SoVo expands weekly offering of cartoons with new additions drawing humor from daily life
By Christopher Seely
April 30, 2004
For gay cartoonists Paige Braddock and Mike Derry, it’s easy to find humor in the ordinary, everyday lives of gay men and lesbians. Braddock, the creator of “Jane’s World,” and Derry, who illustrates “Troy,” have successful comic strips in print publications across the U.S. and on the Web. “Jane” and “Troy” are now featured every other week in Southern Voice, alternating weeks with the newspaper’s veteran strips, “Dykes to Watch Out For” and “Chelsea Boys.”
Braddock says “Jane” is a “slice of life with a slight surreal component,” noting the appearance of space aliens in the strip. “There is always some mundane detail of daily life that gets blown way out of proportion,” Braddock says. “It’s a little more slapstick from real life … reality-based but not so grounded that unexpected things can’t happen.” Much of the activity in “Jane” takes place in diners or coffee shops among a group of lesbian friends and acquaintances. “If it were a sitcom, it would be like ‘Seinfeld’ meets ‘Ellen,’” she says.
In the world according to “Troy,” Derry’s strip chronicles the lives of gay men living in West Hollywood. “Everything is kind of based on something that happened or a story that somebody told me … either parts of my personality or friends of mine,” says Derry, who lives in Los Angeles. But most of the storylines in “Troy” are embellished, he says. “You have to make some of it up because, well, sometimes things just aren’t funny enough,” he says.
To learn more about the creators of “Jane” and “Troy,” viewers need look no further than the semi-autobiographical comic strip worlds construed by Braddock and Derry.
Braddock and her heroine Jane share a similar employment history. Both worked previously in the newspaper industry. Braddock graduated from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts specializing in illustration. She worked a short stint at USA Today and for several small papers in the South. But it wasn’t until she started as a writer and illustrator at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 1991 that she conceived “Jane” based on old children’s readers about Dick, Spot and Jane, she says. “I knew I wanted to be a cartoonist, so I ended up working in journalism for 10 years,” she says. “I wanted Jane to be an ‘everywoman’ representative of every woman,” Braddock says. “But what happens is, you write what you know. So she ended up being the gay everywoman.”
After an eight-year stint at the AJC — all the while working on “Jane” — Braddock got “burned out on journalism” and relocated to northern California to take a job as the creative director for Charles Schultz’s studio, home of the “Peanuts.” “Jane” veers from Braddock’s life by beginning when Jane is terminated from her journalism job and starts work at a quickie mart. “She looks at it as a great opportunity to work on the novel she needs to write, but she never gets anything done,” Braddock says.
The other glaring detail of Braddock’s real life manifested in “Jane” is Jane’s villainous ex-girlfriend Chelle, a central character named after one of Braddock’s ex-girlfriends “that pissed me off,” Braddock says. “I wrote her into the script as a total bitch,” she says. But since Chelle was introduced to the strip, Braddock says she and the real-life ex have mended fences. “She loves the fact that she has a cartoon character named after her,” she says.
Two of the main characters in “Troy” carry pieces of Derry, he says. “At first, I identified most with Troy,” Derry says. “It was sort of me, but I was never that naïve, either. I had to make him a little more innocent.” In the strip, Troy is an aspiring actor from Cincinnati, working at a themed restaurant called “Planet Hero.” Troy is looking for a decent, stable, cute boyfriend on the mean streets of West Hollywood.
Derry, too, “escaped” the Midwest (from Chicago) and moved to L.A., working as an aspiring actor in West Hollywood. But he also bears resemblance to Troy’s roommate Rigo, he says. Derry describes Rigo as a “handsome, hunky, self-assured” bartender who gets basically anyone he wants. “I identified a lot with Rigo, actually,” Derry says. “I had been bartending for about five years at that point.” “Troy” was conceived in L.A., after Derry had a chance meeting at a photo shoot, where he made connections with people in search of an illustrator for BENT Magazine, he says. In 1998, “Troy” debuted in BENT, and has since appeared in publications throughout the U.S., U.K., Canada and on the Web at 365Gay.com.
With a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in illustration from Northern Illinois University, Derry also works fulltime as a Web animator. He creates e-learning modules in which computer-generated characters appear on screen to instruct users, he says. “It’s all very cute and corporate,” Derry says. “Sometimes I bang my head against a wall because it is not so creative.”
But all that could change by the end of the year. The production company Envision Entertainment approached Derry about developing “Troy” into a movie. Derry reports that he just finished the screenplay. “I’m really jazzed about it,” he says. “I used a couple story lines from comics but focused mainly on the back story. It’s more like ‘American Pie’ but really gay … sex and raunchiness.” If all goes well with production, Envision Entertainment also wants to develop Troy into a television series, and Derry will be able to leave his corporate job and work on “Troy” full time.
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