Emi Lenox is a comics star on the rise. Her autobiographical webcomic EMITOWN saw its first trade paperback collection release last year to great acclaim, and she is now branching out into working on other projects as well. I had the opportunity to chat with her in Seattle this past March about her work. Special thanks to Chelsea Freund for her work in getting this transcribed.
Marc: This is Marc Mason from the Comics Waiting Room, and I’m at the Emerald City Comicon with Emi Lenox. Emi, hello.
M: We were just discussing the fact that “EmiTown,” your trade paperback of your web comic, has sold out, and it is Saturday afternoon. How do you feel about that?
E: I feel like I wasn’t prepared, but you know, I think that’s part of the folly of having a 400-page book. You can only carry so much and bring it on a train. I only brought 20. Now I’m definitely prepared for next year.
M: Did you think a price factor of $25.00 would make it harder to sell, or….?
E: Yeah, I did, actually. I thought it would be harder to sell, but I think also maybe my location at Image has been really helpful as well.
M: That has to be a little bit of a bonus, yes. Going back to the comic itself, I think what makes your comic unique in webcomics and autobiographical comics is that you use a page a day. It’s representative of the dates and times. Some days it is literal, but you don’t do what a lot of other people do in autobiographical comics. Where did this sort of conceptualize for you?
E: Well, the whole train of thought when I draw is that it come naturally to me, for some reason. It started as a kid’s diary, so that when I drew it out, I was just drawing whatever came to mind at first, and then later on, it became more and more planned. But I feel more comfortable not having a structured panel layout. I feel like it is just a series of random things that happen; why not have it randomly placed on the page?
M: In doing autobiographical comics, how do you tread the line between saying too much and saying not enough?
E: I like to think that I use mixed metaphors, super heroes, or the Army Cats, by way to not cross the line. And I think I say enough that people, if they took the time, could probably could figure out what I was trying to say, but honestly, in the next book, it really could get a little more personal. I think I’ve gotten used to the fact that people are reading my life.
M: I know I do. I have it in my RSS feeds so I see when the new pages go up. The relationship stuff is going on; very exciting.
E: Well, it ended, which is why the book is going to be really cool.
M: Are we taking a dark turn in “EmiTown”?
E: It’s not dark. I have pretty positive parts in, but I just think it’s going to be good because that book will have a pretty linear story line with that release. And it’s the first time I have actually addressed the relationship forwardly, not using metaphors, really.
M: I remember in the first book, one of your metaphors is sailing a ship at sea, and I thought that was really effective.
E: Oh, thanks. I haven’t brought that back at all.
M: Well, and that brings me to one of the things that I think really stands out about the book, and about the work, is that you twist between styles very frequently. You have a very loose, cartoon-y style, but then you will turn around and you will have panels that are incredibly detailed and rich in the strokes and so forth. Do you have to open your mindset to make those changes, or does it just come very naturally for you?
E: Most of the time when I am drawing, I will draw that specific stuff if I feel like at the time. So, yeah, I guess, more or less, when I feel like it, I draw a certain way, but I did keep the cartoon-y style for just simple narrative stuff I did.
M: What’s it like to meet your fans who do feel like that they know about you from reading the strip?
E: Well, I ran into a couple today at the convention, and they were a little overwhelming at first, but I think I’m starting to get used to it. It makes me feel really good.
M: So, you’re doing “EmiTown.” What else are you working on right now?
E: Well, I can’t really say a lot. Right now I’m still trying to work on getting comics work, so I’m trying to survive without having to have, you know, a computer desk job again. I do have the Madman thing coming up next month, where I did an 8-page story, so I wrote it, colored it, and drew it. (Ed. Note: the Madman issue shipped, and Emi’s piece in it was regarded as a highlight.)
M: That sounds pretty exciting.
E: Yeah, I’m really excited. I mean, the Sweet Tooth thing came out this past Wednesday where I did a 4-page guest art (piece), so I don’t know what I’m going to do next.
M: Has the book opened up some doors for you?
E: I feel like it has. A lot of people seem to be really supportive of it. I’ve had Brian Michael Bendis here and he bought the book, and my brain exploded with the thought of that even happening. Yeah, I guess it’s definitely putting my foot in the door.
M: Well, the long-time readers on my site know that I love it. It’s fantastic. You’re incredibly talented. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, and I look forward to seeing more “EmiTown.”
E: There will be more to come, I promise!
All images copyright Emi Lenox.