For the past 20 years, cartoonist Paige Braddock has been creating the Jane's World comic strip - and fans have grown to love her story of a lesbian woman coming of age (and even old age). And now, those fans stories are being shared in a new Lion Forge collection called Love Letters to Jane's World.
Scheduled to debut in comic shops August 8 (and bookstores later this month), Love Letters to Jane's World is a unique collection of Jane's World strips over the past twenty years paired with letters from fans - and even some famous fans and cartoonist colleagues of Braddock's. Braddock, who is also Creative Director of Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates, organized this collection with Lion Forge editor Andrea Colvin.
Braddock spoke with Newsarama about this unique collection, the pairings of fan letter and comic strip, and reflected back on 20 years of Jane's World and how its far from over.
Newsarama: Paige, let’s start out slow - what are you working on today?
Paige Braddock: I’m still doing Jane’s World almost daily online. I say almost because sometimes my day job takes me away from the drawing board. The most recent collection of comic strips was Volume 11, which came out… wow… I think three years ago now? Time is zooming by. I also did three graphic novels for kids titled Stinky Cecil… and, I’m also working on a memoir project (me and everyone else) but it’s not finished. I thumbnailed about 65 pages and then started over because the work didn’t communicate what I wanted it to.
Nrama: This month Lion Forge is publishing Love Letters to Jane's World. How did this come about - was it something you were wanting to do for some time, or did Lion Forge come to you with the idea for this best of collection?
Braddock: After doing the comic for 20 years I wanted to do something to celebrate the entire run. I reached out to Joel Enos, an editor in the Bay area and I told him I had this idea and wanted to figure out how to package and pitch an anthology. Joel really helped me focus the concept and sort through this massive amount of comic material. And then we ended up pitching it to Andrea Colvin at Lion Forge because I’d worked with her on the Stinky Cecil series and really liked her. I was also just excited to be part of what Lion Forge is doing. They’ve made a real commitment to diversity and storytelling… I like what they are doing as a publisher.
Nrama: Today's Jane's World strip ended with a retort that I think is symbolic for our interview: "Self-Improvement is so exhausting." "That's why I avoid it." Do you think you personally have improved, personally/professionally/artistically in doing Jane's World these past 27 years?
Braddock: Absolutely… that was one of the interesting (sometimes painful) aspects of looking back at the entire run. The artwork and the storytelling really evolved over the years. There was a part of me that wanted to go back and redraw older strips for the book. In fact, Joel and I discussed it and then decided it was better to show the comic’s evolution than to rework the material at the beginning. I don’t know about you, but I like process and I enjoy seeing other cartoonists’ work change and evolve, so in the end, we left it alone.
Nrama: In looking back for this book, have you found or remembered some uncomfortable moments which Jane's World put in your path?
Braddock: Not necessarily a specific moment, but if you’re an introvert (which some cartoonists are) I think doing a comic and releasing it into the world forces you outside your comfort zone. Especially tabling at comic shows… that’s been the hardest for me. I like to say that I’m a highly functioning introvert.
Nrama: This new book isn't just a collection of strips - you also have 'love letters' and notes from fans. How'd you and Lion Forge go about picking them out?
Braddock: Andrea and I went over a list of people… initially, I sent her names of people who had helped me or inspired me and then she reached out to them. We weren’t sure who was going to write the intro for the book and then Howard Cruise sent us this beautiful, thoughtful piece… so we asked him if we could use it for the intro. Howard is someone I really admire as a cartoonist so I was honored by what he wrote. We also included a couple of excerpts from “fan mail.” There’s a whole page at the back of random fan comments I’ve received over the years.
Nrama: You have called Alley Oop's Dave Graue a mentor. He himself booked a long run on a comic strip - are there things you see now in your time with him that you understand more now that you yourself have over two decades on a strip?
Braddock: I think Dave inspired in me a high level of craft. He was the person who introduced me to dip pens, t-squares… all the old-school cartooning tools. I still have his t-square hanging in my office. Dave was the first professional cartoonist I met and his approach to comics gave me a strong starting foundation. He also introduced me to his editor, Sarah Gillespie who also happened to be Charles Schulz’s editor. This was back in 1985 and I worked with Sarah a little while developing another comic strip that didn’t really end up going anywhere. That connection with Dave and then Sara may have contributed in the long run to ending up where I am now, working at Schulz’s studio in California. The world is a funny place, you never really know where connections will lead.
Nrama: Doing this book through Lion Forge is a marked change, as for a time you self-published Jane's World books through your own Girl Twirl company. What's Lion Forge offering to you, as someone who knows publishing companies well?
Braddock: You’re right about this… and it was a big change to release something I’ve had total control over. But I thought it was important for this book to work with an editor (Andrea and Grace, also from Lion Forge). I also thought Lion Forge would get the book a wider release… and I think that will be the case. They’ve done a great job supporting the book’s release, in conjunction with my social media guru, Celina Deleon. This has allowed me to hand over distribution and promotion and just focus on the creative part, which is fun for a change.
Nrama: So last question - is there a love letter to Jane's World fans you'd like to share here, now?
Braddock: I love my Jane’s World fans. Because creating comics is a solitary pursuit, there are times when you doubt yourself, or you get down on yourself, or maybe you get an overly harsh comment online and when that has happened my Jane readers are always kind and supportive. Sometimes they’ll even come to Jane’s defense and post a counter comment. Over the years I’ve really felt the love from my readers. I create Jane’s World because it brings me joy. I hope it brings my readers joy as well. One of my readers, who also owns a comic shop, suffered from cancer recently. His wife told me that while he was going through his treatment he kept one of the Jane collections on his nightstand. He would read Jane’s World at night and it made him feel better. That is one of the best compliments I’ve ever had. That’s what doing a comic is all about for me.