Paul Dini is a legend in television animation and the father of DC Comics’ Harley Quinn. Dini has a fondness for the holiday spirit, a yearn for the Yule, a sizzle for the season! His lesser known creation, the blonde spitfire and daughter of the Kringle, Jingle Belle, has had books released in issues by various outlets over the years, and most recently, IDW has collected the rebellious teenager’s tales into one big volume!
It will hardly fit in the Santa Sack at 340 pages! Jingle Belle: The Whole Package is available now, just in time for that Yankee Swap.
Paul joined us today over some mulled cider for some questions to give us the origin of Santa’s spawn, Jingle Belle.
* * * * *
FOG!: Paul, thanks so much for joining us! You are well known in the comics and superhero world for creating Harley Quinn and your work in animation. When did the first Jingle Belle comic come in to your head?
Paul Dini: In 1998 I was talking to Oni Press about doing some new original characters, and they gave me the chance to try out two ideas in Oni Double Feature. One was “Honor Rollers,” which was based on some guys I had known in boarding school, and the other was “Jingle Belle.”
While “Honor Rollers” was fun, “Jingle Belle” seemed to appeal to most of the readers, so I stuck with that. It was also easier to come up with more stories that fit in with Jingle and her world, where with “Honor Rollers” I was lampooning people I went to school with and didn’t like very much.
You and I are similar, in that we have a healthy obsession with the Christmas holiday season, whereas my partner works retail and cringes when we are out to eat and hear Frank croon “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”. Does your wife, magician Misty Lee share your Yuletide enthusiasm? When does the tree go up in your house?
Misty and I are both gung-ho on Christmas. We try to get the decorations up right after Thanksgiving, but it varies. The last few years Misty has been busy with a weekly magic show at the Morongo Casino near Palm Springs, so we’ve had to wedge in the tree and decorations as best we could.
Christmas Eve is always our big night. We crank up “Christmas Party with Eddie G.,” and open our house to our extended family of magicians, musicians, writers, artists, believers, cynics, oddballs, clowns, wizards, mystics, loners, dancers, dogs and other awesome souls. The party goes all night and we sleep in the next day.
For the format of the strips, most of the stories are short, and I’ve heard that Schultz’ Peanuts is an inspiration. What do you like about working with the format of the comic strip versus a longer form comic or a television script?
It always seemed to me that once a cartoonist established the basic tone and characters of their strip, they could return over and over to certain gag situations that worked well for them and would always be fresh and funny.
I liked doing that with Jingle Belle because some holiday situations, like waiting to talk to Santa, or making toys, or even fighting with family members have infinite material that can be mined. I also love the Sunday comics-style format of telling a short story in nine to twelve panels. It was an ambition of mine to someday do a newspaper strip, but I could never make any inroads there, with Jingle or any other characters.
Still, whenever I had extra pages in the books, I’d use them for one-page gag stories. I think Jing works very well in that format.
How did this Jingle Belle: The Whole Package omnibus come about? IDW is great at working with other publishers to collect material. Have you wanted to do an omnibus for a while?
A lot of readers who like Harley Quinn asked me what other books I had done, and as Jingle appeared so infrequently, many of them had missed the early issues. So I was very grateful when IDW agreed to publish all the stories, particularly the hard to find early ones, in one volume.
There is one big story that didn’t make it into the book, a long graphic novel drawn by Jose Garibaldi called “Dash Away All.” When that story was originally created at Oni Press, we were running late with the book that year and we were faced with either shooting it from the pencils or delaying it a year so Jose could fine tune the artwork. We brought it out in tight pencil form, and while it looked great, we all wanted to someday redo it the way it was intended. Maybe if the ‘Whole Package’ sells well, we can look at reprinting “Dash” as a follow-up, inked and colored.
Belle and Santa’s relationship is funny, she rebellious but there is still lots of affection there on both sides. Were you also a rebellious teen?
Not really. I was a pretty quiet kid, and when I was feeling “rebellious,” I just went to my room, cranked up my National Lampoon comedy albums, drew cartoons and didn’t talk to anyone for a while. When I reached the age I did start talking back a bit, I got shipped off fast to four years of boarding school. That ended my rebellious streak real quick.
Rumor has it you may have more Jingle Belle stories to tell. Who can we expect to do the art or do you think you may switch it up with various artists, like this complete volume?
I’ve been very lucky to work with many great artists on “Jingle Belle.” Naturally I’d like that to continue if we do future stories, and I have a lot of ideas for new ones. There are creators that I’d love to work with again, and there are some new talents who have seen the old stories and want to try their hand at drawing new adventures of Jing and her world.
Everyone’s welcome. It’s just a matter of finding the money to put new material out there again.
One last question: Why don’t they sell Egg Nog in August? Asking for a friend!
Borden’s makes a canned (or packaged) eggnog that’s available in supermarkets and on line throughout the year. I can’t swear that it’s as good as Broguiere’s (local Los Angeles eggnog and the best anywhere) or your granddad’s homemade, but if you mix in enough Sailor Jerry’s, it should be drinkable.