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An imaginary friend with bite

Lise Myhre, creator of the popular strip in 'Metro' featuring Goth girl Nemi, admits that they are both night creatures and that she occasionally will lend Nemi items from her wardrobe, 'but', she insists, 'Nemi is my imaginary friend, not a mirror image of myself or my life'

THE EMERGENCE OF NEMI

After briefly studying graphic design at the Santa Monica College of Art in California, Lise Myhre (born 1975) began earning a living as an illustrator of CD covers and T-shirts. Around that time she managed to sell her cartoon strips to several magazines, among them the monthly magazine ’Larsons Gale Verden’, while entering numerous drawing competitions.

Nemi was born in 1997 (the name derrives from a magical lake in Italy), but the first Nemi strip was first published in 1999 in ’Larsons Gale Verden’, since making its guest appearance in the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet. The first collection of Nemi strips came out in the the summer of 2000.

Today Nemi is printed in about 60 newspapers, magazines and web sites in Norway, Sweden, Finland and the UK. Of those the biggest are Metro in the UK, Dagens Nyheter in Sweden, Ilta Santomat in Finland and Dagbladet in Norway.

LISE MYHRE ON NEMI (AND LISE MYHRE)

- Nemi first appeared in a Goth page that I made for Larsons Gale Verden (issue 7) in 1997. I had no plans to create a main character for my strip, but I liked Nemi too much to let her go. If I had sat down and though about what would have worked commercially I would never have come up with a Goth girl. Nemi was not a carefully planned character, rather she appeared on her own and demanded attention.

- I often meet people who have a strong opinion on how Nemi should behave. ’She can’t have such a low neck line,’ they would say. ’Nemi would never have done THAT in real life.’ In real life? People sometimes get angry with me for making her too nice or too mean compared with their idea of how she should be. This is in fact really cool because it shows that over the years Nemi  has become a real figure whom people feel that they know. She makes most of the decisions herself now. I may still be her god but I can’t cut her hair or send her to a boy band concert – Nemi just wouldn’t allow it!

People who don't quite fit in
- I have always identified with people who don’t quite fit in. Even though I don’t feel that Nemi is a strip for Goths only I do like the fact that the main character is part of an underground scene. Nemi once said, “those who are most confused are also the sanest.” I really believe that. Even though I want as many people as possible to like what I do, I don’t have IT students and nuclear families in mind when I work.

- In my opinion, a passing rebellious phase is not the same as genuinely being different. I used to have piercing and purple hair and it always angered me when people looked at it as a passing phase. Many don’t understand that by looking different you are not always trying to make a statement. I have seen how people nervously avoid some of the kindest people I know – friends who that day happened to be wearing leather and chains. I often get ideas for my strip from preconceived notions that people have. One of the main points about Nemi is that she thinks it’s acceptable to be different. This is her conviction, her driving force, and that’s why I have left her as the only character drawn in black-and-white. She’s meant to be slightly at odds with her surroundings.

- Nemi often hangs out at a bar. It certainly isn’t my intention to make her into an alcoholic, instead I found it a natural place for her to meet others. She will often make biting remarks to or about men. This isn’t a ‘war of the sexes’ – Nemi is very girlish too. When I go to a bar, drunk people will come over to me and end our conversation with: “Now I’ll probably end up in one of your strips”. If only it had been that easy!

Nemi is not always likeable
- Nemi is not always likeable but she is a complete personality with many facets, which I think makes a lot of people identify with her. Nemi has no concept of where she is heading. She is in her twenties, she knows that things will not turn out how she imagined them when she was a child. She is cynical but also very romantic. And I think there is a lot of scope between these two extremes.

- Many believe that Nemi and I are very much alike. In fact, I'm tired of people who think that the series are autobiographical. Of course we have similarities – it would be almost impossible to create a believable character out of thin air. We are both night creatures and from time to time I let her wear items from my wardrobe. We both dislike cruelty to animals, and we have similar tastes in music. But whereas Nemi dislikes children, I don’t. I look at Nemi as my imaginary friend, not as a mirror image of me or my life. She often does things that I wouldn't do and has thoughts that I wouldn’t have.

- In addition to drawing Nemi, I illustrate books, create internet vignettes and do CD covers. It’s good to have a fallback position when I’m banging my head against the wall to come up with ideas for Nemi. Such things require a very different creative approach. I still haven’t given up my hope to one day make long epic stories. I love the graphic novel as a form of expression – I read lots of cartoon books that aren’t comic. Alan Moore’s ‘V for Vendetta’ and Neil Gaimans ‘Books of Magic’ are among my favourites. Pondus is my favourite comic strip.

 

Copyright Lise Myhre / Distr. iblis@nemi.no

Copyright Lise Myhre / Distr. iblis@nemi.no

Copyright Lise Myhre / Distr. iblis@nemi.no

Copyright Lise Myhre / Distr. iblis@nemi.no

Copyright Lise Myhre / Distr. iblis@nemi.no

 

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Nemi strikes a posePhoto: Copyright Lise Myhre / Distr. Iblis@nemi.no

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Nemi's creator, Lise MyhrePhoto:  

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