Have you ever wondered if a monster has a soul? Can a gorgeous woman be a monster? What entrepreneurial tips can women learn from a psychopath? These questions and more may arise in the bone-chilling second volume of Joëlle Jones' murderous comic, Lady Killer.
Set in 1950s Florida, Lady Killer follows Josie Schuller, a successful entrepreneur ahead of her time. She manages her own business while raising two daughters with her equally successful husband, all while looking fabulous. Did I mention Josie’s business is highly skilled and specialized? She is a killer for hire, and she is really good at her job. Inspired by the glamorous images of 1950s advertising, Jones creates a drop dead gorgeous killer in Josie Schuler.
“I became obsessed with these illustrators from the time, and I started going to all these antique stores. I kept finding all these really sexist ads, and I loved them, and I started to collect them,” Jones tells BUST. “It was funny because in almost all of them it’s all a big joke, and the woman has to put on this big smile and get back to the laundry anyway. These scenes of family were always so kitsch and unrealistic and so forced that I felt like screaming, and I wondered, what were these people really up to behind the smile?”
Jones’ character Josie is the embodiment of that 1000-watt smile. She is both sweet and sinister, showing a softer side next to her husband and becoming a terrifyingly disturbed woman when alone with her prey. Josie can be classified as a psychopath; however, she has a job to do, and she does it damn well. The fact that the story is set in the 1950s makes it all the more fascinating. It was a time when sexual harassment was not only rampant, but was openly encouraged as a form of flattery.
Lady Killer does not shy away from portraying this type of open sexual harassment, which is depicted in the relationship between Josie and her husband’s red-nosed boss George, as well as most of the men Josie encounters — many of whom she's been hired to kill. Watching Josie murder insanely gross, Weinstien-esque men is a type a catharsis for the reader, though we would never actually want to murder any of these guys, or would ever want to meet Josie in real life. In Josie, Jones has created a devastatingly interesting, at times unlikable character — which is incredibly important as women continue to write, develop, and have a say in comics.
Lady Killer couldn’t come at a more appropriate time. Women are finally getting the opportunity to show their voice in every form of media, and it is important to write and create female characters who may be monsters but still have humanity. It is not that women who are psychopaths do not exist, but Jones brings forth Josie's humanity, which makes you want to continue reading.
In Lady Killer Volume 2, Josie’s hard work has been noticed by a larger group of hitmen, and they seek to recruit her. This promotion remains in the back of Josie’s mind as one of the key players of the story, Uncle Irving, a clean-up man, asks to work hand in hand with Josie. The difference in how the two execute their jobs is fascinating. Josie kills with finesse: She understands what is at stake with her job, and although she is a great killer, she is not the best cleaner. Irving convinces Josie to partner with her with one caveat: if she doesn't like his work, she can always kill him.
This work relationship sets up the tension for Lady Killer and raises the stakes. Irving is clearly someone not to be trusted. This becomes evident when Josie’s mother-in-law recognizes him from her own mysterious past. It is because of the tension between Josie and Irving that Josie starts to build a relationship with mother-in-law.
“I think they are both just terrible people; at the beginning they definitely just don’t like each other,” Jones says about Josie and her mother-in-law. “They both have really dark paths, and they both have done terrible things. I want there to it be an ongoing relationship between them.”
Lady Killer is a labor of love for Jones. She created the art and story for the comic. After working in comics over 10 years, Jones is a seasoned vet who has seen the changes in the writing room. At the beginning of her career, she was many times the only woman in the room, but today, it is very rare to see only one woman in the room.
As writing rooms continue to diversify, we are going to keep seeing more comics created and led by female artists from all backgrounds. The more women who are working in comics and creating content, the less women will be pigeonholed into working on just one genre. Jones expresses her need to create black comedy, saying, “I felt I had to write this story in order to make something that really makes me excited, a genre I am really excited about.”
Jones has created a woman with a killer wardrobe, hair, and personality. I would love to own all of Josie’s clothes, minus all the blood stains. But since I can’t own her clothes, owning her comic and reading about her killer life will have to do for now.
“She is glamorous in her day to day, she’s got the greatest clothes, her hair always looks good. I wanted to mess that up a lot," Jones says. "I like the idea of, yeah, she’s a terrible person. I like showing the bad qualities pretty people have.”
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Isabel Dieppa is a writer and actor. She is a part of the performance duo Of This World in Chicago, IL. Her interests lie in science, art, and history. Past writing includes interning for the Chicago Field Museum ECCO program, the national theater blog HOWLROUND, music reviews for UR Chicago, and in a former life was a beat reporter for the Indiana Daily Student. She loves archaeology, kitties, and dancing. The next big adventure may include an archaeological dig in Peru. Follow her on twitter @isabelsdieppa