AE: Who are your comic influences?
PB: Well, Terry Moore, of course, even though his work is a lot more serious than mine. I love his dialog and how he handles female characters, especially in Strangers in Paradise. In terms of comic strips, Charles Schulz has been a role model since I was a kid.
AE: How did you meet Charles Schulz?
PB: We met at a comics convention. Our paths had crossed previously — I worked with his editor in college — but whenever he was around, he was surrounded by people, so I never got to talk to him. But I arrived early to a convention and was walking around the hotel grounds looking for a good place to sit and draw, and I saw Schulz and his wife throwing a baseball. I sat down nearby on the steps — and the sprinkler system went off. He came and sat down with me and we got to talk.
AE: Thank you, sprinklers. Did he know about your sexual orientation?
PB: Yes. We didn’t talk about it, but when I got the job working for him, some people were pretty ticked off and jealous. One of them called to tell him I was gay, hoping to get me fired. That was pretty low. He was like, “Yeah, so?” One of his stepdaughters is gay and he was really good friends with Billie Jean King, so he has no issue with it. He was socially moderate.
AE: Is the company open as well?
PB: Yes. I was an island of gayness for a while, but now there are more of us.
AE: What do you do as Creative Director for the Schultz studio?
PB: We have an office in New York for licensing and contracts and we manage creative projects here. Any product with Peanuts characters on it comes through here. In some cases, I actually ink the characters, like for a line of comic books we’re doing for Kaboom! right now.
I was actually hired as an artist and would take charge of the studio when Mr. Schulz retired. But when he got sick, the timeline was moved up. I still do a lot of hands on drawing of Peanuts characters.
AE: That must be intimidating.
PB: Very. The characters are deceptively simple. At first I thought, “Oh, I can do that.” But the less there is, the harder it gets.
AE: What’s next for you? Jane’s World forever?
PB: You know, I took a little break from Jane’s World and really missed the characters. But now I’m approaching the strip differently, drawing it in modules and paying attention to how it looks online. It’s kind of complicated; I have to do a grid of three, three-panel strips to use according to what the publication or site has room for.
AE: Do you have Jane’s end in sight?
PB: No, and I think that means she’s not ready to be finished. Terry and Jeff Smith (Bone) both saw the end of their series long before they stopped.
AE: As a creator, what are your plans? Will you do another series?
PB: I’m still doing art for The Martian Confederacy [written by Jason McNamara], but each volume is a self-contained graphic novel so that’s a little different. Two volumes are out and we’re talking now about whether to release it first digitally or in print.
I also have an idea for an all-ages story. The main characters are rabbits — it was inspired by that story arc where Jane went through a vortex and became a rabbit. I liked how the rabbit looked and started thinking about it. But I don’t have it figured out yet.
AE: What about the comic industry itself? Do you see it getting even more open over the next decade? Do gender and sexual orientation still matter?
PB: Ten years ago, I didn’t think it was important to let gender and sexual orientation show, but now I wish I’d been braver. I think it’s important for people to see lesbians of all kinds represented in every medium. So, my answer now is different than it would’ve been 10 years ago. It’s important to embody who you are, whether you’re writing gay stories or not. But the best thing that can happen to me is if a kid in Idaho says, “I read your comic online and I feel less alone.” That’s better than any paycheck.
I got an email once from a mother whose daughter had come out and she was really upset. But then she started reading Jane’s World and said she was much less worried about her. That’s the kind of thing I love.
AE: And that’s a great closing thought. Thanks so much, Paige. (And personal thanks for letting me use Jane’s Chucks as my icon for all these years!)
Order your copy of Jane’s World: A New Frontier at janescomics.com or other online retailers. Better yet, go into a comic store and ask for it – you might find something else you like, too. And be sure to read Jane’s World each Thursday here at AfterEllen.com.