Jamila Rowser is familiar to a lot of people in the comics community because she created Straight Outta Gotham, co-founded Geek Girl Brunch and launched the blog Girl Gone Geek. This fall though she’s doing something different, turning her attention to writing comics.
Wash Day is a comic drawn by Robyn Smith which was kickstarted earlier this year and is out now. In addition to an English language edition, there’s a Spanish language edition of the comic, Dia de Lavado, which is also available. Rowser is following that up with her second comic, Wobbledy 3000, which is drawn by Sabii Borno and is out this month as a digital comic from Black Josei Press.
The comics are very different, made with different artists and approaches, but both of them demonstrate Rowser’s skill at dialogue, her subtle talent of characterization and, through this, a very nuanced and lovely consideration of friendship. One book may be realistic and set in the here and now, and the other is science fantasy, but they are both an effort to tell slice of life narratives, and explore the lives of characters who are rarely explored in comics. Taken together, the comics show Rowser is very interested in finding ways to use the medium to convey and explore personal experience, to both break new ground and be a part of the medium and its traditions. I caught Rowser in between shows, and she was kind enough to answer a few questions.
I always like to ask people to start, how did you come to comics?
I have a few family members who read comics and I enjoy stuff that’s comics-adjacent so it was only a matter of time before I started reading them. It took me until college to really dive into comics and I haven’t looked back since.
You’ve been part of the geek community for a while now. At what point did you decide that you wanted to make comics?
I decided to write comics about three years ago. I was really inspired by josei manga and reading stories aimed at adult women. Reading these stories made me want to create my own comics for adult Black women.
Wash Day is a slice-of-life comic that pays tribute to the beauty and endurance of Black women and their hair. The story was written by myself, beautifully illustrated by Robyn Smith and script edited by J. A. Micheline. This comic is deliberately by and for black women.
This is a story that is simultaneously very ordinary, but also something that comics are never made about. As you were writing and crafting the comic, what was important to emphasize and think about because it is a slice of life character piece.
I find my own wash day routine very ritualistic, meditative and a form of self-care. So I wanted to have this reflected in Wash Day as well. My script editor J. A. Micheline (Jam) really helped me work on the pacing of the story. Knowing when to slow things down helped emphasize the importance that Kim puts on her hair.Who are Kim and Cookie?
Kim and Cookie are best friends and roommates who live together in an apartment in the Bronx. They’ve been friends since middle school and share a sister-like bond. Elements of their personality were taken from a few of my own friends.
I have to ask, did the characters’ names come from the Outkast skit?
YES! Glad you caught that. I love Outkast and the Kim & Cookie skit is one of my favorites. Their personalities aren’t based on the characters, but their names are.
It was wonderful working with Robyn and Jam. They really helped elevate Wash Day and I’m thrilled to have worked with such a strong team. Being new to comics, Jam helped me think about script writing and comics in a way I haven’t done before. Which, overall, I know has made me a better storyteller. Robyn is just fantastic. Her artwork added such beauty, sincerity and detail to Wash Day and brought my story to life in ways I didn’t imagine.
The comic book and Kickstarter process was long. Organization was key since I was juggling planning a Kickstarter and getting feedback to Robyn on the artwork. Planning and running a Kickstarter is like a part-time job, and since I have a full-time job already it was a lot of work. It took several months of planning before the campaign was ready to go.
I’m really excited about Wobbledy 3000! It was written by myself, illustrated by Sabii Borno and script edits by J. A. Micheline. I think it’s a mix between Insecure and The Fifth Element.
The comic book Wobbledy 3000 reminds us that twerkin’ ain’t easy. The story takes place on Earth 3000 and follows LaToya and her best friends Alma and Aonia as they head to the club. LaToya plans to twerk the night away with other humans, androids and aliens, but soon realizes that she is in over her head.
The comic will be released October 2018, preorders are open now on BlackJoseiPress.com.