Interview With Street Angel Gang Writer Jim Rugg
Recently, I had a chance to talk with Jim Rugg, who has another book coming out called Street Angel Gang. Jim has done many Street Angel stories and it was a blast to get to chat with him about the character, writing with his collaborator Brian Maruca and just about anything else I could think to ask.
1. With the new book The Street Angel Gang, you have Jesse Sanchez joining up with the Bleeders, a gang in the area. Being that she has the ability to beat down any pack of ninjas or pirates with relative ease, why would Jesse need the services of a gang?
RUGG: She goes to her first gang meeting because they have food at the meeting. It’s like a party. Once she’s there, she excels at their initiation and they keep feeding her. Pretty soon, they start to treat her like family, and that’s probably the biggest reason for her staying. As a lonely orphan, having a family is a dream come true. So you’re right, she does not need them for physical reasons but rather for emotional ones.
2. With how this book ends, where does it leave Jesse Sanchez? Will we see more stories with her?
RUGG: Yes. I’m working on a new story with her called Super Hero for a Day. The synopsis is “Jesse knows the pressures of being the girl who always saves the day and she’s okay with it. It’s just who she is. But when she and her friends stumble across a powerful alien artifact – they soon realize that being a superhero isn’t all fun and games. Is this an alien plot to destroy their friendship or will Jesse hock the artifact for a couple of hot dogs?”
So don’t worry about seeing more stories with Jesse. The Bleeders on the other hand…
3. The Street Angel stories feature a really great supporting cast and The Street Angel Gang is no different. From any of your stories, who is your favorite side character and why?
RUGG: I like a lot of the supporting characters. Bell is pretty great. She’s cheerful and enthusiastic. She also has a back story that delights me, but I don’t want to spoil that here. Lilith is another favorite of mine. We only see her briefly in After School Kung Fu Special (she’s the Goth girl at Jesse’s lunch table), but she’s in Super Hero for a Day so I’ve been drawing her lately. Amari, the undercover Bloody Mary in the Bleeders, is a favorite of mine too. She’s tough and I like her vest and look. It’s hard to choose. The Bald Eagle is one of my favorites but he hasn’t appeared in the new Image books yet. He’s like Jesse’s mentor, sort of…
This is a tough question because we try to make characters that we like (not that they are always likable). In the creative process, it’s important to develop characters to a point that they work well in stories. That process usually leads me to some attachment to most of the characters.
4. Where did the idea for Street Angel come from?
RUGG: She came about in the early 2000s. I was bored with the new comics I saw at the comic book store and Street Angel was the opposite of those trends. She was different than billionaire, middle-aged Bruce Wayne or whiny Peter Parker…different than the bad girl trend that was still around at the time…not so “serious” as everything that still lived in the shadows of Watchmen…and not decompressed stories that stretched over several months of issues. The idea was to make a comic book that I wanted to read – fun, dynamic, funny and featuring a unique protagonist. At the time, there weren’t a lot of strong female protagonists, and very few young adult/kid heroes.
5. Brian Maruca has worked with you on the Street Angel stories. How did you two meet and what is it like working with him?
RUGG: Maruca’s great – part creative writer and part editor. We met at my old day job. He was a technical writer and I was a designer. Once I learned that he could write, I started pestering him about my comics and scripts. Pretty soon we were emailing story ideas back and forth. We continue to email ideas. We share stories via Google Drive. And we meet up weekly to discuss stories and work on scripts. These meetings vacillate between laughter and mean insult sessions.
6. How does having Maruca writing with you affect your storytelling?
RUGG: We both write, but having a writing partner means we both act as editors. I find it valuable to have a second person involved. Because we’ve been doing this so long, I trust his opinion. So when he says something isn’t working or asks me a question about the story that I can’t answer, I know there’s more work to do. We also use different halves of our brains. I tend to be more left brain (logic, concepts) and Brian is more right brain (creative). When one of us hits a creative block, we can hand the story off to the other person who approaches it from a different angle.
7. Originally, Street Angel came out via Slave Labor Graphics. This new release has found its home with Image Comics. What made Image Comics the place to release this book?
RUGG: Image has always been a dream publisher for me. I was in middle school when Image began and I’ve wanted to do a book with them ever since. Production quality, creative freedom, and wide distribution are the top reasons that I’m excited to work with them.
8. I know that some people will use comics to kickstart themselves into storytelling with the hopes of getting enough writing experience to move into something else. Is this where you want to be or do you see yourself hoping to go into something else for telling a story?
RUGG: Comics are the peak of the mountain for me. I enjoy doing different things so when I do concept art for movies or design for other media, that’s like a vacation. But my goal in life is to make comics. I hope to do it as long as I live.
9. Did you have any influences that steered you towards getting into comics?
RUGG: Comics are the only thing that steered me towards comics. I bought my first comic book and declared this was the job for me before I finished reading it. Once I started reading comics, I was constantly looking for information on how to make it my career. So I met different comic book artists who shared advice along the way. I read interviews with artists and how-to books. But no one steered me into this field. If anything, people tried to steer me to other paths.
10. Whose comic work do you follow?
RUGG: I follow my friends. There are a group of local cartoonists in Pittsburgh that I’ve been friends with for years like Ed Piskor, Frank Santoro, Tom Scioli, and Jasen Lex. After that, my list goes crazy. I like so many cartoonists like Hernandez Bros., Eleanor Davis, Dan Clowes, Ben Marra, Farel Dahlrymple, Mike Mignola, Katie Skelly, Hellen Jo, Taiyo Matsumoto. One of my favorite books lately has been Jane, the Fox & Me by Isabelle Arsenault and Fanny Britt. They have a new book coming out this fall called Louis Undercover. I preordered it! One of my favorite cartoonists is Jamie Hewlett. Taschen is publishing a monograph of his art this winter. I’m so psyched for it. He did a racing comic called Fireball in a UK magazine called Deadline that is one of my favorites.
11. So what else are you working on that people can look out for?
RUGG: I’m focused mostly on Street Angel. Look out for it. Street Angel: After School Kung Fu Special is available now wherever books are sold. The Street Angel Gang hits book stores later this month. We plan to have Super Hero for a Day available in the fall. So Street Angel, Street Angel, Street Angel!
12. Thanks for the interview. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Follow me. I mostly just post comics, drawings, and art on social media:
Instagram: @jimruggart – https://www.instagram.com/jimruggart/
Twitter: @jimrugg – https://twitter.com/jimrugg