Today we are talking with Josh Ulrich, the man behind the awesome “Jackie Rose.”

Before jumping into “Jackie Rose” why don’t you explain first how you first got into making a webcomic.

  • JOSH: I was originally seeking syndication with newspapers when I first set out into the comics world. As time passed I decided to set up a website just as a place to share my work. As I learned more and more about webcomics I started liking the model even better. It was the Brudlos brothers from the now mostly extinct Alpha-Shade comic that really inspired me in the early days of my webcomics career. They used to do a podcast called Alpha-Rant all the time and they had a lot of good things to say about the web and work ethic. It was through Alpha-Rant that I discovered a podcast called the Daily Affirmation with Scott Kurtz and Kris Straub. These two men, along with Dave Kellet and Brad Guiger (“How to Make Webcomics”) had a very big impact on me as far as solidifying my desire to continue work on the web. Then my close friend and fellow comic creator Michael Regina was probably the biggest influence on me when it came to publishing online.

For anyone not familiar with your comic, can you give us a pitch of the premise?

  • JOSH: Jackie Rose is an action packed pulp fiction comic set in an alternate 1946. It’s “Indiana Jones” meets “James Bond” with a female lead.

So once you had everything in place, how did you actually come up with “Jackie Rose” (the comic, not the character):

  • JOSH: I had been wanting to do an adventure/retro action comic for a long time, but I had never come up with an idea I really cared for. Sometime last fall (2009) I decided to create a little side project I could work on along with Newman (another of Josh’s webcomics). I wanted it to have a female lead and just be fun. So that’s where Jackie Rose was spawned. I started liking this project more and more, but the original story I came up with wasn’t solid enough. So I started all over and now you have what we see today.

What didn’t make the original story strong and how exactly have you fixed that with the current incarnation?

  • JOSH: The original story didn’t have a solid foundation, any specific setting, or direction. I really just jumped in feet first with it because it was going to be just little short stories. So when I decided I wanted to make this thing bigger it needed to be grounded. That’s when I decided it would be set in an alternate 1946 and started laying an outline for the story. In the new version of the comic I jump right into the action, but also take time to introduce you to the characters and the world they are in. Since I know where I’m going with it I can make the story telling cleaner.

You mention you wanted a female lead, how come that was important to you?

  • JOSH: Well at the time I was working on Newman, like I mentioned before. What I was realizing was that I liked writing for the character, Emaline the most. I also noticed a lack of strong, believable female leads within the comic world. I think what makes Jackie stand out is that she is a genuine and flawed individual. I believe she is relate-able and has personality. I try to avoid stereotypes with her and just write a character similar to the way I would write a male lead. I just take all the female influences in my life and add those into her, and you get Jackie Rose.

That brings up two things I was going to ask… the first, how exactly would you describe Jackie’s flaws. Then related, are we going to see her go through a full character arc as the comic/books progress?

  • JOSH: Jackie is reckless, selfish, bitter, and terrible at relationships. She is head strong and focuses mostly on what she wants and doesn’t let others get in her way. This often involves putting her friends in danger. Yes, we will definitely see Jackie grow and evolve as a character throughout the series.

As a fan, I find that exciting. You’re artwork is good, but I think the most defining thing about “Jacki Rose” is the character of Jackie. You said you had all the chapters planned out, so does that mean you know how many chapters will be in book one? Also, how many books do you have planned?

  • JOSH: Five to six for book one. As for how many books, there is no specific numbers planned out at this time. I have a lot of ideas for Jackie Rose and I’m already cooking up the premise for book 2. I expect to be working on Jackie Rose for quite a while, Lord willing.

Well in terms of the structure for Book I, how did you plan it out? Did you just know key scenes and worked around them? Did you use a tradition three act structure, or what?

  • JOSH: The former of those two. I figured out the key points throughout the book and formed chapters around them.

And how are you writing book 1?

  • JOSH: I breakdown each individual chapter (these often change multiple times before I get to them). As for actually writing pages, I some times work about 4-5 pages ahead and other times I go page by page. Currently I’m trying to go ahead and start writing out full scripts before I tackle drawing the pages. We’ll see how that works out.

Have there been any kind of changes from your original plan?

  • JOSH: There have been quite a few changes, yes. The overall destination for the book has stayed the same, but the way we’re getting there has evolved quite a bit. For the better I think. I’m a firm believer that your first idea is probably not your best idea. So I’m not afraid to make adjustments as I realize I can do something better.

One of the things I noticed early on is that you give Jackie a day job, why do that?

  • JOSH: Most of us in life have a passion and desire to do something grand. Yet, most of us in life also have to work some stupid, crappy job to pay our bills until one day in the future when we might get to do what we love for a living. Jackie is no different. Also it’s humorous.

As it’s progressed we keep seeing more and more hints about the backstory and the overall world. How much work ahead of time did it take to figure out all the history of this alternate world?

  • JOSH: Quite a bit actually. I’ve toiled over the history of this story a lot because it’s critical to the storyline. I gathered up enough of the information I needed to get rolling and I’ve since then finessed it to the point that I’m able to really expound upon it when need be.

How do you balance weaving in all that background info without it taking away or distracting from Jackie’s story?

  • JOSH: The key is feeding that information only when it’s needed. As the story progresses more and more of the backstory will be revealed. I struggled with this heavily in Newman where I had a lot of flashback sequences. That became very difficult to manage and I learned a lot from that. The focus for Jackie Rose is to be more straight forward storytelling. I drop seeds and hints all along the way that readers can choose to pick up on or not, either way the mysteries will be revealed rather directly when the time comes.

How does setting the story in the 40’s better help you tell the story you want to tell?

  • JOSH: To me the 40’s feels like a more raw and dangerous time. There are no lazer guided missiles or high tech computers. It’s a time that requires more skill then technological know how. I’ve always been a big geek for WWII stuff and especially aviation. So the 40’s was the ideal setting for me to use.

Book one of Jackie Rose is now on sale and you can snag a copy here!

Previously Interviewed in “Writing Webcomics”