BRENNAN: Do you LIKE Jeremy or Nils?
COOPER: I like all my characters - faults aren't always a turn-off. But I'm biased. I know them inside-out.
BRENNAN: In issue one I kinda assumed Nils would turn out to be a rogue-with-a-well-hidden-heart-of-gold, but she really is a jerk. So then I thought Jeremy was a sympathetic character, but Doug kinda gave the impression that he, at least, has little sympathy for someone who consistently puts up with being treated so poorly.
COOPER: He is a sympathetic character - but part of our web is that it's difficult to pin any simple response to a character. His low self-esteem/doormat problem is meant to frustrate you - but as with all the characters, he's like that for a reason, and FROM that, he's colossally fucked-up - which is probably why he's my favorite. I've got a real soft-spot for him. He's a gentle sweetie who got his head twisted and is protecting himself desperately with defenses he doesn't really have.
BRENNAN: I'm guessing you're fond of Katie, yes?
COOPER: Totally. I also think she's far sexier than Nils.
BRENNAN: Why does she put up with a jerk and a nebbish?
COOPER: Jeremy has her totally fascinated ( if not bewildered) - and it's in her journalistic nature to pursue an interesting story.
BRENNAN: Does Katie have a mild crush on Jeremy?
COOPER: No, it's way too early for that. The first impression everyone seems to have clung to is 'Kate's fallen/falling for Jeremy'. Relationship-wise, he's definitely not her 'type'. She does develop a lust, which is largely spurred on by the whole Bitch-Patrol game. This will be one of her biggest fuck-ups.
BRENNAN: In which case why did she put up with Nils as a roomie way back when?
COOPER: There was nothing between them back then, and Nils was a lot 'younger', so Kate stupidly assumed she'd eventually chill-out. Nils never brought guys home - she vanished (her little quirk) for a week or so, then come home having grown bored. (A LARGE part of Kate's curiosity - Nils has stayed with Jeremy for two years. An uncharacteristic first.) Also, the whole presence of Jeremy is and unconscious tension. Without realizing it, the girls are competing - so both are prone to cattier moments. The final and most important point - back then, Nils was a free-spirit with no emotional ties beyond her friendship with Kate. Now she's warring with herself, and her cruel behavior is the main symptom.
BRENNAN: A big part of the series seems to be that Nils is so good-looking that she has little incentive to become less of a jerk... in fact, that may somehow be why she's a jerk in the first place. But she's not presented in a COMPLETELY unflattering light: she's clever, funny, and although she seems to draw validation from being a knock-out, she doesn't obsess over diet or makeup or whatever. Most fiction that presents good-looking jerks works much harder to paint them unsympathetically -- like, "Oh, she's slim, but here she is vomiting into the toilet." Or, "she's beautiful, but vapid."
COOPER: Uh-huh. That shits me about most female portrayal. The same negativity is thrown on having big tits. I think a character with bulimia or no-sense IS sympathetic. It's tragic. Particularly the diet issue - eating disorders are extreme acts of self-hatred. As for Nils, I have no desire to pidgeon-hole her into those now (maddeningly) cliched roles. Nilson working unsympathetically depends on your involvement (are you sympathetic to Jeremy, and thus sickened by her cruelty - or unconsciously smitten with Nilson's "ideal", and grabbing at the fleeting glimpses of what could be her own 'sob-story'? That may sound harsh, but these are given responses we're deliberately utilizing.). She is by no means confident. It's all an act, and Nilson, if anything, is an excellent actress. Nothing's sadder than a girl who fucks around without ever finding (or in her case, fleeing FROM) intimacy. She IS treated badly - but it's her own chosen path of self-abuse. Also, we're leaving Nils (for now) as an enigma. We haven't shown her 'behind closed doors' behavior.
There is one major hint to her looks obsession that's been there from the first issue - her right eye. Nils has deep scars of her own, and whilst they're not in the same league as Jeremy's, they're no less damaging. Classically, she's running away from it.
BRENNAN: Anyway, Jeremy seems genuinely attracted to her beyond her appearance, which makes me think maybe there's something to her that I'm not seeing. Am I imagining this?
COOPER: This has less to do with Nils and the validity of her alluring qualities, and ALL to do with Jeremy himself. Nils is the first friend he's ever had in his life (Raoul doesn't count), and they DO have fun times. Every ounce of his affection (desperate for SOMEONE since Uncle Angus) was focused on her. He knows he has absolutely nothing but her.
Jeremy's family have done a class act on him, with the one exception of Uncle Angus.
Nilson's looks confused him, rather than attracted him - as in "WHY is she HERE?". Kate's not the only one baffled by that. She could be a lot plainer and he'd feel the same way. My choice of looks for Nils is very deliberate. His physical attraction to her is out of his depth, and she's so overt he can't ignore it. She's his constant reminder that he's an adult, and he's absolutely terrified of it.
BRENNAN: Is the not-completely-irredeemable quality of Nils a function of writing with more depth than TV, or are you holding out the possibility that she might be redeemed?
COOPER: Everyone's redeemable, Nils being no exception. Alas, redemption requires a jolly descent into the abyss before the mirror's held up. I'll leave it there.
Calculated control + defenses + independent pride against human frailty + humanity + the truth. Yes, I'm being deliberately cryptic, but you're asking me to divulge the story. One of Nilson's major hang-ups is her ice-queen independence. She's determined to always be the one holding the controls. If you WANT me to ruin the fun, I'll be more specific, but there are already clues in the issues to date.
BRENNAN: Personally, I way identify with Jeremy, as the underdog, and I hate Nils for mistreating him and I kinda have a growing anger w/Jeremy for taking so much shit.
COOPER: A gloriously natural reaction, which is all part of our experiment.
BRENNAN: Also, I find myself sympathetic to Nils no matter how big a jerk she is just cause she's so freaking attractive. That and "finding Mr. Right" isn't the be-all and end-all of her existence.
COOPER: That's putting it mildly.
BRENNAN: Up until the last few issues, I've always assumed Nils was secretly in love with Jeremy, but couldn't handle it (for some to-be-revealed reason) so channeled her attraction into nastiness. Fer instance, when the aliens modified her behavior, one said, "Interestingly, it's almost as if..." ("...she's already soft on him"?) And in issue #7, when we see Jeremy-of-the-future visited by yet another alien trying to help him get laid, in the background we see a photograph of a woman with her right eyelid closed -- Nils cools off, marries Jeremy and lets go of her inhibition about showing her "imperfect" right eye?
COOPER: That panel was just there to embellish a joke, and a couple of things in the picture betray it as a red-herring. The closed eye in the photograph wasn't deliberate, just the result of shaky inking on a small image. It also isn't Nils, it's a photo of Jeremy's parents, the same one on the background wall of Jeremy's mind in issue five. (I think it's in the very first panel) In both instances, his father's image is obscured, by his hat in one, and a panel boarder in another.
BRENNAN: In other words, Nils lashing out a bit at Jeremy 'cause she secretly dug him still falls into the reasonably-likable qualities bin. But she's been smacking him around so badly lately -- and more importantly, HE SEEMS EMOTIOINALLY HURT (it all seemed so slapstick at first), that I've given up trying to like her. She's been unforgivably nasty to our hero, and at this point I don't care if she's secretly enamored or what.
This raises a big issue. In real life if a man hits a woman it's a terrible thing. PG brings the violence to the surreal, and has a woman regularly hitting a man (which is an almost unheard-of thing, I'm told). Is Jeremy a codependent who stays with a partner (albeit non-romantic) who regularly hits him? Or does the surreality of PG make it not "hitting" as in the real world, but more of a physical metaphor for razzing?
COOPER: The physical violence is meant to be surreal. When it isn't it should be obvious, like the duel, which we deliberately toned down to be darker. Jeremy didn't take Dougal in the slapstick manner he takes Nils. Also, taking Nils' treatment is Jeremy's form of self-abuse - and I would hope that the "family" hints we've dropped so far elude to much more.
BRENNAN: How would readers feel if the level of cartoon violence was maintained, but it was a man regularly hitting a woman? How would you feel?
COOPER: Well, that's part of what we're doing. Sure, it's funny - but only on the surface. Sometimes, the only way to understanding something is through someone you can relate to. Again, this is why Nils has that vulnerable side. It's less a taking-of-sides and more a unification of human nature - in that we're all alike, in the end. Personally, I think any abuse at any living thing is not to be tolerated. It's never about turning-the-tables or revenge. That just incites further retaliation.
BRENNAN: Jeremy seems to be semi-immortal, like he's half "Highlander" or something (for instance, he can put his arm back on with gaff tape). Is cutting his arm off the equivalent of playfully punching a "normal" person in the arm?
COOPER: Pretty much.
In what way has her treatment grown more extreme?
BRENNAN: I guess she's always done terrible things to him, but... part of it is I didn't read "issue zero" till after I'd read the first 7, so I didn't know about the arm being cut off. anyway, it seemed like she wacked him around, but he called her names back, and he never really got hurt, so it was all just part of their weird dynamic and not abusive or (and this is big) unconsented. After the "breakfast monster" episode, Jeremy seemed genuinely unhappy about the exchange for the first time. Or maybe the violence is drifting from the surreal to the plausible, and thus gaining weight (whereas I'm gaining weight while becoming increasingly surreal).
COOPER: To clarify, Jeremy had just regained consciousness, and was also dazed. He was also still concerned by their fight in Greenland, and not expecting her high-energy entrance. Mostly, it wasn't the egg-pelting that hurt, it was seeing Nils for the first time in months, only to have her fuck off with Kate without him. His "bye" was more of a "left-out" farewell. I know this wasn't obvious, but it will become more apparent which barbs of hers actually penetrate.
BRENNAN: "It's amazing what the cute ones can get away with." Seems to be a major theme in PG. What are you trying to learn about that sentence which isn't immediately obvious?
COOPER: I'm not trying to learn anything - the sentence is bullshit. With manipulation comes some sacrifice - even if it's your humanity - and (call it Karma or whatever) no-one truly 'gets away with it'. If anything, that's what we want a lot of our readers to think about. We're not trying to say anything with P.G., we're just offering stuff-to-mull-over.