Jamal Igle has been a creative force in comics for over twenty years. His first work in comics was Green Lantern #52 published in April of 1994. Since then he has worked on some of the biggest names in comics, with art credits on Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Wolverine, Daredevil, and Firestorm. He is most well known for his work on Supergirl with writer Sterling Gates, where the two shared a two-year run on that helped breathe new life into the character and helped to inspire the CBS/CW show. He is currently working on his creator-owned title Molly Danger from Action Lab and Black from Black Mask with Kwanza Osajyefo and Tim Smith III.I sat down with Jamal at
I sat down with Jamal at Emerald City Comic Con to ask him a few questions about one of my favorite runs in comics, and his current projects.
When you came on to Supergirl, she was a bit of a mess.
Yeah, I wasn’t really a fan, actually. Cause I had seen the book when Jeph Loeb and Mike Turner was doing it. It just got kinda, progressively less. So I hadn’t really been reading it in awhile, and I’d been working on Tangent Superman’s Reign at the time when Matt Idleson called me and asked me if I wanted to do the book, and at first, I was a little bit hesitant. But after the first meeting I had with Matt, he kind of, not convinced me, but he was like “here’s what I want to do, and here’s what I don’t want to do. Take a look at this script,” which was issue #34, which was Sterling’s (Gates) first Supergirl story. And I read the script, and I had met Sterling once at New York Comic Con, maybe like the year before, and he hadn’t really done that much in terms of comic books at that point. And I was surprised at how good the script was. I was like, “Okay, I definitely have to be a part of this.” And the fact of the matter is, with Sterling, like our opinions on who Kara is as a character just synced up perfectly. He’s a good friend, and we still talk as often as we can. I love him to death, he’s a great guy, and a wonderful creator, and working on Supergirl, it was a thrill. It really was.
You came upon a bit of controversy when you introduced bike shorts to the character.
You know what? It was funny how that worked out, because I did it and nobody noticed. Or at least nobody said anything about it, until HeroesCon that year, a woman stood up in the audience and said, “Thank you for putting shorts on Supergirl.” So then, Matt Brady, who used to be at Newsarama, asked me if he could do a quick interview and then it blew up. It turned into a thing. And still to this day, it boggles my mind, because it doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that should be controversial at all. It just made natural sense to me to not have her in like little panties underneath the skirt. It was actually really funny. They would never let me do it, but I actually came up with an idea for a Supergirl story, where these guys going around Metropolis, taking photos of her and made a website called SupergirlUpshots.com. So she had to track them down to get them to stop doing it. But that’s like one of those things DC would never, ever let me get away with. But then I remember that John Byrne had done something very similar with She-Hulk. There’s an issue of the Fantastic Four where paparazzi had like taken photos of her with a telephoto lens, sunbathing topless on top of the Baxter Building. So she had to go to this porn producer’s office and threaten them, and they’re like, “We’ll make her not green, so they can’t tell it’s you.” But you know, it’s just one of those things where it seems like, my thought for Kara, especially at the time, was to portray her as this sixteen-year-old girl. She’s a sixteen-year-old girl, she’s a superhero, lord knows before we did the book, her costume kept getting skimpier and skimpier and skimpier with each successive artist. It made me uncomfortable. To me the “S” means something. There’s a lineage to being Supergirl that needs to be respected. And I still feel that way. It’s one of the reasons I love what Steve Orlando is doing on the current series. He gets it, he respects her.
Supergirl’s become quite a big deal in the last couple of years. How did it feel when you watched the pilot episode of the TV show where your name was dropped?
I can say this now, because he won’t get in trouble, but a friend of mine leaked the pilot to me during the upfronts, so I knew. Like, I was watching it on my computer and they go, “There’s a fire on the corner of Gates and Igle,” and we’re like “WHAT?! Yeah, I did hear that, right?” Because I knew that they were taking what we were doing and making it part of the series, but it was great to get that kind of acknowledgment. I nerd out, just like anybody else.
On that note, they have done a lot on the show with what you and Sterling did on the book. They had your Reactron design, and their Lucy Lane is straight from the pages of your work on the comic. How did that feel?
It’s a little overwhelming and gratifying, because there were some corners of comics fandom that were against what we were trying to do with the book and with Kara as a character. We were trying to flesh her out, for the lack of a better word, make her more human than they had been portraying her. Before Sterling came on as a writer, they were writing her as what a 40-year-old guy’s idea of an edgy teenage old girl is supposed to be like, instead of trying to write a well-rounded, fleshed-out character. It’s great to see that stuff continue into the series. I love the series, I watch it every week. One of the proudest moments for me, as a friend was to see Sterling’s name in the credits. I was so happy when he told me he was doing it. Cause I know that was something that he had wanted to do. I was thrilled for him as his friend.
My last Supergirl question, what is the thing you’re most proud of in your run on the book?
Oh god. I mean, there’s a lot of stuff that I’m proud of just from a visual standpoint of “I can’t believe I pulled this off.” Like the opening sequence (of Supergirl #45), where the Kryptonians are fighting Squad K, in front of the Eiffel Tower and the French Army. That was like four days of me just sweating over everything, just trying to get that double page spread done. But, I think my two favorite issues, for different reasons, issue #36 where Zor-El dies and the Guilding Day issue (Supergirl #43). Because it’s something that we both talked about; Sterling had lost his father, and I at that point had just lost an uncle who was very close to me. And I had a friend of mine who had been murdered when I was 18, and he was my best friend in the world. We were able to pour those emotions into those stories. But it’s really hard for me to pinpoint those two issues as being my favorites, because that entire run, working with Sterling, just meant something more to me. It’s the entire reason that I didn’t stay on after he left the book. As soon as I found out he was leaving, I was like, “You know what? It’s time for me to go too.”
I do want to ask one question about Black, the book you’re working on right now. Black is really poignant, and I would like to hear your thoughts on why it matters so much right now.
I think it’s super important. In general, we’re in a time in our society where people of different races and creeds and sexual orientations and gender, including non-binary gender, trying to express our voices and being heard. The story that we’re telling with Black, it’s a superhero story, but the implications are so much bigger. We’re talking about imprisonment, we’re talking about slavery and child slavery, we’re really getting into, in the next issue, the whole thing. And you’re not just seeing one type of black person being represented; there’s an entire cacophony of different agendas and personalities, orientations and everything. We’re attempting to hit as many notes as we can; I don’t know if we’re succeeding one hundred percent. That’s for other people to judge, but I think we’re doing good work.
Specifically, one panel in the first issue of Black, is the one I go back to when I tell people how good you are at conveying emotions in your faces. There’s that panel with the doctor, biting her lip, and I’m like “That is perfect.”
No, Doctor Q, that’s one of my favorites. I needed that little extra, cause I could have just had her rolling her eyes, just like “Ugh” but I wanted more. Like “I get this all the time. Oh my god.”