Talented illustrator Emma Munger resides in the San Francisco Bay Area, and also happens to be our friendly neighborhood comic book store employee! We've fangirled over her colorful, vintage pin-up style illustrations for the last two years and just had to learn more about the lady behind the art.
Lucky for us we get to connect with Emma every week when we swing by our local comic book shop, Comix Experience, for new comics. We were thankful she was open to trade the normal comic book small talk for more intrusive questions! Below is our chat with Emma, where we got to learn more about her background in illustration, favorite fandoms, and how its felt being a woman working in her comix shop.
Femme Power Comix (FPC): When and how did you get into illustrating?
Emma Munger (EM): I got in to illustrating and cartooning from early childhood- most of my mom's family were artists so it was all around. And I was a lonely only child who found solace in a fresh pack of sharpies, a butt load of printer paper, and my cartoon characters Shasha and Shishi Gigi (sisters who wore high heels AT ALL TIMES and always got into trouble).
FPC: Tell us more about Shasha and Shishi Gigi! Where did the influence for those characters come from? And why the high heels at all times? What kind of trouble were the sisters getting in? EM: I think they must have been a weird amalgamation of Betty and Veronica and all the Mad Magazine strips I accumulated as a child. I lived for thick fashion magazines like those Vogue issues you could clobber someone with and whenever I got my hands on one I'd just sit for hours drawing the outfits with Shasha and Shishi as the models which is probably where the high heels came in and never left. I grew up in a very rural setting so most of the comix I drew involved the sisters getting into hijinx - mostly slapstick - with the heels breaking off while hiking or gardening and having up wrestle weeds with very strong roots. Then when I hit 8th grade and introduced their love interests and the strips started to get very dumb.
FPC: Who are some of your style influences?
EM: I absolutely adore classic strong, sexy lady illustrators like Charles Dana Gibson, Earl Oliver Hurst, the pin-ups of Elvgren, Moran and Vargas but Hergé takes the influence cake
*Check out this photo of Hergé on the left. He is often called "The Father of Tintin"*
FPC: What made you want to work at a comic book store?
EM: I never even knew comic book stores existed except in the Simpsons, so when I found one after moving to SF, I had studied illustration in college and thought I'd like to see what was being published and what was going on in the industry so I took a chance and dropped off my very bare resume (with lots of drawings of Tintin and Archie in the margin Mad Magazine style to distract from my lack of register experience)
FPC: How long have you worked at Comix Experience? Did it end up delivering in the way you had hoped (keeping tabs on the industry)? What have you enjoyed most about this experience? What has been surprising?
EM: I've worked at Comix for 5 ish years now-or is it 6? It's flown by honestly. I genuinely thought I'd be an expert on all things comix related but, holy moly, it's the exact opposite! There's just so much being published! But yes, it has totally delivered. I really appreciate getting to see and feel how each publisher deals with their books and products- some day I'd love to have my own comic series and it's been nice to see how things run. I'm surprised mostly by the fact that I'm still working there after 5 years!
FPC: We love the giant window displays at the store! We've seen you do everything from Black Panther to an actual twirling figure skater for Tillie Walden's Spinning. Do you enjoy making the display windows for Comix Experience? Which has been your favorite to make so far?
EM: I love working on the windows- especially seeing people stop and take a pic or even pop in with a sweet comment! The Deadly Class one was actually my fave! It was my first one ever but it's striking simplicity was super successful!
FPC: From inside and outside the comic book world- what would you say are some of your favorite fandoms?
EM: Frasier, Buffy, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park
FPC: Anything else you want to say about your four fandoms? Why are those four most special to you? Does one in particular rise to the top? What would you say is your Hogwarts house? Are there particular characters from those fandoms you identify with most?
EM: I'm definitely a Huffledor or Griffenpuff. I identify SO MUCH with Ron- all his "qualities" but mostly with his faults haha! But I know I'm a Hufflepuff for sure. Harry Potter is what I grew up with and I've listened to the books on tape since my Gramma recorded herself reading them in '96 and still listen to Jim Dale's version!
The Buffy fandom has been the sweetest - especially with sharing of my drawings via social media. Frasier has been great too and I've made some great "internet friends" from my Fraj art and Jane Leeves even reposted my Frasier Things drawing which means I can die happy right now.
FPC: What comic book or fandom would you want to be a character in?
EM: Deadly Class or the Potterverse!
FPC: What would your character be like in Deadly Class or the Potterverse?
EM: Well I feel like it's be Ron's long lost twin sister ... and I'd be the weird, shy, quiet one in the background of King's Dominion Atelier watching all the cool kids killing and banging.
FPC: Is it ever challenging or difficult being a woman working in a comic book store?
EM: For the most part I've never had difficulty being a woman behind the register, thankfully. Sometimes you get a guy who tries to test your knowledge but I just flatly say, "Sorry, I don't read that comic. Google will know though. *shrug* " There was a customer who stopped talking to me because I cut my long (then red) hair (he is a Red Sonja fan) but that really wasn't a bad thing!
FPC: I love that it feels like the tides are changing for the better in terms of feminism in the comic book world! Do you feel like you see that among your customers in the shop as well? Whether thats more femme folks coming in or the types of requests?
EM: Yes totally! So many cool womxn coming through full of genuine interest and curiosity! And those interests are alllll over the map, so I see that as super healthy!
FPC: What does feminism mean to you in the comic book industry?
EM: Feminism in the comic book world means everything to me-- I see countless new fans asking why the latest America and She Hulk runs were canceled and it's disheartening to say that it didn't sell well enough. Whether or not that's actually the reason, it seems like the tides are changing for the better. I feel like more and more publishers are opting for inclusion and diverse voices to tell their stories so I'm optimistic for the future of comic book feminism. And so many cool people are self-publishing now and zine fests are bursting at the seems with talent and proudly different voices, it's a joy to experience!
FPC: What would you say is your super power?
EM: If we could choose our super power, I'd want to be able to talk to animals. But if we just innately had one, it'd be the power of having a face that makes any stranger think I'm someone who wants them to talk to me.
FPC: You mentioned that you'd like to have taking to animals as a super power! Talking to animals would be an amazing power! Like Squirrel Girl! Would you want to talk to any species in particular? If you could only talk to one species what would you pick? Hopefully like Squirrel Girl you would also then get their relative strength and agility!
EM: I constantly wish I could talk to my cat (I'm sure every cat parent does!) but other than that I'd love to be able to talk to pigeons! Though I feel like their abilities would be being able to eat anything and to poop everywhere which aren't very cool - but I'd take flying!!
FPC: Which superhero/comic book/nerd culture characters costume would you most want to borrow?
EM: Dazzler (cuz I LOVE disco) or anything Peggy Carter wears from the TV show
FPC: What would be your dream job? Where would you like to see your illustrations go?
EM: I'm still working on figuring out what my dream job would be, but I would love to have a New Yorker cover someday!
FPC: If there was one feminist comic book or graphic novel that you would want everyone to read what would it be?
EM: Miss Don't Touch Me
FPC: Why do you feel like Miss Don't Touch Me is the title everyone should read?
EM: Hmm well I LOVE European comix but I know not everyone likes them because they are the exact opposite from sculpted, highlighted and airbrushed super hero comix. But MDTM is just so fun and sexy and thrilling. It's one woman solving the mystery of who killed her sister in the last place she'd expected to be, a fancy call girl business. She's a fish out of water but uses everything inside her to get to the bottom of this injustice- which is my fave kind of story.
FPC: Is there anything else you want people to know about you or your work
EM: I think that about covers it :)
Emma might not want to brag about her work, but we will! Scroll through a few of her pieces below, and check out more on her website