Stepping Into “Jane’s World” with Paige Braddock

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Jane's World Creator Paige Braddock

“I really wanted to go to art school but my parents were afraid I’d turn into this flaky

artist, so they made me go to a state school so I’d get a well-rounded

education,” says Paige Braddock, who became a comic book artist.

She is the creator of Jane’s World—a

comic now in its 24th volume that is also available online and has been

translated into French, Spanish, Italian and Swedish. It will be

featured in upcoming exhibits in Madrid and Milan and one currently

running in San Francisco. It has been nominated for an Eisner Award,

the Golden Globes of the comic book world.

The motley cast of characters that populate Jane’s World

are a diverse bunch with intricately intertwining stories. Jane herself

is someone who is easy to identify with, particularly if you have a

healthy touch of self-deprecation. “People can more easily identify

with a likable loser than someone who’s perfection incarnate,” Braddock

says.

Before the books, when Jane’s World

was still a strip, Braddock says the main character “wasn’t gay enough

for gay papers but she was too gay for straight papers.” Braddock had

to hustle for the few spots available in alternative newspapers, facing

intense competition that put her up against the likes of Alison

Bechdel. “Even though she and I are at opposite ends of the lesbian

spectrum,” Braddock says, pointing out that “I’m slapstick and she’s

more political.”

“There isn’t enough lesbian slapstick out there,” says this resident of

Sebastopol, a small town about 50 miles north of San Francisco. “What

I’m doing is sort of a backlash against how serious Northern California

lesbians are.” Seen this way, Braddock should be getting an award for

her community service.

Other Jane’s World characters may be serious but Jane is the antithesis to stereotypical lesbian staidness.

According to Braddock she’s not the typical dyke:

she isn’t politically correct, hates vegetarian restaurants, eats

donuts, and doesn’t understand women. “She’s a vehicle for poking fun

at all those strains in our culture—but not mean-spirited, just

clueless.”

Braddock

says a reviewer recently referred to Jane as “the lesbian heir to the

hard-luck Charlie Brown, somehow always winding up as the punchline in

her own comic book.” Of all the Peanuts characters the

too-obvious choice for comparison with Jane would be queer icon

Peppermint Patty. But Jane is more of a Charlie Brown who just happens

to be a lesbian.

Braddock

had never considered the Charlie Brown-ishness of her character, and

the analogy struck her as not only apt but an amusing coincidence.

Unbeknownst to the perceptive reviewer who drew the parallel, Braddock

spends her days at Peanuts headquarters. She is senior vice president and creative director for Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates.

For nearly seven years Braddock worked full-time for the Schulz studio and spent her nights and weekends immersed in Jane’s World. But this year she cut back to three days per week at her day job in

order to devote three full days to working on her books. Apparently she

manages to squeeze in some rest on the seventh day, but she completes

twenty pages of drawings per month.

In addition to the books, new

panels are available online daily.

People sometimes conflate artist and subject, addressing Braddock as if they

were talking to Jane. Braddock admits that Jane embodies one facet of

her personality. But it shouldn’t take long for most fans who meet

their hero’s creator to realize that, while Jane is goofy and often

oblivious, Braddock is whip smart with a delectably dry sense of humor.

Braddock says Jane “gets to be the voice inside my head that I sometimes

silence.”

She adds: “You know when you hear someone say something

that’s really dumb? Or sometimes you want to say something that

politically incorrect and just run with it and you censor yourself?

Well, Jane’s uncensored.”

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