Friday, March 20, 2015

Jennifer Vaiano Karp Interview: My So-Called Secret Identity Character Designer

Jennifer Vaiano Karp

Interview: Nicole D'Andria
Interviewee: Jennifer Vaiano Karp

Last week I interviewed the writer of My So-Called Secret Identity (MSCSI), Will Brooker. This week, I’m speaking with the artist who did the character designs for the series, Jennifer Vaiano Karp.

Me: How would you describe your art style?

Jennifer Vaiano: I don't think I have clear style of art. I love sketches, and the look of raw lines. I always want to make my work look more streamlined and "finished" but I can't help but stop at a certain point because I just find it more appealing. 

Me: Who were some of your inspirations as an artist?

Vaiano: Brian Froud. Love his style and loved his designs. I also loved all the concept art of Disney. It had that raw unfinished look that made it so beautiful.

Me: You did the character designs for My So-Called Secret Identity. Can you talk about some of these and the inspiration behind them?

Concept design for Surprise Delight by Jennifer Vaiano

Vaiano: Most of the looks were inspired by late 80s and early 90s fashion. Will wanted to take it in that direction, so I channeled my pre-teen and teen years hahaha. Although designing out her "gear" was based off my own personal experience. My father is retired law enforcement, so I put myself in her situation and I "raided" my father's closet. 

Me: There's been some talk that there are some similarities between My So-Called Secret Identity and the direction DC Comics has decided to take with Batgirl. How do you feel about this?

Vaiano: I noticed the similarities right away. Will contacted me in October 2011 when we put together a new look. He wanted the look of her to be things she could find in everyday life (luckily for him I was in the position that I had a law enforcement father, haha!).

A couple of years later the new Batgirl was oddly similar.  Not just in looks but other similar things from the story. I didn't really mention it to anyone else, I mean who would believe me hahaha, so I just kept it to myself. It wasn't until Will and a few others started mentioning it that I realized, I wasn't crazy, it was similar. I mean at this point, MSCSI was its own world, with its own characters. Yes it started as almost a fan fiction, but it turned into its own thing, so it kind of feels weird.

Me: Can you talk about some of the similarities you see between the new Batgirl and MSCSI?

Batgirl sketches for Will Brooker's Batgirl pitch

Vaiano: The new costume was the biggest head turner. For so long Batgirl's suit was a full spandex suit or leather type outfit that was very stereotypical super hero, that the new look of almost using everyday items stopped me to do a double take. Also her very girl next door look. Switching from new 52 Batgirl to the current one was very drastic. When I first saw her all I could think was "huh." Then Will happened to post side by side similarities and it became more noticeable, with cover shots and such.

Me: What other comic related projects have you worked on?

Vaiano: None actually. I never considered myself a comic book artist. I still don't. I like drawing up concepts and designs, but I rather someone else do the comic book work and story. Hahaha I am a terribly impatient person, so working on one project or comic would probably kill me.

Me: What other concept designs have you done outside of My So-Called Secret Identity?

Jennifer Vaiano's re-sketch of rejected concept art for Rebel Toons: Little Bo Peep

Vaiano: I did it privately for people who were looking to do their own independent works, but I did work for a small company from 2008-2009 (and one or two jobs on 2010) called Rebel Toons for awhile designing out a lot of their characters, which were even turned into Halloween Costumes. I unfortunately was contracted so I do not get mentioned or credited.

Me: Why did you decide to do the concept designs for Will Brooker?

Vaiano: He was the first one who actually wanted to give me credit for my work. I valued that more than pay.

Me: What advice can you give to aspiring comic book artists?

Vaiano: Don't be afraid to do what you like. If you like a certain style or genre, then stick to it. If you want to change it up later, go for it. It means you are growing and that is totally ok.

Me: Thank you for your time and cooperation Jennifer! If you are interested in checking out more of her artwork, check out her DeviantArt page. For anyone else interested in checking out MSCSI, you can read the first four chapters and view behind-the-scenes content from the series at

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