You might remember The Elf from a little column she wrote here at Lost In a Supermarket called Bureaucracy for Breakfast, where she unloaded on the wolrd the various trials and tribulations of being an unemployed woman in the nadir of an economic recession. It made us laugh, a lot of people responded, and she’s since moved on to many more projects — the most recent of which is a biography of Marilyn Monroe… in comic book form. Printed by Bluewater Comics, the book tells the story of one of the most beloved icons of our time, a controversial and often misunderstood sex symbol that epitomized the blonde bombshell archetype. If you know anything about Marilyn, it will come to no surprise just how smart she was — we posted her letters to her therapist awhile back and were stunned at just how poetically her mind worked. I think we surely would’ve swooned for her too. Well the Elf (known to her mom as Dina Gachman) became a fan too — so we sat down with her to get a little insight into the comic, how she got her gig, and what the most compelling aspect of the 20th Century icon she discovered while knocking out the book. Pick up Bluewater’s Marilyn Monroe comic for $4.
It’s a cool idea to do a bio of someone in comic book form. How did the project come about?
The publisher, Bluewater Comics, does a lot of comic book biographies, and I sent them some clips from Bureaucracy for Breakfast about two years ago, even though their site said they weren’t looking for new writers. I had a call with the publisher, Darren Davis, and our sensibilities really matched. I wrote an Elizabeth Taylor book for them that came out last fall. After that we talked about doing Marilyn. I didn’t know much about Monroe beyond the basics and the stereotypes — sex symbol, tragic life, all that. For some reason it felt intimidating to get started since I knew I had a lot to learn. I read and watched everything I could about her for about three months before the writing started.
What was your favorite aspect of telling Marilyn’s story in this format?
It’s a different way to tell these women’s stories, and there are so many straight-up biographies about them it’s cool to add a playfulness and humor, which I think comes along with the medium. I found out so much about her, and it was fun finding a way to tell the story visually, with humor, but also telling it respectfully. The research was so tiring in the end that actually writing the book was almost a relief.
Were there any limitations by the medium?
You can’t tell every single aspect of her life, or else the book would be way too long. So you have to figure out what you think is important, or interesting or fun. She supposedly had a higher IQ than JFK, she loved reading and being around authors, so I put a lot of that in the book since I think it’s pretty fascinating that she once got drunk with Dylan Thomas and hung out with Carl Sandburg. But the only real limitation is finding out all these interesting facts and events and having to pick and choose which ones best tell the story and fit the tone.
Keep reading our interview with Marilyn Monroe comic writer Dina Gachman after the Jump…
“She had a horrible childhood & crappy education; I think if she were living in today’s world she would’ve overcome a lot of her demons…”
When looking at the finished product, what’s your favorite panel?
I love the art in this book, I’m really excited about it. Nathan Girten did an amazing job, Dan Barnes did the coloring — I love the soft pastel look of the book. If I had to pick a favorite? I love the final splash page, it’s pretty awesome and has a little bit of a Wonder Woman vibe. And there’s a panel of Dylan Thomas crashing into Charlie Chaplin’s tennis court that’s great because it adds some humor to the story.
What was the most interesting thing you learned about Marilyn while researching the comic?
Besides the fact that she had a higher IQ than JFK? Mainly how highly intelligent she was. She had a horrible childhood and crappy education, she got married at sixteen, so I think if she were living in today’s world she would have been able to overcome a lot of her demons. She may have even written books, she wanted so badly to be taken seriously and to be an intellectual. There was also a tile in the sidewalk at the house she bought before she died that had a Latin phrase that translates to “your journey ends here” which I thought was pretty eerie.
Your long running column for us was about being unemployed. Is it safe to say you’re now out of the unemployed ditch?
Yes, I’m out of the ditch. Layoffs have a way of refocusing your goals sometimes so it ended up being a total blessing (though I never want to deal with the bureaucracy of the unemployment office again). That column ended up being the jumping off point for a writing career, and it helped me get an agent, so when I think of it I have this little pang of nostalgia. I was really obsessed with Snooki when I was unemployed, which might require some therapy to figure out.
How come you go by The Elf? How’d you get that alias?
A friend started calling me The Elf in college (not because I have pointy ears, probably because I’m a shorty) and for LIAS we had to write under an alias so… The Elf.
What else do you have coming up?
I’m doing a lot of freelance writing, and have a non-fiction/humor book proposal but that’s all I’ll say about that right now. I’m also working on a comedy pilot that’s set in podunk Texas. It’s like Modern Family meets Duck Dynasty – maybe one day Snooki can do a cameo and it’ll all have come full circle.
OK, you know the last question: If you were lost in a supermarket, where would we find you?
Probably eating yogurt covered pretzels straight from the bin and flipping through US Weekly, making myself at home.