Jimmie Robinson: A Complete Reversal of the Super-hero PlatformA comics interview article by: Jason Sacks
I have to admit that I'm totally biased here. Jimmie Robinson is one of my favorite comics creators. His series Bomb Queen has been a series that I can't wait to pick up every time it appears, and it's always a treat at any convention to get to visit with Jimmie. The fact is, Jimmie's a wonderful cartoonist and a really interesting guy to talk to, so I had a great time talking with him at this year's San Diego Comic-con.
Jason Sacks: Let's start with who Bomb Queen is for people who've never read it, and what the premise of the book is.
Jimmie Robinson: Bomb Queen is a super-villain book, not a super-hero book. It's basically the same premise as Batman, who watches over Gotham City, or Superman, who watches over Metropolis. Bomb Queen has a city that she watches over, and the people like it that way because she's the villain. She basically protects her city from heroes, it's a complete reversal of the super-hero platform.
Sacks: And her city, New Port City, is not a place you might want to live.
Robinson: That's correct. The citizens of her city like her in charge because they're just as evil. It's more about what happens to society when you allow evil to run your government.
Sacks: But the early editions, especially, are still very funny, it's not a grim book.
Robinson: Yeah, it has changed a lot. I mean it's -- I had to evolve the character at a certain point. I mean, I'm up to I'm working on volume 7 now, so it was one of those things where I -- if you're evil at one point, most characters evolve over time and if she's already evil what does she become? She becomes more evil I guess. So it was a strange evolution, but yeah, it started out pretty humorous and it's still humorous, but it's really grave and evil things [that are] going on nowadays.
Sacks: She has a way of kind of turning a lot of good people into -- she corrupts them may be a better way of putting it, just by her presence, because she's just so fully evil.
Robinson: Yeah, that's true, and there's a lot of gray area in Bomb Queen. There’s nobody truly wholesome and good that she goes up against; there's always somebody she exploits in them, and, like you said, corrupts them to some level. Or finds something that, you know, just works for her. And the book is about the shades of gray, I guess, but she also is the ultimate evil.
Sacks: I don't want to make it sound too dramatic; there is a lot of humor, especially the early issues. And kind of part of the humor is just reveling in the kind of badness of it.
Robinson: Yeah, I mean you know there was a spin on the early nineties bad girl thing going on, so you know I had some fun with that and, I have to admit, [in] the early issues I had to really play nice because Image Comics didn't know exactly what it was either. So I couldn't go to the extremes that she evolved to later on, because I had to introduce the book and not freak people out too much.
It's interesting writing a villain. You want to do something nice. You want it to have a good ending. You want it to have relevance or mean something to the reader that the reader relate to. But when it's evil, I mean, you can't relate to a rapist, a pedophile or whatnot, unless you are one I guess, but it's really a weird space as a writer to be in. Because I don't relate to any of that stuff, but I still have to write for her and have her celebrate it. Hatred, I mean, I have to dwell on hate speech and war mongering and genocide and rape and murder. I have a daughter, you know. This is not something I like.
Sacks: I feel like you want to, there's something about her that makes you want to love her. I mean, it's just the fact that she's always smiling, she revels in who she is, and in that way she's someone who you want to like, in a way.
Sacks: Her joy about her life is almost infectious.
Robinson: Yeah, yeah. I'm really trying to create an ultimate evil. And that's why I didn't want her to become evil, I didn't even want her to really have humanity, and in that sense she's naturally who she is, like a wild animal. You cannot deal with her, she is truly a force of nature or a wild animal that has a complete different comprehension of what you should do, what is right and wrong. So it's like the devil. You don't find compassion with the devil, the devil is the devil. It's evil, that's evil incarnate you might say. And that's what I wanted in Bomb Queen. I just got so sick of villains in other comic series who turn into good guys ultimately, you know.
Sacks: There's no ambiguity there, she just is who she is through and through, every cell of her body.
Robinson: Because of that, that's why she obviously evolved to even the darker shades where she is now in volume 6 and volume 7. So she's really gone completely dark, because there was no going the other way for her, like Magneto went the other way or somebody like that, or Emma Frost or whatever. It's just that for her she only goes to the darker side. It just works.
Sacks: I told you before, I mean, I totally love the character -- you've read my reviews of the series -- I really just loved her glorying in her badness until volume 6 when it started to become painfully real. I mean, the backgrounds of the stories were almost fun with jokes about suicide shops and the little pictures of child rapists and stuff was kind of like glorying in the bad side, but once it got kind of real and not cartoony, it kind of went to a whole different level for me that I didn't expect.
Robinson: Yeah, yeah. Volume 6 was the Obama issue, and it was one of the things, because I couldn't ignore President Obama. To be honest, Bomb Queen is almost a reflection because she was created during the Bush era, which is where things were going on, you know, the war, Guantanamo Bay, all these things were going on in secret and she was in this kind of world. But then Obama came along and even I like Obama, I voted for the guy and all that. Since the book deals with politics I couldn't ignore that. I couldn't say Obama would allow her city to exist. It was just really weird to juxtapose.
I just couldn't have them be in the same world and so, I had to build the next part of the franchise, and I knew where that was going, and Obama’s story arc became a platform to get to the next story arc, you might say. I didn't want to make a big issue out of Obama, but I kind of used him to get out of the painted corner I had become with his presidency.
Sacks: Do you feel like you're in a corner, that in some way that Bomb Queen was originally such a reflection of kind of the Bush -- I don't know, you can characterize however you like -- but a certain lack of sensitivity to human emotion in a way? That you had to kind of figure out where she fit in the current era?
Robinson: Yeah. That's true. I think she was definitely a reflection of it. I mean, I had Bush in the early volumes. So it was a reflection of [the] government, you know, at the time. But, you know, I didn't want to hit anybody over the head with that. There's a lot of politics, there's a lot of satire about secret government organizations and whatnot like that, but in the same breath I still want it to be a comic book about Bomb Queen, New Port City and evil characters and stuff like that. So it's pretty fun in that regard. I might not be answering the question properly, but it was an amalgamation of so many things. I really cannot pin her, the creation, some of the background to it, to one thing I should say.
Sacks: So give a preview of where we're going to go in volume 7.
Robinson: I ran into a problem not only with Obama but with other Image characters. She has a city that's just allowed to be evil in the midst of America where everyone's trying to help Americans. So, basically, it's not really giving anything away, but in volume 7 I jump 100 years into the future.
Bomb Queen becomes basically a ghost in the machine, you might say. In the system, she goes virtual, you might say. And I dance along the concept of true evil, because when you think of evil like the devil, he's not embodied as a person, you think of him in whatever spiritual form or whatever. He's an ideal, he's a concept like a Batman, Dark Knight thing. It's not just that you're a man but you become an ideal, a concept that people understand, and I wanted Bomb Queen to be on that level, that she's now ubiquitous with evil, 100 years in the future, virtual, that she's everywhere now, she's not just in New Port City. It becomes a real stain on humanity because 100 years from now humanity and the so-called system, or whatever we want to call the Internet at that time, will just be one singularity at that point. And I also wanted to give her a real rival. Through all her adventures, through all six volumes, there's been somebody, and they've been kind of stupid sometimes, you know, her opponents. So Shadowhawk becomes the real thorn in her side.
Sacks: She needs her nemesis, yeah.
Robinson: She needs her Joker, she needs her Lex Luthor or whatever. So Shadowhawk, who is also part of the system because the Shadowhawk mythos revolves around the helmet. The helmet can incorporate anybody to become the hero, so just like, if it is also virtual it becomes the hero online. And so anybody in the future can be jacked in and become a Bomb Queen. And anybody in the future could also be jacked in and become a Shadowhawk. So basically what I'm going to have to play out here is a global hero and super villain battle that can use anybody in the world. Anybody can be jacked in by a Surrogates kind of a thing and become Bomb Queen. She can land on any person, find the darkness in whatever humanity or whatever and Shadowhawk can find the goodness in whatever heroic person and they fight virtually. In volume 6 it's going to be weird because the hero and the villain will not have a body.
Sacks: That's brilliant to see.
Robinson: There'll be no actual physical body for these characters, but yet they will fight through other people. And it's going to be a lot of fun. It's going to be an interesting concept, and also because I'm using other people I get to explore the individuals that they incorporate, what is dark in this person, what is good in that person or why Shadowhawk chose that person and vice versa.
Sacks: Well that kind of leads into my favorite question I always like to ask you, I mean, you're a pretty sunny guy, right? You're pretty happy in your life, right? Things are going pretty good, but you draw this still horrible, sadistic character.
Robinson: I'm a Hello Kitty guy.
Sacks: Exactly, you know, your pencil box has Hello Kitty, but I love the fact that you get to explore this other side of yourself. But that's got to be kind of challenging also.
Robinson: It is. it very much is, like I said, for those who know all the books I've done, this is the complete opposite, the polar opposite of anything I've ever drawn. And when I started Bomb Queen, the very first issue that you liked so much, it was just a lark. Four issues and I was done. I was supposed to be done, it was supposed to be over, and it took off. She got legs of her own and started walking on her own. And yeah, now I'm doing volume 7 of it. It's really surreal but I'm trying to wind it down, I guess. Because I do want to do some other things.
Sacks: But you've had good success with it. It's really taken off in a way that your other books never did.
Sacks: Evil and Malice had a great idea that just never took off.
Robinson: Yeah, Evil and Malice, you might say, is Bomb Queen lite. Because it's about super-villains, but they're trying to do the good thing, they're trying to help their dad get rid of other super-villains that are making life hard for their dad. But it's done in a cute way and it's all tongue in cheek. And it's also about family, two sisters and they have their rivalry as well, but it's also about trying to help your family, your dad and your mother that loves you from afar and all. It had a good message. I liked the message of that, but at the same time Bomb Queen isn't like it.
Sacks: I can totally get wanting to get away from this stuff. If you stay with a popular character you stand to actually make a few dollars, but you feel like you don't want to get pigeonholed.
Robinson: Exactly. I mean I'm becoming the Bomb Queen guy and it's weird. I mean, I had the little Capewatch characters added in there because I wanted something light in the midst of all this torture and mayhem in Bomb Queen and whatever.
Sacks: You know how I love Dee-Rail, the heroine who gets powers when she touches railroad tracks and stuff, I love that –
Robinson: I love that character. I'd like to have a spin out of that character alone, because I wanted a character -- that's why I put her in print and got her done and made her mine -- who visited Middle America, a super-hero that traveled the rail, because the rails are like the nervous system, the network of the entire country. And they go out to places away from the big city. When you think of super heroes you always think of big skyscrapers and all that, but there's a Middle America that's untouched.
They still would like a hero in the Montana or the Dakotas or something like that. And there are railroad tracks going all through, lacing through there and finding old abandoned tracks, ghost tracks, railroad lines, I mean there's just a whole wealth of stories out there, and they can be personal stories. And what I like about Dee-Rail is that she's super powered on the rails and that's how she gets there, but once she gets off the rails then she's a normal person and she's in a small town and she has to talk to the people and deal with their problems on that level and somehow make it relate back to the railroad, and then she's super powered to help somebody with what she's found out in this small town, you know. And I had all kinds of stories, like the ghost train that nobody saw and all this stuff. Then I was going to take it to Europe where they have a big rail system as well and there's a lot of history in there and it was a great idea, I still really want to do it and might. Who knows, I might end up going there.
Sacks: It's becoming a nice all-ages kind of thing I think.
Robinson: It could be, it very well could be, because I never went dark with her. She was always a sunny-with-freckles-on-her-cheeks kind of girl.
Sacks: She's such a sweet little girl, right?
Robinson: And there's a lot of history. Because when she touches the railroad track whatever has ever happened on that track she gets a mental signature of. So she goes all the way back and you get to actually talk about American history and how the railroad was built and what happened to this railroad. So it goes all over the place, it goes in several layers and I really wanted to explore all the way up into Canada and you know the entire rail system that way. It's so rich with possibility, there's a whole folklore about the music around the railroads, the circus, the industry, how cities were built, how we traveled from the East to the West Coast, I mean it's just -- the Rockies -- it's just amazing. I think there are a lot of stories to be told there.
Sacks: She reminds me a little bit of like a Bob Burden character, you know, just so sweet and happy in who she is.
Robinson: Yeah, and she also has the kind of Aquaman thing going, where she's kind of useless off the rail, like Aquaman's kind of useless out of the water. But you still like him. There's still something endearing about the little ability that they have and they make it work. To be honest, I was going to kill her, but I kept her alive.
Sacks: I can see that. She's the one character who stands out the most from Bomb Queen’s nemeses who are just like someone you want to spend more time following.
Robinson: Yeah, yeah. You know, she's a real traveler. Most heroes and villains or whatever, they're just stuck in their little domains where she travels and meets people and she goes around the country -- around the world -- and, I mean, other heroes that can fly should have the same round exposure, as well. You think if they travel the world, they know different people, they would have a more enlightened view of humanity, but yet I don't know…
Sacks: You're kind of at this infection point, you could go in a lot of different directions, I mean you can do Bomb Queen, the Bomb Queen spirit in other countries and get into that kind of thing. She's very American in a way, very bold, brash, obnoxious, rude. You know, a lot of the stereotypes that foreigners especially have about America. Are there people like her in other parts of the world?
Robinson: Yeah. As a matter of fact, I think there are plenty of fanatics we know in other parts of the world that she can easily jump into and corrupt and whatnot if that's what you're meaning.
Sacks: I was wondering -- in the current books -- is she alone in the world as the only evil city, or maybe are there other Bomb Queen-like people around?
Robinson: The way I designed the character and the way I felt is [that] she was the only one. As a matter of fact, her city was a magnet for the entire world to drop. It was a classic "what would you do if you could put all the rapists on a deserted island" kind of a thing. You know, an Escape from New York kind of thing or whatever, an ultimate penitentiary, and she's the warden. So I did only have her in the one city and then in volume 6 when she destroyed all this other stuff I had her basically break the mold. I had her destroy the technology that created her.
Literally, I wanted to make her the only one and make her unique, just like the devil. Same as him, but you know he has minions and demons and she has her minions and stuff as well. Ash was one.
Sacks: At least she loves her cat.
Robinson: That's true. I mean, they have a love-hate relationship, but yeah. She does love the cat and all that. And the cat's a big thing and I like cats, so that's why I use her. Cats are fun.
Sacks: What else do you want people to know about you and your work and where they can find more information about you online?
Robinson: I'm on all the social networks, but Bomb Queen is exclusive with Comixology, so all the Bomb Queen issues are online and purchasable. The books are on Amazon and, just like any other place, my Web site still is a forever under construction thing. I wouldn't even use that. That's in a nutshell the regular avenues I'm reached at -- Twitter, Facebook, the Image website.
Sacks: Anything else you want to talk about for the Web?
Robinson: I'm getting married.
Sacks: Congratulations, I'm so happy for you!
Robinson: That's right. I'm getting married, so more good news that's counter to the whole Bomb Queen mythos. It is like, here I am the guy trying to be happy and be married.
Sacks: It's been a good year, you've lost a lot of weight and you’re getting married. You're doing well and the book's doing well, right?
Robinson: Bomb Queen's a weird little beast, but I still like it. It's fun, you know. I like the entire package. Bomb Queen is a single character, that's one thing, the entire package, because I love a wide cast of characters, good, like Dee-Rail, all the way to extremely evil, like Bomb Queen. That's fun, that I have a range to play with.
Sacks: You're not just playing in the dirt, you have some people you can look up to yourself when you're drawing them.
Robinson: Exactly, and it's good to juxtapose that against the light. You can only be dark when it's juxtaposing against the light. That's how I see it.