The Hannibal Lectern: Picking the Brain of Emi Lenox

Aug 02 '10  /  Filed under Illustration Interview  Posted by Scott
http://frcio.us/3aY6

Emitown Cover

I don’t quite remember the catalyst which prompted me to visit the Blogspot home of Emi Lenox’s diary comics, but I do remember that it took me about 3 hours that night to finish reading every single post she had ever put up. I was completely dumbfounded by the way she effortlessly countered the mundane aspects of every day life with a whimsy and joy that was so much more than just “cute;” it is infectious and honest and completely wonderful. Taking a step back and looking at her work as a whole, one can find certain themes and movements like the stark honesty and literal depictions from her id, including her love for music, her hatred for bears, her meticulous money-watching, her cravings for breakfast burritos, and her day-to-day toiling at her day job. On the other hand, interspersed throughout her daily updates are epic tomes of love and loss crammed into single panels filled with armies of cats commanded by Miss Lenox herself in her search for companionship. These metaphorical asides are shrouded in simplicity in order to keep the details of her love life out from under the internet’s scalpel, but they are certainly universal and endearing in the same way a truly great pop song gets even the hippest of toes tapping. Back in December I did a post about the things that excited me about comics and Emi was right up there. For those that don’t remember:

The only web-comic of my list is the product of one of the best comic artists you’ve never heard of (I  hate saying that, but I totally believe it), but that won’t be the case for long. Emi Lenox has been churning out this web-comic (and 3 other sites) for the past few years and her work is nothing short of incredible. She has interned for some of the biggest names in the business in Portland all while honing her craft and I would not be surprised if her output for 2010 (including a piece in the new Pop Gun) puts her on everyone’s “Best Of” lists for next year. Her voice is original and fresh, her style is broad and fantastic, and everything from her lines to her type styles hint at her future notoriety.

You might as well just call me Nostradamus because just last week it was announced that the mighty Image Comics will be releasing a 400-page collection of her work. Needless to say, we were more than a little excited that she took some time out of her busy, busy schedule to sit down and talk with us.

6.29

How did you get started with comics? Was it a lifelong dream or was it something you kind of fell into?

I first got into comics because of my mother and brother. Through my brother, I discovered X-Men and Batman and through my mother, various manga such as Sazaesan and Chibi Maruko. I always loved drawing and comics became a hobby of mine in junior high and high school. For the longest time, I knew I wanted comics to be part of my life somehow and at first I thought it was through production which is why I interned for Top Shelf. I didn’t think it was possible for me to get anywhere with my art and I had the fear that I wouldn’t enjoy it if I depended on it for income. It wasn’t until the last year that I realized I belonged behind the drawing table.

With a million web-comics out there, yours is easily one of my favorites (probably my favorite) because of how much personality comes through as you recount seemingly mundane aspects of life with wonder, panic, and excitement. Does having so much of the minutae from your life out there for public consumption ever get weird for you?

There are moments where it is strange. For instance, when I want to tell someone about something that had happened and then they cut me off because they already knew about it from the comic! But since I hide anything super personal in my metaphors, I don’t find it too strange! But now that it will be released as a GN, I’m getting a bit more nervous. I ADMIT IT.

7.03

It’s pretty obvious that music plays a big part in your life which always adds a really interesting and great layer to your comics. Since at least a few of us Ferocious-ers are in bands, I have to ask what kind of stuff you’re listening to right now. SO, what kind of stuff are you listening to right now?

I’ve recently been given a disc of a ton of new stuff. Of these new bands, I’ve taken a liking to Chad VanGaalen (The song Willow Tree in particular). I will always have a love for acoustic guitar and the banjo. But I seem to still go back to the tunes I have been listening to for the past 10 years. Like Nada Surf, Jimmy Eat World, SuperDrag etc. I think there is just a familiarity to it and it feels like home.

It seems that the comics world can be kind of small in a good way. Have you had any experiences with meeting any artists you admired and they turned out to be genuinely good, down-to-earth folks?

I would have to say the majority of creators I have met are wonderfully nice! I met Brandon Graham (King City) at ECCC earlier this year and he was so nice, he ran across the street from the cafe we were at to pick me up some medicine for my headache! The Allreds (Madman) and Jeff Lemire (Sweet Tooth, Essex County) are some of the most kind and generous folks out there. But I swear, everyone I have met are so friendly, it makes me feel lucky to be part of a community like this!

6.22

More of a process question: When you are in your day to day routine, do you come across little moments and think “Hey, I could do a post about that!”? Or is it more of sitting down and thinking about random moments to illustrate?

It’s a bit of both actually. Sometimes when I’m dilly-dallying I’ll vision what a panel would look like for something that just happened and then make a note of it. Other times (which is most), I sit at my day job and make thumbs for each day and note what happened that day. I then choose out of the list which ones to draw and that’s that! I try to remember to bring with me a little notebook everywhere to take notes. I’m not shy to admit I don’t have the best memory. That’s partly why EmiTown started. A personal diary where I can remember certain things that happened. I did that since high school actually. If there was a moment I never want to forget, I drew it out in a scribble. I’ve read back through EmiTown before and I’ve already forgot a lot of the things I drew. I like to blame my alcohol consumption in my early twenties for my terrible memory. Don’t drink too much, kids!!!!

Another process one: Do you use pens/brushes/real paper for EmiTown or do you use a table/computer software? What do you think are the advantages of either?

I currently draw each strip in a page of a sketchbook with a pentel pocket brush pen. One of those nice hardback sketchbooks with a nice little ribbon bookmark. It’s nice because it’s a bound book to keep forever but lately I’ve been debating working on paper that’s a larger size. I mean, I’m literally drawing on paper that’s smaller than standard letter size. I think I could get more detail and “panels” on a larger piece of paper…I’ve also been debating that if I move to larger paper, to start using brush instead of the brush pen. The downsides to that is that it would be more timely since I don’t have a lot of experience with brush…PLUS the ink takes longer to dry! AND the materials would be more costly. I think I’ll stick to the sketchbooks. I’m currently on 7th sketchbook. Clearly, I tone the comic in photoshop with a wacom tablet and my laptop. But that’s about it for computer involvement other than editing my terrible grammar and spelling errors!

6.23

I had read somewhere in the past (probably on EmiTown) that you were working on something for an upcoming Popgun which is ridiculously exciting. I love EmiTown and Perfecting Loneliness, and I have no doubt that you have incredible work ahead of you, so are there any projects on deck that you can mention?

Well, I’m not quite sure what’s going on with Popgun but whatever I do churn out for it will be printed either there or in a mini for next year! Projects that I can mention? Well, now it has been announced that EmiTown will be collected by Image! It will be a year’s worth totaling 400 pages. It will basically start the month I started using the brush pen. I can mention that I plan on having a completely new line of minis for next year. I’m retiring everything that was printed this year. These are plans and I’m hoping to complete them but I want to have a new Perfecting Loneliness mini, a mini with short stories about heroes, another about relationships (it’s my niche!), a first issue of an actual story (which I plan to have 5 issues)! That’s a lot to do but I think I can do it! I have a couple OGN ideas that I have been talking to some publishers about. So there are things for the future, fret not!

One thing I really enjoyed are your ‘Just Sayin’ posts where you’ve talked about getting started in comics and finding your “voice”. I think a lot of that information is really helpful for people who are interested in doing their own comics. Do you find that there is more interest these days in folks wanting to do comics? Do you think this is a good/bad thing?

I don’t know if I’d say that there is more interest or rather that the internet makes it more apparent of all the cartoonists out there looking for their place in the comics world. And how could that ever be a bad thing?

12.15

What are some of the comics that you first fell in love with? All-time favorites? Really into right now?

Some of the first comics that I first fell in love with was ElfQuest, Dragon Ball, and Bone when I was a teenager. Blankets, Jimmy Corrigan, Lost at Sea, and Optic Nerve back in my early twenties. Those really hold a dear place in my heart as  being the inspirations of what I wanted to do with life. Currently, I’ve been really digging King City, Fables, Asterios Polyp,and Demo. I try to pick up new titles to keep checking out different styles to keep me inspired whenever I have the dollas.

Last, but not least: Why comics?

You know, I can’t say for sure. That question to me is like, “Why avacados?”. I just love them! Maybe it’s because I think more naturally through pictures than I do with words? I don’t know but I love comics to death and I don’t think it’s a love that will ever go away.

Many thanks to Emi for being a good sport with everything! Make sure to go get lost in EmiTown and anxiously await the collected edition that will be coming out with Image Comics this fall!

emi-monsters-and-dames

(By the way, it is a HEINOUS CRIME that this was left out of the Monsters and Dames book. Seriously heinous and nearly unforgivable.)

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