• Equestria Daily Interview Series—Interview with IDW MLP Writer Jeremy Whitley

    For some reason, I get the feeling that Princess Adrienne would hate Diamond Tiara.

    Yeah, it's been a little while since the last in depth interview popped up. And what better way to get the ball rolling on these again than with the writer who wrote the comic coming out tomorrow!

    Yes, shortly before FIENDship took over the vast majority of my MLP comic attention, I had the chance to sit down with Jeremy Whitley for an in-depth interview about his comic career, his creator owned comics, and what it takes to be a comic writer.

    So grab a sandwich, take care of any business that you need to before settling down to read this, and get ready for a long stretch looking at your computer screen. For those of you who venture after the break, you'll find one meaty interview for your reading delight!

    All right. Jeremy, how were you first exposed to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic?

    Jeremy Whitley: I have a 3-year-old daughter whom for a good chunk of her first couple of years I was at home with. It was a matter of I was working at night and staying with her during the day. With those kind of hours I had to find things to put her in front of occasionally.

    We went through a number of different torturous TV shows and eventually we ended up on Friendship is Magic, which I immediately glomped onto because it wasn't terribly annoying.
    As I started to pay more attention to it I was like, "Well this is pretty clever! The writing on this is good, it's interesting, lots of good characters." It's something I would really like for her to be watching because of the way it portrays girls as a variety of different ways to be a girl. Not just one way and making comparisons on the positive or negative. It's okay in My Little Pony to be a girly-girl. It's okay to not be a girly-girl. There's no argument made either way.

    I know those are things that Lauren Faust was striving for when she was first putting the show together, so it's good to hear that parents are still finding that as the series keeps going on. 

    JW: Yeah, that's something I've pushed to other people. With my other work I have a lot of people that have asked me about what are good comics for kids? What kind of stuff I recommend? Even before I was working on My Little Pony it was something that I recommended for that reason, because it has that positive attribute of representation for kids. It's not just one thing which is nice.

    Having worked on several issues of My Little Pony now, who's your favorite pony to write for and is that pony also your overall favorite character? 

    JW: I have several that I really enjoy. One of the interesting things is one of my favorite characters overall is Twilight Sparkle, I enjoy writing her. She has some fun perks and neuroses that are fun to sort of play with in stories. Oddly I've not actually written a story about Twilight Sparkle, but she pops up in just about every issue I've done so far. Just to weigh in on something or be there.

    In the case of the Luna and Pinkie Pie issue that I did, Twilight's the first pony that Luna thinks to go to about how to be funny. Of course Twilight is not very good at being funny. She ends up pointing her towards Pinkie Pie. I really enjoy writing Twilight. I really enjoy writing Luna. She has some sort of fun and interesting personality quirks as well.

    I do think probably my favorite character to write though is Discord. As a lot of people may have guessed as I've done a couple of Discord stories pretty early in my run.

    (laughs) Especially when he sat down to giggle with Fluttershy about overthrowing Celestia.

    JW: (laughs) Yeah, that's been one of my favorite issues to write. I got to play with time travel and I got to come up with some stuff and really like getting to the real sort of pure essence of Discord. He really has the reins taken off, and he can travel through time in that one. In the first one I wrote where he's helping the Cutie Mark Crusaders to try and found out what their cutie marks should be. Of course with Discord you have an infinite number of possibilities that you can try.

    Yes, helping.

    JW: Yeah, he's a good helper, that guy.

    Very. What first got you interested in working in comics?

    JW: I've always been a writer to some extent and I've always worked in fiction or creative writing of some sort. I went to college for English and Creative Writing. I did a little playwriting. I worked on some screenwriting. I'd always been also a big, big fan of comics since I was a little kid. It was one of those things that I always planned on coming back to when I got a little older.

    I found a comic shop near me—Ultimate Comics in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I got hooked back into comics with some of the Josh Whedon Astonishing X-Men [run]. Plus I was buying my wife the Buffy comics when they started up. I got hooked more by the time the Civil War was going on. And I got pulled further into some of the ongoing stuff and I kept finding new things I was interested in.

    Before long I just kind of realized like, "Oh, this is the thing I like. I also like to write. This is a thing that somebody has to write, so maybe I could write this. I think I would enjoy that." I had written some scripts for some of my own stories—some of which have never seen the light of day. I got hooked up with a couple of local artists here including my friend Jason Strutz, who I published my first series that I worked on, "The Order of Dagonet," with.

    It all kind of went from there. I've worked on that and I developed the first issue of Princeless with another friend of mine. It kind of ended up falling apart after the first issue, but it got in the hands of the right people and ended up becoming something that got me some amount of actual and critical success. Got me noticed by the right people.

    Very interesting. Speaking of your time at college, what were some of the most important lessons you took away from your time there?

    JW: Some of the biggest things—and this helps out a lot with the pony stuff actually—is that these creative writing programs have a weird and sometimes annoying vibe against what they call 'genre fiction'. Fantasy, sci-fi, comics, and all that good fun stuff that everybody loves. They don't want anything to do with it.

    I had to kind of strip away those things that I really enjoyed and figure out how to write stuff that was not necessarily the things that I chose to read. I had to work on the basics and work from the ground up. Having gone back around to writing things that are more genre-related, it's helped me with building the basics of stories. Figuring out how to develop characters without necessarily having to have all those fun genre elements that I love so much. Iit helps a lot when I do the Friends Forever stories, where it's much more about the development of two characters and their relationship than it is about any of the more fantastical elements of My Little Pony. It's already helped me with the basics there, that I can then take out and apply however I want to and not pay any attention to their crazy biases.

    Very good points.

    JW: Yeah.

    After college, what sorts of jobs were you doing to support yourself on?

    JW: For a good chunk of time after I graduated college I worked at a Blockbuster Video. A place that some of our older readers will remember as a thing that existed. Unfortunately it does not anymore. It seems most video stores don't at all. I was a cashier and then a shift manager and then a manager there.

    Spent a lot of time watching movies. I like to think of it as homework. Learning about story structure and stuff like that. Then I've done sales, telesales, and tech support. A little bit of everything and a little bit of stay-at-home dad-ing as well.

    That's rare. I see you left out the part where you were the marketing director for Action Lab Entertainment.

    JW: Yeah. That was after they picked up Princeless. We started working on the first volume of that. I dedicated an insane amount of time to promoting that and pushing it. Getting it in the hands of critics and getting reviews. Eventually getting some award nominations and things like that. Action Lab saw that and they said, "well we want that for all of our books. Would you be interested in being our marketing director?" I said, "yeah, sure. That sounds great, no problem."

    Little did I realize that's a job where I would spend more time talking about other people's books than actually writing my own. Which was not really what I got into comics for. At that point you're a little, small indie press. We were a much larger, small independent press at this point but it's not really a paying job that you can support yourself on. It kind of took over my life for a while there and I saw I had to scale that back. I still work with Action lab but I'm much more focused on Educational Programming and things like that.

    We've done some school visits, and some library things. We also work with the Denver Comic Con and the pop culture classroom to try and spread literacy and creativity through comics. Which is a really fun part of what we do.

    I'll bet that it's always a good thing getting young people to actually start reading comic books.

    JW: Yeah, it's something that—no matter how long we do it—parents are constantly surprised by. You get comics in a kid's hand who doesn't read, and doesn't like to read. Who will not voluntarily read—what a lot of literacy people refer to as 'reluctant readers'. Who either don't read unless they absolutely have to, but if you give them a comic book—in a lot of cases—they are off to the races.

    My wife's little brother is one of those. One of the first Christmases where I bought him stuff, I bought a big chunk of Ultimate Spider-Man and gave those to him. He just found a spot in the corner and just sat there. Plowed through three volumes of it straight. His mom was amazed that he was even picking it up. Nonetheless, he had just zoned out on it like that.

    It's a book. It's where I learned the reading vocabulary that I have now. I was one of those kids that was reading comics when I was a little kid. I knew all sorts of great words to describe Doctor Doom that other kids didn't know, like "dastardly" and "malevolent" and things like that. When I was in elementary school. I didn't realize I wasn't supposed to know those words until I was in high school and other kids were learning them. I was like, "oh. Kids don't know that word?"

    Yes, the dastardly, malevolent Doctor Doom.

    JW: Yes. I learned a great deal of my vocabulary from Stan Lee.

    I'm sure there's a lot of people who owe their extensive vocabulary to Stan Lee to a certain extent. After all we have several different superlatives to describe Spider-Man.

    JW: Yeah.  I've known what uncanny meant since I was a young boy. I know a lot of adults who still don't have a bead on what uncanny actually means.

    Speaking of uncanny, what inspired you to create Princeless?

    JW: Princeless I started working on because my wife and I had been talking about having a daughter. At the same time I looked around at a lot of her younger cousins, at stuff they were sort of pulled towards. They wanted to go after this princess stuff. Regardless of how otherwise independent-minded the girls were. There was just this draw to this stuff.

    My thought was I wanted to take this thing that I knew my daughter would already want and be attracted to, and rather than fight it—which I know a lot of parents who fight that a losing battle—I wanted to embrace that. I wanted to give her a princess that is the sort of princess I would want her to aspire to. Somebody I thought was aspirational and would teach her the kind of lessons that I want her to know.

    I created Princess Adrienne who's the lead character for Princeless. She's a princess who decides to rescue herself rather than waiting around to be saved. She's a young woman of color just like my daughter is, and has a set of unique characteristics among a lot of princesses. She's not waiting around to be saved. She has her own agency, which is important.

    I started writing that and we had a false start on that. Then it got picked up by Action Lab and we really took off after that. We're on our third volume at this point and a collection of short stories as well. Third volume will be wrapping up in April. We've got another one starting up in June. We're still hard at work on it several years later.

    Who was the inspiration for the spitfire that is Adrienne?

    JW: Basically my wife's sister Adrienne—who obviously shares the name—was always the kid in her family who was different and had things she wanted to do. She didn't really care what everybody else wanted to do. She had her own ideas. She just sort of did her [own thing]. That was the start of the idea of Adrienne. She just doesn't care what everybody else wants to do, what everybody else thinks she ought to be doing. She wants to do her own thing.
    From there it's a little bit of Adrienne, a little bit of my wife, a little bit of my daughter the older she gets. She's taken on a little bit of a life of her own as well.

    Well, the first page we actually see Adrienne has her basically tearing up the princess's stories of old. That's definitely one way to introduce us to the newest princess in the world.

    JW: Yeah. She gets it the way all little girls do. She gets the princess story. She's not willing to accept the basic trope. She wants explanations for why things are the way they are. She doesn't go for the easy non-explanation answer. She wants to know. She wants to get out there and do her own thing. We introduce her that way and then she ends up getting shoved in a tower anyway.

    With the absolute best pet any princess could ever ask for.

    JW: Yeah. Sparky, our bright pink dragon. She's fantastic! She's a little bit on the dumb side—she's not the smartest and not the most agile dragon of all the time—but she's definitely well-meaning. On occasion—when she needs to be—quite deadly, too.

    I loved when you were actually having Adrienne get her armor in the last issue of volume one. Where you ended up making fun of all the different "woman warrior" outfits that are in existence today. Which also introduced us to her new best friend.

    JW: Yeah, Bedelia. As I was working on the story initially, we went through several drafts of armor and what we wanted her armor to look like. We ended up coming up with what she has now, which is awesome! When we were designing it, it was sort of like, "okay we want it to be not like this, and not like this, and not like this." Then I took those ideas that I had to wrestle with what I wanted it to not be like and you've got to have Adrienne say the same thing. We wanted to take the opportunity to poke fun at these things that we love.

    I'm a huge Wonder Woman fan, and I was a huge Xena fan when Xena was around, but  there's no little kid that would look at the armor and say, "That's good armor. That makes sense." We wanted to put Adrienne in the same position. Where they're going, "all right, we're going to put you in this armor." You're going, "like hell you are. I'm going to die if I wear that."

    If anyone actually stops to think for a minute as to what those little costumes are that women warriors gallivant around in, they'd probably come to the exact same realization. These women are going to die.

    JW: That's the thing, isn't it? They're not armor. They're costumes. Women dressed up as warriors. It's like they're going out on Halloween. That's not what I would want to see from a heroine. Obviously not what I want my daughter to see and think is what she has to look forward to, as an able young woman, either.

    Of course. When you're writing, do you end up having the voice of the character in your head? What I mean by that is do you picture these voice actors when you're writing these characters? For instance when I was reading the first volume of Princeless and I got to Adrienne's father, the King, Kevin Michael Richardson's voice just kept on popping out for some strange reason.

    JW: I do have a very particular person in mind. In Adrienne's father's case it's more sort of a feeling of how I want it to sound. It's sort of a Mufasa voice, just somebody who's big and booming and intimidating. That's really what I was going for with him. In a lot of cases I have more specific ideas for some of the characters. It's really helpful when working on particular issues to be able to refer to that idea. Sort of hear them in your head. I do think of Adrienne's sister, Angelica, as a very particular voice. I'm trying to think who it's close to what I'm thinking.

    It's something that's very helpful in writing the Pony comics in particular if that there is a established voice in there. With Angelica I'm probably leaning more of like a Cree Summer type voice. I've always loved Cree Summer. I would always want to have her in there somewhere if it was ever to be made into an animated series.

    There are a lot of people who love Cree Summer. Here's hoping that that ends up becoming a reality some day.

    JW: Absolutely. I would love to do an animated series and I've talked a bit about doing it with some networks in the past but nothing has materialized as yet. Maybe somewhere down the line.

    Who knows? From the first volume, which moment do you consider to be your crowning moment of the story?

    JW: I'm always trying to outdo myself to some extent. I want to make each issue still fun to read, and give it something original that the other ones don't. I've got issues, volumes three, four and five all finished at this point, writing-wise. There's a lot of fun stuff in [volumes] four and five. Volume five's going to have a lot of really cool moments in it. Volume three has a lot of great dynamic action that the character of Raven, who's introduced in this one, is a much more capable fighter in a martial arts sense. You get a lot of cool sequences of fighting. Her smashing people's heads into things and kicking people in the face, and things like that.

    It's good fun.

    One of my favorite issues to go back and look at though is  issue three from volume one. Which is the one you were talking about with the blacksmith segment in it. Which is maybe the most Princeless-y moment in the series. It's nice in that because I've done it, I don't have to do it every issue. I went for it and I went out and had them say what I needed the characters to say. Then from there it just went, just let it go and keep having fun.

    Yeah, that's really what comics are all about. Having fun!

    JW: Oh yeah.

    Was Princeless always planned as being a multi-miniseries story, or did you originally conceive of it as an ongoing monthly comic?

    JW: When I was first working on it initially, I didn't quite know what it was going to be. I had planned it just number of issues wise, but it was always going to be a few issue arcs of her rescuing each sister. It's going to be sort of self-contained in its own way. That ended up working out well with the format for doing individual four-issue series like this. It's interesting that it always was that, even before it was officially that!

    Also allows you to take breaks in between arcs to actually get the team together and re-energize for the next one.

    JW: Absolutely. It gives us a nice break. We can throw in some short stories, some one-offs. Gives us a chance to cool down and tell some other sorts of stories in between the individual volumes.

    Speaking of going in between the individual volumes, between the first and second volumes in Princeless, a couple of other of your projects were released, namely The Order of Dagonet and GlobWorld. I know Princeless is your original title but what can you tell us about Dagonet and GlobWorld?

    JW: The Order of Dagonet is the very first comic I ever actually got done. It was myself and my friend Jason Strutz, who is a local artist here. We worked on and self-published early on. It's all about the knights of England, the current knights, being forced to answer the call of their Kingdom. Actually go out and do knightly things. All about the actors and authors and rockstars, people like Ozzy Osborne and Elton John and Ian McKellen having to go out and fight dragons and fairies, and slay giants and things like that.

    That sounds hilarious.

    JW: It's a lot of fun. We self-published the first volume of it initially and then after we started doing Princeless with Action Lab, Action Lab picked it up. We've done a further volume or so on there but it hasn't done crazy well. Jason and I are working on different things between his projects, Princless, and everything else. It's kind of indefinitely on hold at the moment.

    The first volume is out there and people like it. If people were to go out and buy it I'm sure we could be convinced to do more.

    And GlobWorld?

    JW: GlobWorld was a licensed property that Action Lab was asked to work with. It was my first work-for-hire job. It's an anti-bullying comic series about little Glob creatures that have a number of different crazy personalities. It's fun and mostly free on comixology at this point. People can check out and enjoy. It's not terribly deep, but it was a lot of fun.

    It's a fun PSA?

    JW: Yeah. It's a PSA that sort of teaches kids about confronting bullying. What to do when they're bullied and how to recognize bullying. All that fun stuff.

    Learning how to stand up for yourself and basically be a princess like Adrienne.

    JW: Yeah, basically. Adrienne is, for the most part, pretty anti-bullying herself. She's incredibly stubborn so sometimes she tends to be a little bull-headed and plow over people without meaning to.

    Well, everyone does that from time to time.

    JW: Oh yeah.

    What was the basis for Princeless: Get Over Yourself?

    JW: The second volume was all about Adrienne's first real mission to go out and save one of her sisters. Her older sister, Angelica, who is the most beautiful princess in all of the land. She has to go out and track her down and rescue her. Unfortunately what she's forgotten in her zealous quest to go find her is that her relationship with Angelica is not particularly great. They have to go out ...

    Angelica doesn't particularly want to be saved and hasn't asked for Adrienne to come rescue her. She has very different ideas about what she wants from life. Adrienne has to confront that and try and rescue somebody who maybe doesn't want her to rescue her. At the same time deal with the fact that sometimes she can't stand her own sister who she's trying to rescue. She also has, at this point, a bounty-hunting knight on her trail, trying to bring her back to her father who doesn't realize that she's still alive. Thinks she's been killed when she burnt down her tower after she escaped.

    Which, wasn't that her whole idea? To make it look like she was dead.

    JW: Yeah, but I don't think she counted on the fact that her father was going to have her theoretical killer hunted down.He's going to end up hunting her down for her own murder.

    Details, minor details.

    JW: Yeah.

    The Pirate Princess is currently being published, so what can you tell us about this?

    JW: This is the current volume of Princelss, it's the third volume. It's all about Adrienne is on her way to save her next sister, and comes across another girl who was locked up in a tower, waiting for someone to come save her. Decides that she's going to bust her out as well. What she doesn't count on is that this princess is actually the daughter of the Pirate King, and it's own her agenda in order. She may be a bit harder to handle than Adrienne had counted on.

    I'm noticing a recurring theme of princesses in towers in Princeless. How many girls are in those towers anyways?

    JW: That's a question, isn't it? There's just tons of princesses waiting in towers out there for somebody to rescue them. In this case there are at least Adrienne's seven sisters and who knows how many other girls? Like Raven, the Pirate Princess out there, locked up waiting to be saved. It's become a bit of a ... Not just a cliché but an actual practice among parents in that world.

    It's a rite of passage for girls growing into womanhood.

    JW: Yep, and her family ... Her dad is trying to recruit a strong and suitable heir.

    Who's not his son.

    JW: Yeah. He doesn't believe him to be a strong and suitable heir, so he's trying to find some way to recruit somebody he thinks is worthwhile to take over for him after he's gone.

    Yeah. Just like any proud father—or king in this case—would want to have. A nice strong, son to rule the kingdom for him.

    JW: That's right. Of course, he has a son, his son Devin. Devin is much more interested in other things that his father doesn't think are very suitable for a prince to be into. He's interested in fashion and making clothes and reading and writing poetry. All these sort of girly things. He would much rather his daughters be into rather than rescuing themselves from towers. Unfortunately, for him anyway, it turns out that Devin is quite adept at these things. Not exactly what he wants.

    You think Devin would be a fan of My Little Pony?

    JW: There's a good chance. Devin is the sort of guy who's a little softer, a little less warlike than his father. He would like to have a place where belongs, where he can be what he wants to be, which is something I've heard expressed by more than one fan of My Little Pony.

    Speaking of My Little Pony, how did you start working on that title?

    JW: I owe most of that to Mr. Tony Fleecs, who I met a couple of times at a couple of conventions. I got set up back-to-back with at Denver Comic Con a couple of years ago. He and I got to chatting. He was a fan of Princeless and had read it. He really liked it and was asking me if I'd ever thought about working on My Little Pony, if I was familiar with the property. I said that I was and he hooked me up with his editor, Bobby Curnow. Who at that point was just getting ready to launch the Friends Forever line, so was looking for new pitches.

    I sent him a good half-dozen pitches and he picked a couple of them that he liked. It might have been three of them total, but two of them ended up going all the way to being books. The Discord and Cutie Mark Crusaders story, and the Pinkie Pie and Luna story.

    From there I keep throwing stuff at him every time I have some spare time to come up with some more ideas, or something pops into my head. That's still a relatively small percentage of the ideas I have that make it all the way. There's a lot of other people working on a lot of other comics and we also occasionally have issues with intersecting with the TV show. What they're doing and what they're not doing. What they absolutely don't want us to do.

    I feel like I've been very lucky. I've gotten a lot of stuff through. I've already got several more coming up and a few that are already announced and getting ready to come out over the next couple of months.

    What exactly goes into a comic book pitch?

    JW: It depends. It varies a little bit. Basically what you want to see with the Friends Forever pitch especially, it's that you have a grasp on both of the two main characters. That something is actually happening to both characters and there is some sort of character development through some sort of change in both of the characters. That there's a good solid beginning, middle and end. An interesting idea behind using the two together.

    Usually what I'll do is put together a handful of pitches. I like to try and use combinations of characters that I haven't seen used on the show. That I think would make sort of odd couples. As anybody who's read any of my Friends Forever should notice. I pitch that because I know there's nobody else pitching a Rarity and Babs story. I think that leads to a lot of those getting through.

    Something like Friendship is Magic is a little more difficult sometimes just because the stories are generally a little more grand. They have more characters, they span more time. They also have a lot more potential to sort of bump into Hasbro stuff. Things they're doing with the show.

    Usually what I'll do is I'll write some basic concepts for those and how I see it breaking down issue by issue. How many issues it's going to be and what's going to happen in each one. Usually what I'll do is I'll throw it up to Bobby. He'll give me a yes or a no or a maybe. If it's a maybe I have to play around with it and find a way to make it suitable.

    Anything that he says yes to has to go through Hasbro. They give their yea or nay on it. As soon as they say yes we start on the script and do the whole thing over again with the script.

    All right. I know we've talked about Princess Luna briefly as one of your favorite characters to write but what's your take on the Princess of the Night? When you wrote her in Friends Forever #7 it was very different from the take on the character than a more comedic approach that Katie Cook has had with her in the series.

    JW: Yeah. I try to approach her largely from what I have seen in the show. Rather than necessarily what other people do in the comics. Largely because I'm interested in certain elements of the character. I like some of the tension in the character of Princess of the Night, in that she is generally nice, and benevolent, and caring. Sometimes that's also her weakness in that she can be jealous, and she can be ... She's often literally and figuratively outshone by her sister. That can ... There's not too many people that in some aspect can't relate to that. I like to take the bits of characters that are relatable and start from there.

    I really enjoyed Luna Eclipsed. I like to take that as my base in a lot of stories and then add in the bits of Luna that you get in some of the other stories. Especially things like the story with Sweetie Belle that I'm blanking on right now. Where she's sort of influencing and talking to Sweetie Belle in her dreams. That's an interesting aspect of the character. Something that there's a lot of room to do things with.

    Let me just ask this. Have you read GI Joe: A Real American Hero #21 - Silent Interlude?

    JW: You know, I've never read Silent Interlude, but I know about Silent Interlude. It was absolutely an influence in my idea for the all pets issue. The silent aspect of that.

    Yes, the silent aspect. The very, very silent issue where we get so much characterization about all the Pony pets. More than they've gotten in the entire series.

    JW: Yeah, and that's ... I really enjoy the pets. I feel like they all have fun and interesting personalities of their own. Unfortunately in the show when they focus on them, they tend to lump Spike in with them which is problematic for two reasons, for me. In that one, because the idea of Spike as a pet is kind of troubling. He's very sentient. He talks, he walks, he has own life. I don't really ... It's something that always bothers me on the series, is what exactly the status of Spike is.

    Also the other thing is when Spike tends to be around it tends to be his show with the pets. He's just sort of reacting to the pets and the pets are reacting to him, which inevitably means that a number of them end up fading into the background or being defined by how Spike acts towards them.

    I wanted to give pets sort of a chance to shine on their own. To each have a job and a function, and a little bit of screen time. To really, to explore Angel above all, because Angel is a very fun character. Interestingly enough, I started off building the whole story around him as my main character. As the book goes on, Opal tends to shine a bit as well. I feel like she's sort of my Wolverine in that story.

    Yeah. You have General Patton and a really unpleasant kitty for the two main characters.

    JW: Yeah. One of my favorite scenes or sections that I wrote is where Angel's explaining the plan to everybody. That if the dam breaks all of Ponyville's going to be washed away. Opal's not really bothered by that.

    I believe she probably should have asked, "and then?"

    JW: She purrs at the idea and is excited until she figures out that means that she's also going to essentially be getting a very large bath. Then she's not into that.

    Nope. Not at all. How did you come up with Gummy's personality in that issue?

    JW: A lot of Gummy's personality is [from] Amy Mebberson, who did the art on that issue. In the initial script that I wrote there's the bit with the chalkboard, and there's some signing and stuff when Angel is talking. All the speech bubbles that you get in there with the little symbols, they're all a result of Amy coming up with that system of conveying what they're saying. When I wrote it initially, it was even more silent than you would have ended up being eventually.

    Gummy's personality in that is what she chooses to put in his speech bubbles, which  appears to be nonsensical at the very least. Then it's also a lot of just what's in the show, of Gummy being goofy and possibly not all there.

    Yeah. Sort of like his owner.

    JW: Yeah. Gummy's doing his own thing. He's not really concerned with what everybody else is doing there.

    Which then leads us to Discord's failed attempt to giggle about overthrowing Celestia with Fluttershy. Did you always plan a Doctor Who parody to be the follow-up for your first outing with Discord, or was that something that came up after the fact?

    JW: It was definitely an after the fact thing. The way it ended up being set up is Ted had written the two-part story that was before mine. I had submitted the idea of this pet story as just an idea for an issue, and Bobby had said well, you know. What would you think about having this as Friendship is Magic? Of course, I was interested in that. I said well okay, go ahead and put that in. He said well it leaves us with one more story there and I was trying to see if we could wiggle out turning that into a two-part story. Bobby didn't think that it made any sense to make the pet story two parts and sort of tasked me with coming up with another fun, one-shot story. That would be good for Friendship is Magic.

    I played around with a lot of things and I had thrown the Discord and Fluttershy's Excellent Adventure story in there as a Hail Mary. Hoping that I might get the chance to do something like that. That ended up being the one that got picked up. Really it was a lot of fun to write. I got to do a lot of fun pokes and prods at things I enjoy, and references to other things I enjoy. Which plays a lot on the first issue I did and the relationship with him and the Cutie Mark Crusaders. Then there's the relationship with him and Fluttershy in there which I've always enjoyed.

    "Poke the alligator a little harder, Scootaloo."

    JW: Yeah! Discord makes any situation a little more fun and a little more dangerous. I really like the pairing of him with the Cutie Mark Crusaders because being a dad, if anybody is a match for a God of chaos, it's three little fillies.

    I'm surprised he didn't make them his official apprentices.

    JW: A lot of people ask about if this stuff is canon, and the official answer is "yes, it is, until it isn't." If it doesn't mess with the show stuff, then it's officially part of the canon there. That's something that I'd really like to see bleed over into the show at some point. I had a lot of fun playing with the dynamic and it would be fun to see that group together on the show.

    If for no other reason than to just see Ponyville under mass chaos.

    JW: Yes.

    What inspired you to go to ancient Egypt and have it be a society ruled by cats and dogs?

    JW: I feel like any time you do time travel, you've got to end up in ancient Egypt at some point. I wanted to make it a place that Discord had already been, a place that he was already familiar with. Of course in the traditional Han Solo sense that [he] already screwed it up for everybody else before they got there. The residents already knew who he was and wanted to take him captive from the point he got there.

    The cats and the dogs thing sprang naturally from the Egyptian mythology with Anubis and Bast. Initially, they looked a lot more like the initial designs of what those gods looked like. Hasbro was not crazy about that. Generally in the My Little Pony universe, cats and dogs don't talk. Hasbro wanted them to be a little more magical, so we made Anubis and his goons look a bit more like the Diamond Dogs.

    Then we gave the cats three tails and wings. The idea of cats with wings just terrifies me. The wings, that was all Brenda Hickey's idea. The idea of house cats having wings is ... That's the thing that causes Doomsday!

    I would not be surprised, if Opal's any indication of that.

    JW: I don't know how many house cats you know, but I mean just the idea of them being able to divebomb you whenever they feel like it. To be able to make any of those terrible jumps that they attempt is terrifying for me.

    Were any of those cats supposed to be similar to Twilight and her friends?

    JW: To some extent. In the initial script it was a little more. [However], it was not a comparison that Hasbro felt was particularly helpful to the story, so we dialed it back a bit. There's definitely some references to some of the characters—as well as some indication that Anubis is somehow related to Nightmare Moon—in there. It was a lot of fun. Yeah, they're not intended to be directly related.

    Other than possibly one.

    You know certain things always get changed in production, so at least people managed to catch on to it.

    JW: People got it without us having to make it too explicit. There have been plenty of things that we've thrown into comics—some of which have gotten through that probably shouldn't have—and some of which have gotten pulled out. I would have liked to see them stick around but that [issue] ended up working well without having all the explicit references in there.

    Yes, I'd say it did. Though speaking of having some explicit references in the comics, Friends Forever 13 is the first MLP comic to make use of the continuity from the comic series itself as the springboard for the story. Not only that, but it also references an issue written by a different writer to do so. I take it this means that those who work on the comic actually read each other's stuff.

    JW: I try to read as many of other folk's issues as I can. I don't catch them all. In the case of that particular one it ended being a lucky thing, in that that story that it references was actually packaged in the same trade collection as the two Friendship is Magic stories that I had written. I've been through that trade a few times with my daughter reading it and I got it while I was reading the Rarity and Babs story.

    Interestingly I had initially written the dialogue in that scene to reflect that Rarity and Babs had never officially "met" in the series. As Rarity [close as] is to Sweetie Belle, that she doesn't necessarily [means she] knows all of her friends.

    I had a bit where she had trouble remembering who Babs was, and wasn't sure she'd ever met her. As I was in the process of editing the story that other story came to me. It was like, "oh well, I can reference this explicitly." I did that. It ended up working out well. It ties the two stories together nicely.

    It does. However, when having Rarity and Babs go through their whole interaction history the first time they referenced that other story felt a little forced and clunky to me. But, this in turn leads to my next question. Which is how do you handle getting feedback and criticism from the reader base?

    JW: I tend not to take everything at face value because I know that there's a lot of people who react a bit strong initially to things. There's a lot of people that would say things on the internet that they wouldn't necessarily say in person. There's a lot of people who have their own fan canons they tend to be a bit defensive of.

    At the same time there's a lot of things people don't realize. Like we're not always quite aware of what everybody else writing the book is doing. There's a good half-dozen issues being plotted at any given time.

    Not to mention we're entirely at the mercy of the show. Not only what it wants to do, but what they can tell us about it. There's been several occasions where I've written a story and then months after I'm done with it—before it actually comes out—there's something in another issue that contradicts it. Or in a few instances where the show doesn't necessarily directly contradict something. But it definitely changes the context of it.

    The most obvious one for me was between the time that I wrote the time travel issue and the time that the time travel issue came out, the two-part season finale of season four happened. Discord, at least temporarily, went bad. That was not something that I had any indication was coming or fit particularly well with the story. I don't think it directly contradicts it, but it had a lot of people asking me questions about how that relates. The answer was it doesn't. I didn't know it was going to, before it happened.

    Luckily there are plenty of cases where I've read a story or a pitch or something, and I get some sort of feedback that's like, "okay well you need to keep this in mind, because we're going to do this in this season." We don't want to directly contradict that at any point. Occasionally I get to learn neat things before they happen.

    I try to take each comment for what it's worth. I evaluate it and consider whether it's something that somebody has a legitimate point on or whether it's just a gripe they have about a character, or if they don't like an idea. My biggest concern is that it stays true to the show, and that it stays accessible to the intended audience of both the show and the comic.
    That's not to say that I don't care what people think about it, but my primary responsibility is to the intended audience of the show, and to the show itself.

    Fair enough.

    JW: The case with something like My Little Pony is that there's enough people that care about it in different ways—and from different perspectives—that you literally can't do anything that's going to go well with everybody. Just in the announcement of we're doing a Silver Spoon and Diamond Tiara issue of Friends Forever  made people angry, as you saw on the boards. That we're paying any attention or giving an issue to these bullies.

    I just saw it as the unofficial sixth issue in FIENDship is Magic.

    JW: It actually works out that way, interestingly, because that month there's not a Friends Forever. We're doing one FIENDships is Magic every week in April, and as far as I know that's going to be the next thing that comes out after FIENDship is Magic is finished. In its own way it's kind of a sixth issue of that.

    Before we move on to Spike and Luna, one last question about the Friends Forever #13. Was that really Princess Cadance in the roller derby rink as Shining Harmer?

    JW: You would have to ask Agnes about that. I just wrote the names. I didn't give descriptions of the characters. With the exception of Shadow Smacks who I described the look and hair of. Everybody else was just named as ponies that were playing. I guess that's more of a question for Agnes Garbowska than me.

    I'll definitely have to ask her the next time I talk to her*, because everyone wants to know. Does our favorite pink princess of love moonlight as a roller derby contestant?

    [Interviewer's Note*: I asked and Agnes ain't talking. She just giggles.]

    JW: I certainly love the idea that Cadance would sneak out and do pony roller derby on the weekends, in between ruling.

    And spending time with her husband.

    JW: Right.

    What can you tell us about the unfortunately delayed My Little Pony Friends Forever issue 14?

    JW: This was another one of my stories where I was trying to match up characters who haven't had a lot of time on screen together. It's also an attempt to deal with something that's bothered me in the show. Which is the way that dragons in general—and Spike specifically—are dealt with.

    You get the wild, terrible dragons from Dragon Quest and then you get Spike who is a pet? Servant? Slave? Kid? It's always been really unclear to me what Spike actually is to Twilight, and what his status is. At the same time you have the resolution to Dragon Quest—which always really bothered me—where Spike is not comfortable being a dragon. He would rather consider himself a pony. The weird—I don't think intended, but being who I am an worrying about the things I do—almost racial implications of that [bother the heck] out of me.

    I wanted to do something where we get to see a little more about dragons. You get to see a part of the pony world where dragons and ponies live in relative peace. Even though that peace is sort of threatened in the issue, we get to see somewhat of an investigation carried out by Spike and Luna and the local unicorn police. I also got to do something I've wanted to do for a while which is actually take some of the characters to the oft-referenced but never seen Fillydelphia.

    I can find a couple of things that I'd wanted to see defined, that I'd wanted to work on, and put them into this one thing. I really enjoyed it. It turned out as an interesting issue.

    What gave you the idea to explore the, what's in hindsight, obvious friendship between Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon?

    JW: The basic idea that I pitched to Bobby on that was that I wanted to do a backwards Cutie Mark Crusaders story. The vast majority of the Cutie Mark Crusaders stories play with the dynamic of the three of them verus Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon. We always see things from the Cutie Mark Crusaders' perspective, but it's true that people, and ponies for that matter, never see themselves as the villains in [their] stories. I wondered what one of the stories would look like from the perspective of the young bullies, in [particular] Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon.

    I also wanted to have an excuse to get Filthy Rich in the panels somewhere. We haven't seen him since his initial appearance on the show.

    It's a challenge to write the story from the perspective of the people who are always the bad guys in the story. In some ways these two are less redeemable than several of the really bad guys. There's very rarely been any attempt to make Diamond Tiara seem good. As opposed to somebody like Iron Will or Discord, who is blatantly the antagonist of the story.

    It's about a competition—as so many things in Ponyville often are—between Diamond Tiara,  Silver Spoon. and a teammate that they bring in—or should I say is hired —to help them and the Cutie Mark Crusaders in a sort of three-on-three battle.

    I wonder if Diamond Tiara would actually have her father hire 100 workers to unwrap chocolate bars looking for the elusive golden ticket.

    JW: She absolutely would. That's a very good observation of what sort of character and bully she is. She feels she is owed the best and has yet to be proven wrong. Perhaps she's right. Who knows?

    Who knows? I certainly know that there's a certain cowardly dog that would run away from her. Speaking of Courage, how did you end up writing his little backup story in Powerpuff Girls Super Smash-Up #1?

    JW: Sarah Gaydos—who's the editor on the Cartoon Network books—had just finished Super Secret Crisis War—which was the giant Cartoon Network crossover where they brought in Powerpuff Girls, Dexter, Codename: Kids Next Door, and all these other characters into one story.

    They were launching Powerpuff Girls Smash-Up, which is basically a team-up series. What they wanted to do was have a main story and then have a backup each month with one of the characters who wasn't featured prominently in Super Secret Crisis War. They could get some of these other characters out there and get people to check them out or have a chance to see their favorite characters back.

    She came to me looking for ideas for backups. Gave me a big long list of Cartoon Network characters that I could choose from and work with. I did a handful of pitches. I did the Courage one obviously. I had a bunch of Powerpuff Girls stories I wanted to do—but obviously they're being featured prominently in that, some Codename: Kids Next Door, and various other things.

    The Courage one was the one that ended up being picked. I got to play on some of the superhero tropes. Pick on a particular movie that came out a couple of years ago that I didn't really enjoy. I'm not sure how many people picked up on that that has anything to do with that movie, but it was definitely my inspiration for that story.

    Well, I'm sure if anyone's read that story and picked up on it, I'm sure it'll be mentioned in the comics section on Equestria Daily after this.

    JW: Very likely. With a character whose name is Carbon Polymerman, I'm not sure what possible superhero that could be referencing.

    I couldn't imagine it either. None whatsoever.

    I have two questions relating to Sombra. First, how do you think Sombra's magic door works?

    JW: Sombra has two magic doors. The one that connects to the throne room, which  opens up the stairs. That floor must be solid most of the time otherwise there'd be a lot of ponies falling through it comically, and possibly to their death onto those giant stairs.

    The one you're probably referring to is the "evil" Sombra doorway which does terrible things to your mind. My theory with that—and what kind of shows in that comic—is that the doorway actually leads to a variety of places. It's magically linked to a number of places in the castle that, as far as we know, are only accessible through that doorway. Including the giant upward stairs that we saw in the series and Sombra's study which we reveal in the first few pages. Who knows what else we could possibly get into from down there? Being a magic door that moves around, it could go any number of places. You might  have to either know where you're going and use it accordingly, or just give it a shot and hope you end up in the right place.

    Or if you're King Sombra, yell so that the door will come up to you.

    JW: Right. I'm sure if you're King Sombra you just walk up to the door, yell at it, and it takes you where you want to go.

    The second question I have is what initially led you to the idea of starting out the story with Cadance and Twilight seeing if they could find Sombra's study?

    JW: I wanted to tell what's essentially Sombra's origin. To give a little more detail on what he's like. Because of the status quo right now, I can't exactly pick up from there. He's a series of shadow particles blown into space somewhere thanks to Cadance and Shining Armor.

    What I wanted to do was frame it in the present and give us a chance to look back through their eyes as they stumble across Sombra's diary and find out about him through there. You get a chance to look back and really see a story told through Sombra's eyes, despite the fact that Sombra's not really around at the time to give us that tour. I wanted to frame it with them and give their perspective.

    I also wanted to introduce Sombra's study. I liked the idea of Sombra's study.  I put that together and wanted to frame it that way. It gives us a chance to relate it to the current time without having to invent some reason for Sombra to be around telling us the story.

    Now I am actually surprised that Sombra would keep a diary of his events.

    JW: You know, Sombra's a guy who has a really high opinion of himself. If you thought you were as important as he thinks he is, then you would want to keep record of those things. People need to know about the amazing things that Sombra's done, so he has to write it all down somewhere. The ponies of the future need to know about his greatness.

    He can't trust anyone else to write down his grand and glorious plans for they don't quite think at the moment.

    JW: Of course not. The other ponies, the crystal ponies, they don't realize how great he is. They don't understand the greatness that is Sombra. He has to jot it down himself.

    What advice do you have for writers who are looking to break into the comic book industry?

    JW: My biggest advice on that is to write. To tell your own stories. Make your own characters and your own ideas, to tell the kind of stories that you want to exist. Don't wait around for somebody to give you permission to use their characters to tell a story. If that's the only story that you wait around to be told? It's probably not going to happen.

    Unlike artists who can demonstrate that they have the knack of it by drawing somebody else's stuff, a lot of stuff for writes is a case of actually getting something published and getting out there. If you want to work for somebody, getting those people to see it. If you want to work for yourself, just continuing to push it, push yourself and get it out there. That's the biggest thing is just not to wait and count on somebody else to give you that boost. Do what you want to do, with or without permission.

    Good advice. Was there anything else you want to talk about?

    JW: Let's see. Am I doing anything else interesting? The digital copies of the first issue of Illegal, my Kickstarter series, have gone out. I'm working on the physical ones, so anybody who did back that, rewards are coming along.

    Then we've got a new issue of Princeless, the Pirate Princess, coming out this week. That'll be in stores on Wednesday. Then another one in March, another one in April. Eventually this Friends Forever with Spike and Luna will be out. Hopefully by March. Then we've got Friendship is Magic in April, and Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon in May. Should have volume five of Princeless, volume four there too.

    Never-ending supply of good stuff. Hopefully more good things that I can't actually talk about yet, but rest assured there are more good things coming. Pony and otherwise.

    Always glad to hear.

    JW: I've spent all day today hammering away at a Pony script that just won't finish being written.

    Well, hopefully we'll be able to see that soon.

    JW: We'll know soon hopefully. I've already got the okay on the thing. I've written one script. Got a lot of notes that I had to take into it. I banged that out today. Hopefully that should be something that reappears in the future.

    Looking forward to it. Thank you for your time, Jeremy. It was a true pleasure.

    JW: It was a pleasure for me as well.