Lucie Ebrey is a recent illustration graduate of Falmouth University and part of the Comic Book Slumber Party collective. Lucie is perhaps best known for her daily autobiographical comics, in which she shares honest and witty reflections of life that bring to mind the work of James Cochalka. This week, Tom spoke with Lucie about her inspiration, her upcoming projects, and (most importantly!) why she chose to use a ‘blue dog’ as her comics avatar.
T: As anyone whose visited your site will know, you’ve got a great ongoing comic diary. How did you get into that? (and how do you find the time?)
L: Oh gosh thank you! I suppose that in my late teens I was starting to get bored of what I was seeing on the stands at my local comic book stores. I’d been really into super hero stuff as a pre-teen, but now it was all starting to feel like a lot of the same and just wasn’t resonating with me at all. It was so melodramatic and the genre had a serious case of too many cooks. I was starting to become far more interested in works by a single artist and began looking more into the indie comics and graphic novel scene. What really caught my attention were the autobiographical books. The idea that you could get lost in someone’s own life that was all sprawled out on ink and paper and neatly wrapped inside a book was something truly wonderful to me. I couldn’t get enough. I would revisit books like Blankets by Craig Thompson and Fun Home by Alison Bechdel frequently and marvel at the honesty and craftsmanship. I kept thinking “I wanna do this too! Can I do this too?”
Around this time is when I came across the work of James Kochalka and his (then ongoing) American Elf strip. So of course I spent the next week or so just free falling back through his entire archive. His stuff has this wonderfully simple style that is so charming and expressive. Seeing someone keep a dairy strip up for so long made me think “hey, you know what, if he can do it then so can I!” And after a few terrible first attempts that fizzled out after a few days, I finally hit on a formula that was manageable and here I am today almost 4 years later. Still truckin’. I’ve always been really fascinated with any art that tries to capture the sort of rhythm of life. To me it’s compelling and comforting, and being able to go back through my archive and see what I was doing on certain days is neat.
Finding the time to sit down and go through the process of pencilling, inking, scanning and colouring has been a constant problem, and this was especially true when I was trying to keep up with them and stay on top of my university work. As a result my strip would sometimes be woefully behind in terms of updates. However, university was my priority and I had to be smart, even if every single day neglected was even more work for me later down the road. Oy vey. But after months and months of playing catch up after the busiest year of my life took a lot out of me, I’m finally close to being on track. Lemme tell ya, it feels pretty darn great! I’m proud that I managed it.
T: I think one the strengths that’s come out of your daily conviction is the diaries create a familiar rhythm. After reading a few, you get a background sense of it, especially when there’s a few four panel format ones in a row. It’s comforting and taps in well with the homely person aspect of the story it’s depicting. You also work the comics persona so smoothly and depict the mannerisms so well, it really feels like a person despite being drawn as a cartoon canine! (I did laugh at how you had a disclaimer on your twitter “Not actually a blue dog”). Can you tell us more about why you went for a pup?
L: I get asked this question the most, but I can’t really blame folks I guess. It’s a fair thing to bring up when literally ever other person in my strip is drawn as a human. It’s a little embarrassing, but the main reason for the blue dog motif is to represent a feeling of otherness or ineptitude. I always describe it as a “mutt” head because of it. It’s there to show my feelings of being not so polished and falling short of expectations. To me, it’s an obvious series of flaws that are practically written on my face, hence the super obvious dog head. As for why it’s blue, that was mostly done to make it even more strange and noticeable. And I really like the colour. It’s the best colour.
T: You’ve also worked with Comic Book Slumber Party, can you tell us any more about that?
L: I came across Comic Book Slumber Party during my first year of university back in 2013. It was a fairly new thing, but what I saw I liked! I was really starting to become aware of the state of the mainstream comics industry and the way in which female characters and creators were repeatedly being disregarded, so CBSP felt like a shot in the arm of exactly what I needed to be seeing! I ordered the first patch they had up, and after talking to it’s founder, Hannah Chapman, on social media more and more, I was invited to draw a page for a Halloween themed anthology. After that, I was asked to draw the in-between pages for the Fairy Tales for Bad Bitches zine. That was actually the largest number of comic pages I’d done up to that point so it was intimidating but so rewarding. Seeing it all bound together with the awesome cover by Becca Tobin and being sandwiched between such awesome talent was such a terrific feeling. I dig back into that memory whenever I need cheering up. And the fact it got nominated for a British Comic Award last year was great! My pin badge from the ceremony is a prized possession.
I’m just really chuffed I get to be associated with a group as exciting as CBSP. They’re sorta my comic alma mater so I’m very attached. I’m glad they exist in a still fairly saturated market and that they’re starting to get more attention.
T: Any projects coming up?
L: Right now I’m still in that super scary post-university stage where I’m trying to make sense of everything and figure out what it is I want to do next. Thankfully though, I have a few projects keeping me centred.
One of them is pages for an upcoming zine about anxiety coming out later this year called Sweaty Palms. It’s proven to be one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to script due to how deeply personal it is (and I know that sounds strange coming from someone who has documented their life in a public arena for years). But I’m happy to try and tackle a subject that has featured so prominently in my life as a comic. I am able to express myself more thoroughly with words and pictures so it’s a good fit. Plus it’s going to be in black and white so I get to flex my muscles in that department without the crutch of adding colour.
I’m also gradually chipping away at a larger stand alone comic for Comic Book Slumber Party that’s still in the shtum stages right now, but I will say it’s about werewolf gals being pals. Hopefully that will be all done by the time 2016 wraps up. It’s taken a while to get to grips with but I’m proud of where it’s heading.
Other than that, I have an idea for a children’s comic that I want to at least test the waters with too. I love the idea of quality comic books being available for the age group that would get the biggest kick out of them. Boom Studios, OKIDO, Anorak and the like have shown that there’s still a market for it and that is just so fantastic to see. There’d be lots of soup and puns involved when I get round to scripting it.
In general, I’m just happy to have a chance to try and draw more ambitious stuff in 2016. My comic diaries are my bread and butter, but I have to draw in a dumb downed style in order to make drawing them each day manageable. I guess my goal this year is to show my comic chops.