Lady Killer is one of the latest miniseries from Dark Horse Comics by co-creators Joëlle Jones and Jamie S. Rich. The series is about a picture perfect housewife in the 1960s that freelances as a gun for hire. The series has been quite a hit, going into a second printing for its first and second issues.
Mark Stack for Comics Bulletin: How does it feel to know that issues one and two both sold out and are going into a second printing?
Jamie: I think what is most pleasing is that we have sold out of a period of time, rather than right away, which sounds really cool, sure, and is its own thing, but the idea that word of mouth drove up reorders and caused the comics to fly out of shops, and that then we’re seeing on the reprints and subsequent issues the numbers rise rather than tapering off, we’re really building an audience.
So now the orders for #3 basically are reflecting all the printings of #1 combined, we’re holding strong. We’ve always been passionate even though it’s been a couple years in development. We’ve always thought that it could be a book that would do very well. We’re very happy to see that people are responding in the way that we hoped.
How many years has it been in development?
I think we started talking about it close to three years ago.
Why the long gestation period?
Helheim came along for Joëlle so that took time away and ended up getting longer as it went because the first series did so well. It was kind of like waiting for Lady Killer to fall into place. We talked about it all the time and we did a lot of work on it. It was just a matter of finding the right time to do it. It just so happened to be that we were at a party with Scott Allie’s wife, Elisabeth, and Joëlle told her the idea. Then she told Scott and he immediately came to see what was up with it.
From that point we almost had a fresh start. Joëlle by that point felt more confident and actually took over the main writing duties as opposed to me doing the more traditional writer/artist collaboration with her.
So this is a new collaboration for the both of you.
Yeah. She’s largely plotting it out herself and writing the first draft of the script. Then, through the various drafts, I come in at different spots and then might work out a scene with her or talk through the early plots with her to contribute with problem-solving. Then once she’s done with the art, I give the dialogue a final polish.
She’s the main engine of each issue. And she does a lot of rewriting as she draws. She’s taking advantage of her ability to control it herself.
It sounds like in addition to being co-writers you’re also co-editors.
To a degree, yeah. Scott is definitely an involved editor and he gives us a lot of good notes. The idea began with Joëlle so I think that the work we put into beforehand created a foundation for her so, when she was ready to jump out on her own, she had a bit more to work with.
Being a period piece, what sort of research have you both done for the series?
I did some reading. Particularly when we first started. I picked up some resource books that focused on the 1960s. We watched different movies depending on what the setting was. There’s a setting in issue five that we looked at and there was an Elvis movie that took place there so we watched that together. It was terrible.
Most Elvis movies are.
Yes, most of them actually are.
Joëlle has been the more meticulous one. What she gets to do is scroll through cars, fashion, and old photos to find things she wants to draw. Peck’s car was something that she thought would be particularly fun to draw herself. So she does a bit more than I do. I did probably spend too much time looking at photos of vintage Playboy bunnies for issue two but I make sacrifices for the gig.
[laughs] Poor you. All in the name of research.
I find it interesting discussing the book’s tone with people. I work at a comic shop and the book is a pretty decent seller down there. How would you describe the tone of the book?
It’s definitely a dark comedy. It could have been a very serious book, and we definitely deal with some serious themes, but we wanted to go for something a little more fun to sort of play off the grizzly violence with a tongue-in-cheek humor. Joëlle and I sort of lean towards the morbid anyway. We like darker things and have a wicked sense of humor. It’s why we get along. That’s usually what I would sell it as. It’s a character piece but it’s also a dark comedy with lots of bloody violence.
Yeah, there’s an extended sequence in the first issue that I found particularly grizzly.
Joëlle, right from the get-go when she pitched the idea to me, always said that she really wanted to go for it on the violence. I think she referenced Dexter at the time. She wanted to go for Dexter levels of violence. And to have it be this rather attractive, dainty character done in this Walt Disney-ish, 101 Dalmatians style. To have that be the contrast and to shock people a bit. Right from the get-go, I thought that was a really great concept that would help it stand apart from just this sort of cute, giggly comic where it’s, “Oh, isn’t that quaint. She’s a housewife killing in her housedress.”
The book is definitely tongue firmly in cheek. It’s probably what I enjoyed about it on my first read. What have you noticed is the reaction to the book from the audience.
It’s been really strong and they seem to get that tone. The way the first issue is set up puts you right into this kind of exaggerated situation where she’s posing as the Avon lady and putting on this character before immediately dropping into a particularly gruesome scene of violence and then switching right back again after that to go to the home life. I think people have been excited by how much it jumps around and how much it plays with your expectations. By the end they’re intrigued enough to want to find out what happens next and that’s all you can really hope for.
The jumping between personalities is something that I found really interesting because the great myth of the American housewife has always been a lie. Seeing someone navigate that role in such a deft way was really fascinating to me.
We both read The Feminine Mystique, which came out around the time this book was taking place, and Betty Friedan really did break down that idea of the typical American housewife and that Donna Reed image of the same. So that gave us a lot to work with. And the idea that these women were at home and bored even though they were educated. Technology was getting better for them so they didn’t actually have that much to do at home. So what would you do with that time? Finding a creative outlet is sort of where we begin with Josie. She finds this thing that she can do, is good at, and somehow ends up enjoying it.
Currently, we’re at issue two. What can you tell me about the direction the book starts to go in issue three and beyond?
Issue two ends with Josie having to make a decision about a job that she is being assigned with a particular target that she’s not sure she wants to take on. So what she decides to do with that is going to either put her at odds with her bosses or get her in deeper with them. Where we’re at is sort of putting Josie at the point of an almost existential crisis where, for the first time, she decides to take a step back and look at who she works for and why.
A preview of Lady Killer #3: