Gregg Schigiel's Pix: Family-Friendly Heroism [Interview]

January 26, 2017

Gregg Schigiel's Pix: Family-Friendly Heroism [Interview]

WHAT IS PIX?
It is a suburban superhero adventure story about a teenage girl with superpowers who wears a costume, does all the superhero things, and claims that she is a fairy princess. She believes that her father is the king of the fairy kingdom, and that is why she has super powers and can do the things that she can do. For the most part, people seem to be okay with the superhero thing...the fairy princess thing, on the other hand...

The bigger story of this world is, "Is she the fairy princess that she believes herself to be?" And then, within that are these suburban superhero adventures where she's fighting off strange things that are happening around her. There are monsters, and there are dragons. There are a lot of fairy tale and fantasy tropes sort of twisted or bent a little bit into a more, to use the phrase again, suburban superhero adventure. I've described it to people as Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Alice in Wonderland in an Archie sort of setting. Or, if they ever made like a Disney Princess movie with Spider-Man, you might get something that resembles PIX.

FANTASY SUPERHEROES VS SCIENCE SUPERHEROES:
I've always liked mythology. I like fairytales. Sometimes, high fantasy gets a little bit too much for me. Lord of the Rings stuff is just too...it's too weighty for me, so I like the lighter touch of that stuff and I like that some stuff just kind of happens and some stuff happens to be the way it is. So, like a unicorn is a unicorn. You don't explain why it's a unicorn, why it has a horn. It just is, and that horn is magic. Period. You can go deeper if you want, but at its core, at its essence, is a very elegant simplicity. I always liked Thor, I always liked Beast, and even with mutants, it's like, "Oh, they're mutants! That's just how it is, haha!" You know, it's science, but it's not. It's make-believe science, it's comic book science, and I like that stuff, I like that make-believe. It's these building blocks of make-believe that make these stories so delightful.

BLENDING SUBURBAN SOAP OPERA & SUPERHEROIC ACTION:
One, I don't have to draw skyscrapers [laughs], and that is because when you write your own story, you can determine what you draw, and I don't want to draw skyscrapers, so...suburbs! Done!

Two, I know the suburbs. I grew up in the suburbs. It's drive-throughs and houses and row houses and stuff. I get what that is. That's how I grew up, people riding bikes and that kinda thing. One of the things I think I've done is recapture a lot of the style of comics that I was reading when I was, say, nine to fourteen years old. Before I became somebody who wanted comics to grow up with him, I was somebody who read comics for the love of comics and the stories. So, I like that mix of the dramatic and the high adventure, and I think for a lot of old comics that I read and a lot of people who are now old read, that's what the comics had, you know? A classic Spider-Man comic had as much of him fighting the Vulture as it had of him either pining after a girl or worrying about Aunt May. Even old Batman comics, you know, he had these interactions with Commissioner Gordon, or Robin, or Alfred in the Batcave that were separate from his adventures. He would go out as Bruce Wayne.

I think that mix is important. I think you need the grounding of something human to make the extraordinary feel more extraordinary, and that balance makes stories exciting, especially for a younger reader who is experiencing this stuff for the first time, possibly, or, you know, living a life that isn't theirs. Even something like Archie comics is teen drama or teen comedy, but that love triangle is ridiculous and it's played out as this big thing. If you're 11 years old and you're reading it, you're like, "Oh wow, look at this crazy thing that these kids are going through, and they're in a band and they just go to this malt shop!" It's escapist. It's storytelling. It's comics.

WHY COMICS FOR KIDS:
I started reading comics as a kid. My story is not probably different from a lot of people’s—maybe slightly—but I was born in the ‘70s, so I started reading in the ‘80s, and at that point I had an older brother who had comics, and a cousin. So, we'd go to the comic store every now and again, and I would basically buy anything that had a character I recognized from Super Friends on it. I was buying a lot of DC Comics Presents or The Brave and the Bold. Batman was the best. So, I just took to superheroes very quickly, and something just clicked as a kid. From like age seven or eight through to fifteen, I like to say that "I read comics like it was my job to read comics," and I was drawing and, you know, it created such an impression on me.

And then there were certain comics that you end up discovering on your own, Power Pack being one of them. I found that, I'm like, "What is this? I don't recognize this," but you start reading it and it becomes "This is amazing, this is my favorite." I think there's something about superheroes, especially within comics, that is very appealing to younger kids.

I want to try, if I can, to give that feeling to another kid, to make them feel excited about a character the same way I felt about Power Pack. At a certain point as readers get older, they start to say things like, "What's so great about Aquaman, he just talks to fish?" or "Why does Superman wear his underwear on the outside?" You know, "What's so great about Iceman? He just throws snowballs." Like, as a little kid, all that stuff is amazing. The guy can turn into snow and make stuff out of ice? Done. That's it. That's amazing and cool. Aquaman can breathe underwater. Maybe it's 'cause I grew up in Florida, but that's a badass superpower.

I like that and I think you can have more fun writing those kinds of stories, and the reactions from the audience is really fulfilling. I was at a convention once, and to my left was somebody making comics for grownups, and to my right was Chris Giarusso, who does G-MAN at Image Comics, and just hearing the fan reactions and interactions between the person to my left and Chris to my right was...

On the left side it was like, "Oh man, nobody makes comics like you. Oh, everything sucks, your comics are the best." And on the right, it was just like, "We love your comics, we love this character, I love this character." It's all positive. It's gonna sound cheeseball, but there's an innocence to little kids reading stuff, and it's infectious. When a little kid likes your thing, that's awesome because you know it's having a real impact. Not that it doesn't have a real impact on an adult, but an adult has other things to do. Like they all know it's a story. A kid knows it's a story but also is invested in a different way. I know I was.

WHAT KIND OF HERO IS PIX:
She is a person who very much believes what she believes. She believes that she is a fairy princess, and she believes that as a result she has to behave a certain way and do right. She believes she has a noble bearing and a responsibility with her superpowers to do the right things, despite the fact that a lot of people don't believe her and sometimes, in a very classic Spider-Man way, her attempts to help can cause other problems.

She's probably a little dogged in her convictions. She is very, very pleasant, but isn't going to just roll over for anybody. She stands up for herself. She's kind of a badass but a very sweet, pleasant badass. Veronica Mars, Buffy, those are the sorts of things that I remember watching and going, "These are awesome." They're not superheroes, but—Buffy kind of is—but that style of hero is very cool, and I hope I've imbued some of that in Pix and her little crew of friends in the way they talk and the way they deal with things.

It's been pointed out to me that she might be a little "throw punches first, ask questions later." She should maybe not do that as much, so I've tried to do that a little bit less, but even in the second book, things happen and she just jumps right into action, Hellboy-style, and starts breaking stuff...for better or worse.

I think she's somebody people would want to hang out with, even though in the world of PIX a lot of people have problems with her.

PIX is available for preorder now and debuts 2/22.