Hello, my name is Stephen Emond, or just Steve if you prefer. I would label myself a creator, I guess, or maybe storyteller. I focused solely on drawing in my youth, wanting to be a comic book artist.
In my teens I drew a comic strip called STEVERINO. It helped me develop as both an artist and a writer. The comic strip is a great way to learn writing, because every strip has a beginning, middle and end to it. It’s short, but you learn a lot in what’s interesting and how to set up and close an idea. I did twenty-five page books every month, three cartoons per page, and sent them to usually no more than thirty people.
Feedback for Steverino was generally positive. I won a national contest, Andrew-McMeels/Follett College Store’s STRIP SEARCH: DISCOVERING TOMORROW’S TOP CARTOONISTS TODAY and had my comic printed in a book of the same name. I had three or four local newspaper articles and ongoing dialogues with a few syndicate editors. The strip was missing a hook, though. It was just me and my thoughts. They liked the art and writing, they thought it was charming, but they couldn’t sell it.
EMO BOY [More Info]
Eventually I had the idea for EMO BOY, which was ‘what if this emo kid had superpowers’, but they were completely destructive and he was too emo to use them constructively’ I did a mini comic, ashcan style ‘ 8 1/2X11 pages folded down the middle and xeroxed. In it, Emo Boy joins a garage band, falls for a pretty girl, kisses her and blows out the back of her head in a fit of emo-nerves. The band is ready to take him down before he comes up with a hit emo song about the experience that wins them a battle of the bands.
I sent the comic to SLG Publishing, because honestly, who the heck else could publish it? It was tailor-made for them. In the meantime, I had so much fun with it that I kept making the books. I did four more issues, without the emo powers, just as a comedy comic about an emo kid and his happy-go-lucky friend Maxine. About eight months after I mailed the book to SLG, I got an email from Dan Vado asking if I was still looking for a publisher. I sent him the new issues to show how the art and writing had improved, although Dan did recommend giving him the powers back, as it lent the series a feeling of suspense, not knowing what was going to happen next.
EMO BOY ran for twelve issues. It started strong, but as is the case with most indie comics, sales slipped to a point that it wasn’t cost-effective to continue printing each issue. I was left with the option to do it as a digital comic, or to do a series of graphic novels. I decided to take some time off.
HAPPYFACE [More Info]
During that time, one fan of EMO BOY was Connie Hsu, an assistant editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. She thought the tone of EMO BOY was great for a possible YA book and asked if I had any other ideas. I didn’t, but I came up with EMO BOY, didn’t I? There had to be something else I could think of!
I met with Connie and her boss Alvina Ling. By this point I had come up with seven ideas. A few were just what I thought YA novels were supposed to be. One was a big epic fantasy. One was a darker literary novel. Alvina and Connie let me know the three they liked the best. I went with the darker character-piece. The idea was that a kid suffers a terrible tragedy, puts on a happy face and swallows all the pain. With time the cracks would show and ultimately he’d explode. What exists now as HAPPYFACE has the same general concept, but is not nearly as dark and moody as I’d intended. I pictured seething rage and contempt in every page, but the biggest change came when I decided to use art in the piece. Connie felt it was a strength that not everyone had, and we could do something to make the book really stand out. I gave it some thought, and became excited with the possibilities. I even thought it would be great to hand-write the entire thing, but that wasn’t really feasible. I thought of making little doodles and writings in the margins, scribbled all over. What we ended up with was a sketchbook of sorts. It’s a journal, but it’s illustrated. A little of the story is told in comic form, there’s realistic beautiful drawings and silly cartoony ones. I thought it showed what you really can’t write. It was very personal and intimate, and it does look different from anything else.
THE EMO BOY MOVIE
As I was working on the early planning of HAPPYFACE, I also became involved in a potential EMO BOY movie. Dan was pitching EMO BOY at San Diego one summer and a few people were interested in doing a movie. The best choice for us was with John Williams at Vanguard Films and Animation. John is best known for discovering SHREK and developing and bringing it to Dreamworks. They were looking to do a live action movie and EMO BOY seemed in line with what they wanted to do. In early talks, we thought of it as a quirky indie comedy in the line of HAROLD AND MAUDE or RUSHMORE. We had a lot of talks and were seeing eye to eye, so they offered me the chance to write a draft of the screenplay. For the next two years, that’s what I did. I wrote HAPPYFACE and EMO BOY at the same time. I was away from the internet, away from the comics community and probably completely forgotten but I was busier than I’d ever been!
Kyle Newman of the movie FANBOYS was brought in as a director and helped develop the script with us. In the end, it’s very much EMO BOY from the comics. It’s what the comics maybe should have been. When I wrote the individual issues, I had no plan other than to write what was funny to me. There was no arc planned, no major outline I was working from. With the movie, it was like every character I’d written suddenly had a purpose and a clear arc. I’d figured out why they were there. Getting it actually made has been a chore but I still hope it gets made, because I’m very proud of how it came out. And having seen FANBOYS now, I can say Kyle will be perfect for this project.
Since wrapping up EMO BOY and HAPPYFACE, I started an autobiographical comic strip, LEMONS, which you can find linked on my site. Writing books takes a lot of time, the wait between HAPPYFACE and WINTER TOWN will have been a good year and a half! I missed putting out comics every other month where I could stay in touch with fans pretty regularly and always have something new to put out. So I figured with the comic strip, I could scratch that drawing itch I get during the long stretches of writing, tell a few stories about my experiences as a writer at a major publisher, and have a way to stay in touch with the fans I make in between projects. I’ve also finished my second YA novel WINTER TOWN. Keep coming back to my site for more on that as the release gets nearer!