Not too long ago, I reviewed Yale Stewart’s JL8, an adorable and fantastic webcomic featuring a few DC heroes as children. Yale Stewart was gracious enough to allow me to interview him about creating JL8, what his creation process is like and much more. Please enjoy it!
1. What inspired you to create JL8? How long have you been creating the webcomic?
That’s tough to say. I was at work one day and just had this idea of a young Superman kind of mucking around on a playground. After that, ideas for other characters started coming to me and eventually it just sort of evolved into what it is now. The comic has only been running online since November 2011, but I drew the first strip sometime in late June or early July of that same year.
2. How did you choose the cast? What was your selection process like?
Strictly traditional. I knew I wanted it to be an homage to the Silver Age of comics, because I feel the general tone of that period lines up pretty well with adventures of a bunch of kids. The only “misfit,” I guess, is Karen (Power Girl). The original Justice League was Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Manhunter, and Aquaman. I thought it would be really boring for there to just be one female character, and Power Girl has a long-standing relationship–as far as I know–with the Justice Society, so it seemed like a good fit. I also felt like she was a very different kind of female than Diana, so that was an added bonus. It would be boring if they were the same person in different bodies.
3. How did you come up with the current plot of Wonder Woman’s birthday?
That’s a good question. The idea of the birthday was actually something of an afterthought. I knew I wanted to have this love…geometric shape between Karen, Clark, and Diana, and it felt like it would be sort of weird for it to happen at school. A birthday party is a big event, so it seemed like a good backdrop to set it against. I think some people confuse this storyline being about Diana’s birthday, whereas the birthday is really nothing more than a setpiece. It’s almost entirely about Clark, really. Or at least I think it is.
4. Will you be adding more heroes to the line up soon? (I’d love to see some more women and people of color – like Vixen or Cyborg!)
There will be more characters to appear, sure. The gender and ethnicity thing, though…it’s something I’ll be frank about, as I trust the people that read my comic will understand where I’m coming from. I’ll add the characters I feel best fit the story at the given time. It’s unfortunate that there isn’t a wide ethnic pool to draw from in the history of DC, but that’s kind of the way it is. The other thing is, I generally shy from bringing in characters I have virtually no knowledge of. I think John Stewart I have a fairly good grasp on, and even Steel. In fact, I think Steel would be a really amazing character to portray. But yeah, I never in my life want to have what may be perceived as a “token” character in my stories. Which isn’t to say that there will never be characters of different ethnicities showing up in the strip, but it’s something that has to happen organically. I hope that makes sense.
5. Are you a self-taught artist or did you attend school to learn to draw?
Both? I’ve been drawing literally since I can remember, so I definitely wasn’t attending school then. I did attend art school–Savannah College of Art and Design, to be exact–which I feel pushed me forward in a lot of ways. Art school certainly isn’t for everyone, and I like to think I would be where I am even had I not attended (talent-wise, I mean), but I look at it as sort of a hyperbolic time chamber for art. Generally, the only way to get better at art is to practice it, and art school forced me to draw a lot more than I imagine I would have on my own. So…y’know. Yeah.
6. What is your creation process like (drawing, coloring, inking, etc)? The art seems to have a rustic, newspaper-y feel to it – was that on purpose?
As far as my process goes, it’s pretty straightforward. I’ll try to break it down:
- Panel out the page
- Scan/Color in Photoshop
The newspaper quality is definitely intentional, yeah. I don’t really like the way my work looks on the computer. It feels really cold and flat. To counter that, I decided to overlay a paper texture to make it look more organic. Fortunately, people really seem to like it.
7. Why did you decide to make all the heroes children instead of teenagers or young adults?
Children are more universally relatable. The strip is meant for everyone, really, and if you make them teenagers or young adults, there will be people who have never experienced that yet, as they’re not old enough. Granted, there are a lot of children who aren’t yet eight years old, but 5-8 is all pretty homogenous in regards to life experience. You just see everyone as another kid. Or at least that’s how I saw everyone within the relatively same age range.
8. What are your plans for JL8? What do you hope to accomplish? (Will the comic run on forever – like Dilbert – or do you have an ending planned?)
The end is planned, yeah. By that, I mean the actual ending. I know what the last story will be. I have no idea how many stories will be told between where we are now and that one, but there is certainly going to be a finality to the strip. I think that’s important with all stories. What I hope to accomplish? I don’t know, really. I guess I hope I make a comic that people enjoy. Anything else is a bonus, really.
9. What cons will you be attending in the coming months?
Ha, an easy one! The cons I’ll be attending are as follows:
WizardWorld St. Louis (St. Louis, MO 3/22-24)
Anime-STL (St. Louis, MO 4/12-14)
C2E2 (Chicago, IL 4/26-28)
HeroesCon (Charlotte, NC 6/7-9)
AnimeKon (Barbados, 8/22-26)
Dragon*Con (Atlanta, GA 8/30-9/2)
Baltimore Comic-Con (Baltimore, MD 9/7-8)
Project Comic-Con (St. Louis, MO 9/21-22)
New York Comic-Con (New York, NY 10/10-13