Comic Book Interview: Artist Jamal Igle
Jamal Igle began his career in comic books as an intern for DC Comics at the age of 17. He has drawn for Green Lantern, G.I. Joe, Wolverine, Iron Fist, New Warriors, Firestorm, Nightwing, and Wonder Woman. He has also worked for Sony Animation. Developing CGI animated series like Max Steel and Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles. He is currently working on Supergirl. He is also considered by many to be the nicest creator in the comic book industry.
Nicholas Yanes: You went to the High School of Art and Design, and college. How has your education influenced your drawing and writing style? Was there a book, class or teacher that fundamentally shifted your perspective?
Jamal Igle: Well, I think it grounded me in a lot of ways. I wasn’t very disciplined as a child, I came from a broken home and suffered quite a bit of abuse, both physical and mental. I was painfully shy, but I was also angry and had a mouth like a sailor on shore leave. I’d spent years being beaten down at home, but when it came to my artistic pursuits I was constantly being praised. So when I got to A&D, I met Charles Ferguson, who was the teacher for the 12th grade comic book class. Convinced that I could leap frog over every one in the school, I walked into his class during my lunch period and put my sketchbook down in front of him. What would follow would be a thirty minute reaming that I haven’t forgotten.
He did it for a reason, that being that he did see something but I was letting my 14 year old ego get in the way. After I felt like a complete schmuck, he went over to a locker and pulled out a copy of Anatomy for the artist and made me read it cover to cover. Which I did, because I wanted to learn. Schooling, a solid foundation in art, made me a better artist. It taught me how to improve my observational skills and taught me my work ethic.
Yanes: You’ve done some work outside of the big two. While Image and Crusade Entertainment aren’t really “indie” publishers, I was wondering if you could take a moment to comment on creator owned comics. Do you see creator owned titles as being something worth pursuing in your career? Do you think it’s wise for people who want to break into the industry to publish creator owned works first?
Igle: Well, it’s something I do think about from time to time, because I have several projects that I’ve begun to develop over the years that I would love to pursue. At the same time I’ll be honest that I always have a bit of trepidation when the concept of creator owned comics comes up.
For me, I feel that because producing a comic is so expensive, creator owned comics aren’t an option. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like them, or feel they shouldn’t be done. I just feel personally, if I’m going to do my own book again, that I would have to be able to work on it and publish at least a dozen issues if it’s an ongoing series. That takes capital that I don’t have.
As far as breaking into the industry doing your own thing, it’s a difficult argument to counter. It has worked for some creators, Bendis, Terry Moore, Ed Brubaker, etc. It’s a great showcase for up and coming talent but creator owned comics for the most part tend to be vanity projects. So the talent involved need to be top notch or at the very least have the potential to be great. It’s so hard to break into comics nowadays, much more difficult comparatively than it was when I got in, and it was tough then. I think any way you can get in, go for it if it’s what you really want.
Yanes: Both of the big two companies have been doing big event after big event. Do you think this kind of story telling is sustainable?
Igle: I think people tend to forget, there have been big crossover events going every summer in comics for the last 20+ years. I think in some quarters it’s expected, almost as much as having a tent pole summer movie. Not all of them have been great, for every Civil War, there’s Atlantis Attacks, for every Infinite Crisis, Armageddon 2001. I would question whether it can work as a long term business model except that sales say otherwise. So for as much as people complain about event fatigue, they still buy the big events.
Yanes: Given your experience in television and the surge to turn comic book properties into television shows and movies, how do you think people should go about adapting comic book characters into other mediums?
Igle: That’s a loaded question. I think I should say first, I love seeing comics adapted for other media, whether it be television or film. At the same time, not everything can or should be translated. I think the struggle is trying to adapt something and taking all of the short hand that has been developed for comic book readers, and trying to make it palpable for the average viewer.
I’ll use X-men as an example. The first X-men movie, to me was a rousing success. People complained about the black leather costumes and about Hugh Jackman being too tall to play Wolverine but the spirit of the comic was maintained. Then you have something like The Incredible Hulk , which too me wasn’t as strong as the Ang Lee hulk movie. I thought it failed because they were trying so hard to emulate the TV show, it got even further from the comics. The Spider-Man movies (well 1 and 2 anyway) were able to take the comics and translate them in a way that pleased most people. The same with Batman Begins and the Dark Knight. they were able to take the basic concept behind Batman and expand on it in a way that would translate to a wider audience.
I think if you’re going to translate a comic, getting the base concept is the most important thing. It’s also good to surround the movie with good talent instead of crapping it out to the Albert Pyun’s and Uwe Boll’s of the world just to get it done.
Yanes: I struggle to find comic books and related merchandise I find acceptable for my niece. As someone who has a young daughter, do you think the comic book industry is doing enough to appeal to young girls and boys?
Igle: I know it’s hard, there are things out there. The problem is that the bulk of comics aren’t geared to young children, particularly young girls. Do I think enough is being done to change it, personally? No, we could do much more, especially when you go oversees and see the depth of kid’s comics and material available.
Yanes: I imagine that one of the hardest problems with working on a character like Supergirl is that she is so powerful (and a main character) it’s difficult to put her in genuine danger. How have you approached problem?
Igle: You try to come up with a credible threat. One of the main villains we’re building in the series is Reactron, who like Metallo has a kryptonite heart. He has Gold Kryptonite, that takes away her powers for 15 seconds at a time. Once you introduce that element, the fight becomes lopsided, so (and people will see this in Supergirl #40) she has to find ways to stave him off. We have other characters who aren’t a match strength wise but still have other ways to hurt a character of Kara’s power level, like Superwoman or Silver Banshee.
Yanes: I told one of my Professors that I was going to interview you. They immediately suggested that I ask something about African Americans in comic books. Do you think this immediate assumption that all African Americans in an industry can speak for it may be problematic? On this note, how do you specifically address questions that assume your work solely stems from the “African American experience” that many academics investigate?
Igle: It’s not problematic, but it can be a little tedious at times. I’ve gotten used to it but I come from such a different perspective than Rob Stull, or Brian Stelfreeze. The assumption will probably always be there, but you can’t help but get annoyed occasionally. I don’t address those questions, because I really don’t have answer. I’m an African American man married to a French woman from Paris, who spent his formative years listening to Queen, Oingo Boingo and John Williams Soundtracks and acting in musicals. I can only speak from my perspective. I just happen to be African American.
Yanes: Finally, if you wanted your fans to add false information to one Wikipedia entry, what entry and what information would you want added?
Igle: He was cruel man, evil to the core. He crushed all who opposed him and left a trail of destruction hereto unseen in the annals of comic book history. On the other hand, he had a wonderful singing voice.
- For more information about Jamal Igle’s work, please check out his homepage at: www.jamaligle.com
- Nicholas Yanes is a comic book academic who has written two theses focused on graphic literature: “X-Men as a Reflection of Civil Rights in America” and “Graphic Imagery – Jewish American Comic Book Creators’ Depictions of Class, Race, and Patriotism.” Additionally, he was privileged enough to create and teach “American Comic Book History”; a junior level course in the American Studies Program at Florida State University. His first publication is an essay in “Captain America and the Struggle of the Superhero: Critical Essays.” He is currently, in addition to other projects, putting together a collection of essays that look at Obama in Popular Culture: http://call-for-papers.sas.upenn.edu/node/32305