(Courtesy of Image Comics)
In an exclusive interview with Villain Media, writer Brandon Montclare talks about mixing time-travel and police procedural in Rocket Girl Vol. 2: Only The Good (Image Comics). With their latest volume, Montclare and artist Amy Reeder (Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur) continue to craft a humorous sci-fi police story that upholds a genuine love for the ‘80s.
As we previously mentioned, DaYoung Johansson, aka Rocket Girl, relaunches her investigation into crimes against time. DaYoung is the teen-cop-from-the-future but her adventures continue in the ‘80s. A major clue landed right in front of her just as she attempts to takedown of the evil corporation known as Quintum Mechanics.
With the second volume out in stores now, Montclare discusses the creative process behind Only The Good, the inspiration behind DaYoung Johansson, and collaborating with Reeder.
VILLAIN MEDIA: What drew me to the comic book was DaYoung Johansson, Rocket Girl herself. I love her characterization and gung-ho attitude in Vol. 2. What was the inspiration behind her character?
BRANDON MONTCLARE: When I pinned down the overall “story” for Rocket Girl, the 1986 setting definitely got me thinking about Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns. There’s a lot of Carrie Kelly’s Robin in DaYoung. She shares that first name with one of Reed’s old interns.
But the simplest answer is that her attitude is dictated by the story. And I suppose that’s true about every comic book protagonist! But as I developed Rocket Girl, a big part of the underlying story is how youth sees the world differently from adults. It’s a lot more complicated than being “rebellious.” I think most 15-year-olds have undiluted passion for their ideas and opinions. I know I did. Ultimately you grow up to learn the world isn’t black and white, but rather shades of grey. Maybe DaYoung doesn’t want to grow up. So she needed confidence and arrogance, and a strong sense that she’s always right.
VM: I feel like rules of time-traveling keep getting more complex. I love how Rocket Girl almost enjoys being a time traveler, which is why the comic feels so different. Did you look at other sci-fi classics like The Time Machine or Back to the Future to deal with the rules of traveling?
BM: Rocket Girl is perhaps the most basic of time-travel stories. Usually there’s some kind of moral debate about changing the past. We don’t spend time on those kinds of questions because we want the focus on character. DaYoung has already made up her mind. She is going to change everything–consequence are irrelevant to her.
And Rocket Girl depends on almost every time travel sci-fi movie from the 1980s movies projected a future. There are time-travel elements in Back to the Future 2 and Terminator. But also stuff like Akira or Blade Runner. We were supposed to have all kinds of inventions by 2017. Thats what was promised in these films—but where’s out jetpack? That idea is what kicked off the script.
VM: Tell me about collaborating with artist Amy Reeder. I love how there is such a vibrant style differentiating the two periods, 1986 and 2013.
BM: I think Reed is a world class talent. That makes me very lucky!
We were planning to work together before there was an story ideas. So I very much thought about what she would want to draw. They idea for a 1980s period piece was very fresh. This was maybe a year or two before Stranger Things and all the current nostalgia stuff. And I knew Reed would eat it up. The hair and the fashions. Plus all the retro research. And as for our version of the ‘future’–Amy’s work is extra exciting when you realize she’s trying to look at it through an 1980s lens. She isn’t strictly designing a future based on her best guesses—she’s deliberately trying to show a future world based on the 1980s imagination of the future. I think that added a lot of appeal. She isn’t especially excited about sci-fi action. But this gave her an angle that plays to her interests.
VM: One of my favorite pages in Volume 2 (issue #9) is when Rocket Girl has a major action sequence at the Jacob Javits Center. Was it a challenge finding references and historical photos for the narrative?
BM: Reed put a lot of work into that scene. I remember her complaining about it online—and blaming me! We collaborate very closely, so if she wanted to set it someplace else I would have obliged. I thought she could approach it more graphically and perhaps even abstract. I thought all those line patterns could be played with in all kinds of ways. But I’m not an artist! And Reed chose incredibly intricate visuals! However, even though she grumbled when in the middle of the effort, I think it speaks to a truism: if you give an artist interesting visual opportunities, you get them excited and thinking, and producing stuff better than the writer ever dreamed.
VM: I love how Reeder captures the ‘80s vibe within the pages. With It and Stranger Things reviving the past, did you want Rocket Girl to come across as a nostalgic piece or a flashback drama?
BM: Yes! We thought it would be awesome. Again, this was before Stranger Things or Black Mirror’s “San Junipero.” At the time, what I also thought was interesting was that the 1980s were the most recent “period” piece you can do where the history felt very different and alien. I bet soon we’ll have 90s nostalgia pieces…and of course, some day stories will be looking back at the “good old days’” of 2017.
VM: I don’t want to give too much away about the ending of Volume 2. But I do want to ask, was the ending for Rocket Girl planned since the beginning? Or were there changes along the way?
BM: It’s a huge ending! That conclusion to Volume 2 was our original plan. At first we were going to try to squeeze the story into 5 issues. But when we was fan support, we knew we could let the plot breathe. So issues 1-10 (which make up the collected editions Vol. 1 & Vol. 2) is the original story.
We have always had ideas about new directions and twists. And one day Rocket Girl will explore those—but it’ll be different kind of book.
VM: Tell me about the Rocket Girl Coloring Book?
BM: Kickstarter was a big part of the Rocket Girl launch in 2013. I’ve said this many times; more important than the cash is the energy those early backers bring. Their faith lets you know you’re doing good stuff—and that they’ll want more and more. They also spread the word to their friends and shops and everywhere they have a voice. So we wanted to revisit the Kickstarter platform to reconnect. There were also many delays on the single issues of Rocket Girl, so it was good to blast a reminder.
We did a coloring book because it was simple and manageable. We did a very short campaign for the same reason. It also is doubles as a showcase for Amy’s black and white original artwork.
All of the Kickstarter rewards have shipped. So we’ll be offering the few extra copies we have on our web-store: rocketgirl.nyc
VM: What other projects are you working on now?
BM: Every month there’s a new issue of Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. We just celebrated the #25. And there’s plenty more coming.
VM: Thank you very much for speaking with me!
Rocket Girl Volume 2: Only The Good is available in stores now.
– By Jorge Solis