Interview: Creators Sam Humphries and Caitlin Rose Boyle Talk BOOM! Studios’ Jonesy
We’ve been loving BOOM! Studios’ Jonesy, created by writer Sam Humphries and artist Caitlin Rose Boyle, because it features one of the most nuanced, idiosyncratic, and lovable female protagonists in comics right now. BOOM! seems to be rocking in that department lately, what with titles like Lumberjanes, Giant Days, and Goldie Vance on their roster. Yet Jonesy, as a character, stands apart—mostly because of the FURIOUS AND SARCASTIC TEENAGE RAGE masking her very fundamental, very human desire to love and be loved.
Jonesy is the story of a teenage girl who crushes hard and spits sarcastic barbs even harder. She also has a mysterious superpower: She can make people fall in love with each other. The only problem? She can’t use this power for her own benefit, so ix-nay on the making people fall in love with her … ay. TMS’ Jessica Lachenal did a great preview that introduced the characters, if you want to check that out. It’s a wonderful story full of humor, heart, and some of the quirkiest characters you’ll ever see.
Now, Jonesy is not only going to be available in its first trade paperback (out September 28th), but it’s been extended into an ongoing comic! To celebrate, BOOM! has provided us with the first few pages of the trade that we get to share with you, AND I had the chance to speak to Humphries and Boyle about their first complete story arc and why people should keep up with Jonesy’s antics.
Teresa Jusino (TMS): Jonesy as a character seems reaaaally specific, from her zine making, to her sarcastic wit and simultaneous sappy love for a generic boy band dude, to her catchphrase of Jumpin Jehosaphat! Was she based on anyone in real life, or is she in all her idiosyncratic glory entirely the product of your brain?
Sam Humphries: Jonesy is all of the above! She’s not based on any one person IRL, but started as an amalgam of all sorts of people I love, like my sisters, my friends, Kathleen Hannah, and Tank Girl. But Jonesy REALLY came alive once Caitlin and I started talking about her. We have a Google Doc somewhere where we’d ask each other questions about Jonesy and then answer them back and forth together for pages and pages. That’s when Jonesy as a character really developed, where she became really specific and really real. Sometimes too real, I feel very protective over her, even though my job is to let her get in trouble and get stuck making difficult decisions.
TMS: Speaking of Jonesy of a character, the fact that she’s Latina did not slip my notice (and as a fellow Latina, I thank you for that!). Why was the decision made specifically to make her and her family Latinx, and what do you think that adds to this particular story?
Humphries: Diversity in characters is important. Even more important is diversity in creators. This is not about the Latinx experience; we are not qualified to tell those stories. We need Latinx creators to tell those stories! So it’s not a decision we took lightly, but it’s also not one we made central to the story. I am lucky to live in Los Angeles, a beautiful city that would be nothing without Latinx people. Here, Latinx people are an indispensable part of the community. Yet we have rampant racism in this country, a lot of which comes from areas with extremely homogenized populations. A comic is a small thing, but if people in those areas can meet Latinx people in Jonesy, maybe it can help soften their perspective. This is a comic about love. We want to spread the love, not the hate!
TMS: I love that this character, who is a contemporary teenager, makes and sells a ‘zine, which I haven’t heard about anyone really doing since 1995! In our digital age, why give this character the desire to make a ‘zine? What does that say about her as a character?
Humphries: No way, ‘zines are totally making a comeback! Jonesy likes ‘zines because they’re a lo-fi, cheap way to express yourself by making something with your hands. And you can do it on your own, or you can do it with friends. Online, we spend a lot of our time expressing ourselves in limited chunks on someone else’s monetized platform. ‘Zines allow you to go in depth on your own terms.
And I made ‘zines back in 1995, so there!
TMS: In addition to representation of different races and ethnicities, you also drop in LGBTQIA characters and themes in a completely nonchalant way, which I think many of our readers appreciate. Like, for example, when Jonesy casts her love spell on the whole student body to make them fall for one of the characters, and one guy asks this person “Do you have a boyfriend? Or a girlfriend?” not making any assumptions. Do you think that readers have gotten to that point of nonchalance, especially younger readers, or did you handle those elements this way in the hope of encouraging that kind of nonchalance?
Humphries: A little of both. I think part of the audience is beyond ready for this to be the norm, yeah. But it also just feels like the right thing to do. Again, compassion and inclusion for fellow humans should be the expectation, not the exception, in storytelling. We need space for more LGBTQIA creators to tell their stories. For us…there are people out there, Americans, who say they believe in equality and freedom, but draw the line at people different from them. We’re not going to passively feed into that. I live in a city that is fairly accepting (we can do better) of LGBTQIA people, but we haven’t fallen into the ocean. Lightning hasn’t struck us down. We all live normal lives together, a lot of us fall in love, and it turns out our differences aren’t that big of a deal after all. We want people to see a world like that in Jonesy.
TMS: Obviously, the idea of falling in love and different kinds of love is a big part of this story. What are you trying to say about love through Jonesy, what do you think Jonesy the character believes about love, and why was it important to have Jonesy’s power work on everyone except to benefit herself?
Humphries: To quote RuPaul:
Can I get an amen??
TMS: Once readers devour this trade paperback, what can they look forward to in future issues of Jonesy?
Humphries: Jonesy meets her mega-famous crush. Like, who hasn’t dreamed of doing that?? But only Jonesy has LOVE powers.
CAITLIN ROSE BOYLE
TMS: In your previous interview with TMS’ Jessica Lachenal, you mentioned that Jonesy the character started from “a mass of hair.” Something else I notice about her is her piercings and her punkish style. What were you trying to get across about her as a person through her look, and how did it evolve beyond the hair?
Caitlin Rose Boyle: Jonesy is a person who puts up a lot of barriers. She’s a puddle of mush underneath all of the tough posturing, but in order to find her true feelings about any one thing you’re going to have to get past the fortifications she’s putting up around her. I think a lot of that posturing is in the way she carries herself, but some of it is certainly in her clothing too. There’s a volume of Princess Jellyfish where a character describes clothing as “armor”—I think Jonesy feels that way about her piercings and accessories. Her fashion choices are largely function over form—she likes being comfortable and wears a lot of flannel and oversized shirts—but her accessories are where her spiky battle armor come into play. She doesn’t work a job outside of helping out Dad at Donut Worry, so she’s not going to have a huge amount of money to put into clothing, so it should all be affordable stuff that she can alter. I imagine she bought a big bag of spiked studs online one day and has been putting them on her otherwise pretty cozy clothes ever since!
TMS: I asked Sam “Why ‘zines?” and it seems that your art style is perfectly complimentary to the story of a girl who creates a ‘zine – colorful and bright, but also jagged and off the wall in the best way. What about your work here Jonesy-specific? What, to you, is the “vibe” of the book, and what were you doing to help create that? And what’s your working relationship with Sam like?
Boyle: Yesssss, I love that description, thank you! The way I try to draw Jonesy is loud and soft all at once. I try to keep my lines thick and rounded, so everything has a bold weight to it, and I try to adhere to mood and emotion over staying on model or doing intricate perspective work. That kind of cartooning absolutely has a time and a place, but it just makes sense to play fast and loose with those rules when drawing Jonesy—it’s a cartoony world already, and Jonesy is a creative and sometimes unreliable narrator.
I think (and hope!) the way I draw the characters allows for them to carry both extremely cartoony moments as well as softer, more grounded emotional beats. Being able to switch between the two is very important to us; Jonesy is a fun comic, but I don’t think it would work without a real emotional core. The vibe of Jonesy is Loud and Caustic, but (maybe not so) Secretly Sweet! Bringing in colorists who really know how to tap into that vibe has been instrumental in establishing a Jonesy-specific style, and we were lucky enough to have Mickey Quinn knock these first four issues out of the park.
My working relationship with Sam is wonderful. We keep a line of communication open, and we’re both really quick to let the other know what we’re thinking.
Sam talks about how Jonesy was developed by asking each other questions over Google Docs—that back-and-forth dialogue is still very much in effect, only now the back and forth is script pages and drawings. I’m very much someone who needs to develop things visually, and Sam is really good at pointing me in the direction I need to be in and then just letting me draw!
TMS: Obviously artists are co-creators of the comics on which they work. What is an element of the story that you brought to the table of which you are the most proud?
Boyle: This is a tough one, because Jonesy is such a collaboration! I think—and Sam can correct me if I’m wrong—that Jonesy having a ferret was my suggestion initially. I kept rats as a kid and I loved them, but I was always hyper jealous of kids with ferrets!!! They seemed like little living cartoon characters! So giving one to Jonesy felt super right; Rocky’s a pet that matches her energy levels.
The theme of Jonesy’s prom in Issue 4 was also from me—my high school prom’s theme was Midnight Masquerade, and it ended at like 10:30 p.m. I think I was there for maybe 15 minutes before my friends and I bailed to watch movies at home.
TMS: Who is your favorite character to draw? The one that makes you squee whenever you know you have them coming on a page. Why?
Boyle: Jonesy is the easy answer, that hair is extremely satisfying to drawm but I also loooove to draw Susan. I love those hair buns!!! And her mysterious crystals, what’s the deal with those crystals?! Any panel where Jonesy and Susan are both there, that’s like hitting the drawing jackpot for me.
TMS: Once readers devour this trade paperback, what can they look forward to in future issues of Jonesy?
Boyle: There’s soooo much coming up in the next arc of Jonesy! You can expect lots of time with a certain intergalactic pop star, a visit from a mysterious figure from Jonesy’s past, and animatronic sea creatures!!!
(images via BOOM! Studios)
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