Truth and Beauty Bombs

Lucy Humphries

… gets sucked into offbeat cartoon series A Softer World, and the lives of its creators (all images courtesy of Emily Horne and Joey Comeau)

A Softer World is a three panel comic created by Canadian duo Emily Horne and Joey Comeau, with a ranging focus; from the sexual, to the eccentric and the existential. Often working apart, Horne takes the photographs and Comeau attaches the captions. The pair display the pieces via A Softer World’s website, which has weekly additions, and have had their work featured in The Guardian and Rolling Stone.

The comics are only consistent in their refusal to be predictable  — they demand humour from the unnerving, and if they do not raise a smile they will at least provoke a thought. Anyone could find offence in their work — and this is precisely what makes it interesting.

The views expressed in the strips are not those of the creators, but those of their characters, who demand your attention. They encourage you to recognise the farce of everyday existence; often, they are not funny, but are always interesting.

So, how did it all start?

E: Joey started making comics using photos copied from magazines in 2002, and when he realised that the possibilities were somewhat limited we decided to use my photos instead. On a week-to-week basis, the photos usually come first (I make up a few comics at a time and send them to Joey, he uses them in whatever order he likes).

Do you and Joey ever disagree about the correlation of the words to the pictures?

E: Joey works out his ideas for the text, and if I happen to be around he runs them by me before they go online. It’s rare that I’d totally reject an idea, but sometimes it gets edited a bit before it goes up. He also will try it out on a few friends first; to make sure the meaning — or meanings — are clear. The photos are rarely perfectly illustrative of what is going on in the text, but we try to make sure there is some kind of connection there.

Are there any comics in particular which you think reflect your own personality?

J: Yes, all of the comics reflect our personalities — even the ones that seemingly oppose one another. We are deeply conflicted, very broken people.
Do you think about your audience when you are writing the comics? Do you ever worry about whether they are politically correct or not?
J: We don’t worry about it, really. We just write what we think is good, and put that up. If Emily has a concern with it, I’ll scrap it or rework it, but it’s never, “Oh, this one might offend part of our demographic,” because there will always be someone that is offended by something. No, the veto usually is based on, “This isn’t any good.” That’s the important question.

What is the strangest thing someone has ever asked you?

E: Being a Lady on the Internet, it is inevitable that you get some strange emails. I once had someone ask, seemingly sincerely, for a blowjob for her “friend”. It would mean the world to him, apparently.

Were you happy with the outcome of the American election? Who did you want to win?

J: Who do YOU want to win the World Championship of Chess?

What happens when the comics run out?

E: Luckily, there are always more photos to be taken and captions to be made. We don’t have any plans to finish ASW soon, but I guess we’ll have to go get real jobs SOMETIME.

To read more visit Artworks reproduced courtesy of Joey Comeau and Emily Horne.


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