ITGS: Yale Stewart, Creator of ‘JL8’

Welcome back to Inside the Grizzly Studio. We’ve been lucky enough to sit down with some great guests during our time together, and today is no different. I read a lot of comics, whether they are print, digital, web, cave inscriptions. So when the opportunity presented itself to talk with the creator of one of my favorite comic strips on the whole damned web I jumped at the chance. So in studio today we are lucky to sit down with Yale Stewart; the creator, writer, and artist of JL8.

Since I know some of our readers have a short attention span, let me direct you back to our Grizzly Spotlight on JL8 where I outlined why I love the strip and why you should too. The series follows the adventures of Clark, Bruce, Diana, Hal, Barry, J’onn and Karen as they face the daily danger of surviving elementary school. Yes, those are the names of the Justice League. Keep up with me here, readers.

So without further ado, let’s welcome Yale Stewart, as he steps Inside the Grizzly Studio.

Supascoot: Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us. Tell us a little bit about Yale Stewart.

Yale Stewart: Well, I’m not sure what there is to tell. I’m 24 years old. Born and raised in St. Louis, MO, but currently I live in Savannah, GA, where I attended college at the Savannah College of Art and Design. I majored in animation, but comics have always been my first love. Other than that…

First of all I want to commend you on your tribute to the people of Aurora, Colorado after the devastating events at the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. Your Batman memorial piece was very moving, and has inspired other artists to pitch in and share memorials of their own. Were there a lot of submissions, and any plan to gather these into something that may be used for charity?

Thanks. I certainly appreciate hearing that. Honestly, it was more of my own way of coping with the news than anything else, but I’m glad people seemed to take to it. As far as submissions, there have been some, but not an overwhelming amount. I think I’m going to donate the original art for the Colorado piece to a charity auction being held in September, but that’s as far as I know in terms of charity. I’d like to do more, but I’m not sure what the legalities are, since it’s still a picture of Batman.

What was the drive behind creating a strip with these characters?

I just thought of Clark as a boy pushing other kids on a swing set and sending them flying. Everything else just kind of fell into place. It’s not a terribly interesting origin story, I have to admit.

What first inspired you to set the team in an elementary school setting?

Well, as I said, the idea came from thinking of Clark as a child, so it just made sense that they would be in elementary school.

How did you determine which characters you were going to use? Obviously there is a core group of members, but were there any you debated about including over others?

Popularity. By which, I mean the characters that most people are most familiar with. It allows for easier storytelling, because you don’t need to develop the characters a whole lot at the beginning. As far as other characters being in debate, there weren’t really any. I pretty much knew which seven I wanted to use right off the bat.

I love the dynamics between the characters. Bruce and Clark have a clear and strong friendship, as do Hal and Barry, but I love the interactions between Clark and Diana as well. It’s apparent you’re a fan of the comics. Where did your fandom really start?

In my parents’ bedroom, which I guess sounds kind of weird. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I’m pretty sure my mom was ironing and all of a sudden she calls me into her room. This is when I’m very young, mind you. So I go in to see what she wants, and she tells me to go look at the TV. This tiny little black-and-white my folks used to have in their bedroom. I go over, and it’s the image of Batman on the rooftop, right as the lightning flashes behind him. The opening to the animated series. I can’t remember what episode it ended up being or anything else, but I remember just being dumbstruck by it. The rest is history.

There are a ton of great references to DC’s past and its clear you have an understanding of the characters. I personally love Mr. Schwartz and your use of Red Hood instead of Joker. Are there any other tidbits or Easter eggs you have plans to use in the series?

I can’t take credit for Red Hood. That was my buddy Andy Mai’s idea. All praise goes to him for that masterstroke. As for other Easter eggs and what have you, absolutely. Some of them are already in there. People just haven’t noticed them yet.

Your art style with these characters is unique, and obviously well received by fans. What are some of the comic artists/cartoonists who have inspired your particular style?

I’m influenced by just about anyone and everyone I read/look at. But as far as the artists I’ve probably emulated most in developing the look of Little League, I’d probably say Charles Schultz, Bill Watterson (both of which are pretty obvious), Akira Toriyama, Edmund Kiraz, Shane Glines, Jack Kirby, Marc Brown, Craig Thompson, Jeff Smith. The list is pretty endless. 

Karen (Power Girl) is an interesting (and welcome) addition to the classroom. What was it about Karen that made you want to add her to the roll call?

I just thought she’d be fun to play with, and I was right. I don’t know very much about Power Girl, personally, so I’ve decided to take an opportunity to kind of put my own personal stamp on her. I’m really excited about where she’s heading. It’ll be a while before people see the pay-off, but I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised.

While your strips are generally centered around the humor of seeing these well known characters deal with the trials and tribulations of adolescence, you also aren’t afraid to touch on the more serious aspects of these characters. A couple of strips that really spoke to me showcased the differences in Bruce and Clark’s parental situations. Was that a planned moment of the strip or did it evolve naturally through the story?

It was planned in that I knew it was something I wanted to touch on. HOW it happened was a natural evolution from the narrative as it was.

Is this theme of exploring the different characters upbringing one you plan to explore with some of the other characters as well? 

To an extent. I don’t want that to be ALL it is, because there are seven main characters. I feel like looking at how they all were raised could get a bit redundant. But I think it’s something I’ll touch on with each character to varying degrees.

What’s in store for the future of JL8? Has DC expressed any interest in the wonderful use of the characters? With DC’s Tiny Titans concluded, I feel like JL8 would fill up that all ages demographic perfectly. Have you had any thoughts or interests in that?

More strips, I suppose. I’ve certainly thought about doing JL8 for DC, if they were willing to have me. No news on that front, though.

Can you tell us a little bit about Gifted?

Gifted is just a semi-autobiographical story. Little bit funny, little bit dramatic, little bit romantic. The entire idea is pretty grand, though. Grand in terms of scale, I mean. That’s kind of why it’s on the back burner.

How does your work on Gifted differ from JL8?

Well, it’s certainly far more mature, for starters. Out of necessity, really. You can’t really tell a story about late high school adolescents without some sex, drugs, and rock & roll. At least, not in my case.

You’ve had a bit of a presence at various Comic-Cons lately, how has the reaction been from the fans?

It’s been pretty good, so far. It’s funny. A lot of people seem to really like what I have on display, but have absolutely no idea it’s from an on-going webcomic. It’s definitely been an audience-building exercise.

Any other projects or things to look out for regarding JL8 you wish to share with us?

Unfortunately, nothing I can think of, but I’ll certainly let people know as things develop!

Well, I want to thank you again for taking the time to talk with us. I am a huge fan of the strips and look forward to the new ones each week, as is everyone I show the strip too. Good job, sir.

That’s it for this edition of Inside the Grizzly Studio. For more ITGS you can click here, and for more JL8 click here. More work and everything else from Yale Stewart can be found on his Tumblr and his Deviant Art.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.