Jesse ‘Street Angel’ Sanchez is the deadliest girl alive. She’s a homeless teenage orphan who, in her spare time, skateboards, fights ninjas, and goes to school. Jesse knows the pressures of being the girl who always saves the day and she’s OK with it. But when she and her friends stumble across a powerful alien artifact in Street Angel: Superhero For a Day, she discovers that being a superhero isn’t all fun and games.
AiPT! spoke with creator Jim Rugg about his comic influences, procrastination and, of course, his latest book, Street Angel: Superhero For A Day.
AiPT!: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Jim. What inspired you to get into comics and who influenced you?
Jim Rugg: I always loved to draw. I bought a comic when I was 11 or 12 and loved it. I realized someone gets paid to draw these, and ever since then, I wanted to be a comic book artist.
Frank Miller was one of my first influences. Then Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee, Erik Larsen… these guys became huge at Marvel around the time that I started reading comics. So when they formed Image, it was a huge event for me. I soon found Jack Kirby ’cause everyone talked about him and they were right! Then I got into alternative comics – Dan Clowes, Julie Doucet, Chester Brown, Hernandez Bros., Mignola, Debbie Dreschler, Alex Toth, Chris Ware, David Lapham; manga – Otomo Katsuhiro, Taiyo Matsumoto, Yuichi Yokoyama; when I started making comics in 2000, mini-comics became a giant influence, stuff I found at SPX and MoCCA like Fort Thunder, John Porcellino, Kevin H, Dan Zettwoch… I could go on forever but I’ll stop there for now.
AiPT!: Jesse is an interesting character. Where did Street Angel originate?
Rugg: She began as a mash-up of the superhero comics genre and the alternative/indie comics that I loved. Street Angel is a ninja on a skateboard – the deadliest girl alive – but she’s also homeless, hungry, and alone. Over time, manga, cartoons, and picture books have helped shape her character and world.
AiPT!: Each issue of Street Angel stands on its own. It is very easy for a new reader to pick up and read. Do you have plans to someday write a continuous arc that expands over a few issues?
Rugg: I’m not sure. One thing I love about Street Angel is that any book with Street Angel on the cover is a good starting point. I think that’s a challenge with serial comics. What happens when you find an issue of a book that sounds good, but it’s part three of four? Of course, I like different formats, so I can imagine trying a different format, like a manga digest for a long story. I also love comic book series, so never say never.
AiPT!: I like Jesse and her friends. Each bring something unique to the story with their personalities. Are any of the characters based on people you know in real life?
Rugg: They are based on everyone I know! For the most part, they are amalgamations of many people. But I definitely borrow details from friends and acquaintances. I have several nieces who have lent some character traits to Jesse and her friends. I also borrow from fictional characters and stories.
When someone does something that surprises me, I usual find myself thinking about it. Why did they do that? What does it mean? This often leads to ideas about character, motivation, action, and personality.
I also think of setting and environment as a character. And I base settings on places that I see whenever possible. It helps me understand the spaces that make up Jesse’s world.AiPT!: In Street Angel: Super Hero for a Day, Emma becomes the superhero in the story. Why did you choose Emma over Jesse to become the hero?
Rugg: Jesse is already a superhero and her friends know it. I think we usually have a role or identity within a group – like a group of friends for example. When those identities change or a new person shows up, it can create tension and throw everyone off their game. When Emma turns into a superhero, it pushes Jesse out of her comfort zone. Just by being a superhero, Emma challenges Jesse’s identity.
A major characteristic of the superhero genre is fighting. The other element of this story is Jesse and her friends. I am very happy that we did a “conventional” superhero comic without a physical fight – very unusual for a Street Angel comic.
AiPT!: I know you are content writing your own stories with your own characters, but is there a comic book that you would love to write for, given the chance?
Rugg: Hulk was my favorite character as a kid. I love that he’s a monster and the angrier he is, the greater his strength. So I’d love to see if I could make the angriest Hulk ever. I think that could be a fun, scary, and contemporary comic. Sometimes I compare Jesse to the Hulk.
AiPT!: Jesse has tangled with bullies, joined a gang, and rubbed elbows with a superhero. What’s in store for Jesse next?
Rugg: A girls to prison story in the form of a vacation stay in Juvenile Corrections.
AiPT!: When I should be writing, I sometimes stray and start playing on my phone. Maybe get tied up on Twitter. What is your favorite way of procrastination when you should be working?
Rugg: I love procrastination. Right now I’m doing this interview instead of preparing for a class that I’m supposed to hold tomorrow morning!
Social media is always a temptation. Instagram is usually my drug of choice. So anyone that wants to procrastinate on IG or Twitter, I can help: @jimruggart.
AiPT!: Are there any other projects that you are currently working on that you can share with us?
Rugg: Little, Brown just announced a new edition of the PLAIN Janes that will feature a new volume. So that’s going to take up some of my time over the next year. Between that and Street Angel, my plate is full for the moment.
AiPT!: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Jim. You can pick up Street Angel: Superhero for a Day when it hits Amazon Oct 31.