By Wes Jones
I reviewed Brain Shoodles earlier this week with a perfect score. Needless to say I really enjoyed it. Writer/Artist Emily B. Owen was nice enough to sit down and answer a few questions about herself and her new book.
Wes: First off, aside from being the creator of Brain Shoodles and Pup and Grumpicorn, are there any other interesting bits of your background you’d like our readers to know?
Emily: I'm trying to think of interesting things and I'm coming up with nothing. when Gavin (Mitchell), and me moved in together I got roped into helping out at cons and doing all the admin jobs that artists hate. I've been working behind tables for over 4 years now and have been able to make some great friends on the con scene. Ned Hartley kindly let me write 2 pages for Punchface, which is probably the best concept for a comic ever. I was lucky enough that Dan butcher agreed to draw it. Not sure how interesting that is :)
Wes: I think that’s plenty interesting. Unless you’ve got some skeletons you want let out of your closet, I think that’s juicy enough for a comic book news site. In case our readers are unaware Gavin is the artist on Santa Clause Vs. The Nazis and The Pride. After a bit of twitter stalking, I saw you two are getting married? Congratulations! I mean it’s an obvious power play to take control of the British indie comic scene, everyone sees that. 😊 Were you into comics before you met Gavin or is it something that came from your relationship and hanging around cons?
Emily: Most recently he's finished the Trolltooth Wars which is a fighting fantasy graphic novel written by Patrick Montgomery. I'm not a fan of the phrase graphic novel but this is a 132 page beast!
I'm having crowns made for us so we can look the part.
I can honestly say I'd not picked up a comic since I was a kid when I used to read The Dandy and Beano. My super best friend (as he insists on being called) Jim Bampfield (Lou Scannon) was tabling at Cardiff expo and I promised I'd drop by and say hello. He gave me a tour and introduced me to some people, on of them was Gav. Since then the pair of them have kept me busy working cons, usually doing about 6 a year.
Wes: Trolltooth Wars sounds like quite the undertaking. With Brain Shoodles it seems to be the opposite of that, a lot more organic. Can you talk a little on your creative process with the book? Did it change at all once it became a product instead of just a personal project?
Emily: It got a lot more stressful! Trying to stick to a self imposed deadline when you're depressed is basically impossible. I had most of the 4 panel pages roughed out but drawing and inking them for real was so difficult. Somehow it felt like I was making them more permanent and that was in itself an anxiety trigger. Then there's the fact that I'm not great at drawing so I'd go through phases of hating EVERYTHING and having to reassure myself that being technically good wasn't the point! But once it started looking more like a book the rest of it seemed to flow nicely. Robin Jones contacted me about doing the lettering and having him do that elevated the pages imediately. I also wanted to include links to mental health organisations and to other comics that have helped me, that was the easy bit.
Then I asked for volunteers for a foreword and Dani M. Abram (who created the amazing Worry Wart), who herself suffers with anxiety volunteered for that and before you know it it was finished.
And then I thought I'd add to my stress with a Kickstarter!
Wes: Well, if it’s any consolation, I think all of that anxiety has certainly paid off in the final product. Now that it’s being released, do you feel a sense of catharsis at all, or is it just more nerve-wracking?
Emily: Thanks! Now I have the impostor syndrome and I'm convinced that anything nice that's said is a case of the Emperors new clothes! I'm genuinely not that nervous about how well it will sell because I have very low expectations. So far I've had 3 reviews and they've all been so amazing. Each one has made me cry because I'm really damn happy that people seem to be getting what I was trying to achieve.
Wes: From my experience, we’re all impostors, just fake it till ya make it right? As far as people picking up what you’re putting down, what do you hope most people will take away from Shoodles? Personally, I really appreciated your earnestness in sharing your own experiences. So many similar projects can sometimes come off as condescending in a self help kind of way. It can be really frustrating when people don’t quite understand what you’re going through and offer advice like “change your perspective” or “do something you love” as if its that easy.
Emily: I hope it helps someone, in a small way to feel less alone, less weird, more understood. I found when I talked to people and showed them my rough pages so many of them could relate to something. I'm absolutely not trying to be clever about depression or trying to say something new, and I'm not telling people how they should deal with their depression or anxiety. Any advice I give I try to keep really small because when you're depressed even the littlest things are a mountain to climb. Like, I get that exercise helps with depression, the science tells us that the endorphins make you feel better, but if all you can do in the grips of depression is the smallest bit of walking then that is a massive win! There's no way on this earth I'd be able to go to the gym or even leave the house when I'm feeling that bad.
Wes: If the current response to the book is any indication, it looks like you’ve achieved that goal. I know Shoodles is just being released but do you have any ideas for any more projects in the future? A collab with Gavin to secure your throne maybe?
Emily: We do Pup and Grumpicorn together occasionally which tends to be a couple of pages a year for charity anthologies, but no plans for world domination just yet.
At the moment I'm trying to work out what my next project should be. It's really infuriating. It's not like I can do a "proper" comic because I don't have the artistic talent so I'm trying to find something I have personal experience of which can be portrayed in a simple way. So far I've got nothing!
Wes: Inspiration is a fickle thing, I certainly understand your frustration. I hadn’t read any Pup and Grumpicorn until I checked out Brain Shoodles but what I’ve seen is adorable. I think it’s in one of Kevin Smith’s lectures where he talks about how the worst part of creating something is people expect you to keep doing it.
I think that’s pretty much everything I wanted to cover. Brain Shoodles in on sale at your store http://emilybowen.bigcartel.com along with a The Room Christmas card that I’m definitely sending out this year in time for The Disaster Artist. Is there anywhere else readers can pick up the book?
Bonus Question: Obviously Tommy Wiseau is the world greatest living filmmaker and an inspiration to all of us. Can you tell us the ways Tommy has guided you as an artist?
Emily: I can't wait for that film to come out! I made the card for myself last Christmas after having a terrible pun filled lunch with Jim and I got a few more printed so other people could have them too.
People can get the book from my Big Cartel shop or if they'd like to pick up a copy in person.
On 8th July I'm launching Brain Shoodles at Cardiff Independent Comic Expo.
15th July between 1pm and 4pm I'll be with 6 other cool creators at the Incredible Comic Shop in Swindon, and the guys at the ship will be stocking a few copies too. I'll be at Thought Bubble in Leeds on 23rd and 24rh September and the excellent Nottingham comic con on October 14th.
Inspired by the legend that is Tommy Wiseau, I too sell irregular jeans to fund my projects, regularly get torn apart by Lisa, my house is covered in spoons and I like nothing more than to throw a football around in a back alley. Other than that? Not much.