Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Way of the Geek #12 – Jacque Nodell

This installment of “The Way of the Geek” is notable for three – count them, three! – reasons. First of all, this is the first female respondent to the interviews; secondly, Jacque is probably the youngest interviewee to date; and third, she is the only person interviewed for this so far who actually has comic book history in her genes! Yes, for those who might have been wondering, Jacque's grandfather is Martin Nodell, creator of the original Green Lantern! How's that for geek cred? Jacque also writes the blog Sequential Crush, which focuses on romance comics.

Jacque Nodell was born in 1984 in Evanston, Illinois, but primarily grew up in Wisconsin. She's the third of seven siblings, and said she has “all the symptoms of a middle child.” Jacque has been with her boyfriend Justin Bleep (artist on Super Human Resources, Brick City Bunch, and currently a graphic designer with the LEGO Group in Denmark) for five years, and they have a dog named Sgt. Furry (I love that name!). Jacque is formally trained in the museum field, but recently resigned from her position as a curator at a state historic site in Indiana. She is currently living in Michigan with family while she prepares to join Justin in Denmark. She is utilizing this time away from the museum world to continue working on Sequential Crush and to finish writing her book on monster comics.

Jacque feels that being a geek is “merely being incredibly passionate about something and incorporating that passion within one’s identity and daily life. For me, that passion has primarily manifested itself as a love of comic books. I am particularly fond of comic books from the late 1950s through mid 1970s, and I tend to be drawn to non-superhero genres, including romance comics and monster comics à la Jack Kirby.” Good taste, if you ask me.

Jacque's paternal grandfather, Martin Nodell, takes either the blame or credit for turning her into a comics geek. “My earliest memories of geekery consist of visiting him and my grandmother at comic book conventions and watching him draw and chat with fans,” she reminisced. Oddly, considering how many siblings Jacque has, she's the only one who was “bit by the comic book bug.” She recalled, “ For them, going to comic book conventions was about seeing our grandparents and getting to swim at the hotel! Whenever I went to a convention, I was sure to bring back comic books for my classmates – which made me pretty popular with the boys!”

From her childhood, Jacque's managed to hang on to one collection that I'm guessing most readers of this blog don't have in common with her. “I still have my American Girl dolls -- Kirsten and Addy for inquiring minds! Those dolls, with their period clothing, accessories, and back stories, were my gateway to being obsessed with all things history related and character-driven.”

Since Jacque has a famous grandfather, I took the opportunity to ask her a few questions about him. She said she was probably about six or seven years old when she became aware that her grandfather was a comic book artist. "It wasn't until my teenage years that I really became fully aware of the cultural importance of his and his colleagues' work," she admitted. "Also, as I got older, I began asking more questions about his life story and what led him to the comic book industry."

Jacque got a pretty good reaction helping out with her grandparents' table at comic book shows. "People always thought it was cool that I was there," she shared. "Meeting the other comic book artists from the Golden and Silver Ages was always great too -- and I think they enjoyed meeting a grandchild who took interest in hanging around the conventions."

Jacque always felt very close to her grandfather, even though she only saw him and her grandmother about two or three times a year, "at conventions, of course!" She confessed, "My family always thought I was a lot like him in my mannerisms and personality, so much so that one of my childhood nicknames was 'Mini-Mart'."

She said that she does own a few pieces of original Martin Nodell artwork that he did later in his career, but her father has the majority of the original art. But what she treasures most is, "Being an artist, he always made fantastic birthday cards and get-well cards and what not, and I still have a few of those."

When asked to share a special memory of her grandfather, Jacque recalled, "My grandfather had a wonderful sense of humor and also a very theatrical way of speaking. One evening after a convention (MegaCon, I believe), Justin and I went out to dinner with him and my dad and my uncle. We all ordered beer, and my grandfather drank his ever-so-delicately out of a straw. Since he was in his 90s and not a big drinker, the beer must have hit him pretty hard, and he took my hand in his over the table, and told the others to 'shush.' He than began to tell me the very sweet story of how he met my grandmother -- at Coney Island. It was adorable and it was one of the last special moments we had before he passed away."

Jacque's practically grown up at comic book conventions, she admitted. “I attended so many comic book conventions as a little kid (even some while still in the womb!) so I have a hard time remembering the first. I do clearly remember the Chicago convention prior to it being owned by Wizard and how fun it was when it was a small event held at a hotel.” She also used to help out Justin at his table in Artist's Alley, as well as at her grandparents' table.

As you can imagine, Jacque met a lot of comic book artists and writers when she was little, “before I even realized that they worked on the books I now love,” she recalled. “When I was at the Baltimore convention a couple of years ago I mustered up the courage to talk with Nick Cardy – who I have a totally huge crush on. I also have a crush on Murphy Anderson! They are both adorable and I am a big fan of their work.”

These days, Jacque always tries to attend the Chicago Comic Con (formerly Wizard World Chicago) and the Motor City Comic Con in May. “Those two are great for finding back issues!” she enthused. Jacque's helped out with auctions and worked at the Motor City Comics booth at various conventions.

Before it became so Hollywood-driven, Jacque's favorite convention was San Diego. “It used to be pure fun, but in recent years has become almost a hassle. I still lament the fact I was not able to go this year, because it does have a certain something to it that is very invigorating!”

As noted earlier, Jacque is incredibly fond of romance comics. What appeals about them, she said, is “There were so many talented artists that drew those books during the ‘60s and ‘70s, but none can top my enthusiasm for Win Mortimer. Justin actually introduced me to my first Mortimer story. Now, whenever I find a story by Mortimer that Justin hasn’t seen, I am sure to point it out. There is something about Mortimer and his romance work – he really was suited for the genre, and looking at his art never gets old for us!”

Jacque hasn't lived in a big city for a few years, so she doesn't get together with other geeks in person on a regular basis, but she does get lots of contact online! “Luckily, I have met a lot of great people from doing my blog (Sequential Crush) that I frequently chat with,” she said.

Jacque definitely seems to be a full-time geek. “Whenever I am not at work or asleep, I am working on something concerning comics. My two primary projects right now include writing a book on the Kirby monsters and my blog, Sequential Crush. Believe me, the blog could be a full time job in itself!” she said. When asked why she started Sequential Crush, she said, “Most simply, I saw a need for a blog like Sequential Crush. At the time there were very few online resources that look at romance comics in a serious and detailed way through a historic framework. I also saw it is a good way to start gathering material for the not-so-distant future book version of Sequential Crush.”

As she's worked on Sequential Crush, Jacque's seen a lot of evolution in her blogging style. She noted, “I would like to think that I have learned to loosen up a bit, and be a bit funnier, while still keeping the historical content intact, relevant, and thought provoking.” Among the topics she's covered are fashion, social issues, and squirrels, all within the context of romance comics of the '60s and '70s. “I tend to do posts and features capriciously, primarily because the romance comics have so much content to offer and for the most part, are non-linear,” she explained.

“The biggest reward I have received from doing Sequential Crush has really just been hearing how my readers dig it, whether they are new to the genre or have been a fan for years,” Jacque said. “Studying romance comics isn’t necessarily a big money maker (actually it is a huge investment!) but gaining the knowledge and being able to make connections between things that were going on during the latter half of the twentieth century and the romance comics has been hugely gratifying!”

The blogs that Jacque reads tend to focus on comics and pop culture from the '50s through the '70s. “Some of my favorites include Retrospace, all of Mykal Banta’s wonderful blogs, As Told to Stan Lee, Silver Age Comics and Out of This World.” Jacque also enjoys reading design and crafting blogs. “Some of my favorites of those include, Decor8, sfgirlbybay, Here’s Lookin at Me Kid, and Design is Mine. I have to keep the reading of those types of blogs to a minimum though, otherwise I start fantasizing about going to interior design school and my brain is consumed by longings to rearrange my furniture and weave coasters,” she admitted.

Though Jacque's boyfriend Justin is no longer working in the comic book industry, Jacque noted that he still enjoys the romance books, especially those by shared favorite artist Win Mortimer. “Generally, he seems to be pretty astonished that I have gotten so into the romance comics and is really surprised by all of the nuanced things that I have seemed to pick up over time, things he never noticed when he was reading them,” she explained.

When Jacque's shopping for geek purchases, "Primarily I purchase romance books either at comic book conventions or online,” she said. Jacque enjoys shopping on eBay for, perhaps, an unusual reason: “It is always fun opening a box full of books I forgot I ordered!”

Jacque's always wanted to be part of the comics industry, but said her lack of artistic talent held her back. “Looking at comics through a historical lens enables me to have a voice, and simultaneously carry out my grandfather’s legacy as well as explore my historical interests,” she explained.

Jacque's final words to her fellow geeks are, “Just remember – being a geek is about being passionate. So whatever, you are passionate about… embrace it and don’t let a day go by where you aren’t working on exploring those passions!”

Thanks, Jacque!

5 comments:

  1. “Just remember – being a geek is about being passionate. So whatever, you are passionate about… embrace it and don’t let a day go by where you aren’t working on exploring those passions!” Great quote and great interview!

    Although I am pretty sure Reis also has a couple of those American Girl dollies. ;)

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  2. Great interview! Jacque is an awesome person whom I have had the pleasure of meeting in person.

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  3. Very, very nice. Great interview and great subject matter. Ms. Nodell's blog is one of the best comic blogs out there - the Crush is consistently entertaining and well written. Thanks for this chance to know her a bit better.

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  4. Thanks everyone for your truly kind words!

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  5. Thank you all for your comments -- and I'm sorry it's taken so long for me to get around to commenting back at ya!

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