This past Wednesday (August 19th) saw the release of Secret Wars: Secret Love, a superhero romance anthology starring some of your favorite characters. We were lucky enough to nail down the writer for the Danny Rand & Misty Knight story, Jeremy Whitley, long enough to answer a few questions about writing, Marvel, and the creative process.
Seems like only a few years ago Jeremy Whitley came to the comics scene with his ground breaking all-ages series Princeless starring a young princess named Adrienne who refuses to wait and be rescued. Princeless was a huge hit leading the almost industry wide push for strong female characters. While continuing Princeless, now in its 4th volume, he began writing My Little Pony for IDW, launched a successful Kickstarter for his Illegal series and now has penned his first story for Marvel. I wondered if he could share some of that journey with us.
Jeremy: “It feels like so much longer than the five years it’s been.” He remarked. “Honestly, I’m a bit on the neurotic side when it comes to my writing so I am forever certain that people aren’t getting back to me and art isn’t coming in and things are going to be off schedule…I mean that’s all usually true, but I worry.” “It’s been an incredible path for me though. Just the difference between being crowded into a four person table in the back corner or a convention center to having my own table right next door to the people who are my role models is so amazing. I’ve gone from having to hand sell every copy to having excited kids run to my table to get the latest volume. It’s beautiful and I try not to take any of it for granted.”
He certainly isn’t taking any of it for granted, sharing personal news, family pictures, and being involved with fans and pros alike on social media. You can tell from his involvement and attitude that he loves what he’s doing and we love him doing it. Before we got into the Marvel book I wanted to hear more about his current projects, starting with Princeless and Raven: The Pirate Princeless. His excited response shows just how close to his heart that book truly is,
Jeremy: Princeless is going great. The third issue of book 4 will be out this week and it’s one of the most action packed issues yet! I’m so excited to get this volume out as it’s been sitting on my hard drive for so long, waiting for book 3 to finish up. There’s going to be a lot of cool stuff coming up soon! The Raven: The Pirate Princess series has been amazingly gratifying. After I finished working with Rosy and Ted on Book 3 of Princeless I couldn’t bear the thought of letting them or Raven go, so we hatched this scheme and Action Lab was good enough to go along with it. The book is beautiful and I think the reviews I’m getting for issue 2 of the series may be the most excited and positive reviews I’ve ever gotten on a book.”
But when we got around to Illegal, Jeremy’s self published book that he successfully funded through Kickstarter in August of 2014 you really get a sense of how tight things get when the work rolls in and how crushed he is with what he perceives as failures on his part.
Jeremy: As for Illegal, this is one place I really feel like I’ve failed. I have been really slow at getting out Kickstarter rewards and I’m very sorry for that. Sadly everything has moved slower and been more expensive than I had originally budgeted and I’m still working to get everything together.” “But the digital versions of issue 1 are out and the paper ones are printed, it’s just a question of delivery now! Hopefully the lovely backers who put so much faith in me will be getting their long awaited rewards soon!”
It was high time we talked about Secret Wars. Jeremy’s story in Secret Wars: Secret Love is a romance (obviously) story about Danny Rand and Misty Knight’s life in the Yorkville section of New York City, Battleworld. They’re married, raising their child, and well…retired. And honestly it’s not working. It cracked me up from the opening panels. I’m an old married dude and I could see a well written stale marriage from a mile away. Could he have come up with this totally on his own?
Jeremy: I pitched the pairing. Emily Shaw, my editor, came to me with the premise for a superhero romance anthology set in the Marvel universe and Misty and Danny were my first choice. I’ve always loved that pairing and they’ve been pretty hard done by in the comics. I wanted to do something really special with their relationship that I had always wanted to see and this anthology gave me the perfect chance.
As far as I knew Misty and Danny weren’t “together” when we last saw them so I wondered how Jeremy came at this. Did Marvel have a huge hand in the scenario he developed?
Jeremy: It’s a little iffy as last we saw them. When Heroes For Hire ended, they weren’t really together but in both Fraction’s Defenders and Bunn’s Fearless Defenders they show up as being a couple. So it’s kind of hard to say.
What I wanted to do was project a Misty and Danny that have unfortunately never gotten to be in the comics. It’s what I view as a sort of extension of where we see them in the Brubaker/Fraction “Immortal Iron Fist”, but they’ve bad to make a choice to step away from superheroics and start a family the way they talked about then. It’s somewhat inspired by my own relationship as well.
I couldn’t help but ask the question that I knew would get a non answer but it needed to be asked. Is Secret Wars: Secret Love a “What if…” book? Or have you just set post-Secret Wars canon with this new take on Danny and Misty’s relationship?
Jeremy: As with so much of Secret Wars it happens in one of many alternate universes. Whether that means these versions of these characters will disappear or whether we might see them again…your guess is as good as mine.
With the elephant in the room taken care of I set back to asking more about Jeremy’s angle on the story. All his stories really gravitate toward themes of family. I mentioned that both My Little Pony and Princeless deal with relationships (of a sort), both are strong on interpersonal dialog, in fact most of his work gravitates toward themes of family. Did he feel this was sort of a his wheelhouse? Was this a conscious choice? Didn’t he have some sick twisted horror story he’s just bursting to tell?
Jeremy: You know, I don’t know that I have an honest to God R-rated horror story in me. I love them, but even the one pitch I have for a horror story is a PG fantasy horror story.
I like stories about relationships, rather they be familial or friendships. I think those were always the most interesting superhero comics to me too. Stories like Claremont’s X-Men where you would really get a feel not just for the romantic relationships, but for the genuine friendships between characters like Wolverine and Nightcrawler. Relationships that you establish inside any genre story automatically up the stakes. A hero trying to save a random group of people is much less interesting than a hero trying to save their daughter and the person they’re in love with.
I like writing action, but I think where I excel is dialogue. I love writing characters in realistic and naturalistic ways. I like to bring out the things we love about them in ways that aren’t just punching…though punching can be fun too.
I was hoping to get some insight into the different machinery that drive the different levels of comic book production, Jeremy has written for both large and small companies as well as self published so I knew he would be the one to ask.
Jeremy: The nicest thing about writing my own stuff is I don’t have to hurry up and wait. I can just keep writing to my heart’s content. Both IDW and Marvel have approval processes and editors that I have to wait on to approve things even at the outline stage.
By that same turn, it’s also easier to write in established universes where I don’t have to make up every element of the world the way I have in Princeless. There are only so many things that Iron Fist can do and New York is a pretty well established setting. That leaves me free to do character work, which is one of the fun parts to me!
When we were wrapping up I asked Jeremy the question our own Julie Hegner started putting to all our guests… So… What’cha Reading? As I expected Jeremy served up a host of titles, from companies both big and small “Lumberjanes, Squirrel Girl, Ms Marvel, Gotham Academy, Cyborg, Starfire, Sex Criminals, Bitch Planet, Lazarus, and so many more books I can’t remember them all right now!”
He couldn’t reveal any of the big projects he has coming up except to say “As for big projects, there are a lot of things coming along, but other than more Princeless, there’s not a lot I can talk about.” I’m sure whatever the project we’ll continue to get his honest heartfelt approach to characters and relationships. I know I’ll be looking forward to whatever he jumps into next.
You’ll be happy to hear that Jeremy has a full convention slate for the rest of the year, appearing at Dragon Con, Florence Comic Con, SPX, NYCC, and North Carolina Comic Con in the fall. He’s extremely approachable and a lot of fun to chat with, I hope you take the time to stop by and say hi.
Want more info on Jeremy Whitley? Get to clicking! Head over to jeremywhitley.com