Artist Jim Rugg Brings His New Street Angel to Austin
He’s the man with the golden pen; she’s the deadliest girl alive
By Wayne Alan Brenner,
9:00AM, Tue. Jul. 25, 2017
Unless you typically witness some 12-year-old homeless girl with or without a nail-studded baseball bat taking on violent street gangs and assorted criminals and, even, ninjas all mano-a-mano – and winning – then you probably haven’t seen anything like Street Angel before.
But maybe you know about comic-book artist Jim Rugg’s Afrodisiac, the baddest brother in a blaxploitation universe, a sort of High Funky Seventies combination of Dolomite, Sweet Sweetback, and John Shaft? Who once destroyed Dracula with a single, brain-evacuating power punch?
Or maybe you’re familiar with Rugg’s ever-increasing collection of notebooks, wherein the artist goes all nigh-on photorealistic with, hell, with anything in the world – pop-culture icons, presidential losers, a pair of skateboard trucks – and makes those subjects pop from the lined page via nothing more than stunning skill and a fistful of ballpoint pens?
But, yes, this post is to tell you about that Street Angel – the unstoppable hellion named Jesse Sanchez, created by Rugg and Brian Maruca and featured in a series of comics from Slave Labor Graphics in 2004 – and about Rugg coming to Austin Books & Comics this weekend – Saturday, July 29, at 4pm – to present the new graphic novel, Street Angel Gang.
What should a person know before they show up to this event? Just that it’s happening, right? But if you’re going – or if you’re curious about the comic or Rugg himself – then maybe you wanna know how the artist answered the three questions we recently asked him:
Austin Chronicle: What originally inspired you to create the Street Angel character?
Jim Rugg: Brian and I created Street Angel in the early 2000s. The inspiration was what I wasn't seeing at the comic book store. I was growing disenchanted with what I saw on new comics day at the local shop. So we set out to make a comic that we wanted to see and read. This meant: a different hero. (I was pretty tired of the old men like Bruce Wayne and Peter Parker, morose complainers who seemed like they should have evolved by then. I think this combined with my own adulthood and recognizing how unlikable these guys were.) It also meant FUN! Superhero comics were still living in the shadow of Alan Moore and Frank Miller's somber Eighties superheroes. I wanted comics with a hero that was dynamic and exciting and fun! I also hated the trend at the time of writing for the trade. That meant single issues were often one part of a long, multi-month storyline that was hard to keep track of and often failed to deliver a satisfying story as a single comic book. So: fun, new hero, contained stories. The result was Street Angel. Often it was the opposite of the other stuff on the stands – instead of an old man we had a young girl, instead of "serious" epics, we made standalone stories. If it says Street Angel on the cover, it's a good starting point!
AC: Is there a movie in the works somewhere, or is that only an internet rumor?
JR: People have been talking about movies, TV shows, and cartoons since we started this. I'll believe it when I see it, but there's certainly a lot of interest in terms of phone calls, emails, and meetings. I'm interested in that sort of thing because it can make the comic more successful and make my life easier to manage in terms of focusing on making the comics. But I'm not a filmmaker, so I'm pretty happy making comics and that tends to be where I focus. It's one of the great characteristics of comics – Brian and I can make them and tell whatever stories we want.
AC: What's the best thing about living in a city – as opposed to some rural or suburban area?
JR: I grew up in a rural area. The city was always magical to me. Whether it was my redneck family and church warning against the evils of the big city or it was Marvel Comics' depiction of a city full of extraordinary heroes – the city always had an allure for me. I like people, so living in a city is a way for me to meet different people, to experience different stories, and to see a different world than the one in which I grew up. In a way, it's the best of both worlds for me – because I still visit my family frequently and I actually love the quiet and nature of the mountains and farmland where I was raised. I probably wouldn't like cities as much if I didn’t have that contrast. The energy of cities can be infectious and inspiring. The architecture and scale of cities always amazes me.