Overview

EmiTown: A Sketch Diary

Review

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EmiTown: A Sketch Diary

Credits

  • Words: Emi Lenox
  • Art: Emi Lenox
  • Publisher: Image Comics
  • Price: $24.99
  • Release Date: Dec 22, 2010

Comics are generally considered a one trick pony when compared to other entertainment mediums. The average person will immediately associate a superhero story with cape, cowl and boots when they think “comics.“  They assume larger than life mannerisms and grandiose dialogue. Very rarely are autobiographical or slice of life comics spoken of outside comic shop walls. It’s a like a little secret for fans only, providing us with the kind of real life catharsis that might not be readily available in the latest issue of X-Men.

What might be even more forgotten about are the copious amounts of web comics being released every day. Starting as novelty comic strips about video games and geek culture, web comics have become a genuine way to get your foot in the door or get your work seen by the largest possible audience. Unfortunately, though, it’s still a corner of the comic book reading culture that’s not often seen by passers-by or Barnes & Noble shoppers. 

EmiTown, written and illustrated by Emi Lenox, is both autobiographical and a web comic, yet transcends both genres of comic book. Originally posted daily on her blog, EmiTown collects a whole year’s worth of single pages, each encapsulating a day in the life of Ms. Lenox. From the mundane to the profound, there is a small piece of her soul in every day’s strip making this collection a surprisingly effective read. 

The audience slowly gets to know Emi, not by clunky exposition or wordy bios, but by familiarity and understanding. The way Lenox pours her brain onto each page in such a conversational and matter of fact way is reminiscent of getting to know a friend. You don’t get the life story first. You get her coffee incited anxiety or love of breakfast burritos. You learn the movies she watched the night before or the name of an old pet. These small pieces and moments of a life help define the person on a larger canvas and with each step you take, the picture becomes more defined and vibrant. This revelation alone makes EmiTown a satisfying and effective read.

Lenox’s illustrations run the gamut of styles, but all distinctly look like they originated from her pen. She draws the more common or conversational excerpts with a cartoony and welcoming hand, while practicing her more photorealistic style in more poignant or lyrical ways. I mean lyrical literally, because often music lyrics are used to portray a picture completely. Additions like song lyrics or movie quotes support the immersive nature of EmiTown and in turn add to its success. 

Before every month, Emi lists a handful of artists and song titles that were seemingly the inspiration for many pages. Everyone can relate to that. There are songs and artists that find themselves in heavy rotation on your iPod and that music becomes the soundtrack of your life for a time being. That’s what Lenox is trying to show us, just like any novelist, filmmaker or musician would with their talents. She is showing honesty and by bringing in elements of the real world, elements we can share and relate to, it makes her honesty that much more sincere. Something simple like a song you can download immediately or a movie you have on your shelf brings you a little closer to the author and her ordinary world. 

For me, it was a quote from the failed 90s television show, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. A show I have on DVD and haven’t actively thought about for some time. The inclusion of a single line brought me closer to the author in an unexplained way. No matter how different our worlds may be, we have that in common. It’ll be something different for everyone and it won’t just be one thing. The more Emi peels back, the more you want to be her friend, share a drink or buy a breakfast burrito. One can argue that it’s her sincere charm that drives this collection, but admitting that completely would neglect the raw talent that she slowly refines right before our eyes.

This is not the simplest book to review or define by common standards. There isn’t a strict A to Z plot, but there is definitely a story and real characters throughout. There isn’t any real order you have to read each page in, but there most certainly is a palpable sense of linear growth during each day and especially as time progresses over the months. 

The cover of the book plainly states that this is a sketch diary, which may be a new sub-genre of autobiography. Like a diary, these are the musings of a real-life, human being. Often they’re funny and sometimes a little sad, but they always strike true. Work like this requires courage, discipline and a passion for the craft. Emi Lenox illustrates those qualities in each page… each day… 365 days a year.

Not only does she prove it, but she wants to share it. I implore anyone and everyone, comic and non-comic readers, to give EmiTown a read. It’s a beautiful slice of non-fiction that introduces you to a new friend, one page at a time. 


 

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