INTERVIEW: Chatting with BRE INDIGO about JAMIE
In the webcomic Jamie, which is available to read right now on Tapas, the eponymous teenager meets a cute guy at a wedding and soon finds himself falling for him! Will romance ensue?
Prism got the opportunity to catch up with creator Bre Indigo over email to ask about the genesis of the comic, to see what themes were especially important to include, and to learn more about managing a successful Patreon page!
AVERY KAPLAN: What was the genesis of Jamie?
BRE INDIGO: As embarrassing as this might sound, it all started off from a fan fiction that my three friends and I wrote in middle school! Separately we created Ginger, Vicky, Aiden and Jamie, who all had very different names and appearances from what you know today. Ginger was the incautious teacher, Vicky was the enigmatic star student, Jamie was still our infatuated, good-willed boy and lastly, Aiden was unfriendly, and withdrawn with a dark twisted past. It was very dramatic! After that I came up with the idea to put them in a real-life Alternate Universe with new names and drew a few out-of-context scenes to show my friends. This inspired one of them to bounce off that concept for NaNoWriMo. They completed a full 70 pages of the story at the age of like…13! We were all so impressed and begged for them to let us read. So of course, they printed out like 3 copies (which totally burned through all our print credits for the year) and passed it around our other friends who left enthusiastic and dramatic notes in the margins. We were absolutely losing our minds at the exaggerated high school drama on the pages… it was so wild y’all, but we had a great time.
KAPLAN: The version currently available to read on Tapas is actually the second version of Jamie. Can you tell us about the journey of the comic so far?
INDIGO: When I was in high school the excitement for the NaNo version of Jamie had run its course for our friend group and we were on to other stories and ideas. I was primarily focused on developing my art and doing private commissions on DeviantArt for some pocket money. But, around my junior year I decided it would be a fun to revisit Jamie and adapt it into a webcomic. My friend who wrote the NaNo version came on as the writer and was on board for a couple chapters, but eventually had to prioritize other things in their life. With that, the story was left entirely in my hands, and I had a lot to learn as a writer and storyteller. But with the help of my wife, Tami, we ended up resetting nearly everything, re-wrote and re-drew the webcomic. So that brings us up to present day! It’s been a doozy, but I’m happy with what we’ve accomplished so far.
KAPLAN: The current version of Jamie has caught up with the original and is on hiatus. Can you give us any hints about what’s up next for the comic?
INDIGO: Because I’m not contracted to meet any deadlines other than those I impose on myself, I’ve been able to develop the story and art as I grow as a person and artist. In that way, it’s like a living representation of my understanding of the world and the interactions I have with readers. So, the story has gone through a lot of changes even as I write it – sometimes the characters even hijack the story and write it themself and then I’m like “well how do I work with this?!” But all that to say the current plan is to take a step into the life of each of the kids we’ve met so far (and a few we haven’t) in order to illustrate the complex dynamics that make up human relationships as best as I can. I guess that’s kind of the point of every story, but I’d just like to make it clear that the focus wont only be on Jamie and Aiden with the rest of the cast supporting their goals. Instead, the story will feel more like a snapshot of the entire cast in a year of school where the status quo gets shaken up, and while Jamie might have been the crux of that change, even he has to learn that he isn’t the main character in everyone’s story.
KAPLAN: Jamie covers lots of thematic ground, including issues of identity, heartbreak, and peer pressure. Was there any topic that you found particularly challenging and/or particularly rewarding to include?
INDIGO: I can only really write from personal experience and what I imagine others are going through, so these themes come pretty naturally for me, and I enjoy digesting them. But I can share some other challenges I face on the regular when writing. For example, I really hope that I’m writing the characters in a way that is relatable to teens today and hopefully in a way that is timeless. I’m speaking as an American of course, but our culture has changed so drastically even since 2011 when I was in high school, so I fear by the time I finish with the story there will have been such a large cultural shift that nothing I write will be relevant or relatable besides the setting… but with the way things have been for teens in the last two years, who knows, maybe that won’t be the same either.
There is also the challenge that comes with posting a slow burn comic, one page a week. For some readers who’re used to the pacing of single-issue comics, or graphic novels, and even some readers who are used to faster webcomics, it can be challenging because the cliffhangers come more often, and the payoff can be less rewarding. I don’t mind it for the most part because posting Jamie the way I do adds a layer of interaction from readers in the comments you don’t get with a book on a shelf. But with every positive prediction of the plots trajectory there are those who assume the worst and drop the story like a hot potato. I guess this is something that can happen in all media that has some form of cliffhanger but with the double-edged sword that is the comment section, webcomics are unique in my opinion. Sometimes I just wanna spoil it all so that some readers can relax and I can prove their negative presumptions wrong, but I choose to live for the readers that share their predictions but trust my vision at the same time.
A rewarding aspect of making Jamie is when I’m writing, and l come to conclusions through the characters that I might not have considered consciously in my own life. It has created a beneficial feedback loop that only gets better when I read comments from readers that expresses how the characters have helped them in one way or another as well. I love it when readers can relate to my story because it means that they are relating to me, so it makes me feel less alone in what I went through, and I hope the readers feel the same.
I also love to think that in some way I am encouraging others to get up and make their own stories and share their voices with those that will hear them. When the world can feel so so heavy, I am happy that I can contribute even a little light in the only way I know how.
KAPLAN: Those who wish to support you directly can pledge to your Patreon, which grants early access to pages, behind-the-scenes content, and (with higher tiers) even stickers and prints. What goes into managing a successful Patreon page in addition to your more “straightforward” cartooning work?
INDIGO: So, I am in no way a pro at Patreon, but what’s important is that you start somewhere. When it comes to structuring your tiers, I would suggest that you don’t bite off more than you can chew, and keep your priorities in check. For me, those priorities are: Keep the comic updating, and treat those that respect me and choose to support my art with that same respect.
Through the years I’ve tried multiple tier structures, and because I was honest and transparent with supporters through my thought process, they encouraged me to experiment with solutions that make us both happy.
Right now, the structure of my tiers are as you mentioned in the question. But I’d like to explain why each tier exist. It may seem just like “more money = more stuff” for the supporter, but the tiers truly appeal to different types of readers. There is a misconception that patrons will always buy into the highest tier if the perks are good enough or if the patron has enough disposable income, but it’s important to remember that the folks that want to find your patron page all have one thing in common, and that’s the interest in investing in your success.
1. A casual tier for the person who just wants to drop a tip for what they already get for free.
2. A tier for those that would like to read ahead in the comic. I like to publish pages for this tier as I complete them. This not only gives more incentive to pledge vs reading publicly, but also gives me a lot of time for patron readers to catch mistakes I might have made, which feeds into the bond between us.
3. A tier for those who like to dive deeper and understand the decisions I make to create the comic. These supporters might simply like the world building, and the exclusivity of the tier, or they might be aspiring creators themselves that need a little guidance or validation in their own creative process. and
4. A tier for those who want a personal touch or souvenir of their contribution. For me, these used to be personal commissions I’d draw on stream for individual supporters, but I’ve shifted focus towards bi-monthly postcard prints and stickers that I send to patrons instead.
I’ll wrap up with some sentimental thoughts.
1. Trust in what your supporters see in you work and become your own loudest cheerleader.
2. Try not to fret when someone cancels a pledge. Huge chance is they just need to prioritize their necessities or want to support someone else for a little bit because they have a specific art budget. I used to get so upset because I thought I’d done something wrong, but that’s almost never the case, and you could never know unless they sent you a PM notifying you of an issue.
3. Your audience will find you, but that doesn’t always mean they will find you in every environment. Try not to keep all your eggs in one basket but at the same time be mindful of burn out. It’s a balancing act, but everyone’s final form looks a little different. Good luck!
KAPLAN: Were there any comics (or any other kind of stories) that have been inspirational to you as you’ve been working on Jamie?
INDIGO: It would be impossible to mention every single thing that inspires me, but I will mention that the comics that gave me the final push to “JUST DO IT” were Mickey Quinn‘s “Best Friends Forever” and Nicole Mannino‘s “This is Not Fiction!”. But during this journey I’ve met so many creators and felt love for their stories through them. So, in a way I’m more inspired by what inspires other artists and how that effects their work, rather than just the outcome of that inspiration. I try to capture the abstract interactions between human beings in day-to-day life because how we each interpret our realities effects our creations.
KAPLAN: Can you tell us a little bit about your two upcoming graphic novel projects, The Dog Knight and Northranger?
INDIGO: Northranger is a young adult romance thriller! It’s written by Rey Terciero and I’m illustrating it. The story follows Cade Muñoz, a 16-year-old who loses himself in horror movies to escape reality until the summer he’s forced to confront the feelings he’s hiding from, both romantic and familial. I can’t wait for y’all to check this out because visually it is totally different than what readers are used to with Jamie, or Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy since I’m working in monochrome and with darker themes.
The Dog Knight is a three-book graphic novel series about self-love and friendship written by Jeremy Whitley and illustrated by me. It follows Frankie Bryant, a non-binary kid who must balance the real-life troubles of middle school with the chance to face the forces of chaos alongside a council of dog superheroes! I had to learn to stylize animals for this project since they’re a good 75% of the cast, so that was a challenging and rewarding task to face. I also got to get in touch with little Bre and draw a story I would’ve loved to have as a kid, but I know even adults will enjoy this one.
KAPLAN: Is there anything else you’d like me to include?
INDIGO: This might be cheesy, but I’d like to use this platform to show my appreciation to all those that I’ve met that have invested in my success. From my friends and family loving and caring for me, to the connections I’ve made during my career, and those that choose to support emotionally and financially online. Thanks for believing in me. Thank you as well Avery, for these questions and the platform to answer them.
I am so excited to get to share more stories, and work with other creators in the future! Also, for those that are still trying to get a foot in the door, know that sometimes it does just take some luck alongside hard work, but you never know where the road will take you so be open to the possibilities. Be kind to one another and yourself, and always try to set up tomorrows you for success, even if that means resting. (I’m trying to apply that last part myself… trust the process!)