Interview: Emi Lenox Pt. 3

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EmiTown-Army-Cats

We talk day jobs, part-time gigs, and the Portland comics community in this third part of our interview with the EmiTown author.

[Part One][Part Two]

Are you exposing yourself more when you put your work out there online? In terms of the time it takes to publish it and the fact that people can interact directly with it and offer you instant feedback? Isn’t it more of a risk to put something personal on your Website than in print?

That would make sense, but I think of the Internet as a magical other dimension. If I put something up there, I can just leave it and it’s gone. But for some reason when it’s in real life and I can touch it and hold it, knowing that other people can touch it and hold it, too, that’s weird. That’s frightening.

Is that still the goal? It sounded like minis were more ancillary for you, so that you had something to bring with you, when you went to conventions. Now that we’re at a point where you can have a good deal of success online, is the book a goal, or is it just a nice thing that comes with it?

In regards to the second volume, I do see it as kind of a goal, only because I’ve fallen so far behind with EmiTown that I’ve decided that after I get to the end of the second volume, I’m not going to draw every single day anymore. It was never my intention to be an autobio cartoonist. it just kind of happened that way. I really wanted to do some original graphic novels, and I want to work more towards that, in the next five years, I guess.

Are you working on stuff beyond EmiTown, at the moment?

There are a couple of projects I’m working on, at the moment, though I’m not the writer. I’m the artist. At the same time I’m trying to organize pitches for my own stories. I am actively working on other things that aren’t autobio comics.

Does doing the strip every day eat up too much of your time?

It starts to feel like a burden, and when it starts to feel like a burden, it’s not as fun anymore. I don’t want to stop, because I think it would be really fun to have a comic of my life, maybe to even show my kids one day, even, but especially now that I don’t have a day job, my life isn’t as interesting. I’m kind of running out interesting things to write about, save for the weekends, when I kind of go crazy. I was thinking of just having three days a week—Monday, Wednesday, Friday—summing up the other days.

When you’re doing data entry at a shipping company for 40 hours a week, do you get a lot of fodder for a strip?

You’d be surprised [laughs]. I mean, you interact with a bunch of people, and they hold weird events. There’s a dead bird on your fire escape, and there’s the lunchroom. I can always find things. And also, it helped me daydream a lot. I listened to music a lot more, which spawned all of the music drawings in the first volume. There’s definitely a lack of those, now that I don’t have a job.

You don’t find similar inspiration now, in those eight hours when you would have otherwise been working?

Nooo. When you’re stuck in front of a computer all day, doing mindless data entry, it’s so easy to plan what you’re going to do. You really have nothing else to do at that desk. But when you’re home all day, it’s easy to play a video game and not really think about drawing. You take naps, eat lots of food. It could also be that, when I’m at a desk job—because I was there for three years, maybe four—I kind of trained myself to spend my day like that. So now that I’ve lost my day and my schedule of thinking about page, I’m kind of all over the place now [laughs], not knowing how to budget my time.

Is the book supporting you at this point?

Well, it’s not the book [laughs]. The way Image works, it’s a creator-owned company, and you have to make back the publishing costs, before you make a dime, and I haven’t gotten to that point yet. Anybody want to buy a book? [laughs] But freelance gigs, like inking jobs and things like that, I’ve been managing to survive. But even today, I’m considering getting a part-time bullshit job, maybe, as a waitress, to have that safety net. It’s a pretty scary freefall.

It seems silly to get a job just to have material, but it’s hard to think of a better job for fodder than being a waitress.

Yeah, I wouldn’t have time to think about comics and thumb nailing. But I’m sure I would run into very interesting people. I can write a whole new autobio comic about being a waitress. And the jerks. And the regulars.

It sounds like you should go for a truckstop waitressing job.

Oh god. I’m sure there would be so many scary stories [laughs].

Call everybody “sweetie.”

“Buttercup.”

Have you ever found yourself doing something to get material for the strip?

Well, sometimes I’ll do certain things I wouldn’t normally do to get material. It sounds cheap, but at the same time, hey, if the comic is making me branch out and do other things, that’s good, right? You have one life to live. If I need a comic as an excuse to go bungee jumping—which I don’t think I’ll ever do…. That was just an example… I don’t want to do it, you’d die. But maybe go see a Portland Timbers game. I’m not a sports enthusiast, but it could be really funny to be in an area, surrounded by sports enthusiasts getting drunk at a soccer game.

Is that an example of something you’ve actually done?

No, but it’s something I’m considering doing, because the season is now. I just need money to pay for a ticket.

That’s a tax write off [I’d like to add here that I’m not a licensed accountant. –ed]

Could I do that?

Totally [Ditto-ed.] So, what sort sort of inking jobs have you done?

I’ve only done one, but it’s lasted pretty much up to this point, sine the beginning of the year. It’s a series of children’s books that my fellow cartoonist friend, Natalie Nourigat drew. I inked and then another friend colored. I think it’s a really good idea, teaching kids about finances. I’m really bad at it now. I would probably buy the kids books to learn about personal finance.

And then you can write them off.

And then I can write them off! Exactly!

You mentioned Sweet Tooth and Madman on your site. What are your connections with those books?

I did some guest pages for both books. I met Jeff Lemire a long time ago, when I was interning for Top Shelf, so he’s been a friend for a long time. And I thank my lucky stars that he wanted me to be in Sweet Tooth, because it was definitely my first paycheck from DC/Vertigo. My eyes popped in my head. That was pretty exciting. For Madman, Jamie Rich was the editor, and he asked me if I wanted to be in that, and I was like, “fuck yeah! Sure!”

Jeff’s stuff is great, but Madman is so iconic. Were you reading a lot of comics at the time? If you were interning at Top Shelf, I assume you must have been reading some comics at the time.

Funny story. With Madman, I didn’t know much about it when I got on the gig. I learned about it, and I really like it now. With Top Shelf, I got a lot of comics when I was there. But before I interned, I was basically into Bone and Blankets—which is sort of Top Shelf-y, I guess. But I didn’t really that I was in a city full of enthusiasts.

The guy who wrote Blankets lives there, for one.

Yeah, right? I didn’t even know Top Shelf was here until 2009. And Periscope and Dark Horse and all of the events that go on here. I feel like I really came into the community in 2009. Before that, I really had no idea. I knew I liked comics, but I wouldn’t saw that I was a huge fan. I didn’t own all of these books, and I couldn’t answer all of the trivia questions. I probably still can’t, today…

[Concluded in Part Four]

–Brian Heater

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