About 15 years ago, Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg published The Plain Janes and its sequel, Janes in Love, through Minx, a young adult imprint of DC Comics. They were a bit ahead of their time. The graphic novels were critical darlings but sales were slow.
When the publishing rights reverted back to them, Cecil and Jim were ready; they’d been talking about continuing the series for a decade. And the market might be ready too. In the years since the original Plain Janes came out, comics featuring female protagonists, written for younger readers have blown up. Raina Telgemeier, anyone? Anyway, the new Plain Janes book collects the original two installments and finishes off the series with a brand new story.
The series focuses on Jane Beckles, the new kid at school. After Jane was hurt in a terrorist bombing in Metro City, her family thought they’d be safer in the suburbs. At lunch on her first day, Jane finds her crowd, a bunch of misfit girls who all happen to also be named Jane. Along with Brain Jayne, Theater Jane, and sporty Polly Jane, our Main Jane forms a secret art collective dedicated to making their town a little less boring by creating works of guerrilla street art.
Their work starts to make a difference. Others are inspired to make their own public art. But the authorities aren’t so fond of what they think of as graffiti, and the secret art projects remind Jane’s parents of the scary chaos of the city they’re trying to escape. Meanwhile Jane’s thoughts are with a man she helped after the bombing, a man who is still in a coma and whose sketchbook, emblazoned with the words “Art Saves” inspired her to become an artist herself.
There’s a lot going on in Plane Janes. It’s a book about art and activism. Friendship and family. Overcoming fear and making ideas reality. Plus it is beautifully drawn and designed, with each installment printed in a different color. I loved it.