Through a clerical error, Janie becomes the roommate of Ryan at the Port Royal Boarding School in rural Pennsylvania. Brought up in a Jewish household, Janie has very strong ties to her religion, considering it more than a simple belief in god. Though tomboyish, athletic and sporting social graces, she finds a kindred spirit in the meek but mentally unstable Ryan, and soon finds herself searching for the reasons behind his dismay.
After Ryan, Janie was the second character I created, as she was the main person who Ryan was going to be bounced off that would set his life on a different course.
It’s interesting to note though, that originally Janie wasn’t meant to be a girl, but instead a boy. Fundamentally, Janie’s backstory was to be the same as it is in the comic series, but instead of being a girl and a boy who would make an ultimately covert friendship, it would be Ryan and another boy who was originally named ‘Jamie Niemczyk’, a red-head whose design wasn’t too dissimilar to Jinny Hanson.
However, during early drafts of the story, I decided that, to add a different dynamic to the characters, I would instead have Jamie become Janie, while the name Niemczyk was changed to Hanzlicek so that, alphabetically, the boy and girl duo would come close to each other on the register and thus end up having the same dorm room. Needless to say, the Jamie moniker would come back within the story as an alias for Janie so that Ryan’s abusive father would be none the wiser.
For Janie’s look, this was inherited from a character who was originally going to appear in Outsiders, that being a secretary for Siobhan named Alyx. Indeed the original design for both Alyx and Janie came from my original concept for Red 348, where a teenage girl named Suzanne is given a historic Rolls-Royce as a birthday gift and has to try and hide it from her friends who’ll probably make fun of her. Therefore, Janie’s design is by far the oldest, with roots dating back all the way to 2014.
While I could have stayed with the red-head look of Janie/Jamie, I decided instead to adopt my previous look for Alyx as I had always wanted to experiment with a black-haired girl in my series. Aside from it, much like Ryan, helping her to stand out in a crowd, it also holds a symbolic look as Janie’s raven hair is diametrically opposed to Ryan’s almost bleached blonde toupee.
For her personality, this again was done to be the opposite of Ryan. While Ryan is an understated but kind-hearted bookworm, Janie has been raised full of life and youthful energy – taught to marry her love of sport and outgoing demeanour with strong religious ties. Indeed, the main aspect of her character is her bond with the Jewish faith, that she is willing to forgo what’s popular among girls of her age group to instead practice her religion and abide by its customs. This again comes in opposition to Ryan, who, while very religious, constantly questions the morality of it all, while Janie knows that her faith is more than just believing in god, it’s more a race of its own that separates her from other American girls.
At the same time, Janie can be quite a fragile girl, as while she’s a sports whizz and can hold an intelligent conversation with Ryan, she has her limits and something of a temper. Again, much like Ryan, I didn’t want a character who’s ‘too nice’, someone who everyone gets along with and never sets a foot out of line – things like that simply aren’t possible. She makes mistakes and is not terribly good at exams, desiring to nurture her love of sports more than her academic success, but the defeat still coming as an emotional blow.
Regardless, in a break from her tradition, which, like her Uncle Ephraim, would have her sceptical of gentiles, Janie illustrates that she is willing to go against her traditions to an extent when her own sympathies towards non-Jewish folk come to the fore, as is the case with Ryan. That was, for the most part, the connection I wanted to establish between the two – a popular, Jewish sporty girl and an emotionally unstable but gentle Christian boy.