That strange black-haired young woman in the black dress and Mary Janes, Emily, returns to comic shelves January 30 with the release of “Emily and the Strangers” from Dark Horse Comics. Written by iconic creator Rob Reger and Mariah Huehner (“True Blood,” “Angel”) with art by Emily Ivie (“The Locked Maze”), this latest adventure follows Emily’s foray deep into the world of rock ‘n’ roll as she forms a band and attempts to win a legendary haunted guitar.
Comic Book Resources recently spoke with “Emily the Strange” creator Rob Reger about Emily’s upcoming adventure, the connections between art, music and fashion and the challenges of managing a property that exists across media.
For those unfamiliar with “Emily the Strange,” the character has a history that is a little, well, strange. Originally conceived in 1993 as an icon for Reger’s fledgling clothing company Cosmic Debris, the property has grown into a small media empire of its own, with the character popping up on clothing and guitars as well as starring in novels, video games, an upcoming film and, of course, comic books.
Just who is, Emily, exactly? She’s something of a renaissance woman in her own right.
“Emily is a witty and genius 13 year-old girl who loves black and prefers the company of kitties to humans,” Reger told CBR News. “She is an inventor, skateboarder and musician.
“From very early on, the character has been inspired by music — the ethos of punk rock, the otherworldliness of ’60s psych, the abstractions of jazz, and the mythologies of the metal gods,” continued Reger. “From the words and the art to the music itself, Emily has always been in line with all that rocks and rolls.”
The upcoming storyline in “Emily and the Strangers” pushes Emily a little out of her comfort zone. Usually happiest surrounded by her feline friends, Emily is stepping out on stage. To accomplish her goals, she’s going to have to turn to others for help.
“‘Emily and the Strangers’ tells the story of how Emily, a girl who prefers to do everything herself, comes to terms with fronting a rock band with four other members,” said Reger. “It is a struggle for her to open up to this idea, and it reveals a universal truth that to make big things happen, sometimes a team or other’s input can make her ideas better (in this case her music).”
Reger and Dark Horse have assembled a crack team to develop “Emily and the Strangers,” with writer Mariah Huehner and artist Emily Ivie bringing their talents to bear on the character. Together, the team has expanded the breadth of Emily’s world with regard to narrative and visuals.
“Mariah is an excellent writer with a lot of experience in storytelling at a pace that works well for the comic book page,” said Reger. “For this series in particular, this has been invaluable. For example, the arc I had created for this first series of 3 comics, she slowed down and essentially broke my 3-book arc into a 3-part miniseries — one book turned into an entire mini-series story arc. This allowed for a lot more attention to be put on emotions of characters, and time to spend with each moment, allowing the art and pages to breathe more.
“Emily Ivie is also an amazing addition to our team for this series,” continued Reger. “Her attention to detail and expression, and [her] update of Emily’s look itself is really fun. There is more expression, girliness and dimension to Emily than we have ever had in the past. These pages have been carefully designed to tell a story and relay feelings in a beautiful way that captures the classic strange world of Emily with an updated twist.”
Though the iconic Emily pops up in a range of contexts — clothing, comic books and, soon, music — for Reger it’s all of a piece. “Emily the Strange” has always been associated with music, and whether occupying a space of art, music or fashion Emily is serving, for Reger, as an icon of creative expression.
“As far as Emily is concerned, music and the art that comes along with it has inspired and driven the fashion sense,” said Reger. “Traditionally, the brand of Emily the Strange has been sold as fashion in many parts of the world, but it has always been the art that made it stand out from other brands. In Emily’s mind — or world itself — she is happy wearing the same clothes all the time — stepping it up a notch once it comes to performing on stage. Emily Ivie has a wonderful sense of fashion with the characters in this series, with a lot of attention to the details and clothing each band member wears. So, for this series of comics, art, music and fashion all play a big part.”
Managing a property with as many facets as “Emily the Strange” is not without its challenges, and the scope of Emily’s media presence is only set to expand in the near future. With an album of recorded music on the way, Reger is confronting new questions about the character and how she manifests in the world.
“One challenge is keeping the mythology cohesive and consistent, from the underlying message to the look of the art itself,” said Reger. “Every time we work with a new media form, like the Nintendo DS, we have a different set of parameters to work within — limitations and market expectations. When we are investing a lot of money into developing a unique original world, we have to consider how we might best make that money back, and that always comes with its own set of questions to answer. Currently we’re developing the actual music that Emily’s band performs, and for the first time I’m having to consider what Emily’s voice really sounds like, and that is not easy for a girl we have kept from talking outside of writing for nearly 20 years. These challenges are always exciting and fun to figure out. Ultimately, as long as we stay true to our brand vision, all new media introduces our character and world to new sets of eyes and hopefully keeps the fans from ‘back in the day’ still on board.”
“Emily and the Strangers” #1 debuts January 30th.