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As I walked the aisles at San Diego this year, I was thinking back to the first issue of the CWR magazine format and marveling at how well it has worked. I also thought about how much I enjoyed interviewing webcomics writer/artist Danielle Corsetto for that opening effort, and about the commitment I have always had in my head to spotlighting others in the webcomic field. At just about that exact moment, I walked past Jennie Breeden's booth. Talk about kismet.

Jennie has been working on her webcomic, THE DEVIL'S PANTIES for almost seven years, making her a veteran of the scene. I asked her for a few minutes of her time to talk about her strip and she was gracious enough to share it. If anything sounds weird, blame me- the ambient noise level at SDCC is extremely loud and I had a couple of rough patches in trying to get a good transcript of our conversation.

MM: I am here with Jennie Breeden, who is the writer, artist and creator of THE DEVIL’S PANTIES. Thanks for joining us at the Comics Waiting Room!

JB: Thank you very much.

MM: I suppose what sticks out to me first and foremost is that you have maybe the best named comic in comics. Tell me about that, and how the title came about.

JB: I had been drawing- I went to Savannah College Of Art and Design and majored in comic books. I’d been drawing all the crazy stuff that happened to my friends and I, just in life. And then a friend said that he’d set my comic strips up online, I just had to pick a name. I wanted to use “Reality’s Victim”, but my friend D.J. said “Oh, you should use THE DEVIL’S PANTIES.” And everybody who heard that said “I don’t know what that is, but I want to find out.” It’s a little bit naughty, and it’s a little bit satanic- I swear it’s not satanic porn- yet- but it definitely stops people in their tracks and makes them remember, And if anybody could possibly be offended by any off-color humor, they shouldn’t read it. Now ironically, I try and stay kind of clean, I try not to offend anybody, I try to be really nice. I do have the devil and Jesus smoking pot and arguing about who has caused the most damage to the human race, but other than that, it’s totally autobiographical.

Now years later, I found out that “the devil’s panties” was a quote from MISS CONGENIALITY. I didn’t know this.

MM: Okay…

JB: Apparently there’s a line, I haven’t seen it, where a girl says “I wanted to get the red undies, but my mom wouldn’t let me because they were the devil’s panties.”

MM: Fair enough. When did you start cartooning? How old were you?

JB: I started drawing pictures when I was in 5th grade or so. I’d watch STAR TREK and I’d watch movies and read comic books, and (then) I wanted my own characters to do my own thing. So I drew cartoons that had to do with stories. I also read X-MEN and DP7, ELFQUEST… I started getting into, in high school, SANDMAN and STRANGERS IN PARADISE and FABLES and all that kind of stuff. Then when my mom said “you have to go to college,” I went “okay,” and I found a college that had a major in comic books.

I had my first class in ’98, and in about ’99 I had my first “drawing for comics” class, and the professor, who later went on to make his own college for comics, he had us draw six panels, I think, on how to tie your shoe. Just real simple, real basic, and I went up to him and said “I apologize, but I’ve never drawn anything in a panel before. I’ve always had a sketchbook that I’ve doodled in,” and he said “no, no, don’t worry.” Everybody else had been drawing Spider-Man since they were three, they had been tracing the comic books, and I had just been drawing my friends and family. He said that I had a leg up on the rest of them because I didn’t have to un-learn all of the comicbook styles. The first time I drew something as panels was my second year of college. So I haven’t really been drawing comic books, but I’ve always been drawing. And I started the comic strip in 2001.

I was sharing an apartment with Chris Daly from STRIPTEASE and he mentioned that he had fanmail and I said “How do you get fanmail?” And he showed me how to put the comic strips up online. So he’s the reason I’m here.

MM: Did doing sequential art feel natural to you? Or did you struggle with it?

JB: The early stuff on the webcomic you’ll see that none of the panels are the same size. I’d just draw things and then I might try to put them in boxes. And the boxes didn’t always line up. I’d have a moment like “I really like this knee, so this box is going to be longer than that box…” for no apparent reason. So it definitely took learning how to constrain the art, and also story flow. Sequential art is the communication of the thought or idea though pictures and images. You can be the best artist in the world, you can be the best writer in the world, but if you can’t communicate the idea through the pictures… I mean, it doesn’t matter if it’s photorealistic or stick figures, that’s what gets the story across.

One of my professors had us do Pictionary, and he pointed out that artists make horrible players at Pictionary. That’s because if we have to draw a house we’ll start with the white picket fence instead of a square with a triangle on top. So the people who say “Oh, I have an idea for a webcomic, but I can’t even draw stick figures to do it,” I say “No, no, no, that’s better, because you’re getting the story across better… because it’s just in how you get the figures from point A to point B.”

So that is kind of a struggle. You do learn, if you go ahead and start drawing… you start learning as you go how to communicate stuff. What stories make good cartoons, cartoons that make good stories, but not necessarily vice versa. I’ve got great stories about pirates that I just can’t figure out how to put in comic form because they don’t work very well on the page.

MM: What was your experience like in Savannah? Did you enjoy going to school?

JB: It was very pretty. I chose Savannah because it was warm. All the other colleges I looked at were really cold and in the north. Pretty much it was a college you got out of it as much as you put into it. So my first two years of college I tried doing the high school thing and do as little work as possible for a passing grade. And you can get away with doing a really small amount of work. But then I realized how much I was paying for this small amount of work, and I went “Oh, wait a minute. I’m paying $60 a class, going into class and sitting down, and if they let the class out 20 minutes early that’s ten dollars! That’s dinner! Nononono- you can’t let the class out early!” So I had to get an appreciation for getting something out of the college courses.

The professors were fantastic, and also being around the other students- a lot of the students have gone on to do comics.

MM: How did you decide on self-publishing?

JB: If you sit on your thumb and let the world pass by and say “I’m an artist and nobody appreciates me,” you’re not going to get anywhere. But if you go to the conventions, walk around with your portfolio… you’re going to get shot down for the first five years. My mother says you have to have a stack of rejection letters an inch high before you get that acceptance letter. So it’s not really a question of talent, it’s a question of drive. It’s keep doing it, keep coming back. My portfolio is interesting art-wise, but I’m not doing to get picked up by DC. I’m not spandex, I’m not superhero, so I just figured I’d do my own thing- I’m not going to get picked up by any of the publishers, so I might as well just do it myself. It’s a little bit more work but I get to do it my way.
 

MM: And you get to come out to conventions, you get to meet your fans, and sell your book.

JB: Oh yeah!

MM: How does that usually go?

JB: Wonderful! It only takes a few years of posting your stuff online for free before you start getting fans. Then you can go the conventions and you have the fans show up and they’re real! To have somebody who is not your friends or family come up to you and say that they read your stuff… The first DragonCon I went to where fans found me, I started telling them this story and they reminded me that I had done a cartoon about it. I was like “Oh… you people already know the intimate details about my life. Oops.” It’s surreal and you feed off the energy and it’s humbling, because the fans are so diverse, and so incredibly nice, and they bring me chocolate and stuff.

I went and fangirled out over Wendy Pini, so I know- I’ve been on the other side of the table. I want to make a good impression- it’s a wonderful thing, feeding off the energy is a lot of fun. It keeps me going for when I go back to my house for the four months that I’m sitting in the basement drawing for fifteen hours a day.

MM: Very cool. Thank you for your time, Jennie!

JB: Thank you!

Marc Mason

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