Eden Chubb, New Orleans-bred comic book artist and illustrator of “Interdimensional Explorer Girl,” carves an interpretational tale inspired from her own dream that sees a powerful, Doctor Strange-like traveler, that tangles with the fabrics of human connections and tests of time, as she makes a big decision in between her action-packed adventures.
The Soul Stoned interviewed Chubb over the phone to talk about the context and conclusions of her dream-interpreted, comic book creation. The following contains spoilers for the comic.
Regarding the background characters in Explorer Girl, where did the style for them come from?
“It took me like two years to decide what the aesthetic would be. I had the script, but nothing really felt right. The cardboard came first, so I knew I was going to do that. I think I was honestly kind of influenced by the Dresden Dolls, if that makes sense. It’s that kind of like funky, turn of the century, cabaret feeling.”
The romantic partner for her immediately made me think of a Jester.
“He’s kind of wearing like a mime shirt. It wasn’t’ supposed to mean anything. It was just sort of something I liked visually. It was a really slow process. Also my friend who was going to publish an anthology that was going to be in black and white, actually subjected me to a color palette that I might not have normally used. They did not make that anthology, but it ended up working really well. So I got lucky that way because I probably would have used color otherwise.”
Interesting, would you potentially go back and just do a different coloring?
“No, it turned out to be a really good decision. That random restriction on color palette. It might have been the random restriction on color palette that made me think of the cabaret thing.
One thing leading to another, saying that it actually restricted you in it being the color palette, it just makes me think of the boy himself looking like he was in jail.
“I feel like a lot of art is that way. You can read into a lot of things after it’s made, but while you’re making it it’s not necessarily going to mean anything. I’m always really gearing to see what other people think of because it’s usually even better than anything I could come up with.
At the beginning of the entire explorer girl project, when you first had the dream, if you don’t mind me asking, what were your kind of first few reactions to it?
“My first reaction was just like ‘Oh my god this is so cool. This was a really special dream. I need to turn this into a comic’. So I just had that in the back of my mind, until I figured out what it was going to look like. That took literally two years to figure out what it was going to look like. I didn’t have a good visual sense while I was actually dreaming. It was more my brain was telling me a story, and I was looking through the eyes of this character. It didn’t really look anything like how I drew it. Except the um– the courtyard, there was a courtyard, and there was like a passageway, but it looked kind of different. I had no clear visual, so I just put it on the back burner I guess. I thought way more about it, like after I made it. I started realizing that when I dreamed it I didn’t really know what it meant. But after I made it, it kind of added more insight than I had previously realized I guess? I just knew it was cool, and that it was sort of about loss and attachment.
But it wasn’t until after I made it that I started meditating, and I had started exploring more stuff about attachment. I had become a totally different person, and it made way more sense to me by then.”
So for you, you were able to understand the dream in two sort of different, to be broad, eras of mindstate?
That’s really cool. Did you compare your dream to any sort of immediate reality like when you had first dreamt it? When did it sort of synchwith something going on in your own context?
“I guess it didn’t synch with something going on until long after I had already made it. Like, I had made it; I hadn’t printed, but I had finished it. And then there’s this whole big heartbreaking break-up I had to go through. Where this guy I had been dating for a few years, decided that he wanted to become more of a detached Buddhist, so he disentangled himself from around me. So I had to struggle with all these issues around attachment, love, and loss, because I’m a really needy type of person, who needs reassurance and attachment. So I’m really insecure, but he in turn just like left me out to dry. And I had to go through a bit of re-evaluation with my relationship with other people and attachment and connections with other people. And so that’s when it sort of resonated. But before then it hadn’t quite, hadn’t quite carried enough I suppose. So it was kind of weird. I don’t know where it came from to begin with exactly.”
“Certainly made sense after that.”
Thanks for sharing that. I was just wondering because, you know, like, that entire idea of “what happens in your dreams is for real!” (laughs).
Just seeing what could link up in the real world and what happens, one of my favorite kinda dream, reality “go-tos” was–this girl I just had a mad crush on last year. I had saw in my dream. We were going on a scavenger hunt in Audubon Park! And then when I woke up the next morning to go to school, she was the first person I saw, as I was walking onto campus. I was just like “Wassup!”
(laughs) Nah, I’m definitely–I’m a pretty skeptical person, but I totally believe in premonitory dreams. Clearly, clearly timelines don’t apply when you’re dreaming.”
Oh yeah. Absolutely not. And I’m a myself Buddhist by the way.
“Oh that’s cool. I’m not particularly a Buddhist, but I do sort of sit. That guy, I mean we’re still friends. It’s fine. He did actually introduce me to Zazen, like after he dumped me. I was like, ‘oh my god, this is the worst I’ve ever felt. Well I guess I might as well try to exist, because it seemed to work for him. Ok well, at least this beats feeling like my heart’s going to explode.’
It was kind of a weird relationship I had too because instead of practicing Buddhism I thought he was just being an asshole and using Buddhism as an excuse.”
Yeah, it could be either way because there’s a great movie, Journey to The West (2013), that specifically addresses that entire debate. There’s this monk that’s banishing demons, and he’s just like ‘man I can’t get into a relationship or love because I need to be into my Buddhism,” and of course the female lead is chasing him, but he’s just like, “no, I must go about my studies!”
“I definitely think that (the story of “Interdimensional Exploroer Girl”) does sort of emphasize the whole sort of living in the moment and not sort of thinking about the timeline that’s stretching out before you and thinking about how much time you have left with this person.
Right, because that was the ordeal, that this much time was going to pass.
“At first she has all this luggage for no particular reason, just carrying around tons of extra weight of crap she doesn’t even need. But at the end she just abandons it for what’s important, so I feel like it’s sort of okay to take risks and make connections with people that you know you may one day lose, because it’s still worth the experience.”
I like that you said in the preface that you think this story covers themes of human experience, as wealthy as a dream really does. I was wondering if you ever thought about it kind of covering this idea of a place to call home as well?
“I never felt comfortable calling any place home that wasn’t New Orleans, and I spent seven years after Katrina trying to make other places my home. Like, I went to college, and I tried to live in other places, and it never felt permanent. It just sort of felt like I was just visiting, until I could return to my real home. But at the same time you–I mean I’m back. It feels more comfortable than any other place probably would. But it’s still not the same home that it was back then. I don’t know if there is such a thing.
Yeah, a physical place to call home.
“Yeah, I think it’s important but…”
In your story, I feel like there’s an argument for the traits that make up these places we call home so much too. The boy that she meets is a reason to say. The welcoming townfolk, a reason to stay, they’re like, “we got you a room and anything!” Why was the teddy bear suddenly in front of the interdimensional door she was going to take, that pretty much stops her in her tracks to look back?
“That’s something I’d say only makes sense to me. I kind of debated on including that. When I first wrote it down I left that out, but then I realized it’s kind of important. That’s my teddy bear I’ve had since 6th grade. That’s sort of what happens in the dream. It sort of makes her question her vagabond life in a second, because sort of inexplicably, the thing from her childhood that she thought was lost was there. So she starts thinking of home more because of that and possibly thinking of home there.
It’s there because that’s what happened in the dream, and it makes sense to me/ But I hope it’s not too bizarre to people that don’t know that’s my teddy bear! It was a connection to home, and it was a connection to her past. And so, in thinking about her past, she was thinking of about her recreating that in the homey environment in the village, but it didn’t work out. Because you really can’t go home again. And you can keep relics from your childhood, but it’s never going to happen again, and you really kind of have to move forward.
I very much love that entire travel element to the story.
“She’s way less attached than I am, which is something to strive for maybe, maybe not. I don’t know!
One last thing, were there any other sort of cardboard projects that you’ve done? How’d you just be inspired to make this the format that you’d do the comic in? That totally altered the reading experience. The actual length of the pages, I love it because it’s even more engrossing.
“Hey Cafe! did this live art show that I was in and I had made a cityscape using that method. It’s still hanging up at Hey Cafe! actually. I’ve drawn on cardboard before that; I’ve been drawing on cardboard for years. It’s very forgiving, in terms of erasure marks. It’s thicker than paper. It’s really got a nice color to it. It doesn’t feel as empty, when you start off. So I have a few other things. I have one more cityscape and I have an album cover I that did for my friend.
If I can come up with a comic that fits that style then I’ll do it. But it just depends on the comic.
Gotcha, would absolutely see your work in comics again. This was so much for so little. It is really short but, damn.
“I know. I wanted thicker pages because it was so short. I would rather like a board book, you know, like those old children books with really thick cardboard. That is ideally how I’d want to print this! But I couldn’t find anyone to print that, and it’d be really expensive, but one day.