Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg opened the doors for DC’s Minx line of teen-oriented graphic novels last year with The P.L.A.I.N. Janes, the story of a group of four girls all named “Jane” who form a secret group of artists to liven up their town. Now, the story continues in Janes in Love, the second installment in the series, which premieres in September. Castellucci and Rugg let us know what to expect from the Janes this time out, and the many other projects they have in the pipeline.
Newsarama: What's the basic story for Janes in Love?
Cecil Castellucci: This story follows immediately after The PLAIN Janes’ New Years Eve art attack. The Janes are continuing to do their art attacks as P.L.A.I.N. but the consequences are getting higher as Officer Sanchez starts coming down hard on them and making art is expensive and that's a problem.
There is another attack, and this has made Jane's mother so scared that now she will not even leave the house. Jane tries to balance making art to find beauty in a way that doesn't menace the town, her continuing correspondence with Miroslaw, now in Poland, and her mother's growing fears about the mad world. And on top of it all, there is a dance coming up and the girls are trying to find dates and deal with their crushes.
NRAMA: How have the Janes changed since the first volume, and how is this a different story from the last volume?
CC: The Janes have changed in the sense that now they are friends, while before they weren't. So now that they know each other, they are beginning to have the tensions and the joys of having a group of friends.
They are also getting comfortable in their own skin. The story is a definite continuation of the first book, and I would say that it completes this chapter in the Janes’ lives.
NRAMA: The first volume has been out for a year, and got a lot of publicity on its initial release. What kind of reaction have you gotten to the first volume, and how do you feel about those reactions?
Jim Rugg: Everything’s been positive. I did shows in San Diego and Toronto after it was released, and the people that stopped by to talk about the book were very diverse – men and women, young and old, comics fans, educators, librarians.
I love the idea of different people reading comics, and from what I’ve seen, the Janes have found a nice mix of readers. One of the most common comments I get is that a comics fan bought the book for their niece, daughter, girlfriend, etc., and ended up reading it and enjoying as well.
The other common response is that the book leaves some threads unresolved. So I’m thrilled with how well Janes in Love picks up where PLAIN Janes ends, and really hits the ground running. I think fans of the first book will be very pleased with Janes in Love.
CC: Ditto to exactly what Jim says. The reaction that I've gotten is universally that people are excited. I love it when a gentleman comes and says that they picked it up for their wife, daughter, niece, girlfriend, who never read a graphic novel before, or were resistant to comics and that those ladies enjoyed it so much that they were open to checking out other comics. I also really love that many of those gentlemen enjoyed the Plain Janes themselves. That's the best.
Also the reaction from librarians for The PLAIN Janes and the whole Minx line in general has been tremendous.
Many people wanted to know what happened after the end of the last book, and I'm so glad that we got to finish off this story.
NRAMA: Now, as this is your second graphic novel, what are some things you've learned about working in the format that you've brought to this new story?
Also, becoming even more lean with dialogue and captions. I also tried to move the story along in a more interesting way. I'm thinking of the train sequence in particular. But perhaps that is because as I am saying this, I, myself, am on a train. (laughs)
NRAMA: Jim, have you updated the look of the characters any since the first volume, and if so, how?
JR: The Janes and James remain the same. I try to focus on their clothes and sometimes it works well, and sometimes not as well. It’s an ongoing challenge. But in addition to the Janes, their supporting cast gets fleshed out a bit more so some of those characters have been tweaked or in some cases are completely new.
NRAMA: Also, Jim, what have been some of the challenges of working on the book, particularly one where a lot of the story relies on character interaction?
Well, it’s true! It can be tough drawing a room full of distinct characters, especially if they are all doing their own thing. But it has advantages too. I’m sure if the book was about a single character, when there were group scenes, the other characters wouldn’t be designed as well. In this case, I think the Janes are all pretty interesting visually, and that helps with some of the more elaborate compositions.
NRAMA: Now, the series deals with the challenges of creating art, and in emotionally recovering from a terrorist attack. Allegorically, what do you feel the series says about creativity in a post 9/11 environment?
JR: I’m not sure it says anything about creativity in a post 9/11 environment. Despite the framing device of the bombing, I don’t think the story is political at all. And as far as a small town policeman objecting to public “art,” that’s hardly a post-9/11 phenomenon.
CC: I don't think that is says as much about creativity in a post 9/11 environment. People are always going to do art, and they were always doing public art, and people are either for or against it. Public art is something that has always sought to make us see the world in a new way.
Jane wants to see the world in a new way after what happens to her personally and she gets active about trying to make the world beautiful. That's how she copes with it. She thinks that art will save her, and it does. But I think that humans have found solace in art for a million years. I don't think of that as political, I think of that as human.
That said, I definitely was interested in trying to ask the question of how do you deal with terror in the world when you also are living your day to day life. But that also is not only something that is post 9/11. Every generation has some kind of "wow the world is crazy" thing.
For me growing up, it was the fear of nuclear annihilation and the cold war. People did art and were creative and facing challenges in creating art then, too. And before that, and before that, and before that...
NRAMA: Fair enough. What do you feel is a big part of the overall appeal of the Janes?
JR: It’s set in a period we all go through, when we’re yearning for freedom and feel grown up, but we’re not quite there yet. Everyone’s experiences at this time differ, but in a way it’s pretty universal. And I think the different characters make it easy for readers to find a way into the narrative.
CC: To add to what Jim said, I think the fact that the Janes are doing something fun has great appeal. They are cool, they care and fundamentally they are nice. That's empowering.
A lot of people come up to me and say, "That's like me and my friends. We pulled pranks, or we did cool art, or we tried to buck the system." For some young people, I think it is inspiring that you can do stuff and for older people there is a sense of nostalgia.
JR: We’ve talked about a couple more, but we’ll see.
CC: Yep. Jim and I have an idea of what the whole story is. I'm hoping we get to finish it off.
NRAMA: And finally: What are some of your upcoming non-Janes projects?
JR: I’m attending HeroesCon the weekend of the 20th, and I have a bunch of stuff going on there:
A new Street Angel story in Superior Showcase 3 (from Adhouse Books);
A tabloid-sized Cold Heat Special (from Picturebox);
A small collection of sketches, commissions, and other drawings;
A couple copies of the new Meathaus:SOS book (from Nerdcore) featuring an Afrodisiac story and the usual gang of supertalents like Farel Dalrymple, James Jean, Tomer Hanuka, Corey Lewis, Brandon Graham, Ross Campbell. This thing is pretty sharp, it’s all full-color, very beautiful;
A new Afrodisiac mini-comic;.
Probably some color prints of my Street Fighter art from the upcoming tribute book.
I also have an Afrodisiac story coming out in July’s Pop Gun Volume 2 from Image and I just finished a Machine Man/John Garrett short story for Marvel’s Indie Anthology.
CC: Next year I have an anthology I co-edited with my friend Holly Black of Spiderwick fame called Geektastic coming out on Little, Brown. It's YA stories about Geeks and the Geek observed. The interstitial images are being done by Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O'Malley, and I am very excited about that.
I also have an early chapter book / graphic novel for young kids coming out called Odd Duck with Sara Varon that I'm totally excited about. I am also working on a new YA novel called Rose Sees Red.
Janes in Love is currently scheduled to be in stores on September 16th.