You get my drift!
At this years FanExpo, I had the pleasure to have a talk with Jill Thompson, a talented and award winning veteran comic writer and artist who had just recently amazed me with her Little Endless Storybook. While this wonderful graphic novel, a spinoff from the Sandman comics series, was only read by me a few days before the show, it’s genius propelled my senses to talk to her.
Thompson started as a pro back when she was 15 years old, doing art for Just Imagine Comix And Stories, a small anthology which paid her with trips to conventions, including San Diego Comic Con. Much hard work eventually led to her drawing Wonder Woman, working from scripts by living legend George Perez. I recalled her time on the character, and the distinctive look she gave the Amazon, which slightly echoed the style of Perez. “The way that George drew her, I just kind of drew my version of her” she said.
After some time, Thompson transitioned off of Wonder Woman and onto Sandman. This amazing series, created by the incredible Neil Gaiman and stars the personification of Dream, who is a complete jerk. And she joined the series at Gainman’s request. “Neil Gaiman had seen my art and had wanted to work with me” Thompson stated. The experience of drawing Sandman and working with Gaiman was a joy for her. “I loved working on Sandman” she enthused.
However, when the comics industry went bust in the 1990’s, Thompson found work becoming scarce. Also around this time, her first niece was born and Thompson was angling to be the Godmother. To secure the position she decided to create a handmade storybook for the niece. Remembering how she dressed at the time, with black leather and crazy platform shoes, and transplanting this imagery onto her Godmother character, causing the birth of a new creation. “So when I said Scary Godmother out loud, I said those two words and immediately I got this visual image of like this little batwing fairy” she explained. Another sketch later, and Thompson was happy. “Oh my god, I really have something here” she stated. Some more thinking, mostly about who the Scary Godmother’s friends would be, and what does her creation do. Gaiman was very helpful to her as well at this early stage.
With the wonder of Scary Godmother now before her, Thompson began creating a whole series of stories starring the character. This eventually led her back to Sandman. Delirium, a little sister to Dream and a force of strangeness onto herself, was going to star in her own book. And to top it off, all of Dream’s family would be showcased as the kid versions of them, The Little Endless as previously seen in Sandman. Thompson had to create her own story, but remain true to Gaiman’s concept.
As Thompson explained, “I know Neil well enough, I think because I had worked on Brief Lives, which was major Delirium style story, I kind of got used to how he made her talk, and when I think about her, I think about her in the way that he has described her and talk about her and the speech patterns that he gives her.” But at the same time, it is her story. “I am doing my version of Neil” she said. This has netted other Sandman related work for her as well. Gaiman wanted Thompson to do the Death Manga, because she knew more about the art form than him.
What lies in the immediate destiny for Thompson is quite clear. She is the artist, with Evan Dorkin writing, of Beasts of Burdens from Dark Horse Comics. The idea behind this series is “The story of a group of dogs and a stray cat that are the supernatural watchdogs of their neighbourhood. It is kind of like Buffy the vampire slayer meets Lady and the Tramp” she explained. Thompson also has a secret, not in continuity, project at DC Comics as well.
My history with Jill Thompson goes back to Wonder Woman, and extends onto Sandman. Now I am finally catching up with her, having started with The Little Endless Storybook, and continuing on to Scary Godmother. Seeing the evolution of her talents and skills and ideas over the years, and enjoying every moment of it. From Wonder Woman to Scary Godmother. This is an excellent trip. Can’t wait for the next part.