Joëlle Jones Knows Why "You Have Killed Me"

You Have Killed Me

"You Have Killed Me" graphic novel on sale July 15

Joëlle Jones and Jamie S. Rich have worked together before, most notably on the graphic novel "12 Reasons Why I Love Her," but this year they've collaborated on short stories that have appeared in "Madman Atomic Comics" #16 and the anthology "Portland Noir." They have also completed the graphic novel "You Have Killed Me," a new hardcover from Oni Press that debuts at Comic-Con International in San Diego.

Since making her major debut in the Dark Horse anthology "Sexy Chix," Jones has also illustrated "Token" for DC's defunct Minx imprint and short stories for Image's "PopGun" and Vertigo's "Fables."

CBR News spoke previously with writer Jamie S. Rich about "You Have Killed Me," and we sit down now with Joëlle Jones, who took the time to talk with us about the new graphic novel, what she loves about working with Rich, and her upcoming Vertigo projects.

CBR: Jamie S. Rich said "You Have Killed Me" happened because after 12 Reasons he wanted to do another book with you and said he'd do any kind of book you wanted. Why a mystery?

JOËLLE JONES : It's one of my favorite genres and I really wanted to give it a try. I didn't want to do something new with it, I just wanted to do classic hardboiled crime fiction. I was surprised. [Jamie] was game and I think he really outdid himself. We tried to follow some of the rules. It takes place in Southern California. It's in the late thirties.

"You Have Killed Me" is more of what you enjoy as a reader as opposed to "Token" or "12 Reasons Why I Love Her?"

I enjoyed those books, but they're not something I would sit down and read. I'm not a big romance kinda girl. [laughs]

Did you have much to do with the writing or the direction of the book?

A little bit. I wanted to draw certain things and Jamie would make scenes around them. I really love the horse races and I really wanted to draw the horse races. I like gambling. [laughs] So he made a scene for me so I could draw the horse races. I thought what a fun thing it would be to draw it. It would give me an excuse to go to the horse races. [laughs] There were a few other things. He had no problem with me going in and changing something I felt didn't really work in the writing. He didn't put up much of a fight. In that way I definitely had the run of it visually without too much direction.

There is this scene where Mercer's supposed to be drawing these stick figures on a fogged over mirror but you're supposed to see his reflection through the stick figures. I tried to draw that thing I don't know how many times with the old-fashioned zip tones I have and it never worked. So I took the essence of it as he's trying to figure out what's going on and I drew him smoking in a bathtub. [laughs] I think Jamie's happy with it now. It took a lot of convincing him that it was the best decision.

You went to school for painting. Do you still paint?

I still paint as often as I get a chance to. I studied oil painting and I love to build the canvas myself. It just takes a lot more time. You have to sand it and prime it and it's more spontaneous and yet it takes more time. Less thinking involved in it. It's a solo project and I don't have to collaborate with anybody on it.

It must be a different way of thinking about the image than in comics.

My professor would always tell me in art school that I had no business being a painter because everything turned out illustrative. My biggest criticism was that I was too illustrative all the time. It used to drive me crazy to no ends. I used to try to keep up with all the other kids. I think I try to tell an entire story through one image when I paint so in that way yeah it's much bigger of a feeling to it.

People outside Portland may not know but you had an exhibition in June at the Art Institute of Portland Gallery, featuring the artwork from "You Have Killed Me." How did this happen and what was it like?

I think they approached me and Jamie and it was just pages from "You Have Killed Me." Thirty-three pieces. It was fun to see them in a gallery. Jamie was pretty clever about it. He didn't want people to figure out the story. [laughs] He made it seem like it was a whole different story. He jumbled up the pages and made it really confusing but it was kind of fun, trying to figure out what kind of story he was telling with the pages he had.

So people will buy it and not know what they're in for?

Yeah. They'll find out the horse race was just one scene.

This is the second book you and Jamie S. Rich have collaborated on, but you've worked on some short pieces together. What's your working relationship like?

It seems pretty natural. We live two blocks away from each other. If I'm sick he'll walk my dog for me. It's more of a friendship and we just happen to work on things together. If I have a problem with anything he's written or if I draw something he doesn't like, neither of us has a problem saying anything about it. Most of the time it's over drinks, so that makes it way easier. [laughs] Our working relationship is basically us drinking in bars.

Had you met before you did "12 Reasons Why I Love Her?"

No, we never did. He called me and said he saw my artwork and thought it would be good for this book, "12 Reasons," and would I meet him with some samples. He was like, Where do you live? And he lived like two blocks away. It's really nice. We hang out all the time. He comes over for dinner. It's nice.

Has this kind of relationship spoiled you for other writers?

JONES: No. I really enjoy Jamie, but he can come over anytime and see how far I've progressed and exactly what I'm working on. Sometimes it's nice not to have somebody look at the process every single step along the way. Not that he's annoying.

You're working on book for Vertigo. Can you say anything about it?

I don't know if I'm supposed to say. The other day, I just let something slip and Jamie said, "I don't think you're supposed to talk about that." So I have no idea and I don't want to get in trouble. I will be working with Vertigo in the future.

Did that come out of working on "Token" for Minx and your relationship with editor Shelly Bond?

Yeah. I've got two new projects with Vertigo. It just worked out that way. Shelley's been really nice. She keeps the writers away from me, so I just deal with her. [laughs] She's been really fun to work with. I think she feels the same way because she wants me to work with her.

When we spoke with Rich, he mentioned you're working together on another book for Oni, "Spell Checkers." Where did this come from?

If he said that then I can talk about it. One of my favorite hobbies is I like to go out to a bar --this interview makes me sound like a total drunk. People are going to think I'm like Faye Dunaway in "Barfly." [laughs] I like to go out to the bar with my sketchbook and draw people. I just love to draw people interacting with each other. Usually when they're drinking they don't even notice me at all, so I just sit at the bar and doodle away. I did a sketch of these three girls at this pool hall and Jamie just fell in love with it and decided to write an entire story about these girls.

And you're only drawing part of the book, right?

I'm drawing the flashbacks and the cover.

What was the reason for that?

At the time I was doing "Token" and Jamie knew that I was very busy but wanted me to contribute. He found this really great artist, [Nicolas Hitori de], and I just love his stuff. Jamie wanted to give him some work and somehow put it all together and asked me if I'd do that. It's nice to work with another artist. I love seeing all the stuff that he comes up with. He's pretty quick, too.

You used to bartend. Do you think there's something about bars and that atmosphere that lends itself to people letting their guard down and interacting differently with people?

Yeah. I think that's the reason why there are so many angry bartenders. [laughs] It is kind of anonymous. People want their drinks and if their friends aren't there they want to talk to you. It's a place where you can really see people interact with each other. I've worked all the way from crappy little pubs to really busy nightclubs and it's really fun to see people interact and hear people's stories. It can be really sad sometimes. Especially seeing people overdoing it day after day after day. Sometimes I miss it, but most of the time I don't. I love people watching. I miss that part of it, but not the serving drinks. So I found a way to do that.

Coming off "You Have Killed Me," where you had so much input and control, do you ever think about writing a book?

I do actually. I've never attempted to write. Maybe in high school? It's something I definitely flirt with and would like to try some day. I don't know when that day would be, but Jamie has definitely reassured me that he will help me. I would definitely love to try it someday.

How do you like working with writers, do you like working in full script or having flexibility?

Lately I'm not enjoying the scripts where they really lay it out unless it's integral to the story. I'm pretty easy going. If somebody doesn't like it, I don't really mind changing it. I think Jamie's learned that if he gives me an inch I'll take a mile. [laughs] I'll just run away with it and take as much freedom as you'll give me, but I can not do that if it calls for it. I'll pretty much adapt to what I'm given.

Now that you've drawn a mystery and you're tired of romance, is there another genre you really want to tackle?

I don't know. I want to try all sorts of genres. I don't want to try romance again, I'll be honest. It's a whole lot of talking.

Tell us about the "Portland Noir" anthology. You and Jamie Rich have a comics story in what up until now has been a series of exclusively prose short stories. How did this happen?

I was totally jumbled when it happened. I think it was due the week after I got married. Jamie called me to say we have to do it quick. Not to say that I rushed it, which I kind of did. I didn't think very much about it. My mother was staying with me. I don't remember it very well.

Congratulations on getting married. Even though you don't have much memory of drawing it, are you happy with how it turned out?

Yes. The story of the dog missing has become really famous in the neighborhood. Being a dog owner, I understand. This guy put posters everywhere for his missing dog, Potato. This big ugly dog. Every day this person was looking for Potato and everybody in the neighborhood was talking about this poor guy missing Potato. Jamie wrote a story about it and I really hope that he did find his dog because it is really sad. So not only was it set in the neighborhood but it was a little story from the neighborhood.

You've been fairly productive, drawing a book a year and short pieces coming out every few months. How productive are you typically?

If it's a good day I can maybe knock out three pages. On a bad day, maybe one. It depends. I don't have air conditioning, so right now every day is a bad day. I'm getting better at it. I'll have a graphic novel out next year and hopefully I'll have one every year. I'm always balancing maybe three projects at a time. I like to drive myself crazy.

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