Women in Comics Month: Interview with Janet Harvey


In honor of Women in Comics Month this March, PREVIEWSworld talks with writer, editor, and Oni Press track star Janet Harvey!


PREVIEWSworld: Who is your current comics employer?

Janet Harvey: I’m a writer. I’ve also worked as an editor, an audiobook producer (for DC Comics), and a game writer (for the DC Universe Online). I guess you could say my primary job responsibility is bringing characters to life.

PREVIEWSworld: What is your primary job title? In a quick phrase or two, could you define your job’s key responsibility?

Janet Harvey: I’m a writer. I’ve also worked as an editor, an audiobook producer (for DC Comics), and a game writer (for the DC Universe Online). I guess you could say my primary job responsibility is bringing characters to life.

PREVIEWSworld: Could you please explain how your work helps make comics a reality? (Connect the dots for us. Where are you in the flow of getting a book into reader hands?)

Janet Harvey: I’m the person who puts the scribble marks on the paper at the beginning of the comic, and then hands it off to the people who turn it into a real comic – editors, artists, inkers, colorists, letterers, publishers, printers – who then put the finished comic in boxes and send it to the places where they sell comics. There, hopefully, somebody loves it and gets it into your hands.

PREVIEWSworld: What’s the part of your job you enjoy the most?

Janet Harvey: My absolute favorite part of writing comics is when the art comes back, and I get to see how an artist and colorist have interpreted the script I wrote. The collaboration between writer and artist is always surprising and exciting, and I love how the finished comic ends up being so much more than the sum of its parts. 

PREVIEWSworld: What comic titles have you worked on?

Janet Harvey: My most recent work is the LA noir ANGEL CITY, written by me, drawn by Megan Levens, and colored by Nick Filardi, which is out now from Oni Press. I also had the opportunity to contribute to Cassandra Cain’s legacy when I wrote her first full length story in No Man’s Land, “I Cover the Waterfront” (BATMAN #569). I also have written some shorter stuff here and there for Cartoon Network’s HI HI PUFFY AMI YUMI comics, the Batman 80 Page Annual, and a story with Laurenn McCubbin in the Belle & Sebastian Anthology based on my favorite B&S song, “Lazy Line Painter Jane.”

PREVIEWSworld: While there are loads of professionals in the comics industry, there are only so many folks who get to do what you do! How did you get started? How did you learn all the skills you needed for your position?

Janet Harvey: I got really lucky and started working at DC Comics as a Multimedia Editor back in the 90s. Denny O’Neil came to see a play that I wrote and directed at the New York Fringe Festival, and he liked it. When I pitched him to write a Batman comic, he knew I could write, so he offered me the first Batgirl story in No Man’s Land. He was really an amazing mentor, and taught me a lot about comic book writing. I already had an MFA in Creative Writing, but working at DC was an education in itself. The editors there were very generous with their advice and talents, and I learned a lot.

PREVIEWSworld: Please tell us about the coolest experience you’ve ever had thanks to your job.

Janet Harvey: I have had SO MANY COOL EXPERIENCES in comics. It’s really hard to pick just one. And beyond that – what flavor of cool? Ego-stroking cool? Hero-meeting cool? Creating something cool, cool? I guess the one story I keep coming back to is this one time, at San Diego Comicon, Joey Cavalieri took the time to actually critique one of my drawings, which was amazing because, you know. Who the #$%@ am I? I’m not a pro artist, and here’s this DC editor who usually has people lined up with their portfolios for review, taking me aside and looking at my drawings and taking them seriously. So he gave me a few pointers, and one of them was “here, I’m going to show you Will Eisner’s technique for drawing rope.” And it just – I don’t know, it was thrilling, because I felt like I was the beneficiary of this secret lineage of comics wisdom.

PREVIEWSworld: Every industry professional has something they absolutely love about comics. Whether it’s a particular title or format or audience or tradition or something else, we’re all hooked. What’s special about comics for you? Would you be willing to share a treasured memory about it?

Janet Harvey: When I was a kid, they still sold comics at the 7-Eleven and the newsstand, and I bought my comics every summer from a penny candy store on the boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ, called Lazalier’s. So I’d always come home from the penny candy store with my selection of comics and a bag of penny candy, and read the comics, and eat the candy. I wasn’t into the kiddie comics, like Richie Rich and the Archies – the comics l looked for were sword and sorcery and superheroes, preferably with a girl on the cover. So, Red Sonja, Wonder Woman and Spider-Woman were my favorites. I bought Spider-Woman #1 and read it so many times, it’s burnt in my brain. I have a lampshade now that I bought at Austin Books & Comics, that’s made out of the pages of that Jessica Drew Spider-Woman origin story, and it makes me so happy. 

PREVIEWSworld: If you had one comics-related wish—no limits—what would it be?

Janet Harvey: I have lots of comics-related wishes, but speaking of no limits – what I’d really like is to not be considered ONLY for books with female leads. I mean, I’d love to write Punisher, or Judge Dredd, or the Hulk, or Martian Manhunter, or an X-Men book. Guys get tapped to write female characters all the time. And it’s not that I don’t love writing female characters? But that whole “a good writer can create a well-developed character regardless of their sex” thing works both ways, you know. 

PREVIEWSworld: Do you have an online presence we can link to and share with our readers?

Janet Harvey: I sure do. www.janetharvey.com is my badly-in-need-of-an-update webpage. @janetharvey on Twitter, and https://janetharvey.tumblr.com/ on Tumblr.

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