"How has JL8 been able to stay online for so long with copyrighted characters?" An interview with creator Yale Stewart
by Ilan Moskowitz
It's a wide-eyed mix between Calvin and Hobbes and the original Justice League that manages to highlight the ludicrous behaviors of both children and superhero norms while not losing the warmth of either. It's been published for 200+ weekly strips as a carefully plotted, creator-owned love letter to superhero mythology without the intervention of DC Comics/Warner Bros. who are currently working towards their own Justice League interpretations on film. Between his busy convention schedule, FPM caught JL8 creator Yale Stewart in his Savannah, Georgia headquarters for a Q & A.
FPM: How did you choose your cast for JL8? Is it inspired by a particular Justice League lineup?
YALE: Since the primary idea behind JL8 is that it's something of an homage to the ideas and ideals of the Silver Age--its goofiness, optimism, unapologetic comic-book-ness--it's only natural to use the original Justice League that was at the center of all that. The only exception I made was with Aquaman. Seeing as how Wonder Woman was the only female character in the original squad, I felt like Aquaman would be a fine choice to sub another female character for, and I decided to go with Power Girl. But aside from Karen (Power Girl), the line-up is the original Justice League line-up.
FPM: Did you choose to cast Power Girl because of the controversy surrounding her new costume at the time of the series' inception? Because your strip caught noticeable momentum online in forums because of that particular storyline.
YALE: I went with Power Girl just because she seemed to me like one of the most popular DC heroines who had ties to the JLA. I suppose I either disregarded or misremembered the fact that she's primarily JSA, but what's done is done.
I thought that there's just a lot to explore with Power Girl. I don't know a whole lot about her character, but I DO know how she tends to be perceived by the general public, which is a blatant fan-service sex-object type of character.
I decided to warp that in my head a bit, and thought that if people look at her like that, they may also associate her with simply being something of a "Barbie"--attractive, blonde, not much obvious substance. THAT particularly intrigued me, because (in the most succinct way possible) I've known a few girls like that in my lifetime and just because they might be rather aloof doesn't make them bad people. I thought it'd be interesting to explore the idea that just because a character is a "Barbie" or whatever, they can still be intriguing personalities. I haven't even come close to touching on that in JL8 yet, but it's definitely in the plan.
As for JL8 gaining some traction due to all that, I imagine what you're referring to is the New 52 costume storyline, in which Clark, Bruce and Hal create new costumes for themselves which look exactly like the New 52 redesigns. If I remember right, yeah, that storyline did bring a number of readers in. As for forums and whatnot, I wouldn't know. I don't tend to visit forums.
FPM: How has JL8 been able to stay online for so long with copyrighted characters? What is the legality of this and have you met with DC comics over your creation yet?
YALE: I have to imagine it's due to the fact that I'm not making any money on publishing the strip. It's simply fan art. That said, if DC decided they'd had enough and told me to stop, I'd do so. I'm not sure what the legality of it is, honestly. Having come of age with the rise of deviantART and whatnot, I've constantly been bombarded by fan art. To me, it's just something people do, and the publishers seem to be okay with it. I just took that example and ran with it, I suppose. Some people like drawing pin-ups. I prefer drawing comic strips. So my fan art is a comic strip.
FPM: It seems as though you enjoy writing Barry Allen's Flash character as a wide eyed, truly childlike member who juxtaposes with more 'mature' acting characters like your Batman. Is he the character that you enjoy writing most in this series?
YALE: I wouldn't say Barry is my "favorite." But then again, I wouldn't say any of them are my favorite. I've concluded that my "favorite" character tends to be whichever character I'm currently focusing on. So sure, there are times when Barry's my favorite, but also times when it'd be Diana or Bruce or Clark or so on. I hope that makes sense.
FPM: Is it presumptuous to say that you favor DC over Marvel comics? How would you describe the differences between the two?
YALE: I'm not sure if it'd be "presumptuous," necessarily, but it's certainly not accurate. I've always been and likely always will be more of a Marvel fan. As far as their differences, that can get rather lengthy, but the short version is that DC skews more towards myth and Marvel skews a bit more towards reality. At least when I was growing up, that's how it felt. The DC characters always felt very monolithic, very stagnant. I don't mean that disparagingly, but they were vessels with which you could convey timeless ideas about good versus evil. Superman isn't just Superman. He represents all kinds of greater concepts. Marvel, on the other hand, felt very malleable. Especially growing up reading the Clone Saga, Peter Parker was just that: he was Peter Parker. Other people could theoretically be Spider-Man. That said, Peter Parker was my favorite Spider-Man, but I hope you see where I'm going with this. DC is Mt. Olympus. Those gods will always be there. But Marvel was the real world. Presidents leave office, veterans pass away, athletes fade. It was precious because you weren't positive that these characters would always be with you. Obviously this is just how it felt to me, because Marvel HASN'T had many roster shake-ups, but I digress.
FPM: How far ahead are the storylines for your series conceptualized? Describe a bit of the process in creating these strips and what trajectory they are going in story-wise, please.
YALE: Regarding the projection of storylines, it's fairly easy for me to plot out ideas far into the future. A lot of that admittedly has to do with how slowly I'm able to tell actual storylines, though. If I were doing a 22-page monthly comic, I'd say I could probably plot the next year's worth of content. However, at the rate I go, I'd say I've got the next 3-5 years worth of content mapped out. I tend to conceptualize story ideas in broad plots, and then break those down into the individual strips. So it'd be like "okay, we meet them at school, get introduced to all the characters, maybe on the way home some of them save an old lady, turns out the world sees them as kids, they decide to show how grown-up they are by getting new costumes and it kind of backfires." That then turned into the first 50 strips.