It’s perhaps more an indication of my own reliance on print that Emi Lenox’s work didn’t really cross my periphery until late last year, when Image released a 400-odd page collection of her work. She’d been running her autobio strip Emitown online since 2008, and had been a part of the Pacific Northwestern comics scene, in part due to internships at Top Shelf and Periscope. But it was the Image-branded tome released late last year that really caught my eye, in part because the work is in such stark contrast to the work traditional associated with the publisher.
Emitown is a confessional strip, the true life adventures of a woman dealing with life in her 20s with Lenox’s hometown of Portland a s a backdrop. The work is tempered with fantasy at times, sure, but the deviations from reality serve as tools with which to tackle life’s sometimes difficult topics. We caught up with Lenox to discuss life after her first book.
The book came out in November of last year?
What sort of promotional did you do? Did you do the riding around the country in a van thing?
Oh no. I couldn’t really afford to do anything, other than some interviews and Internet-type things. I did go to Emerald City. I basically went to all of the conventions that I normally do.
Ones within driving distance.
Yeah [laughs]. Pretty much.
You work in the industry? Is that right?
You mean, prior to Emitown?
Did you quit your full-time job to work on the comic?
No, I mean, I lost my job. But that was roughly around the time the book came out.
So that was, lucky, I guess? At least in the sense that you had something else going when you lost it.
Yeah. I mean, it’s fate, you know? It will all work out. It’s worked out, so far [laughs].
What were you doing at the time?
It was a really boring job, doing data entry for semi-trucks.
Data entry for semi-trucks? That sounds rough.
It’s not bad. I really like typing. And even doing ten-key. So I actually enjoyed it while it lasted.
Was it the sort of job that afforded you time to work on comics while you were doing it?
Kind of. It was a 40 hour work week. I just made time whenever I came home from work. Maybe I had less of a social life back then [laughs].
So you weren’t working on stuff at your desk.
Well, there were certain points that I could, but when I changed bosses at one point, I couldn’t anymore, because she was mean.
Isn’t having a social life an important thing, especially if you’re making comics about your life.
Yeah, I guess I lied. I had a pretty decent social life [laughs].
The strips have a tendency to turn inward—to become a bit more…meta. At some point, the making of the comic becomes part of the comic itself. How long did it take for that to enter the picture?
I definitely did that a lot when the book comes out. Emitown is a diary and I was very excited about that. And I know online there are a couple of stray comics discussing what’s going on with the comics, how I fell incredibly behind. And that sort of thing. I do that just because I want to explain what happened. I get e-mails sometimes, asking why the ones that I’m updating are dated in 2010.
It’s as much of a blog as it is a diary strip sometimes. You’re doing dispatches for people.
In terms of these strips that you’re working on from last year—is it easier to write something when it’s fresher in your mind?
I kind of think it’s awesome to do it this way, despite the fact that I fell behind. Now that I know what’s going to happen, I can kind of organize what I draw a little better, so when it’s compiled into a book, it will hopefully have more of a running storyline, versus the first volume of Emitown, which was more sporadic and random. I’m pretty excited about that.
I suppose it’s always a running storyline on the strength of the fact that you’re still alive.
It’s just a little more episodic when you write as you going along.
Yeah. It would be more episodic for that day, versus right now, because I’m focusing it a little more on the relationship that I had. That’s the storyline that I’m trying to help flow better, now that I can look back on it. So I think if I were to do it day by day, not knowing what’s going to happen, it probably would have been a lot more sporadic and messy.
And I think if, back that, I had done it day by day, not knowing what it led up to, I don’t think I would have been as honest. Certain things wouldn’t have seemed as important at the time, and then it turned out it was a big freakin’ deal.
Is it easier to talk about sensitive issues when there’s space between you and them?
Um. Yeah. I don’t know. With the relationship stuff, it’s definitely sensitive, and I was trying to thumbnail some of the events for 2011, and I couldn’t do it. I still couldn’t do it. It hit the old heartstrings too much. So I’m going to have to go back to that later. So I think, if I was drawing it at the time that it happened, I wouldn’t have shared it, because it would have been way personal. And I would have cloaked it way more, because I would have had to post it that day, and I probably knew that the person would read it and it would have been really weird.
[Continued in Part Two.]