In this second part of our interview with the EmiTown author, we discuss the origins of the strip, interactions with fans, and how Emi Lenox’s work got her a book deal with Image Comics.
When you “cloak” something in your work, are you skipping over it, or are you approach them in a veiled manner?
Certain thing I’m forward with, but the really sensitive things, like the breakup, will be masked with the Army Cat reference. It wouldn’t be straightforward, because that way it’s open to interpretation, and I like things better that way, anyway.
Was that sort of metaphorical approach present since the beginning, or were your methods a little more straightforward?
I think it was less straightforward in the beginning. I didn’t really talk about a lot of sensitive issues, especially I the first volume, which is why I got really excited about the second volume, because I got a lot more personal, and I know people love that shit [laughs]. I feel like it’s going to be a way better collection. Not to dog my first one!
I read an interview where you said that there are probably six months of the strip that will probably never see the light of day.
Oh yeah. That was the very first EmiTowns that I drew, when it wasn’t even called EmiTown. It was literally my personal diary, before I decided to put it online, and that was very literally, very, very straightforward, with names and me pouring out my guts. I don’t feel comfortable… I mean, if EmiTown gets to the point where that might be something to put out there and I’m not scared, maybe? But I’m pretty sure it won’t happen…
So that stuff never existed online at all?
Were you doing it for yourself, or were you doing it with the intention of releasing it at some point?
Originally it was only for myself. It wasn’t until I was interning at Periscope Studio and Top Shelf that they saw what I was drawing. I would carry it around, wherever I went. And they suggested that I put it online.
You had this secret diary? Were you sharing it with people?
I wasn’t really sharing it with people. I did let Brett [Warnock] and Leigh [Walton] at Top Shelf look through it, because they asked to. But I told them not to read any of it, and to just look at the pictures [laughs]. They skimmed through it quickly, and I was there watching, to make sure. And when I was at Periscope, they would look over my shoulder, and I would normally cover it. I was really shy. I didn’t want anyone to see it.
So, it was a pretty big step for me to put that stuff online. Because of that, I think all of the metaphors kind of grew out of it. It was a I could express myself and how I was feeling and what was going on, without being straightforward about it.
You were interning at Top Shelf—were you planning on becoming a cartoonist at the time?
No, no. I really loved comics, and the reason I was interning at Top Shelf is that I thought I wanted to be more in the production part of comics and publishing. Not so much drawing. I thought that that would destroy my hobby. So I was exploring that possibility, and I guess it wasn’t until I put EmiTown online and got pretty positive feedback from people that I considered trying to go and be a cartoonist.
How did the Image deal happen?
I met Eric Stevenson in 2010 at Emerald City. My friend Joe encouraged me to give him some mini-comics that I had made. And so I handed them to him. I was really nervous—it was at a bar, I think. So I just handed it to him and ran away. And then he e-mailed Jamie Rich, who’s also a friend of mine, asking if I was pitching. So, Jamie e-mailed me, asking if I wanted it to be a book, and I was like, “fuck yeah! I didn’t think anybody wanted to publish it, but sure!”
So he sent that back to Eric, and I got the e-mail back from Eric, and now it’s a book!
So you were carrying around pages, but not with the intention of pitching them around.
Well, they were minis. They were the very first minis I ever made. I carried them around to hand out to friends and stuff at parties. And that’s when my friend was all, “you should just give some to Eric.” And I think he even shoved me—it was pretty forced. So I handed it to him.
It seems like an odd fit. Any a Top Shelf seems to make more sense for a diary strip.
Yeah. I mean, I was surprised. I did go to Top Shelf, at one point, but they were pretty adamant about that. So, that’s cool [laughs]. So it worked out, in the long run, I suppose. But it is a very different thing for Image to publish, I suppose. I’m kind of impressed that they would branch out and do something so different, for such a different audience than they normally get.
Who is your audience, for the most part?
People that like to read autobio, obviously.
And I’ve realized that a lot of people that are kind of into manga-type comics. I don’t like to refer to my comics as manga, but that’s a personal fight that I have. I’m actually surprised—it’s a wide range of ages that seem to enjoy it. That’s awesome. I always assumed it would be a younger crowd. But that’s what they tell me. I wouldn’t know unless they’re on my Facebook page, telling me that they read it.
What sorts of interactions do you have with people who read the strip? Do they feel like they can pour their guts out because you pour your own guts out in the strip, to a certain degree?
I do get that feeling. But it’s hard for me to speculate because I’ve never had readers before. I don’t know if they’re just super friendly because my comic’s an autobio and I reveal a lot about who I am, or if they’re just friendly people [laughs]. But I haven’t had any strange interactions with people—nothing that stuck out to me as creepy or they thought I was their best friend or something. I haven’t had any of those.
I try to be pretty open with my readers, because they’re the reason why I’m getting any success. They’re the ones who actually paid for my mini-comics to be printed through donations.
Open in what sense?
I try to always respond if they comment on my website or Facebook or Twitter, or if they come up to my table and be friendly. I’m not going to be a stuck up bitch, because I’m not one.
Maybe after the second book comes out.
No. I’ll probably be in deep fear [laughs].
Of being more personal. I think there’s always a fear when you put something out there. Will people reject it? Will they accept it?
[Continued in Part Three]