What do you get when you cross a hardworking and talented comic book writer and artist with the ABC’s of early childhood learning?
The answer to that question would be something entirely out of the ordinary.
Whether it’s a road-kill armadillo, a smushed firefly or a drum-sticked flamingo, Dead Stinky Animals A-Z, a recent release from writer/artist Emily McGuiness, is a bright, colorful, and fun look at the darker side of life.
Yes, you may recall her name. Emily is part of the family, after all. Follow us after the jump and we’ll tell you all about it.
Biff Bam Pop’s JP Fallavollita recently spoke with, well, Biff Bam Pop’s very own Queen of Comics, Emily McGuiness via email on the eve of her appearance at WonderCon 2014.
Based out of Los Angeles, Emily is not just a talented writer, artist and frequent contributor to Biff Bam Pop! and the various Biff Bam Popcasts. She’s also an aggregator for other writers and artists and fans that love the medium of comic books. Here, the two BBPers spoke about the convention circuit, her strangely fun children’s book, Dead Stinky Animals A-Z, its audience, and Emily’s many interests and projects including film direction, her newest offering, Bro Cards, and her graphic novel work-in-progress, 4-Hire.
JP Fallavollita: After a bunch of Biff Bam Popcast! internet episodes, we finally got to meet in real life at the San Diego Comic Con last year! That was a lot of fun, wasn’t it? You attend a lot of cons, don’t you?
Emily McGuiness: It was super fun! San Diego is the biggest and best show of the year and I was so glad I could share it with my Biff Bam Pop! homies.
I have attended a lot of cons, less in these past couple of years. While there are a few people that can make a living on the convention circuit, for most of us it’s an expensive endeavor. I will be at a few this year, like WonderCon (Artist Alley Table 202), and Comikaze!
JP Fallavollita: When are you going to make it up here to Toronto? There’s a future Toronto Comics Arts Festival (TCAF) that’s got your name on a table!
Emily McGuiness: I would love to come to TCAF! If only Toronto wasn’t so far away. I think I’d also have to beef up my warm wardrobe. Living in LA pairs it down to tank tops and shorts!
Emily McGuiness: My friend and fellow creator, Rick Marson of ZOMs fame encouraged this one. We were doing a show together and I wanted to have something quick and easy to draw for people at the convention itself. It was a silly little idea that I felt deserved its own book. I call it a kid’s book because it’s in an ABC format, but as you can tell, it’s a bit more adult than that. From squiggly drawings to a book!
JP Fallavollita: What’s the feedback been like so far on the book? Who’s been reading it?
Emily McGuiness: I have had a lot of dad’s jonsing for the book, but the comments seem to be that their wives would severely disapprove. I hope that if parents are buying it for their kids, they are the kind of cool parents that know death is part of life and that their kids are exposed to far more of it than they think! I’ve gotten a few hipsters and goths as well. Death is always “in”.
JP Fallavollita: A great quote from Oscar Wilde opens Dead Stinky Animals A-Z: “It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” So, then, here’s an illustrated book about, well, dead and stinky animals! What do you think that says about the people who read it?
Emily McGuiness: I hope people with an open mind and a sense of humor are reading this book. We intake more information than ever about everything the world has to offer. I hope that we’re also taking the time to fill our brains with the weird, the quirky and something non-sensical. Not everything has to be James Joyce to be fulfilling and meaningful.
JP Fallavollita: What are you reading when you don’t have to?
Emily McGuiness: I read a pretty wide smattering of information. From business books, to trashy romance novels, to comics and most recently, because I’ve been watching True Detective, I have been reading the short stories of Robert W. Chambers, specifically The King In Yellow.
JP Fallavollita: I found lots of underlying commentary within this book, Emily. There are sly observations on an unobtainable-yet-idyllic suburbia found in the image of the dead flamingo. There are thoughts on big game hunting in your illustration of the rotting elephant. You’ve even depicted a harpooned dolphin, blaming the act on Japanese fisheries. How front of mind were those sorts of commentaries when writing and illustrating the book?
Emily McGuiness: I definitely wanted the book to be a wink and a nod. Not to give away any more, but check out the letter “C”. The book illustrates a pretty basic concept and the drawings are also basic. I wanted to make sure it was a fun read and had multiple levels for adults and those kids lucky enough to have parents who would buy it for them.
But, hey, if the subtleties sail over your head, there are plenty of dead animals to entertain you.
JP Fallavollita: You give a shout out to a number of animal safety and animal rescue organizations in the afterward. How important was it to have that information made readily available?
Emily McGuiness: I think I actually felt kind of bad by the end of the book. I wanted to make sure that there was at least some light at the end of the tunnel for animals. I don’t think people mention their personal causes nearly enough!
JP Fallavollita: Ties: A Story of Letters and Scotch was your first full-length graphic novel. What did the process of getting that made teach you about Dead Stinky Animals A-Z or, for that matter, your future works?
Emily McGuiness: That book took me a year of hard work. I learned a lot about the publishing and layout process. There’s nothing like having a completed work in your hands. It teaches you that you can finish something! It’s one of the hardest and most important lessons of all.
JP Fallavollita: How does an independent author and illustrator, like yourself, go about promoting their books? What works, what doesn’t?
Emily McGuiness: That is a whole book of information right there. Social media helps to some degree, but really I make lists and I slog through them. I try to have an interesting pitch. I try to keep in contact with people in the media and make my projects interesting enough to want to cover!
JP Fallavollita: Around these parts on the interwebs, we call you The Queen of Comics! You have your hands in so much, artistically. Tell me about Illumination Gallery. Organizing that hasn’t been an easy road, has it?
Emily McGuiness: That has not been easy! But we’re ready to launch at the end of the month with our first contest! My business partner, Lisa Brugger and I are so excited to see it come to fruition after a whole year with a lousy web designer. We lost a good chunk of money to a dishonest designer, but we learned a lot from the process and we’re ready to go now! The hardships have only made the business stronger. Illumination Gallery will be a gathering place for artists, emerging for now, who are looking to learn more about the art business and gain exposure to a wider audience. We want to give artists the valuable resources we never had and give away some cool prizes.
JP Fallavollita: And then there’s 4-Hire and the Pandora web series. What are those about?
Emily McGuiness: 4-Hire is my next long-suffering comic book. It’s a mix of single panel, strips, illustration and text. Never one to make it easy on myself, I picked a pretty non-traditional format for this one. It’s all about my experiences here in LA, trying to find a job and living in this crazy city.
Pandorais my first attempt at putting a film together myself. It was a learning experience to say the least. It’s a supernatural story about the people that “Hunt the Hunters”. Killers of vampire slayers and deamon hunters.
JP Fallavollita: How important is it to you, both personally and professionally, to be surrounded by like-minded people? You seem to either be always organizing events for artists and writers in or around the Los Angeles area, or attending someone else’s event. You’re constantly busy, aren’t you?
Emily McGuiness: I am constantly busy. I started a group here in LA called Eat Meet GEEK! and that really sprung from my college days. We had a group there that would meet every Sunday to discuss art, our projects, and the Universe. Sculpture Club we called it, led by one of our professors, Paul Hudson. It was a great place where the best of us would learn even more than school had to teach us. I have been looking for that same thing ever since. And on the cynical side, it’s never a bad thing to have more connections in Hollywood.
Meeting them over a comic book and a drink is even better!
JP Fallavollita: So, what’s next on your agenda? What should we be looking out for?
Emily McGuiness: The next big projects are Bro Cards at brocardgreetings.com. These are a completely wacky set of cards my partner and I have come up with which are perfect for any clueless guy looking to give a card for any occasion. I pee myself making them, so I hope you do the same buying them. And then there’s the gallery. We should be launching at the end of the month at illuminationgallery.com.
Next in the Dead Stinky line will be DINOSAURS! Epic.
JP Fallavollita: Thanks for taking the time to talk about your various projects, Emily.
Emily McGuiness will be appearing at WonderCon in Anaheim, California, from April 18-20. You can find her and her various books, including Dead Stinky Animals A-Z in Artist Alley, Table 202. If you’re unable to attend, you can still purchase it via Amazon.com here where you’ll also find sample pages of the book. You can read Emily’s recent updates at www.four-hire.com while her bio and portfolio are located at emilymcguiness.daportfolio.com. Follow her on Twitter: @EMcGuiness