JMW: Hello, this is Jean Marie Ward for BuzzyMag.com. With me today is webcomics artist, Jennie Breeden.
Welcome, Jennie. I’ve got to ask you, what are ‘The Devil’s Panties’?
Jennie Breeden: Satanic porn.
JMW: Oh, really?
Jennie Breeden: No, not satanic porn at all. It’s only as pornographic as my husband will let me make it. He knows my mom reads it, so there’s that. It’s a journal comic.
JMW: A journal comic you write and draw?
Jennie Breeden: I draw and I do the whole thing. My husband has been helping me with some of the Internet hosting stuff. I’m more artist-minded. I don’t know how the whole logic reality thing works, so he helps me out with that. Usually something happens in the life around me and people laugh and then I write it down and steal it. It’s more of a documentation than it is writing.
So every single day, I post a comic strip up online about conventions. The comics that have been going out recently is that my friends and I ran around and celebrated Holi, which is, you throw paint at each other and it’s dusty. It’s an Indian festival and you get covered and you breathe it in and it gets in your eyes. I said, oh my God, I’m breathing in cancer. Then I sat there and wrote that down and took a lot of pictures for reference. It’s a journal comic. It’s a slice of life every day.
I’ve been doing it since 2001. God, I don’t want to do the math. That makes it 12 years old. It’s old enough to go to school. I don’t quite know what grade that is yet. I think this week, I’ve hit over 4,000 comic strips that are up online that are free to read.
JMW: Oh my goodness. That answers one of my questions, how long have you been doing it? My other questions are, who are the major characters? You? Your husband? Anybody who’s fortunate or unfortunate enough to meet you?
Jennie Breeden: I used to do cartoons about the conventions and people bringing me weird things and the high jinks that we get up to. I had a couple bring me a basket of all of these different candies and funky things. They had a box of jellybeans, the Harry Potter jellybeans. There was a dirt flavor, a grass flavor, and we would do jellybean Russian roulette. I did a cartoon about it. Then I had some people bring me a huge basket of water and condoms. I was like, this seems to be escalating. I’d better stop documenting it, or a van’s going to pull out and three guys in ski masks are going to say, this is going to be awesome. You’re going to do a cartoon about this.
So I stopped doing cartoons about the interesting people I met at conventions. I try to keep it to people who have signed waivers.
JMW: They have to sign waivers? Oh boy.
Jennie Breenden: My mom suggested that. My mother said, you need your siblings and everyone you know and your loved ones to sign a waiver so that when they say, I didn’t like that you did that, or, you did a cartoon about that, I can say, it’s legal. I ended up getting a hold of a copy of a contract for a reality show, and it has all of these clauses like we can take your image and then change your personality and what you say and context. I went, wow, remind me never to go into a reality show. So I have them sign those waivers.
JMW: Yes, with I can use your image and we can change your personality.
Jennie Breeden: It’s a bit disconcerting to go up to somebody and say, honey, I love you. Could you sign this? My husband and I are still going over his contract.
JMW: Oh, yes. So he’s in the strip, you’re in the strip, your friends and family, everybody.
Why ‘The Devil’s Panties’? What is the origin of the name?
Jennie Breeden: Once upon a time, I went Savannah College of Art and Design and I majored in comic books. Whenever something funny would happen around the dorms, I would do a little cartoon about it. I had this folder full of little cartoons. About 2000-2001, I had a friend say, oh, you should put them up on the Internet. I said, okay, well, I guess I have to name it. I wanted to name it ‘Reality’s Victim.’ I got a whole list of different titles I could call it. My friend DJ said, well, I was going to have my band be called ‘The Devil’s Panties,’ but I don’t play an instrument, so you can have the title. So for one summer, I asked everyone who I came in contact with, what name do you like? They didn’t know what it was. I just said, what name do you like? To a person, every single person that I stopped, in line at grocery stores and the pizza delivery man, and everybody said, Devil’s Panties? I don’t know what that is, but I want to find out.
So I used that, and three years later, I had two girls run up to me at a convention and they said, oh, Devil’s Panties. I love that movie. I said, what? They said, you know, the Sandra Bullock movie. I said, what? Apparently, in ‘Miss Congeniality’ there is a scene where the little blonde cheerleader says, I wanted to get the red undies, but my mom wouldn’t let me. She said they were Satan’s panties.
Why I used ‘The Devil’s Panties’ is that it was a way to filter the readers. It was a way to lure them in, because if you say, oh, it’s a journal comic, that doesn’t sound funny or interesting, but if you say that it’s satanic porn, they’re like, I want to click on that one. If anybody could be the slightest bit offended by Jesus smoking pot with the Devil, which many or may not happen in the comic, then they’re not going to click on it. If they say, The Devil’s Panties, oh, that doesn’t good, then I don’t have – surprisingly, I’ve never, knock on wood, gotten an e-mail saying, oh, you’re so offensive. I’ve had two emails. One guy said, you know, I really liked it back when you were cute and innocent, and you’ve gotten kind of vulgar and just the female equivalent to ‘The Man Show’. A week later, I got another e-mail saying, you know, I really liked it back when you were angry and violent and hardcore, and now you’ve kind of dumbed down and you’ve gotten all soft. I was like, you guys need to talk to each other and decide what I am.
So it does seem that everybody has their own opinion on what’s hardcore and what’s not. My mom reads the comic. My friends are in the comic. I don’t do a comic about something that I’m not willing to say to someone’s face, because I am a non-confrontational pussy. So I make sure that whatever’s in the comic is something that I’m comfortable with, because the people who are in the comic know where I live.
JMW: That could be a problem.
Jennie Breeden: I had an aunt point out, she said that my comic isn’t mean. And I try not to be mean with the comic, because they can find me.
JMW: You’ve mentioned also on your website that you struggle with dyslexia, like the word balloons. How has being dyslexic influenced your art? Positively? Negatively?
Jennie Breeden: There’s a comic where two guys say, and I think this is xkcd, they say, hey, let’s have a contest and see who can have the most comments on a blog post. The one guy says, I did the ultimate blog post. It has everything in it. It has government, it’s got social frustrations, it has all of the different aspects of life and the universe, and I talk about everything. I’ve gotten 123 comments. The second guy says, I got 5 million comments. The guy says, what did you do a blog post about? He says, I put a spelling mistake in the title.
So what’s frustrating is that if there’s a spelling mistake in something online, the people are very polite. They say, hey, did you notice that there’s a spelling mistake? Unfortunately, you get 50 of those comments, hey, did you notice that there’s a spelling mistake? And it’s hard to stay polite.
JMW: After number 50.
Jennie Breeden: Yeah. About number eight, you start kind of losing your cool. Yes, I noticed. I posted a rant, and what set me off was that I was trying to spell the word ‘chivalrous.’ I spell phonetically. I sound it out. So if it sounds like an S-H, I’m screwed. The computer said, I have no idea what you’re talking about. So finally, I turned to my housemates and I said, hey guys, how do you spell ‘chivalrous’?’ I had one housemate turn to me and say, don’t you have a dictionary? How stupid can you be?
Jennie Breeden: So I posted commentary on that. It had to do with drowning and pig feces. I had a lot of people say I’m not the only one. Somebody else is frustrated by this. I had one person say, I’m so offended by your rant, I can’t read your comic anymore. And I thought about taking the rant down, but I had too many people say, thank you so much for saying that.
In second grade, they pulled me out of school and put me in the special kids’ class because I wasn’t reading. It took me a long time to learn how to read. Comics helped me immensely. My older brothers had comics. I wanted to know what happened in ElfQuest. Strongbow was in a cage, or maybe it was the lady with the black hair who was in a cage, and I wanted to know what was going on, so I forced myself to sound out the words and figure out what was going on.
They put me in Resource. They put me back into a normal school halfway through second grade, and during English class, I would go to the special kids’ class, Resource. In middle school to high school, I was in both the smart kids’ gifted class and the stupid kids’ class. I got to go to all the pizza parties. It was awesome. About that time, I realized, it’s not me. It’s the school system. Everyone has a different brain. Everyone thinks differently, and yet they try to use the same way of teaching for everybody, and so it doesn’t always work for everyone. I found that for me, it’s memory. It’s trying to memorize names and dates.
You ask me about a movie, I can tell you the whole story of the movie. I can’t tell you who’s in it, the names of the people in the movie, but I can tell you other movies they’ve been in. My friends have a lot fun. It’s a game, guess that actor. So I found that to try to function in the public school system for memorizing the things that they want to memorize, I found that if I figured out a story, I got a story to figure out. I still remember, Denmark. Mark on a den. I’ll figure the story out, and that’s a different way of approaching a problem.
So I found with the comic strips and the comic books, it’s more of, for me, writing a comic is that something funny happens. I have to figure out what’s funny about that situation, and then how do you communicate that, and how do you boil it down to its essence? So approaching that, it’s not necessarily, this is the conversation that happened, and that’s why it’s funny. It’s a bit more of figuring out the story behind it.
Unfortunately, for the spelling, you do a spell check, ‘role’ and ‘roll’ are both spelled the same way. I did a comic about meeting a male burlesque dancer, and said, oh, it’s so nice to meat you. M-E-A-T. It worked.
JMW: Yeah, I can imagine you got a lot of comments on that one, too.
Jennie Breeden: When I posted the rant, I had a bunch of people say, you have dyslexia? I thought the spelling mistakes were on purpose. I thought that was part of the joke. I was like, wow, you think I’m way smarter than I am. More talented. I’ve had a lot of people say, oh, I’ve had the same problems. That’s the thing that I adore about the comic is that I do these things that I think are weird or interesting or unique, and I have people all over the world saying, oh my God, that’s so me. That’s me and my sister. That’s me and my friends. I had one girl in Connecticut come up to me last year and say, I thought I was broken, and then I read your comic and I found that there’s other people just like me out there. It was awesome.
JMW: With that, I’d like to say thank you so much, Jennie.
Jean Marie Ward writes fiction, nonfiction and everything in between, including art books, novels (2008 Indie Book double-finalist With Nine You Get Vanyr), and short stories such as WSFA Small Press Award finalist “Lord Bai’s Discovery” and “Personal Demons” in the award-winning anthology Hellebore and Rue. Her videos include author interviews and tutorials.