Jason Little Interview

Conducted by Marinn Silva.
Originally published in The Quarterly Purge.

First I wanted to thank you for making Shutterbug Follies, as well as a few of your other cartoons, free to the public at www.beecomix.com.

It's my pleasure. It's actually good business too, from what I've been told, as it increases the strip's visibility. Give it away for free, then make 'em pay for it later, when it's a book.

Bee is supremely likable. She's a normal girl, but she's also got these great qualities: courage, diplomacy, insatiable curiosity, intelligence, confidence. She goes for what she wants and is, at the same time, not oppressive. Is her personality modeled after anyone in particular, or after a certain ideal, or. . ?

Definitely after a certain ideal. She was inspired by the girls who populate the hipster district in Williamsburgh, Brooklyn. The hair and the glasses are very Williamsburgh, at the moment. And at the same time she espouses the same values I have, but if I was female and considerably more brave.

Bee isn't an over-sexualized caricature of femininity, but she's definitely cute and stylish. Was drawing her that way a conscious decision, or just what came naturally to you? What did you want her overall look to convey about her?

I wanted to give her some feminine aspects, but also some androgynous aspects. I want to convey femaleness but without resorting to exaggerated eyelashes and red lipstick. She's not a makeup-wearer. She's a practical dresser, but her clothes are not un-sexy.

How's Bee's serialization going?

Swell. I've actually finished Shutterbug Follies and am in the process of doing final revisions, touch ups, that sort of thing. Though, I'm anxious to put more energy into soliciting more weeklies, so "Bee" can be in print in more papers.

So Shutterbug Follies is just the first Bee installment, right -- you've got more plans for her?

Yeah, a whole series of books. Installment isn't really the right word, that makes it sound like it's a never-ending story. Each book will stand alone independently of the others, but with the same core characters.

You mentioned in another interview that you've fantasized about "Bee" as an animated cartoon. (You can bet I'd watch it.) Does that remain a fantasy for you?

Um, yeah, nothing's happening with that yet. My agent has mentioned that she's looking into shopping the book around to movie people, but largely for live-action. I'm more interested in feature animation, maybe with me writing a new script for a movie, one not based on a book.

By the way, I was thrilled to see the chubby goth girl in Safety Instructions. I guess I don't have a question to go with that. Just wanted to gush for a minute.

Thanks! I borrowed her appearance from an old girlfriend.

Your dialog has a pleasantly natural flow. Is that something you strive for or is it just innate ability?

I guess you could say that I "strive for striving for good dialogue", in that I've only recently started thinking about dialogue style. Right now, I imagine, the characters mostly just talk like me. I've seen a couple of great old movies that have incredibly stylized dialogue, like Sweet Smell of Success and Preston Sturges's The Lady Eve. I need to figure out how to bring style to dialogue without making it sound phony, though.

On your web site, you have advice for cartoonists struggling to explain the scope of their work. You give two examples, each, you say, equally worthy: " the comic as a template for the next wave of expressionism and the comic as a vehicle to make the reader laugh until he or she urinates." What is it you'd like to achieve with your work?

Well, hm, let's see. I guess I've got two types of work going, which is the Bee stuff, and then the Jack's Luck Runs Out stuff, that is to say the more formalistically constrained stuff. I guess I'd like to see more formalism going into the Bee stuff, gradually I guess. And I'd like to make more time to do more of the more overtly formal stuff, which I've largely been ignoring.

What's the most important piece of advice you can give to aspiring cartoonists?

I guess the most important thing I did to force myself to work was to structure my life with the cartooning time prioritized at the top. I eliminated activities that would take away from drawing time -- I quit watching television, for example. Back when I was living in Michigan I worked at the Public Library, five-to-nine, five days a week. Just enough for me to live on, and it left all day open for drawing.

You rock, Jason. Thanks for the interview.

Sure thing. It's been a pleasure.

 

Excerpt | More from the author | Author's Site | Links
Titles | Authors | Events | Press

Copyright 2002, Random House, Inc. | Privacy Policy