More About the Author
Hello, my name is Stephen Emond, or just Steve if you prefer. There isn't much about that me isn't be said in this excerpt from the HAPPYFACE page on amazon.com:
About the Author
Steve Emond does not have any superhuman powers, neat tricks, or famous relatives, but he's a pretty cool guy who can draw. He is the creator of Emo Boy, which ran for 12 issues and two collections, and the comic strip, Steverino. He grew up in Connecticut, where he wrote and directed a public access sketch comedy show that only his grandmother watched.
I'm pretty sure my editor on the book wrote this to mimic my sometimes self-deprecating manner because I don't remember writing it myself.
Anyway, I'm a creator, I guess you can say. I focused solely on drawing in my youth, wanting to be a comic book artist. Not so much the kind I became, I was more interested in superheroes. Starting with Spiderman, which led to the New Warriors, which led me to following Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, the guys that wound up at Image. I was a huge Image fan until a girlfriend turned me on to indie comics, which read more like the things that went on in my head.
Another thing I drew, that fed into my later love of writing, was a comic strip called STEVERINO. I did STEVERINO from my senior year of highschool, and for about six years after. I did twenty-five page books every month, three cartoons per page, and sent them to never more than thirty people. I worked through a lot of my own neuroses in those years, but it was a lot of fun.
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. There wasn't really any hook, though. It was just me and my thoughts. They liked the art, they liked the writing, they thought it was charming, but you couldn't sell it.
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 anyway?" It was a joke at first but my girlfriend at the time urged me to go on with it. 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 explodes her head in a fit of emo-nerves. The band is ready to beat him down when he comes up with a hit emo song about the experience.
I sent the comic to SLG Publishing, because honestly, who the heck else would publish it? 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. Indeed, I was! 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.
At the end of EMO BOY's 12-issue run, one fan of mine was Connie, 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 went with a darker character-piece called HAPPYFACE. 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.
As I was working on the early planning of Happyface, I also became involved in the 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 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 we worked on the screenplay some more, as he infused it with some new ideas. 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. 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. There's development now, new interactions between characters, some stuff you won't be expecting. I pray 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.
Currently working on my second YA novel, with a half-dozen other ideas I'd love to do something with, but one thing at a time!