In what will hopefully not be the only opportunity, I’ve had the chance to talk to the creator of my favourite web comic. The comic is JL8, which revolves around the trials and tribulations of the Justice League (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Power Girl and Martian Manhunter) at the age of 8. It’s creator is Yale Stewart. Enjoy!
Q1. Firstly Yale, thank you for your time. To kick-off, when did your interest in comics begin? Did anything in particular spark it?
YS: My interest in comics took a somewhat unconventional path. Growing up in the early ’90s, I was exposed to a lot of comic characters via cartoons before I ever actually read any comics. Watching the Ninja Turtles, Transformers, and most importantly, Batman cartoons had huge impacts on me as a kid, and really planted the seeds for my interest in comics, but it wasn’t until I reached the first grade that I really started reading comics regularly.
Q2. For anyone reading this who doesn’t know, how did JL8 come about?
YS: Unfortunately, the origin story of JL8 is not that terribly interesting. I was simply at work one day, letting my mind sort of wander, and the idea struck me of the Justice League as a bunch of kids. I took it and ran with it, and here we are.
Q3. After recently reading through all of the strips again, it was clear how much your artistic skills have grown. It’s as though you’ve settled into your style. How do you feel about it? I know you’ve been critical of your own abilities in comparison to others before.
YS: Well, I’ve settled into how I draw JL8, yeah. I’m certainly happy with it; it looks an awful lot more polished now than it did from the get-go, but there’s always room for improvement, and I’m still constantly looking for ways to make the art more interesting. I’ve begun reading “One Piece” (a Japanese manga series by Eichiiro Oda) and have already started implementing some of his design theories into the strip, and that’s been fun.
Q4. One of my favourite strips so far has been the introduction of Robin. How did that come about?
YS: Well, growing up, I was really attached to my teddy bear, as I think most people were. In fact, I still have him by my bedside. (Pro-tip: girls actually seem to really dig that, so there’s that). I’ve always thought keeping him around and passing him down to my own children was a really appealing concept. But having him around also kept the idea of stuffed toys and comforting things in my mind.
The concept of Robin, to me, has always been one of comfort and security for Bruce. A friend, a partner, a kindred spirit. Someone to talk to and help him through the problems that he alone couldn’t conquer. I feel like all of those things parallel what a stuffed toy represents to a child, and thought I could combine the two for something really special. Fortunately, people seem to feel the same. I think that strip is still the most reblogged/talked about, on Tumblr at least.
Q5. Is there an overall arc for JL8? How far in advance do you plan?
YS: I suppose there is, sure. Or at least, there’s definitely going to be an end to it. How long it takes to get there is anyone’s guess, but I do have the last two stories plotted out. I know how it all ends up.
Q6. Have there been any strips where you’ve hit a brick wall and aren’t sure what to do? What got you through it?
YS. There have, yeah. Fortunately, being a web comic artist, if I REALLY feel like I’ve hit a wall, I’ll just delay the strip, because I don’t want to put anything out that I consider sub-par. The times that I’ve been blocked but it hasn’t been so close to the deadline, a lot of things have helped. Generally stepping away from anything I can write/draw on. Going for a walk, taking a shower, phoning a friend. These things all seem to help quite a bit.
Q7. JL8 is becoming increasingly popular and garnering a lot of attention. You’ve mentioned that it will have a definite end. Are you hoping it will provide you a springboard to bigger things? Is there a company or title you’d like to get involved with?
YS: Honestly, being a springboard was really the reason I started JL8 to begin with, but now, it would be fun to see how large I could grow it before I finish it. Really the only thing I’m interested in after JL8 is a return to Gifted, my creator-owned project. I don’t really have a huge desire to work for anyone or on any other titles.
Q8. You’ve worked Luther Strode. Is there anything else in the pipe line? What did you learn from it?
YS: There are a few things in the pipeline, yeah, but nothing really worth talking about just yet. Still very early stages, so you never know what might happen. As far as learning anything from Luther Strode, I’m not sure. It was actually sort of a return to form for me. It was nice to get back to traditional comic book pages, as opposed to the strip format.
Q9. Which comic should we all go right now and purchase?
YS: Thor: God of Thunder. Hands down. That book is blowing me away.
Q10. Batman fans all have their own ideas of what is ‘their Batman’. Personally I feel like the Nolan trilogy has given me mine. What makes up your Batman?
YS: Batman: The Animated Series. Period..
Q11. An open final question. Name one thing that you think is super duper and why.
YS: This is sort of a cop out, but comics. Comics are super duper. They allow for sweeping stories and singular visions, across the entire spectrum of human interests. Of course you have superheroes, but you’ve also got horror, romance, sci-fi. You have sprawling epics and intimate, personal tales. They can be drawn, painted, photographed, computer-generated. They can be incredibly drafted or stick figure drawings. It’s an amazing thing. Definitely super duper.
Note – Unbeknownst to me, whilst I was arranging this interview with Yale, he was also in contact with my Fiance about a wedding gift for me! I was presented with an awesome piece of artwork on our wedding day!
HUGE thank you to Yale for his time!