Sci-fi comics series Rocket Girl launched in 2013 from Image Comics, a year after artist Amy Reeder left her acclaimed stint on Batwoman, and when Brandon Montclare only had a few writing credits to his name, following his years as an editor at DC Comics.
It's now 2017, and the profiles of both Montclare and Reeder have increased due to the success of the hit series Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, which they co-write for Marvel. Partially due to schedule on that series, Rocket Girl hit some serious delays, and the series disappeared from stands after Rocket Girl #7 in December 2015 -- but it's back as of this week, with Rocket Girl #8 now available.
CBR caught up with both Montclare and Reeder to discuss the return of Rocket Girl -- about teenage future cop DaYoung Johansson, who is sent back in time to 1986 New York City -- and getting the series back on track for September's issue #9 and October's issue #10, which Montclare said is the end of the story the two have planned, but not the last time fans will see the character.
CBR: Might as well start in the obvious place: It's been a year and a half since there's been a new issue of Rocket Girl. How excited are you to not only be back -- but back on a regular pace, with issues #9 and #10 on track to follow on a monthly basis?
Amy Reeder: This is such a relief and very exciting! We’ve been waiting and working at telling this story for a while now… it’s all been leading up to issue #10! I’m so glad people get to finally see what we’ve had in store.
Brandon Montclare: I always liked to say it’s easy to catch up on Rocket Girl! So I hope everyone took that advice because here we are! And yes, #9 & #10 are completely done and will ship the first Wednesdays in September and October. It’s very exciting. I really love this story. And I know readers always had a big-time reaction to it. More than anything else, I want to share it with the readers and find out what they think. I hope they like it, of course! It sounds obvious but it’s so true: fans make a book happen. Supporting it with sales --but also their reactions. I can’t speak for all creators or even just Amy -- for me, however, knowing I’ve created something that means something to someone out there… that’s what it’s all about! And on a creator-owned book, that’s amplified.
On that note, I'm not totally sure if this has been stated before, so I wanted to ask -- what contributed to the gap between issues? I'm guessing it was a combination of the work on Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur and wanting to get ahead, but that's just a guess and very possibly wrong!
Reeder: Exactly, it was a few things in combination. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur kept us busy, for sure. There were just life events, as well… and as a freelance creator, life can get in the way of getting work done, even more than your typical job. Because of that, I personally have rehashed the way I work in many ways for the past year or two… to make myself more effectual. I probably have enough opinions now to write a self-help book. [Laughs]
But logistics-wise, issue #6 was slow going, and we had already solicited issue #7 as well, so we finished that and printed it… after that, we had to finish issues #8-#10 before they could be solicited. They were done beginning of May. So that took a little extra time, but it’s nice to give people the rest of the arc in quick succession after all that! And I hope our excitement about it becomes contagious.
Montclare: Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur looked like it was going to be a lot of fun. And it didn’t disappoint. But we hoped that it wouldn’t affect the Rocket Girl schedule too much. We’re hugely appreciative that there’s an Image Comics in the comics biz. There are other creator-owned options, but Rocket Girl thrived because of what Image brings to the table. They say hindsight is 20/20… but it’s hard to quantify the distractions. But what we can control now is finishing off the arc -- which is done!
As a creator-owned project and something that you've obviously both put a lot of yourselves into, how special is Rocket Girl -- both the series and DaYoung Johansson -- to both of you? What has working on this series meant for your lives and your careers?
Montclare: Rocket Girl was the first thing I wrote that was more than four issues. In fact, everything before Rocket Girl was a one-shot except that four-issue mini! I don’t think I was ever anxious, but it did prove to me that I could do some quality long-form work. And it opened a lot of doors. To be honest, Reed casts a shadow. Again, I’m not anxious. And I have zero complaints about working with a world-class artist! But Rocket Girl, I hope, showed people what I can contribute. I’m biased, but I think the writing is great! It’s opened the door a lot of places. Interestingly, when it comes to potential Hollywood projects. Or even when there’s Hollywood talk about doing something with Rocket Girl. I’m the superstar, because outside of comics the perception is only the writer matters. It’s a pettiness I must admit I enjoy.
Reeder: We set out to create something that would be an evergreen, something people will buy forever… that becomes a highlight on their bookshelves that they want to pick up and re-read. I personally wanted something consistently beautiful, that never looks rushed. And what’s really nice is knowing that after all this time, we are still consistently selling copies of the first trade in bookstores, every month.
Rocket Girl herself is just the best. It feels great to have this degree of control over a character, and to see everything through her eyes!
Since Rocket Girl #8 picks up in the middle of the second arc, there's not as much of a luxury of it being a clean jumping-on point. What would you say to readers who might be curious about the series, but haven't read the first seven?
Reeder: I’d say, pick up the trade, and if you can’t find the issues in real life, you could always read them on comiXology! Issue #10 is going to have some huge events… so if you do wait for the trade, you might hear some spoilers. Still, I like to think either way is worth it.
Also, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram I’ve been posting some Rocket Girl images and recaps that serve both to drum up excitement and to remind our readers of major events. So those might help!
Montclare: I pride myself on each issue (of anything I do) staying true to it-works-on-its-own. Plus, the book is beautiful and the craft of visual storytelling is impeccable. So even if it doesn’t make sense, it’s worth $3.99!
Have plans for the story changed at all since Rocket Girl first launched in 2013?
Reeder: The main change was that we stretched it. What we’re now telling in 10 issues was originally going to be in only five issues. But we realized we’d rush what should be a rewarding story, so we went with 10. This is why we’re so excited to reach that 10th issue!
Similarly, has the way you approach the work changed at all, given how both your experiences in the comic industry have broadened since Rocket Girl's debut -- notably the success of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur -- and, well, how much the world itself looks different now than it did in 2013?
Reeder: Not a ton, to be honest -- what’s nice is the comics fandom is increasingly becoming a place that welcomes a book like Rocket Girl. And if we’re talking about world events… that sort of works with our story as well. The book deals with an alternate present… "what could’ve been.” I know that’s been on a lot of people’s minds.
What’s strange is we drew Donald Trump into the previous issue #7, and we did that back at the beginning of his presidential campaign, when the assumption was he could never become president. That scene’s meaning will probably continue to change, and it’ll be interesting to see how trade waiters react -- especially those who don’t understand the timing of the single issues.
Montclare: I share the blame and shame of the book being late. But with the nature of comics production, I’ve been done with #8 for a while! I really miss working with the story and character -- which I did a lot more in 2013.
What’s changed the most is the comics market. It’s changed a lot and is still being carried by the momentum. The financial model for Rocket Girl was always very broad and it was successful for us in a lot of places outside the direct market (i.e.: local comics shops selling monthly issues). But monthly single-issue sales in 2013 were by themselves more than enough to sustain the book -- with dollars that were competitive with our respective Big Two page rates. That’s not going to be the case with #8, #9, and #10. Again, some of that is the delays. But you see similar sales challenges om books by our more timely creator-owned brothers and sisters.
Through the hiatus Rocket Girl still sells very well as a collected edition. In Amazon and the mass market -- but also strong direct market collected edition sales. Dollars from ancillary rights (e.g., film and television development, video games, foreign reprints, etc) have been consistent—growing, actually. We’re not Walking Dead and we’re not Saga. But I like to think Rocket Girl was a part of the trend that more and more publishers now clocking -- the importance of expanding the market for print and exploiting other media. The success of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur augments all that. I really feel like I’m in the catbird seat as a creator; I know a lot of people who are envious! I know this still surprises a lot of observers outside of the business… but the world is changing. The comics biz in 2013 really was a lot more like 1986 than what it’s becoming today.
Speaking of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur -- what do you think fans of that series would enjoy about Rocket Girl? (Other than, of course, the creative team.)
Reeder: I think they’ll like Rocket Girl’s spunk and bravery… the humor’s there without it being straight up comedy… and there’s lots and lots of action. Plus, all set in NYC, all over again!
Montclare: It not just how well I write or how dynamite Reed draws. It’s how much we care about the finished product. We’re not perfect, but we want it to be awesome. I also think we wear our hearts on our sleeves in both series. Not a lot of creators can hit the tone we hit. You can say it’s light (and of course that’s appreciated as a compliment) but we’re never shallow. It’s all escapism… but you’re going to care and feel invested in DaYoung Johansson and Lunella Lafayette’s conflicts and consequences. These books are in fact very serious -- I’m serious!
We know that Rocket Girl #9 and #10 have been solicited, and the backmatter of issue #8 says a second collected edition is scheduled for December. Which begs the question: What's the plan for Rocket Girl going forward in 2018 and beyond?
Montclare: We’re so proud of these 10 issues, we want all the focus to be on them. It was a long road… longer than expected… longer than maybe it should have been. But Rocket Girl #1-#10 was the story we always wanted to tell. There doesn’t have to be more… but there will be!
Rocket Girl #8 is on sale now. Rocket Girl #9 is scheduled for release on Sept. 6.