Comic book artist and writer Joëlle Jones draws some of the most beautiful women you will see on a seven-panel page. In her world, women are strong, sexual, vulnerable, and absolutely stunning. But beyond their looks, Jones has an amazing way of portraying women in complex ways, showcasing their dirty, clumsy, human mistakes.
In her most recent project, Jones puts her talent, wit, and sharp pen to one of the most famous felines, Catwoman. A feat that shouldn’t be undermined—she is the first woman to both write and draw a Catwoman series, though others have written for the series before.
Jones came to prominence after working with a variety of comics and helming her own very successful comic, Lady Killer. A talented writer and artist, Jones was plucked from her 2016 class at the DC Comics talent development workshop.
In the earlier issues of Batman, Jones' work stood out. Not just because of her striking artwork—I love her design so much I want to get married in Selina Kyle’s wedding dress—but because of her ideas. As King was writing Batman, he listened to Jones' input about Catwoman's character. One of those important ideas was keeping Catwoman true to herself.
Jones has worked as an artist for many DC Comics titles, including Supergirl: Being Super, Superman #2, He-Man And The Masters of the Universe #19. She has also drawn the caped crusader himself, Batman. She collaborated with one of DC Comics heavyweights, Batman and Mister Miracle writer Tom King, working as an artist for Batman #33, #34, #39, #40, #44 and #50—the wedding issue. In the current Batman story arc, Catwoman and Batman are engaged to be married.
“I think what’s important about Catwoman in this relationship is that she’s not losing who she is, and that comes actually from Joelle. That was Joelle’s idea,” King told BUST at Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2).
Jones’ Batman work sets up and showcases the kind of Catwoman she would create for her own series. I won't give you any spoilers, but in issue #1 of Catwoman, Jones has created some pages that will legitimately make you cry.
This is because Jones' artwork is grounded in reality. Jones says she doesn’t have the same background as other artist-writers. Her focus is on capturing the emotion. She accomplishes this not just in the dialogue, but in the art. “It’s definitely hard to work on stuff that other writers have done that I've admired quite a bit,” Jones told BUST at C2E2. “I’m not as strong writer as they certainly were. I don’t have the history and the background that they do. I sort of fell into it, just because I wanted to draw what I wanted to draw. So I think for me, an important element will be the art being a really strong component to the [comic]. And for them to work seamlessly together.”
Jones takes the research that she does for a character very seriously. For Lady Killer, Jones took krav maga, a military defense martial art, in order to better understand and draw the movements. For Catwoman, she learned aerial dancing. In grounding her artwork in this kind of research, Jones is able “to highlight aspects of her [Catwoman's] character that can be wordless, especially in her physicality and her fighting and jumping up rooftops," she explains. "I want to bring a lot more action and excitement and fun to it.”
Jones does bring the fun and the sexy—as well as one of the most terrifying villains I have ever seen in a comic book. The horrifying Mrs. Creel is a villain so terrifying and unhinged she makes the Joker seem like a walk in the park.
Writing complicated, messy, horrible people is Jones' forte. She says she loves writing awful women, a love that shows in all of the women in the comic, especially Mrs. Creel and Catwoman. While Mrs. Creel seems like a person who loves power and is truly evil, Catwoman is more complicated. She is, after all, one of the first true female anti-heroes in comics. This is something that Jones does not tamper down in her series.
What makes Catwoman special is that she is not purely good or idealistic like Wonder Woman. “I feel like the fun in her is that she’s conflicted and she’s horrible and redeemable at the same time. She’s a horrible person, she steals shit all the time and is unapologetic about it. And I think on the flip side of that, there is something to be said that she’s also an orphan,” Jones explains. Unlike Batman—who when he lost his parents decided to seclude himself, spend billions of dollars on military-grade equipment, dress like a bat, and go out to catch bad guys—Selina Kyle chooses another path.
She’s “sort of like the anti-Batman, but she does have this desire in her to want to better the society around her,” Jones explains.
Catwoman #1 was released on July 4, and Catwoman #2 will be released on August 8. If any reader wants to jump in and learn more about this cat-astic adventure, you don’t need to read a bunch of other comics. It is highly recommended you read Batman #50 before reading Catwoman #1 though, because that issue—which focuses solely on Batman and Catwoman— sets up Catwoman’s emotional state.
Catwoman is fun, and it is really empowering to see a woman take the wheel on both the artwork and the writing of such an iconic character. “My goal is just to entertain myself and have a good time. Because I really think that shows in the artwork: when an artist is having fun, it really comes across on the page. So I don’t ever want to get into a territory where I’m having to do it,” Jones says.
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Isabel Sophia Dieppa is a writer and actor. She is a part of the performance duo Of This World in Chicago, IL. Dieppa is the recipient of a 2018 Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting grant, which she has used to report on property rights in Puerto Rico. 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.