Ielle Palmer, a.k.a. Danielle Cook ’97, is a proud graduate of the Morrisville State Journalism program and is in the midst of producing her first comic book, Wayward. Ielle and her team took a chance on the fairly new concept of crowdfunding and posted their funding appeal on Kickstarter.com, a funding site specifically designated for creative works. Their project was fully funded and exceeded their goal in August, 2013. Wayward is now in production.
We were able to catch up with Ielle over the summer and this is what she had to say.
Can you give us a brief overview of your new endeavor, Wayward?
Wayward is a western/fantasy comic set in a world that shares some similarities to us (historical public figures) but is clearly not our world. We have cowboys and gamblers, as you would expect with a western, but we've worked in superpowers and fantastical creatures. This started out as a story about our main character, Webster Graves, who is a wannabe gambler stuck in the past.
The West is dying and a new era of technology is appearing with this new millennia, but he wants nothing to do with that. However as the following issues have been created, it's clearly becoming more of an ensemble piece, bringing in some of his friends and a surprisingly entertaining and overly motivated wannabe US Marshall named “Coop”, who gets a lot of flak for being a woman and in law enforcement.
Your team recently reached your first Kickstarter goal for “Wayward”- congratulations! How was that experience?
It was surreal. I was seriously humbled, flattered and utterly blown away by the response. There were a number of times there that I thought, “Well no one is going to be interested in this,” and then suddenly there we were EXCEEDING our goals! I've never experienced anything like this. Now that we have one under our belt, I know there are a few things I’d like to tweak for the next time we try a Kickstarter (for example having the updates appear on the main page, or offering more previews to begin with to help hook people early), but for a first attempt, this was brilliant!
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
There are so many places, I'm sort of a sponge. If I hear something or see something in the real world that catches my eye, I like to file it away for later. For example I saw a very small teenage girl riding a pink power wheel down my street the other day, and following traffic laws! That is totally getting worked into a future story somehow. All I kept thinking was, “Wow, she looked both ways, that's better than the guy that just passed in the BMW.” Did I mention she was pounding a Gatorade? Somehow that just seems to complete the look for me.
As for Wayward, a lot of my influences come from the westerns I grew up with. My Father adores westerns, particularly the TV show, “GUNSMOKE”. I ended up being more of an Eastwood/spaghetti western girl, but I absolutely see the poetry behind the traditional western stories. The rest I picked up from a deep love of comic book superheroes and fantasy novels. Somehow mixing the three tropes together just seem to fit in my mind.
What’s your favorite Morrisville memory?
Most of my memories come from the Communications/Journalism department. This was where I spent most of my time, outside of my room in Onondaga Hall. I have found memories of [Distinguished Professor Emeritus] Neil Bandlow passing me as I'd walk to class in the dead of winter, wearing nothing but a polo shirt and some khaki pants. I also enjoyed hanging out in the radio station and responding to [current Journalism professor] Brian McDowell's greeting of “Daniel, my brother!” with “Brian, my sister!”
You were a student at Morrisville not so long ago. Did you come to MSC already knowing what career you wanted to pursue? How did your time at MSC prepare you for your career and did some of your experiences influence your current interests?
Like most college students, I came in thinking I wanted to be one thing and ended up leaving with a slightly different view. I thought I wanted a career in radio (and have since worked in radio and am currently a college radio advisor), but by the time I left I knew that English Literature was my passion. I went on to [SUNY] Fredonia and eventually worked to get my Masters in English. I currently teach at a small community college in the Twin Tiers and love every minute of it. Of course my real passion is writing, but working as a comp teacher is equally rewarding.
Have you always been interested in comic books?
My mother purchased my first comic book for me when I was 5 years old. I grew up in a small town; so small that our local grocery store never bothered to change out their comic book spinner rack. Consequently my first comic book was already 6 years old when purchased by my mother. It was actually a 3 pack of Wonder Woman comics, specifically the trilogy where Wonder Woman loses her crown to another amazon named Orana.
I still have those comics and cherish them (bringing them out occasionally to make sure they aren't in danger of decaying further). My husband occasionally looks online to see if he can find the following issues, just so I can finally find out how the story ends, not that I haven't already figured it out thanks to Wikipedia.
What’s your personal anthem? (A song that pumps you up, defines your life, etc.)
My choice of songs changes like the wind. It's the former DJ in me, but lately for some reason I keep singing White and Nerdy by Weird Al. Not sure what that's about. Trust me, I am NOT a good rapper. It's pretty entertainingly painful.
Can you leave us with one bit of advice for current Morrisville students?
Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something. I had a “friend” at Morrisville who told me that women can't make comics (I was working on some comic book ideas even then). His reasoning was that women just cannot understand superheroes or action films.
To this day there moments where a vindictive part of me wants to send my comic along with the comics of Gail Simone, Kathryn Immonen and Lora Innes; followed up with one of those expensive hallmark recorded message cards of me blowing him a raspberry, but that seems like a lot of work. I guess I'll just stick with going out there and showing him by doing it anyway. Honestly, you end up happier and healthier. Do what you love, kiddos.
Art credit: Joey Schichtel