Jessica Jimerson is a digital artist specializing in game art and comics. She is also the colourist and letterer for the series Creepy Scarlett. Below you will find a few questions that I asked Jessica on her experience in the gaming/comic industry, advice for up and coming artists and what she is reading right now.
1. What was the first comic that you read and how old were you?
Let’s see… The first comic I read was based off the “Xena Warrior Princess”, television series that I used to love watching as a kid. It was the third issue, from the “Orpheus Trilogy”, I still have it as a matter of fact, making it fourteen years old now. At the time I was eight years old, and really did not even know what a comic was before hand. I was a video game, and action figure kind of girl, and while it was an enjoyable read, I only got it to go in my massive collection of Xena memorabilia. Surprisingly I didn’t get another comic, until a couple years ago (2010) at my first Comic Con. I had original gone for the experience, and the hopes of making some game industry related network connections, armed with my business cards. Though me and my sister went dressed accordingly as none other than Spock and Kirk from the original Star Trek. It was at this event that I picked up my first comic in twelve years.However, shortly afterward I began collecting Star Trek comics from the late 60’s (currently have quite a few in plastic).
2.What has been people’s reaction when you tell them you work on comics?
It’s usually something to the extent of “That’s cool”.When I end up showing them copies of my work person is when they start getting more impressed. Comic book fan girls/boys don’t fall out of trees, but there is no denying their existence at comic guru gatherings like Comic Con: there is a multitude. Which is why I currently have plans with writer and creator of Creepy Scarlett to take a few stacks of the series next year and get a booth to represent the series, do a few signings and promote it. If all goes according to plan, this will be my first experience on the other side of the table, so I’m looking forward to it.
3.How do you think the industry should change to involve more women (as creators and readers)
Well the industry is obviously somewhat geared for males. But looking back at comics from the Golden Age of Comic Books (the 1930’s), when superheroes like Superman made their first appearances this factor and all its testosterone blew up more for what boys would like. So really the target audiences was primarily set then. While comes are still dominated by these types of characters, its more lenient for what females would be interested in as well, and is progressively improving.
But the overly generalized lines between what girls and boys ‘like’ are still far too old fashion in my opinion i.e. trucks, dolls, pink and blue. Since we are living in a new age, I cannot help but feeling as though a revolution in these stereotypes is needed, or lifted, whichever way you want to look at it. Females (based off a small statistics study I did from back in my college years, the women I know, and myself) tend to like deeper more dramatic plots, stronger female leads, cell phones and in some cases more feminine-in-touch male characters. While males tend to enjoy action packed plots, stronger male leads, and overall sexualized female characters. Generally speaking however, this isn’t the case for everyone.
One example though, backing my thought of females liking more “feminite males” can be seen just looking at the raging popularity of any manga (Black Butler is a good example), where there is even the slightest hint of yaoi, or femininity in the male characters. Girls just seem to eat it up with “fan-girling”, the reception way more positive than negative. Black Butler has sold some”1,603,197 copies” and ranked nearing the top manga’s according to Anime News Network (ANN). Two: I’m not saying I agree, or object to it, I’m just stating what I have gathered. And where there is a lack of “slash” you better believe there are countless fan fictions filling in the gaps on sites like Deviant ART, FanFiciton.net and or the manga’s official boards, it’s just not ignorable. And since manga is simple a “Japanese comic” this news is relevant.
I personally think if more of the feminite preferences were met, and catered to in comics, a lot more female readers would pick up on the action. And who doesn’t want a wider target audiences, for their craft?
4.Who is someone you admire in the industry?
Speaking of the American comic industry, I admire Stan Lee’s work primarily for his Spiderman creation. To me, this character is one of the first superhero comic characters that had a more approachable and reliable side for ladies. He had weaknesses and heart that sometimes got in the way of being “perfect”. Some could argue Superman had these qualities as well, but they just weren’t as outspoken, or visible, maybe being the fastest, strongest and none human character he was attributed to that. Spiderman was more down to earth, and I think that’s why he is currently outliving the popularity of Superman, making Stan Lee one of my favorites, as far as US classics go.
5.As a gamer, what has been your experience in a mainly male facet of entertainment
Well to tell you the truth in all honestly, I loved gaming as a kid and still do. One of my earlier introductions to gaming’s was through an education facet. My mother (Annette Jimerson), home schooled me and bought me the first home computer with Windows 3.1x in it. I learned to love it through educational programs, and it just expanded from there. As I got older and I played started maturing, I started to realize that all the female characters had huge chests and basically strings for “armor” or “clothing”. And it wasn’t just few games, it was every game I came across (more over with a female lead or supporting character). Tomb Raider was a big turning point with 3D gaming anyway. It isn’t that much fun when you don’t want to see oversexilation in places that just isn’t necessary. There is a time and place for everything, and slutty looking characters have their place, and I am here to tell you: it should not be everywhere.
That bothered me for years, until I reached the ripe old age of twelve, and I decided I wanted to do something about it. I made up my mind that I wanted to use my artistic talents inherited from my mother (I come from a line of artist, has her mother her is an artist as well), and apply them to game design. I never wavered from that dream, and have done nothing since then but strive to help bring my vision into reality: one game at a time.
6.What is your most memorable experience that made all your hard work worth while
I’ve had quite a few for both fields to tell you the truth. There isn’t anything quite like seeing something you’ve worked hard on for an extended amount of time completed, and that goes for both fields. But remembering the first time I actually modeled a female 3D character (fully clothed might I add), was quite a satisfying feeling at the start of my second college year way back.
7. Any advice to anyone who wants to break into the business of making comics?
All you need are three things: determination, technical knowledge and some talent. The technical knowhow though, can spawn from your determination to succeed (so that’s really only two things). If your determined enough, you will research how it’s actually done whether it be colorist work, inking etc. and proceed to get educated on the topic. After that point all you need to do is get the proper programs and/or art supplies. Look at what is mainstream and put you own artistic spin on it; create something to build your portfolio with and showcase it.
After that you just need to make connections with people who are in the industry. Go to events underlining the field, connect online with social media like LinkedIn, and so on. Work will open up to you. It’s not as hard as it may seem, though it does take a lot of hard work to get to your ultimate goal of your vision of success (I am still climbing). Also don’t be afraid to start small, that’s how most everyone begins, even the big names out there, they all had to start somewhere.
8.What is you biggest pet peeve when it comes to mainstream comics?
Well I do get tired of the same old scenarios, with reluctant heroes learning to accept their powers and begin fighting crime. Its old, and think there are many other story types that could also be touched on to keep it interesting and mix it up. Looking at visually stylized films like “A Scanner Darkly”, I wonder how it would have worked in comic book form. The film turned out to be a flop despite its positive critique reviews, but I think it would have had a much better reception as a comic book because it had such a twisted plot.
9.When did you realize that you wanted to make comics?
Back to my story about Comic Con, I attended a conference to listen to one of my favorite stars from the Heroes television series, Milo Ventimiglia, who plays Peter Petrelli. After the conference I learned he would be at a signing booth shortly after, promoting his graphic novel “Berserker”, along with the artist from Top Cow who worked on it.
So I bought a copy and headed there early, I was the first fan there in fact. So I just hung out with the Top Cow artist for about an hour at the booth, talking about art video games, the version of Photoshop they use, and my own. Their colorist (Jenifer I believe her name was), told me “since you enjoy making textures for video game models, you should give comic book coloring a try”.
That thought had never occurred to me before, so I smiled and sad “I will”. After that I went home and on the side of my other project I started doing more 2D art, and showcasing that on my portfolio. Not necessarily in the style of comics but I was expanding at least. Then a few months after that, I got an email from someone asking if I would do the coloring on their small comic project. I was surprised as it came out of the blue, but I accepted as I was very impressed with how professionally the inks were done.
After that, I started finding (and looking) for more and more comic related work doing several small series for Gemini Comics promptly after. Then on to my current role as colorist (and past letterer) for the Creepy Scarlett series, which is set to be an eighth issue comic, we are currently three issues in.
So I have to thank Top Cow for opening my eyes to new opportunities in the art world, that I may have never looked at before. Even beyond comics I also now write and do art for other types of books as well. So far I have had my work in children’s book(s), a coloring book, a book adaption of a film and I am currently writing a novel and poetry book (which will be done within a few weeks).
10.What comic series are you reading right now and/or what series is your favorite?
I read what I like to collect, so that would have to be the old Star Trek comics from the 60s. I don’t have them all yet but that’s soon to change. I also love the Death Note and the Naoki Urasawa’s Monster series (though that is manga). But outside of that I don’t have too much time for the leisure of reading anymore, with all my current projects. I’m currently the Lead Artist at Panzer Gaming studios, a full time Colorist, with Last Sunset, and Environment Artist with Dark Wing Studios, so there isn’t much free time.