Arts & Entertainment
3 min

Emily Griggs is anything but heartless

Web comic explores the sexuality spectrum with Victorian vampires

Emily Griggs, an Ottawa comic book artist, explores asexuality and LGBT themes in her comic series Heartless. Credit: Adrienne Ascah

Emily Griggs’s comic series Heartless follows an asexual vampire and her LGBT cohorts in their adventures in Victorian London.

In this edited interview, Griggs, an Ottawa-based comic book artist, talks about asexuality, comics and her Kickstarter campaign to take Heartless from a web series to a comic book store near you.

Daily Xtra: Where did you get the idea for a comic with an asexual protagonist and an LGBT support cast?

Emily Griggs: I’ve always wanted to do something set in the Victorian era and vampires are a natural fit to that because they’ve got the sexy, immortal monsters versus a culture that’s really obsessed with chastity and death. It made sense as a story arc to have sexuality and attraction be a major facet, which led into characters being LGBT. It just kind of clicked that an asexual protagonist would give her a strong reason to be part of the story while also allowing her to be a really young vampire.

What is your protagonist like?

Clara is an 18-year-old girl who was raised in a Victorian, upper-class household, so [sexuality] has never been discussed with her and she’s never understood this subtext she’s been getting from some of her friends. Part of her story is coming to understand that there’s something that she’s been missing and that she’s not entirely part of that.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as an ace person?

The main challenge I faced as an ace person was not knowing that asexuality existed until I was well into my 20s. I spent my entire high school career and university career thinking I was doing something wrong or thinking I must be broken and maybe something happened to me as a kid. There was a period where I thought I must be gay and then I realized that wasn’t working either. No one ever told me that a possible narrative for my life was not experiencing sexual attraction. It left me confused and trying to feel things that I wasn’t actually feeling and I guess that’s why today I’m so interested in making sure people know that asexuality is an option and it’s not a bad option. It’s one thing you can be.

Are you hoping that Heartless will break down barriers and increase acceptance?

I’m hoping it will increase acceptance, awareness and visibility. For me, understanding that asexuality was possible and not something that was broken or bad or wrong was something that as soon as it clicked I felt so much better about myself. I felt like issues I’d been dealing with for years and years finally just fell away. I hope that by having a story about an ace character who is going through that same road to acceptance and comes out realizing that it’s a good thing, it’s a powerful thing, it’s part of who she is and it’s not wrong will help a lot of people who are going through the same problems.

Why do you think comics are so popular?

I think they’re really an accessible medium. You don’t need fancy equipment — you just need to be able to draw and write or have two people who can do one of those things — yet you can create a story that has the visual appeal of a movie or a TV show but also the story appeal of a novel or short story. Comics have the capacity to tell interesting, detailed, fantastical stories that anyone can start writing.

What made you decide to go from a web comic to having a Kickstarter campaign to publish print copies?

I always wanted to make Heartless a print comic. I really like having something I can see, touch and read wherever I am. I initially made Heartless a web comic because I didn’t want people to have to buy it in order to read it. I wanted it to be available for everyone to read, partly because there aren’t many ace-centric stories out there. Running a Kickstarter after making it available for free was a really good way to get that print comic I wanted while still making it accessible.

What stage are you in with the Kickstarter?

It ends on July 19. As soon as it finishes I can figure out what my budget is and get the print copies done. My goal is to have the print copies in by September. I will have them available online hopefully, but I’m really hoping to go through local stores as well. A few of the local comic shops put out flyers for the Kickstarter. There’s actually a really good network in Ottawa of local comic support.