INTERVIEW: Jeremy Whitley Talks About Rainbow Brite

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Jeremy Whitley
Rainbow Brite was created by Hallmark Cards in 1983 and later spun off into an animated television series of the same name in 1984. The success of the show saw Rainbow Brite being licensed to Mattel for a range of dolls and other merchandise. Since then, the franchise has been in the hearts of many fans with her colorful ensembles and positive themes. Today, new generations are being introduced to the character thanks to Dynamite Comics’ series from writer Jeremy Whitley featuring artist Brittney Williams, colorist Valentina Pinto, and letterer Taylor Esposito. Jeremy Whitley outside of writing Rainbow Brite is also known for his series Princeless and his work on Marvel’s The Unstoppable Wasp.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Jeremy Whitley about his work on the series and what it meant to him both as a writer and personally.

But Why Tho: What was it like taking on such a beloved property and how did you feel it needed to be updated for modern audiences if at all?

Whitley: It was both incredibly fun and I felt an incredible sense of responsibility.  I grew up with Rainbow Brite, but I know there are people who are huge fans of the series and a lot of younger folks for whom this would be their first interaction with Rainbow Brite.
As for updating, the most important aspects of that for me were pulling it out of the extremely episodic format we get with the show, because we wanted to tell bigger stories and – hand in hand with that – giving Rainbow Brite something that she never had: an origin. In the original cartoon, she appears in the world with very little introduction or explanation and I wanted to do more world building and think about where she comes from and why she does what she does. The only other big changes I feel like I made are to put the book more in line with modern versions of the genre that, in a lot of ways, Rainbow Brite created.
But Why Tho: Why do you think Rainbow Brite is so important?

Whitley: I think Rainbow Brite is important because it is a story where the hero solves many of the problems by talking to others and making an attempt to understand them. Rainbow Brite, in what was a pretty rare move in the 80’s, demonstrates what are generally held to be feminine attributes in a heroic way.  The emphasis isn’t on strength, anger, will, determination, rage or any of that.  Rainbow Brite saves the day using kindness, compassion, empathy, and love.  I feel like there are some adults out there that could learn a lot from characters like her and Steven Universe. 

But Why Tho: I know while I have been reading this series and reviewing it, I have spoken a few times about imposter syndrome and my struggle with it and how it relates to Wisp and her journey. What was the most impactful theme for you in the book?

Jeremy Whitley: I think we’re living in a time when the people who are most convinced of their own heroism are often the most destructive people and people who want to build and create are made to feel like they’re unimportant and naive.  People who believe in helping others are written off as “bleeding hearts” and it’s important to me to build stories around characters whose biggest motivating factor is to help others.  It ties in very closely with Wisp’s imposter syndrome.  She doesn’t believe in herself as this heroic standard, but she does feel a need to help others that she can’t ignore and that’s what makes her heroic.

I frequently tell my daughter, being brave isn’t about not being scared.  It’s about being scared and doing the thing you’re afraid of anyway.  And that’s Wisp all over, I think.

But Why Tho: You tend to write strong young women/girls. What it is about these characters that make you want to tell their stories.

Whitley: There are a lot of things, but I think there are two main factors for me.  The first is that I have daughters and I want them to be able to see themselves reflected in fiction, especially heroic fiction.  I think when we see ourselves in these types of stories it helps us to understand that we can do great things in our real lives.  I can tell them that all day long, but seeing Wonder Woman or Storm or Captain Marvel has much more of an impact.  The second thing is that I think there are more stories to be told there.  If you look at any lineup of The Avengers or the Justice League, there’s such a disproportionate number of white men on those teams, it’s impossible to ignore.  I could tell stories about other types of people for the rest of my life and never come close to approaching…gosh…even the number of Batman stories that are out there, never mind the rest of them.

Rainbow Brite #4 is available from Dynamite Comics today everywhere that comic books are sold.

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