I am attracted to derelict places – places with character. Similarly, I am attracted to nonconformist and sometimes troubled people. They have the best stories. I love talking to people who have spent time exploring and fucking up. I love talking to people who have not rigidly followed the prescribed track toward success – people whose values and interests do not begin and end with getting rich and going to heaven. I’ve met plenty of these people here in Kansas, particularly around Lawrence. The flyover states are known for their blandness, ignorance, and conservatism, but they are home to a huge sampling of oddballs who seek refuge out of the fray.
People who have faced some sort of adversity in their lives have the most to say. Privilege makes us soft and boring. I say this as a privileged person, one who grew up never wanting for food or shelter or education. All of the adversity I went through later – the hunger and confusion and poverty – was my own invention. And now I am truly just a comfortable, boring lady who is happy to be over thirty and settled down with a family.
The first chapter of Ithaca begins in a strip club. Strip clubs are a common background to almost every television series I have ever seen. Part titillation for the (assumed male) viewers, part shorthand for a lowbrow, morally ambiguous environment. A few months back, I watched the entire run of The Sopranos. Excellent show. One thing that interested me was that strippers were almost always gyrating or halfheartedly stamping around in the background. The characters rarely acknowledged them, but they were always deliberately there. They were the scenery: a faceless jumble of legs and arms and breasts. In Ithaca, I wanted to humanize the the strippers. We see them as background while they perform, but we also see them off the clock doing things they enjoy. We see them without their makeup on, living and thinking and talking.
They are Dawn’s teachers and friends. They probably aren’t getting rich and going to heaven.
They have something to say.
Well, thank you for coming along on this ride so far! As of September 26th, we’ve wrapped up the prelude to Ithaca and we’ll be moving to our regular update schedule of one strip per week, updating on Monday of each week, for chapter one. We would love to move this a little faster, but for right now that pace is going to work the best for us. I hope to get to a point, down-the-line, where we’ll be able to update more often.
Ithaca is not autobiographical. It’s a tapestry of people I have known, books and songs that have inspired me, and (most of all) the places I love. It is as an ode to the flyover states–the empty spaces, the derelict towns, and the unexpectedly beautiful things that thrive there.
Anybody who talks to me about traveling knows my personal meditation spot: Highway 96 from Great Bend, KS to Westcliffe, CO. My mother’s ashes are scattered on a mountaintop overlooking Westcliffe, and I try to visit every few years to pay my respects. I’ve driven 96 alone several times. Its stark beauty and utter solitude are good for thinking and storytelling. I’ve written many stories in my head while staring out my windshield at the vast, flat fields and the tall banks of clouds.
I wrote a lot of Ithaca there.
This post also appears at emilyednahall.com.
Welcome to the launch of Ithaca!
This is my wife, Emily‘s, baby. She’s been working on this story since 2010 and though it’s taken a while to get to a place where we could launch it, I think it’s been worth the wait. We managed to find just the right artist, Dean Kotz, to fit the visual look of the project. Eventually, I’ll be doing all the color work as well, but that’s down the line. Luckily, Dean has such a strong black and white style that the pages look as good in black and white as they would in color (at least in my opinion).
A special thanks to Bob Cram for his help setting up the site and to Dustin Dade for his fantastic work on the logo.
We’ll be releasing, at least for the first month, a new strip per weekday (no weekends) until we have the full prelude live on the site. After that, we’ll be shifting over to a new strip per week. I hope to get us to a place where we are able to release more often than that, but for now, we’ll just be updating a strip a week on Monday’s. We’re discussing throwing in a full color double strip every other month, but that’s under discussion at the moment. I expect we’ll be throwing some extras at you guys now and then, though.
Anyway, you can find information on all the characters here. And you can read the about the comic below or here.
We look forward to sharing this story with you! It’s a great one and Emily has really done a fantastic job on this. Be sure to check back for new strips!
At ten years of age, Dawn is abducted from her foster home and sold to the owner of a seedy strip club deep down in Texas. She is raised on bar food, mystery novels, and hard work. The motley group of inhabitants provides a practical and eclectic education, and plenty of entertainment. At seventeen, she becomes fixated on an old conversation she had with her real mother when she was a small child, right before she was taken to the foster home. Her mother had told her to “come to Ithaca” when she was of age, and that she would be waiting.
When the club burns down, Dawn embarks on an odyssey that takes her all over the United States, from a biker’s compound in the Arizona desert, up to mountain towns in Utah and Colorado, through the barrens of Kansas, to hospitals and jails, to sprawling cities and abandoned National parks. With no money, no family, and no connections, she has only her wits and luck to overcome the obstacles that await her.
Ithaca is the story of her journey.