"Josh & Imp" was originally written in late 2004 into early 2005 as a story for a superhero anthology that, like most comics collections born out of "why the hell not" instead of a profit mandate backed up with a publishing and distribution operation, went belly-up before any serious steps had been taken towards getting the assorted short works together. At the time I was a tender eighteen years old and blissfully unaware of the horrible track record of projects like this, and so I wrote four stories for the anthology, all of them focusing around the same group of characters: the masked vigilante "Guardian Devil" and his two "Imps," James and Chelsea. Two of the others actually got drawn by artists other than Diana — "Family Reunion" by Robert Jones and "Legacy" by J.C. Grande are both pencilled, inked, lettered, and in Rob's case colored, on some harddrives somewhere — but Diana's dedication to the story above and beyond any rational duty she had to what was, admittedly, the best of the four scripts I wrote for these characters make "Josh & Imp" something special.

The story's about two kids in love — Josh, a high-schooler with a rocky home life and a job bagging groceries after school, and Imp, a teenaged costumed crimefighter chafing under the tutelage of Guardian Devil. Their lives are radically different, their dates are logistical nightmares, and their own neuroses, insecurities, and suspicions undermine the tentative closeness they share; Imp thinks Josh is only seeing her because of the novelty value of dating a superhero, and Josh, besides being overwhelmed and humbled by her stories of thwarting plans for apocalypse and world domination, is embarrassed that he doesn't even know Imp's real name. They've got issues they need to settle, to be sure, but most of the time they can just forget about that, because of all the fun they're having together.

Anyone with a passing knowledge of the business of superhero comics can instantly see the problems this story, and the others in the series, run into when removed from the context of that anthology. The close resemblance of Guardian Devil, Imp, and all the costumed characters in the stories to properties owned by DC Comics is entirely intentional; Imp, for example, isn't Robin, but she is a useful thematic shorthand: everyone knows who Robin is and what his or her general situation is — teenaged apprentice to an overbearing creep of a vigilante; talented and enthusiastic, but raw — and by creating those associations right off the bat, both Diana and I were able to in our separate ways riff off of those themes, and comment on the genre and its conventions without having to spend a lot of time setting up a whole new, unfamiliar cast of characters that might just get in the way of what we were really trying to say.

This fits perfectly in a third-party superhero anthology. It works much less well as a stand-alone piece, or even as part of a collection of stories solely starring the Guardian Devil cast. As publishers have informed us, and perhaps I should have known from the start, there's really not much room on the market for 24 pages of slice-of-life semi-satirical tinkering with the underlying themes of the Batman mythos unless, well, you're writing Batman. So we decided to cut our losses — and you can tell with just a look how much time Diana sacrificed on the art — put this in the desk drawer for later, and move on to other projects.

A note for when you're reading it: as I said, I wrote this when I was eighteen and extremely inexperienced in writing for sequential art, and it shows through explicitly in the dialogue, the volume and quality of which I take full responsibility for. What you're not seeing is the usually boneheaded, occasionally completely insane panel layouts I had cooked up for Diana to use. She was able to take my terrible ideas about layout and the accompanying river of dialogue and turn them into art with dynamic, interesting, and engaging direction. And at one point, when she was unable to save me from myself, she fixed it by adding two pages. Just about all praise for "Josh & Imp" should go to her for the professionalism she brought to the project, and all criticism to me for writing characters that can't shut up for even one damn minute.

Then again, I think that's part of the charm of Imp and Josh. And who knows? Maybe one day, they'll find a home in another anthology somewhere. Until then, the story will be available here to read for free.

Jon Bernhardt, 2008                    

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Jon can also be found over at the Funnybook Babylon blog.

Oh, "Josh & Imp," my poor awkward baby.

Jon approached me with the script for this story after a previous failed attempt at a collaboration — a too-ambitious one, I'll say — and, well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. I technically started it in 2005, during my senior year of college at MCAD, over winter break. My very slow, shaky start on the project then proved to be prophetic because once I had graduated and felt it was time to begin "Josh & Imp" in earnest, it took me about a year to get it all done, not counting my recent tweaks before putting it online.

Jon has praised my sticking to this project and seeing it through. While I admit I'm pretty damn stubborn, my work on this isn't something to be emulated. While I was working, it seemed to go at a snails pace, and at times, I despaired of ever finishing it. This is for several reasons. One, I wasn't very confident in my own abilities, especially when drawing someone else's story. Two, I was back living at home after graduation, a situation that put me in a perpetual bad mood and made it hard to concentrate. Three, some serious bad crap went down in my life shortly after I began plugging away at this comic. Suffice to say, it didn't help with the aforementioned bad mood.

Of course, now that I look at my little list, it reads like a bunch of excuses. I guess you had to be there. I did get the damn thing done, though. At least I can be proud of that. It's rough and incredibly awkward in some parts, for which I can only take partial credit, but I visually crafted every single thing you see in the comic. Like Jon said above, I even went and added two pages in the middle to spare you, the reader, the task of deciphering a full spread of nothing but static silhouettes and dialogue balloons. You're welcome.

My experience with "Josh & Imp" became a battle of wills. Well, my will versus the combined forces of mind-numbing surroundings and the terror of the blank page. I would have hated myself for abandoning it, instead of being merely annoyed at myself for the way I finished it.

And as awkward as the art is in, let's face it, most parts of the comic, I learned a lot. Better drafting skills. Little tricks to get me through. The right materials for me to use. How NOT to manage my time. Et cetera.

Now it's all online for everyone to point and laugh at. I mean, read and enjoy. Yeah, that last one.

Diana Nock, 2008                    

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More of Diana's work can be found on the Jinxville main site.

"Josh & Imp" is copyright to its creators, 2004-2008.