little Rashy or new characters. It'll also be a place t showcase new artists who are new to comic books. I meet a lot of animators and artists in L.A. who have cool, dynamic styles. They have a lot of desire to get into comics, and I want to make part of this book to showcase artists with new creations. It's their space to try things out.

NRAMA: The Dinicartoons imprint is a continuation of your partnership with Top Cow, such as with the recent Madame Mirage miniseries. Can you tell about your working relationship with the company?

PD: I know all the guys over there and like them a lot. They've been nothing but encouraging and supportive of this. I talk to them a couple times a week as we finalize plan. Next week we hammer down the first of the new books, and it's great working on Madame Mirage and we're even beginning ramping up the second series soon.

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