Spotlight Interview with Jim Rugg
Jim Rugg is not only one half of the amazing Cartoonist Kayfabe duo, but he's also one of the most celebrated cartoonists of this generation. His work on such books as STREET ANGEL, AFRODISIAC, & PLAIN JANES has been widely celebrated across the world.
While I may have discovered his work more recently, it has already made a profound effect on me. The pure joy of his work exudes off every page. The love for the medium transcend just comics though and has translated into the amazing Cartoonist Kayfabe community. Luckily he took time away from the drawing to table to answer a few questions. Sit back and enjoy!
RYAN: First off, just wanna thank you for taking time out today to answer a few questions.
I don't think anyone could ever question your love/knowledge for comics, but whered id that love first begin?
JIM: It happened when I read my first comic. I liked drawing wrestling and horror movie characters. When I got hold of a comic book (Marvel Comics Presents 26), it looked like what I was drawing with cool characters. I was hooked!
RYAN: Did you decide early on that being a cartoonist was something you wanted to pursue?
JIM: Yes. See answer 1. Seriously, I noticed the artist credits and by the time I got home from the store, I wanted to draw comics. I never really wavered after that.
RYAN: As someone who's relatively new to the Kayfabe community. Can you give our readers a little rundown on how it all came about? Where did the name come form
JIM: It came about because Ed and I have been making comics, talking about making comics, and traveling to various conventions where we talk about comics. At Baltimore Comic-Con 2018, we decided to turn this comics talk into a YouTube channel.
The name is an alliteration and it's a wrestling reference - another form of storytelling we enjoy. Kayfabe refers to maintaining the illusion of reality in professional wrestling. So our show is about exploring the storytelling in comics.
RYAN: How did you and Ed first meet?
JIM: I used to meet with another cartoonist, Jason Lex, on new comics day. We grabbed comics then go to the local coffee shop and share our latest comics work. One week, Ed showed up with an envelope of comics pages that he made. I think the local comic shop facilitated the meetup. Comic shops are a great place for lots of reasons - one is that you find your fellow aspiring cartoonists there. After that, I'd see Ed each week with whatever new comics pages he made.
RYAN: As someone who grew up reading Wizard, I've been loving watchin the reviews you guys did on those early issues. What made you guys decide to go that route when staring your Cartoonist Kayfabe channel?
JIM: We both had an experience with the nostalgic power of Wizard. When we compared notes about it, it seemed interesting and we thought others might enjoy it. The 90s comics scene is often derided for several reasons. As a result, it can be overlooked historically but a lot of exciting, influential things happened in comics in the 90s (good and bad). Wizard seemed like it would provide a timeline for us to have some fun and explore that history.
RYAN: I've recently got into your work and already find myself obsessed with STREET ANGEL. Can you talk a little bit about where the idea for that series originated?
JIM: It started in 2003. I was frustrated by new comics of that time period and Street Angel was like the opposite of what I hated in comics at the time. It has evolved a bit so it's also based on what I love about comics - colorful, dynamic, fun!
At the time, I was making mini-comics and I just started working with a writing partner, Brian Maruca. We co-wrote the first Street Angel story and in the process came up with a bunch of additional story ideas. The mini-comic was well-received so I sent it to Slave Labor Graphics, who agreed to publish it. The first series (Princess of Poverty, AdHouse Books) was published in 2004, 2005. That led to other comics like the PLAIN Janes, Afrodisiac, Supermag, Adventure Time, until eventually, I returned to Street Angel with Image Comics in like 2016.
RYAN: When working on a new story, what do you tackle first, art or writing?
JIM: Writing. I still write Street Angel with Brian Maruca. We work out a story in prose, like a short story. Then when that's good and works, I turn it into a script and comic.
RYAN: Are you currently working on any new STREET ANGEL?
No. I do have some new comics in the works. One is done and I plan to Kickstart it in May or June. The other is a graphic novel that is scheduled for 2021 that I'm currently writing and drawing it.
RYAN: With the Grand Design books by Piskor and Scioli, have you thought of any character you would want to give the Grand Design treatment?
JIM: There are a million. My number one choice is National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). Other contenders - Cannon Films would be awesome. Comic book characters - Lobo, Ghost Rider (maybe all the 70s weird supernatural characters), and the 80s black and white explosion books!
RYAN: Going back to the Kayfabe channel. It's eerie how much of the early days of Wizard and speculation seems to be coming back. What's your opinion on the current state of the market?
JIM: I'm not sure. Things are weird right now. Everything is niche. There are several ways to be a super comic book fan and not overlap with my interests at all (hardcore collectors for example; someone who collects every Batman or Spider-Man comic is another example). Retail, the direct market, brick-and-mortar stores all seem extremely challenged based on this kind of divergent market. The comic book format is another thing that's challenging so my opinion is that audience is more important than ever. It's something successful storytellers have in common and I think that's only going to increase - building one's audience and being close to one's audience. That will include working with retailers, distributors, influencers, etc.
The direct market has had issues for a long time. With a couple of exceptional periods, comics readership has been in decline in America for decades. Now all-ages comics are finding new readers and hopefully building a new generation that will grow up and continue to read comics. We (creators, fans, publishers, retailers, collectors, everyone) need to commit to growing comics audience.
RYAN: Lastly, where do you see the industry going with all this uncertainty due to the covid19?
JIM: Stronger, better stories and stronger ties to our audience (fans, readers, collectors, retailers, distributors, librarians). This may mean meeting readers on their terms - format, delivery, distribution, value, presentation, and so on. And it may mean working closely with retailers, distributors, and fans so people can make smart choices.
Jim can be found at
Cartoonist Kayfabe Channel