For teenager Emma T. Capps, the June release of Dark Horse Presents #25 represents more than just an exciting anniversary issue of the anthology comic.
The comic will include one of Capps' original comics, making the 15-year-old the youngest cartoonist ever published by Dark Horse.
For the last two years, Capps has been publishing an award-winning, weekly webcomic called The Chapel Chronicles. Between her classes and homework, Capps has been penciling, inking, coloring and lettering it herself — never missing a week since the series launched when she was in eighth grade.
It's pretty impressive for a kid who's so young, and she's already gotten the attention of Scholastic and comics legends like Scott McCloud. She's also had short stories and illustrations published in magazines like Stone Soup and Creative Kids, as well as releasing other self-published comics. But the Dark Horse Presents story represents her first comic in a major comics publication.
The release of Dark Horse Presents #25 is also well timed for Capps because she just released a huge collection of her Chapel comics. The 150-page book collects all her Chapel comics so far. Readers who are interested in buying the collection can visit the store on her website, where she not only sells her own books, but also has earrings, pins and cards available.
Readers should be aware that Dark Horse Presents #25 will not be the last time they hear the name Emma Capps. Because of her passion for comics and her success so far, she intends to make a career of cartooning.
Next on her agenda? A full-length graphic novel, which she's already starting.
Newsarama talked to the enthusiastic teen about her publication in Dark Horse Presents #25 and found out more about what makes this young lady's dedication to comics so refreshing.
Newsarama: Emma, congratulations on getting published in the Dark Horse Presents issue. I know it's a story from the Chapel Chronicles that you've been self-publishing. Is this a new story?
Emma Capps: It's a brand new installment that I created specifically for Dark Horse.
Typically, on my website, the webcomics are four panels long. And they're sort of in a square format. But that didn't adapt to the Dark Horse layout, so it's actually a larger installment. It has more panels.
Nrama: Since you started this comic awhile, and you're a little older and more experienced, do you feel like you've evolved to get better at it?
Capps: Oh, definitely. The comic is in its fourth season, which is just a fancy term for the volumes. And each volume has 30 comics.
The first one, I did when I was in eighth grade. I'm now in 10th grade.
So yeah, especially because I did that first volume all in a month — I actually did 30 comics in 30 days; I did one every day. So at that point in time, I couldn't draw backgrounds and things like that. I kept it very minimalist, because I was doing one every day along with school and everything else.
I actually never intended to continue it, but when I put it online for my friends to read, people who I didn't know started finding it, and I though, OK, I guess I should continue it.
So when I started doing the webcomic as a weekly, instead of doing one every single day, I didn't keep it as minimalist as I had been doing it. I could develop more of it, because I had more time.
I feel like my drawing has evolved, and that's aside from Chapel, which has an art style that is a lot more cartoony and stylized than my usual art style. Some people think it's the extent to which I can draw, but since I do one every week, I have to sort of rein myself in a little bit to keep from drawing the way I normally do. I wanted to choose an art style that was more suited to a weekly strip. I wanted the theme and style to harken back to newspaper comics. So I thought that I needed to stylize my normal drawing style a little bit more to fit the theme.
But regardless of the stylization, I still feel like it has evolved, while still maintaining its style.
The comic I did for Dark Horse Presents, I did several months ago. It took awhile for them to figure out which issue they wanted to put it in. And even since then, I feel like my art has evolved, because when you do it every week, along with other things, you can't help but have changes week-to-week.
And the nice thing about Chapel, since it's not as detailed as other comics projects that I work on, it's a nice little playground for me to try out different techniques without worrying about having everything be super detailed and perfect.
Nrama: I know you've been interested in comics for a long time, and you've been drawing a lot. Now that you're getting all the way up to 10th grade, are you thinking this is something you might want to do for a living?
Capps: Yes, I definitely want to be a cartoonist for my career. When I was younger, I used to write and draw, but I used to keep them mostly separate, because I thought wanted to be a writer and also do illustrations on the side. I felt like my writing was advanced more than the illustration.
But now, my illustration level has caught up!
I expect to continue Chapel for a couple more years, until the end of high school. I probably won't be able to continue it through college.
I've actually never missed a weekly update on Chapel, even when I have school and tests. I always do it every week. So I just published a book, 150 pages of the first three seasons.
But I also have other projects that I'm doing. I'm working on a graphic novel right now, which is not in installments. It's a narrative style, in terms of the paneling. But I have tons of projects that I want to work on.
So yeah, this is something I see myself doing for the rest of my life.
Nrama: Wow, you're doing a graphic novel in 10th grade? That's impressive.
Capps: Yeah, I actually have character sheets lying here next to me, because I'm working on it alongside Chapel. I don't want to sacrifice Chapel, and it's a balancing act to do everything along with school. So it will be awhile before anyone sees any of the graphic novels.
Nrama: I assume, then, your parents are pretty supportive of what you do? They must be OK with you having a website, even a couple years ago when you were younger.
Capps: Yes, my parents are always supportive. I'm always so thankful that they're very encouraging of anything that I want to do. I know there are a lot of artists who have troubles trying to show their parents that it's a sustainable career, and something that they can do and that they are believe in and are good at, so I'm very lucky and very, very thankful that my parents — despite not being artists — believe really strongly in my pursuit of the arts, and are willing to encourage me to pursue them.
In regards to the website, my dad is a computer programmer. So even though I designed everything on the website myself, he helped me make sure everything worked. And that was really, really nice of him. And my mom helps me communicate with people who are interested in the webcomic. So I'm really thankful for my parents supporting me.
Nrama: Is Chapel at all based on you?
Capps: She's not based on me at all! I know a lot of comics are autobiographical, or semi-autobiographical, so it's an easy assumption to make. But she's not based on me — or on my friends, which is also a common question.
I wanted to create a character who felt very real and had her own faults and quirks. But at the same time, I wanted her to be a person people could relate to. So I wouldn't want to make the comic about the tales of a 16-year-old cartoonist, because that's not something that people can relate to. And while some things that Chapel does are things that the readers of the comic may have never done, such as dress up in crazy costume or make hats, I still try to make it relatable.
So Chapel is a completely original character. And I think she's really fun. She can be over-the-top sometimes, but she can also be really, really sweet and loving, which is a side of 11-year-old girls that you might not see very often in comics. And I try really hard to keep her so that she doesn't fall into any stereotypes, because she's naturally a very full character to me.
I wanted to show people that you can have someone who loves to dress up in crazy costumes, but also watches science fiction shows and likes to do math. You don't have to be a complete girly girl or a complete nerd. Most people in real life are somewhere in the middle. So I wanted her to feel like a really real person.
Nrama: How did you first get interested in comics?
Capps: I got interested when I was very little. My parents used to let me get comic books, even though the two of them don't know anything about comics themselves. When I was five years old, I remember reading a lot of comics. And I continued loving them and reading them.
But I never really thought it was something I could do until I took a class at a non-profit in San Francisco called 826 Valencia. I took it when I was 11. And it was just a comic workshop. And it was taught by Dan Archer, who also taught at the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont. He's currently in Nepal doing a comics' journalism project.
That was really, really fun for me. Everyone in the class made an eight-page comic. And I remember, I got so obsessed with mine, I woke up one morning at 5 a.m., before school, so I could work on inking it and get it just right. And that's a big deal for me, since I'm a person who cannot wake up early.
So after that class, I've been making comics ever since. And actually, to show my gratitude for the class at 826 Valencia, when I made my first volume of the comic, the profits were all donated to the non-profit, and I actually raised almost $900 for them.
Now, it's come full circle, because I now teach classes every few months there. Comics workshops. And I'm now the only teacher who teaches comic workshops there, and it's for the same age range that I was when I took a comics workshop. So the thought that I'm teaching could inspire someone the way that the class I took did is just amazing for me. And I'm really glad that I get to give back in that way, because I'm very thankful for all the wonderful teachers I have who have encouraged me to do these things.
Nrama: How would interested readers get their hands on your new 150-page volume?
Capps: I have an online shop so that people can buy it, and then I will mail it to them. I also have individual comic books for seasons 1 and 2. And then this book collects seasons 1, 2 and 3. The online shop has that, along with other little things I've made, such as pins or other merchandise that people have requested or I've created.