Jennie Breeden, the comic book artist behind the wonderfully charming “The Devil’s Panties,” took a few minutes during Dragon*Con to discuss her Webcomic, “The Devil’s Panties,” and how she fell in love with the world of graphic novels.
Interview and photos by Danielle Boise
Can you tell us a little bit about what “The Devil’s Panties” means to you?
“The Devil’s Panties” is an autobiographical webcomic, every single day a new cartoon goes up about conventions, comic shops, pirates and it’s the chic side of the geek culture. I go to a lot of conventions and do a lot of cartoons about the weird or funny things that we do. Then I have people all over the world that say, “Oh my god this reminds me of me, my sisters, this reminds me of my friends.”
I love the fact that I do cartoons about things that I think are funny or weird or unique and then I find out that there are tons of other people who identify with this same things. I had a girl in Cincinnati who said that she when she was in high school that she wasn’t like anyone else, that she was broken and then she read my comic and found out that there are other people in the world who are the same way; that do and say the same things she does and like the same things.
I like doing cartoons of the silliness of life. God I wish I was able to tell my younger self that we’re all just big kids, we just learn that we have to clean your room on your own without being asked, pay your taxes and then you get ice cream for diner; and its ok, you don’t have to be so serious all the time. Being silly helps and saves you. When life gets crappy, I found that webcomics are wonderful brain candy.
Guys who are overseas in the military read a lot of webcomics because it’s a little slice of home, it’s a break. You can read it and not worry about the drama that’s going on in your own life for that minute. So I try to keep it up beat because there is enough drama that happens in real life; so I try to keep it silly and fun. I’ve had a couple of people say that it helps being able to have a little laugh in the beginning of the day is a wonderful relief. Also the military guys have really big guns, so I try to keep ‘em happy, no drama, no depression (with a chuckle). Life has enough crazy that I try to keep it the fun crazy.
You do both web and print; which one is your passion and which one is your love?
I grew up on comics books. I learned to read with “Elf Quest,” I learned about the birds and the bees with “Heavy Metal” and “Conan,” so my passion will always be the print because I process information differently when it’s on paper than when it’s digital. I love the graphics novels. The graphic novels are like the DVD box set, it’s everything online and then I’ve collected it with bonus material and deleted scenes and director’s commentary.
The online stuff is such a direct communication with the artist and the reader that you really need a point every day. There has to be a point or a story or a punch line, whereas it’s a bit jarring in book form; it’s much easier if it’s in a longer format. I actually take some of the in between comics and save them for the print book. So the print book is a much longer format story telling. Online has to be real quick and funny and slice. The online being the best thing about webcomics is the direct communication between the artist and the reader and the worst things about webcomics is it’s a direct communication between the artist and the reader.
It’s wonderful because we have a forum on the website I can see as soon as it goes up the reaction to it whether it does well or doesn’t. I’ve had times when I’ve done a cartoon that I think is brilliant and nobody cares. Then I have a cartoon that I have to do something, its three o’clock in the morning and I’m three hours late for a post, so I’ll just do this silly little stupid joke and people love it. So it’s amazing; it’s a nice target audience cross section.
How did you get involved with creating graphic art, especially considering that graphic novel world is predominately a man’s world?
I’ve had one woman say that more women are into comic books now because “War of Worldcraft” because we can be geeks without people knowing that we are girls. I blame it on Manga because more Manga comics were geared towards non-superhero stuff, because superheroes they would just put give a token female, but they wouldn’t write it.
There was a wonderful writer for comics who said “the male hero will beat the bad guy and throw them into jail, problem solved; the female hero wants to know why the bad guy is being bad and she wants to fix him. The male villain wants to destroy the world and take over the power. The female villain has been wronged and she’s getting evil, she’s taking revenge.” There is a difference in the male/female mindset in comics.
I had two older brothers and l learned to read with comics. I had a best friend in first grade, her parents had Pogo comics, they had comics from all over the world, “Asterix,” “Sanobia” and “Tintin.” Growing up my brothers read comics, by best friend growing up liked comics, I liked to draw comics. I would do little sketches of a story or something that I liked and then when my mom said you are going to college. I found that Savannah College of Art and Design had Comics Books as a major, so I have a major in Comic Books. I found that a housemate of mine posted his comics up on the internet and I was like show me how to do that. It will be a nice way to keep drawing something every day while I’m looking for a real job; and then it became the real job.
Do you have any advice for any comic book artists starting out?
Do it every day. It’s going to be hard and you’re always going to have an excuse why you shouldn’t like you’re not ready, you don’t think the arts ready or you don’t think the site’s ready; you’ll never be ready. It takes ten years before you feel like you’re ready and you gotta doing it every day for ten years to feel like you’re ready. So go ahead and do it. There is always going to be somebody who hates it. There is always going to be somebody who has keyboard courage, they’re going to tell you that it sucks. And you just keep doing it because you’re doing it for you.
You can listen, but you don’t have to hear what they say, you don’t have to do what they say; but post it – scribble, whatever. Some of the concepts that are you think are just silly little fly by nights might be the ground breaking ones, the universal ideals. You got to try it. Quit making excuses and just go do it!
For more information Jennie Breeden’s “The Devil’s Panties” or to see where you can find her next, visit www.thedevilspanties.com.