The Ninjabot

Under the Radar with JIM ANDERSON from ELLIE ON PLANET X

Posted on April 24, 2014 at 6:00 am by Heather Antos

392704_10150383411447276_1739267280_nDecades ago a spunky robot nicknamed Ellie was sent on a mission to a remote planet circling a distant star and last week I sat down with Ellie on Planet X creator, the very talented Jim Anderson, for the opportunity to ask him a few questions about himself, the upcoming Ellie on Planet X graphic novel, and what he hopes for Ellie in the future! Check it out!


HEATHER ANTOS: Let’s start with something easy: How are you?

JIM ANDERSON: I’m awesome! Well, today I am. Except for when I got up this morning when I saw this crap weather…and the sad thing about it too is you can look at the snow and just think, “Oh its Michigan. Snow in April. This is normal.”

HA: Snow in April in Michigan is a very sad truth, indeed. Are you a Dog or Cat person?

JA: Oh dog! Yeah, I have two. I have, well my girlfriend has a nice sweet lovely dog, and then my dog, which is an asshole. She’s a rescue, but when she wants something she’s very very sweet. But the two really don’t get along at allEllieDataFile1…Though I did used to have a cat in my house. He was okay.

HA: If you were trapped on a deserted island and could only bring 3 things, what would they be?

JA: I’d like that radio that the Professor made with the coconuts…so can I have a radio?

HA: You can have anything you want!

JA: Oh okay, the radio then! I’m introverted, so the idea of being trapped on a dessert island I sort of find appealing. I would need that volleyball, Wilson, and um…either my girlfriend or my dog… Might have to go with the dog… Although both of them are useful, but I wouldn’t want to do that to her…

HA: I wouldn’t want that either, haha! Care to tell us a bit about yourself?

JA: Well,I have been doing comics, I guess, since I was a little kid – sort of off and on. But most of them when I was little were just sort of derivative of things I knew – Star Wars stuff or whatever. I’ve been drawing since I was very young and then I went to college and studied graphic design so I’m actually working as a graphic designer. And then Ellie on Planet X I’ve been doing for about three and a half years now, though it’s on hiatus…

HA: Because of your graphic novel based on the Ellie web comic, right?

JA: Yep!

HA: That’s exciting!

JA: Yeah it is! But I’m kind of like in that doldrum phase where I really can’t tell anybody about it and I haven’t really gotten any feedback on anything and I’ve still got a lot of work to go before I send it out…


HA: How long did it take you to write the script?

JA: I started writing the plot in August/September? But the writing itself has been since January. So it took me about 3 months, but it wasn’t constant every day writing.

HA: Now is this something you plan to pitch?

JA: I have an agent and he’s going to try to shop it around. I just sort of fell into that which was nice; I was at Kids Read Comics in Ann Arbor, and, well it was kind of interesting!  John Martin, the artist of Vordak always shows up, and I thought he wrote it as well. But it actually turns out, the guy who wrote it I went to grade school with his brother. It was just bazaar. They had both really liked my stuff and showed it to their agent, who liked it a lot. And I talked to him for a bit and he couldn’t handle it at the time but he wanted to keep it inside of their agency and so he showed it to some other people and one of the other guys really liked it quite a lot. So I’ve been going back and forth with him for a bit. So right now where we’re at I’ve just finished the script and I’m just starting to do the art work for it.

HA: And how has that been going?

JA: I haven’t figured it out quite yet, but I’ve estimated the graphic novel is going to be around 150 pages, maybe a little bit more. So I’m doing the first 50 pages to really give them [publishers] a good idea of what they can expect.


HA: Now I know you can’t disclose too much, but is Ellie on Planet X the graphic novel going to be separate from the web comic?

JA: Yes. I don’t want to say it’s completely separate, there are things that take directly from the web comic, but it is more like a re-telling of Ellie’s story. Where the comic strip didn’t really have a plot the graphic novel has a plot. And there’s new characters and antagonistic things that happen.

HA: So to backtrack a bit, where did the idea for Ellie come from?

JA: It was  about 10 or 12 years ago. It wasn’t the initial idea but it was sort of like the trickling. I had done some Star Wars comics for the company that used to do the roleplaying game. Wizards of the Coast? On just a whim I did a 12 page comic and sent it to them and they really liked it so they printed it in one of their quarterly magazines. They could only do it the one time; I had written several more stories but Dark Horse Comics had the rights. So I began to put them online. One of the stories I did involve the main characters crash-landing on this planet and I kinda populated it with some animals and stuff and then after the story was over I kept kind of working on it ‘cause I kinda liked the whole idea of this planet. And I was getting tired of doing the Star Wars thing and wanted to do something of my own. So I began to build this planet and coming up with different species. I think it was that time, I don’t know if you remember the Dinotopia books? It was this introduction of this island, with someone from the outside coming to explore it and so I had thought, “Oh! Well maybe somebody needs to explore this!” Then around that time the first ROVER landed on Mars and it was just, “Oh! There it is! That’s what it needs to be!” Now, the story anything, the characters, they really didn’t come about until much later. Ellie was always Ellie, but she looked different, and it took a while to get her to look right. Jeff wasn’t always Jeff and Muffin actually started off based on a dog…MuffinDataFile1

HA: Now, the comic to me has like a ‘Seussical’ feel to it with the occasional rhyme, the whimsical feel, the color scheme…

JA: I’m a big fan of Dr. Seuss! Well, it was actually originally going to be more colors. I was just playing around with different color combinations that would work and at the time it was like almost becoming complicated and my girlfriend at the time, she said, “Try it with fewer colors.” It’s simpler, easier, and makes everything more cohesive, so I tried that. But for the graphic novel I’m actually adding more color, but it’s going to be very simple still.

HA: What was the first comic you ever read?

JA: Um well, I was always more interested in comic strips than comic books. But the first comics I remember reading were of course Peanuts comic strips. My grandma used to cut out Family Circus. She used to cross off “Billy” and write in “Jimmy” and then put them in scrap books and give them to us.

HA: Did these inspire your comic career in anyway?

JA: When I was in high school the comic strip that really moved me was Bloom County. There was just something about it – and I would say Jeff owes a lot to Opus. Calvin and Hobbes was at the same time, but I didn’t get into it until I was in college.  Since then I’ve become a huge fan of Calvin and Hobbes.  To me it’s almost like that’s the pinnacle of the perfect comic strip, because with Calvin it’s just his imagination. There could be dinosaurs and it just is – you don’t have to explain it. That’s it. If I put dinosaurs in mine I’d have to explain it somehow. But he can do whatever he wants, which just makes it so simple. The whole idea behind it, too, is just this boy and his tiger and his imagination. It’s timeless. It will never be out of style.


HA: What was the first comic you ever created?

JA: I was a huge dinosaur and prehistoric animal fan when I was a kid, and still am, but sabretooth tigers I thought were cool. Marvel Comic had this character and he had a sidekick was a sabretooth. I made like a cute version of the character, I was like 6 or 7, and I would take Peanuts comics and redo them with my character that I ripped off from another comic.

HA: What then inspired you to keep going with it and pursue comics?

JA: I think Bloom County was really kind of what did it. I’d been doing it up until that time, but that was the thing that was just like it!

HA: How would you describe your style?

JA: Well, I never thought about answering this…wow, I don’t know. Because it’s not…it’s a little illustrative, but I try to keep it really simple, so it goes fast. The color is an integral part. I put the color in before I draw anything over it. Whimsical and free I guess.

HA: How long would you say it takes you to come up with, like, your web comic?

JA: It’s kind of a weird process, and I don’t know how other people do theirs necessarily. I’m sure some people sit and write a whole bunch of stuff out. I’ll come up with sort of a situation and it’ll be maybe okay this is going to be what’s going to happen over the next 5 or so days. And then the next 5 or 6 strips will be about this…and then this is what will happen. And so certain things need to happen to get to that point. But I don’t write it out ahead of time, I just kind of have an idea so then the strip is due Monday. It’ll be Sunday morning and I get up and I don’t do a lot of stuff, and I lounge around for half the day, and then and about like 5 o’clock it’s like “I gotta do something” so I’ll get in my car and I’ll go drive for like an hour sweating, thinking. Or shower. Showers are always a good place to get an idea. Because nobody bothers you.  But I have a template for the actual process for writing it that I can write and rewrite while I do it. It might like 4 hours from start to finish writing and drawing.JeffDataFile1

HA: If you had the opportunity to work or collaborate with any other creator…

JA: Wow, um…you know ‘cause there’s the obvious answer, “Oh Berk Breathed from Bloom County” but I would be really intimidated by that. Plus his style of writing is very political and full of social commentary. One of the comics I discovered when I was in college that I really like is Krazy Kat which was done from 1910 -1940 or so. Very graphic and I think a lot of the look of what I do owes itself to that as well. That might be interesting to either work side by side with him or watch him or that sort of thing. If I was going to collaborate with somebody on something I think Jay Fosgitt would be awesome. I really love his stuff and his imagination goes places that I just love. He has got talent just pouring out of his fingers. I would love that, collaborating with him.

HA: If you had to pick, what’s a favorite project you’ve ever worked on?

JA: I think right now its Ellie, yeah. It’s kind of like all the stuff that I’ve done it just sorta is all coming together into this one thing. And it’s the one I’m most excited about. It’s what I’ve gotten the most attention for. I’ve put a lot of work into all the stuff that I’ve done, but so far this has been really easy. I just did it, and people were interested in it. And it worked. And the right people became interested in it. And so at this point I just have to keep going with it!

To see Jim’s work so far on Ellie on Planet X visit:

Jim’s Blog:

Jim on Twitter: @EllieonPlanetX


Under the Radar is a column where I, Heather Antos, interview comic creators, writers, and artists of all kinds about their talents, skills, and projects to come! If you know of a comic creator who is Under the Radar and waiting to be discovered by the comic industry, contact me: @HeatherAntos


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