Janet Evanovich's Alex Barnaby Ready for Her Comics' Debut

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In the upcoming graphic novel Troublemaker, New York Times best-selling author Janet Evanovich takes her prose series starring a female racecar mechanic into the world of comic books. Troublemaker follows the two previous books in the series, Metro Girl and Motor Mouth in the continuing story of the daughter of a grease monkey Alex Barnaby and the racecar driver she works for, Sam Hooker. After a series of romance novels, Evanovich took to the world of racecar pit crews with aplomb; while romance is still along for the ride, it stays backseat for much of the series – focusing on action and engine grease. The lead character has been described by Publisher’s Weekly as an echo of Donald E. Westlake’s Robert Parker, whom comics fans will know from Darwyn Cooke’s IDW Publishing adaptation.

For this third installment – and first graphic novel – in the Barnaby series, the busy author has enlisted her daughter Alex as co-writer and cartoonist Joëlle Jones to fill out the creative team. Besides being the namesake of the fictional character at the center of the book, Alex also shares a love for comics like her mother; many years ago she did a webcomic called Batster. When asked about the duo's comics’ credentials, Dark Horse editor Sierra Hahn was quick to explain how their love of comics got this project started.

"Dark Horse first approached Janet after she gave a glowing endorsement of Joss Whedon's Buffy Season Eight comics in Time Magazine," Hahn explained. "We reached out to her to thank her for the praise and interest in the series, and to ask if she had any interest in writing comics of her own. It didn't take long to discover that she is a longtime reader of comics having read titles like Little Lulu (which we just so happen to publish), and Uncle Scrooge. Janet's daughter Alex reads a lot of Manga too, so together they were confident they could create a comic that both Janet fans and comics’ fans would enjoy. Having worked closely with them, I'm confident in the story they've put together for characters Alex Barnaby, Sam Hooker, and their closest allies. There's a lot of humor, action, hi-jinks, throughout the book. It's the fun ride that anyone would expect from a Janet Evanovich-helmed project."

Artist Joëlle Jones comes to this book after having done a Dr. Horrible comic for Dark Horse, as well as several issues of the Vertigo series Madame Xanadu.

"I've been a longtime fan of Joelle's work," said Hahn," and was able to work with her on a Dr. Horrible one-shot comic written by Zack Whedon. I was super impressed by the work she did for that comic and was eager to work with her again. When the opportunity to work on Troublemaker was introduced to me, Joelle was the first and only artist I could see on the project. Her characters are charming, expressive, and full of energy. They leap off the page and draw a reader in, and that's exactly what this book demands. It takes place in sunny Florida where (as someone from drizzly Oregon can attest) everything appears to be chock full of life, enthusiasm, fun, and adventure."

For Jones, the chance to draw "sunny Florida" and the adventures of Alex Barnaby in particular has been an enjoyable experience.

"Alex Barnaby has been real fun to draw," the artist said of Troublemaker star. "She's very energetic and quirky. Sam Hooker's also a fun character to draw really expressive and although sometimes drawing men can be challenging for me I think he turned out looking alright. I really enjoyed the moments when he turned on the charm, or when he is annoying Alex to death."

One of the things that sets Alex Barnaby apart from the typical heroine of romance novels is her intricate knowledge of car mechanics. As luck would have it, artist Joelle Jones knows her way around an engine too.

"Although I didn't really have to draw the inner workings of cars for Troublemaker, my father and my grandfather were both mechanics and passed on to me a great love of cars," Jones explained. "I really enjoyed drawing all the different types of Porsches—stuff I wouldn't have had a chance to otherwise."

In the few short years she's been doing comics professionally, Joelle Jones has covered a lot of ground – but this project is unique in many ways. After doing several creator-owned projects with James S. Rich, and doing company-owned work like Fables and Madame Xanadu, the chance to collaborate with someone like Janet Evanovich was exciting – although confusing at first.

"When Sierra Hahn was first talking to me about the project, I picked up Janet's novel One For The Money, not realizing I should have read Metro Girl instead," Jones revealed. "So in the beginning when I was doing the character sketches for Troublemaker, I think everyone was a little confused since I was drawing the wrong people – the people from One For The Money. I eventually figured out that I was drawing Barnaby and not Stephanie Plum."

Stephanie Plum is the principal character in Evanovich's longest running series, with fifteen full-length prose novels released and two more on their way. The decision to follow-up the Alex Barnaby character from her two books is unique.

There haven't been new Alex Barnaby stories in several years," said editor Hahn. "There's demand from fans to return to Barnaby and Sam Hooker, and further explore their adventures. It seemed like the perfect opportunity for Dark Horse to partner with Janet and revive the series with the potential to draw in pre-existing fans of the series and bring comics readers to Janet's work. Certainly we'd love to support the Stephanie Plum series in any way we can, but the novels are a huge success in their own right, with the sixteenth novel coming out in June and a spin-off series launching in August."

Unlike most properties that jump from one medium or another, Evanovich and Dark Horse decided not to adapt previously released stories but instead forge ahead with new material. That's been a successful formula for Dark Horse, which publishes several successful licensed comics lines with new stories such as Star Wars.

"Personally, I don't have much interest in adapting previous works," explained Hahn. "I think people want to read something that's new--a re-imagining or continuation of a story or of characters that have been successful and have a pre-existing audience. Buffy Season Eight is a perfect example of taking something old and making it new in a different medium. For the upcoming Predators series that we're doing (based on the upcoming Robert Rodriguez helmed film), we're not "adapting." Instead we're able to tell new stories that enhance the reader/viewers experience of the source material. That's how we've approached Troublemaker; we have excellent, successful source material, and instead of translating it into comics, we're able to contribute to that world and give fans of Alex Barnaby and Sam Hooker something new and exciting to read--a new adventure in both content and form."

Given the popularity of Evanovich's work, the next logical question about Troublemaker is this: will there be more?

"Right now we have Troublemaker volume one coming out in July, and volume two in October," said Hahn. "Both books chronicle one ongoing adventure. If we do a third graphic novel starring this same cast of characters we'll have a whole new adventure to introduce readers to, and give the story arc a new name."

Troublemaker Vol. 1 will debut just days before San Diego Comic-Con, and that scheduling is no mere coincidence; both Janet and Alex will be attending the convention for the first time.

"Details for events and signings are still coming together," said the editor," but we will definitely have a signing on Friday from 5:30 to 7 at the Dark Horse booth. Janet and Alex will be participating in one of our Dark Horse-related panels, and an off-site event/book signing will happen in San Diego. In June, Janet will have a new Stephanie Plum novel out from St. Marten's books so there's going to be a lot of buzz and energy focused on her body of work around that time. It's going to be pretty exciting to witness firsthand how both Janet's fans and comics fans respond to Troublemaker.

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