Irma Eriksson is the cartoonist and creator of the fantastic web comic “Imy”. I’ve fallen in love with Irma’s artwork and stories that beautifully illustrate her humorous observations of life. I’m thrilled to feature Irma and have her answer some questions about her personal and creative life. So let’s go behind the scenes and meet Irma Eriksson and “Imy” and hear the story of how she got into webcomics.
Hello Irma, first thank you so much for being featured at “Don’t Pick the Flowers”. You have a fantastic webcomic called “Imy” which you’ve been publishing since 2007. Where did the idea for the story and characters come from?
Irma: What “Imy” started out as is different from what it became, and it developed as it was being published. The idea came from a cartoon I did of myself and posted on my facebook page. A friend of mine remarked that I should make a comic of myself and my life in Sweden as an expat. From that moment ideas started to bloom in my head. Up to this point I had dreamed of doing my own comic but didn’t think I was capable. But this was the push I needed to get the gears turning in my head.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do a comic on my experiences as an expat but I decided I would use myself as the main character and just build around that. I gave her my own nickname, which became the name of the comic, but that’s where the pre-development stopped. I didn’t really have any plan. I’d just write a few about daily observations and see where it went from there.
Since I based the main character on myself, I decided to base her boyfriend on my husband. However, by the 10th strip the two characters were already starting to come into their own. That’s where I made the decision that this strip was not about me, and that “Imy” was going to have her own world.
I changed her hair color to make the point to my readers that she was NOT me, and slowly started to build her world as I was creating the strip. When I decided she needed a best friend I created her. As it went along I was creating her family members and the other characters of the strip. There was very little pre-planning and it just sort of unfolded in my head and went right onto the screen as I was making comics.
David: When you are creating a comic, what is your routine? Do you have a schedule and where do the ideas come from?
Irma: I post “Imy” twice a week. The comic goes up every Tuesday and Friday with some minor scheduling stumbles. Every once in a while I have to delay the comic by a day if the schedule just doesn’t work out for whatever reason, and I rarely skip an update. I had a bad year in 2011 where I injured my drawing arm and missed almost a half years worth of posts in total after taking several breaks, but I have kept my schedule pretty well through 2012.
My routine usually involves me tapping my fingers and looking around my room asking “Idea… idea… I need an idea… hmmm…..” I rarely write comics far in advance. I’ve found that if I do write something in advance, by the time it comes to implementation I hate it so much I can’t go through with it. So I come up with most of my ideas the day before I post the comic. And I honestly have NO idea how I get ideas. Maybe sometimes something that happened earlier to me in the day will spark something. Or, if I’m writing a storyline, I just try to think of characters I want to develop more, and I run through a checklist in my head (friends, job, and relationships) to see if anything jumps out at me and go from there.
I have learned, however, that I need to write all my storylines in completion before I start to post them. In the past I’ve come up with the beginning and end of my story, and made up the middle as I went along. This led to runaway storylines where I subconsciously allowed the readers to impact my story. I learned that lesson the hard way.
David: What tools do you use to create “Imy”?
Irma: I draw all of my comics digitally from start to finish. I draw everything in Adobe Illustrator and then assemble and color the comic in Photoshop. And I do it all with my precious Wacom Graphire tablet. It’s old, and it’s small but it gets the job done!
Music and podcasts fuel my drawing and are also vital in the creation of each strip.
David: You were raised in New Jersey in the United States, but have lived in Sweden for some years. How has that affected your comic and do you think you will ever move back to the United States?
Irma: It doesn’t affect me too much because I never specify where Imy actually lives. I like the idea of everyone reading to be able to fit her into their world. That being said it’s more natural for me to aim for the American reader. I rarely usually give much thought into how a Swedish reader, for example, would interpret something. I figure if they understand it, then that’s a bonus. At the same time, I try not to dip too deeply into American pop culture, and try to keep my topics fairly general. It’s easier for me as well because I am not in tune with a lot going on in the US anymore anyway, and also ”Imy” ends up appealing to a wider audience.
As for moving back to the US- All I’ll say is, anything can happen. Who knows where I’ll end up? The south of Sweden, California, London. Anything is possible.
David: Who are some of your favorite cartoonists and comic hero’s?
Irma: As a kid Jim Davis would have been my immediate answer. But after that, I didn’t really idolize any cartoonists for a long time. I was never the hopeful cartoonist who sat around idolizing Bill Watterson and Berke Breathed. I didn’t even know those cartoonists’ names until I really got into this cartoonist world. I don’t have folders of cartoons I drew as a kid hoping to someday be a syndicated cartoonist. I wasn’t sitting around reading comics whenever I had a chance. I liked to draw. I liked to read “the funnies” on Sundays. That was about it. Cartooning wasn’t really on my radar. Simply because I didn’t think I could do it, so I brushed it off.
However, there are three cartoonists who really caught my attention as an adult and became instant inspirations for me and helped to ignite my desire for cartooning.
The first is Brian Anderson of “Dog Eat Doug.” I can’t remember where or when I found DeD, but I came across it online back when he was just starting to get it into newspapers and I loved it immediately. It was charming, clever and simple and I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t in every paper everywhere. I started to read DeD all the time, and it gave me that first cartooning itch.
Dog Eat Doug (Brian Anderson): dogeatdoug.com
The next is Tony Cronstam of the popular Swedish comic “Elvis.” I started learning Swedish by taking classes as soon as I arrived in Sweden. I was eager to be able to read and write so I would pick up the Stockholm Metro (free newspaper) and try to understand what I could. “Elvis” was published in that paper and, though I couldn’t understand it so much in the beginning, I started to read it religiously. It became another big inspiration for me and years later, when I had already been creating Imy for a couple of years, I took up the chance to meet Tony at a book signing. He was so kind and generous to me. He talked to me for a long while and had genuine interest when I told him about my comic. He encouraged me to keep in touch with him and I still do to this day. In fact, he just contributed some artwork for my most recent book.
Elvis (Tony Cronstam): www.elvisthecomic.com/international
The last one would be Lise Myhre. She is a Norwegian cartoonist and does a popular strip called “Nemi.” I found “Nemi” when I was in a bookstore one day. I think I was buying an “Elvis” book, and I picked up “Nemi” and fell in love on the spot. I loved everything about Lise’s style, from her writing to her art.
Nemi (Lise Myhre): www.metro.co.uk/games/nemi
David: What advice would you give anyone wanting to get into webcomics and what can we expect to see from you and Imy in the future?
Irma: My first bit of advice is if you get into webcomics with the idea that you’re going to have something big and successful then just stop right there, turn around and do something else. Anyone who’s going to get into webcomics should be doing it for the fun of it, first and foremost. Write about something YOU enjoy and draw the way YOU want to. The only thing that matters is that you have fun with it no matter what happens.
In the future I just hope to keep Imy going. The comic’s been running for nearly 5 years now and I have no intention of stopping. I just want the usual, more readers, and more interest. Hopefully I’ll find ways to make it to more cons. I’d love to do more American cons, and I’d really like to hit the one in London.
I also have another webcomic that I started this past year called “Cosmical.” This one is fairly specific and caters to my space-nerd side. I don’t update that one as often currently since I don’t want “Imy” to suffer for anything else. But I have plans for “Cosmical” that will hopefully put it in more places than just the internet.
David: Thank you Irma for sharing your wonderful comic “Imy” with us. I love your comic and wish you the very best with all that lies ahead with Imy and Cosmical, truly you have fantastic work!
And now it’s time for you the reader to find out more about Irma Eriksson and her fantastic work, click on the links below to read and follow Irma and “Imy”!
Imy comic: www.imycomic.com
Cosmical comic: www.cosmicalcomic.com